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23rd February
2012
written by Steph
In my last post (I don't blame you if you don't remember it... it was a loooooong time ago!) when I was lamenting about my awful reading dry spell, Softdrink over at Fizzy Thoughts reminded me that along with my dissertation, I also have that huge impending Round The World (RTW) trip I've been planning so why not talk about that some if material for bookish posts was somewhat lacking at the moment. And of course, as soon as I read that comment, I thought it was brilliant! It has always been Tony's and my intention to continue blogging when we embark on our grand tour—it's a lot easier than trying to fit you all in our backpacks!—so it makes sense to start the process a bit earlier. I know that whenever fellow bloggers have shared holiday pictures in the past, I've always really loved the vicarious thrill of seeing a place I've never been through someone else's eyes, so I hope others will feel the same. Also, planning a regular 1 - 2 week holiday is an endeavor in itself, but planning a RTW trip is a whole different ballgame... like the Olympics of trip planning. So some of the behind-the-scenes details showing just what goes into this kind of endeavor might actually be interesting (fingers crossed!). For those of you not at all interested in travel (! is that even possible?!?), I apologize for my terrible book blogging of late. Thus far into 2012, I've read 4 books, three of them for BookPage, so while I do have one book to write about (and hope to do so soon), things on the literary front might be a little dry for the next while. When you first tell people that you're going on a RTW trip, you get a variety of reactions: some people get really excited and think it's super awesome but others find the concept completely confusing, unable to fathom the idea of giving up the security of a job and a traditional career path to go vagabonding. Trust me, for ever squeal of excitement we've enjoyed, we've also gotten plenty of blank stares. Still, some things are universal; regardless of reaction, pretty much the first thing anyone asks after we inform them of our plans is "Where are you going to go?" Generally this wouldn't be a tough answer, but when you're planning a trip with a projected length of 18 months and the world is your oyster, things get a bit tougher. Unfortunately, while 18 months seems like an eternity for most people, if you spend some time snooping around blogs of fellow RTW travelers, you realize that even with a year and a half at your disposal, some hard choices have to be made. Planning a RTW trip is a bit different from your average holiday, not simply because of its length and scope, but because the goals are slightly different too. A RTW trip is not a vacation, it is traveling for the sake of travel. With so much time at your disposal, you could certainly go out with the intention of hitting as many countries as you possibly can, but doing so will likely burn through your money much faster than if you are willing to go slow. It's counter-intuitive, I know, but really, by willing to go slow and spend more time in certain places, you can save a lot of money rather than doing a whirlwind grand tour. Plus, setting aside a year or more to travel offers you the unique opportunity to really get to know the places you visit rather than solely seeing them through the eyes of tourist. Often there just isn't enough time on a regular vacation (where generally the best case scenario is that you get two-weeks somewhere) to really get the feel for a country in anything more than a superficial way, but with a RTW trip, time need not be an issue! Anyway, all of this preamble is just a way of preparing y'all for the fact that when Tony & I say we're going to travel around the world, we don't actually mean that we are going to see every place on earth. Right now our travel plans may actually allow for us to circumnavigate the globe, but we certainly won't be hitting every country, or even every continent! One of the first things you come to terms with when trying to sketch out an itinerary for a trip of this size is that you just can't see everything and some places will have to wait for another trip. Without further ado, here's where Tony & I plan to set our feet (in approximate order) at some point during 2012 - 2013:

Look out world! Here we come!

