Saturday, 12 March 2011

Where to go? What to do?

We have finally figured out the answer to the big question, "Where to go?"

The "What to do?" is much more difficult.

We have our list of countries and a general time line, however that continually changes as we research what to do in each place. For example, we originally thought 10 days in Bolivia was enough, as we planned to get acclimated in La Paz and then head directly to Lake Titicaca and cross the border into Peru. Upon researching both countries, however, we realized that we might actually want more time in Bolivia, where it's cheaper and less touristy, and only hit one or two places in Peru. It's not easy though. How do you really get a feel for what a country has to offer from guidebooks and online forums? There is just SO much research involved that part of us just wants to say, "F-ck it," and just figure it all out along the way.

We have started putting together a general trip plan, which changes almost daily. This plan simply gives us an idea of when we will be where and how long we plan to stay. It not only helps us understand our projected costs, it also helps keep us on track in terms of getting back to Europe in time for Xmas 2012. Here is our current plan, which will probably change by the time I publish this post:

These destinations are pretty much set. The countries in which we spend more than one month are those in which we plan to volunteer. The countries were we will spend under two weeks are transit countries, where there is either only one particular thing we want to do or where we plan to fly in or out of on the way to somewhere else. We are looking at the most flexible plane tickets possible, as we want to be able to have the flexibility to stay longer in a place we love or leave a place we don't earlier than expected.

In terms of planning around our destination list, we have put together a spreadsheet of country facts. This is a very rough work in progress, but the goal is that it will help us to get a feel for what we need to do to prepare for each country (visas and vaccines), as well as what we should research to do in each country. Here is a rough draft of our country plan (click on the image to enlarge):

As we start to solidify the "Where?" and "What?", we will be able to get a better feel for the "How much?" That is another post in itself, but we are starting to get there and it's terrifying. This trip will be a huge investment. I use the word "investment" instead of "expenditure" because we are really hoping to get enough back from it to make it worth the cost. Every time I get frustrated by the amount of planning required, I remind myself that I put more time into wedding planning and that was just one day. I truly (albeit, naively) believe that the time, effort and cost that will go into this trip will be paid back in ways we can't even imagine right now. Fingers crossed those ways aren't just malaria and food-poisoning... :)