Slovenia by the Numbers

Lakes circumnavigated on foot: 1

Lakes jumped in mid-circumnavigation: 1

National poets side-eyed for their choice of muse: 1

Fancy breed horses that rebuffed my attempts to pet them: 4

Entertaining guided tours taken: 2

Picturesque castles viewed from a distance: 5

EU-wide award-winning ice creams tasted: 2

Attempts made to take this one special elevator to a club in Ljubljana, only to have the elevator stop a floor below the right one every time: 5

Mini-waterfalls admired: 2

Total days spent in Slovenia: 6

Total money spent: $361

Average per day: $60

Times I said, “Seriously, so beautiful” out loud: It basically became my catchphrase

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Croatia by the Numbers

Hailstorms spent hiding on the portico of a basilica/mausoleum: 1

Clouds of cigarette smoke accidentally walked through: at least a dozen, ew

Roadside breakdowns while driving up a mountain: 1

Elaborate breakfast buffets consumed on a hostel balcony: 4

Outdoor choir concerts stumbled upon: 2

Adorable French children befriended: 1

Bell towers climbed while Vertigo played in the back of my mind: 1

Nights spent dancing on a giant outdoor light-up disco floor: 2

Green-blue waterfalls admired: at least 10

Island beaches sunbathed on: 2

Servings of the very strong local rakia consumed: 5, aka plenty

Total days spent in Croatia: 14

Total money spent: $1,078

Average per day: $77

Total money spent, minus the airfare: $906.36

Average per day, minus the airfare: $67.74

Expanses of otherworldly blue water seen: leagues

Looks good from here

Looks good from here

Vietnam by the Numbers

Delicious pork-based meals consumed: 20+

Delicious pork-based meals that were bun cha: 10+

Items of bespoke clothing purchased: 3

Animals seen: 10 or so (easily the fewest of my entire trip)

Entombed heads of state briefly glimpsed: 1

World Heritage sites admired: 2

Instances in which I was run over by a four-door sedan: 1

Packages of Oreos and Ritz crackers offered as recompense for being run over by a taxi: 4

Weeks for burns to heal: 4

Weeks for puncture wound to heal: 7

Major sightseeing trips canceled due to injuries: 2 (see you next time, Sapa and Halong Bay!)

Total money spent: $1,468.40

Number of days in the country: 28

Average amount spent per day: $52.44

Total money spent, minus the hospital costs: $1,026.30

Average amount spent per day, minus the hospital costs: $36.65

New friends made: 6

Old friends happily re-met by chance: 2

Reasons to go back and see more, uninjured this time: 100+

hue bike traditional hat

Running the Numbers: Getting Ripped Off vs. The Bigger Picture

“Oh, you know they’re always trying to rip you off.” “They’re always looking for a way to scam you.” “You have to be really firm with them.” I heard variations on this theme so many times in Southeast Asia that I started to wonder what I was missing, because I didn’t feel that way. How much of this attitude comes from personal attitude, and how much from the many, many guidebook warnings on scams and ripoffs in Southeast Asia? Probably a mix. A not very pleasant mix of reality, stereotypes, and suspicion.

In the 40,000 kip tuk-tuk

In the 40,000 kip tuk-tuk

Guidebooks and websites list the various scams you can fall prey to–the gem scam, the tuk-tuk scam, the travel agency scam, to name just a few. I even knowingly went into one of the well-known scams, to see what it was like. There are a lot of setups to separate you from your money, and the more serious ones have legal repercussions if you don’t cooperate (see: anything involving drugs). Being wary of any deal that seems too good to be true is a smart move for avoiding scams anywhere you go, including SEA. That’s pretty straightforward.

It’s the ripoffs that are a murkier area. Traveling in SEA from a Western country means encountering new currencies, new modes of transport, new foods, and a new bar of “normal” prices for it all. I got pork satay for $1 and thought I’d got a bargain, until further up the street I saw someone selling it for 50 cents. Did I feel cheated out of those extra 50 cents? Slightly. Did it affect my budget or my mood? Not at all.

