flight

Here it Goes Again

A funny thing happened at the end of June. I bought a flight to Mexico City.

It happened just like that – sudden and unexpected. But since it happened I haven’t looked back, so I am taking that as a sign that it was the right decision, since I feel pretty settled in it. So what does that mean?

I am going to Central America for 6 months.

Let me take a step back and explain how I came to this decision. When I returned to the US it was under the promise that I would be leaving again, I just didn’t know where to yet, so I was going to take the summer to figure it out. I knew I had a six month window between the end of my summer job and my sister’s wedding, an unmissable event in San Francisco next spring. With that in mind I narrowed it down to four options:

1. South America. To be honest, I really thought I would be going back to South America. I pretty much came back to go to South America. I knew the exact trip I wanted to do: I would fly to Lima, hit a few places I missed in Peru like Arequipa on my way to a few places I missed in Bolivia like Sucre and Potosi before a border-hopping adventure down Chile and Argentina into Patagonia, then I would loop around the southernmost point of South America and work my way back up to Buenos Aires. Sounds great, right? I even dreamed about continuing up the coast of Brazil to the beach towns I missed like Puerto Alegre, Fortaleza, and Jericoacoara.

2. Wanaka, New Zealand. I knew the work-study visa was an option until I hit 30 and I loved this town so much I thought about just finding a job and staying put for a while. It would be their summer so I could potentially farm or do something on the lake. I would hike, get to know a foreign country well, and do some wandering in the meantime. Maybe I would finally get to do more of the Great Walks or jump over to Tasmania or Perth.

3. Central America. This choice was a continuation of the backpacker lifestyle in a mostly new region. People raved about traveling through CA and my week in Nicaragua in 2011 was enough of a taste to make me want to go back and see more like it. It’s cheap, it’s got the kinds of adventures I like, and my timeline of September to March is the exact right time of year to explore it.

4. Europe. I’ve been talking about moving to Vienna for a long time now, and with so many friends going to Oktoberfest this year maybe it was time to bite the bullet and go for it. I have friends to visit across Europe who I’ve been telling I’ll see at some point, I could fly to England and go through France and the Netherlands on my way to Germany, with a quick Swiss interlude before ending in Vienna. I haven’t been to Europe in years and that should be corrected soon.

With four fantastic options I thought it would take all summer to decide and after Labor Day I’d end up flipping a coin or buying the cheapest flight to one of the regions I was considering. Turns out it didn’t take all summer to decide, but that cheapest flight idea may have been right.

I quickly eliminated Europe. As much as I want to go there, a six month window is not a time to try to move to a new place, it’s a time to do another adventure that I know I will return from. Europe would have to wait until after April. Next to go was New Zealand. I was forcing it on this time because of the age limit on the work-study visa. If I do want to go live in Wanaka I can do that any time, it’ll just be a little more complicated. But for any American under 30 who might be thinking about some extended time in New Zealand or Australia, I highly recommend looking into the work-study visa. It’s a great way to spend a year or two abroad and something I wish I’d known about before.

I was down to two options: South America or Central America. The two backpacking options that would again have me moving around quite a bit. South America had been calling me back ever since I left. I woke up in Myanmar longing for it, a physical pain in my chest that told me I needed to be on a different continent. I knew the exact trip I wanted to do and had originally said I needed 6 months for it. The time frame was right, an estimated December/January arrival in Patagonia would work out perfectly, and I would finally feel like I completed South America (at least for now). At this point you’re probably wondering why I don’t have a flight booked to Lima.

Central America wouldn’t leave my mind. The more I thought about what I wanted out of this six months the more I realized it was in Central America. I still have the stamina to travel in the backpacker way, on chicken buses and in hostels, and this region felt like the last frontier of backpacker life that I had to get to before I grew out of this phase. It has everything I liked from the last trip that would make for a great next trip: mountains and volcanoes to hike, jungles to adventure in, oceans to scuba and snorkel in, awe-inspiring architectural ruins from another era, charming colorful towns, cheap street food, and hammocks all over the place. It’s much quicker to travel around, with 3-hour bus rides between places instead of 24-hour bus rides, allowing me to cover more ground in my time frame. And the likelihood of being able to travel solely based on people’s recommendations was high. This is something that is really important for me on this next trip; I had such a positive experience going to places that friends recommended last time that I want to pick most if not all my locations that way this time.

