Mission Impossible: Six Months to Experience the Whole World

20070329-Varanasi-84322 Two months ago I wrote that Katja and I are planing two things in 2014 that are even more exciting than our engagement. I couldn’t give you any details then, but now I can tell you about the first thing, and it is this: between July and December 2014 Katja and I will leave our jobs and will travel around the world! Seeing the world has been a dream of ours for quite a while, and I imagine for many of our readers too. But leaving the security of your job and the comfort of your familiar surroundings are scary steps, so I imagine about 98% of all wanna-be-world-travelers stop at the dreaming stage. Initially we felt the same anxiety and tried to bury the idea, but it just wouldn’t go away. This is probably due to:

  • our unbounded curiosity and wanting to experience the natural and cultural diversity of our world first-hand,
  • the fear that if we wait too long our modern world might extinguish too many ecosystems, tribes and authentic ways of life before we have a chance to experience them.

So one day last October Katja and I simply didn’t stop our minds from wondering, and before we knew it, the dates were fixed and we were pondering the next difficult questions:

Which places do we want to visit?

Six months may sound like a long time, but in reality they only allow us to explore 8-9 countries in total. So we have to choose wisely. It’s pretty clear to us that we are not interested in modern or easy-to-explore countries like USA, India, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Namibia or South Africa. We already know these or we can leave them for later, when we have kids. But which countries do we want to visit? Which are most representative of our planet? Which ones have managed to best keep their authenticity?

What to See?

Actually our focus is not so much on the countries or the famous tourist attractions: Grand Canyon, Taj Mahal or Machu Picchu. Rather we are very interested in the people and in the impossible balance between tradition and modernization that they face every day. We want to take part in weddings, village gatherings, rituals and special celebrations, but also in the daily routines — get up before dawn and accompany the men when they take out the cattle or the women when they go out to gather wood or come back to cook food. We want to see where the children go to school and how they do their homework.

When to Travel?

We are aware of the so-called “best month to visit country X”, but we’ve decided to actively avoid those. Since we are not going to the beach, “25°C and blue skies” is a rather poor weather forecast for a photographer. Last year we visited Cambodia in the spring. The weather was “beach perfect”, but there was nothing exciting going on: the rice had already been gathered and sold, there was no one working in the fields, the lotus flowers were almost dried and most guest houses were fully booked. So we’ll try to avoid the deepest flooding, the very highest temperatures and the hardest winters, but otherwise we’ll let festivals and other annual events dictate our choice of destinations: the planting of rice, salt harvesting, wildebeests crossing the savanna, the peak of fishing season, etc. Making Fire

Is it Safe?

This is a tough one. Of course we want to experience as much as possible, but not armed robbery, carjacking or kidnapping. As much as we want to be fearless and optimistic, the warnings by the German ministry of the exterior about many countries that interest us sound too disturbing: Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Venezuela. I guess we’ll read and ignore most warnings about street crime and occasional robbery, but we won’t take risks with countries where kidnapping is a real danger. After all, there are enough choices where we are on the safe side…

How Much Will it Cost?

Katja and I are not interested in luxury. We much prefer to experience “real life,” so we travel in the same buses and eat at the same places like the locals do, which automatically keeps our expenses low. Once or twice a week we look for a nicer guest house where we can take a hot shower and sleep in a comfortable bed, but it’s no problem whenever that’s not possible.

Side note 1: Eating with the locals is usually much cheaper and a lot tastier than eating in the restaurants recommended by the Lonely Planet. Also being the only tourist in a place packed with locals is a truly great way to meet people and find out about special events or places to visit. In fact, in more than one case we’ve found “tour guides” this way who’ve shown us their home town in a much more exciting way than any guide-book can ever do.

Side Note 2: Eating where the locals go to eat is great even in modern countries. But don’t ask a taxi driver where to go, or he’ll take you to the farthest restaurant that he knows. It’s far better to ask people on the street or any shop keeper close by.

But back to the question how much it will cost. I have to admit that we don’t have much experience with long-term travel. On short trips we want to see as much as possible, so occasionally we splurge on faster or more convenient transport, but during the longer trip we’ll have to be much more conscious about our expenses. Moreover, will probably want go at a slower pace: travel less often, stay longer at each place, take more time to digest our experiences, sort our photographs, write blog posts, etc. By traveling less, doing less each day and visiting fewer places, we’ll automatically have lower expenses per day, but still I have no idea what the final sum or the average-per-week is going to be. Different countries and continents have very different price levels, so we’ll have to wait and see. If it turns out to be too expensive, we may have to come back before the six months are over.

Conclusion

As you see above, at this time we have many more questions than answers. In fact during the first weeks of planing we felt quite overwhelmed by the vastness of the choices. However this has changed, and if you keep reading the blog, and you will find out what how the story unfolds. In order to easily follow the stories related our biggest undertaking to date check out the category World Trip 2014 in the menu bar at the top of each page.

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