Trip planning is in full swing now. I’m treating it like a full time job. Up at 6 or 7am, work out in the gym downstairs, eat breakfast, check the news online as well as updates on Facebook & Twitter, then work straight through until lunch. Thirty minute lunch break then back to work until at least 4pm, when Greg & I have our dinner debrief (he’s learning to cook so we plan our weekly meals out on Sunday, pick up all the necessary ingredients at the grocery, and then have “lessons” prior to actually cooking). I stay close to the kitchen to answer questions or help as needed, then we eat dinner and relax afterwards. I typically try not to do any trip research after dinner because it works my brain too hard and then I’m afraid I won’t sleep well. Of course, this schedule varies a bit if we plan an afternoon outing or if we have to work out later in the day because Greg has an early morning conference call. In general though, I’m trying to devote a minimum of six hours a day to sorting out the details of the trip.
I did a lot of preliminary research over the past few years because I originally thought I would be setting off on this trip around August, 2008. But my job situation changed and I wasn’t able to save up as much money as I wanted to by that date. So I kept working and minimized my expenses as much as possible while still trying to enjoy & fully experience life in New York City. Luckily (in one sense), my job was super demanding and required a lot of overtime work and thus I was able to stash more money relatively quickly. However this also meant that I had very little spare time to work on the trip planning. With a new tentative departure date of late 2009, I forged ahead one day at a time but was concerned about the lack of time I was devoting to the trip prep. Not to mention that I worked such long hours I didn’t have time to go to the gym to get in better physical shape for the trip.
It was in the middle of all that that Greg came into my life. Our relationship started very slowly and innocuously at first (yes, on Facebook!), but soon enough he was an integral part of my day-to-day existence. This despite the fact that he was living in Nashville, TN and I was in New York City. Some of our first conversations were about travel, much of them spent with him talking about wanting to spend more time in Europe & Hawaii and me talking about going to Africa & Southeast Asia (and generally around the world). It would take many months before we both considered it a possibility that we could do some variation of my RTW trip together.
So here we are, almost a year and a half later. Our relationship has been untraditional to say the least. Over the past year we have lived together (in some form or another) in New York City, Seattle, Honolulu, and Portland, OR. We have also vacationed in Hawaii & Eastern Europe and taken long weekend trips to the Smoky Mountains, Indiana, and more. While the title of this blog “Alethea’s Excellent Adventures” was meant to be about my RTW travels, the subject matter has so far been my “living experiments” with Greg (see links to archived posts). That will change soon enough, because we have officially set a departure date for our round-the-world trip. It is really only a few short months away which is why I have to focus my time & efforts on the planning & preparation. Greg is helping, too, of course. He just has less spare time because of his job.
Our first task was to individually make lists of all the places in the world we want to go (we actually did this several months ago). We have also been purchasing & testing the necessary clothing, footwear & gear (mostly for Greg as I have been traveling in this fashion for over a decade so I simply need to “update” a few things). We have both saved up the necessary funds and have moved them or are in the process of moving those earmarked funds into the appropriate accounts (with no to minimal ATM withdrawal charges or foreign transaction fees). We also have re-entry funds set aside to allow us to come back to the U.S., catch up with family & friends, move to wherever we want to live, and take our time finding jobs. We both have been devoting some time every day to reading travel blogs or other relevant literature. We have ensured that our passports are renewed/up-to-date. We started working out 6 days a week at the beginning of February, alternating cardio & strength training, and are both in better shape now than we’ve been in many years.
Now we are at the more detailed phase of trip planning. We have compared our destination lists and narrowed them down into what seems to be a workable 6 month itinerary by roughing out dates & durations for each location (with the option to add on another 2-3 months at the end if our finances are in good enough shape). We have checked seasonal weather averages & conditions as well as any dates that might coincide with national holidays or large festivals. We have calculated the costs & time required to obtain visas.
Our next steps are to firm up the itinerary and apply for visas; get a full physical (me only; Greg did this in January); meet with a travel medicine specialist and start getting any necessary vaccinations; and book any peak season tours or air travel (only if absolutely necessary -- I prefer to wing it and not be committed to definite dates). In the meantime we’ll continue to do research on specific destinations and make sure we’re not trying to see too much, too fast.
We’re also going on vacation in mid-May (less than 2 weeks away!) to Yellowstone National Park. Three nights each in Old Faithful & Mammoth and two nights in Jackson, WY. Greg & I have both had Yellowstone on our top ten list for quite some time. We’re going early in the season so we expect to see some snow and may have to deal with cooler temperatures and inclement weather, but we should get to see most of the park minus the huge summer crowds. This is also birthing season for much of the wildlife so we should see lots of baby animals. I’m definitely going to need a break from all this planning and am really looking forward to our vacation!