Then there were the negatives for South America. First of all, it’s way more expensive to get to and from. Second, it’s freaking cold in Patagonia, and the stuff I would have to bring is bulkier and costlier. Third, I could actually do that trip in shorter spurts, going just to Peru or Argentina for two weeks at a time; it didn’t really have to be six months. Fourth, hiking alone is lonely, it would be nice to go with people, and that was putting a lot of stock in meeting people I wanted to hike with. I wasn’t really worried about it given the incredible people I’ve met on the road, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a buddy or few for a trip like that. Fifth, my motivation for returning now was partially fueled by the fact that I’d dropped a lot of money on visas for Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil that expire in 5 or 10 years, and I felt like I should use them again. I already said that visas weren’t a good reason for NZ so I had to remind myself of that again here.

Then there were the book-ends of Central America. I have friends in Mexico City who I would like to visit while they’re still there, and I would love to return to Colombia, which is possible by boat from Panama. Working at an eco-retreat or coffee farm in Colombia was also an option at one point, so ending my six months with a month in Colombia was an intriguing idea.

So one day I looked at flights, just to see what getting to Mexico City looked like. CHEAP. So cheap. And not only was the flight cheap but it was from San Francisco, meaning I could go see friends and family in SF on my way out of the country. Then I realized that my flight to SF could be covered by points, aka free. I slept on the idea and the next night bought the flight before it disappeared. Like I said, I thought I might just end up buying the cheapest flight out of the country…

I got a round trip flight SF to Mexico City and a one way flight Newark to SF all for $260.

September 10th I arrive in San Francisco. September 25th I leave for Mexico City. I plan to be back in San Francisco around March 25, 2016. In between, I will just see how far south I make it. If I end up loving Guatemala I could stay there the whole time, or if I get fed up with chicken buses I could jump down to Colombia early. The beauty of how I’m traveling this time is anything could happen.

I also still have a month plus until departure, and it’s not like Mexico City to Lima flights are totally outrageous, so if for some reason I have buyers remorse about this decision I could still change it at any point. The world is my oyster, and I will go where feels right. But for now, Central America feels pretty damn right.

Now begin the posts about my next adventure, what I have come to call my Round the Central America trip.

Here it goes again.

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FUK to ICN to LAX to PHX

The morning I left Fukuoka I was nervous, but only slightly. Going to the airport to board a flight to Seoul felt like just another leg in the journey. Maybe it was the hangover dulling my senses, but despite my mind knowing that this was the end of my trip my emotions were playing catch up. And man did they catch up.

It happened when I was waiting at the gate in the Seoul airport (such a nice airport) and the destination name came up on the screen: LOS ANGELES. Oh my god I’m flying to Los Angeles. California. United States. My mind went into a tailspin, my heart started pounding in my chest, which felt like it was supporting the weight of a 300-pound man, and my eyes welled with tears.

“What have I done? I’m still in Seoul, I could just walk out of the airport right now. I don’t need my luggage right?” The loudspeaker announced that boarding had begun for a flight to Amsterdam. “I’ve never been to Amsterdam, that sounds nice, maybe I can sneak onto that plane instead.” Wanderlust combined with panic and every fiber in my being wanted to go the opposite direction of Los Angeles.

I took a few deep breaths and tried to calm myself. As boarding began I sat frozen in my seat, waiting for the seemingly endless line to die down (it was an Airbus with 80 rows, so boarding took quite a while). The screen flashed FINAL BOARDING in bold red letters. The line was down to a trickle that ended next to my seat. It was time.

I gathered all my strength and told myself that it would be ok. I was making the right decision. The world was not ending, it would still be there when I returned one day.

