Running the Numbers: Where to Go

Hello, dearest fellow travelers! Sorry about the unannounced break; there were weddings and BBQs and many delightful things that kept me away, but now I’m back for our regular Tuesday/Thursday schedule. Today I’m introducing a new recurring feature called Running the Numbers. It’s time to get serious about budgeting for this world trip next year (NEXT YEAR JUMP BACK), so I’ll be working out what I can reasonably afford and sharing those insights with you so we can all furrow our brows in a shared nervousness about RTW budgets. Fun times, right? The budget I’m planning to work with is $30,000 over the course of a little under two years.

When I tell people I plan to travel around the world for about two years, the questions usually go: Really? By yourself? Is that safe? How can you afford it? To which I respond, yep, yep, as safe as living in a major American city, and I sure hope so! Since I plan to leave in 15 months, it’s time for me to get serious about that last part, and I’m starting to break down the budget and be judicious in which places I can realistically visit on that budget.

Every single blog written by world travelers contains at least one post on how much money the authors spent on their trip, so there’s a lot of info out there to analyze. I like the breakdowns on this blog and this one, although I do get dispirited when I see that our routes are different enough that they might not make the greatest basis for comparison. In fact, they go to many fewer countries than I had been planning to visit, so I’m starting to seriously considering pruning the itinerary. I don’t want to visit lots of places only to not have enough money to see all I want to see in each.

Currently I say I want to start in Australia and then see a lot of Asia, take the Trans-Siberian, and work my way down to some of Africa, then end in India. Looking at the phenomenal cost of visas ($80 to get into Kenya! $70 to visit India!), carefully plotting a course seems an even better idea.

So now I’m thinking my best course would look something like this:

New Zealand
South Korea
South Africa

I’m sad to cut out Scandinavia, but those countries are super expensive and one of the main reasons I’d want to go, the aurora borealis, is never a certain sighting, so it’s smarter to come back another time when I can focus on patiently waiting for the lights to appear. I’m still not totally sure about each of the countries in Africa, because unlike in Asia they are much farther apart from one another and therefore they add quite a bit to transportation costs, but there are specific sights and cultures I want to experience in each of the countries listed, so I’m keeping them on for now.

Don’t forget that the plan is to return to the States after India, spend time with all the loved ones I missed, and save up a bit of money so I can go to Latin America (for those who are about to comment, “how can you not go to Peru/Argentina/Mexico?”).

Right then, dearest fellow travelers, what do you think? You’ll be reading about each of these places for the next several years, so chip in if you think I’m really missing out on a particular spot, or if you’re especially excited to hear about a place listed here.

12 thoughts on “Running the Numbers: Where to Go

  1. I’m especially excited about Vietnam; mostly because I think the food there will be delicious.

    One thing that occurred to me while reading the itinerary was that one can catch the Trans-Siberian starting in Beijing, so if you didn’t already have the logistics of getting on the train, it might work to move China down to just before Russia.

    • It’s true! I like the romance of starting in Vladivostok, but starting a full day or two later into the train journey, in China, might make a lot more sense. It’s possible I’ll visit China twice, once before Japan and South Korea, and again as I hop on the Trans-Siberian.

      I will endeavor to write posts about food so delicious you’ll be able to taste it.

  2. Lovely itinerary Lisa, no matter whether you end up, if you add an extra country or two or have to cut out a couple, it will be great.

    I do have some thoughts on southern Africa (of course). Far be it from me to discourage anyone from going to Zimbabwe, my home-away-from-home, but from reports I get it’s not very home-y these days, and may actually be dangerous, even for someone as travel-savvy as you. Personally I would not go back at this point (and I know parts of the country fairly intimately), although by the time you go things may have settled down. What specifically do you want to see there? Great Zim, Matopos, Vic Falls? Lots of good stuff there other than those things of course, but if you have specific sites you want to see I may be able to help you with some quick in-and-out strategies.

    Other southern African places you may want to consider:

    Swaziland: beautiful countryside, nice people, and if you’re in South Africa anyway you’re right there. There weren’t visas necessary 15+ years ago but that may have changed.

    Mozambique: the cheapest place in Africa I visited, and one of the most beautiful. If you’re in South Africa, you can spend a couple of days in Swaziland on the way to Mozambique. Unbelievable beaches; I’m not a beach person but wow.

    Lesotho is also nice, though if you miss it it’s not the end of the world. You can go horsebackriding through the mountains for days on end.

    I have not been myself, but lots of my friends went to Malawi and really liked it. My brother-in-law did Peace Corps there, so I can get you info on more things there if you need it.

    Of course, all up to you! My thinking is that if you add in some of these close-by countries, you’ll get more “value” out of the cost of transportation to the southern tip of Africa (I know the cost is significant). Most of these places don’t cost that much once you’re there. The notable exception is South Africa, which you *can* do on the cheap but it’s not as easy. You probably already have this on the agenda, but if you go to Cape Town (and you should, if only for the only-found-there varieties of plants), you should go to Cape Point and see where the oceans meet. I rented a bike and biked the road leading there and it was fantastic.

    Anyway, enough of my ramblings. Email me if you’d like to discuss any of the above!

    • JK for the win! Thanks for all the tips, and of course I will want to talk to you much more about the southern African leg of my trip.

      I really, really want to see Victoria Falls. That is why I want to go to Zimbabwe (although I do have an old friend living in Harare who I’d love to see, but that might be impractical). So if there are ways to see the falls without getting caught in internal strife, I’d love to know them.

      My great-aunt and -uncle live outside of Cape Town, so I plan to stay with them when I visit there, and a bike ride by the meeting of the oceans sounds lovely.

      And I don’t know much about the other places you mentioned, so I’m happy to learn more, and I agree that once I’m all the way down there, I may as well add a few more places as it won’t increase the cost much and will increase my happiness.

      Thanks again, hope you’re well and can’t wait to talk more!

  3. Ah, Vic Falls, totally totally worth it. Good choice. You could easily get there through Zambia. The best views are on the Zimbabwe side (thought I hear the Zambian views are none too shabby), but that’s just a short bridge away from Zambia, so you could stay in Zambia and just venture to Zimbabwe for the day. There will probably be visas, etc. to work out (I have no idea what costs/requirements are these days), but you’ll figure that out. And hey, if you have a friend in Harare, then s/he will be able to best tell you the current political climate when you go, so it might be totally feasible to travel to Harare, especially if you have someone to stay with.

  4. I would second the idea of visiting Vic falls through Zambia rather than Zimbabwe – a number of people I know have had great experiences with that route. Also, if you’re looking for a game viewing safari and aren’t planning on doing one in Kenya or South Africa, look up South Luangwa Natl Park in Zambia – it’s big, it’s got a lot of different game and different options/lodges/packages, and during the dry season (~April-October) you’re likely to see a lot of neat beasts.

    • Okay, visiting the falls through Zambia it is! And I do want to go on a safari at some point, so I may follow your advice on where to do that as well.

      Want to come visit and show me Malawi, Yorgos?

  5. Nice! Definitely let me know if you ever need any help moving around China. I’ve a friend who will probably still be in Beijing at the time of your trip and can help with train tickets (occasionally a source of immense pain in China). Also have a friend in the burbs of Guangzhou, which you’re far less likely to go to, but she’s a good couchsurfing source.
    Also, just curious, but what points are you hitting in Indonesia?

  6. Pingback: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Spend it All on the Dream | Stowaway

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