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First time traveler traveling for 18 months- overwhelmed - HELP

First time traveler traveling for 18 months- overwhelmed - HELP

Old Jun 28th, 2013, 11:12 PM
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First time traveler traveling for 18 months- overwhelmed - HELP

Hi guys, my wife and I will be traveling from December starting from CA for 18 months. We are in our 30s, no kids yet, and want to make this trip a truly memorable experience but don't know where to start!
How should we plan so we maximize our time and memories?

We will have around 60k/ year budget.

Here's some things we'd like to mix up:

immerse in key cities: Paris, Munich, Switzerland, Hawaii, Thailand, etc
participate in key events: Oktoberfest, mardi gras, new years eve at Sydney opera house, etc
once in a lifetime activities: african safari, amazon rainforest hiking, etc

I'd like to know if this is a good general plan to work with or if anybody have better ideas how to spend the 18 months that we have?
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Old Jun 29th, 2013, 05:03 AM
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NYE in Sydney. Book Early and you'll have to stay a minimum number of nights. Usually 3 or more. Be prepared for the huge price hike.

I can understand why you don't know how to start. It sounds like a huge trip!
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Old Jun 29th, 2013, 05:31 AM
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I highly recommend Edward Hasbrouck's "Practical Nomad", loads of info on long term travel. There are also a lot of blogs around written by full time and long time travelers - do a search on blog and RTW and nomad. Rick Steves' "Europe Through the Back Door" also has some useful info on packing light and planning itineraries.

Make a list of your "must sees", then look at a map and plot them. Check weather at weatherunderground.com, and then decide on a rough route. I did a ten month rail trip back in 2004 - see wilhelmswords.com/rtw2004
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Old Jun 29th, 2013, 08:51 AM
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One thing you need to factor in for sure -- you will only be allowed to stay in Schengen for 90 days out of any 180 day period. W/ such a long trip I'd imagine you're thinking more than 90 days in what is basically most of Europe.
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Old Jun 29th, 2013, 02:09 PM
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Travel can be as complicated or as simple as you choose to make it.

Most people are used to living life by a schedule. When they decide to do some extended travel they do the same thing most people planning a 2 week holiday do, they start planning where they will go and for how long etc. Now ask yourself this question. WHY?

One of if not THE most enjoyable reasons to travel is to escape everyday life and all the attendent stresses and responsibilities. Why then would anyone in their right mind immediately SELF-IMPOSE a plan?

The reality is that no matter how carefully anyone plans they will never see and do everything there is to see and do when you travel. Yet most people again will say they 'want to see as much as possible'. What does that actually mean?

The word 'much' is not synonymous with the word 'many'. Yet that is how most define it. They come up with lists of places and then start dividing their time between them, voila a schedule.

The way to see as 'much' as possible is to spend time IN places seeing and doing things, not spend time in BETWEEN places ticking off a list.

While you may have a genuine interest in being somewhere at a specific time such as Rio for Carnival or Edinburgh for New Year's Eve, every time you impose one of those requirments, you lose freedom. The freedom to get up in the morning and say, 'so what do we feel like doing today'.

So you can plan a tour or you can go on an adventure is how I see travel. A tour by definition is planned and someone on a tour is a tourist. N'est pas?

An adventure by definition requires two things. Risk and the unknown and so by definition, cannot be planned. Almost without exception, all the most memorable times I have experienced when travelling have been things that simply could not have been anticipated or planned for.

So to answer your question, "How should we plan so we maximize our time and memories?", my answer is you cannot achieve either through planning.

So here is how I suggest anyone contemplating a long term journey go about it. Spend as much time as you want researching all the possible places and events in the world that you might be interested in seeing/doing. The research is all part of the enjoyment. Make lists of all this if you want and save them as e-mails to yourself or something.

Next, buy a one way ticket to wherever you decide you want to start with. If you did end up writing up a plan, when you get on that first plane, throw the plan out the window (figuratively of course).