Despite the fact that I was on the most luxurious flight of my life, I couldn’t sleep more than an hour out of the total 10, something that was now very out of character for me with my vast experience of sleeping on all manner of transportation. It could have been due to the fact that this “overnight” flight was really “day to night” in Japan time, but I think my mind just couldn’t shut down. Finally the plane switched to morning mode and I watched out the window as we approached and flew over the city of Los Angeles, a place I had known well before, a place I almost moved to instead of traveling, that I now looked at as a stranger wondering how I could have considered such an exchange.

Stupefied is probably the best word to describe my expression as I walked through LAX, from picking up my luggage and going through customs to checking it in for my domestic flight to Phoenix. English was everywhere, I understood everyone, and everyone was so surprisingly friendly. I underestimated my countrymen’s kindness.

Waiting in LAX I turned back on my cell phone service. I called my mom. I was on American soil. I promptly received emails from a few family members welcoming me home and being thankful for my safe return. I was suddenly contactable at all times. I turned off my phone and napped for an hour on a bench in the terminal.

I slept the entire flight from LA to Phoenix, a necessary nap before the long night ahead. When I arrived in Phoenix a whole new nervousness took over – I was about to surprise my best friends. Only Kwaz knew that I had landed in the Phoenix airport an hour before everyone else and was hiding in baggage claim. I saw my friends come down the escalator, quickly grab their bags, and head out the door to drive off in Jen’s car. So, heart pounding, I walked out to meet them.

The minute they turned around I knew I had made the right decision. The shrieks, exclamations of joy, plus the occasional expletive, and endless succession of hugs were so much more than I had imagined. I thought back to my reasoning for coming back now instead of waiting until the summer when I had to be in Vermont – that since I had to come back anyway I might as well do it in a fun way – and mentally patted myself on the back for making this decision.

The thing is, I didn’t leave the US to run away from my life there. I had a fantastic life. I just wanted to enrich it, see more of what was out there, and grow as an individual. But I had plenty to return to, and these girls and the weekend that ensued were a huge part of that. The panic that I experienced in Seoul quickly faded into a memory. I was back, at least for now, and it was time to party.

 

The Long Route to Bali

We took a 24 hour bus to Singapore.

Kara, thank you for bearing with me on this one. I know it’s the last thing you want to do on vacation but the budget savings are always so helpful, and at least you had a three-week vacation so a day wasn’t the end of the world.

To get from Krabi to Bali was going to cost more than we wanted to spend on flights. That’s what you get trying to fly around during the holiday season. We discovered that it was possible to take a bus from Krabi to Singapore, which was our end destination in mid-January, and then we could take a round-trip flight from Singapore to Bali for a fraction of the price of multiple one ways. So this is what we did.

We left Krabi at 6:30 am on the 4th in a van. This van was the most crowded one I’ve ever been in; they didn’t leave any seats open for bags so they were all piled up in the aisle next to me. It was not a short ride to the border either. Somehow I slept a lot and podcasts got Kara through it. We were dropped at a border town in Thailand and told that the Singapore bus didn’t pick up there. I’m sorry, what? The van driver was not helpful and just kept trying to leave, not giving us back our tickets so we had no proof that we’d paid to get to Singapore.

The new man in charge at a travel agency was an outright dick. This guy and the van driver are hands down the two most frustrating men I’ve dealt with so far. Eventually we found out that the Singapore bus knew we were there, had our tickets, and would come pick us up at 12:30. This is all we knew and we had to trust it.

They were late, but eventually a glorified pick-up truck with a back door came around to take us to our bus to Singapore. We got in and were greeted by two young smiling American faces. This had to be a step in the right direction. Our new companions were doing a semester in Singapore and had just celebrated the New Year on Koh Phangan, where all their stuff was stolen on the beach. They were just trying to get “home.”

We were taken to the bus and at 1:30 were on our way to Singapore. We could breathe again. Made it. From then on the bus was par for the course; freezing, long, with two quick border stops. We made it to Singapore around 8:00 am and went straight to the airport.

