Planning the Itinerary

As most of you who know me can attest, I’m a planner. Preparing for a two-week vacation generally means mapping out each day ahead of time, having a hotel reservation for every night weeks or months before departure, knowing how long it takes to get to and from each location, and even making notes about which restaurants sound yummy according to Lonely Planet. So you’d probably expect a similar level of advance planning from me for this year-long journey. Not so much! Sure, we have spreadsheets with information on each country (including visa and immunization requirements, what to see and do, and contact information for people we’ve been put in touch with who live there), we’ve gotten all our shots and figured out where we’ll need malaria pills, and we mostly have the gear we think we’ll need. But other than that, we’re pretty much going to wing it.

When we started the planning process, we thought about what countries and areas of the world we wanted to visit. Most of my travel has been to western Europe and throughout North America with a sprinkling of Central and South America and Egypt in there. Nick has mostly traveled in North and South America, in addition to a trip to London and Israel he took many years ago. We have the incredible opportunity to travel for a year while we are still healthy, adventurous, and don’t yet have young additions to our family, so we wanted to focus on the “more difficult” travel that may not be possible later in our lives: the places where you hitchhike to get to a crater lake, stay on the far end of an island with no electricity or roads, or take a crowded bus where chickens share seats with people and pigs are tied to the roof. To some this may sound awful, but to us this is the stuff dreams are made of!

Over the span of a few months we discussed what areas of the world sounded interesting to us, taking into account factors such as cost of travel within a country, possibility of overland travel between countries, what there is to see and do, and whether either of us had been there before. We both love South America and want to improve our Spanish (or in my case start learning it!) and the travel there is generally easy, so we thought that would be a good place to start and warm ourselves up for more challenging countries. We’re starting in Cartagena, Colombia, which we’ve heard is a lovely, romantic town, and it is also the geographically closest city to Washington DC that we were interested in visiting, so we decided to start our trip there. We’re treating those four nights as a “honeymoon” of sorts: we’re staying at a nice hotel with a private balcony in the heart of town instead of a hostel in a questionable but up-and-coming part of town, eating dinner at restaurants instead of grocery stores, and letting ourselves relax and live in a little luxury before the “real” travel begins! When we leave there, our journey will take us south through Colombia, into Ecuador, over to the Galapagos Islands, back to mainland Ecuador, and then to Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, ending our South America leg in Buenos Aires. We’re super excited to spend time in the towns all along the Andes Mountains; the bustling, sometimes dirty, but always culturally stimulating capital cities; the Galapagos Islands, where we’ll be volunteering for a few weeks; Macchu Picchu; the salt flats in Bolivia; the desert in northern Chile; wine country in Argentina; and Patagonia.

Once our Spanish is at a solid backpacker level; our bellies are full of pisco, red wine, steak, and questionable street food; and our hearts have been won over by the friendly South Americans, we’re crossing the Atlantic and landing in Cape Town. South Africa might be the one country EVERYONE has said we absolutely must visit, and I’m sure we will not be disappointed. Our original Africa plan was to visit Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda after South Africa, and then head over to West Africa for a change of scenery, activities and culture. However, after discussing our itinerary with fellow travelers and learning that flights within Africa are exorbitant, overland travel from Ghana to Morocco is nearly impossible (or at a minimum, extremely painful), and southern Africa is a backpacker-friendly and beautiful place that we should devote more time to, we’ve decided to spend our 3-4 months in Africa traveling overland starting in South Africa, spending Christmas and New Years with DC friends in Tanzania(!) and then ending the Africa leg most likely in either Uganda or Kenya.

In late January/early February, the general plan is to depart Africa and head to India, where we will be meeting up with our friends Ben and Amy to travel together for a bit. From there we’ll head to Nepal and then Southeast Asia. After that, we may stop in Israel on our way to Turkey and then Europe, but of course, all of this is subject to change! It’s too far off to have any idea what our hearts, stomachs, and feet will feel like doing, so we’re leaving our plans pretty open and we’ll figure it out as the time gets closer.


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