Ok so I want to do this. Great. Now what? How do you go about planning a trip like this?
Of course at first I wanted to go every place in the world I had ever heard of, and more that I hadn’t heard of, and try to fit it all in within the year. But I had to remind myself that this isn’t about checking boxes, getting a picture of a place or putting a pin in a map and moving on. I needed time in places. Not to mention that it is logistically impossible. There is just no way to go everywhere in this one trip.
In this trip being the key phrase. I will get to them at some point.
I also knew I had to narrow down some of the larger areas and focus on just a few regions. I have already been around Europe a lot from high school and college so I ruled that out completely. China, Japan and Russia just seem like their own trip to me, and places I can visit any time in life. I wanted this to be a backpacking trip, staying in hostels and meeting other travelers around my own age doing the same kind of trip. I also knew I had to pick places that were relatively cheaper since I am not planning on working while I’m abroad. This narrowed down my focus to South America, Southeast Asia/India, Australia/New Zealand, and Africa.
Now the trip needed structure, something to base my route on. So after looking around at various travel blogs about how to start planning a RTW trip, I decided I had to pick my top list, my must sees, my “pillars,” and write them down.
Writing them down is key. Not only will I not be able to forget them, but there’s something permanent about writing them. I could step away and revisit them, give them time to sink in, make sure these are really the pillars that I wanted to base the next year of my life around. I started an Evernote so that as long as I had some sort of technology I wouldn’t be without them, and now they’re in my small travel notebook that I carry with me everywhere.
I thought about what was important to me – architecture and nature. They may seem like opposing ideas, but it’s amazing how similar they can be. Mountains and buildings, made by different forces, both have the ability to inspire a feeling of awe within me. I studied and now work in architecture, so that’s a given, but I have also always loved landscapes and being outdoors. I knew I wanted to have a mixture of important architectural and natural sites.
A few things I kept in mind: I did not want to repeat anything (e.g. I went to Machu Picchu last year so I didn’t need to put that on the list anymore) and I wanted to spread the destinations out around my target regions.
So I drafted my list:
1. Taj Mahal
2. Iguazu Falls
3. Great Pyramids
4. Angkor Wat
5. Mt. Kilimanjaro
6. Great Barrier Reef
7. Wadi Rum/Petra
I wrote this list on the first page of my notebook in July 2013, 11 months before I planned to leave. I wanted to structure my future planning around it but also had time to get used to it. And I am very happy I did that. If you’ve looked at my itinerary, some of these places are missing. I went through some major revisions in the next half a year to get to where I am today. But that’s for another post.