We spent the morning sipping Coffee Bean using their wifi until we could board our afternoon flight. It was a relief to check in and make it on the plane. For me, just another crazy long travel day trying to get to an exciting destination: Bali. For Kara, an unfortunate bump in hopefully otherwise a great vacation. Now we just had to fly to Bali.

So the nerves weren’t gone just yet. I wonder when flying through Indonesia will stop being so scary, if ever. I haven’t been so tense on a flight in years, since I went through my brief fear of flying in early college. When we touched down in the Denpasar airport we looked at each other relieved. We made it to Bali.

Beyond Excited for a Familiar Face from Home: My Sister!

It was December 28th and I was enjoying a comfortable bed, air conditioning and the news on a flat screen tv. I took a nice long warm shower. I unpacked some things. I relaxed. I waited.

Today was the day my sister arrived!

I was anxious for her to get there already. I’d been anticipating this moment for months, and was made only more excited when a week before she came she got engaged. Now I wanted to give her a huge hug and spend the next three weeks together catching up and hanging out as only sisters can.

Then I refocused on the news and panicked. A plane was missing in Indonesia. Even though I knew she wasn’t in that area, seeing the fact that a plane had flat out disappeared on the day that my sister was flying in to see me filled me with terror. What if it had been her? It wasn’t, she’s fine. But did I know anyone else flying in that region? With a new travel network that extends across the world it’s more likely now than ever that I may know someone involved in such a tragedy. I did a mental scan of my conversations over the past 6 months until I felt sure that I didn’t know anyone on the plane.

I was still horrified at the news of the disappearance of yet another plane. I remembered the last bad flight news, when a plane was shot down in Eastern Europe. I got that news while I was on an Azul flight somewhere over the middle of Brazil. Flight accidents are always terrible, but when so much of you and your friends’ lives revolve around travel there’s a new immediacy to these sorts of things.

Someone knocked. My mind snapped back to the present and I ran full speed to open the door.

I barely let Kara get inside before giving her a big hug. The afternoon was a lesson in restraint for me. She had just flown thousands of miles over 36 hours to get here and I wanted to talk talk talk, but I had to acknowledge the jetlag and exhaustion that comes with such a trip.

We spent our first day at the hotel (a very generous Christmas gift from our parents, thank you!). We had plenty of time to explore Krabi, today I was just happy to see my sister. There was so much to talk about that it felt like we barely even got started by the time her jetlag won out. We had three weeks together though so there was plenty of time, we would cover it all soon enough.

For the next few posts – Krabi, Ko Phi Phi, Indonesia, and Singapore – there will be lots of “we’s.” Kara is one of the amazing, talented ones who runs her own company so she was able to take a while off to come roam around with me. Before diving in I just want to say thank you for coming Kara! You truly made these places fantastic and I’m so happy I was able to spend some time with you in this crazy year.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Bangkok Airport

Thanksgiving. A holiday meant to be spent relaxing with family and food, I was spending it alone on a plane and in an airport.

I had booked my flight from Australia to Bangkok on November 27th not realizing what day it was. Maybe this is why flights were cheaper? But really it doesn’t matter if it’s Thanksgiving when you’re not in the US, no one else celebrates it anyway.

Except that I was reminded of this holiday by friends from home, talking about their long weekends and asking what I would be doing. The year I was in Peru for Thanksgiving our porters on the Inca Trail made us a cake and wrote “Happy Thanksgiving” on it. I would not have the same international Thanksgiving celebration this time.

Instead, I spent 9 hours on a plane. With no entertainment. I flew Jetstar, so the perks of international flights – food and movies – were missing. I had swapped my last book, The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, for a lighter read in the hostel book exchange: Hunger Games 2, Catching Fire. I figured I deserved something easier after making it through Don Quixote and The Satanic Verses.

I started Hunger Games as we taxied away from the gate in Melbourne. I finished it somewhere over the ocean, with 2.5 hours left in my flight. I can’t remember a time I opened a book and didn’t put it down until I turned the last page. Now what? I watched the last 2 episodes of Season 2 of The Sopranos. We still had an hour left. Music and an attempt at a power nap got me through to landing.

