T minus 22 days...

Trip Start Jan 30, 2010
Trip End Sep 12, 2010

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The first entry of our Big Trip blog finds us -- Oliver, 11 , Michael and I, both 50 -- gulp! -- in final preparations for launching ourselves into a seven month adventure to corners of the world as yet unseen by us. Challenges that just a few months ago seemed far-fetched, if not impossible --  securing time off work for Michael and school for Oliver, finding the means financially, simultaneously planning seven months of independent travel while putting life as we know it on hold, getting help of all kinds from family and friends -- have in succession fallen away, bringing us to the brink of embarking upon a trip of a lifetime. As we wrestled with doubts, fears, and cynicism -- the universe invariably said, "Just Do It".  Apparently this trip was meant to be.

The first step of the journey takes place early in the morning of January 30, when we board our first flight, via LAN airlines: San Francisco, California to Santiago, Chile, with a brief stop in Lima, Peru. Our itinerary takes us first to Chile and Patagonia, where summer's long days and mild -- we hope! -- weather, awaits. In order to stretch the budget, our intention is to stick to the Southern Hemisphere, avoiding budget-busting destinations..i.e. Europe. Our trajectory will be roughly, south to north, staying a step ahead of oncoming winter. 

Ahhh, and then there's money. Unfortunately, we didn't come into a big inheritance or win the lottery.  Instead, we're using a chunk of our savings and a charitable donation - thanks, Mom! - to cover trip costs and the loss of six month's salary - one month is paid vacation - for Michael's leave of absence. Leasing our house will cover the mortgage; a huge financial help. Even so, the only way we can afford to travel for this length of time is by sticking to "budget" countries, which are mostly in the southern hemisphere. We've budgeted a few splurges; i.e. the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and Torres del Paine. But as the dollar continues to sink in value, we're worried about whether or not South America is a still a cheap destination, as touted in Lonely Planet's iconic "South America on A Shoestring". So stay tuned! We'll be reporting on costs and all sorts of practical details, and many .. hopefully far more interesting!..observations in the posts that follow.

To summarize the plan: Over the next seven months - January 30 through September 11, 2010 - we'll spend four months traveling in South America, return to Palo Alto for five days before flying to Asia  - Denpassar via Singapore from San Francisco. Then, it's on to Indonesia - Java and Bali, South East Asia - Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, and, time permitting, Tibet or southern China. There's the plan; watch this space to see how it all unfolds. We're old hands at international travel, but have never undertaken a trip anything close to this in length and breadth. Michael and Annet have been traveling together whenever possible for over 20 years - the last with Oliver, who has been bundled along with us to ten countries on three continents. The  details of preparing for a trip like this are overwhelming. If we write a book upon our return, Tip #1 will be: Start preparations sooner than six months before departure!. 

Still  to do: Fit three large, overflowing boxes of clothing and gear into three dauntingly small  backpacks; obtain Brazilian visas - not presently on the itinerary, but a possibility for the Pantanal region in the south; purchase travel insurance - to insure that we never need it; store our car with Dad and our crotchety 16-year old cat with Mom; confirm our flights to Santiago for January 30. Our "To Do List" is in a constant state of flux, though gradually diminishing, Over the past six months, It has kept us organized and on track, when we can find it, that is!

Planning and preparations are almost done. We must remember that the difference between a fabulous trip and a so-so one depends on the attitude of the traveler. Flexibility, an optimistic spirit and sense of humor make travel challenges easier to handle and/or accept. With this in mind, in 22 days we recycle "The List", and say "hasta luego" to family, friends, job, school, cat, NPR, Safeway, Whole Foods, the suburbs and life as we know it. 

Welcome to tales of our 7-month travel adventure!
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Julianne Pepetone on

I'm so happy and excited for you and your grand family adventure. Thanks so much for sharing!

Marty S. on

Wow!!! I didn't know you already graduated 6th grade.

Yessica A. and Sachi B. on

Wow that must have been a lot of work packing and preparing

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