This is it. I’m joining the cool kids. Next summer, my boyfriend and I will be temporarily leaving NYC to embark on an extended round-the-world trip. We have mulled over this idea for a couple of years now, and there has always been a reason why we couldn’t- logistical issues, other obligations. We would bring it up, talk about it for a while, stop and repeat. But in the back of my mind, there was always a small voice that told me that if I didn’t do this, I would have failed myself because it’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing. Then came the realization that regardless of what you want to do, you can always, always find a reason for why it’s not a good idea. And there will never be a perfect time. So we’re doing this, and we’ve set a date:
A cake that my boyfriend and a couple of friends made for my birthday. The flags indicate which countries I’ve been to.
Departure Date: July 2012
Length: 8 months-ish (exact time will depend on how far our budget takes us)
Areas: Eastern Europe, South/Southeast Asia, South America
Well, I’d like to say that there’s a specific instance, perhaps a major life happenstance, that’s influencing my departure a la a really good chick flick. And in fact, there have been difficult times throughout my life where traveling has been my saving grace. The process of journeying and becoming aware of something bigger, challenging myself, and meeting inspiring people has helped me work through heartbreak, loss, immense stress, and self-doubt. And the effects have been profound. This just happens not to be one of those times. For that, I’m grateful.
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I love NYC. My life here is fun, well-rounded and meaningful. But there are things that can’t be accomplished by staying put; a mental place that you can’t get to (no pun intended!). I have no desire to run away or take a break from “the real world.” To me, this trip isn’t so much a sabbatical from life as it is an extension of the adventure I seek on a daily basis and another way for me to grow as a person.
Through travel, the world has grown smaller but my worldview bigger. And if it has done that for me during my short trips lasting a mere few days, weeks, a month at most, what possibilities must lie in traveling for 8 or 12 months?
I have never been one to follow the path of least resistance because of what society expects of me. That’s not to say I haven’t bought into some of the mainstream ideas of success- I’ve even had a solid career primarily in an office (oh the horror!). But at each life juncture, I always try to ask myself if that’s what I really want (kids? marriage?) and how I want to approach life. In some cases, yes, I want to do what everyone else does, and in many others, no, I’d prefer something different. But I always make a very concerted effort to think for myself and live the life that truly feels right and fulfilling to me. And at this point in life, this journey feels right.
Aside from one outlier (one family member who shall remain nameless: “we won’t provide financial support for your trip, but if you guys decide to get married overseas, we’ll come to the wedding.” HUH and HUH?), most reactions have been relatively innocuous. For the most part, there’s been an incredible outpouring of support from friends and family, many of whom are thrilled and excited for us. Some of them have traveled extensively themselves and understand the value of this journey. Many are New Yorkers who have seen/heard/witnessed people doing far crazier and more interesting things. And pretty much ALL of them have gotten used to hearing about our antics at home and abroad, and just consider this another one of those things that we do. I think it’s accurate to say that most of our friends think of us as “the couple that travels a lot and does weird things like scavenger hunts.”
There have been, of course, a few gentle expressions of concern in the form of “what will you do about..” questions: your apartment, your stuff, your job, money, the recession. They are not unappreciated. It’s good to have people care and watch out for us, and while all of the details have not been fully sorted out, these topics are all on the radar. And while we’ve determined that they will be challenging to address, they will not be deterrents to taking the trip.
And not surprisingly, we’ve also gotten one or two of the “must be nice,” “you’re so lucky,” “I would do the same thing but..” responses twinged with wistfulness that depending on the day, I have more or less patience for. Yes, it will hopefully be quite nice, and yes, we are lucky, but this will not happen by luck or coincidence, but through immense effort and prioritization. It will not be without some sort of sacrifice.
So, the wheels have already been set in motion. I have a ten-page planning spreadsheet up and running that I’ve been color-coding to death, and a steady stream of thoughts and ideas I look forward to sharing with you all as I continue along in the planning process. I will definitely be looking to other travelers and the blog reading/writing community for suggestions and feedback, so I look forward to having you continue along this journey with me. HOORAY!!
There are a myriad of trip planning resources out there and some of the very best information can be found on travel blogs. However, when I first started pondering the idea of going on a round-the-world trip, I found it daunting to wade through all of the information. It’s hard to search for something when you don’t know what you don’t know. What I really just needed was a framework and a list of topics I needed to consider and research. I found the following two resources particularly helpful in that regard. After utilizing these, I was able then do online research and read travel blogs to fill in the blanks and find more specific information relevant to my particular journey.
The Rough Guide First-Time Around The World: A very well-organized book providing a full overview of everything that you need to consider while planning a round-the-world trip including which countries to go to at certain times of year or for your specific budget.
Meet Plan Go: A fairly comprehensive website providing information on all phases of the round-the-world process from contemplation to planning to taking the trip to reintegration. This team also organizes events throughout the country for people to meet and be inspired by those who have gone on extensive journeys.