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Some of you have noted that I haven’t published any first-person travel adventures lately. I haven’t been to any crazy countries, slept in airports, crash-landed without a visa, etc.
Don’t worry – I’m not getting soft. I’ve enjoyed hanging out in Seattle, trying to make a living, get my book contract sorted out, and recover from a running injury that has bothered me for a while. The extended break has been good for me, but in January I’ll resume my adventures around the world.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been planning out my trips for the first half of 2009. I tend to change things around a fair amount, but as of now, here is what I expect it to look like from January to June. If it seems overwhelming, first remember that I’ve done this a lot – I certainly didn’t begin with itineraries as complex as the ones I’ll show you here.
And of course, I’ll chronicle each trip in more detail as it gets closer. Cool?
In January, I’ll head to Northeast Africa, flying in to Ethiopia, then heading up to Somaliand (not Somalia; even I am not that crazy), over to Djibouti, and hopefully on to Eritrea and back out after about 12 days of roaming.
My fingers are crossed on this one, because the Eritrean embassy in D.C. has not yet given me a visa. If I don’t get one, I’ll have to scramble to figure something else out, because I already have a flight booked out of Asmara, the capital.
Earlier this summer, I learned that the Kurdish (Iraqi) government checked out this web site before deciding to issue me a visa at no charge. They even sent me a “Welcome Chris Guillebeau!” message which made me feel like a minor celebrity, at least in Kurdistan. Perhaps the Eritreans will be similarly kind – guys, if you’re reading this, please help me out. You can keep the $40 money order that I sent; I just need the visa.
LATE FEBRUARY- EARLY MARCH
Assuming I get to Eritrea or at least get home somehow, in late February, I’ll head to Washington, D.C. for a conference, then fly out from there to Qatar to resume the Round-the-World ticket I began last year. That trip will take me to southern Africa – specifically Mauritius and Namibia. I also hope to take a side-trip to Swaziland and Mozambique while I’m over in that part of the world.
After I’m done there, the ticket takes me back to my usual Asian hub of Hong Kong, where I’ll need to figure out how to get back to the States for another four-week stay at home.
One month later, I’ll be back on the road to visit Haiti and what I call the “three mysterious countries” of South America. They are Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. If you haven’t heard much about them, don’t feel bad – that’s why I call them “mysterious.” I’m not sure I’ll solve any mysteries, but I’ll try to at least get there and back.
MAY AND JUNE
In May and June, I hope to wrap up the rest of South America, which for me includes Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, and Bolivia. I’m not sure I’ll get to all of them, but it would be significant to complete the whole continent, so I’ll give it a try.
Finally (are you getting tired of this?), I’ll travel to Jordan and then perhaps on to the Sudan. I say “perhaps” because Khartoum (KRT) is part of my current Round-the-World ticket, but I suspect it will be extremely difficult to get the visa. I hope I’m not disappointing anyone with this, but Sudan is not a place I am willing to attempt to fly to without a visa. As previously mentioned, I may be crazy but not that crazy.
If I don’t think it will work out a couple of weeks prior to departure, I’ll pay $150 to change the ticket – not really my preferred option, but also not the end of the world. If I have to drop Khartoum for now, I still have a couple of other options in that region that are less problematic for U.S. passport holders.
For those who like these things, the itineraries for the trips are listed below.
The parentheses are for transit stops, and the “x” refers to an overland segment.
By extreme travel standards, this is a fairly straightforward trip – all on Lufthansa, and the only complicated part will be the overland journey from Ethiopia (ADD) to Eritrea (ASM), assuming I get the visa sorted out. I also need to get to Djibiouti or Somaliland during the two weeks I’ll be away – preferably both, but nothing is for certain yet.
The next trip looks like this:
The ??? in this one is due to the fact that I’ll need to fly to one of the three mysterious countries (again: Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana) and I don’t have that ticket yet. PAP is Port Au Prince, Haiti; and POS is Port of Spain, Trinidad – the jumping-off point to get to Guyana or Suriname.
(By the way, you can use this tool to find out what any particular airport code refers to, and the mileage calculator from the same site is also useful.)
