Tuesday, November 16, 2021

How to Plan an Extended Trip

Have you been wondering about whether or not you should do some long term travel? Thinking about whether you could plan it on your own? The answer to both of those questions is a hearty yes. Anyone who ever asks me if it was worth it, I tell them it was the coolest thing I've ever done in my life.

My experience with long trips is limited to one: The Big Trip.

But it was a big trip - nine months long, through Europe, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia, with my wife and two kids, way back in 2007 and 2008.

All that planning for The Big Trip translates to today, as it was still almost entirely internet and guidebooks then. And the internet certainly hasn't gone anywhere in the intervening years. All the recent trips have been planned using the same methods or techniques or whatever I've learned a lot from all of this, nothing particularly earth shattering, but stuff that might not be completely clear the first time you try to figure it out.

The few years prior to 2020 we did trips (from central Canada) to Spain, Morocco, Italy, and Germany/France. Flying out of Winnipeg as opposed to Toronto or Montreal adds an additional hurdle in terms of time and money (maybe that's two hurdles), which just gives me a little more of a push to make sure things go well - i.e. more planning.

The one big difference from planning The Big Trip is that now it's more difficult to find individual hotels via their actual websites. None of the little places are paying Google to show up at the front of the line, or maybe don't have the tools and know-how to get their sites noticed. This is kind of annoying as it is usually cheaper and better for the hotel if you can book directly.

Topics Covered

  • Interests
  • Where to Go
  • Accommodations
  • Getting Around
  • Attractions
  • Packing
  • Travelling with Kids
  • Flights
  • Costs
  • Insurance 
  • Fellow Travellers
  • You can't do it all ahead of time


Interests

First and foremost, it's important to understand the kind of traveller you are. We are quite fond of the old centres of European cities.

Lots of small and less small pedestrian alleys in Seville

Lots of pedestrian avenues, limited or no traffic at all. Think Venice as the ideal here. We love seeing old churches, inside and out. How they are snuggled right into the community, how many of them there are, the architectural elements, and the art inside. Often there is art in there I've never seen before, and that's always a fun discovery.


Random church-like building in Rome

Views from old hill towns, towns that rest on the edge of a cliff, towns that sit along a river or beside the sea. Towns that have everything you need in walking distance


View of Volissos, on Chios Island, Greece

Museums, art especially, but antiquities as well (especially if those antiquities belong in the country of said museum…). Warm weather. Not crazy hot, just not cold, and preferably no snow when I'm travelling. I get plenty of snow at home, I don't need to fly somewhere for more of it. 

Do you like to drive? We'll occasionally get a car, but often we'll use trains and the odd bus to get around. That can be limiting at times, but also freeing when you're not worried about where to park the car. We also like to take things pretty slowly and get to know a place, so spending a week in Venice sits just fine with us. We rarely blow in and out of a major centre in a single day. 

Are you a food person? Is trying new foods and new restaurants every night important? Do you like cooking your own food just as much, or more? Would you like to have an apartment with a kitchen? How does your stomach react to new or different foods?

How mobile are you? It's important to have an awareness of your physical capability so that you are not caught off guard. Lots of Europe has lots of steps and is not particularly adapted to a traveller who is not able to manage a little bit of physicality. We walk a tonne, so to this point that hasn't been an issue. But every now and then I see a hike, one that would not have seemed remotely dangerous ten years ago, and I think, yikes, not sure I want to do that one...

Are you looking for adventure? Climbing mountains or leaping off of them? Parasailing instead of lying on the beach? Our idea of adventure is a good strenuous hike, we'll do a lot of that, but not much beyond that. (If you think hiking is dull, check out this site; we haven't done any of these, but I'm adding some to the list.)

Where to Go

How do you even know where you want to go? Hopefully having a good overview of your interests will  be a starting point, now it's time to study. But this is like school work for the most interesting class you ever had. Get guide books from the library. I am easily swayed by photos, so a guidebook with pictures is what I like. The DK books have lots of illustrations and cutouts of various churches/palaces/whatevers. Guidebooks are also a lot more enjoyable to read lying in bed before you go to sleep.

Get on the internet and do some basic searches: Top 10 things in (country/city); best places for food lovers; world's best hikes (I just happened upon this site a few weeks ago. I've never used it, but it looks comprehensive and interesting. Here are some examples for the Cinque Terre in Italy); most beautiful towns in France/Italy/Spain (there is actually an association!). Once you do a few of those, you will find yourself gravitating towards certain countries. If you have a certain city in mind, you can search "Day trips from [city]". The results will likely be filled with loads of ideas, and will start filling up your hope chest pretty quickly. I've found that Tripadvisor is a good resource for restaurants, and use it mostly for that. It's also a good place for reviews on just about anything.

