did you begin? Deciding
to take off for an extended trip is the hardest part. Probably
each person varies as to how long they need to get used to such
an idea. We discussed our plans for several months before committing.
First we tried a four month sabbatical to make sure we enjoyed
traveling. We returned, worked for another six months, and then
took off for a really long trip.
long did you prepare?
We used five weeks to put our affairs in order.
needed to be done? (In Five Weeks)
* Sold our possessions
(including all furniture, cars, clothes, kitchen appliances,
etc.). We retained: one suitcase of clothes, photo albums,
souvenirs and sentimental items, wedding china and glassware,
4 boxes of good books. Ever wonder how much all of your
stuff weighs? After getting rid of almost everything, we
have about 500 pounds of stuff stored in 15 boxes scattered
throughout the basements and garages of our relatives.
* Moved out of the
house we rented. We spent two homeless weeks in the US and
survived by staying with friends and family. Thank you:
Rob&Melissa, Jason&Kelly, Pere&Susan, Paul,
* Left our jobs (easiest
|* Took all immunization shots (yellow
fever, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, hepatitis A, Hepatitis
B, Typhoid, Dip-tet, Menengocil)
|* Arranged health insurance
* Planned the first
part of our itinerary (from Nepal, across China, Russia,
Mongolia, and Eastern Europe, overland through Africa).
* Obtained visas
and country invitations for the countries we visited first
(Mongolia, Russia, China, Nepal, India, Zimbabwe)
you plan to be away for so long?
We knew we'd be away for at least one year. Turns out our budget
lasted for three.
much did it cost? We spent approximately $18,000 per
year, everything included, for the two of us. The bigger cost
was the opportunity cost; we gave up our yearly salaries. For
more detailed costs, go to our budget pages.
was the worst thing you ate on your travels? Learning
about African 'bush' survival techniques, we squeezed water from
elephant and rhino dung and drank it. The water looked like coffee
(the thickest espresso you can imagine). Rhino dung tastes much
better than elephant dung. Make sure you get it as fresh as possible.
We also have eaten: fried whole guinea pig, animal intestines
and other unmentionable animal parts, fried tarantulas, roaches,
yet more bugs, and things we couldn't identify. In terms of rating
a country's overall cuisine, Mongolia stands out as offering the
worst fare for visitors. The typical meal is: mutton fat, cheese
that tastes like a pencil eraser, and yak's milk.
close calls? Africa provided a lot of tense moments.
We took many walking safaris, some self guided, and we've been
charged by elephants or rhinos at least ten times, but you never
get used to that experience. Meeting lions on-foot isn't boring.
On a canoe trip down the Zambezi, a hippo destroyed one of the
canoes in our group. However, people pose the biggest threat.
In Lebanon, we shared a bus ride with a Hezbollah who asserted
that he wanted to kill Americans (he assumed we were Canadian).
In Afghanistan, soldiers tried to break into our room at midnight.
We traveled to many countries with dangerous reputations, trusted
the kindness of strangers, and came out okay (thanks to luck).
We learned that the overwhelming majority of people, despite differences
in culture or religion, respects law and embraces civility.
you get sick? Worst illness: Jill burned a very high
fever for several days on a train ride through Kazakhstan. The
train chugged for two days over featureless grassland, no hope
for professional help, so we self-treated with Cipro. It worked.
Her fever came down after a few days. The other passengers (six
passengers share a small cabin) couldn't speak English but they
could see Jill was in trouble and showed a lot of concern. We
still don't know what caused this illness.
you take malaria pills?
We witnessed a lot of fellow travelers go down with malaria, dengue
fever, or bilharzia. However, because we were traveling for so
long, we decided not to take daily or weekly doses of preventative
malaria pills. We carried Larium in our medicine bag to treat
malaria. Luckily, we haven't caught it yet. We attribute this
success to wearing a lot of insect repellent and sleeping in a
tent every night, even in hotel rooms. When we were exposed to
water that may have contained bilharzia, we waited several months
and then took the correct dose of Praziquantel. There is no treatment
for dengue fever (to avoid this disease you must do your best
not to be bitten by mosquitos). Malaria medications or Praziquantel
are available in Africa, Asia, or South America at prices much
cheaper than the USA. Instead of paying a few dollars per pill
of Larium or Praziquantel, you'll probably pay a few cents in
foreign pharmacies. In general, pharmacies are prevalent and easy
to find in any country, even in the Third World. No prescriptions
necessary. Stock up before you trek into the remoter areas.
has been your favorite place? Depends on the type of
experience: adventure, historical/archaeological, cultural, relaxation/vacation,
sightseeing. Overall we like Eastern and Southern Africa the best.
