As I write this, we are a week into being unemployed and homeless, and T-12 days until departure to our first destination. Yikes!
These final weeks find us in the midst of last minute prep, booking flights and hotels, while also trying to spend ample time with friends and family. We successfully got rid of most of our crap and ended our lease, drove across the country and planned out the details of our first month and a half of travel.
We need to be at two weddings in the first month and a half, and we'll be back in the U.S. after little more than a month, so our early itinerary is simultaneously more locked down and more manic. But we have our rough country list for the rest of the trip, and it's full of some curious choices. So before I get the inevitable "you forgot Poland" response, let me tell you where we're going, where we aren't, and how we decided which is which.
Picking where to go
When you tell people that you're going to be traveling for an entire year, their first reaction tends to be "oh my gosh, you're going to see all the things." And it's true that we're going to be able to visit many more places than we could on any ordinary trip. But the hardest thing about planning a massive trip like this, it turns out, is actually deciding where you're not going to go, because if you're anything like us, you have a list of places you want to see that covers pretty much the entire world, and you have to cut down on that list hard. Why?
- It's better to go deep than go wide. The real luxury of taking a year to travel isn't in jumping from place to place every two days but in being able to spend a week or three in a handful of awesome places, getting to know them far better than you would when you can only skim the surface and hit the touristy highlights.
- You can't travel for a year like you would for two weeks. We all face the temptation of trying to squeeze a packed itinerary into two weeks, coming back home at the end of our vacation needing a second vacation. But when there's no "coming home" at the end of those two weeks, you have to take your time, build in days when you explicitly don't do anything, and recharge as you go.
So with those constraints in mind, we started by striking most of the world off our list right off the bat: we decided to scope down the trip to focus only on Europe and Asia. That doesn't mean that we don't want to visit South and Central America, Africa and Australia at some point in the future: we absolutely do. But we knew there were parts of Europe and Asia that we absolutely had to visit on this trip, so it made sense to focus on those.
Once we did that, we put together a list of countries we wanted to visit, and did a little bit of research on each one we weren't as familiar with. Then we jotted down:
- How much of a priority it was to go to each place for each of us
- How long we thought we might want to spend in each location
- What visa regulations we needed to consider for each
- Any special considerations (e.g. we had friends or family there, etc.)
What we ended up with was a spreadsheet that looked something like this:
Finally, we went through and narrowed down our list of destinations to a little over 20 countries, aiming for a rough average of two weeks per country. As we did that, one of the things we considered was how easy it was to get to from Seattle, and how likely we were to make a separate, dedicated trip to a place. With that logic in mind, we booted places like France and southern Italy from our list with the explicit goal of visiting them in the future.
In essence, we optimized for destinations that were either harder to reach or ones we wanted to spend significant time in.
Once that process was complete and we figured out how to best stretch all of those countries together and overlay them on our timeline, we ended up with a two-phase trip.
The trial run
The timing of our trip worked out such that we have to be back in the U.S. for a wedding barely more than a month in. While this is a bit of a detour, we're viewing it as an opportunity to treat the first month a little bit differently:
- We can move a little bit faster, particularly while we deal with relatively high Western European costs of living rather than the much cheaper ones we'll encounter through much of our trip, and
- We can learn what worked and what didn't about our trip planning, what we brought, etc., and make decisions about the second, much longer phase of our trip accordingly.
So with that, we're covering a lot of ground:
- Ireland: August 18-24
- England: August 24-28
- Scotland: August 28-September 2
- Belgium: September 2-September 6
- Macedonia: September 6-September 12
- Croatia (with a brief detour into Bosnia): September 12-September 20
We'll be migrating every 3-4 days through most of this month, so we expect to arrive back in the US at the end of September fully exhausted.
The meat of the adventure
We'll spend a few weeks recuperating and attending a wedding in the US, and then pick back up with the more committed part of our trip. We'll also slow down pretty significantly, aiming to spend 4-5 days in most cities and 2-3 weeks in most countries, with longer breaks built in for our sanity.
We also have this part of the trip far less planned out, leaving some flexibility to spend longer or shorter periods of time in any place if we so choose. So what follows is a high level timeline, but we may play with the order in which we visit each of these countries, the duration we spend, and even whether we show up at all.
- October: Portugal, Spain
- November: Germany, Austria, Hungary
- December: Romania, Moldova, Ukraine
- January: Russia, Turkey
- February: Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates (Dubai), Thailand
- March: Cambodia
- April: Vietnam, Malaysia
- May: Taiwan
- June: South Korea
- July: Japan
If we're doing well on our budget come next year, we'll add China and perhaps a few other locations to our itinerary.
Meet up with us!
If you're reading this and you're either already in one of the countries on our list or might want to plan a trip, let us know! We'd love to cross paths with folks, whether that's getting a drink or traveling together for a little while. If that means we need to firm up some of our plans a little, we're happy to do that.
And if you can't, don't forget that we'll be sending weekly email updates. You can subscribe here and keep up with all of our wacky adventures!