Generally speaking, I will be thinking of a place I want to go to, and start there. For our Spain trip, original thoughts of course included Barcelona, but after some study we knew we wanted to spend a lot of time in the Andalucia region too. Seville and Granada were a definite yes. We could fly into Madrid for a reasonable price, and Toledo was between Madrid and Seville; a quick study of Toledo meant that Toledo was added to the list. 

Alley in Toledo, Spain

Cordoba. Ronda, too. Okay, we only have two weeks. Now look at a map of Spain and locate all of these places, and then Barcelona. At one point, an unbelievable price for flights to Madrid flashed on my screen, and the tickets were purchased. And no matter how hard I tried, I could not fit Barcelona into our plans. Yes, I could've removed a day from Seville and Granada, and cut Cordoba, but that also meant more time travelling. Granada was an absolute must, but is notoriously difficult (relatively speaking) to get in and out of for a city that hosts the most visited site in all of Spain. And even omitting Barcelona, we still only spent a day and a bit in Madrid.

Time will likely be your worst enemy. Just get over that and concentrate on all the fun you will be having (as opposed to what you will miss out on, sniff).

How to add Barcelona? Well, we wanted to spend four nights in Seville. Barcelona is a one-week city for us, but we would've had to trim that to four days maybe. We might have taken a day from Toledo, but after being there, there's no way I'd do it on just an single overnight stay.

It's three hours by train from Madrid to Barcelona,  so that adds six hours more travel time, plus the packing, two and from the station to accommodations - a good chunk of one day spent travelling, likely eight to ten hours, instead of seeing and doing. Sure, we could have done it, but it was too fast for how we want to do things. If you're cool with moving at a good clip, here's a possible itinerary for all that including Barcelona:

  • Arrive Madrid (or fly into Barcelona and out of Madrid), immediately train to Barcelona
  • Three nights Barcelona
  • Train back to Madrid, then immediately to Toledo
  • Two nights Toledo
  • Train to Seville (via Madrid)
  • Three nights Seville
  • One night Ronda (drive)
  • Two nights Granada (drive)
  • Two nights Madrid (drive)
I think that's doable in two weeks for a lot of people. You could get a car for the whole trip but I don't think that would save you much time, and that's an awful lot of driving.

Anyway, am I getting off topic? What's the topic?

Part of the decision making will be built into where you choose to go. If you're going on an extended trip that includes Italy, the things you see may be in part determined by where you go after that. If the next country is Greece, as it was for us, that meant we ended our time in Italy in the south, our last day driving to Brindisi and jumping on a ferry to Patras. However, if we were going to Croatia, we might have instead gone north from Florence to Venice, where it's easier to get to Croatia by ferry. I sort of wonder why we didn't do that now?? Hmm. Italy, to Croatia, to Greece probably would have worked? But, that would've meant Venice in August, super high season there and outrageously busy. Which brings me to another point.

Hopefully if you have the time to do an extended trip, you're not doing it in the high season. That could be exhausting, dealing with that many people for that long a time. People have told us that Venice is no fun because there are just too many people. And maybe that's true in July or August. But we were there for a week at the end of March, and it was one of the best travel experiences we've ever had. Temperatures were comfortable, and the crowds very manageable. (I keep harping on this, but it's true) Because we were there for a week, we could make some easy snap decisions about things. We head over to St. Mark's to visit the church, but the lineup is crazy long. Forget that idea, go do something else. A day or two later, we were passing by St. Mark's in the afternoon and there was no lineup at all. In we went. There was no rush, no feeling like we had to get this done now because we were leaving tonight and why are there so many people visiting my church!??!

Lots of uncrowded areas in Venice

Our big trip had a natural flow to it, from Italy into Greece by ferry; Chios, Greece to Turkey. Train to Syria. Car to Jordan. Ferry to Egypt. All overland/water and relatively easy. If you can choose destinations that have that kind of flow, it can save you some of the headaches of travelling between destinations. India was a bit of an anomaly, at least in terms of getting there. We ended up flying from Cairo, which is a long flight. But going from Kolkata to Bangkok is just a three or four hour flight. Again, starting in south India and working our way north and west to Kolkata to make that transition to Bangkok a little more accessible.

