How did we plan our Around the World Trip?

Trip Start Jul 28, 2009
Trip End Aug 10, 2010

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Where I stayed

Flag of Bahamas  , Grand Bahama Island,
Sunday, January 23, 2011

We just passed the 6 month mark since we have returned home from our trip around the world.  It's amazing how time flies.  We have settled back into our routines and I am still wondering if this is my "normal" life.  I know that I felt more at home out on the road than I do at home.  I am already thinking about another long trip....

The first couple of months were really hard for me.  I missed the freedom of traveling, choosing where to go and what we were going to do that day.  I found myself depressed and it was hard to talk to my friends about my trip because how do I sum up one year of traveling into one sentence?

I was very fortunate to be able to return home and have my old job back, especially during these trying times.   I have a completely different attitude towards my work now and I try to attack problems with a smile rather than getting stressed and being negative.   

How have I changed?

I feel like I have changed only for the better.   I feel happier, calmer; I talk more and actually take time to listen to people.  I am not always in a hurry, I have learned to relax and take time out for myself.  I don’t feel stressed as I did before; I’m more content in my life.  I certainly have more patience and tolerance, I smile more and most important, I don’t need much more than good times and laughter with family and friends. 

I am more aware of my surroundings, as I find myself stopping and listening to the birds singing, I marvel at the beautiful sunsets, and I love looking at the night sky to see the stars.  I watch less TV and feel liberated to give all my stuff away.  We definitely use fewer toiletries and we try not to waste as much anymore.  We have even started to cook some great meals!

My son still throws his clothes on the floor, he still leaves socks in the couch, and I have to constantly nag him about making his bed.  Good thing that he doesn’t have any more toys in the closet, he gave all those away before we left.

Recognizing a dream….

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to travel the world!  I just never thought I could do it until I was old and retired and had the money to really enjoy it.  I did travel quite a bit in my early twenties to Europe and Africa and those memories are always in the forefront of my mind.  Of course, the more I traveled, the more I wanted to see the world.

It was not long after my boss; Arne was murdered on February 9, 2003, that I felt the serious need to follow through on my dreams.  Life is way too short and you never know what is going to happen.

I spent hours searching the web for other families traveling with their children.  There was not many and only about a handful of single mothers taking their kids.  Talking with family and friends, it was nothing more than a dream, an unrealistic dream.  Some were even a bit mad with me that I would be so selfish to take my son out of school and travel the world, how irresponsible!  For the most part, they never thought I would actually do it.

Making the dream a reality….

In December of 2008, I made my announcement, which was not completely met with support.  I had talked to my son, Nikolas for over 2 years now and I had given him the option of staying at home if he wanted to.  In the beginning he had lots of questions and was not too sure about this crazy idea!  But the more I talked to him, the more he wanted to come with me.

I really thought that I had to research and plan the entire trip before I left.  I started to become overwhelmed and frustrated to get everything done in time of our departure day that I had to take a step back and say, “wait a minute, this is something I really want to do, why am I making into a chore?”

I continued to read travel books and spent almost every evening surfing the Internet.    The funny thing was that as soon as I booked my ticket, I felt relaxed and ready!  Now I just needed to pack…..

Taking a year off…..

How was I going to take a year off?  Would they let me take a leave of absence from work?  What about Nikolas school work?  Will he have to repeat 7the grade?  What do I need to pack?  What about money? Which credit cards and debit cards to bring?  What shots do we need?  What about malaria pills?  These were just some of the questions that I had and my to do list kept getting longer and longer. Even though my list seemed never ending, I don’t know what I would have done without it!

It was actually scarier to make the announcement to my job and family and friends than it was to get on the plane.  How do you tell people when the world is suffering in a financial depression, people losing their houses, their jobs, etc.  that I was taking my hard earned savings and taking off for one year to travel the world? 

I really don’t know where I got the courage from except that it was something I felt I needed to do.  I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and learn something new.  I wanted to spend this time with my son away from day to day distraction of life!  I wanted us to make our own life experiences together.

Our Around the World adventure lasted 359 days.  We left on July 28th, 2009 from Freeport, Bahamas and returned on July 21st, 2010.  According to, we traveled 124,794 miles (200,837km) and visited 19 countries. 

How did you ever plan such a trip?

I started planning way before I even made the decision to actually go.  The planning continued throughout our trip.  As I stated before, I stressed myself thinking that things had to be planned in advance, but its much better to wait until you are out on the road.  You will meet so many travelers and get advice that you just wont find on the Internet or in guidebooks.  Besides, it gives you a new kind of challenge.

However, for the first couple of months, I did plan our home stays and volunteering projects before we left.  It gave us a chance to ease into the traveling without being overwhelmed.