I met some women on the slow boat to Laos, and when we arrived in Luang Prabang we decided to share a tuk-tuk to the Kuang Si Waterfalls, 40 minutes outside of town. We found a couple tuk-tuks and asked how much to take us there and back. (You never have meters with tuk-tuks; you always negotiate price upfront.) The drivers wanted 50,000 kip per person, round trip. What a ripoff! That’s much more than it should be! We’re going to find someone else! And then they did start walking off to find someone else. The drivers let us get pretty far; this wasn’t a haggling technique, you could tell, they really didn’t want to drop their price. But finally they consented to 40,000 kip each, which was deemed acceptable. (I should say here that I really enjoyed hanging out with these women, as we did over the next several days, but we just disagreed on this point.)

We passed a checkpoint (all the tuk-tuks in Luang Prabang belong to a group that they report rides to and presumably pool some money for), and I saw a sign saying trips to the waterfalls are 200,000 per tuk-tuk. There were four of us, which meant the 50,000 was just basic math, not a ripoff at all. But when I mentioned this, the women said no, they’d read online that it shouldn’t be more than 40,000 per person, and it’s a matter of principle, not being ripped off. And “they” will rip you off any chance you get, I was reminded; hadn’t the price of a dress been slashed in half at the market yesterday when one of the women simply started walking away after hearing the opening figure? That proves that they’re always asking for way more than it’s worth.

How much, how much?

How much, how much?

But I think it’s not that simple. The dress, yes, that was a funny piece of haggling, because clearly the woman would have settled for much less than her opening price, but why shouldn’t she give it a shot? It wasn’t out of line with prices in other stalls, and it was still only $10. It’s frustrating when you’re not sure what the normal price is, but markets here are meant for bartering, so make up your own normal, or what feels comfortable for you without leaving the seller with no profit.

The tuk-tuk, though, is much easier to avoid being ripped off. They’d gone online to see what the norm was–40,000–so if the driver had said 100,000, we would have known straight away that we were being ripped off. But 50,000 isn’t unreasonable, and according to the tuk-tuk company sign, it was in fact appropriate for the size of our group.

And in the end, it’s a $1 difference. Yes, it was the difference between a $7 or an $8 ride–for 40 minutes out, waiting several hours, and 40 minutes back to town. That $1 means so much more to the driver than it does to me, so why begrudge him that slight boost in his pay for the day? It’s going to go a lot farther in his pocket than in mine. Sure, they countered, but if you keep saying, “oh it’s only one dollar” everywhere, those dollars are going to add up, and you’ll lose a lot of money that way. Yep, I replied, and I’m okay with that.

I complain about how much I’m spending on this trip more often than I should, but I’m still acutely aware of how fortunate I am. I’m far more upset about the ATM fees I pay every time just to access my own damn money than I am about the couple hundred dollars I’ve probably overpaid to people trying to send their kids to school or get dental care.

Finally, this kind of thinking can get dangerously racially based. There’s way too much “they” and “them” in the talk surrounding scams and ripoffs. If you’re always thinking that a certain group of people is always out to get you, you’re not allowing them any individuality, and you’re closing the door on opportunities for understanding each other. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t look out for ripoffs–I had to bail on a taxi in Hanoi with a super-fast meter, for example. But try not to make it the first thing you see in a person.

If you see someone as a scam artist solely based on his race, that’s racist. If you see someone as out for your money, that’s one more friend you haven’t made. That’s a lonely way to travel, and it doesn’t fit in my budget.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Spend it All on the Dream

If you’ve seen me in the last month or two, and you’ve asked me how plans are shaping up for my trip, first of all: thank you. Second of all: I’m sorry. Because I’ve recently realized that almost every time someone’s expressed interest in this exciting adventure of mine, I’ve responded with, “Yes, but I’m so worried about the money. It’s so expensive.” And that is a super annoying response.

Counting every penny

It’s annoying for a few reasons, right.

