Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How will you get around?

Many people ask about transportation. Will you fly everywhere? Are buses safe? Will you rent cars? Have you looked at those tickets where you have to keep going around the world in one direction?

The first point is that people should try not to ask so many yes/no questions. The second, and more important, is that a round-the-world trip involves a lot of transportation types. This posting is devoted to all those.

Planes: While stories exist of people traveling the world without ever getting on a plane, that won't be us. Having said that, I'm generally opposed to planes because they are expensive and force you to skip potentially interesting places and Tara is generally opposed to planes because of their environmental impact. While we will travel from continent to continent and to some remote locations inaccessible by other means (Angel Falls, Madagascar, etc.) using planes, we will mostly travel by other means.

We did explore round-the-world tickets. They come in all types, though very few of them require you to keep going in one direction like they used to. Most have mileage restrictions and may not allow you to pass through certain airports more than a few times or to take more than a certain number of flights. All expire in one year. Because we hope not to fly that much, don't really want to lock in the cities from which we'll be flying (changing dates with RTW tickets isn't hard, but changing cities often incurs a fee), and aren't sure about the one year time limit, we have decided for now that these tickets aren't right for us. For great information, I suggest starting on the WikiTravel site. Probably the most important point is that it is probably cheapest to buy a ticket starting in the UK (and you may physically have to buy it in the UK). The US is one of the most expensive places to start. Many vendors specialize in putting together individual flights to create a round the world ticket, and may be able to do it cheaper than you. I would recommend Boots 'N' All and Round The World Tickets. Airtreks is another popular one. A few more are mentioned on the WikiTravel site above.

I suggest using to find international flights, though I always check the other big ones to make sure (orbitz, expedia, travelocity). One important note is that one-way flights are generally half a round trip flight overseas, unlike in the U.S. where you often pay a premium for one-way.

Buses: We expect to spend a lot of time on both local and long distance buses. In South America, long distance buses are common and come in varying classes. We will try all types and find the right balance of cost and comfort. In other parts of the world, buses are less common, though we'll still use them where possible. Some of the bus lines have websites, some don't. From past travels, it has always been easiest just to buy at the bus station, but we'll let you know if we find otherwise.

Trains: Almost non-existent in South America and Africa, but somewhat common in Asia. We would also like to take the Trans-Siberian Railroad if we have the money left to do so. Booking depends on the train service, but I've always had the most luck finding a travel office at the train station and letting them do the work. It normally costs the same and is significantly easier if you don't speak the language of the country. Local trains are harder to figure out. Asking a local is always easiest.

Boats: Tara and boats don't mix very well, but we'll have to take a few. They are the most common transportation in the rain forests, and a common way to go between some places such as Colombia to Panama. (The overland route is not passable and also inhabited by FARC guerillas.) Most of the rain forests boats are part of pre-arranged tours and the others we'll generally book through travel agents.

Rental car: We don't plan to have a car very often, but in certain countries we may explore on our own with a car. Rental cars can be a cheap way to see a lot in a short time. I prefer for rental car bookings, but they won't always have international locations.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Are You Rich?

Some of our closest friends and family members have ventured to ask outright what most everyone has subtly hinted: "How much is this trip costing you?" Sometimes it is accompanied by comments along the lines of that person not being able to afford a similar trip. Because finding good information about costs for round-the-world trips (often called RTWs) has been so hard to find, we're going to try to share a lot of financial information.

Some of you may not like the occasional focus on money, so feel free to skip them. I will try to contain them all in separate entries tagged "finances". We will try to break down spending by country and share the costs of important excursions where possible. This entry will focus on saving the money in the first place and on our expected budget.

No, we aren't rich, but we have worked hard for the last 8 years to save a reasonable amount of money. I have spent that time working in finance, where I wasn't paid anything like the people you see in the news, but was paid better than most Americans. Tara works in publishing, where she made enough to survive. We're luckier than most in the amount we have made, but anyone can save the money to travel. The key is to be cheap. Call it frugal, thrifty, economical, stingy, penny-pinching, or miserly--they all describe us.

