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RTW 2012: A preliminary plan

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that people always ask for details of our round-the-world trip as soon as the trip is mentioned, but somehow I always am. :D It usually doesn’t satisfy anyone either to say that ”our plans are still wide open”, since we obviously have something in mind.

When are you leaving?

We are leaving after Christmas 2011, but we haven’t agreed on a specific date yet. It’s either at the end of December or the beginning of January 2012.

How long are you traveling for?

This is still wide open. Budget-wise we could stay on the road for as long as 2 years, but we’ll stop as soon as we feel we’ve had enough traveling. The minimum duration we’ve agreed on is 6 months – we probably won’t run out of steam that quickly. :)

What is your trip route?

This is our preliminary route map. Towards the end of spring 2011 we’ll start planning the trip in more detail. We’ll take a look at the recommended visiting seasons of different countries, seasonal weather, ticket prices, necessary visas and other traveling arrangements so we can settle on some definite countries well in advance.

View 2012 RTW: Tentative Route in a larger map

There are some places we are intent on seeing, including Japan, China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Chile and Costa Rica. The ultimate destination of our trip is currently Vancouver, because I was there in exchange in 2006 and made some contacts to the IT world there. So we might find new jobs and a (semi-)permanent home there.

How big is your budget?

By the looks of it, we’ll be able to save enough for the trip. We are going to post about our budget in detail later on. We intend to leave about 3k as a nest egg to spend after the trip is over. The money will go towards living somewhere while we look for new jobs and try to build our new lives.

How can you afford a trip like this?

Mostly by saving off our monthly salaries. We have sold and will sell some of our property before we leave, but about 90% of our budget will come from savings and occasional freelance gigs. It’s amazing how much you can save merely by living rather minimalistically, by not buying too much alcohol or sweets, and by just generally not buying stuff you don’t need.

How long have you been planning this trip?

By the time we leave we’ve been planning the trip for almost three years. We started planning it soon after Kika returned from a 7-week trip to Australia and Thailand in the spring of 2009. By then we had been dating for about six months and felt we would stay together for a long time to come. Our conversations returned to traveling more and more frequently until we decided to stop (just) talking about it and start realizing our dream. We started to pay off loans systematically while also putting money into a savings account.

How much stuff are you traveling with?

Very little. We will try to manage with 30-liter backpacks that hold only the very necessities. We want to be able to move about freely. Kika is our gear expert. Read her first article about the subject: Our first ultra light basecamp gear list.

How are you traveling? How much are you flying on this trip?

We will try to travel as much as possible by slow transport such as buses and trains. Flying is somehow already ”old” and you don’t appreciate the vastness and awesomeness of the globe as much when traveling by air as on the ground. Besides, we don’t want to contribute to air pollution any more than we have to. All in all we’ll try to limit our flying to intercontinental flights. Let’s hope we can stay true to our promise. :)

Where / how are you staying and sleeping on this trip?

We’ll try to make use of couchsurfing as much as we can on this trip, because in addition to being inexpensive you get to know the local people and culture better as opposed to ho(s)tel surfing. Couchsurfing has so far been incredibly fulfilling and we want to keep doing it as long as possible. Naturally it isn’t as advantageous in developing countries as it is in developed countries due to the lower general price level and due to not being able to find couchsurfers as easily as in the great networked cities of developed countries.

In developed (=expensive) countries we’ll try to sleep on couches as much as possible and additionally do some camping/hiking in order to see nature. In cheaper countries we’ll probably most often rent a bungalow, hostel room, tee-pee or any other low-tech habitat for sleeping. :)

What will you do after the trip is over?

This is the biggest question (and question mark) of all. Long trips around the world change a person significantly. It’s difficult to say what will feel important afterwards and what we’ll want to do with our lives. We might grow to love traveling so much that it becomes a lifestyle. We might only stay short periods of time in each country and work in IT, physical labor or teaching. Then again we might find our calling in some field completely different from IT. We might even learn something about ourselves and each other that separates our paths from each other. We’re committed to tread on this path together in order to grow in directions true to each ourselves individually – whether those directions stay together or diverge.

At the moment we are both called to the IT world and therefore will primarily look for IT-related work during and after the trip. For this reason Vancouver might become at least a temporary home since I have contacts there and have found the city to be pleasant and attractive to live in. Other English-speaking countries are just as possible – it all depends on what kind of experiences we have and contacts we make on this trip.

Returning to Finland is one option among others, but returning to Helsinki is rather unlikely. Kika has been living in Helsinki already for 10 years (apart from an 8-month exchange in the UK) and I’ve lived in or around Helsinki for my whole life (apart from three separate exchanges in the US, Germany and Canada). Somehow it now feels that Helsinki is old news.

There are some alternative destinations in Finland such as Turku and Tampere, both of which are large-ish cities with lots of IT work. Entrepreneurship is of course an option as well, both in Finland and abroad. Kika’s brother lives in Turku with his family, so that would be a place where we don’t have to start building our social circle from scratch. Tampere is an option even though Kika thinks it’s a bit too far north. ;)

The Nordic countries in general are good places to live from a global perspective, so potential homes might be found in Sweden, Norway or Denmask. I hear Costa Rica has the happiest citizens of the world and a decent standard of living as well. Australia on the other hand houses the headquarters of Atlassian, which at least today seems like a wonderful place to work (I currently manage and promote Atlassian’s wiki software at my work).

As you can tell from the uh… chaotic writing, decision making at this point is quite impossible. Time will tell. :)

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