Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hey October, where'd you go??? When I finished work a month ago it seemed like there was ample time to get everything organised for a mid-December departure. Now, with a little over a month to go I'm beginning to panic a little. While October was a very productive month, we hit a few unexpected bumps in the road (expect the unexpected) ... Still, nothing we can't handle.
As a good friend once told me, "to fail to plan is to plan to fail".  So, this part of the blog provides insight into the planning process; perhaps useful for anyone considering a similar type of trip. So, what have we acheived/learnt this month??? Major milestones/learnings include;

1) Finalising the route and booking the flights.
We used AirTreks to book our flights, who were similar in price to some others we considered, but offered better customer service. As you can imagine, finalising the route involved some very lengthy "debates" and tonnes of research. Our route changed significantly several times as we dropped countries, added other countries and looked at options for transportation; cost and time were usually driving factors. The biggest change to our original route (perhaps surprising) was the omission of Australia and New Zealand; this saved a significant chunk of change and freed up more time to spend in other countries (we also hope to go "downunder" some other time when we'll have enough time to do both countries justice)....a tough decision to make but hopefully the right one? Bottom line is that we are in for 19 flight sectors so far (more to be booked enroute), circum-navigating the globe with 360 degrees of longitude and 95 degrees of latitude. The route plan with dates is plotted on the map.

2) Visas
This is proving to be one of the trickier obstacles. After lengthy phonecalls with the Indian Consulate to "ensure" that we had the proper paperwork, we sent off our applications in plenty of time to susbequently obtain the other visas needed before leaving (Chinese). I was mightily peeved this week when they rejected our application for a 12 month tourist visa; apparently you can't get a 12 month visa to India unless you've been there before! Why didn't they tell us that in the first place?!? The rules state that we can only have a 6 month visa which, if issued now (as it would have to be), would expire before we got to India - go figure!?! (They also rejected our applications for not trimming the photos down to the requisite size.....does the Indian Consulate not allow it's employees to have scissors??). Time for a plan B (get a 6 month visa en-route). We'll try our luck with China next week.....
For all other countries requiring visas we'll have to apply on arrival at the airport (and keep our fingers crossed that we can get them without insane waiting times) or find somewhere on route to get them issued.

3) Buying backpacks
After much debate, we went with wheeled backpacks for the adults and kid specific hiking backpacks for Lauren & Alex. Derek has the Eagle Creek Switchback 25 and Sarah has the same pack in a smaller version (Switchback 22). These also have detachable daypacks. The kids have the Osprey Imp 23's - 23 litre backpacks that have lots of adjustment for proper fitting . We packed up the kids bags with about 75% of the stuff that they'll be taking and went for a short (~1 mile) hike around the neighbourhood - no complaints or problems, however, I suspect when the temperature is closer to 32C than 32F it might be a different story....hence the wheels on our packs....

4) Started vaccinations, etc.
The process is very much underway, but I'll get to that point (geddit) at a later date ...

5) Spanish Lessons
The first seven weeks or so of our trip will be in Latin America, so we thought that learning a little Espanol would be prudent, or at least get us a couple of beers and a bed for the night. As you might expect the kids are picking it up a touch faster than old papa and mama (thank you Alinne for your patience). They can introduce themselves, count to sixty, name all the colours and some fruits and vegetables (Lauren can also sing the months of the year thanks to cousin Janet!)....time will tell whether they can still remember any Spanish when faced with a real person to talk to!

We should probably also mention here (for those in the planning stage) that there were some things that were taken care of months ago. For example, incorporating major world events into your schedule has to be decided on almost before you start planning any other part of the route. Our original plans had us starting our trip at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, but when we fell foul of the ridiculous mess in the first ticketing phase almost a year ago, we decided to abandon the games in favour of lengthening our trip by two months. We were lucky to get all of the tickets we wanted for the FIFA World Cup over the first two ticketing phases, but those were bought in April and May. Also, when travelling across peak travel periods it pays to plan ahead. We booked our first three weeks of accomodation back in July, and even five months out, many places were already sold out for Christmas and New Year.

Of course, lots of other research and minor items are underway and all the normal day-to-day stuff carries on. I'm sure that there will be many more "debates" as we get closer to departure, especially on the topic of "what goes in the bags?" Please let us know if you have any "must-take" suggestions.
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