I disembarked without much excitement, knowing that I was planning on sleeping in the Bangkok airport. I had a flight to Vietnam the next morning so getting out to a hostel for a quick restless sleep and then back to the airport didn’t sound worth it. What a way to spend a holiday.

But then I was walking through the airport surrounded by signs written in type that made no sense to me. Thai. And it hit me: I was in Thailand. I have never been to this part of the world and even though I wouldn’t see any of it tonight I still made it here. Finally! My spirits lifted a little.

I ended my Thanksgiving day writing blog posts while sipping on an Americano in the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in the Bangkok Airport. My American tribute to Thanksgiving.

This is where I am now. I’m trying to get as many posts written as I can before I get to Vietnam tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll get most of Australia cued up to publish once a day while I’m enjoying this next location.

Because in Vietnam I know I won’t be writing much. I will be joined by familiar faces for the first time since Andy came to Colombia in August – this time, it’ll be family! My aunt, uncle and cousin are meeting me in Vietnam and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s a great way to start the third and final part of this journey: Asia.

Jetstar Price Beat Guarantee

When I was looking to book my flight from Sydney to Cairns, and unhappily facing shelling out over $200, Peter told me about a helpful Jetstar trick.

When you find a flight on a competitor airline that is:
1) Cheaper than a Jetstar flight
2) Within an hour of said Jetstar flight
3) More than 72 hours from the day you find it

You can contact Jetstar with this information and, once they verify you’re telling the truth, they will give you their flight for 10% less than the competitor’s price. Seriously. It’s a great trick that helped me save over $50.

So the next time you’re thinking about flying with Jetstar do a quick search to see if anyone else is flying cheaper. It may just save you a day’s worth of money.

Day 1 – All Travel

I ate all my meals on planes today. On the one hand, it’s a good way to start the trip. I didn’t actually spend any additional money (except on some M&Ms and a trashy magazine, the travel essentials). On the other hand, it means I just ate plane food all day. Which, as we all know but may have forgotten if you have only taken domestic US flights where they’d rather make you buy something or starve, is not great food. But it’s free food nonetheless. I’ve had some great plane food in the past – El Al to Israel was definitely the best, complete with hummus and champagne – but this was just regular old pollo or carne. At least they gave me wine with dinner!

My first flight from JFK to Bogota was actually quite pleasant. The seats were fairly comfortable and they reclined way more than I’m used to, the scrambled eggs weren’t too bad, and I had my choice of movies and TV shows. It made me wish that US flights were more like this. I got through breakfast and The Grand Budapest Hotel (which I thoroughly enjoyed, you should see it if you haven’t), then, just like the rest of the plane, I fell asleep. I’ve never been on such a quiet flight. I swear 90% of the plane was sleeping for at least an hour or two. By the time I woke up we were an hour an a half away from Bogota. A few TV shows later and I was in South America.

International flights still include checked luggage, and having my backpack checked through to Sao Paulo really alleviated the stress of this layover. The security to get to my connecting flight was quick and painless, so I had time to stroll around. And what was the first thing I heard when I walked into the Bogota terminal? Danza Kudro.

Some of you reading this know what that means (assuming you guys read this, you know who you are). Others probably have no idea why that matters. Danza Kudro became the anthem of our trip to Peru in 2012. We heard it, and danced to it, everywhere. I can’t say I remember much of the dance anymore, but hearing it within minutes of entering South America was both hilarious and comforting. It reminded me of how great that trip was, and except for the sadness of not having my friends with me this time, it made me excited for my next adventure. It also just made me laugh.

Since security was so quick, I had plenty of time to kill in the airport till my next flight to Sao Paulo. I quickly learned that airport waits are not as bad when the World Cup is happening. It was on every TV in the terminal, so I settled into a seat in front of the huge curved flat screen, along with a decent sized crowd. I was just in time to see Argentina pull off a win at the end of their game, then had to wait a quick hour until the Germany vs Ghana game started. Even though I couldn’t understand the Colombian announcers, they were so entertaining. The quick talking and excitement when anyone got remotely close to shooting on goal made me smile every time. And I wasn’t the only one. I can’t wait to hear the announcers in Brazil.