I've spent a lot of time reading the stories of people who travel, and they are almost all the same. It's the little things that add up over time. Take your lunch instead of buying it out every day (or be really cheap like me and don't eat lunch), drink the free office coffee instead of the better Starbucks coffee (better yet, don't drink coffee), drink in people's apartments instead of bars (better yet, don't drink), cook at home instead of going out to eat, buy whatever brand is on sale at the store. You get the idea. Taken as any single event, it seems like it doesn't matter and will only be a couple dollars. Over several years, it amounts to many thousand dollars. Okay, enough with the personal budgeting tips. If you want to talk about it more, I really do love talking about saving money, so get in touch.

So, what does it cost to travel the world? We don't know, but we'll let you know as we find out. Here's what we're thinking at present. I break expenses into four basic categories: 1.) lodging; 2.) food; 3.) transportation; 4.) excursions. What we do know is that expenses will vary a lot from day to day.

Lodging and food are somewhat predictable, though they vary across the world. A good rule of thumb seems to be that lodging for two people and food for two people will cost roughly the same each day if you eat out a fair amount at affordable restaurants and sometimes cook yourself (or make peanut butter and jelly). In South America, we expect lodging and food to cost about $50-60 per day for the two of us. It will probably be less in most of Africa. It will vary a lot in Southeast Asia.

The cost that is hardest to control is transportation. For us, this will primarily be flights and buses. How we are booking flights will be another post, but no matter how you do it, they are likely to cost around $3,000 each over the course of the trip. Maybe more if you fly a lot. We plan to take overland routes wherever possible. If you plan to stay in major cities for a month at a time and just take short day trips, you may find this to be even less. In South America, bus prices differ a lot, but it probably amounts to about $0.20/mile on average. We'll likely travel around 7,000 miles just in South America.

Excursions are the fastest way to blow the budget. These could be anything from a day trip to a waterfall to a week in the Galapagos Islands. They tend to be with small groups and may cost a couple hundred dollars per day per person in some cases. We will try to keep expensive excursions to a minimum, but they are sometimes the only way to get places. We'll let you know what these cost.

To start, we have budgeted about $150/day for the two of us. That amounts to around $75,000 for the 18 months. We hope we can do it cheaper than this, but that's what we're prepared to spend. Feel free to let us know how we can travel cheaper...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How do you travel?

Today's frequently asked question: "How fast will the two of you travel? Will you stay in a few places or travel all over?" I'll get to the answer later, but you need some background to understand the answer.

One of the most important questions to decide when you are traveling is what kind of traveler you are. Many people haven't actually thought about what kind of travelers they are, and these are the people who end up angry at their traveling partners. It is okay to be any kind of traveler, and best to keep it in mind while planning. I summarize travelers into the following four (symbolic) classes, though some may be between categories on the spectrum: 1.) Beach-goers; 2.) Museum-goers; 3.) Explorers; and 4.) Marathoners. Unless you are incredibly selfless, I suggest not traveling with someone who is more than about half a category in either direction.

Beach-goer: One who prefers to do nothing on vacation. Said nothing may include reading a book, sitting in the sun by the pool, sitting in a cabin, or otherwise relaxing. A nice exotic drink can often be found with the beach-goer, who may not even be on the beach. He or she may occasionally take an outing, but it is more because most people don't like to tell their friends they took a six hour flight to do absolutely nothing than because they actually want to do something. Beach-goers may not make great round-the-world travelers, since it would be cheaper for them just to move to a Caribbean island.

Museum-goer: One who vacations primarily to experience the culture of another place and is content to absorb the surroundings. Museum-goers generally don't go somewhere to sit around doing nothing, but they often prefer to stay in a limited number of places and fully experience them. Museum-goers can travel round-the-world very cheaply if they are willing to stay for extended periods in a limited number of cities with small trips from those bases. This dramatically reduces all costs (talked about in the next post).

