Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Getting to this point (and going forward)

Since adding the countdown ticker to the blog, I’m finally starting to deal with the reality that our RTW trip starts in only 6 weeks! How is it that I quit my job last September and am only now (for the past 2 months anyway) spending approximately 7 hours per day working on the trip???

Even though I was honest with Greg about my plans to travel around the world when we got together in February 2009, I highly doubted he would join me. After all, our relationship was in its infancy and he wasn’t too keen on quitting his job without having another one lined up. I had originally planned to start the trip well before the end of last year, but as my relationship with Greg progressed and we had many long discussions about the possibilities for our future together, I came to the conclusion that it might be worth waiting a bit longer to see how things turned out. We made the most of our time and traveled around the U.S. “sampling” cities where we might want to live when we are ready to settle down together. Of course, in order to get the most out of this experience, I have spent a lot of time researching, writing about and exploring the locations we chose (New York City since I was already living there, Seattle, Honolulu, Portland). The RTW trip was always in the back of my mind, but during those months it also took a backseat to everything else.

After a tough Christmas season (great time spent with friends & family but challenging because Greg & I were at a crossroads in our relationship), we decided to come out here (to Portland) to have some time to figure things out. We continued with our twice weekly “school” sessions, which is just our moniker for setting aside time to focus on each other & our relationship. The biggest issue was whether or not Greg would quit his job and thus be able to travel around the world with me. I don’t think either one of us expected our relationship to survive intact if I went without him, and I wasn’t willing to postpone my (almost) lifelong dream any longer.

Finally, near the end of March, we reached a critical turning point. Greg made his decision and then we made a joint decision. We both love Portland and, knowing we had about 4 months to go before we would leave on our RTW trip, we decided to spend the majority of it here, where we could start focusing on the planning but spend our leisure time drinking craft beer, eating at great restaurants, and enjoying the mild weather & beautiful scenery. We also planned a wonderful vacation to Yellowstone National Park and a few shorter side trips.

So that’s why these past couple of months have been intense. Lots of planning & coordinating to make this trip work for both of us. The Portland Central Library has been my go-to offline source for travel guides & literature. Living walking distance to REI has been a godsend! I even found a travel health clinic a couple of blocks from our apartment (but was shocked, no, APPALLED, by the total cost of all our vaccines no matter where we got them). Our building has a gym, which is perfect for getting us in great shape for all the walking and carrying of 30+lb backpacks that we’ll be doing. Another bonus, Portland has an extensive food cart scene, which is a great way to prepare our palates for some of the cuisines we’ll experience on the road.

Greg & I now have daily trip planning meetings to update each other on any work completed on our assigned tasks. I set up this massive spreadsheet with over 20 tabs with titles like “Itinerary, Visas, Vaccines, Insurance, Transport” and also country-specific information. But I have been particularly stressed lately with the transport part of the trip. About 1 week ago, I sent our itinerary to AirTreks with some notes about which portions we were planning to do by bus, train, car or boat. The quoted fare in Coach came to about $6600 per person!!! And that doesn’t include our trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic flights, for which we plan to fly standby on Delta using my mom’s passes. I had priced out the itinerary myself before contacting AirTreks and come up with a similar number, so I shouldn’t have been so shocked, but it’s still A LOT of money! And when you factor in a 2-week safari in Eastern Africa (about $5000pp) then budget an average of $40/nt pp for accommodations (although we do plan to couch surf or stay in private rooms in hostels as often as feasible), and $35/day for food & drink & miscellaneous expenses (must try all the local beers!), it looks like we could easily blow through about $25,000 PER PERSON in only 6 months.

Yes, we have both saved up that much money and earmarked it for this trip, along with additional funds for what we call “reentry” which will allow us to move to the West Coast, find a decent apartment, furnish it, and take time to find jobs we love. But I really, really want to go to South America for a few months after we touch base in the U.S. after the first portion of the trip. And the possibility of continuing on depends completely on our overall financial situation by the time next February rolls around. Maybe it’s time to start asking for donations or find a sponsor??? :)

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