People say that Africa grabs your soul and it has grabbed ours.
Here are some of our favorites:
|ADVENTURE: African safaris excite
us most, Tanzania and Zimbabwe excel for two different best-in-kind
safaris: Tanzania for prolific animal sightings (plus the
added pleasure of great hiking on Mt Kilimanjaro and relaxation
on Zanzibar island) and Zimbabwe for walking safaris with
the most qualified guides in Africa.
|ADVENTURE: Camping in Mongolia.
Rent or buy a horse for a few bucks, ride onto the plains
like Ghengis Khan, and pitch your tent anywhere because
all of the land is communal. Bring your fishing rod too;
the rivers and lakes teem with trout and pike.
|ADVENTURE: Float down the Amazon.
Start in Iquitos, Peru (world's largest city without road
links), take a quick stop in Colombia, then buy a hammock,
board a boat, and sail a couple thousand miles to the Atlantic.
Take some jungle stops along the way. And if you can, time
your voyage to coincide with the Parantins festival, which
rivals Rio's Carnival for the best in Brazil.
Swim with seals, dolphins, penguins, turtles, and manta
rays. Onshore, you'll get close enough to shake hands (or
webbed feet) with the animals and birds.
|CULTURE: No place in the Middle
East is better to visit than Yemen. The architecture remains
uninfluenced by the West and the people still wear traditional
clothes. Where else in the world can you walk around with
a curved dagger girded by a handmade belt?
|CULTURE: Ethiopia surprises visitors
with a unique African cultural experience, Christianity
arrived here at the same time as it did in Europe. You won't
forget seeing places like the rock hewn churches of Lalibela.
|CULTURE: Mali is the
most intriguing place to visit in West Africa; it offers
the best combination of West Africa culture and sightseeing.
Explore the Dogon Country or mud-brick city of Djenne. Can
you feel more far flung than during a visit to Timbuktu?
|CULTURE: India is our
favorite place in the world for cultural immersion. It's
a 'must-see' for any serious backpacker. In short, India
overloads the senses.
|ARCHAEOLOGICAL: Egypt offers the
world's most important tourist sight; the Great Pyramids.
These are the only monuments left from the Ancient Seven
Wonders. Abu Simbel and Luxor aren't shabby either.
|HISTORICAL: China has frontrunner
sights like the Great Wall or Xian's terra-cotta warriors.
It also offers good food and a monolithic culture all its
|SIGHTSEEING: In Central Asia, Uzbekistan
outstrips the other '-stans' in architecture. (Uzbekistan
offers a great alternative to Iran for those who want to
see the magnificent architecture of this region). Kyrgyzstan
retains its nomadic roots.
|SIGHTSEEING: In Eastern Europe nothing
beats Russia for the twin cities of Moscow and St Peterburg.
Ukraine's Kiev and Lviv are almost as good as Russia's twin
powerhouses, and Ukraine offers gems on the Black Sea Coast
like Odessa and Yalta.
|RELAXATION/VACATION: Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Lie on the beach. Swim in azure water with dolphins. Let
Stone Town dazzle you with Arabic and Indian architecture.
Enjoy fresh barbecued seafood on the pier or move inland
for a fabulous exotic fruit selection from an old plantation.
|RELAXATION/VACATION: Greek islands.
Take your pick, these islands offer the best combination
of partying, beaching, and meeting new people from around
the world. Our favorites are: Santorini and Rhodes.
|RELAXATION/VACATION: Dalmatian Coast,
Croatia. Visit Marco Polo's home. Swim around picture perfect
castles. Croatia offers the best value for a Mediterranean