Explorer: One who wants to see a lot, but burns out occasionally. They aren't likely to stay in one place for very long, but some part of any vacation needs to be at least a few days in one place and involve relaxation. They may see some cultural institutions, but they also spend a lot of time outdoors, hiking or adventuring. They may also see overland travel as a waste of time and prefer to fly. This is probably the group that includes most round-the-world travelers. See a good amount, but stop and recharge from time-to-time.

Marathoner: One who takes traveling more seriously than any job and feels that the goal of travel is to see everything possible. They will give up sleep, food, or their health to squeeze in that last hike or destination. Two days in one place is an eternity and is reserved for only the best of places. Round-the-world trips have the potential to really overload these people. They also spend more on transportation than any other group.

So, where do Tara and I fall? I'm a marathoner, through and through. Most people who have traveled with me will say that they saw more on a trip with me than they ever thought possible. They will also say that they wanted to kill me for a majority of the trip.

Tara is more of an explorer. She indulges me most of the time, but she likes to take some time to relax on occasion. She doesn't really like climbing mountains just to say you did, and she doesn't really care if we go 6 hours out of the way to see a really big tree.

As we travel around the world, we will mostly be marathoners, with the occasional stop for a few days to keep the peace between us. I may also take some day trips on my own when Tara doesn't want to go someplace. We're also hoping some friends meet us along the way, which would be a good break for everyone.

New, Improved, with Expletives Excised!

I'd just like to point out that if you're wondering where the "bad words" in my original post went today, you're not the only one! Apparently, a new editor is in town, and his name is Andy.

He expressed some horror the other day at my profanity, because apparently his mom's elementary-school class may be reading this blog at some point. (No one told me!) So I agreed, grudgingly, to put on my youth-friendly writing cap for future posts. Then I logged back in today, thinking I might take a pass back through that first post to see if I could clean it up for young eyes...and I saw that my work had already been done for me.

I could get, um, peeved, but what's the point if I can't curse about it? =)

Still, I feel a little bit like I'm in a strange, 1984-like world today. The truth of the internet, constantly revisable...

But it's cool, it's cool. Welcome, fifth graders--I hope you enjoy our blog.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Most of my posts between now and when we leave come from questions that we get a lot from friends, family, and strangers when we tell them we are going to sell everything we own and travel. I'll try to post them in a somewhat logical order.

"Why would you want to travel for that long?" Some form of this question is common. We also hear, "What will you do for all that time?" The question reveals a bit about the personality of the asker (and my next post will be about how different people travel), but the question of why seems a good one to ask before taking an extended trip.

For me, two reasons come to mind: 1.) The world is an amazing place, and I learn a lot about people, nature, and myself whenever I travel; and 2.) Why not?

I don't often reflect on why I travel--it just seems so natural to me to go other places. The more places that I go, the more that I learn. It might be how trees grow in a rainforest or it might be how people in Tunisia think about America, but always insightful. And surprisingly useful in everyday life.

The second, more rhetorical reason, comes down to why do people spend their days doing most things. Why eat a particular food? Why work in a particular job? Why marry a certain person? Probably because it makes the person happy or out of necessity. Those are the same reasons I feel compelled to travel.

Tara may have her own reasons. We'll see what she posts. In the meantime, why do you travel?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Shedding of Our Possessions

One of the things I'm most excited about with this round-the-world trip is that it's forcing us to really pare things down to our most essential possessions. We'll each be carrying a carry-on-sized travel pack with a small detachable daypack...and that's it.

But I'll let Andy write about our gear later. I'm here to tell you about what we're not taking, which is everything else.