When you get to A spend as much time and as much money as you need to spend without wasting your time or money to see and do everything you want to see and do there. When you are ready and not before, decide where you want to go next.

Repeat this process until either time available or funds available run out. Go home. Neither time nor money is fixed. Both may have a maximum available but neither has a minimum available.

This is really about a change of mindset. Be a tourist on a tour or a traveller on an adventure. It's your choice. One is complicated to plan and the other requires no planning beyond buying a ticket to A.
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Old Jun 29th, 2013, 02:14 PM
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I should have added the other question that always amazes me about people planning to travel.

People sit down and try to figure out,how many days in A, how many will I need in B, in C, ..........

Now think about it. How would you know the answer? I might find after 2 days in A that I've seen and done everything there that interests me and so I am ready to move on. In my personal case that probably applies to most cities, I'm not a city lover.

But someone else might find that even after a week they were reluctant to move on. So why move on if they aren't ready to do so yet?

It is ridiculous to expect to know beforehand how long you will need in a given place to do and see what you find of interest there. As Spock (Startrek) would say, 'That is illogical.'
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Old Jun 30th, 2013, 08:34 AM
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Sure nothing wrong with your plan. You just need to prioritize what you want to do, then check it against your budget ('african safari' will cost more than going to Paris, for example) and timeframe.

I'd work with a world map and an Excel spreadsheeet (to list where you want to go, what events you want to be present for, how you're going to get there, and all costs associated) to get started.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 08:16 AM
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Intershift, if ever there was a classic example of what I mean in my response above, the comments by suze are the example.

You are contemplating a 18 month plus escape from the world of work and responsibilities. Suze suggests you use an Excel spreadsheet to do that. The irony is incredible.

No offense intended suze, if you prefer to plan a tour, that is your business. Your response certainly does provide a very clear difference in approach to mine though doesn't it. I'm at no plan and you are at an Excel spreadsheet.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 08:58 AM
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This person isn't talking about knocking around with a backpack and no plans for 18 months.

They have an extremely specific list of things they want to see and do.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 09:10 AM
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<Why then would anyone in their right mind immediately SELF-IMPOSE a plan?>

Improviser, You aren't listending to what these people want to do. You are imposing your own values and travel style with your posts.

It's a stretch to think you can simply wander the world without a plan and just happen to accidentally end up at: Oktoberfest, mardi gras, new years eve at Sydney opera house, on an african safari, and amazon rainforest hiking, etc.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 11:18 AM
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How about some moderation here? An Excel spreadsheet for 18 months may be overdoing it, but taking off with no plan at all is just stupid, unless you have unlimited time, which is not the OP's case. And probably unlimited money too, since plane and train tickets cost more the later you buy them.

Sure, flexibility is great, every traveler should be able to come with Plan B, or C, or D, at need. But even with 18 months some planning is required, especially if there are countries and events that are "musts". If you want to go to Oktoberfest, it makes no sense to hang out in Nice, however much you like Nice, if you're going to miss it, and without planning how would you even now when it was? Then there are countries which don't just require visas, but visas for particular dates, and/or visas that can only be acquired in your home country.

Improviser has now won a place on my "don't bother to read this [***]" list. Currently he's the only denizen.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 11:23 AM
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I'm surprised the aversion to using a spreadsheet for some basic planning for someone saying they are "overwhelmed".

"60k" is a lot of money to work with, seems it might be nice to see how that might play out once you set a basic itinereary so you can subtract the major expenses like airfare and lodging in the places you want to visit.

I am the least planning trip planner ever for myself, so it's ironic and amusing that Improviser has chosen to make me an example of uptight overplanning.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 12:02 PM
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Clearly, not everyone agrees on the best way to travel. Clearly, I have written to the OP about what I consider the best way. Clearly, I am entitled to that opinion and clearly others are entitled to disagree.

Allowing both views without making it personal is what I would call moderation thursdaysd.

