Oh, the places we will go
In order to travel round the world it is usually necessary to have a plan; or at least a compass bearing in which way to circle the globe. I guess someone could, and probably has, aimlessly wandered from place to place and eventually made a loop. When we travel we are more of the point A to point B type of people with a noncommittal for points C and D. That is, we generally know where we are (most important!) and where we will be heading next, and have a pretty good idea of where we will go after that. But, we may alter our plans and go somewhere else or find someplace we like along the way and stay there. With travel, you must be flexible. Over planning will just give you a headache and you may miss something along the way.
So, here we are, about 9 months away from launching out of our careers and comfort zone and into the unknown world. Do we have a plan? Of course we do! Our plan is to head east. When planning the rough itinerary for our round the world (RTW) trip we chose all of the places that we have always dreamt of visiting, and then played connect-the-dots. We have always wanted to visit Europe and it seems like the easiest transition from American life to the life of full time travel, but at a price. Western Europe is expensive! So, it seems there is no better way than to test the waters, and our budgeting skills, than to start our adventure in Western Europe and leave the more exotic places for our second year of travel when we will be a bit more seasoned.
So, here is our rough itinerary (subject to change):
Month 1: Paris France
Ahh, Paris (pronounced Pear-ee.) The city of unshaven women, starving artists, and dog poop on the sidewalks; what a great place to start! It’s also home to an art museum and tower featured in the hit comedy National Lampoon’s European Vacation. I wonder if I should buy us all matching berets to help us blend in. Actually, Paris will be a great introduction to Europe. It has plenty of somewhat affordable apartment rentals in the off-season, great food, a great place for photography, and enough museums to keep us busy for the whole month. I just hope we don’t burn out our daughter Sydney on visiting museums. We are also hoping to sign up for cooking classes at the famous Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Art School and learn the art of cooking frog legs and snails… or maybe a nice pastry.
Month 2: French Riviera or Southern France
See, already we are leaving it open as where to go. This decision will really depend on the time of year when we will be arriving, which should be October or November if all goes as planned. We know little about either place, but why decide now when we can decide later, right? We will need to check climate and what there is to do in these areas before pinpointing a city to stay in. But whatever we choose, it should be awesome!
Month 3: Spain. The land of tapas and bull fights!
This will be the final month of our 90-day Schengen visa that allows us to travel in most of Western Europe. Since it will be winter at this time, we plan to head south. Once again we are not sure where we will stay, but we would like to visit Barcelona and whatever else we can find as we make our way south and out of Spain before our visa expires.
Month 4: Gibraltar and Morocco
Once we leave the Schengen area we must be out for 90 days before we can enter for another 90-day visa. Gibraltar is part of the United Kingdom (UK) and is therefore outside the Schengen area and is also located at the southern tip of Spain. Perfect! We do not know how expensive it would be to stay in Gibraltar, so if it turns out to be expensive we will not stay long and take a ferry across to northern Africa and visit Morocco. And once again, we have no idea where we will stay or what we will do in Morocco, but we really want to visit. So, we have a whole month to figure out where to stay between Gibraltar and Morocco.
Month 5: Ireland
You can’t go on a round the world trip without stopping in Ireland for a pint of Guinness. So, that’s our plan. We would also like to visit Northern Ireland where the Guinness is said to be colder.
Month 6: England
We visited England 11 years ago, and other than the food, we really enjoyed it. Everyone thought we were Norwegian, which we still think was very odd. But the people were really friendly, and the sites were amazing. There is so much more to see, so we are coming back!
Month 7: Dash Across Europe
At this point it should have been 90 days outside of the Schengen area so we will take a ferry from England to Belgium where we should have another 90-day visa to tour Europe. We will then go to the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland ($$$), and then make our way towards the pizza capital of the world.
Month 8: Italy
We think Italy needs more than a month, but we will do the best we can to see what we can. Since our time is limited we will probably rent a place near Rome and take day trips to take in the highlights. I am getting hungry just thinking about all of the wonderful food we will eat there.
Month 9: Greece
Once again we have no idea where we will be staying. But, it will be fantastic! Greece is one of those far off places that was the stage for so much of the world’s great history. This will be our final stop in the Schengen area before our visa expires again.
Month 10-11: Turkey
We will most likely take a ferry from one of the Greek Islands to the mainland of Turkey, a country outside the Schengen area. We will then stay a month in Istanbul and a month along the Mediterranean coast, or vice versa. We just hope that we do not buy too many Turkish rugs while staying there. Turkey is said to have better food and more historic places than Greece.
Month 12: Israel and Egypt
Because of tensions in Syria and lack of ferry service, we will be flying from Turkey to Israel, as long as Israel is politically stable. We would really like to visit Lebanon, as well, but we are not sure if we can add that one in due to keeping a budget. After our visit in the Middle East we will head down to Egypt where we will visit the pyramids outside Cairo and then head to Luxor to see the Valley of the Kings. I have heard that Egypt is expensive, so if that is really the case we will not stay too long… unless we like it.
Month 13+: India with maybe a pit stop in Dubai
Since Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is on the way to India, I would not mind stopping for a couple of days to see the city. Also, I heard they have the world’s best water park. Score! If we survive this far without getting killed, imprisoned, or going broke, we will start our second year of traveling with a month or so in India. Honestly, I have an absolute fear of India. I have heard that you WILL get a stomach bug there. And if that doesn’t kill you, the malaria will. Lovely! But, the people, the culture, and the sites are not to be missed. I wonder if I can survive on granola bars for a month. And if we survive the first month, we may stay longer.
Month 14+: Thailand
US citizens are only allowed a 30-day visa per visit, but we would probably like to get an extension. Thailand is supposed to be amazing and really cheap. There can be nothing wrong with a place that has Thai food!
Month 15+: Cambodia and Vietnam
Cambodia’s Angkor Wat is high on our list of places to visit, but the US State Department warns of crime and violence in Cambodia. Of course, they say the same for Mexico and that does not stop us from visiting that country. So, the amount of time we stay and where we stay will be dependent on how safe we feel. And if we can get a visa, we would like to visit Vietnam. The length of stay there depends on if we can even get a, visa.
Month 16+: Malaysia
Saw it on the map, must stop there. Actually, Singapore looks like a great city to explore.
Month 17+: Indonesia
Other than Bali, we know little about Indonesia. All the better to stop and learn about this country.
Month 18-20+: Australia
Australia takes up a whole continent, so we must stay at least two months to see it all. Plus, they allow US citizens to stay up to 6 months. I just wished they did not have the most poisonous critters on the planet. Yikes!
Month 20-21: New Zealand
Since we are near Australia, we might as well stop off in New Zealand for a month or two and taste some fresh lamb.
Month 22-24+: South Pacific
What a better place to end a round the world trip. In fact, I plan to seriously find a way for us to extend this part of the trip as long as legally possible. The stop after this is back to the US, and who wants a trip like this to ever end? Or maybe we will be homesick and really wanting to get back to having 8-5 jobs again in corporate America. Of course, if we have any money left there is always South America…