The trip to Bolivia and elsewhere looks like this, tentatively:
Here I will be resuming last year’s Round-the-World ticket from Miami (MIA). I’ll need to buy separate tickets to and from Seattle, but that’s how I break up my trips to only be away from home for about two weeks at a time.
How Much Does All of this Cost?
I could go on about the flights for a while, but hopefully the above information gives you a good overview. If you have specific questions, post them in the comments and I’ll respond. For now, I’ll address the most frequently asked question I get about these kinds of trips: how much does it cost?
First, read this about priorities and how it all started. I don’t own a car, I have no debt, I didn’t take out a sub-prime mortgage when you could get one at 7-11, I spend about $150 a year on clothes, and so on. I honestly believe that most people (at least, those in Western countries who read this blog) who want to travel can find a way to do so. It may require you to make changes or sacrifices, but inertia is a much greater hindrance for most of us than lack of money.
That said, it does cost money to do this kind of thing, so it's only fair to give you the specifics.
Ethiopia & Beyond
I used Star Alliance Frequent Flyer miles for the first Africa trip, round-trip from Seattle. It took a big hit to my United balance (120,000), and I now have only 60k left. On the bright side, I got the flights I wanted, it’s in Business Class (important to me for long-haul and back-to-back overnight flights), and it would otherwise be fairly expensive to purchase a ticket to that part of Africa. The taxes were also cheap -- just under $150.
Cost: 120k Miles + $150 in taxes
Countries: Ethopia, Eritrea (hopefully), and presumably a side trip to at least one additional country in the region
Qatar & Beyond
My Qatar Airways ticket, another Frequent Flyer award, was 90,000 miles and $391 in taxes – and I’m also trying to add a free stopover to Yemen or Kuwait.
I didn’t have any Qatar Airways miles (I’ve only flown with them once, and I credited it to United), so I transferred points from American Express Membership Rewards into ANA Airlines (Japan) to book the partner award. It sounds a bit convoluted, I know, but it wasn’t that difficult in practice.
Cost: 90k AmEx Points + $399 in taxes
Countries: Qatar to resume another ticket, Yemen or Kuwait (side trip)
All of the South America stops, as well as the second trip to Africa (Mauritius, Namibia, Jo’burg, etc.) are part of my OneWorld Round-the-Word trip. This will also take me on to Hong Kong at some point in the early summer. That ticket was about $5,000, and I’ve received tremendous value from it. I have no idea how much it would cost if I were to try to book everything with round-trip flights – certainly several times more than what I pay when I effectively buy the flights in book with the RTW ticket.
Cost: Roughly $350 per country, prepaid last year
Countries: Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Hong Kong, U.K. (transit only)
The only “cash money” flights I need to sort out now are the entry and exit flights to the three mysterious countries, the flights within Northeast Africa, and the occasional cross-country trek to Miami or New York. Those will probably be a few hundred dollars each.
Cost: Variable, but usually $200-400 each
Countries: None, but allows me to come home and take side trips
After I complete all the trips mentioned above, I’ll start running out of prepaid flights, so I hope to begin at least one more Round-the-World ticket in the early summer. This one may be back on Star Alliance since I've earned more than 200,000 miles with OneWorld in 2008, and therefore don’t need to worry about elite status with them for a while.
I'm not 100% sure of what I'll do about the ticket, but whenever I sort it out, I’ll let you know exactly what I decide and what the next monster itinerary will be.
Well, You Asked for It
One request I’ve heard several times now is for more detailed travel planning notes. I have a question for you in return: is this progress? Is this the kind of thing that you guys want to know?
I cover even more travel planning details in the original Discount Airfare Guide, and I’ll be coming out with a more advanced Travel Ninja report soon… but I’m also happy to post information like this on the site whenever it seems like a good fit. As long as you give me good feedback, I’ll keep doing it.
Also, remember that next month we’ll look at my version of lifestyle design and annual planning. This includes travel planning, but also creating a structure for work, fun, learning, and more. I always look forward to doing the review in December, and this year I’m looking forward to sharing the process with you as well.
If you have any questions or feedback about the 2009 travel plans, simply leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!
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