The statement, "taking off with no plan at all is just stupid, unless you have unlimited time,", clearly indicates you have failed to grasp the difference in mindset thursdaysd.

Time only has a maximum and unless you self-impose 'musts' time presents no problem. When time or money runs out you go home. What's is stupid about that?

Money again is not fixed and only has a maximum. While buying a cheaper ticket is sensible, it is sensible ONLY if it suits you. RTW tickets are often suggested for this reason. But they confine you with a schedule even if you can make changes.

Itineraries and budgets always impose constraints on you and put blinders on you to opportunities. You give the example of someone in Nice who wants to go to Oktoberbest. OK, lets try another example.

Suppose you are in Nice and plan to go to Oktoberfest. However, one evening you meet someone who says, 'I have a boat in the harbour and am looking for someone to crew and help me sail it to Greece and Turkey over the next 2 months. Are you interested?'

So what do you do, say, 'ummm, I'd like to but I have a reservation for Oktoberfest and a flight booked after that to X, I can't go.'

Oktoberfest and wherever it is you had booked to fly to next will still be there next year. Who will make you an offer to spend 2 months on their boat next year?

One is easily done next time, the other is highly unlikely. I have actually seen situations like the example and actually heard someone say, 'I CAN'T go. Where did the 'can't' come from? From the mindset of the traveller.

I'm not trying to convert anyone here who wants to plan a tour. It's your time and your money. But the OP as I say has a choice. I'm just trying to let the OP know there is a choice.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 01:09 PM
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Obviously. And there is the rub. Nothing more than what you consider "the best way".

I also have strong feelings about how I plan (or don't) and how I travel, but I would never expect how I think to necessarily work for someone else, or try to impose my way on them.

I try to answer the questions that are asked on this forum. Not use it as a soap box for my own thoughts and personal feelings.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 01:11 PM
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Obviously one is not going to willy-nilly criss-crossing oceans on one way tickets and make 60k last for 18 months.

List your must-do special events and see if you can put them in a logical order. It may be that some of them just don't fit.

Research weather, some places have definite no-go months. I wouldn't be heading for Patagonia in July, for example. Or Europe in February.

Get familiar with geography, Europe is tiny; South America and Australia are huge. It's always stunning how many people think they can visit 5 countries in South America in a month.

Consider skipping places that you are likely to visit in the future. Assuming you live in California, I would probably not include those places that are easy to visit from here, such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Hawaii.

Read some blogs & trip reports. It's faster and more focused than buying a bunch of guide books.

Lay out a tentative plan and come back on the individual forums with questions!
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 06:37 PM
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First, I am not trying to 'impose' anything on anyone. You on the other hand suze, now seem to want to impose on me your idea of what a travel forum is about.

The OP wrote, "I'd like to know if this is a good general plan to work with or if anybody have better ideas how to spend the 18 months that we have? and used the word 'overwhelmed' in the title.

As far as I can see, I answered the question of what I consider a 'better idea' and also how to avoid being overwhelmed. No where in my comments have I wrote that the OP must do as I do. It's an alternative for the OP to consider. An alternative that many don't even realize exists.

So yes suze, I have answered the question asked, just not the way you think it should be answered. Yes, I would agree that to some extent I am using this as a soapbox but where is it written that I can't do so? That you don't doesn't mean I shouldn't. Or should I let you impose your interpretation of what a travel forum is for or not for on me?

Whenever plan vs. wing it is brought up on any travel forum the same nonsense is written. 'You have to have a plan' or as immediately above this reponse, "Obviously one is not going to willy-nilly criss-crossing oceans on one way tickets and make 60k last for 18 months."

All that is obvious about that statement is that it is false. NO one said to go anywhere "willy-nilly criss-crossing oceans" I certainly didn't say it.

