Before reading this post, please open Europe: The Final Countdown and play the song in the background. This seems like a fitting mood enhancer for our first destination since it happens to be Europe. Fortunately we aren’t heading to North Korea first or ever, so you don’t have to listen to Onward Toward the Final Victory while you read.
I gotta say, it has been a long road getting to this point. We are now looking out over the cliff at the beginning of our trip. We have continued to check off the final items on our planning list to prepare for our adventure. Looking back, the list seems impossibly long but it didn’t seem all that bad when taking just a few steps at a time. The two most asked questions to this point are: what countries are you visiting and are you scared, roughly in that order. I’ll answer the second question before tackling the first, which thankfully has a much shorter answer. We are not scared about this trip, but we feel a good dose of nervous excitement. We have planned extensively for everything we can control. There is no question that things will go wrong and there will be plenty of unforeseen situations that arise, but those are beyond our control. To put it differently, we do not feel like we are about to walk into a test without studying. This seems like a fitting answer.
This weekend, we went through our phone contact lists and ensured we had updated information. I’m not exactly sure how this happened but over the years and several phones later, contacts had been duplicated or separated into groups by email, work, or cloud accounts. Since we didn’t want to lose any contacts, we consolidated them from various sources (work and email accounts) to the cloud and removed any duplicates. This was very tedious, but it will allow all current and new contacts to be in one location. As we are losing our cell service, we remembered to switch our messaging apps to send from our email accounts. We sent messages to give everyone our new contact info. We stored our current numbers in a Parking Lot for future use (see our Essential Mobile Technology post for more discussion on this and other workarounds). We saved electronic copies of all important documents, confirmed arrangements for rental property management, worked on this post (along with another very detailed one on our travel insurance choice, thanks to Medic Megan), and did our final packing.
Now to answer the first question. Our itinerary took us several months to iron out. I won’t say that it is totally finalized since the trip is twelve months, but it is pretty close. The work came with trying to match seasons (tourist, weather, activity matching, etc.) with proximity of subsequent destinations. We aimed for a sequential flow around the globe which saved on travel time and costs. We continued to build lists and then scrap or alter them when we ran into a road block (e.g landing in India mid-summer or flying into SE Asia in monsoon season). We also felt that it prudent to start our trip in an easier location which would allow tweaking to our backpack contents if necessary. Based on our starting point, this meant either Europe or Australia, which would then determine our general direction around the world.
After much ado, we decided to first tackle Iceland and Eastern Europe. We will be in these areas through part of June until early August. We will do the Ring Road around Iceland before heading to mainland Europe, and then travel by train through Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania. This will include highlights such as Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, wine country in Hungary, Transylvania, but also several smaller authentic towns. We chose to move quickly through Europe so we could spend more time in Asia. This was both due to our interest in that area along with the lower cost of living.
After our Europe stint, we will be moving on to Africa for most of August and September. The only reasonable way for us to get to Africa was through Dubai, so we will be there for a short period before going to Kenya. From here, we will be doing a camping safari for several weeks that will pass through Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana. Some highlights will include visiting the game reserves on the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, scuba diving in Zanzibar, visiting Lake Malawi, Chobe National Park, and Victoria Falls. We will then continue on to South Africa for more exploring and hiking (plus the obligatory stop in wine country), and some down time around Cape Town after a quick pace so far.
This is the point where our bookings have stopped, but we still have our general itinerary set. From South Africa, we then will fly to Nepal for an extended period. We will be there for over a month to do some lengthy trekking in the Himalayas and experiencing the culture. This will take us through October which is in the peak trekking season after the monsoon period. We then will spend the remaining time in October, November and some of December in India. We intend to visit the Golden Triangle area with the Taj Mahal for a portion and still have several weeks to explore other areas of the country.
The next stop on the list is Australia, which will be through the month of December and into January. We will travel up the East Coast by train, and do some scuba diving in the Great Barrier reef. The reminder of our trip is planned to be within South East and Central Asia. We will fly to Singapore, and then travel overland through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. We intend to be in these areas for the following four to five months before heading to China, South Korea, and Japan around May for another eight to ten weeks.
To date, we have spent $16,725 on our trip. This includes all flights up to Nepal, accommodations up to Cape Town, 5 weeks of safari, travel insurance, travel books, international driving permits, etc. Of this figure, $8,717 is for accommodations, centered mostly in Airbnb but with some hotels as well. Transportation is second with $6,878 booked so far, including 7 flights each and 5 weeks of overland safari. The balance is mostly our travel insurance. These figures do not include any food or train tickets, but our combined daily cost average through September is $93. While costs of living will increase this number, the cheapest countries are at the end of the trip and will help balance out the total. We will keep this number updated throughout our trip.
We are continuously discussing other areas of interest which are not on the current plan, so will keep you up to date of any major additions or alterations. We currently have several friends and family members who will be meeting us at various locations along the way. We will have company in Iceland, Hungary, South Africa, and Australia, but also have others expressing interest in different parts of Europe and Asia. Please let us know if you will be traveling in any of these areas concurrently as we would love to meet up.
Also make sure to read about our inspirations for this trip!