Sun 19 Jun 2011 - Sun 3 Jul 2011
Before we left for this trip, Toby spent an immeasurable amount of time doing research. Out of one enormous wish list came “The Spreadsheet”. The Spreadsheet listed each country we wanted to go to, cities within each country, number of days in each place, approximate cost per day, cumulative cost for the trip, and approximate dates for each country.
We pretty much followed the Spreadsheet as we toured China, mostly because every 30 days we had to renew our visas. But once into SE Asia, we started adding cities, staying longer in each place, and slowly the spreadsheet started to morph. The place where we thought we’d spend Christmas was finally reached in May. We really enjoyed this new style of travel, one that gave us enough time in each country to really absorb the culture, learn words in each language, and venture off the tourist trail. It also gave us a less frantic pace, which helped ensure that we would enjoy travelling longer.
Once we arrived in Malaysia in the month of April, we had a good hard look at the Spreadsheet. Did we really want to spend an entire year in Eastern Asia when there was so much more to see? Did we really need to see Indonesia during this trip, when already we were feeling a bit of repetition in terms of scenery? Did we really want to visit India in the hottest months of the year? Did we really want to trek Nepal in the wettest month of the year? The answers were a resounding NO. And so, we began to make changes. Where would we go next?
The price of flights was a factor, since we didn’t count on that in the initial budget. The summer weather was another big factor. One last factor was that Toby’s parents had some vacation time in May and wanted to meet us somewhere. At first we suggested Egypt, but then the revolution happened and it became less safe for travel. Then we suggested Jordan, but they also had conflicts around that time. Adamant that they were not going to venture into a potential crisis, we settled on Turkey. We had no idea how much it would have to offer, but for more on that you’ll have to check out my Turkey entry (coming soon).
We debated heading into the Middle East after Turkey, but that would also be during the hottest months of the year and the holy month of Ramadan. So, we decided to go into Greece next and then see as much as we can of Eastern Europe. Writing this entry from Greece I can say that there is a good reason why it is such a popular destination, as it is just beautiful. But being popular and easy to travel to means that the crowds flock here during the busy season and prices soar. We were shocked by our new daily budget in Turkey, but were often doubling that in Greece, just by adding a ferry ride or short day excursion. It was frustrating to calculate that the budget meal we just found in Greece cost twice as much as a splurge meal in Asia. Another revelation was that most of the travellers we saw in Greece were in their golden years, making it clear that Europe is a destination for all ages. Why do we have to see it now with our backpacks?
This sparked the latest wave of decisions. If we didn’t see Europe now, where could we go that would allow us to be in India and Nepal at the best time of year (Fall)? The answer became clear: Africa!!! But first, to two attractive destinations that have been calling us for a while: Israel and Jordan. Let Year Two begin!