[This post was eaten by Blogger. Bastards. Thankfully, I had it saved. Here it is.]

I’ve been focused on planning my yearlong around-the-world trip. I’ve been doing intense research, reading and planning for weeks. I haven’t mentioned it much in this blog because first I wanted to write about Homer, and after that, I’ve been too tired to write much. (Though my schedule will be changing at work soon, so I’m probably going to be sleeping more.)

I’ve been talking with a lot of people about this, and I often get the same responses to everything I say. I’ll be italicizing the common responses.

I want to take an extended trip around the world. I want to travel extensively, circle the globe, and see as much of the world as possible.

Then you should join the Peace Corps!

No. When you’re in the Peace Corps, you live and work in one place, getting something like one to two days off per month. You can accumulate them, but that’s not a lot of vacation time. It’s nothing like traveling around the world. At this point, I’m not looking for living abroad for an extended period of a time, but I will probably consider it after my trip.

That’s going to be expensive. Yeah, it is. I’ve been saving since I started working. I’ve got a bit over $1300.00 so far (I save $100.00 toward it every week, plus my “keep the change” debit purchases, which has been about $16.00 over three months), and I plan to save a third of my bonuses, providing I get bonuses. (The other two thirds will be divided amongst money in my checking account and a payment toward my student loans.) Plus half of my tax refunds, monetary gifts, and most of my Noni-money that I got at graduation, things like that.

I know I’m not an investment banker, and I’m not making piles of cash. But I love my job. I’d rather have it take twice as long to save up than slave my life away in a job I can’t stand.

Loans are going to be a big part of my life for a while, though. That’s why I’ll need to save extra money ahead of time. Overall, I’ve estimated that I should save $25,000.00. That will cover trip expenses as well as travel insurance, pre-trip purchases like a backpack, and loan payments. When I go abroad, I plan on staying in primarily places where I can live and travel cheaply. I’ll talk about exactly where I want to go a little bit later.

So, who are you going to go with?

I’m going alone.

No way.

Yep.

Seriously?!

100%.

Why would you want to do that?!?!

Many reasons. Anyone who knows me, and especially those who have spent extended time with me, know that I’m very independent. I’m not one of those people who feels like they have to constantly be part of a group, either leading it or being part of it.

Plus, I enjoy my solitude. I like reading, writing, and I like having such a long commute because it gives me time alone with my thoughts.

There’s only one person that I can stand for an extended period of my time, and that’s my sister. She’s the one person I’d travel around with for that period of time. We’ve already spent two weeks glued to each other during our post-graduation European sojourn. But she’ll be just out of college by the time I go, and it’s not like she’ll be saving up. Besides, I want to do this alone.

When I went to have dinner alone in a restaurant by myself in Bayswater, London, I was so excited. I absolutely LOVED having dinner by myself, going to the bar in the hostel and meeting cool people from everywhere from Australia to Brazil to Texas, going to bed as the one girl in a room with seven guys sleeping in their underwear and money belts, and waking up and grabbing breakfast downstairs the next day before heading out for a morning of sightseeing alone.

It was wonderful.

When you go with a group, you have to make concessions to everyone. When you go with one person, you’re always having to compromise. I remember when we were planning our fall break in Florence. It took FOREVER to find something that everyone would like. I was pretty easygoing, but wanted something cheap. After itineraries of Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris-Barcelona, Amsterdam-Paris-Barcelona, Amsterdam-Paris-Bordeaux-Barcelona, Amsterdam-Paris-Prague, Munich-Paris-Barcelona-Marbella, we finally ended up with a Budapest-Paris-Prague itinerary that was WONDERFUL. But I didn’t like having to compromise for people.

I want to be responsible for nobody but myself.

I want to make spur-of-the-moment decisions.

I want to change my itinerary on a whim. I want the backpackers’ community to be my community.

I want this to be a solitary journey.

Who knows….maybe I could end up falling in love!

But it’s not safe for a woman to travel alone without a man with her.

I’m a very cautious person, and it’s paid off. After four months abroad in Florence, several trips to Europe, three months of working in a city and four years at Fairfield University (heh), I have yet to be robbed, mugged, attacked or sexually assaulted (and I thank God and knock on wood simultaneously). I’ve been reading up on staying safe abroad, and I’ve also been reading travelogues by women who have traveled alone.

