Thursday, March 22, 2012

El Gran Viaje/The Big Trip: the facts

Thank you for visiting our blog!  Read our first post to find out more about our upcoming travel adventure!

Who:  the wifester and hubster, Allegra and Harold, plus friends who live along the way or want to meet up with us :)

What:  an epic journey to explore some of the most exciting destinations on our to-see list

When: April 2012 to.... April 2013?

Where:  see our map for marked locations we plan to visit- this will be continually updated as we firm up our plans

View El Gran Viaje in a larger map

Why:  1) the world is vast and fascinating  2)  life is short and unpredictable, so if we can do it now, we had better get a move on  3)  we can't think of a better way to spend our time at this point in life!

How:  Early on in our relationship, we discussed our dream travel destinations.  Planning for this trip has been our most significant project together, eclipsing even our wedding (more about that later)!  Much like a snowball gathers mass and momentum moving down a slope, our individual top travel priorities combined, morphing from scattered trips here and there into a worldwide adventure.  We saved money a variety of ways (more about that in a separate post) and worked our booties off.  As far as our travel style, we made plans to keep it real, keep it rustic on our trip!  We studied up on our destinations via travel guides, news websites, travel blogs, YouTube videos from other travelers, and tips from our awesome and adventurous friends and acquaintances :)

Frequently asked questions:

1)  What are you doing with all your stuff?  H's work trailer, parked in my parents' backyard, serves as a storage unit for the relatively few things we are actually holding on to.  Most of our stuff is old, banged-up, or worn out; thus, we have bade many of our possessions goodbye.  We are selling our truck, and we do not own a house.

2)  Are you going to work while you're traveling?  We're not counting on it.  We will be moving around fairly quickly, and therefore not giving ourselves time to settle in one place for long.  We will likely do a few short-term volunteer assignments, yet to be determined.

3)  How are you going to pay your bills?  Our only bill is my small monthly student loan payment, automatically debited from my account.  The way our accounts are set up, any surprise bills can be paid from afar...

4)  What about your jobs?  We are taking a break from our respective careers, to infuse our lives with a new perspective gained through extensive travel.  H has closed his woodworking company, and I have quit my nursing job. We both plan to continue these careers upon our return, while also considering additional professional opportunities.

5)  Why don't you buy a house/ nice car instead?  We simply do not see a need at this point in our lives to make such investments.  It's all about priorities, and ours are to see more of the world.

6)  What do you two do again?  How can you afford a vacation like that?  We have been planning for this trip for awhile.  We have one vehicle that we share, and we do not own a house.  We have no children or pets.  We don't shop much.  We strive, somewhat successfully, to keep our lifestyle as rustic as possible.  Thus, we have few expenses or obligations.  We also kept our wedding costs to the bare minimum in favor of splurging on the honeymoon!  In addition, we don't like to throw around the word "vacation" lightly.  Much of the trip will be hard work, interspersed with short periods of relaxation.  Neither of us would be able to take more than a week of actual "vacationing".

7)  Are you scared?  We are a little nervous about what lies ahead.  The "what ifs" set in sometimes.  The overriding emotion is usually excitement about experiencing some awesome new places and growing together over the next year.

8)  Is it just the two of you?  Yes.  We are not affiliated with any organization, and we have independently planned and funded our trip.  We have planned this together for quite awhile, and look forward to getting to know each other even better in the coming year, as we navigate different cultural, linguistic, and geographical landscapes together, and gain experience working as a team.  

9)  Are you coming back to Portland someday?  It's possible.  This is a topic for another post, or another blog entirely....

10)  Are you traveling on the cheap?  Yes!  No five-star hotels for us.  We will camp, participate in Couch Surfing (a social networking site based on hosting travelers in different cities), do WWOOFing (a farm-stay organization with work-for-lodging opportunities) assignments, not only to save money, but to achieve a deeper understanding of the areas we visit and have more fun!  We will look for ways to contribute to the local economies of the places we visit, rather than drain the local resources and give our money to large international tourism companies.

11)  What are you going to do in all those places?  Walk around, look at architecture, visit museums, see ruins, take hikes and treks, visit religious sites, do pilgrimages, look for wildlife, have picnics, visit friends, tour small businesses, sample food.  We will maintain the goal of experiencing each destination to the fullest while sticking to our budget!