1) The basic middle-class-white-woman-in-the-US problem, wherein just by those demographics alone, I am in an impossibly higher income and standard-of-living bracket than so many of the people I’ll be meeting on this trip. Privilege is a complex thing, so it’s never as easy as “other people have it worse than you, so quit whining”; it’s more “other people have it worse than you, so what are you going to do about it?” For me, the answer involves voting across all levels of government, making public stands with others at rallies and marches, calling my representatives on big issues (don’t just email!), and coming up, volunteering with various organizations. That’s all well and good, but the basic distastefulness of fretting over funds for a year-long pleasure trip in a world so fundamentally unequal remains.

2) This isn’t exactly an attainable thing for a lot of people I know, either. Most RTW blogs like to talk about how anybody can do this! live your dream! cast off fear! And that’s a nice sentiment, but it blithely ignores crushing student loan debt and wretched wages in this economy, not to mention health problems and family obligations. RTW trips aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but even for those who’d like to take one, there are very real and sizable obstacles. I’m unattached, not in a career job, debt free, and in good health–a relatively rare confluence of conditions.

3) I have saved quite a bit of money! I never did the hardcore saving, giving up daily luxuries and forgoing drinks at the bar; instead, I enjoyed the heck out of my life in Chicago and still managed to put away a few hundred dollars every month for this trip. I’ve done dozens of calculations, and I’m pretty sure that barring any disaster (knock on wood), I can at least make it through eight months of travel, enough to get me to England for my grandmother’s 80th birthday celebration. Of course, I intend to keep traveling after that, but if that has to be the grand finale, well, that’s not too bad.

If the trip ends sooner than expected, I’m okay with it ending here.

4) It is just plain obnoxious to complain about how broke you are. Unless you were born into cyclical poverty or are having a really rough time making ends meet and genuinely wonder how you’ll make rent this month, please don’t complain about your finances. (Not to say there aren’t good sites for talking about the very real money problems we all face, especially young people trying to figure out how it all works.) Setting aside whether anyone else would want to go on the trip I’m about to go on, no one wants to hear me moan about my money woes. We all have them.

Seriously, no one wants to hear about your money woes

Okay, but I’m still concerned about money for this trip. You can skip this if you’re already burned out on the subject (I don’t blame you), but in case you too are planning a RTW trip and wonder why no one ever seems to talk about this on their RTW blogs:

1) It’s all about stability, right? It’s scary to leave the best apartment I’ve ever rented, and a decent job, in a city I love, not to mention all the people I’ll miss. It feels selfish and foolish to leave an office job in this economy. I hate job hunting–it’s all the worst parts of dating without any of the fun parts–so I haven’t looked for anything in the last five years. But I have many friends who have moved jobs, and it’s been rough. Some of them looked for over a year to find something in their field, and these are really qualified people. It’s a scary thought, coming back to an economy that I can’t imagine will be much improved (and if a certain someone is elected in November, might well be worse). Sure, there’s the whole spin of “I’m a great candidate because of the new experiences my travels afforded me,” but let’s be real, that’s no clincher.

Does “sat on a beach in six countries” make me upper management material, Bob?

2) As I’ve shamefacedly admitted before, I’ve been so focused on this trip for so long that I haven’t made any plans for my return. At this point, I think I have $800 saved in a separate account labeled “Back to Life, Back to Reality.” That is… one month’s rent in Chicago. Not even one month’s rent plus security deposit. I’m really into planning things (shocking, I know), and it freaks me out to be setting myself up for a day-to-day life with no clear picture of what comes after, or how I’ll pay for it.

3) I’ve always prided myself on my independence, but there’s living on your own in the country you grew up in, and there’s being totally alone in countries that use a different alphabet from yours. I’ve gotten good at laughing with a carefree air whenever someone expresses surprise at the idea of traveling solo for such a long period of time, but inside, I’m thinking, “Yes! It is super scary!” I know it will be far more wonderful than frightening, but it’s still scary. Money is the cushion that eases any new/scary situation, so I think I transfer some anxiety about traveling solo onto the more tangible issue of traveling with enough money.