That guarantees nothing. And I won’t pretend to be invincible. I’m particularly nervous about being a woman alone in India, Africa and Latin America. But all I can do is continue to exercise caution, to be an early riser and spend as little time out at night as possible, and to trust my intuition, which has served me so well so far. The very best thing I can do, however, is to continue to research. Little moves can put me in more safety, like dressing in what the locals wear, no matter how ridiculous I feel in a sari.

Yes. I’m nervous. But would I rather be on a completely-safe packaged tour on air-conditioned buses and three-star hotels? God, no. Absolutely not.

Where do you want to go?

Ah, yes. My favorite question. My mood changes all the time, and so do the destinations. I’m afraid of choosing too much to do in too little time, all in the name of seeing things to check off on my list. I really don’t want to end up like that, but I know myself, and I can’t resist having a map with little red dots all over the place, showing where I’ve been. I’ve always been a fan of quantity.

So right now, I have to determine which places I REALLY want to experience, rather than places I THINK I should experience. Take the Great Barrier Reef, for example — most people want to go there, and I think I should, but deep down inside, I don’t think I really want to that much.

So here are places that I really want to visit:

–Thailand’s beaches
–The Southeast Asian Circuit: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia
–India
–Nepal
–Greek islands
–Sicily (especially Castanea delle Furie, near Messina, the village where my family comes from)
–Inca Trail in Peru
–Amsterdam
–the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the pilgrimage walk across the country
–the running of the bulls in Pamplona (because you all know that my favorite book is The Sun Also Rises!)
–La Tomatina festival in Spain, when people throw tomatoes at each other in drunken revelry
–the Full Moon Party, once a month on Koh Pha Ngan in Thailand
–Southern Italy — maybe Apulia
–Croatia, especially the Dalmatian Coast
–Cyprus. I’ve always wanted to go there.

I don’t want to spend as much time in Europe, because it’s so expensive compared to the rest of the world. Plus, I feel like I’ve seen so much of it already.

I think a west-to-east itinerary would work best, especially if I start in Australia for the winter, which will help me avoid monsoon season in Asia.

Here’s a tentative itinerary:
–Start in Auckland. Work my way down both islands in New Zealand to Queenstown, then up to Christchurch.
–Fly to Sydney and work my way up the Australian coast, beach bumming. Spend Christmas there.
–Fly to Bali, then work my way across Java, stopping in Yogyakarta for an amount of time.
–Fly from Jakarta to Singapore, then work my way up to Kuala Lumpur, then Penang, in Malaysia.
–Thailand’s islands on the west coast will not be having monsoon season — spend time in Krabi or on other islands, then stop for the full moon party on the east coast in Koh Pha Ngan
–Up to Bangkok, then Chiang Mai
–From there, go to Luang Prabang, then Vientiane in Laos, then Hanoi in Vietnam and down the country, stopping in Hue and Nah Trang, then to HCMC. Over to Phnom Penh, then Angkor Wat by Siem Riep, then back to Bangkok.
–Up to Kathmandu, trekking the Himalayas at Annapurna. Not sure if I’m in top physical condition, but I’d really like to do that.
–Down to Varanasi in India, by the holy Ganges. Then over to Delhi, see the Taj Mahal at Agra, and possibly Jaipur, Jodhpur or more Rajasthan before going over to Mumbai. Then down to Goa.
–After that, I have no idea. Maybe Istanbul after that, or Egypt. Then working my way through Greece, then Croatia and Italy….

I’d also like to space the trip out with activities. Volunteering somewhere, definitely. Maybe doing a packaged tour for trekking Annapurna, since there’s no way I’m doing that alone, and I’m a bit wary about waiting until I get there to make plans. Working at a kibbutz in Israel really intrigues me, but you have to be there for at least two months. And I’d love to meet up with contacts around the world.

Speaking of that, I’m now searching for contacts. My family and I have contacts all over Normandy and Paris, plus ties to Valenica in Spain, New Zealand, Goa in India, Manchester in the U.K., Scotland, Iceland, and family members in Italy.

What about you? Do you guys have contacts? Perhaps, Kelly, you have some mates in Melbourne. Lisa, I know you have family in Italy and Ireland. And there are always friends of friends of friends.

I’m also a member of Couch Surfing, which allows you to stay for free with people worldwide. That would be fun. I might be meeting a guy from France and a guy from Israel in Boston soon.

Ah, I’m so exhausted now. But this is my passion. Nothing matters to me like this does.

For further reading, I highly recommend Rough Guides’ First-Time Around the World. It gives you plenty of ideas.

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