“How to decide where to go.”
This is my absolute favorite part of planning our trip – of course!
Daniel and I have had numerous discussions about the places that we want to visit (which may not necessarily be places we would want to visit with kids!).
Here is our hard look at each continent. We started with listing ALL of the places we’d consider for this trip, and then narrowed it down to the absolute requirements. The must-see’s are considered the pillars of the trip, from which the framework of our route is developed.
The initial dream was to dedicate at least 4 months to this region, and to do an overland route between Mexico City and Panama City, taking in Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Dan and I have been to Mexico and Panama, so if we had to limit ourselves, we could do a route between Guatemala and Costa Rica only. We were hoping to find somewhere along the route, perhaps in Nicaragua or Guatemala, where we could stop and rent out a home for a month, take Spanish classes, and just SLOW DOWN.
As our plans became more refined, and we took a closer look at airfare and climates for all of the countries we wanted to visit, Central America’s place in our itinerary had to be adjusted. I decided that this part of the world was one my number 1 priority. So much so, that we are going to save it for the end of our trip, when we might have run out of sufficient time. What, why?! – This is because we have always wanted to live overseas, and we will hopefully have the freedom at the end of our trip to find a new “home” and more thoroughly explore an area that we have always been interested in. Our current company does allow and encourage its’ employees to work remotely anywhere in the world, which gives us this awesome possibility. After a year of traveling, if we are still enjoying the experience of being away from the US, we might just set some temporary roots in this part of the world, enroll the kids in a private school, where they can become fluent in Spanish, and live la vida pura. *Of course, this all hinges on being able to rent out our home for another year and getting our jobs back!
My favorite continent! Dan and I have nothing but fond memories of our 11 months backpacking through South America in 2002. This was the experience that ruined us for a life of stability. All we have to do is revisit our memories to feel the magnetic pull of the South, and we are determined to experience the magic again. We want to finally see Colombia and Ecuador, two countries that we missed on that long ago epic journey. We are hoping to spend about 2 months between these countries, which doesn’t sound like a lot of time. The absolute highlight and dream is to go to the Galapagos. *That leaves us with Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana as the only countries to still see in South America, just not on this trip!
Here, our focus is on Southern Africa, and in particular – South Africa. In addition, we wanted to explore Namibia (high on our list and easily accessible), Botswana and Zimbabwe (very nice to have for the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls), and then Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho (time permitting). Ideally, we thought we would devote 3 months to this region, with another long stint in Capetown over Christmas, but as plans developed, we had to rethink this region. We have other plans for the Christmas/ New Years holidays, and we have learned that it is the rainy season in Botswana and Zimbabwe when we want to be in this region, AND Namibia will be extremely hot. South Africa is still on, but we may reduce this stop to 2 months and see what other countries will make sense to incorporate when we are there.
It seems like we have been planning this trip for years, with the political climate never seeming quite “right” for our comfort. This is a part of our trip that is VERY important, but would always be entirely dependent on safety. I don’t think this region will ever feel completely stable, but there are definitely varying degrees of civil unrest. Initially, we wanted to do an overland journey from Jordan to Israel to Egypt, for 6 weeks – 2 months. We have vacillated for months, and have finally decided that we simply aren’t comfortable with Egypt at this time. However, we hope luck is on our side, because we have now confirmed visits to both Israel and Jordan, and have added a brief stop in the United Arab Emirates. Obvious highlights are Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv, but there is MUCH more to see!
India, India, India, oh how we have forsaken you! Neither Dan or I have been here, to the country that is a prerequisite for any truly defined world traveler. We love Indian food, Indian music, Indian culture, and yet we have never made this country a part of any of our many travels. Here we are, more than ready and eager to finally see what we have been missing, and yet – the trepidation and fears are still alive. Our biggest excuse is the health of our children, so we endeavor to be well prepared for Delhi belly, careful eating, and armed with Deet. Our initial plan was to limit our Indian adventure to one month, and to do an overland route between Delhi and Bombay, seeing the Taj Mahal, Rajasthan region, and the beaches of Goa. With limited time, we reckoned that we might need to spend more on guides/drivers, and custom tours. Ultimately, we realized that we had to devote more time to this country, and that this could also help stretch out our budget. We are also going to visit Kerala, hopefully Varanasi, and spend the holidays with our dear friend, Gavin, and his family in Meghalaya in the North East of India.
Outside of this country, we have some friends who have moved to Burma/Myanmar, and have always been interested in going to the Philippines and Borneo, but decided that India will keep us busy enough!
Europe was never a priority or pillar of this trip. This was not for lack of interest, but because we always thought that our limited budget would prevent us from spending much time, if any, on this continent. However, being ever optimistic and flexible, we still developed our mini dream list of places to see as follows:
Iceland – Dan and I have been here and loved it, but would want to return in the summer, when camping is a possibility, and assuming our friends are still living there.
Paris – Stella fantasizes about seeing the Eiffel Tower.
Zurich – Friends from long ago to visit.
Overland travel from Italy thru Slovenia into Croatia (could we save enough money?).
Overland travel from Romania thru Bulgaria to Istanbul (Dan’s dream destination). Sure enough, our plans had greatly changed by the time we started to buy our first tickets. We now are going to Rome, spending about 10 days in Greece with friends during all the financial fallout, and getting to explore Croatia and Slovenia for over 2 weeks. With the current strength of the dollar we are hoping this proves to be a more affordable time to visit Europe.
The next step to any great list is figuring out how to best puzzle the destinations together, considering both seasonality, and the cost of airline tickets. Our current itinerary consists of some booked tickets and other “loose” plans:
- 29 Aug Los Angeles – Rome
- 3 Sep Rome – Mykonos
- 12 Sep Athens – Zagreb
- 29 Sep Dubrovnik – Rome
- 30 Sep Rome – Tel Aviv
- 21 Oct Amman – Dubai
- 23 Oct Dubai or Abu Dhabi to Delhi
- 21 Dec Goa – Guwahati
- 31 Dec Guwahati – Bombay
- Early Jan Bombay to Johannesburg
- Late Mar Johannesburg – Miami (quick visit with Grammy and Poppy)
- 1 Apr Miami – Cartagena
- Early Jun Galapagos – Salvador (or San Jose, Costa Rica)
- Late July Mexico City (or Guatemala City) – Los Angeles
***As we purchase our flights, we would like to take advantage of any stopovers that can be included for free or nominal cost. Some contenders are Istanbul, Doha, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Seychelles, and even Madagascar.