How did you pick which countries to visit?

This was actually the hardest part of the planning because there is so many countries I want to visit but I knew that there was no possible way to see it all!  So I made a list of the 192 countries and picked the absolute must see’s for this trip and kept redoing it until it got down to a workable number.  I knew we wanted to spend more time in each country to get to know the local way of life rather than running through countries just to get the passport stamp.

Traveling for me was not about just seeing the sights and visiting tourist spots but it was about people and experiences.

How long did you save?  6 years.  I did not make any big time purchases, I went home and ate my lunch rather than eat out, I minimized my living expenses by having basic cable, washed clothes twice per month, kept the AC at 79, etc.  I didn’t go out as much, gave myself a pedicure and manicure.  I made a lot of sacrifices because I knew this is what I wanted to accomplish.  And it was so worth it.

What would I do different?

I had the false impression that because I was in my forties, I would not be able to travel like I did when I was 18.  I felt I was more set in my ways and wanted the comforts that I had gotten used to.  However, the more we traveled the more I realized that we did not require a private bedroom with private bath!  We actually had better experiences staying in dorms or rooftops because we met the coolest people. 

The first 6 months of traveling, we wasted a lot of money by staying in mid price range places and eating out a lot.  By the second part, we realized staying in cheaper accommodations and eating where the locals eat, gave us a much better experience.  I don’t know how many of my friends could actually travel like that, but I learned that I could put up with a lot more than I gave myself credit for. 

I brought way too many toiletries and medication that we could have purchased along the way as needed.  I think our clothing situation was good with the only exception being the rain gear and hiking sandals, which was a waste of money.  We used our proper walking/hiking shoes almost the entire time.  It was only when we got to Egypt, where we started to use flip-flops.  We actually left our expensive hiking sandals at the orphanage!

We loved the volunteering projects and I would definitely do more of these on my next trip.  I would really recommend for families to do this together.  There is nothing like helping people that makes you feel worthwhile, especially seeing the friendly smiles in the villages and the orphanages. 

Lastly, the thing I would do different is go to one region and do more overland travel that spend money on airline tickets which was more costly than I had budgeted.

How did we get along being together 24/7?

Rather well actually.  Considering that we were together all the time, we did not have many arguments.   We actually had less than we have at home because I’m not nagging him to do his homework, clean his room, take out the trash, etc.  I think both of us really liked staying in hostels because we got to talk and hang out with other people other than ourselves.  Many times, Nik would introduce me to other people he had met.  We had a good balance and by the end of the trip, Nik did not have a problem going off by himself. 

Our relationship now has only gotten better, we can talk about anything and he is not afraid to ask or tell me things.  The bond we have created is strong and the lines of communications are open.  I only hope that they remain open now that he just became a “teenager”!

What was our favorite place?

This is really a tough question, because there are favorites in each country and there are so many differences.   However, if we really had to pick just one:  Nik’s favorite was Thailand and mine was Syria.  It was mostly because of the locals, the delicious food, and the experiences we had.

How much did the trip cost?   I had budgeted that our total trip would cost $50,000 for both of us.  This is certainly much more than I spent when I backpacked 20 years ago but I wanted us to be comfortable and be able to do the things we wanted to or stay in nicer places if we chose to.  I also thought that I wanted to travel in the midrange budget and not necessarily in the low budget backpackers scale. 

We spent a total of $56,000 that included $10,000 in airfares and about $7000 in pre departure expenses, so our traveling money was approximately $39,000 or $110 per day.   We met a couple that had traveled for that amount of money for 19 months through Africa.  So I think it all depends on how you travel, what you see and do.  I really think that the first six months was a learning lesson for us and we wasted a lot of money on things that just wasn’t necessary.  Considering that we did not have a mortgage, utility bills, insurance and school fees to pay, we actually spent less on our trip abroad that we would have staying at home.

Would I do this again?  Definitely, for sure, without a doubt!

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
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Laura L. on

I've always admired the adventurer in my best friend Charlotte. In fact, I am more of a fan now because of her courage to live life to its fullest, teach her son the differences in world cultures and involve her friends and family in her worldly experiences despite the odds. I'm always anticipating our all night talks about her travel encounters and since we've been friends, this is my second vicarious adventure with Charlotte. I look forward to the next.

Ali on

Hi good looking. I so admire your spunk. Whatever you do, never change. Oh by the way, say hello to that beautifull Mom of yours......Toby too!

Jasonich on

Hi Charlotte, i definitely envy you for being the coolest mom of all. Going on a year's adventure with your son, Nik is truly amazing. I look forward into seing you going out there again for your next adventure. Until then,... take care!

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