4) With limited funds (and limited time), it is impossible for me to visit every place I’m interested in visiting. This has been a hard one to accept, as you can see by the many times my proposed itinerary has changed. I have serious FOMO about travel (I hear the kids are using that term). I’ve read so many accounts of amazing experiences in just about every country in the world, and I’ve been anticipating this trip for so long, that I’ve convinced myself it won’t be worth it if I don’t do everything all in this one go. Yeesh! What pressure.

I have a lot of pins, okay?

I don’t generally consider myself someone who gets worked up over money issues, because I’ve been fortunate enough to always make enough to be comfortable (those two years in the publishing industry excepted). So these overwhelming fears about having “enough” have taken me by surprise. I see where they’re coming from, but they’re no good. I gotta move past them.

Partly, that involves adjusting my approach to travel in general, and that is something I’m looking forward to doing. I won’t be engaging in the kind of slow travel that some do, but I will be slowing down my usual pace considerably. Rather than zipping from sight to sight to make sure I get everything checked off my list, and rather than worrying about how much it’s going to cost to do all that checking off, I’m going to go at it a bit more leisurely. A week in one location here, a couple weeks in another location there, and I hope to come away with a better understanding of the places I visit and the people I meet. Incidentally, this approach also cuts down on the cost of plane tickets.

I think it’s a sign.

It’s probably terribly gauche to post a PayPal link after a post like that, but here it is. I am genuinely easing up on my anxiety about money, but if you’d like to shut me up about it once and for all, and also fund a swim with dolphins or a volunteer project with elephants, please check out the post here. No worries if you don’t! I’d hate to drive away readers with pleas for money, so I’m trying to keep these few and far between.

Images 1 and 2 mine. Image 3. Image 4. Image 5.

The Donate Button is Live

Dearest fellow travelers, as you know, I’ve been saving for this trip for a very long time, and I’m proud to say that it’s all my own savings. Still, I’m not one to turn down others’ generosity. Some friends and family members have expressed interest in helping me out a little, and I’m grateful to them and want to make that process as easy as possible.

I’ve set up a page with special excursions I hope to make that are a little pricier than the fee for a museum or national park. You can take a look at these and decide if you’d like to contribute a little toward getting me there. I think this is more fun than handing me $5 and hoping I do something worthwhile with it. You can find that page, called “Fund This Stowaway,” in the top banner of every page. You can also click the “Donate” button in the left sidebar, to go straight to the PayPal page.

I have a longer post brewing about the anxieties of travel, money, and self-sufficiency, but for now I’ll just say: It’s important to me to pay my own way. It’s important to me to grow comfortable with the fact that I can’t afford everything I want to do on this trip. It’s important to me to gracefully accept the help others offer to open up possibilities.

Thanks for reading this and all the other posts. I enjoy keeping up this blog more than I expected I would, and I’m excited to keep it going on my trip. Please feel no pressure to press that “donate” button, and just enjoy the posts and leave comments. If you do donate, thank you, and I’ll email you personally to say it again.

Running the Numbers: My Top 3 Money Mistakes while Planning for a RTW Trip

Here is a shameful secret: I’ve been planning to do some version of a trip around the world for 10 years, and seriously looking at where I want to go for 5, but I didn’t start making any real saving decisions til 3 years before I planned to leave. And I didn’t invest serious money til about a year and a half out. Spoiler alert: this was not smart planning. So although it pains me to admit it, here are the top 3 stupid money mistakes I made while planning for this RTW trip.

pile of bills and a piggy bank

Would that this were my personal bank account

1. I didn’t automatically deduct from my paycheck until last year.

My parents had told me since college that the best way to save consistently is to have money automatically deducted from your paycheck and put into savings. This made sense to me, but my first post-college job was a classic publishing starter position in that I made less than I spent (and I only spent on rent, utilities, food, and the occasional movie out). So I was going into debt paying back loans, and by the time I got a decent-paying job in the city, I had enough debt that my new paycheck went mostly toward paying that off for a couple years.