  1. Japan
  2. South Korea
  3. China (and Hong Kong)
  4. Vietnam
  5. Cambodia
  6. Laos
  7. Thailand
  8. Malaysia (and Singapore)
  9. Sri Lanka
  10. Nepal
  11. India
  12. Turkey
  13. Israel
  14. Jordan
  15. Egypt
  16. Greece
  17. Macedonia
  18. Albania
  19. Montenegro
  20. Croatia
  21. Bosnia
  22. Hungary
  23. Portugal
  24. Spain
  25. Morocco
  26. Italy
  27. Germany
  28. Austria
  29. Czech Republic
  30. The Netherlands
  31. Belgium
  32. France
  33. England
  34. Ireland
Now of course, with a trip that is so extensive, it's impossible to plan everything and we certainly want to leave ourselves the flexibility to change our plans as we go. We may choose to skip certain countries if money gets tight or we may wind up detouring and adding in a place that we discover along the way that just seems too good to miss. So this list is by no means set in stone, but more of our dream itinerary of all the places we'd really like to hit on this trip (and currently believe we have saved enough cashola to do so). If you can believe it, this is actually our list after having cut places out! Some destinations in South East Asia were lost and pretty early on we realized that Australia would likely need to be its own trip due to cost issues. Due to strict visa policies for Russia, it too will have to wait to have its day (much to our friend Trisha's chagrin). And while I have dreams of traveling through Africa (lions! tigers! bears! ok, maybe not so much that last one...), we're barely touching it (Egypt may get chopped depending on safety/funds when that portion of the trip arrives, but I refuse to compromise on Morocco!) and we both agreed that Central and South America will likely benefit from their own extended trip some day (perhaps as a reward should Tony and/or I ever learn proper Spanish). So for now, our world tour will largely consist of destinations in Europe and Asia, and that's ok by us. I'm hoping that as life gets a little bit less crazy (for those on Dissertation Watch, I've thus far written 1.5 out of a projected 5 chapters...), I'll be able to give y'all a more in-depth rundown of the various countries on our list to give you some idea of what we hope to see and do while we're there! But for now I'd love to know whether we have any readers located at any of our projected stops... I'm hoping that Tony & I can meet some of you while we're abroad! I'd also love to hear about any of your travel experiences in any of these destinations; if you've been to any of these places, please let us know what you consider the must-see, must-do, must-eat things! I know that right now I've just listed countries and some of them (ahem, China) are really big, but wherever you've been, we want to know about it! Right now our projected departure date is somewhere around late August/early September, so while the clock is ticking, we still have plenty of time to keep planning (and that's a good thing, because we still have tons to do!).  

22 Comments

  1. Wow! What an exciting trip! You are going to so many places that I really want to go to. I’m sure you’ll have the most exciting year of your life, especially since you are going together. If you have any spare time in London make sure you let me know, as I’d love to meet you. Enjoy all your planning 🙂

  2. 02/23/2012

    I love this idea and that you’ll be blogging all the way! And your itenerary!! So great!

    I know you said you’re leaving a lot to the time, but I was wondering if you had any ideas about Israel? I specifically ask because I spent 10 days in Israel and the occupied Palestine about four years go, and learned a couple of really big things: 1 – the big parts of Israel (like Tel Aviv) look exactly like the US, except with different languages on the signs. I was so disappointed with it. Plus, it’s super expensive, and there’s a lot of hostility against tourists. However, the moment you cross the border into the occupied territories, it’s like you’ve entered another world. You go from first world, very US-like, very rich, to third world, completely different. I haven’t been to Gaza, but spent a lot of time on the West Bank. It was very friendly there, and open, and amazing to visit. Some of the major sites are there, like Bethlehem, which I did get to go to. I also went to Jerusalem, which is on the Israeli side of the border, and really hated it there because it is filled with all sorts of sales people, from venders hawking 1-sheckle tshirts and plastic Dome of the Rocks, to orthodox Jews offering to bless you for 5 sheckles, to cab drivers who will charge you 10x the normal fare just because you’re a tourist. I spent a total of 2 days in Israel and 8 in Palestine, and spent twice as much money in Israel than Palestine. I didn’t get to go, but my sister (who lived in Palestine for almost 5 years) said that one of the best places to visit on the West Bank is Hebron. My personal favorite was Ramallah, which is about half an hour from Jerusalem. Anyway, that’s really all I know. 🙂

  3. 02/23/2012

    You really don’t know what you’re missing when it comes to Russia! I love it so. 🙂 But your itinerary looks terrific and I hope to join you SOMEWHERE in the world after you embark!

  4. 02/23/2012

    Wow, this just sounds like the most coolest thing to do! And blogging about it – yay, can’t wait to go with you vicariously!

  5. This is so incredibly exciting. I would love to be able to have the time and money to do this. I love to travel but have never taken such an extended trip. I’d love to hear the ins and outs as you guys prepare.

  6. 02/23/2012

    1. I think my brilliance should be rewarded with a spot in the aforementioned backpack. 😀
    2. My squeals of excitement should totally counteract other people’s blank states, because I think it is beyond awesome that you guys are doing this.
    3. If you’re in Salzburg, there are salt mines worth visiting, just for the sheer entertainment value of having to don a white jumpsuit and ride a little train underground. It was sort 7 dwarfish. Of course, that was over 20 years ago…things may have changed. And for Italy, Sant’Antimo Abbey in the hills outside of Florence is worth a visit just to hear monks chant. Hearing and watching the centuries old ceremony was amazing, even for someone as unreligious as I am. Besides the Forum and Coliseum in Rome, it was the place I felt closest to history. And London Walks (walks.com) is one of the best ways to learn about London, in my opinion. I am so not a tour person, but their walks and day trips impress me…lots of choices and great guides and fairly cheap, all things considered…and some of the guides are trained actors and singers, so if you luck out, your guide will break into song. Also for London…while the Tube is great, try to avoid it as much as you can and walk. Some of the Tube stops are ridiculously close together, and you might not realize that until you stand on a corner and notice a different stop right across the street!
    4. I can’t wait to read about all of your adventures!!