I expect the traveller to go from A to B to C as they wish and as common sense would suggest they should do. I don't go to Nice (returning to the earlier example) and then decide to got to Melbourne and then go to Rome. Following a logical line of travel does not mean it has to be planned. Again, using the same example as above, if I ended up on a boat out of Nice going to Greece and Turkey over 2 months, I would then go on from Turkey to somewhere it made sense to go to next. Perhaps Egypt or Morocco.

After 4 plus decades of actual travel, I simply see things differently from many others. Suppose you have been to a 1000 places. There are still a 1000 you haven't been to. Suppose you go to that second 1000 places, there are still another 1000 you haven't been to. As I see it, which thousand you see first and in which order really becomes irrelevant after a while. At some point you realize that you are never going to get to everywhere and which you do get do isn't what really matters.

What matters is how much do you get out of each day of your travels. Where you get whatever you get out of travel is irrelevant really. You can only get X amount out of any given day in terms of experience, knowledge, wonder, enjoyment, or whatever else it is you get out of a day travelling. If you are getting that every day, you are getting all there is to get.

The idea that a day at Oktoberfest is somehow going to let you gain more than a day at Carnival or a day spent doing something else, somewhere else is ridiculous. Go where the wind and whim blow you. The experience really is in the going, not in the destination. Something that many don't seem to understand.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 07:58 PM
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Figure out your "must do" things such as NYE in Sydney, especially the things that are tied to specific dates. Once you have those figured out build from there. Keep weather in mind as well.

If you're starting in December in California then start out by heading for New Zealand or Australia (depending on when in December you're leaving). Do NYE in Sydney and then move through Australia. Depending on what you have for interests in Australia and New Zealand and what you have for "must dos", move on when you run out of interests or visa limits. Doing NYE in Sydney could be interesting since that's summer and it's a wee bit warm.

Move from there towards Africa... how's the weather, where are your interests, are there any visa restrictions, etc. Maybe start on the north side of Africa and move south as the weather gets warmer in the north. Once it hits June/July/August/September ish head to Russia and China and bounce around there for awhile. Depending on timing and weather go from there to southeast Asia or over to the Schengen zone. You can only be in the Schengen countries for 90 days (there might be options for longer but I know absolutely nothing about that) so plan to have that 90 days fall over Oktoberfest. Once your 90 days are up, either go to southeast Asia or head off to South America for awhile. You can also spend some time in Central and North America. Don't be afraid to see the rest of the US.

The goal in planning might be not so much as saying "I want __ days here and __ days here" but more "I want to be here on this date and I'll adjust where I am as I go to get there". I recently talked to a very nice couple who spent about 10 weeks in southeast Asia. They would go somewhere for 2-3 days and if that was enough they'd book a couple nights somewhere in the next city they wanted to visit in the area. If 2-3 days wasn't enough then they'd stay longer. Book your next lodging for a couple days and decide how long you want to stay once you get there. Book the places/dates for your must haves and do the rest as you go.

This is just one rough idea out of a bajillion possibilities. I'm a very visual person and I love to plan so the best way for me to organize something like this is basically to draw a time line and fill in any of the set times/places. Use a world map to fill in continents around those set times/places so that you're not back tracking all over the place. I like using spreadsheets to organize data... I think of it as a tab (sheet) for each country. What info do I need for specific visits, what vaccinations or visas do I need, where can I pick up anti-malarials on the go, where are some places that I want to visit, etc? I use that very similar to a spiral notebook or 3 ring binder with tabs in it.

$60k is a lot of money but it really isn't a lot when you're trying to travel on it for as long as you are so you might do better if you spend a bit longer in cheaper places like southeast Asia. Try a hotel for a couple days and if you like a city then get a short term apartment for a week or two. That gives you access to cook food instead of eating out all the time. It also generally gives you more space and possibly laundry facilities.


Visas can be a headache for China and for Russia off top of my head (there are others that can be annoying and may take advance planning, look into current requirements for getting visas well ahead of time or for getting them while you're on the go for the places you wish to go).