I got to see the whole first half before I had to board, and I boarded worried. As of writing this, I still don’t know what happened. 0-0 at the half was unsettling. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m a big Germany fan. After the US of course.) Hours later when I got internet: I just found out the score. HOW DID THEY TIE? WHAT ARE YOU DOING GERMANY? I am not happy. Moving on.

My second flight started out much different. Apparently Avianca doesn’t warn anyone when you’re in or in front of an exit aisle. This caused some seat shuffling and one passenger demanding a refund since her seat wouldn’t recline. I had no idea I wasn’t going to be able to recline for 5.5 hours either, but at least I was able to get my window seat back after they tried to give it away. When everyone calmed down it was an easy flight again, I had the pollo, and two more movies later we were almost in Sao Paulo.

Two things that came out of this whole day of travel: 1) I seriously need to work on my Spanish and Portuguese. 2) I’ve been thinking about doing a sort of photo project on this trip. I want to focus on something(s) that is consistent but has variety within each place. I am already thinking of taking a picture of my view every morning to show the variety of accommodations, and I want to take pictures of my bags as time goes on and in different locations, since I’m sure they’ll get beat up. But as I was handed my first of 4 airplane treats today (seriously they love to feed us) I quickly thought to snap a picture. Part of being a traveler on a budget is taking advantage of what’s included in any price you pay. Breakfast included is one of the things I look for when I book a hostel. It’s usually not stellar, but it can save a lot of money over time.

These free meals will vary, like my Israel flight meal did from today’s chicken and rice. Or the German hotels’ cold cuts for breakfast did from my Istanbul hostel’s rolls and cucumbers. So I’m playing with the idea of taking a picture of all the “meals included” I get. I’m sure they’ll vary everywhere I end up, and it could turn out to be an interesting story of what different places think should be complimentary. Also, so many people document their food these days. Typically they show food that is pleasing to look at as well as tasty, and often from great but not inexpensive restaurants. This is sort of a play on that – I won’t be paying for pretty food, but here’s what I got. And maybe it won’t look worth documenting alone, but that isn’t really the point. I wouldn’t be photographing food for food porn but as more of a cultural experiment. Who knows, maybe every hostel in the world thinks rolls and sliced meats and cheese are breakfast. Or maybe what is offered will end up reflecting the location.

Anyway, it’s just an idea right now. But so far I have pictures of today’s breakfast and dinner, on tray tables of course. I’ll try it out at my hostels this week (all with breakfast included) and see if it’s as interesting as I think it has the potential to be. I’ll keep you updated.

For now, I have arrived, but I have arrived at an airport hotel after midnight just to pass out. Tomorrow I will really arrive in Sao Paulo. Maybe then I’ll post the “I was dancing in the street in excitement that I’m finally doing this” post. Although I’m still not sure when what I’m doing will actually sink in.

3 Year One Way Anniversary

NY to SF 3 Years Ago

NY to SF 3 Years Ago

Today is my 3 year anniversary of moving to San Francisco. Which means it’s also the anniversary of the first one way ticket I ever bought.

Traveling one way felt so final. Until that point I’d had round trip journeys – college was limited to 4 years from the start, my flight to study abroad in Germany was 5 months before my return but still round trip, and while living in New York City was a move I always knew I wouldn’t be there forever. The move to San Francisco was the first big decision I made that felt so profoundly life-changing.

Now, on my 3 year anniversary of this first one way adventure, I find myself in a place where I have purchased 7 one way tickets in the past month. SEVEN.

I’m going to take a second and let that sink in. Because that is sort of insane…

 

I remember moving to San Francisco like it was only 3 days ago. While I could write a whole separate blog full of anecdotes about my love for this place and all the people I know here, what stands out for this blog is what that move meant to me in relation to this trip.