  7. 02/24/2012

    This is SO exciting! I would LOVE to do something like that someday. And in the meantime, I really look forward to experiencing it vicariously through your blog 😛 I see that Portugal is on your list, so when the time comes I’d absolutely love to meet up and show you around a little bit 😀 As for places to see there, Lisbon is probably already part of your plans, but I’d also highly recommend Sintra and Porto. I’d be happy to give you more detailed information and tips once you have a better idea of where you’ll be and how much time you’ll have.

  8. WOWWWW! (count me in the “really excited and think it’s super awesome” category). Some thoughts:

    – You’re coming to Belgium!! Please stay chez nous. We’d love to have you and give you a highlight tour. We can show you the best waffles, chocolates and beer! Any idea of timing?

    – You’re also going to Portugal – great! Chances are I won’t be there, but let me know if you’d like some tips. Might also find you free accommodation in Lisbon if you let me know in advance.

    – Also have some recommendations on Thailand, China, Malaysia, Turkey (I heart Istanbul, one of my favorite cities), Israel/Palestinian Territories and European countries (except Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia)

    – We’re also going to Japan in April – I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

    – The European Cup (soccer) will be held this summer in the Ukraine. It’s not on your list and probably doesn’t match your timing, but it would be a great “European” experience.

  9. PS: I second Trisha’s comments about Russia. Can I recommend the Trans-Siberian to get you from Russia to China, via Mongolia? It’s (at least) three weeks well spent.

  10. 03/07/2012

    @ Jackie: I feel like London is one of those places where you can always have something planned for every minute of the day; I’ve been three times now and I every time I’ve been I’ve done and seen something totally new! That said, I really would like to meet up with some London/England-based bloggers while we’re on your fair isle so you can absolutely count on us meeting up on that leg of the trip. I’m hoping that we’ll have the funds to visit outside of London proper as well.
     
    @Amanda: Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I have to admit that Israel was a country I just kind of threw on our list one day as a bit of an afterthought and really haven’t researched it much above and beyond “Oh, the Wailing Wall seems like a cool/important thing to see” and “Bethlehem sounds cool”. I know that we will visit several places on our trip where there are tons of “touts” and people trying to rip us off or constantly trying to get our money, so that certainly wouldn’t be unique to Israel, but your comment has really made me wonder whether this is a place we’ll enjoy. There are certainly other parts of the Middle East that I think we are more interested in visiting (like Jordan and Egypt… though of course Egypt is not without baggage… but it has the pyramids!) and that might not be quite so costly. I don’t want to rule anything out, but I will say that Israel is probably low on our list of priorities to visit so we may very well skip it in favor of spending more time elsewhere!
     
    @ Trisha: I know, I know, Russia is awesome… and cold! 😉 Tony and I will surely go some day, but probably not on this trip. While visa rules change all the time, Russia seems to be one of those countries where it is very difficult to get a tourist visa outside of your own home country, and you can only apply a max of 90-days before you intend to visit. If only Russia didn’t make it such a pain to visit, we would go!
     
    @ rhapsody: I’ve found a variety of RTW travel blogs that I’ve found really inspiring, so I hope you will too!
    @ jenn: I guess time and money are what you make of them, right? We’ve been saving up for this trip for a while (about 3 years), but we’re also lucky to be in the position where we don’t have any financial obligations (no loans or mortgages) and my graduating is really the perfect motivation to start fresh. We were always going to need to move once I finished, so we figured that instead of settling down right away and getting sucked into jobs we might as well travel. For us, this is the perfect time!
     
    @ softdrink: How about we just send you a personalized post card from a country of your choosing? I know it’s no backpack spot, but I think our corgi is already going to try to call dibs on one of our packs… 😉
    Also, I have been to Salzburg, though I didn’t do the salt mines, but I think you can still do the whole shebang, costumed and all. Will look into it for sure! I’ve also spent a day in Florence (not enough!) but didn’t have the chance to venture outside the city, so Sant’Antimo definitely sounds like something we should check out. I love love love Rome, and I completely agree about the Coliseum really making you feel the full force of how old this world really is! And I’ve had some great walking tour experiences, though I’ve never done a London Walk. I said to Tony that I would like to try to do more walking tours when we travel so that we can really learn about the cities we’re visiting from a historical perspective as well. Great tips!
     