I then looked at automatically deducting from my paycheck and putting it in my savings, but my company doesn’t deduct percentages (like 90% to checking, 10% to savings), only exact amounts. Since I infrequently work overtime that changes the amount of my income, that would cause headaches. I took out money from checking here and there and called it good, but of course that meant I wasn’t saving as much as I should have been, and not as consistently. It wasn’t until last year that I realized, hey, I could let the whole paycheck go into checking, then set it up so the bank automatically moved money into savings once a month. Voila.

2. I didn’t get an airline rewards card until this year.

I didn’t know I could have one! I got a Capital One credit card when I was 18, which my parents had to co-sign. They were taken off the card a few years later, but it’s still the only credit card I’ve ever had. Capital One sends me promotional stuff all the time, but never once have they sent me information on a card that gives airline rewards. None of the other major credit card companies have even spammed me with their offers, which is just an inconsiderate lack of junk mailing.

I always thought of credit cards as ways to accumulate debt, and maybe enough credit to do me good if I applied for a loan on a house or a car. I never thought of them as things that could work for me in other ways. If I’d had a rewards card, I could have enough miles for a couple of flights on my trip already! Oh well. I’m late to the game, but I’m in it. I got a United Airlines Visa and am putting all I can on it until the annual fee kicks in.

3. I didn’t set aside any money for my return to the States.

I’ve always joked that I’d go on this trip and come back broke, but I haven’t really put much thought into just how very broke I’ll be. Lots of world travelers are location independent earners, but I don’t have any freelance writing or editing gigs set up and I’ve found it a hard market to break into, so earning money on the road seems unlikely. This means it’ll be a blank slate when I get back, and depending on the kindness of loved ones until I can get set up with a job, home, etc. My parents weren’t keen to have me rent-free for long when I was 22, so they’ll probably be even less so when I’m 32!

I’ve set up an ING savings account and put a couple hundred in there. I’ll let the compound interest help me out, and make deposits as I’m able, but for now, this is the mistake that’s potentially going to cause the most trouble in the long run. Still, part of long-term travel is accepting that circumstances change all the time and there will be opportunities I’m not yet aware of. I’ll hold on to that for now.

Learn from my mistakes

There you have it! For all my big talk, I sure have been shortsighted and unresourceful in the numbers part of planning. It’s embarrassing to admit, but maybe by laying them out here for you, other travelers can learn from my mistakes. I wish someone had given me this advice years ago, so I’m passing it on in true pay it forward style.

(Money joke!)


Running the Numbers: The Forgotten Costs of a RTW Trip

There are about a million “how much does it cost to travel around the world” pages out there on the World Wide Web, and I’m finding many of them really helpful in estimating how much I’m likely to spend per day while on my trip. Bloggers break down their costs by transportation, food, lodging, and miscellaneous (souvenirs, admission prices, etc.). This is what I’ve been concentrating on when figuring costs, but lately I’ve run across blogs that point out the non-daily costs essential to any RTW (round the world) trip–gear, insurance, immunizations, storage facilities. Let’s take a look at what some of these might cost me.

Travel Insurance
The most recommended travel insurance I’ve seen is World Nomads, which specializes in covering emergency evacuations, health costs, and even baggage loss. I considered not buying any, but the possibility of being stuck in a medical emergency halfway around the world without access to healthcare, or finding my trip interrupted for some reason and looking for compensation, I gotta go with coverage. I ran a basic search for one year starting in September 2012 and came up with a $900-$1200 quote.

Immunizations for a broad travel itinerary can run fairly high ($550 according to one estimate), but that can include things like meningitis, which I think I got covered in college (Mom?). Also, I’m hoping that my health insurance with my current job will cover some, so I’ll be taking advantage of that as the departure date grows closer. So this might cost me more like $200.

Storage Unit
A lot of RTW bloggers write about selling all their worldly possessions before heading out on the road, which makes sense if you can make money off your belongings. I don’t think I’d get much for my bed, bookshelves, and dining room table, but the cheapest Chicago storage unit I found that would actually fit that bed is $48 a month. Let’s say I’m gone for 15 months; that’s $720! So I’m still undecided on whether to go this route.

