The Plan

The Revised Plan

About three months after I wrote my first list, I started to freak out a little. I had been looking into flights and timelines, and realized that I was committing to an outline through June of 2015. Doubts started coming to mind about whether I should lock myself into a whole year on the road. I’ve never traveled alone for that long before, can I really make it a year?

Also as I was looking at RTW tickets I was being locked into starting and stopping in the same country. So on the reverse side, what if I didn’t want to come back at the end of a year? I’ve always wanted to live in Europe again, but these tickets weren’t letting me have that option, I had to come back to the U.S. Will I want to?

And as I told people about the last leg of my trip – Middle East and Africa – the general response was concern for my safety. I realize that traveling alone as an American girl is going to have its challenges. I do think that I’m a very aware traveler and I will keep updated on where I should and should not go. But this feeling of uncertainty started to sink it. How could I know what the world will be like in 2015?

So I thought a lot about what I’m doing and had some key conversations, and I was reminded that this trip is entirely my choice. Sure I started out thinking it was a year and I’d hit all my original pillars, but if I’m feeling unsettled about it I can change it so that I feel better. I thought more about how I could make this is a trip that was more on the exciting side than the terrifying side (although it will still always have both elements) and eventually came around to a compromise that made me feel worlds better.

9 months up front. No return flight.

I came to the 9 month mark because of three points in the trip: 1) starting in June, I could start at the World Cup, somewhere I’ve always dreamed of going, and somewhere I knew I had friends to help me kick this journey off; 2) my family agreed to Christmas in Thailand, giving me visitors to look forward to and a little taste of home 6 months in; 3) a friend decided to come to India with me in February 2015, so I would again have a friendly face and wouldn’t be alone in India. This gave me a structure that I felt good about and the timing worked out to hit pillars 1, 2, 4, and 6. This is how I ended up with the route that is on my Itinerary page.

Not having a return flight gives me freedom, and that freedom was relieving. Now in March of 2015, if I want to keep going and make it to 3, 5, and 7, I can. Or if I want to go live in Europe I can. Or if I’m exhausted and need to come home, also possible. Or maybe I just did not have enough time somewhere and I can go back. I’ll be halfway around the world with endless possibilities and that became the most exciting part of this plan.

The most important thing I learned from all of this: this trip will evolve. No matter how I set out, anything could happen along the way, and I have to be open to it and ready to just go with it. If necessary, I can and should change whatever I need to to make this experience the best that it can be for me.

Which includes not totally freaking out when I think about leaving. I’m happy I’m past that point.


Where to Start? The First List.

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.


As you could imagine, I’ve been asked more than once why I want to go on a trip like this. Why did I come up with this plan? Why do I want to go for so long – can’t I just take a few weeks a year? Why am I doing this alone? Why now?

As you may not imagine, I ask myself why all the time.

Why is an important question, it’s what made me ultimately decide to go this year. At the very base of it all, the most simple answer and the one that made me need to go now, is that I would regret not doing it. That looking back at my life I want to at least be able to say I tried, and hopefully be able to say I accomplished, my dream of traveling the world.

But to understand that why, I have to explain a little more about how this even got to be my dream.

I think at lot has to do with how I was raised. I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid – some of my earliest memories involve biking on paths through the woods and playing on falling trees. Mine was a childhood about imagination and adventure. As I grew up, my parents fueled my sense of adventure with yearly family vacations to different locations, first around the U.S. and then internationally. Going to Europe every year for 8 years focused my adventure in a new direction: to discovering other cultures. This eventually led to studying German and spending 5 months abroad in Germany, where one of my secretly proud moments consisted of being asked directions on the streets of Berlin in German, responding in German, and getting a “Danke!” as they drove off. No English was used and I didn’t need any help directing them to where they wanted to go (mind you I was just in Berlin for a week, I was living in Freiburg). It was a minor interaction that only lasted a minute, but feeling comfortable in a new place by myself speaking to strangers in another language and then happily continuing on my way to explore all Berlin had to offer was a quiet moment of excitement in discovering a new place.

I could go on with travel stories but I’ll save them for future posts. Suffice it to say, with all the traveling I did in those 5 months plus all the trips I’ve taken before and after, I have always had moments, some quiet some very loud, where I feel most excited about life.

Life to me is about more than the daily routine. More than being successful at a job or a relationship. Right now, life to me is about putting yourself out there as much as possible to discover all that life can teach you. It’s bigger than me and I want to see more.

So why this plan and why for so long? Why won’t a month do?

