There are over two hundred individual countries on planet Earth, a planet which covers around 197 million square miles of area. You have a backpack ready to be packed for adventure, a bit of money and a valid passport… so where do you begin?
There are no right or wrong answers to this question. It’s purely subjective. You may find as much joy on a jaunt to rural Somerset as a trek to a hilltop village in Papua New Guinea. Your trip plan can depend on budget, comfort zone, personal interests and any number of factors. What we’ll do then is take you through our ‘process’ and any useful tools we found to help us plan our route.
Our first instinct was to look at the world. We found a globe, placed it in front of us, downloaded a map of Earth and opened our notebook.
The first thing to strike us was the scale of the U.K. compared to the rest of the world. In our heads the amount of time we’d need to even begin to cover a single country such as Chile hit home. We already had a rough budget and a plan to save more so we were working towards that limit with the possibility of extending the trip by working abroad. The most important thing to do then was to write a list of countries that immediately awoke the desire to travel within us. Our initial list covered every continent apart from Antarctica (as incredible as that would be we knew that might be a little pricey!) and under each continent a long list of countries appeared. For each country we researched potentially best times of year to travel by scouring books and internet resources such as the ever reliable Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and also official websites of the countries involved which will tell you what’s happening when such as festivals, monsoon seasons and public holidays etc. These sites also suggest the best ways to get from one country to another and the forums are full of useful ground level information too. Take your time and build up a picture of what is going to be best for you.
We planned to travel overland (and water) from the U.K. through Europe, down through North Africa, the Middle East then head to South East Asia, around Asia itself and down via Australia, New Zealand and then head to the Americas and back home. A true round the world trip and… not realistic. There was no way our budget would cover this at the level of travel we wanted to experience. Zero budget travel although a romantic idea is by all accounts, pretty horrendous and we wanted to wash, eat and rest properly without sleeping in bus shelters or five star hotels. Even if we were driving by then, Couchsurfing and hosteling as much as possible and eating street food every day we still wouldn’t be able to make this trip happen.
What to jettison?
Europe was first off the list. Plenty of places we’d love to visit that could be easily achieved with trips from home such as Germany or Turkey were crossed off. We could make that happen later on. The Americas were next to go. Simply flying to and from that part of the world would eat too much of our budget. Sorry Inca Trail and New York, better luck next time! We then thought flying to Morocco and making our way across Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and then Asia from there would be good. The times of year we wanted to travel didn’t sync that well however.
We eventually settled on flying to New Zealand, making our way around and possibly working a bit then heading to Australia and up via Indonesia and Asia with a vague plan to make our way back to the U.K. overland through Europe etc until the money ran out. At the moment, India is off the list to make way for more exploration in China and Japan. Tibet is on the list as well as Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma (Myanmar), South Korea and Nepal. Having been to New Zealand before and it being an English speaking nation it seemed sensible to use it as an easier stepping stone along the route of this epic trip. Having never done the long term trip before as a couple we felt it important not to be too overwhelmed to begin with.
The brilliant thing about travelling however is that as much as you can construct a watertight blueprint of your trip, you’ll always change it somehow. There were so many variables in our plan that we decided the best thing to do would be to book our flight to NZ and go from there.
The places we removed from the plan are still places we want to go. Hopefully they’ll still be there when we are able to visit them!
The process then was a simple case of being realistic while still allowing ourselves to see a lot. The amount of time we’d be staying in each place also came in to play. A two week tour of New Zealand for instance is simply not doable without being exhausted most of the time. We much preferred the idea of really taking our time to appreciate and relax in the places we visit enough time for those Couple of Beers!
So, grab a globe, make a list of the tops things you want to experience in the world, look at your budget and time and go from there but don’t take these as absolute limitations. It’s simply best in our view to plan for the minimum and if expanded opportunities arise along the way then go for it!
Do you have a different way of planning your trips? Do you have any tips that would help us or others? Let us know. We’d be delighted to hear from you. We’ll follow this up with a post about how we plan individual countries in the future.