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What Happened at the World Domination Summit

I've been having a hard time writing up my experience at the second-annual World Domination Summit last weekend. I feel exhausted, but mostly in a good way. Our team did a fantastic job, with more than 80 volunteers working together to put on an epic weekend adventure, complete with block parties, dunk tanks, keynote sessions, dozens of workshops and presentations, and ... so much more. I'll be going away for a few days to reflect more on the experience, but I don't want to keep you waiting on a recap—so I'll send you to a few of the 100+ reviews and writeups that have been published by others in the past few days.

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Questions and Answers on Travel Hacking

A few weeks ago I mentioned I had created a page on the site that lists current airline mileage credit card bonuses. With just a couple of new cards, you can earn 100,000 miles or more—and then book round-trip plane tickets all over the world. Much to my surprise, card bonuses have continued to get better and better over the past couple of years. It's never been easier to earn a large stash of points or miles that you can quickly convert to plane tickets and hotel stays.

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The Latest in Travel Hacking: Earn Free Airfare in 2012

Happy New Year!

On Sunday's long run, I pushed it to 12 miles in honor of 2012. I then tried to eat 12 pieces of nutella pie as a reward, but that plan fell through after piece #2.

As you're thinking about a new year, here's a free tip: forget resolutions; think about living intentionally instead.

What matters to you this year? Do that.

What do you hope to build in 2012? Work on that.

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173 Down, 20 To Go: The Plan for the Final 20 Countries

I started AONC in 2008 when I had been to only 65 countries. Thanks to consistent effort, dedicated travel hacking, and significant amounts of coffee, I've now been to 173.

In fact, we're now down to the final twenty countries. Only twenty!

Of course, twenty countries is no small endeavor, especially when there are no more backup plans: I simply have to make it to these particular stops, one way or another. Some of these places aren't easy, and I could still run into difficulty with an especially obstinate country.

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The Solution Provider

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who signed up to come out the Unconventional Book Tour this fall. My goal was to put this out there and see how people responded. Well, respond you did! 450 people signed up in the first few hours, and hundreds more over the weekend..

All 63 cities across North America are now represented. NYC, San Fran, L.A., and Vancouver have been fighting it out for the most signups thus far, but people will be out in full force almost everywhere. If you use Twitter, you can search for hashtag #ubt and see some of the other readers who are coming to various cities.

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Advanced Travel Planning: Looking Ahead to January-June 2009

Regular Readers: Please fill out my short feedback survey. Thanks to those who have done so already! (If you’re new, just keep reading the new post below.)

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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?

JANUARY

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.

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Southern Africa MapLATE 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.

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The Three Mysterious CountriesAPRIL

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.

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south-america-mapMAY 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.

Planned Itineraries

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.

Northeast Africa

SEA-(PDX)-(FRA)-ADD-xASM-(FRA)-SEA

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.

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Mysterious Countries

The next trip looks like this:

SEA-JFK-PAP-MIA-POS-???-POS-MIA-SEA

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.)

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South America

The trip to Bolivia and elsewhere looks like this, tentatively:

SEA-(ORD)-MIA-LBP-LIM-BOG-(SCL)-GYE-(JFK)-(AMM)-KRT

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.

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A Colorful Array of MoneyHow 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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Related Entries:

Travel Hacking in an Unfriendly Enviornment
What I Talk About When I Talk About Travel (a Travel FAQ)
28 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Traveling
Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel Around the World

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Unconventional Guides:

Working for Yourself: Creating Personal Freedom
Discount Airfare: Surviving Stress and Maximizing Fun

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How to Respond to Critics

As part of your independent-minded journey, many people will oppose you along the way. Some will oppose you by saying that you “can’t” do the things you’ve planned. Others will try to impose their own arbitrary rules on you. Others will be jealous of your success and try to bring you down to the level…

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