Working out a manageable path is a bit like writing an essay. Or playing Tetris. Maybe a combination of both. Taking some time to plan your route thoughtfully will make your trip more manageable and enjoyable.

Accommodations

Finding a place to stay is easy these days, so you should be able to find many good options almost right up to your arrival. If you absolutely positively have to stay somewhere on a specific night or nights, book ahead a little more. A general rule of thumb is to book your first few stays well before the start of your trip. You'll be more relaxed and able to get your bearings, and you may discover some things you like and dislike that will help you make choices going forward.

When we're staying somewhere for more than a few days, I like to stay in an apartment. If 'feels' more comfortable than a hotel to my mind. That being said, there's one thing that I do like about hotels. A good hotel will have a comfortable and inviting common area for travellers to gather. So in those spaces, you are likely to strike up a good conversation with like-minded people. The more interesting of a place you are in, the more interesting that person is likely to be. This has been the case for us all over: Riad Hotel in Hama, Syria, where we met new friends from New Zealand, Australia, the UK, and the US; the Luna Hotel in Cairo; El Salaam Camp in Dahab, Egypt; several spots in India; the rooftop at Casa Perletta in Chefchaouen, Morocco, where we met a wonderful Canadian couple who were now (and are still) living in New York, and we've managed to connect a couple of times in person since; the rooftop at Hotel Santa Isabel in Toledo; Hotel Alavera de los Banos in Ronda; and more. Often these places have wonderful breakfast spreads as well, and you are bound to chat about your plans for the day over a pistachio-cream-filled croissant (Hello, Albergo Centrale, Bologna!). You might also get some good info about a place you'd missed in your research.

Our kitchen in Istanbul

When I'm looking for places to stay, it's inevitable that you'll find booking.com or airbnb at the top of any search that begins with "Hotels in…" But I will always put in the extra time to find a hotel or apartment website and book directly through them (unless their site feels a little shady, or perhaps has a payment method that seems light on security).

If you're landing in one spot for a week or more, you can often find discounts on accommodations for those longer stays. Airbnb also has a part of their site dedicated to stays of a month or longer with some places offering substantial discounts, sometimes as much as 50%. The monthly rate is not as cheap as if you were renting for a year, but it's far cheaper than a nightly hotel rate. It's worth asking through the actual website of the hotel/apartment if they offer long-stay discounts.

Our preference is to stay in the area of the city/town that has most of what we want to see. Coincidentally, the train station will also be close by, allowing you to arrive by train, walk to your hotel, and then walk to most of the things you want to see. Spending a little more to be in the centre is often worth it for the sake of saving time on the metro or bus getting to the things you want to see. I keep talking about Venice, but Venice makes for good analogies. Staying in Venice is more expensive, but there really isn't much comparison to staying outside the city and having to train in first thing in the morning, and getting the train out every evening. Late night walks along the Zattere, a late evening meal, or sitting on your terrace overlooking the city before retiring. Our apartment in Florence was just a few minutes from the Duomo, right in the centre of the city. We could head back to put our feet up if we felt like, or if we forgot something, whatever. Being close just removes a layer of unpredictability and gives you more time, and it's way more enjoyable. When you're travelling for extended periods, saving yourself little bits of time and aggravation goes a long way towards making the whole trip that much more enjoyable. Spend more time doing the things you want to do, and less time on the functional necessities of travel. Of course, this all depends on budget. Sometimes saving a few dollars here and there is worth it, and sometimes spending a few more is worth it, too.

Getting Around

Almost all of the time, within a city we are walking. Sometimes though, the city centres are just too big to walk, as in say, Paris, so the sooner you get the metro figured out, the better. 

Nothing puts you right in the middle of the action like walking. A car will get you there faster, this is true, and if that's what you want and need, have at it. You'll walk past shops, past homes, past the people, past workers, past a living city, and it's difficult to get that feel in a car. That being said, once we had our fill of walking around Rome, discovering and making use of the bus stop around the corner from our front door was a boon. 

Occasionally we'll take a taxi to the airport, but there's often a cheap and convenient bus direct to the airport from the city centre (like in Madrid, for instance). 

In Europe, travelling between cities is quick and efficient with the country's rail system. Buses will connect most of the smaller towns, but there are some places that will require a car to reach if it's important to you. I had used Loco2 in the past, but that has rebranded as RailEurope. I was sad at first, but really, a much more fitting name. It could not be easier to use. So easy, I really don't have to explain it. 