Apparently the way visas work is much the same way the rest of international relations work–you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. So the US lets citizens of some countries enter the States paying no or little visa money, and those countries return the favor for US citizens visiting them. Other countries don’t have such generous arrangements with us. For example, South Africa and New Zealand don’t require a visa, but China and Russia both cost upwards of $150. I added up the visa fees for all the countries I’m planning to visit, and I’m looking at $700.

Add those all up, and I’m looking at about $2800 before I even buy a plane ticket. Yikes! Next time I run the numbers I’ll be looking at gear and clothing, so check back for that.

Running the Numbers: How to Save for a World Trip

The title of this post is a little misleading, since this is less a top ten list of ways to cut down on costs and ramp up saving (there are tons of those out there), and more of a question about how much of that is good to do and how much is too much. Can I save up for a round-the-world trip while still enjoying my life here in Chicago, or do I need to radically alter my lifestyle?

counting my pennies

Photo from

I’ve been planning to go on a round-the-world trip for several years now, and I’ve been putting money aside that whole time, but the amount has varied over the years. I’ve never had a special account for it; I just designate my savings account as the place I save for the trip. It’s a little scary how very basic my financial situation is (no stocks or bonds, a 401(k) with like a grand in it), and that 30 Rock episode a few seasons ago, in which Liz’s nearly identical financial situation is roundly mocked, hit a little close to home. Part of that lack of funds is because I worked in publishing for a couple years, and as anyone who ever copy edited can tell you, you lose money doing that in the first few years. So it wasn’t until recently that I was able to put aside a set amount each month, which really ramped up the saving.

I’ve worked the math a few times, and so long as my employment situation stays steady and major disasters are kept at bay (knock on wood), I should be able to make my goal of $30,000 next August, and then I’ll be off. I’m proud of my ability to save more than I made at my first office job, but on the other hand, I don’t have any dependents, I live in a pretty affordable part of town, and I’ve been supposedly saving for years. Couldn’t I have saved more, faster? Where did it all go?

The answer is: it all went into my life. I’ve been spending my money on enjoying my time here in Chicago, and that has slowed down the saving noticeably. I’ve gone back and forth on whether this is the right way to do it, and usually I think it is. Several years ago, at the end of college, my then-boyfriend and I were considering taking this trip together, and we argued over how to go about it. I wanted to hoard all our pennies as quickly as possible, so we could be on the road right away. He wanted to explore the city we’d be moving to and have enough money to enjoy it fully. He didn’t want to have to miss hanging out with friends because they were going to a bar and we’d only budgeted two beers each that month. What’s the point in saving for fun if it means not having any in the meantime?

Now I think he was mostly right. I should have been saving more aggressively in the last couple years, when my salary got to a comfortable, reliable point, but otherwise I don’t have regrets about the way I’ve been going about it. I like being able to go out with friends and occasionally buy a round, or pick up the check on a dinner with a friend who’s a little cash poor at the moment. I think this kind of relative openness with money is healthy for friendships, much better than everyone counting out their share to the decimal and holding grudges against those who deviate. (Of course, it’s a different story when people between jobs or in a different economic stratum are in the mix, in which case common sense and compassion should reign.)

I also think a general kind of karma is involved. When I was a broke 18-year-old in Berlin, two Australians bought me a drink in a cafe and we spent the afternoon chatting about our travels. I offered to pay my share, but they were several years older, on a break from good-paying jobs, and they cheerfully waved my money aside. All they required was that I pass the favor on later in my travels, when I was in a position to do the same for someone else. A simple pay it forward concept, sure, but that doesn’t make it less important, and why shouldn’t it apply in our daily lives as well as our more exotic travels? Not that I walk around peeling twenties off a giant roll I keep in my pocket, and it’s not that I’m doing any better financially than most of my friends and acquaintances, but it is a conscious choice about how to spend what I have at my disposal.

After all, generosity doesn’t save nearly so well as money, so sometimes you have to spend a little of both and trust that it’ll balance in the end.

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.