Make sure you have someone who can pick up all of your mail from a PO box or home address, or just change your address to send everything directly to them. They can deal with anything that comes up and can send you anything that needs to get to you.

Definitely pay to get extra pages in your passports before you go! Lots of countries use visa stickers that take up the entire page which goes through your pages quick and it's always better to have more pages than you need.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 05:22 AM
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I really wish I had time to wade in on this in detail but for the moment, I would say that many here have made extremely valid points, but it is only YOU who knows what you are comfortable with. I hav entries travelling most ways and have now been at it on and off for 5 years. We started with a period of voluntary work in Sierra Leone followed by a year long RTW trip and then various trips of several month including 6 months living in Adalucia Spain before leaving for South America where we are now. A word of warning: once you start it is difficult to stop.

Here is a link to our RTW blog

http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blo...ai/1/tpod.html

Will post more once I get to a place with wifi but sound like and exciting trip!!
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 10:08 AM
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<The experience really is in the going, not in the destination. Something that many don't seem to understand.>

Your opinion only. Maybe these folks really WANT to go to Carnival in Rio & will do whatever it takes to get there for the experience. Maybe they don't want to go where the "whim and wind" blows them.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 11:13 AM
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Ok - jumping into the fray

If I were going to do this (and I have thought seriously about it, but have not taken the plunge) this is the approach I would take:

I would go with a combo of some advanced planning and some totally unplanned time. Since the OP has some specific things on the to-do list, I think that putting together a rough outline is important. If you KNOW you want to be in Sydney for NYE, for example, then that adds some framework for the winter portion of the trip.

The items on the to-do list provide waymarks for the trip - visualize them as points on a globe connected by long pieces of string. The string represents the path you take from one marker to the other, but the string is long and loose - a path with a lot of flexibility to be defined later.

If you are going to be in Munich in September and Sydney in December, then it makes sense to spend late summer and into fall in Europe and then head down to Australia, NZ, and SE Asia for the winter. Then if the next waymark is New Orleans in March for Mardi Gras, it might make sense to make your way up the Pacific Rim and onto North America.

I would make some specific plans for Oktoberfest, NYE, and Mardi Gras - hotel reservations at the very least since those will be in short supply, and perhaps arrange transportation with a lot of lead time. But for the time between Oktoberfest, NYE, and Mardi Gras, I probably wouldn't plan anything specific - just make plans (or not) as I went along. I do think I would book some of the intercontinental flights once the framework was set - that way I could find good deals so as to minimize the costs since intercontinental flights can eat up the budget quickly.

Regarding budget, we all know that some parts of the world are more expensive than others, so I would get some ideas about the costs in the areas of the world that I am interested in. Then I would figure out about how long I should stay in expensive areas versus inexpensive ones to make sure my budget lasts the 18 months. And YES, I would use a spreadsheet for this I would also keep my budget in a spreadsheet as I went along so that I could do my bookkeeping and know how I was doing - and make decisions as I went along to make sure the budget lasted.

Also, by using the waymark-and-string technique for laying out the framework of the trip, it makes it easier to keep travel costs lower because it helps to arrange the trip so that you aren't pinging around the globe with long flights. A flight from Sydney to Jakarta, for example, costs a lot less than a flight from Mexico City to Jakarta.

Of course there are also maximum allowed stays to contend with in some countries/areas, as has been mentioned. Schengen is 90 days in any 180 day period and immigration officials in Schengen countries do like to see an onward ticket upon arrival. So this requires some planning to make sure you can do what you want to do and not overstay.

In order to go to Oktoberfest, you wouldn't want to arrive in the Schengen Zone in May and then use up your 90 days before Oktoberfest rolled around, unless you left the Schengen zone during that time and then came back. Maybe you go to Morocco for a month. These restrictions will also add to the framework of your trip.

I think that this approach would provide a nice balance between keeping to a budget, attending some specific events, and allowing for free-range travel within an overall framework.
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