Sunday, December 30, 2012

And we're off!

Doug got us on a flight to Santiago tonight (American opened up some frequent flyer seats in business class, woot!) and since we're ready anyway, we're leaving a day early.

In a couple of hours we'll drive the rental car to Dallas and then hang out at DFW until our flight to Santiago leaves around 9:00 tonight. So now we'll be ringing in the New Year on our big trip!

Michelle and Carl (our house sitters) will be moving in tomorrow. We completely emptied the closets and cabinets in the master suite for them. Check out our closet:

It hasn't looked like that since we moved in more than ten years ago. We gave about half of our clothes to Goodwill and packed the other half in boxes. Carter's bedroom is now being used for storage, basically.

I have to say there is something really cathartic about getting rid of so much stuff. I went through every item of clothing I own, and if it wasn't going to get packed, I had to think, "In a year, will I want to take this out of a box and wear it again?" If the answer wasn't a definite yes, it was put in the charity box. And honestly, I think that about half of what I did keep will be given to charity in a year anyway. I still kept too much stuff.

And so, off we go!

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Friday, December 28, 2012


One of the questions we get a lot is: How do you pack for a year-long trip?

The short answer is, you don't. You pack for a week and do laundry.

Of course, it's a bit more complicated than that. On this particular trip, we have to be prepared for all seasons, everything from Antarctica to the Amazon, so we needed to have quite a variety of clothes. In the end, we actually packed for about ten days. Most of our time in the first half of the trip will be spent in warm climates and most of the second half of the trip will be spent in cold climates, and that makes it a little easier. We were able to pack mostly warm-weather clothes; we're planning to replace them in Australia, after which we'll be in cold weather for the rest of the year.

We each have one suitcase and a backpack. It's not very much for a whole year!

Doug and I have both spent a year traveling before (we were both in Up With People, though in different years) and so I've done this before. But it's interesting that it's a LOT more complicated to plan to be away from home for a year now than it was 20 years ago. When I was 21 and left for Up With People, I basically just packed my suitcase and went. But this time, we had to organize a house sitter and make arrangements to pay our bills and set up our insurance, and so on.

These next few days are our last at home before we begin our adventure. We're excited, but I have to admit that the idea of leaving our comfortable home and living out of a suitcase for a year is also a bit daunting. The things we do every day and take for granted will be a lot more complicated. We'll have to find a new rhythm, new ways to spend time together as a family and keep ourselves entertained without 1000 TV channels and constant internet access.

Perhaps most significant is that we're taking Carter away from his playroom full of toys for a year, as well as away from familiar foods and places. We're going to ask a lot of him in the next year, but based on previous experience, I think he will grow and thrive. I think we all will. :-)

Update 12/29: It looks like we're leaving home a day early and may even get a flight to Santiago on the 30th instead of the 31st. So we may be celebrating New Year's Eve at the Ritz Carlton in Santiago! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Planning the itinerary

When I've talked to people about this trip, one of the first questions many of them as is, "How did you decide where to go?"

We decided early on in the planning process that we wanted to circumnavigate the globe, because, well -- why not? At that point we had already planned to take a cruise from Buenos Aires to Antarctica in February; that was going to be our big trip of 2013. We talked about canceling the cruise in order to use the money somewhere else (we'd booked a very nice room), but then we realized that this might be the only chance any of us will have to go to Antarctica. How could we not go? After that, the idea of visiting all seven continents came up, and that became the theme of our trip.

It's amazing how short a year really is in the scheme of things. You might think that you could see an awful lot of the world in a year, and perhaps you could if you stayed in a different place every night. But that wasn't what we wanted to do, and we thought it would be easier on Carter if we stayed in most places for a week at a time. In our previous travels with him, a week in a location has been a perfect amount of time. We all get adjusted to the place, figure out where the grocery store is and where the park is, we have a chance to explore the area at a leisurely pace, and then we move on. The excitement of packing up and going to the next place, of continuing the adventure, is something that I've always loved. It's going to be amazing to know that this time, we won't be going home again after 3 weeks!

We decided to spend 6-8 weeks on each continent, and we began by looking at a map and listing the places where we wanted to spend time. Many of them are places we've been before and want to visit again, and others were places we've always wanted to see. We quickly realized that we could only go to about half the places we wanted to visit, so our list got pared down to what we regarded as the essentials -- for us, anyway. Others might disagree, of course!

The timing of the cruise meant we'd start in South America, and we decided to begin the trip with two weeks in Santiago, a city we've spent a fair amount of time in and really love. After the cruise we will head to Asia (trying to visit there before it gets too hot) and then we'll spend a couple of months in the South Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand before heading to southern Africa. We'll be in Europe in the fall and will finish our trip in the Middle East (again trying to avoid too-hot weather).

We thought at first that we might just go to a place with no preconceived ideas about where we'd go and what we'd do, just go exploring. But honestly, that idea lasted for about ten minutes before we rejected it in favor of planning the entire itinerary as thoroughly as possible. I think we both felt more comfortable with the idea of knowing we'll be staying in good hotels that are safe for us and are kid-friendly, and near the places we want to be. We've done the back-packing and winging-it thing when we were younger, and the idea of searching for a hotel in the middle of the night in a seedy part of town by the train station with a whiny and exhausted 5-year-old in tow is just not that appealing. In addition, we didn't want to spend a huge chunk of our trip trying to figure out what we were going to do next and worrying about where to stay and how we'd get there. The more we thought about it, the more stressful that sounded, so we decided that we'd plan it out in advance as much as possible.

So Doug has spent countless hours booking flights (using up the million or so frequent flyer miles he's earned in the last decade) and researching hotels. We're trying to stay in places with kitchens wherever we can so that we can save money by cooking for ourselves, but in some places that just isn't possible. Whenever possible we're staying in places with kid-friendly amenities like swimming pools, or close to parks with playgrounds. Reviews on travel sites like Expedia have been invaluable in this process. There's nothing like looking at what people who've actually stayed in these places with kids have to say about the experience!

The last part of the trip (Europe and the Middle East) is still being planned, and it's likely that part won't be fixed until we're well on our way. We have some ideas about what we want to do, but it's far enough away that we're not all that concerned about getting it done now.

I'll post more in the next few days about other aspects of the planning process. If you have any questions, please let us know!