Kristin finally admitted to me a few weeks ago that despite having had the summer off from school, she hadn't given much thought to the round-the-world trip we're saving for on account of being intimidated by the scale. Geography and international sites and cultures aren't high on the list of things she's knowledgeable of and she basically would look at the world map in our hallway with a deer-in-the-headlights stare. We can't all know everything, and there's plenty else she knows that I don't, so we spent a few hours a couple weeks ago breaking down our tentative bare-bones itinerary into 12 legs or "chapters" so we can both gain a better grasp on what we're trying to do and where we're trying to do it. This not only forced us to be a bit more reasonable about the number of countries we can visit (sadly, everywhere is out of the question... at least for this trip) but we also delved deeper into the notes and knowledge that I've been compiling and started to allow real-world factors like weather and expenses take their rightful place in the forefront of our planning minds.
When we first shook on it last September and, after years of talking about it, decided to start saving and planning to spend a year (or longer) travelling the world, we had just $1600 in our travel savings account. We devised a savings plan, stuck to it, and after the first year are up to a bit over $5000. I'm happy to report we're even a whopping $90 ahead of schedule. You laugh, but that's a few extra nights in a hostel or a week's worth of food in Egypt. Granted, the schedule is 5 years long and we're only about one-tenth to where we'll ultimately need to be, but our monthly deposits go up another $50 every 6 months and the amount should grow substantially from year to year. Not to mention Kristin's recent decision to take the bus to/from work each day is going to save us over $1200 a year between gas, maintenance, and a drop in car insurance. And both cars will be paid off next spring. Yes, I think we're well on our way to being able to follow the savings plan.
But what about those 12 chapters. Well, I'll tell you. For starters, we're very adamant about starting the trip with an early September ferry trip to Alaska. Preferably, right after Labor Day so we won't have to compete with the cattle coming off the cruiseships in Ketchikan and Sitka. Another reason for starting in September is that we want to hit Europe in the off-season. Less crowds, higher native:tourist ratio, and lower costs. Continuing around the world, we end up hitting many of the places we really want to visit, mostly, at the better time of year. Kilimananjaro during the migrations, Nepal during prime trekking season, southeast asia before monsoon season, etc., etc.
Anyway, here's what we came up with for a very rough, very preliminary, high-level itinerary. We'll be spending the next few years making notes of the places we want to make our "home base" in each country and what, if any, specific adventure-style trips we'd want to embark on, aside from the aforementioned climbing Kilimanjaro and Annapurna trekking in Nepal (another one just might be bike-touring in New Zealand).
1) Alaska, Canada, Family Farewell in NJ
Sept: 4-5 weeks
2) UK, France, Spain, and Portugal
Oct-Nov: 5-6 weeks
Nov: 2 weeks
4) Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia
Dec-Jan: 4-6 weeks
5) Egypt, Jordan, and Israel
Jan: 2-3 weeks
6) Greece, Turkey, Croatia, and Slovenia
Feb: 4-5 weeks
7) Northern India and Nepal
Mar-Apr: 4-6 weeks
8)Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia
Apr-May: 5-6 weeks
9) China and Japan
June: 4-5 weeks
10) New Zealand and Micronesia
July: 4-5 weeks
11) Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Bolivia
Aug-Sept: 6-8 weeks
12) Central America, Mexico, Caribbean
Oct-Nov: 4-6 weeks
So that's the basic aerial view of the plan. I'm sure it's bound to change as time goes by, but we needed to narrow things down a bit so we can be more productive in our research. I'm sure the more outdoorsy of you will no doubt pick up on the favoring of places with an abundance of natural sights and attractions and less so those with little more than old buildings (although I'm very excited about Scotland). We're still considering an extended volunteer stint in either Kenya or Nepal, but we've taken the scalpel to the map and eliminated the Trans-Siberian railway adventure for this trip on account of cost and the difficulty in getting a Visa for Russia and Mongolia while away from your home country. It can very well change in the next few years, but right now visas for Russia are very difficult to get if already on the road for half a year. We also decided to skip Italy, Germany and much of central Europe on account of cost. Likewise for Australia.
We expect that this itinerary will also allow us to make do with english and a smattering of local phrases and key words (e.g. please, thank you, excuse me, where is the bathroom?) at least until we hit South America. We know enough about Central and South America though to know to expect few english speakers in the lower western hemisphere (at least outside of Western-owned hotels and restaurants, which we'll be trying mightily to avoid) so we're planning on spending at least 1-2 weeks in an immersive language school once we get there. Even just two weeks of intense language training should help make independent travel through Latin America much easier and far more enjoyable.
It's all a long, long time from now, but I can't wait and neither can Kristin. It's hard to believe a year has already passed since we first talked about it, but it's been a good year. A productive year. A year that brings us that much closer to a journey of a lifetime.
In the meantime, a couple in a similar situation as us living in Oregon is hitting the road this week. I never met them, but I'm certainly going to be following along with their blog postings as they spend the next 12-15 months traveling the world. Follow along with me right here.