Because, as I have said a lot lately, I don’t want a month I want a year. I want everything that comes with extended travel – the highs of solely focusing on experience for a year, the lows of overnight bus rides instead of flights. I am excited by the challenges this type of trip will offer me and what I will discover about myself when I face them. I am excited about all the possibilities that are out there. To actually change my mindset away from the normal routine I need to disconnect for more than a month. For a month I’ll always be coming back to this regulated world, to a job. But after a few months I’ll be able to say that what I do right now is travel. Experience. I will be able to explore the adventurous side of myself more than ever. And why not just 6 months? Because at that point, I’ll be out there, and there’s just too much to see to come back after 6 months. So I’m trying out 9 months with no return flight. 9 feels like just the right amount of time planned in advance to fit in most of my top list but not too long of an upfront commitment in case I don’t handle those travel challenges as well as I think I will.

Why am I doing this alone?

Flexibility. Freedom. The chance of meeting new people. The ability to encourage people to meet me somewhere. Not having to wait on anyone else to go. Traveling alone will get lonely at times, I know. I’ve had dinner alone at a restaurant trying to hide in a book so I don’t look as awkwardly alone as I imagine. And then I decided who cares if I look awkwardly alone, that’s just what I am, but I’m here and that’s what matters. Traveling alone gives me the freedom of last minute decisions, of only going to places because I want to go to them not because I have to coordinate with a group. Selfish? Maybe. But I’m the one taking the time to do this, so I think selfish is a given at this point. And I do hope people come join me. I want people from all walks of life to jump on for a leg of the trip and we’ll go anywhere they want to or I want to go. I’m flexible within my plan, so if someone says to me “oh I see you’ll be in Buenos Aires in September, I’ve always wanted to go Montevideo” I can say “Sounds good, lets meet there before I leave for New Zealand!” I also want to meet people along the way and, if the idea sounds right, travel with them for a while.

One night I was alone at a hostel in Istanbul with two Australians, a Dutch guy, and another American. My flight home was in a few short hours, and they almost convinced me to miss my flight so I could stay and travel with them. To this day, that night is one of my favorite nights in my history of travel, and all we did was hang out at the hostel swapping stories. In this trip, I will be able to keep going with those new friends.

So why now?

There are a few reasons. First, I am about to reach my travel budget goal, so I finally can go. Second, because I have been at my job and in this city for 3 years, and 3 years feels like the time to decide whether to stay or make a change. I know I want to do this, so I want to do it now before I get too settled into anywhere. Third, there’s something appealing about doing this trip at 27. I don’t believe the “life ends after 30” mentality that I’ve heard so much – I have to do all of this before I’m 30 and then I’m old and have to stop changing things – but I do like the sound of going on such a meaningful excursion at 27. Maybe it’s because as a kid that was the age I thought I’d get married (HA yea right like I’m anywhere near that) so I always had an idea that something big would happen at 27. Or maybe because it’s the beginning of my late 20’s. My early 20’s were characterized by college, my mid-20’s were focused on jobs and living in big cities, and now, at the end of this decade when we change so much, it’s time to try out a different kind of life. A nomadic explorer life. And before I do hit that big 3-0 I want to get out and see what else is out there so if I do feel like calming down a little then, I’ll have a better idea of where to do it and what to do.

And lastly, why now goes back to a conversation I had with a friend not too long ago. He asked me: what do I want to have done in 5 years? It’s easy to say I want to look back from my death bed and have traveled. That mindset almost had me convinced that I still have time, I could go later. But just 5 years is the immediate future. And with full confidence, I answered: I want to have done this trip.

So with that, I made it official. I told all my friends and family, gave my job 5 months notice, and started this blog. Now begins the countdown till departure. 4.5 months to go…

Here it Goes

My first blog post. I guess I should start with something introductory – Hi, I’m Kristen, and I’m planning a Round the World trip.

Although chances are if you’re reading this, you probably know me and already know that’s what this blog is about. So I’ll get to the point of the blog.

I’m writing this blog to document my adventure. I’m writing it so that when this trip is over and has become a blur of a memory, I can look back at something that has more detail of where I was, what I did, and what I thought of it all. I’m also writing it so that friends and family (especially you Mom) will be able to keep up with me and see where I am as I go. And hopefully, it will inspire them to visit me along the way. I also have a secret dream that one day I will be able to make my love of travel and discovering new places into some sort of a career, so I figured I should probably write about places before that can happen. But that’s a far off dream, this blog is not meant to be a job.

I still have months before I leave – est. mid-June departure – so I’m starting this early to document everything that leads up to taking a trip like this. The inspiration behind it, the planning process, the “holy shit what am I doing!” moments, the Auf Wiedersehen to San Francisco, the city I have called home for the past three years (I say Auf Wiedersehen because it means till I see you again, not goodbye), and everything else that I think should be shared before I go. All of that is a part of this adventure too.

So if you’re reading this, thanks for reading! I hope I can keep your interest and you return to see what I’m up to. If not for my writing then at least for the eventual pictures I’ll be posting from all over the world.

– Kristen, aka Brodge