For several months now, Andy and I have slowly selling off our possessions on craigslist. You probably wouldn't know it from looking at our apartment, which appears pretty much as cluttered as ever, but we have made a decent dent in our vast collection of I-hardly-ever-use-this stuff. As we come nearer to our departure date, Freecycle has also been called into play, but really, we've been making out OK on craigslist...most weeks I don't even have to go to the ATM, I just sell a yoga mat. Or a Dutch oven. Or a Razr scooter. Etc. If buyers are in the city, I'll bring items in to work and have them meet me at my office; my coworkers probably wonder what the hell I'm doing when I suddenly spring up from my desk at 3 PM and dash off to the elevator bank with a blender.

Some items go fast, but some need to be relisted for months before they find their new home. Like the enormous hanging chair that our friends always made fun of us for having in our living room (I did NOT know that it looked like a sex swing when I bought it!) or, um, that first wedding dress I bought on eBay and then decided I didn't like. (The internet giveth; and the internet finally tooketh away.)

Most of the stuff we're getting rid of we couldn't really care less about, but there are a few exceptions.

First on that list is probably the apartment itself. I am pretty sure we have the best apartment in the tristate area, if not the whole country. It's huge, it has picture windows and a balcony looking right out onto the New York City skyline, it has a washer-dryer in the apartment, and it is cheap. I'll go on. There's a free indoor public pool a few blocks away AND a place that sells 8 churros for $1. We have terrific neighbors and the building is half a block from the bus stop; the buses come frequently and it's a 10-minute ride to Times Square with no traffic. Seriously, I still think we're a little nuts to be giving all this up.

I can't seem to find any apartment pics, but here's a panorama taken recently from our balcony by the awesome Liesl Henrichsen:

Still, the place did get a little chilly (OK, bone-chillingly cold) in winter. And, the open road calls. So we're clearing out.

Second is my sweet little poop machine, Dennis Hopper.

Andy's mom is taking the cat while we're gone, but no one seems quite game for taking on Denny. So, next week, we're going to be giving him back to the Rabbit Rescue group we adopted him from. I am sad, and they aren't thrilled either since they now have to find him a new home. We've taken good care of him for three years, so at least he's fairly used to people--I hope that he'll find a wonderful forever home quickly, hopefully with people who can give him more space and more attention than I ever could.


And, of course, there are all of you, whom I will miss terribly. =( Try not to have too many babies while we're gone, OK? I like to meet'em when they're new.

One thing I will not be missing is work, where I was until 9:30 tonight. Staying that late is basically unheard of at the publishing house where I have worked for the last 6.5 years, but of course, it had to happen in my second-to-last week there. Lucky Andy got himself laid off with severance a few weeks ago (best layoff timing EVER), so he just rolls out of bed at 10 each day and busies himself with stuff like crossword puzzles and creating nifty travel blogs. Tough life.

And since I have work tomorrow morning, it's off to bed with me. Thanks for reading the first of, I hope, many posts.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Around The World We Go!

Hello, and welcome to our travel blog. Over the next 18-24 months, we hope to travel the world. More specifically, we hope to travel what is generally considered the Third World. This isn't so much out of a sense of moral obligation as out of cheapness. The less we spend, the longer we can travel.

We have two goals in writing this blog: 1.) Keep our friends and families updated on our whereabouts; and 2.) provide information that might actually be useful to others. I have no idea how often we'll update it while traveling, and we may not have Internet access for weeks at a time, but we'll do our best.

So, what's the plan, exactly? That's the question we get the most. Here's what we know: we get married on June 6 and we leave on June 30 to fly to Trinidad & Tobago. We have a hotel reserved for the first four days. We plan to catch a ferry from Trinidad to Venezuela the following week. We will then go around South America in a roughly clockwise direction, covering every country in South America and then into Central America. We will fly back from Belize to Indiana just in time for Christmas with Andy's family. We'll then visit Tara's family in New York before leaving again for somewhere in Africa. You now know as much as we do about our trip.

Again, welcome. We look forward to sharing our trip with you all. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.