Thursday, July 16, 2009

Planning for an Around the World Tour

Who would have thought that planning an around the world trip would be so much work? I mean, really - shouldn't you just be able to pick up, take off, and go whenever you feel like it, and head to wherever you feel?

Who would have thought that it would involve spreadsheets, and colour coding, and all sorts of other terrible number crunching the likes of which I did not want to think about?

For the last few months I have been putting off planning this trip. I have been putting off planning this trip because I have been planning other, smaller trips. But now I'm really starting to feel the proverbial burn. I worked today, for six hours, creating that image you see off to the left. Six hours! And to be honest, I'm not sure if many other people could have done it any faster.

Now, I know what you're thinking: how hard is it to make some words, and then add coloured backgrounds. And true, that is the easy part. The hard part is all the logistics required.

Let me walk you through it, shall I?

The green section
This section details my travels through Europe. For the most part all I'll need to do is buy a EuroRail pass, and that will be that. I'll hostel where I want, and I'll grab an overnight train if hostels are full. Europe will be a free form adventure lasting three months. The reason that section is so large is because I have planned out a number of stops that I would like to make. But they are in no particular order. I will be flying in wherever is cheapest, and then flying out of Berlin. Why Berlin? For that we must look at the next section.

The Purple Section
This section has only a few things listed in it. Fly to Florida, fly out of Florida to Capetown, meet up with a Gap Adventures tour, and then fly to Bangkok. Why Florida? Because I have family there. Family who will pick me up at the airport, allow me a week to not worry about where I'll next eat, where I'll next sleep, and so on and so forth. I can also (though they don't know it yet) drop off stuff I don't need. It may also act as a refueling station, where I can grab items I should have had with me all along. This should be a nice break after three months traipsing through Europe, I'd imagine.

So in Capetown I will meet up with my Gap Adventures tour, and this tour will take me through a large chunk of south western Africa. The only problem? The cursed Zambian visa which I've mentioned before. Now in that post, I seem to have said that Mulako helped me through this already. I'll have to check my e-mail, and make sure of that.

Then I'll fly from Zambia to Bangkok. And why Bangkok? Because it's a stepping stone into South East Asia. A stepping stone which requires no entry visa!

The Yellow Section
Here we have a small little section that requires a lot of work, but right now it's just a wee thing. I'd like to go from Bangkok to Cambodia to Vietnam. Then I'll end up back in Bangkok to finally fly out to Lima in South America. Now Cambodia and Vietnam both have visa requirements, and I'm not sure how tricky they will be to get. The plan is to have a hostel waiting in Bangkok for my first few nights, and then look into getting visas from there. If I can, then great - off I go. If I can't, then I spend a month in Bangkok, and I'm pretty sure that will not sit that poorly with me.

I would like to go to Angkor Watt though. Then I will go back to my pre-arranged hostel in Bangkok, where I will wait out the next few days until I, as I said, catch my plane to Lima.

The Blue Section
Here in Lima I will catch up with another Gap Adventure. This one will take me through Peru, seeing all the delightful sites along the way. When it finally ends in Cusco, I will fly from there to Buenos Aires where I will have seven nights pre-arranged in a hostel. I'm sure there is a lot to see and do in B.A. I'm excited to see it if only because it's where the main characters from my favourite book were from. But why there? And why for so long? Because I want a lot of leeway before my next, and final Gap Adventure. This is the only part of the trip I have booked so far, and it's the big one. This is the tour of Antarctica. Sixteen days will be spent crashing through terribly cold waves, and perhaps landing on the continent itself. And once that is done, I will fly to San Francisco.

The Grey Section
Basically this little section just mentions how I need a hostel there for two weeks, before I fly out to Japan. I have always wanted to go to San Francisco. In my mind it's the most beautiful place in America, with Boston - once again, in my mind - trailing right behind. I'm sure I will be able to spend two weeks there with plenty to do. Even if it's just watching the rain, or riding the street car, or taking a much needed break of running around to just relax, this will be a perfect spot.

