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Choosing An Itinerary – Do Less & Experience More!

Dance of the Masks, Dogon Country, Mali, Africa

Dance of the Masks, Dogon Country, Mali, Africa

The usual mistake most travelers make when planning a Round The World Trip (and believe us, we did the same!) is trying to pack too much into their itinerary. You will never see it all, even if you travel for 10 years. There is simply too much to see out there.

Most people see a Long Term Trip as a unique experience, the first and probably only such trip, and worry that they will miss places that they might never be able to visit again. For us it was the Easter Island and the “South Seas” in the Pacific, or South Patagonia in South America. And we are glad we went there, actually.

Nevertheless, much more important, when you start traveling for a longer period (6 months, one year, maybe even more), is to keep in mind that your biggest luxuries are:

  1. Traditional "Indigenous" Sunday Market in Tarabuco, Bolivia, South America

    Traditional “Indigenous” Sunday Market in Tarabuco, Bolivia, South America

    Enjoying Flexibility: You discover an area that you like? Stay and leave when you are ready. You don’t like a place, for whatever reason – then move on!

  1. Digging In: The longer we stayed at a place the more we like it – it is almost always the case. We hardly ever are truly excited by a place where we only stayed a day, unless it was truly exceptional. Try not to be one of the: “Been There, Done That Crowd”! Moreover, the faster you travel, the more it will cost you (See Budget For A Round The World Trip). As a rule of thumb, a month per country is a good start, though for many places it will actually not be enough. For example, a five week road trip through New Zealand ended in a rush. Even during seven weeks in Bolivia we could not visit lots of places we really wanted. Huge countries like Brazil, India or China are probably a life- long mission.
  1. Using Free Information: Fellow travelers are a source of abundant and reliable information that you probably don’t find in your Lonely Planet. That is often the best way to go Off The Beaten Track.
  1. Meeting Exceptional People: For us what makes traveling so rewarding is the company of locals or fellow traveler. We have met the most exceptional, loveliest, smartest people while traveling.

So the message is simple: be flexible, do less, and discover and experience much more!


Gilles with children in a village in the Dogon Country, Mali, Africa

Gilles with children in a village in the Dogon Country, Mali, Africa

This is what we wrote when we were organizing our Trip around Round the World back in 2007 – Pretty good job for beginners!

When to go where?

Naturally, the first question we asked ourselves was – which region on this planet do we want to visit?

North America and Europe were quickly excluded, because we both have traveled those two continents extensively. Besides, way too expensive for long term travelling and above all, we simply had other priorities. We can visit those regions after we retire…

Africa also soon disappeared from our list, although we are Africa aficionados: Senegal, Mali, Tanzania, Ethiopia, or Uganda, we simply loved it! However, this continent is within easy, jet-lag-free reach from Europe. Besides, Africa we learned is a strange place to travel, either pricey or rock bottom. The very highlights cannot be visited without a Tour Operator, like the Danakil Depression / Ethiopia or are absurdly expensive, like trekking the Mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda or a Safari in the Serengeti.

So, where do we go? We have ended up dividing the trip into three regions:

  • South America: From Caracas to Ushuaia
  • The Pacific: Easter Island, Cook Islands, Australia and New Zealand
  • Southeast Asia: Southwest China, Laos, Cambodia

The most challenging part in planning – to be at the right time in the right place: winter – summer / dry – rainy / high – low season can make all the difference. Angel Falls / Venezuela is disappointing when visited during the dry season, while renting a camper in Australia costs twice to three times more in January & February than in the low season. We are talking about a 60 – 80 USD difference a day!

Our overall budget certainly played a role in our choices, for instance, traveling in Southeast Asia is far cheaper than the Pacific Area.

The final Itinerary was one of many

When we left for our Trip Around the Word, we had the 9th (!) version of our itinerary in our pockets. The first ones had us heading east and included a ridiculous long number of destinations, even ridiculously expensive ones, like the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia.

Our final version seemed a good compromise between our ambitious travel plans, logistics and time available. Such “struggles” are natural and part of planning of a Long Term Trip. Besides, there is not perfect itinerary. And, there might be other trip ahead …..

To be flexible was very important for us. So we left Vienna with a one-way ticket for Caracas / Venezuela.

In Esfahan, Iran

In Esfahan, Iran

Did we stick to our initial itinerary (Added upon return)?

Of course we knew that our precisely organized trip was likely to change. Even before we started off, we were curious as how our initials plans would differ from the actual route.

Now we know, we pretty much stuck to the planned route. The most notable change was that we skipped Australia altogether. We ran out of time, after we extended our stay in South America for two months. While there, we even contemplated staying the whole year in our beloved Latino America. Looking back, we are glad we moved on, because now we know what we would have missed.

Other reasons why we changed our original travel plans: getting a cheaper flight, recommendations from fellow travelers, the wish to take a break from traveling, and above all, opportunities that frequently came along …

We would like to repeat a serious advice: No, you cannot do it all!!! Concentrate on certain countries and regions and check them out, taking your time.


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