Every country has their preferred way of travel. In India, it's the train. Slow but easy and outrageously inexpensive. 

It may not have the kind of amenities you're used to, but if you're in India, I think you'll find the trains comfortable enough. Maybe not the washrooms, that

Lots of buses serve large and small centres, but we found it most comfortable to take the train when it was available. In Southeast Asia, buses seem to take precedent (Vietnam being the non-conformist here), but are comfortable, clean, and well-maintained. A quick search of getting from Point A to Point B in your country of choice will give you a good idea of what most people do. Generally speaking, most countries outside of Canada and the US rely far more heavily on public transportation, and it works well, and gets used a great deal.

We rented a car twice in Italy, for a two-week period in Greece, and for a single day in Turkey. If you want to drive overseas, be sure to get an international driver's license.


Attractions

One very important thing to note is the opening hours of any attraction you want to get to, and understanding their ticket procedure. Case in point #1: For visits to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, it is recommended to book your tickets up to three months in advance. Three months!! This may seem ridiculous, but if you're going to Granada, you are likely there to see the Alhambra. And while not a complete disaster, it would be a crying shame to miss it.

As spectacular as it is from the outside, the interior of the Alhambra is even moreso.

When you have confirmed your travel dates, book your tickets. The Alhambra is a bit of a special case as it also has very specific entry times to part of the site. Pay attention, and don't miss your time. Just about any reading you do about a place worth visiting will note these kinds of things, but that being said, we still met people who were trying to buy their Alhambra tickets the same day, or the day before who was very angry and had clearly never heard that the Alhambra was a popular place. Case in point #2: Make sure that the place you want to visit is open at that time of year, and on the days you're going to be there. Our trip to Morocco could only be configured in such a way so as to be leaving on a Saturday morning, flying out of Casablanca, home of the Grand Mosque, a grand mosque that is closed to visitors on Fridays. Since we wanted to spend most of our time in other cities, we only arrived in Casablanca on Friday. We hoped that maybe they would make an exception for two exceptionally wonderful people, or that maybe by some miracle they'd just happen to be open that particular Friday, but it was not to be. We got to wander around the exterior, which is pretty cool, but not the same thing. We were prepared for it, so it was not a shock. Sometimes, schedules just won't work out and that's the way it is.

In many cities, you can get special passes that allow you to take in multiple attractions for a cheaper, bundled price. Here are examples from Verona and Venice. Sometimes these passes allow you quicker access without having to wait in line. In Rome in August for instance, we bought a pass, for both Palatine Hill and the Colosseum,  at the Palatine entrance that had three people in line. Then we went to the Colosseum and walked past the long, long lineup and into the four-person line for people who already had tickets. That's a big win when you're travelling with kids.

In some places, the major attraction is just exploring, walking, wandering, and getting lost in a labyrinth of back streets and stairs that lead to the sky.

Wandering around Chefchaouen, Morocco

More Chefchaouen

A country's tourism website is a good place to start, and popular regions will have their own site that's likely far more informative. If you're looking for info, say, on the amazing Amalfi Coast, positano.com looks worth your time. It's filled with paid tour links, but at the bottom of the page you'll find loads of useful links, like how to get there from Rome, or bus schedules, when to visit, etc.


Packing

This goes without saying, but the lighter you pack, the easier it is to get around. You can always do with less while you're on the road, and will rarely find yourself saying, "Boy, I wish I had another ten or twenty pounds on my back right now!" If you really, really need something, you can likely find it wherever you are. I had an 80 litre pack for our big trip, and that was plenty big enough. I brought a couple sketch pads with me, but ditched one of them within the first week. Paper is heavy. As long as you find a place with a washing machine here and there, you'll be fine. If not, a sink and a bar of soap are a good substitute. In some countries, laundry can be done inexpensively, though it will cost you in thread count over time.

Our rule of thumb is always, Pack Light. For our short trips, three to four days of clothes is plenty, with a greater emphasis on underwear and socks. There are a few places where a humid environment is unwelcome. Ah, and good shoes too. I'll take a good pair of walking shoes and a good pair of sandals, no more.