And then it's off to Japan.

The Orange Section
I will be spending a month in Japan spread around between Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. Hiroshima, and some other destinations will also make the trip. For the most part I figure I just need to book the first two weeks worth of hostels in Tokyo, and then I can just roll out from there. I know the city, and I understand the train system there. I can play this country by ear, much like I will do with Europe. From there I head over to China.

The Pink Section
China will require some work. A week in Hong Kong will be my starting point, because you don't need a visa to get in. Once I've arranged a visa for mainland China, I'll head over to Shanghai, and Beijing. Hopefully a week will be spent in each. While in Japan, I'm hoping to arrange the hostels, and necessary travel information required for this section. I can only assume it will all fall into place. And if for some reason it doesn't, China is a place that I would take a month out of my life at a later date to explore. Still - I don't think there will be any problem fitting it in now.

The Light Blue Section
Then we come to the final section. This is where I have my flight to Australia planned, as well as my flight to New Zealand. Much like South East Asia, there is a lot of work needed here. I do not know what I want to see in the country, despite having read Bill Bryson's A Sunburned Country. In fact, I think that book only made me realize just how big the country is, and how hard it will be to see even a few of the things I would like to.

And as for New Zealand? That's the type of place you really need to rent a car to explore - we'll see how I'm feeling when the time comes, I guess. Otherwise I might just spend a week in Auckland before flight back to Vancouver, and then taking the train across the country to Toronto where my journey will finally end.

The Text at the Bottom
Right - well, there is more isn't there? All that text at the bottom tells me what I need to spend my money on, and what I need to sort out. It also lists what I've bought, and what can wait to be purchased. The what I've bought section is limited to just one item: Antarctica Trip. What needs to be bought has all the other trips, and the flights in between. The hostels required, and all that information, all the way up to when I'm in Japan.

Now why have I not dropped the money yet? Because it's terrifying. I'm not worried about the cost, which I also have nicely worked out on this spreadsheet, that doesn't worry me. I've resigned myself to being poor for the rest of my life. That's just how it will be. But, spending the money, then breaking my legs and watching all those dates pass by, with the money gone, but no one enjoying them... that worries me. What are the odds that that will happen? Not much - but a little fear like that is enough to keep me from jumping forward right now. Though, tomorrow I assume, I must start dropping the cash on those pieces as well.

That will require many more spreadsheets to organize flight information, and departure times, and all of that. As I said - who would have thought that it would be so much work to plan an around the world tour?

The fact that I will not have a home base, and that I will need to meet up with tours leaving whether I'm there or not, is really making this more effort than it might otherwise be, but that's the only (safe) way to see some of these places. And like I said, what's a trip around the world if you don't stop off in every continent, right?


  1. Good luck, Mike! You can do it and you'll be better off doing this now than...never. I mean, later!

  2. Wow! Wow! I'm PSYCHED and I'm not going anywhere! Kudos to you and bets of luck in catchiing the tours. I remember almost getting on the wrong bus AND almost getting left behind on 2 separate occasions on a tour in Belgium, so I feel your anxiety.

  3. I spent my March Break of this year in Hong Kong, Macau, and Shenzhen.

    You'll have no problem with travelling around Hong Kong for a week. I could have spent another 2 to 3 more days and I would have probably been fully satisfied with visiting Hong Kong.

    Do consider going to Macau. I didn't have to get a Visa to go there. It's a relatively short ferry ride away from Hong Kong. Macau is a world apart from Hong Kong.

    If you need more suggestions of what to see in Hong Kong or Macau, then let me know.

    Shenzhen was an interesting experience for me. I paid for a one-day visa to go there. It's only a subway ride and a walk across a bridge away from Hong Kong.

  4. Feel free to email me any tips you have about Hong Kong, and the surrounding areas. Any information about how to grab these day visas would be great too.


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