Perhaps the longest countdown I’ve ever had – 18 Months of waiting for my journey around the world to begin in December 2015.
You may wonder, “Why wait for 18 months?” The reason is very simple: I’ve already applied for German citizenship (the process takes over a year) and my first German passport is about to be issued. This kind of trip can be pretty challenging with the Armenian one.
The first 12 months are passed. It’s been a time of a pleasant anticipation, extensive researches, planning and elaborative preparation for the RTW project (RTW = round the world). And here is a kind of a quick report about that.
Job and finances
I’ve read a lot about people giving up their jobs and go traveling. Well, that path may be rewarding but not for myself, so I decided to ask my employer for a sabbatical. I was happy and grateful they approved my request – 6 months’ time off. They also offered me a saving program, so that even during my journey I will be on a limited paycheck. Thus, along with my savings, I could cover the expenses of the RTW. Looks great to me. Check!
I love my place, there is no way I’m gonna give it up. As much as I enjoy globetrotting, I love coming back home, and drop my head on to the old, familiar pillow. The solution: 2-3 months before my departure I will sublet it.
The most important thing was to get rid of the chronic migraine. I chose acupuncture, drastically reduced the painkillers, and added some sports and dancing classes to my weekly schedule. Alas, that wasn’t enough to solve my problem. The crucial part was reducing the stress at work. So I adjusted my routines in terms of time management, worked on the interaction with my team and changed my mindset (the most challenging task), trying to achieve more distanced attitude toward the professional duties. It was a long, hard but a rewarding path. As I mentioned in the post before, my RTW-plan was more than just another trip planning. It gave me a huge mental boost, so that with all those changes I was able to reduce my migraine to the minimum by the winter.
The next step are vaccinations. According to my research, the costs are over 800€, which are covered by TK (the health insurance company). I started with the first vaccination in February, and there is a plenty of time ahead for accomplishing this task.
There is no certain rule for RTW-routes. Personal bucking list is probably the initial impulse for the most of globetrotters so it is for me. Time, budget and security are the main filtering aspects for the final destinations’ choice. After 12 months of planning I still don’t have the final route, but I’m close 🙂 Furthermore, I’m sure my route will stand flexible while traveling. Therefore, I have the initial set of 9 destinations after considering around 30 countries for now. Of course, I want to see as much as possible, but on the other hand, the more destinations you have on your list, the less time you have to explore them. So, it is important to observe the destinations within the time frame and find the perfect balance between the transfer and the actual experience times.
Here the shortlist: Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Japan, China, India
Still considering: Ecuador+Galapagos vs. Vietnam+Cambodia, Nepal (in case I can’t stand the heat in India in May), Bhutan and/or Ester Islands (in case I could find extra money), Turkey (if someone would like to join me in Eastern Anatolia).
Excluded: Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand – don’t wanna travel there alone, Venezuela and African countries for security reasons.
The plan is to book the long flights in advance and explore overland as much as possible. For maximum flexibility I decided to book my tickets individually and not a RTW-Ticket. Over past few months, I was tracking various flights on web and already booked two of them. Next connection I’m tracking is the crossing the Pacific from Chile, the easiest way for now is over Australia for I’m thinking to visit Cambodia and Vietnam. Will see…
Why no RTW-Ticket?
Along with numerous advantages RTW-Tickets offer I also found a few critical restrictions. For instance, I would have to fly in one cardinal direction, either east or west. As I said, my route most probably will change while on the way and I may not always keep the direction, so I don’t qualify for the RTW-Tickets. The other thing which doesn’t suit me well is the distances I would cross overland are considered in the miles budget of the RTW-Ticket, which means I must pay for the same distance twice. That looks ridiculous to me. These tickets work well for people who have fixed budget and are OK with ready-made routes, which are put together with cheapest connections within the air alliances. Once you have individual vision of your route, you end up overpaying.
I have 6-month time off starting from 1 Jan 2016 + some holidays from 2015, so that the departure date is on 12 Dec 2015. The result is 30 weeks’ time. The rough schedule looks like this:
- Mexico + Guatemala: 4 weeks
- Peru + Bolivia: 4 weeks
- Chile+Argentina: 6 weeks
- Transfer over the Pacific: 2 weeks
- Japan: 4 weeks
- India: 5 weeks
- China: 4 weeks
- Transfer to Germany: 1 week
Looks like I have “quite enough” time for the destinations. Of course, I could spend months in each of these countries exploring their culture and the nature. Nevertheless, unfortunately I don’t have these months and years. I’ll travel with the soothing thought “I can’t see everything, and it’s OK”. Makes me think of this:
“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.”
― Lisa St. Aubin de Terán
There are many concepts around this topic, all of them aim the same — travel light! The less you take the better. Being constantly on the road you’ll feel and regret every single ounce too much. Some people prefer to go minimal and buy stuff on their way as needed. As much as I hate the idea of being forced to shop while traveling, I know I can’t avoid this in my long term case. So I need to figure out the balanced way. My approach is to got relevant quality and comfort (!) stuff with me:
- Outdoor/waterproof clothes: Because I have them already and these items can be really expensive abroad.
- Shoes: new shoes can be a real pain. So, I definitely will pack my old, comfortable ones.
- Electronic: camera, laptop, and the necessary accessories – never change the winning horse, I need the tools I’m used to work with.
I’m gonna rent or buy the rest on the way if need to. The heavy hiking gear isn’t in my list, so I have defined 14 kg as the limit I wanna carry. A week ago, I’ve test-packed for the first time. My backpack weighted 14 kg: clothes for a week for two seasons, shoes, hygiene stuff, no electronic devices – kinda too much, have to work on this. The final packing list will be published later, stay tuned.