    @ Nymeth: I will definitely be contacting you once we get around to thinking in more detail about Portugal, though of course we did plan on seeing Lisbon, and Porto, but I’ll certainly look into Sintra as well now. And of course, once we start planning that part of our trip more, I will be in touch for tips… and I would love for us to meet up! I’m not lying when I say that I’m really hoping to meet many of our blogging friends on this trip!
     
    @ Alex: I will admit that I had a rather negative first date with Brussels several years back (I blame the bed-bug infested hostel I stayed at), so I’d really like the chance to see the city in a better light! And meet youuuuuu! 😉 I’ll definitely be contacting you for tips about the various places you’ve visited throughout Europe, and I can’t wait to hear about Japan! I actually think that we’ll be hitting Europe in about a year’s time, as we’re planning to leave for our trip in late Aug/early Sept and will start off in Asia and work our way West…
    And I promise that Tony and I did bounce around the idea of doing the Trans-Siberian to travel across Russia and get to China! It just didn’t make as much sense for us because we really want to go to Japan and flying to/from Japan from China always seems to be freakishly expensive… One day!

  11. 02/24/2012

    Steph, this is so exciting! I can’t wait to read about your travels 🙂 Ireland is beautiful and England is such a great place to visit – you will love both countries! Italy is awesome and Austria is great, too! There are just so many wonderful things to do in these countries – you and Tony are going to have such an amazing time!

  12. 02/24/2012

    This is just the coolest thing, and I am so excited for you guys! I would love to hear as much about it as possible and to be able to live vicariously through you as you travel. Alas, since I am not a native of a foreign country, it is doubtful that you will be stopping here, but if you ever get the hankering to visit Disney in Orlando, I will be there will bells on to show you the way!

  13. 02/27/2012

    That is so exciting!! I’ll be happy to share some of my experience of Japan, Sri Lanka and Thailand with you. Just e-mail me with any questions if you have time: chasingbawa@gmail.com.

    But when you do come to England, I hope you will let us know because I’m sure there will be a bunch of us who would all love to meet you:)

    And good luck with the thesis write-up! You can do it!

  14. mee
    02/29/2012

    A bit disappointed you don’t plan to go to Indonesia ;). Please browse a bit on Bali, Lombok, Komodo island, and Menado to start with. Also as small as Singapore is, it’s not part of Malaysia, the parantheses bugged me a little bit lol. Amazing amazing trip! I love Asia and Europe, so can’t wait to follow your journey 😀

  15. 03/01/2012

    So exciting! I just hosted a couchsurfer who was on his way home after four years biking around the world, and it was so much fun, and so inspiring, to hear about his travels. I found my way here through Ana, as we were discussing our own travel plans & dreams of traveling more. I’m looking forward to following your trip!

    Also, I’m psyched to see that you’re planning to visit both Albania and Macedonia. I lived in Macedonia for over two years, and it’s such a gorgeous country – you’ll love your time there. I’m living in Tirana, Albania through the end of July, so if you happen to be here before then…let me know!

  16. 03/04/2012

    *waves from the Netherlands* I am not *that* experienced a touirst of Amsterdam (which is the inevitable stop on such tours), but you *could* come see the bookshop inside a church that has been voted one of the most beautiful in the world in Maastricht. Oh, or come see me 😛 (on the complete opposite end of the Netherlands) Though I would gladly travel the smallish country to meet.

  17. Lu
    03/04/2012

    Whaaat! This looks amazing! I can’t wait to hear more about your trip. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be much help, as the only place I’ve been outside the US is Spain. But I have spent a fair amount of time in Spain, so if you have any questions, let me know! If you go to Barcelona DON’T MISS PARK GUELL. My aunt and I somehow got it into our heads that this was not a big deal, but I have regretted not seeing it ever since. Sigh.

  18. 03/07/2012

    @ Nadia: I’ve had the good fortune to have done some travel throughout Ireland, England, Italy and Austria before, but I’m really looking forward to getting to explore all of these places a little bit more! Especially Italy… I have about 5 tons of gelato that I need to eat RIGHT NOW. 😉
     
    @ zibilee: Never you fret! Although I don’t think Tony and I will be visiting Orlando on this trip, I promise you that we will visit one day… I am determined to visit Harry Potter World (I have been saying that I wanted to go as a means of celebrating when I get my PhD!), so when we come down for that, you can be certain we will meet up!
     
