Preparations and More Preparations

Trip Start Jun 20, 2003
Trip End Mar 01, 2004

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Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Thursday, June 5, 2003

As you may have gathered by the ever present grins on our faces, Susan and I have decided to take some time off from our careers and travel the world! Yeah! We've just moved out of our house, put everything we own in storage, moved in with Annie and David (Susan's sister and brother-in-law, who now live in DC --- thanks guys!!), and have announced our plans at work. We leave in what promises to be two hectic but fun-filled weeks.

Since at least a few of you may not know the itinerary, let us start by running through the basics. We plan to be gone for around nine months (or when the money runs out), during which time we'll visit over twenty countries in over five continents. On June 20, 2003, we fly to San Diego for a friend's wedding, and from there to Peru for three weeks. Then we're back in the US for a week and a half for a wedding in Houston -- where Susan makes her third appearance this summer as a bridesmaid -- and then we're off to Southern Africa on July 22. We'll spend six weeks there, starting in Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe/Zambian border, wander through Botswana, and spend a good chunk of time in South Africa.

At the beginning of September, we fly to Europe for a month-long, self-paced (and, yes, self-taught) course on French and Italian cuisine. October will be split between island hopping through the Greek Islands and immersing ourselves in Turkish culture (not to mention the Turkish baths). From there, we head down to Egypt, where we sight-see the Pyramids and try scuba diving the Red Sea.

The plan here gets hazy. Starting around November 20, we'll spend two and a half months on the Indian subcontinent, during which time we may stray over to Nepal, Sri Lanka, and/or Burma. However, we will definitely spend at least a month in India itself and meet up with our families. The final leg, starting about mid-January 2004, sees us in Thailand and Malayasia and Singapore where we hope to get a lot of scuba diving and beach time in. Maybe we'll pack in some culture there too. In any event, we expect to be back in Houston on March 1, 2004.

Lots of friends and family have been curious about this trip and what our plans are for afterwards. Here goes our attempt to answer all your questions in one fell swoop:

Q: What? (surprise and disbelief, occasionally mixed in with horror at the thought)
A: Uh, yeah, we're taking a trip around the world. We'll be gone for nine months or so.

Q: What brought this on?
A: We've fallen in love with travelling, ever since our lovely honeymoon in the Virgin Islands. Since then (i.e., just in the last four years) we've been to Costa Rica, Portugal, Bali, Switzerland, and Hawaii, and Susan went to Honduras as a volunteer doctor this past year.

Q: Yeah, but why a trip around the world?
A: Everyone's probably thought of the idea, but the thought became serious two years ago while we were in the Swiss Alps, where we met someone who was at the tail end of his trip around the world. Hearing all the great things he got to do was eye opening and filled us with wanderlust. We got to talking, said why not (ok, there was a lot of Sharad begging Susan), and the idea was born.

Q: Have you quit your jobs? What are you doing when you get back?
A: Susan has finished her pediatrics residency at Georgetown, as well as an additional year as chief resident. So her job has simply ended. As for Sharad, he's resigning from the Federal Programs Branch at the US Department of Justice. When we get back, we'll be looking for jobs across the country.

Q: How are you travelling? Do you have hotels to stay in along the way?
A: No, we're just backpacking it. That means we figure it out as we go -- read the travel guide before we get off the bus/train/ferry/airplane and identify where is good. We don't plan on staying at hostels for the most part -- a little too old and spoiled for that -- but this is a budget trip, and so we will mostly be staying at the cheaper budget backpacking hotels.

Q: Is your route set in stone?
A: Nope. We've bought around-the-world airline tickets, but that only means we have a few flights that are fixed. Much of what we're doing is overland travel on our own. For example, we fly into Geneva and out of Istanbul -- how we travel between them is entirely undecided. Also, many of the dates of our flights are flexible, so we can change without penalty.

Q: What are you taking with you?
A: A backpack for each of us, filled with clothes, a digital camera, trekking poles, books, etc.

Q: How can you afford this? (also asked as: where is my share of your lottery winnings?)
A: We've been saving. Its not that expensive, really -- to give you an idea, its about the price of a nice-ish new car, Mostly the places we are going are on the cheap side anyways, so that helps out a ton. (If you're actually seriously interested in the budget because you're thinking of your own trip, drop us a line and we can fill you in.)

Q: Aren't your worried about terrorism/SARS/etc?
A: Since we're leaving DC, we figure the chance of us being affected by terrorism actually decreases once we leave. As for SARS, we'll play it by ear, and we may have to substitute Australia/New Zealand for SE Asia. As for general anti-americanism, we're really not going anywhere that risky. I suspect a lot of it is hype anyways. We'll just have to wait and see.

Q: Can I join you?
A: Absolutely. Our respective families are joining us in India, our good friend Neelesh is joining us in France/Italy, and our good friends Mark and Bridgette are thinking about joining us in Nepal. Just drop us a line and we'll work it out.

Q: How often will you be keeping this travelogue updated?
A: Hard to tell, but the plan is every two weeks or every time we've finished something fun to write about. We can post pictures on this as well, and hopefully we'll be able to do this from Internet cafes along the way. This travelogue will itself e-mail you when there is a new entry so long as you are on the address book (you can add yourself I think), so you don't need to bother logging in just to see.

Well, that's about it for now. We have a ton of stuff to do before we leave and it won't do itself! -- Sharad & Susan
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