Travelling With Kids

Travelling with your kids doesn't have to be more difficult, other than the complexity of travelling as a larger group. Of course, if you've got infants, that's another story. The biggest challenge will be in keeping your kids engaged and entertained, particularly during long bus or train rides. A good book, some simple games, and a curious mind are a good start. Having activities planned that give them something to look forward to makes for great conversation starters. Taking a long train ride is a lot more palatable when the Pyramids are at the other end. We planned a few beach holidays throughout our travels, and the success of the first of those was a great reminder of something to look forward to in the future. As well, there are just lots of spots around the world that are just cool for kids. Be it amazing sites, hiking and climbing, building sandcastles, a world of new food, zip-lining in Laos, or something as simple as drinking from ancient fountains in Rome, there are lots of things to help kids engage with their new surroundings.

Costs

This is a big one. Not a big price necessarily, but a big topic. You can travel as expensively or inexpensively as you want. What did our trip cost? Well, a lot. Or not that much. Kind of, but not really. Confusing? Maybe.

Because we were away for nine months, and over a full university year, we were able to rent out our house while we were away. This covered all costs at home, and made us a little money, too. Nothing broke down, no real problems were encountered by our renters, and they were very considerate of our furniture and home, so there were no headaches there. I'm an artist, and I did no paid work during our time away, so that was a bummer money-wise, but also great because I didn't have to think about where and how I was going to get work done; and, I could be dedicated to all the planning that needed to be done while we were on the road. My wife was a school teacher back then, and was able to capitalize on a workplace deferred salary plan: four years at 80% of her salary and then one year off while collecting that held back portion of her salary, so 80% again. It's not necessarily a given that you have to sell everything you own, your car, your house, your possessions, in order to make a long trip happen. We had those four years to prepare for this, so the bulk of our extra cash went towards the trip we knew was coming, as opposed to some vague idea of 'saving money,' and the salary deferral was like a forced savings plan. Keep in mind that no matter where you are, you are going to spend money, whether it's at home or somewhere else. Our costs over and above what we would have spent were not crazy. Of course, we couldn't have done this type of travel indefinitely, but nine months was easily doable. Between the lower income tax and the revenue from renting, we were comfortable enough. If we'd had to cover all our housing costs for a house we weren't living in, that would have been very different.

Receipt from the Al Khawale Restaurant. At the time, it was 50 Syrian pounds to our dollar. This was a sweet meal for twenty bucks, for four.

An important factor in all of this was that we planned for six weeks in the Middle East, two months in Southeast Asia, and almost three months in one of the least expensive countries in the world, India. Our first three months were in Italy (very pricey), Greece (not so bad), and Turkey (getting better). Our three months in India cost less than one month in Italy - for the two weeks on the Arabian Sea in Gokarna we averaged less than $25 a day. For all four of us. It was inexpensive enough that at the end of our time in India, I realized that our bank account actually grew, noticeably. It was so cheap that a two-dollar meal in Bangkok seemed an outrageous price to pay for a plate of food. And let me be clear about something: the food in India was outstanding, as it was all throughout Southeast Asia.

Rooftop at Hotel Kamal. Someone had at this point not learned to pace their lassi intake. This view as the sun set was something else.

Our most expensive hotel in the last half of our trip was $58 a night at Bentleys in Mumbai. I'm sure we could have found something for less, but we'd just endured an overnight train, arriving at eight in the morning, and we wanted to get settled quickly. Next most expensive? I think it was the Tri Gong Hotel in Chiang Mai. $27. Throughout India and Southeast Asia, it was usually costing us between $8 and $20. In Italy, accommodations cost was in the range of 75 to 90 euros, a little less in Greece, and less again in Turkey. If we'd spent the trip in Western Europe, the trip would've been six months long at best.

In Rome, Monticchiello, Florence, Alberobello, Astros, Athens, Chios, and Istanbul, we stayed in apartments. This allowed us to cook meals up at home and prepare our own lunches if we wanted. This will help keep the food budget on the right side of the ledger. Eating out in the Middle East is much more affordable, even in really good restaurants. Southeast Asia even more so. India, as mentioned above, is the gold standard in this regard. A prime example of this was New Year's Eve in Gokarna at the Pai Restaurant. This was a celebration, an evening to remember, and we ate like kings and queens (which for me, usually means lots, but this was really, really good food. We had a number of different dishes, lassis (a smooth and creamy yogurt drink), and dessert, and the grand total for this extravagance? Ten dollars for the four of us. 


The ever-popular Pai

Keep in mind that we were doing a lot of walking, climbing, hiking, moving, non-stop it seemed, until we sat down to eat, so we were always hungry, and we could pack it away. In Hanoi, three months later, we paid a visit to Pepperonis, a place that hosted a near-legendary buffet. A 32,000 dong (Vietnamese currency) all-you-can-eat buffet. Two dollars and fifty cents. It was alarming how much empty space our bodies had to store it all. I'm sure we were polite, but wow. I don't think I've ever eaten that much while still being able to move afterwards. 