After graduating college I landed in NYC more by convenience than desire. Graduating with no job and in the middle of a recession, I applied to internships in the closest metropolis I could, which, being from New Jersey, is NYC. After my internship turned into a full time job I moved into the city. I’m happy I did, I always liked the city and had thought about living there so I wanted to try it out, but it was never meant to be final. I had a plan – NYC for 3 years, travel for a year, then move to SF.

See, San Francisco was my end goal. I had visited family in SF many times growing up and fell in love with it. I knew one day I would be here, and everyone who knew me knew that was my goal. So when I was offered a job for an amazing architecture firm in my dream city, I couldn’t turn it down, it was too good to be true. It was also too early. It meant I had to adjust my plan and move to my dream city before doing my trip.

I viewed this is as a delay, not a cancellation, of the trip. And when I moved out here, instead of thinking I ended up at my destination too soon, I saw it as a sign that I could follow through on my convictions. I had talked about moving to San Francisco for so long and I finally did it. I left behind my comfortable East Coast life (grew up in NJ, college in upstate NY, apartment in NYC) and most of my close friends and immediate family and set off to live a dream.

It has been the best decision I ever made for so many reasons, not the least of which was proving to myself that one day I would have the courage to make the same decision to take off on my trip.

Now that I’ve made this next decision, I am as excited and nervous as I was then, which actually gives me some comfort. If I was right with that risk, I’m sure I’ll be right with this one. So while it’s a little odd to celebrate an anniversary of somewhere I’m about to move out of, it is also a celebration of the confirmation of how right that one way flight can be.

And besides that, my 3 years here are completely worth celebrating. They’ve been some of the best years of my life and I love this city. One day I hope to return and stay for good. Assuming, that is, that after this trip I’ll ever be able to stay in one place for good.

Flights: Purchased!

I did it! I bought my flights! This is real! I’m going!

I don’t even know how to begin to describe the feeling of clicking “purchase itinerary” and seeing the confirmation come through. I guess I’ll try, starting from finding the perfect route.

I had played with lots of options in Indie and decided on the airports for the major legs of my trip (as described before). Then I experimented with length of travel time, departure and arrival times, and price options for each leg.

Initially, the cheapest route was going to take over 90 hours of travel, thanks in large part to an 11 hour overnight layover in Dubai between Buenos Aires and Auckland. This did not sound appealing to me. What am I supposed to do in Dubai between 11pm and 10am? Not to mention the crazy long flights from BA to Dubai and Dubai to NZ. So I found a flight that, by paying a couple hundred more, would just have a layover in Santiago and save me around 30 hours of travel time. Having found what I believed to be my best options for all the other legs, I saved the details and told myself to take a day or two to think about paying more for the Santiago connection option. This was Monday. I prefer to buy flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays anyway (they’re supposed to be the best days to purchase, you can find better deals).

Then Tuesday happened. I looked at my saved route again and repriced it to current prices, and it spiked. A couple thousand more now to not go to Dubai. Back to playing with this leg, I tried some options on different days and found that, by leaving BA 3 days earlier, I could not only go through Santiago but it was actually cheaper than the initial Dubai flight. This was not an option I’d seen before. Did it even exist until now? How did this happen? I have no idea. But I had to jump.

I did a quick check on all the flights to make sure they were still the ones I wanted, got to the purchase page, entered my credit card info – and stopped. Was I really about to buy this? This is huge, this makes it real, this means I’m going.

I quickly panicked to everyone I was talking to on gchat while my purchase page was hidden in another tab. After resounding encouragement (thanks friends!) I jumped back to the tab and clicked purchase without thinking anymore. Then agonizing seconds went by while the website had to think. It does this sort of movement of dots darkening and lightening in a row while it’s thinking. This visual was like torture. My heart was racing. Then: confirmed.

CONFIRMED. Thank you for your purchase!

Commence total freak out.

I ran outside, almost breaking down in emotion as I got in the elevator. I hit the ground floor and took off walking. I didn’t have a destination, I just needed to walk, as fast as I could. I went in circles, wherever the green walk light would let me go. I probably passed the same places 3 or 4 times. I called my dad, I told him I’d bought them, he talked me through it, amazed that the flights aligned so well, equally excited and shocked as I was. Thanks Dad. I kept walking and called a few more people. People I passed looked at me strangely as I visibly freaked out in my speedwalking. But they also smiled. They could tell it was an excited freakout, that something huge had just happened in my life.

