Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Beginning

The hardest part is over. After talking about it for months, maybe even years, Vincent and I decided a few months ago to take a year off and travel the world. At first, we thought about taking 6 months to do it, but the more we talked about what we wanted to do, see, experience, the more we realized that 6 months wasn't enough. Hell, a year isn't enough, but it's a start.

After we made the decision, the next step was committing to it. We immediately told everyone close to us what our plans were, so that we were tied into it. Forced to do it for our egos' sake. No turning back now. Not that that's a bad thing, it makes it more real.

At this point, we are at the very beginning of our planning. I am hoping that this journal will help anyone following along see what we are doing to organize ourselves and research for our trip. At the same time, this serves as a way to compare and contrast our plan now to what we actually do. Should be interesting.

Our plan now is to leave our jobs and apartment by the end of Nov 2011, spend Dec between France and the US and then leave the US after the New Year 2012 to start the trip. We plan to take one year to travel around South America (at the time of publication, we are looking at Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and a little bit of Chile) then on to the South Pacific by way of Easter Island and Tahiti. We then plan to hit Australia and New Zealand before heading up through SE Asia (Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are in the cards at the moment). Hoping then to head over to Nepal before jumping down to South Africa and Tanzania. We expect to hit Southern Africa by Nov 2012, so we'll then head back to Europe to be back in France by Christmas. At least that's the plan.

Along the way, we are planning to spend around 4 of the 11 and a half months volunteering in various places. Our tentative plan is to try to do one month of volunteering on each of the 4 continents we are visiting, but that will depend solely on what is available and how long it makes sense to spend in each job. We are currently using the site to look for volunteering opportunities. We will soon be reaching out to interesting hosts to see what might be available for us. As we know more, I will post links and details.

At this point, we are doing a ton of research to try to figure out where we want to go and what we want to do. We are both really interested in trekking, so we are throwing around ideas like trekking along the Inca Trail, around Lake Titicaca , in Patagonia, around Milford Sound in New Zealand, through the Australian Outback, in Nepal and around Mt. Kilimanjaro. We are also looking at doing as much overland travel as what makes sense and are researching barges up the Amazon, down the Mekong, etc to mix in with the trains, buses and flights we will be taking. We are planning on pure budget travel: hostels, guesthouses, couch-surfing, street food, etc., but also plan to take a few days a month to splurge on comfort and relaxation.

To do our research, we are using guidebooks and online resources such as Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and As our plans solidify, we will document through this journal. During the planning stages, I only plan to post updates when we are working on something interesting or have hit a new step in the planning. Posts may be sporadic for awhile, but I'm hoping this will get me in the habit of journaling before the trip actually starts.

To end this post, I'm cutting and pasting an email I sent to my aunt Mary explaining the thinking behind the trip. I think the email captures the spirit of our current mindset:

"V and I have a new plan! We have been talking for awhile about taking time off and travelling or volunteering or something, and after we started looking into it, we have decided that in 2012, we are going to quit our jobs, leave our apartment and do a year-long around the world trip. We want to include volunteering in that, so we are looking at visiting 4 continents (South America, the Pacific/ Oceana, Asia and Africa) and volunteer for a month on each continent and travel the remaining three months. We have looked at different volunteer sites and there is a lot out there, everything from working on an organic farm in New Zealand, to running a sustainable b&b in Chile, to advocating women's rights in Nepal, to helping with the maintenance of a national park in South Africa. We are going to try to do 4 completely different things to really vary our experience, learn new skills and hopefully find things that we love to do that we never thought about before. Best case scenario is that we have a volunteer experience that we absolutely love that helps us to figure out what we want to do with our lives and we come back with a goal and a plan; worst case scenario is that we see the world, learn new skills and come back to our current career paths (well that's not the WORST case scenario, but I'm trying not to think of kidnappings and malaria.)
Either way, I'm super excited. We are still figuring out exactly where we want to go, but we have ideas of course and are now trying to whittle it down to about 10 or 12 countries to really be able to spend time in each place. We are also doing a lot of budgeting and research about backpacking to prepare for all of the logistics, i.e. budget, visas, vaccinations, etc. It's a huge project, but we feel like now's the time for it, when we don't have kids or a house or jobs we are really attached to. We figured that we can budget in order to save up for it in the coming year so as not to dig into our savings and are starting to look at the timeline for everything that needs to be handled before we go. I'm really excited!"

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