“So, Where Are You Going?”
It’s always the first question we get asked and it’s also one of the hardest to answer. What are our travel plans? Do we even know?!
The truth is we don’t know exactly and that’s what makes it so exciting for us. The world is our oyster, we’ll plan as we go. It’s about enjoying the freedom of being able to go wherever we want, whenever we want.
Planning a year ahead is almost impossible, things will come up and travel plans will change. We want to be flexible but there has to be at least some structure for efficient and cost effective traveling. We broke it up into continents to save on long haul flights.
After some long hours of research we decided upon a route based entirely on chasing the sun! We loosely planned a route of Europe, Asia, South America and North America for roughly 3 months, always following the Summer months. Our goal is to have complete flexibility and fluidity in our travel plans so that we can move freely. It’s not easy for our analytical minds to have a structure-less plan, but learning to adapt and do things differently is part of the idea of travel!
Read our what does travel mean to us article to find out why we are giving everything up to travel the world!
The map below shows our rough travel plans for the next year. It’s an interactive map so feel free to open it up and have a look around!
Europe, Easing into Travel
Initially, our travel plans were to begin in South East Asia and head back to Europe afterwards. However, our wedding postponed our original start date. We got married the first week of May 2018 and then planned to leave the week after. It was the perfect time to travel Europe for 3 months to enjoy the sunshine and beat the school holidays in August. The time frame fit perfectly. Kristen is most excited to explore Italy and Mark is looking forward to trying out some countries in Europe for the first time – there aren’t many left!
We know Western Europe will be expensive. It’s Kristen’s first real foray into the continent and there are some must visit places. We intend to get out on some hikes in the mountains and countryside as well as wander the big cities. Day trips from the cities are also high up on our priority list, the likes of Lake Bled in Slovenia and Plitvice Lakes in Croatia to name but a few. We’ve bought Interrail/Eurail 3 months unlimited passes. Yes, they’re expensive. But they also give us all the freedom we want to move around as we wish and keep our itinerary fluid.
Asia, A Far East Adventure
We both spent a few months working in Singapore and took a holiday together to Bali in Indonesia. We know what to expect. The culture shock won’t be as significant as it would have been had we not spent time in Asia before. Mark has also been to Thailand and loved it. We plan on breaking up a long flight to Asia by spending 4 days in Dubai and if we make it out without melting in 40C+, another 4 days in Hong Kong on the way to Japan. Mark has been avidly putting together a 2 week mini itinerary for Japan, drawing inspiration from watching the last samurai, again.
Travel plans after Japan? Definitely Taiwan and then maybe Seoul, Okinawa (or Yaeyama Islands). We then plan to go on to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. We’ve heard amazing things about Thailand and can’t wait to get stuck into the food and relax on some beautiful beaches. We might shoot over to the Philippines and/or Malaysia. We’ve even discussed the possibility of flying down to Australia for a few weeks. We would love to put Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands firmly into this itinerary but we don’t have the time or money to do it justice on this trip. Cheap flights these days make the world so much more accessible and we absolutely intend to take advantage!
South America, Uncharted Territory
This will be the big test for us! What an adventure. Neither of us have been down to South America before but it’s always been on the bucket-list. There are so many incredible things to experience; Colonial towns and vibrant cities, Machu Picchu, Patagonia, Salt Flats and the Amazon only to name a few. The lake district and wine regions of Argentina will be high up on our itinerary. South America is known to have some of the friendliest people on the planet. We hope to get to know some. We’ll fine tune before we get there but at the moment our travel plans for South America are unknown to us, and that excites us!
The best thing is knowing that we have enough time to do the likes of Machu Picchu properly and not have a deadline to get back to work. This is why we took a year out of employment, to do it properly with no ties. Mark plans to download duolingo and try to rediscover his old rusty Spanish before we arrive, but let’s face it – dos cervezas por favor is all we need.
North America, Our Final Destination
We complete our route around the world with a 3 month North American road trip. The end of this adventure it may be, but it comes with a twist. Not only will we take in national parks, the huge cities and the vast empty countrysides; we will also be scouting out areas to decide on where we would like to settle down once the road trip comes to a close. Kristen, although from the states, has barely scratched the surface of the enormous amount of travel destinations in her home country. It is a pretty big place!
Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Rockies, Great Smoky Mountains, Redwood, Everglades – this list could go on and on. Yes, we will churn out some serious mileage road tripping in Kristen’s car, but that will make a nice change from relying on public transport, it gives us more autonomy and independence. We will be headed to New York, San Francisco, Miami, Vancouver and everywhere in between. We will stay with friends and family dotted around all over the states on the way around. Who knows where we will end up?
How We Prepared Our Travel Plans
The lead up to our travel departure was somewhat unusual as we were simultaneously planning our wedding and living on different continents with 5 hours of time between us. Talk about high level multi-tasking! ? Naturally, the wedding hype took a hold of us. Travel planning took a back seat. We knew that we could just jump on a plane or train and then book accommodation as we went. The wedding on the other hand could not be so spontaneous! In between booking a venue and trying on suits, quitting our jobs and facing the fear of being unemployed, we both tried to dedicate some time to travel plans and we fit in what we could.
Our advice? Don’t do as we did and get married a week before setting off on for a year around the world!!
The Timeline Before We Left
The first step was to solidify our route plan. We then booked in for all necessary vaccinations, checked up on visa requirements and assessed our projected budget. These were the key objectives we set when planning in the pre-travel phase. Anything time sensitive needed addressing first. We tried to look at things in time chronology and created a timeline for achieving each target. We had to square away loose ends: a house was sold, a car was taken off the road and student loans payments were deferred. Europe was our first destination and we were looking forward to traveling by train with maximum flexibility. The day we bought our Eurail/Interrail passes (these are different depending what country you are from), it sealed the deal for our departure!
Our advice? Try to make sure you’re on top of your admin before leaving. Things are always more difficult from abroad, such as cell data allowance, time zone differences or poor internet connections.
What & How We Researched
Being analytical scientists means being analytical in everything. We researched until we couldn’t absorb any more information. Sometimes we would over-do it and had to reign each other in! We didn’t buy any guidebooks because we didn’t have room and, well, there’s the internet! Instead we researched online looking at blog posts such as ‘3 days in Paris’ or ’15 best things to do in Barcelona’. These are great resources to use as a guide and we have found them very helpful. This is one of the main reasons we wanted to set up this blog! We did use caution though, not to always copy an itinerary as it may not suit us. Sometimes the touristy places like Rome can just be too busy or the “must-see” places won’t always be on our radar.
Pro-Tip: There is no amount of research that can prepare you for your trip so try not to make it all about what you think you know before leaving. It helps to have an understanding of a route or a city, but you have to discover everything yourself…and you will!
Our advice? Read a lot of posts about the place you are interested in and make a list of “must-sees” tailored to yourself. People like different things and travel is not the same for everyone.
The Route We Chose
Planning a route is not easy. There are so many variables to account for…
A timeline can determine a route like following sports tournaments or festivals and carnivals. Activities can determine a route like skiing or scuba diving requiring specific climates at certain times. Accessibility can determine a route – are transport links between countries on the itinerary efficient and cost effective?
We think the most common and indeed our primary consideration for planning a route of destinations and time of year to visit was weather, weather and yes you guessed it … weather! Fed up of cold snowy winters (NY) and long months of darkness, rain and bitterness (UK) – we both came to the easy conclusion that chasing the summer is the way to go. Regional rainy seasons (SE Asia for example) and mother nature (hurricanes, cyclones etc) can’t be predicted exactly but there are enough patterns to establish a higher likelihood of avoiding where possible. The downside to chasing the summer is obviously the expense and the crowds, but in order to maximize our days to activities ratio, we were happy to take the hit.
Our advice? If your budget is tight or you’d rather avoid the crowds (trust us, we hear you!) then shoulder seasons are the better time to go. Off seasons can mean cheaper and fewer bus loads of tourists but just be aware that sites of interest may have shorter opening hours and transport may run less frequently.
Packing for a Yearlong Trip
Having researched and packed a few times over, we thought we had it cracked … but inevitably we have made some mistakes. Of course, we also originally over packed. However, our mistakes have taught us how to create a solid packing list with all the essentials without going overboard.
Check out our packing & gear page to find out what we use on the road. We’ve included pictures to help use as a guide for packing ideas.