Outside of flights, the rest of the trip, all nine months comes in at around $37,000 CDN. A couple rental cars, lots of attractions, lots of food, lots of trains and buses, snacks and gelati, souvenirs, audio guides, donations, taxis, books, hotels, apartments, clothes, lassis, insurance, dosas, saris, everything.

Expenses in India

Flights

We tried to limit our flying as much as possible, organizing our trip so as to make use of overland travel. 

  • Winnipeg to Rome - July
  • Cairo to Trivandrum - December
  • Kolkata to Bangkok - March
  • Hanoi to Vientiane - a gametime decision at the beginning of April
  • Bangkok to Winnipeg - May
We could have bussed from Hanoi, but we'd heard horror stories about the 24-hour bus trip. If it had been a few months earlier, I'm sure we would have taken the bus, but in month #9, we were looking for easy and simple.

The total cost for flights was right around $10,000 (and that's even with paying for business class from Egypt to Cairo, a long story not yet covered outside of the book). You've probably heard it said that the most expensive thing is just getting to your destination, and this is particularly true outside of Europe. 

Saving

This is briefly covered above, but how do you save for a very long trip? Priorities. Make it a priority and it's more likely to happen. It's not a guarantee, but you have to start somewhere. Of course, you need to be making money to save money, and maybe you'll have to do a few jobs you don't like. But the rewards are many. A lot of it is just simple stuff, the most important being spend less than you earn.

  • Eat at home. Period.
  • I don't drink or smoke. 
  • I don't go out to bars.
  • My entertainment consisted of fees for my sports teams.
  • If we needed something, we'd wait for it go on sale. 
  • No coffees on the way to work.
  • No impulse buying.
  • We were driving a fifteen-year-old minivan up to going on that trip, and prior to that it was a nearly thirty-year-old car. 
  • If something went wrong in our house, I'd fix it. Any renos that needed doing, I'd do them.
  • You can make budgets and lists and all that, but I didn't bother. I just avoided spending money unless it was necessary. Spend less than you earn, as much and as often as possible. 
Insurance

Do not forget travel insurance. We didn't even use it the time we actually needed it, because the cost of our Italian hospital excursion was only six euros, but this is a critical piece of paper. 

Fellow Travellers

You will find that one of the greatest sources of information will be fellow travellers. Make use of those common rooms at your hotel and get talking. There's a good chance you will find someone who has been where you want to go, and they can give you a bit of a lay-of-the-land from a hands-on perspective.

All At Once

An important thing to keep in mind is that you cannot plan a trip of this magnitude all ahead of time. For one, you won't be able to get all your visas at home, you'll figure it out on the road. Our short trips are well planned before we leave home, including where we want to go on any particular day, but because we stay a few days in each city usually, those days and schedules can be mixed and matched as necessary.

For an extended trip of many months or longer, you will not be able to book all your accommodations ahead of time; you won't be able to book all your trains and intercity travels; you won't book all your visits to important sites; you might not even book your flight home. You'll figure it out and book a bit ahead while on the road. You don't even want to book everything ahead of time, as that will take away a bit of the spontaneity long-term travel provides. Too many benchmarks will eventually start to feel restricting. If you get delayed, if you get sick and need to hunker down for a few days, or, most importantly, if you really like a place, you can stay longer.

As long as you have the tools and the understanding of how to do some of your booking and researching, you will be set up for a long and successful and fun trip. By the time March of 2008 rolled around, I found myself booking a flight home for the four of us. More than three thousand dollars worth of flights, at midnight, on the wifi of our guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I'd certainly never done anything quite like that before. But I had spent the previous eight months finding places to stay, things to see, trains to book, routes to take. And every bit of planning I did made it easier to accomplish the next whatever it was that needed to be done. There is no substitute for experience

If you have any questions about planning a trip, drop me a line. I love to talk travel.


Sketch of Toledo's cathedral, as viewed from the terrace of Hotel Santa Isabel

Interested in the stories of our Big Trip?

Europe and the Middle EastIndia and Southeast Asia. You can find more info about the books here. If these are not the most beautiful travel memoirs you've ever seen, I'll go on another trip and take better pictures. 

There's also a text-only version (with multiple covers) here!

Not sure which book is right for you? Read this!



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