12)  What are you looking forward to the most?  Our itinerary is based on our top-priority destinations, strung together into one big trip.  We are both super excited about spending time with family and friends in Oaxaca, hitting the beach and eating the best food in Mexico!  Harold can't wait to visit England, Germany and Japan, and I have been wanting to go to Ethiopia, India and Borneo for over two decades....

13)  Do you speak any foreign languages?  We are both bilingual in English and Spanish.  If immersed in Portuguese, I am conversational, and can understand quite a bit of French and Italian.  I know bits and pieces of various other languages, and enjoy picking up short phrases.  H has picked up bits of Russian, Mandarin and Japanese.   We have a translator app on my Galaxy Player that works decently well for short communications, and we are good at making gestures ;).  We will also take advantage of opportunities to further our language skills on this trip.

14) Are you taking cell phones or computers?  No to the cell phones, since service is different depending on the region, and we do not really need them during the trip, as we will have internet-based methods of communication.  We will bring a Galaxy Player (like a mini tablet computer) and a laptop for video and photo editing.  Of course, we will bring our trusty DSLR camera and beautiful video camera and hope they are still safe and sound at the end of our journey....

15)  How do you pack for a trip like that?  We will probably not pack properly for this trip.  There will probably be things we pack that we will not use, and things we should have brought but did not...  Wish I had a crystal ball to help me see what we will really need.  However, we have done our best to pack for several different types of weather.  While we will mostly be traveling in warm weather, we are prepared for windy, chilly Mongolia, South Korea and Japan, and northern India.  I'm pretty sure I will be ready to burn my yoga cargo pants, REI travel pants, and one pair of skinny jeans by the end of the trip....  but I'm looking forward to spicing up my wardrobe with a few items bought on the road.  There are lots of generous travelers before us who have posted helpful packing lists on their blogs, and people we have talked to who have suggested essential items to bring.  Once we are packed, we will list the items that made the cut.

16)  How do you plan a trip like that?  You are most likely going to be unimpressed with our planning skills.  Our itinerary still needs some firming up.  Basically, I have been reading National Geographic for about 25 years, which gives me a good sense of geography and destinations I really want to visit.  We have both met people from around the world throughout our lives who have described their home countries/places they loved and made us want to go...  We also watch a couple of food-centered tourism shows on YouTube that have inspired some of the destinations and provided some practical information.

17)  Have you ever traveled before? Harold immigrated from his birthplace and home state of Oaxaca, Mexico to the US by himself right after his 18th birthday, and this will be his first opportunity to leave the US since then.  He has resided in a variety of locales in the Western US, and taken many short trips around the country.  I was born and raised in Indiana until age 9, when my family moved to Cottage Grove, Oregon.  I lived briefly in Germany and Belguim, where I celebrated by 2nd birthday.  Don't remember much of that....  In high school, I visited France, Spain and Italy with my family.  At 19, I moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico in the state of Morelos, to live and study near my then-boyfriend for the academic year.  Between 1999 and 2003, I made at least five trips to the area, visiting many parts of Mexico, including Chiapas, which was a dream destination.  In 2004, I moved to Barcelona, Spain, where I taught English and traveled around Spain a bit, and visited southern France and Portugal.  In 2007 and 2010, I made two three-week trips to Ecuador to travel with my sister, where I made another travel dream come true with a visit to the Amazon, and my first sighting of monkeys in the wild.

18)  How did you decide where to go?   England, Japan, Thailand and Germany were Harold's must sees.  Morocco, Ethiopia, India and Borneo were at the top of my list.  We both wanted to visit friends in Paris.  As we researched, we became really excited about Mongolia and Malaysia, and found it would make a lot of sense for us to link some destinations together into a long-term trip.

19)  Why such a long trip?  Why not visit one region at a time?  We are at a crossroads in our lives, and feel this is the perfect time to just go for it!  I had met people during my past travels that took a year off and seemed to be enjoying it to the max, which inspired me, and subsequently Harold, to do the same :) 

20)  Did you buy a round-the-world ticket?  Nope, just buying air, train, and boat tickets as we go, since we do not have an itinerary that is set in stone.  If we become inspired to plan more specifically, the RTW ticket might be more convenient...  We will fine-tune our plans during our one-to-two month trip to Oaxaca, Mexico.  If you have input or suggestions, let us know!

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