Planning Our Epic World Trip: Mapping Out the Adventure of a Lifetime
Unless you are a person who loves the excitement of uncertainty and just wants to go with the flow, embarking on a world trip requires more than just buying a flight ticket; it demands careful planning and determination. Making a plan for a whole year may seem as a daunting challenge and we also were not sure how to best start designing our route. I guess there is no right or wrong. So this is how we mapped out our adventure of a lifetime, from how we envisioned the year to crafting an itinerary.
Setting Design Principles for a Journey That's Uniquely Ours
As we started planning our exciting year ahead, we quickly realized that the first crucial step was to define our “design principles” (what a consultant thing to do…). As each of us holds unique expectations for our world trip, it is crucial for us, as a couple, to openly discuss and align on our desired experiences. Over the years, we have discovered our unique approach to travel (see our travel philosophy here). Our design principles for the world trip serve as additional guideposts, shaping our journey and aiding in significant decisions, such as selecting the countries we will visit. Moreover, as we embark on our travels, we firmly believe that these principles will act as compasses, guiding us back to our path should external influences impact our intended course. Without further ado, let us present to you our guidelines:
Focus on “exotic” countries. First and foremost, we were driven by our appetite for excitement. We made a conscious decision to focus on countries that offer thrilling and off-the-beaten-path experiences. This meant that highly developed countries like Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand were intentionally excluded from our itinerary as these are also great secure destinations where we could easily travel once we have children.
Explore South America. As a continent we have yet to explore, South America excites us with its diverse landscapes, vibrant cultures, and rich history. Colombia and Peru have been on Laura’s bucket list for a long time and now we finally would have enough time to give these destination the attention they deserve. And it was shocking for us to realize that Brazil itself is almost as big as whole Europe… This is why we decided to allocate a significant portion of our trip to this captivating region, allowing us to immerse ourselves in this for us new part of the world.
Best value for money. In addition, we were mindful of our budgetary constraints. Understanding that our financial resources need to sustain us for a whole year, we aimed to prioritize countries where our money would stretch the furthest. We sought out “cheap” countries, where the cost of living is relatively lower, enabling us to make the most of our resources and extend our travels for as long as possible.
Dive experiences. Of course, we wanted to incorporate our shared passion for diving into our travel plans. We had heard so many good stories about the Philippines and Mexico being exceptional destinations for underwater exploration. So, these countries are a must-visit on our itinerary, as we yearn to explore the depths of the ocean again and witness the awe-inspiring beauty of Cenotes.
Comfort and relaxation. While we appreciate the backpacking culture, we are in our 30s now and realize we would not feel comfortable anymore with the minimalist experience of sleeping in crowded hostel rooms with ten other travelers. Therefore, we aim to strike a balance between adventure and comfort. Of course it means that our budget has to be slightly bigger to accommodate our preferences. But it was clear to us from the beginning that this year will be our year – a year of “ease and enjoyment” – and we set a higher target for ourselves for savings to not have the constant stress of having to look for cheapest accommodations and transport means and could maybe even have the chance for small luxuries along the journey. Surely we won’t be able to maintain the same lifestyle as in Germany (or when travelling so far) and would need to monitor our budget. But a contrast too hard would probably mean additional mental stress and this we want to avoid. Thus, this design principle ensures that our travel experience will be enhanced by a touch of relaxation and comfort.
Less is more. It is not our goal to check off as many countries as possible. The last what we want is to feel stressed by our tight schedule and always feel rushed. Therefore, we knew, we will plan to visit rather few countries to have enough time for flexibility to discover off-the-beaten-track destinations and hidden gems.
These principles have served as a compass, guiding us through the vast array of options and ensuring that our world trip would be a reflection of our deepest travel aspirations.
Select Your Must-Go-To Countries to Start Defining the Itinerary
The next step in our world trip planning journey was the exciting task of selecting countries where we wanted to go. As already said, there were quite a few countries that we already knew must be included in our itinerary: Mexico, Colombia, Peru, The Philippines, India. For a whole year, however, it is not much. So we eagerly delved into research, exploring various destinations that met our criteria for adventure and value for money. We pored over maps, read travel blogs and books, and sought recommendations from friends.
At first, all countries seem so exciting and one wants to visit all of them. Our first list was about 20 countries long. It was clear that it is too much and we want to stick with max one country per month. Ideally even less. Therefore, we started crossing off countries that were rather nice-to-haves and we could also travel later (e.g. Panama, Beliz, Cambodia), were too expensive (e.g. Uganda, where we wanted to visit Gorillas but a day ticket costs 700$, or French Polynesia) or countries that were just not on our trajectory (e.g. Fiji).
Do Not Forget to Check the Visa Conditions
Jens has a German passport which is one of the most powerful ones in the world. Therefore, he rarely has problems with visa (unless in Russia, but this is another story). Laura however, being an Estonian, which is a really small European country, always needs to understand the entry conditions. It is already a great bonus that Estonia is in the European Union. Also, it is good to have my residency in Germany. Still, it was critical for us to double-check the visa requirements for every country to ensure that we can travel there without great bureaucracy. Luckily, it seems that due to Covid many countries have implemented eVisas which will make travelling so much easier (and our maybe biased opinion is, that visas – or complicated visa procedures – are totally outdated nowadays). By chance, we were also fortunate enough that we had picked countries where Laura would have no extra trouble to enter.
Seasonal Route Considerations: Why You Should Plan Your Trip with Seasons in Mind
Considering the seasons of your final list of selected countries is a crucial aspect when planning a world trip, as it can greatly impact the overall experience and activities available during your journey. Since we want to dive in Mexico and the Philippines, we definitely do not want to travel there during hurricane times. Also, in South American countries there are heavy rain seasons which would not make the experience enjoyable. Macchu Picchu – one of our key destinations (if possible despite the turbulent times in the country) is even closed during certain times. So it was clear to us, that we need to carefully plan and coordinate our travels based on seasons, to maximize the enjoyment, reduce the risk of getting stuck somewhere due to landslides or even ending up in life-threathening situations.
To finetune our itinerary based on seasons, Laura created an excel table (again, what a consultant thing to do…) to start mapping the seasons for all potential destinations. For this she used a great book from Lonely Planets ‘. The book is just great! By months it lists countries where one should go and summarizes what to do, see and what the weather conditions will be. Based on this information Laura created a matrix based on countries and months and marked with color-coding which countries are OK to go when. This visualization made it easy to recognize when can we be in the countries the earliest and have to be the latest.
Our World Trip Itinerary
For now we have agreed on a non-binding itinerary of ca. 10 countries:
Kenya (July – mid August)
Colombia (starting mid August)
Ecuador (mid Sept – Oct)
Peru (Oct – mid Nov)
Bolivia (mid Nov – mid Dec)
Brazil (mid Dec – Jan)
Mexico (Feb – mid March)
The Philippines (starting latest in April)
(Nepal – June ?)
How Thoroughly Have We Mapped Out Our Journey?
This is going to be a totally new travel experience for us. Since our time when travelling has usually been very limited, we want to take most of our vacation and always thoroughly plan our trips to ensure we see everything possible.
We know that it is impossible to plan a whole year day by day. Therefore, we are trying to let go of making any more specific plans and have, until now, only detailed out our route for the first destination – Kenya. It feels exciting to know that we will embark on a journey without knowing where we will end up. After all, the last years have been so turbulent and one really cannot be sure that everything would go as planned anyways. We are sure it will be a great experience to finally let go of detailed plans and let the life surprise us. We will definitely learn a lot during this year and are excited to find out how it will change us as persons.
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