The confirmation from Indie said it would take up to 72 hours for the airlines to confirm the flights. So I settled down and tried to not think about it, I had time before that would come through.

4 hours later the airlines confirmed. I have ticket numbers. I am going.

At this point I lost all focus on my day and went out for a celebratory drink. Still totally freaking out, I realized that while I was freaking out I was smiling. This was excited freak out. This was knowing I made a huge step toward completely changing my life, and being not just okay with it, but ecstatic about it.

The flights I ended up with are, in my mind, as perfect as I could get them. With the longest layover at 4 hours, I don’t forsee a lot of sleeping in airports like I thought I would when I was finding 9 or 11 hour layovers. I’ll have to deal with a few early morning flights, but those also saved me a lot of money. It ended up being even cheaper than I expected. Again, I have no idea how. I found a lucky time and I jumped on it. My advice: search as much as possible in advance and explore all your options for each combination and individual leg, then save them to buy on a Tuesday.

My first flight is booked for June 21, 2014. My last is booked for February 9, 2015. And that last flight is to India, not back to the U.S.

My One Way Ticket Around the World has been purchased.

Flight Planning

It’s March. Already. How did that happen? While usually the beginning of March is exciting because spring is almost here, this year for me it has much more significance: I can FINALLY buy my flights!

I have had the route planned and the timing planned for a while, but I haven’t been able to buy my flights yet because I can’t get them more than 11 months in advance. Since my last flight from Bangkok to New Delhi is in February of 2015, that means I’ve been waiting till March to make the big purchase. And now that it’s here, I’m simultaneously incredibly excited and terrified.

Buying my flights is the final commitment. I know telling my job that I’m leaving felt like jumping off the cliff, but as soon as I make this purchase that is it, I am going. And I am happy to say, I’m ready to do it.

I went through a few different options of how I wanted to buy my flights. At first I thought I would get a RTW ticket, so I played around on Star Alliance’s RTW site for a little while (I had already read about a few different RTW ticket providers before landing on Star Alliance). Ultimately I decided against this method because of a few things: 1) it has a mileage limit, and I kept exceeding the mileage; 2) it was more expensive than I had hoped it would be; and 3) it was too limiting. The RTW ticket really locked me into a final route – I had to move one direction within a certain number of miles, starting and ending in the same country. What if I didn’t feel like going home just yet? Or for some unforeseen reason I wanted to go eastward before continuing on west? With flexibility being as important as it is to me, this just wasn’t the way to go.

And then there’s the buying as a you go route. While this seems fun, spending hours on computers in hostels or internet cafes trying to search for the optimal flight prices and times didn’t sound like the best use of my time. Plus, as I’ve already said, I want to make sure that I keep moving to the next destinations. Not having that next big flight could mean I spend my entire trip in South America. While that doesn’t sound too bad, it’s just not what I’m setting out to do right now.

Then I discovered Indie. As I alluded to once before, BootsnAll is a terrific resource for all your RTW planning needs. It has articles on destinations, planning tips, links to other blogs – really anything you could want. And one of my favorite things about it is the route planner Indie.

Indie lets you play around with different options – you can change locations, sort by prices or length of trip, choose overland or flight between places – so you can find the route that works best for you. This is also how I ended up deciding to not have a return flight. Because you are searching individual legs as a package, there is no restriction on where you have to end. It’s the tool that helped me find my perfect combination of planned and flexible. And the price was right too.

For anyone who is planning a RTW trip, I highly suggest spending some time with Indie. I have saved a few route options and keep going back and adjusting them trying to find the right combination. I think I almost have it. As soon as I hit purchase, you’ll be the first to know.

My route on Indie Look familiar? This is where the image on my "Itinerary" page is from.

My route on Indie
Look familiar? This is where the image on my “Itinerary” page is from.