    @ sakura: I will definitely be in touch for your tips on Asia soon (since that’s our first leg of our trip!) and I also hope that we’ll be able to meet up in England! The prospect of getting to meet so many people who are normally so far away is such a thrill! 😀
     
    @ mee: I know this is crazy but you are the person who convinced me not to go to Indonesia! It was on our original list and I remember you shared some pictures of your visit a while back and I was blown away, but then you also mentioned that you felt that Indonesia really isn’t set up for travelers/tourist! You never know, maybe if we’re really loving Asia and super under budget we may decide to pop over, but like I said, not everywhere can be seen on this trip!
     
    @ Ellen: Thanks for stopping by! I’ve visited your blog and found your thoughts on travel (and reading!) really inspiring and the fact that you have first-hand experience with Albania & Macedonia is a huge plus! Unfortunately, we likely won’t be in Albania until 2013 (and probably won’t be heading out on our trip until August at the earliest…), so I’m not sure we’ll be able to meet up there, but I still plan to pick your brains on what we should see and do!
     
    @ Iris: I spent 2-3 whirlwind days in Amsterdam so it’s a city I’d like to see at a bit more leisurely pace (and you had me at bookshop… beautiful or not!)… but I’d also like to potentially venture out of Amsterdam as well to see other parts of The Netherlands if at all possible so don’t count a visit out just yet! Any tips you have on non-Amsterdam things to see/do (you clearly have more experience than I!) would be great!
     
    @ Lu: Duly noted! We are definitely going to go to Barcelona, and actually, my parents are going to be there in May (or was it Madrid… I am a bad daughter!), so I will be sure everyone knows about Park Guell! 😉

  19. 04/13/2012

    ooh! you are coming to India!! Yay! I am pretty sure you will love Rajasthan. but try not to make it summer. It’s hot

  20. 04/13/2012

    And if you visit Thailand, do make sure to visit Phi Phi island (it’s the island where The Beach was shot)

  21. oh, i’m SO excited you posted about your trip! i’ve been waiting for news for a while now and love all your destinations. i’ve been to a few–ireland, italy, england, and turkey–but the rest seem so exotic and far flung! i’m looking forward to future posts–including one on your top 10 sites to see–as the trip gets closer.

    here are my two pieces of travel advice: keep a journal and send YOURSELF postcards from all destinations. whenever we travel, i print address labels and mail postcards to our house with little notes on what we did in a specific city or country. i love to have the cards, stamps, and postmarks. 🙂

  22. 05/02/2012

    This is so awesome, Steph! I am so jealous of you and Tony 🙂 It is a wonderful thing you are doing – taking 18 months off and living your dreams. Don’t listen to those ‘naysayers’ 🙂

    The list of countries you are planning to go to is quite impressive! China is a wonderful place and there is so much to see. If you are planning to stay there a few months, you can try finding a part-time job teaching English, which can help you finance your time there and you don’t need to dip into your funds. Beijing is an awesome place to see. You should definitely climb the Great Wall – definitely the Badaling part of it. You should also see the Forbidden City. If you have time, you should visit Shanghai too. It is one of my favourite cities and I loved it when I lived there. In case you are planning to visit Shanghai, do let me know. I can send you a longer email on it. As you are going to Hong Kong, hope you get to visit Macau too. It displays an interesting and different facet of China.

    I hope you get to visit Egypt – atleast the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum at Cairo. The Pyramids are awesome and the Egyptian Museum at Cairo is one of the most amazing museums in the world. They have so many treasures there and they don’t have space to keep them. The sheer number of archaeological treasures there is mind-numbing. Also, looking at the mummies gives one goosebumps – I was thrilled when I saw the mummy of Pharaoh Rameses II – he looked so alive! And if you do visit Egypt, don’t miss Nefertari’s tomb – it is regarded as the most beautiful of all the tombs. (Nefertari is different from the more famous Nefertiti. Nefertari was Pharaoh Rameses II’s most favourite queen.)

    On Russia – I totally agree with you on the visa issues. I can’t understand the Russian authorities! I hope you are able to make it there though. Behind those crazy rules and visa officials, lies one of the most beautiful countries. I refused to give up on the visa front and went there a few years back and I am glad I did. Once you cross these barriers you will encounter the legendary Russian warmth and hospitality and it will all be worth it. Moscow and St.Petersburg are beautiful cities. St.Petersburg is the most beautiful city that I have ever been to, till now.

    If you are coming to India, do let me know. It will be wonderful to meet you and Tony 🙂

    Hope you have lots of fun planning for this trip! Can’t wait to read more about it!

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