World Tour - How it all started
Shuchi and I have been asked this question from a lot of people that why did we quit our jobs and started traveling long term? How did we plan our tour? What all countries we will be visiting? We got a lot of questions related to how we got visas and what we did with our house stuff. I finally got time to write down some of my thoughts about how our world tour started.
Last month Shuchi and I have taken a major decision of our lives. We quit our jobs to travel the world. This was not a sudden decision as we were thinking about it for quite some time. We were doing good at our jobs but still, something was missing. As time was passing we were getting complacent with our lives and getting trapped in the status quo. As we both are very aspirational and have big dreams we knew it was time to figure out next big thing for us.
The first thing that came to our mind was traveling. There were few reasons for that — Firstly it gives an opportunity to meet new people and visit new places. We always wanted to be more open minded in embracing new people and cultures. We wanted to learn more about different countries and people from varying cultures and background, we thought travel is a perfect way of accomplishing this. This is one of the main reasons we are backpacking, staying in hostels and being closer to the local people rather doing only touristy things. Secondly, travel helps in creating stories — we want to create incredibly interesting stories when we look back at our lives. Finally, we anticipate travel will give both of us some quiet time to contemplate about what’s next in our career. With these intentions, we decided to travel for a minimum of 6 — 8 months probably even more.
Next step was to tell our families and friends about this decision. Coming from an Indian family where we are mostly risk averse I thought this would be a big challenge. To my surprise this was easier — whoever we talked to was really excited and supportive of our plans for traveling world. I somehow felt that deep down each one of them wanted to do something like this but were not able to do it because of their own reasons.
Next step was to find out what places we wanted to visit. We wrote down names of each and every country/city we ever wanted to visit and marked it on a map. We divided our trip into two parts: South America, Africa, and Europe in the first part, Asia Pacific region in the second part. One of the reasons for doing this is being an Indian citizen we need a visa for almost every country and we are running out of pages in our passport — more on visas later as it needs its own post. Secondly, long term travel is new to us and we want to assess how we are doing mentally, physically and financially after the first part of the trip before embarking the next one.
Since we were starting from the US we felt it's more logical to visit South America, Africa, and Europe first and later Asia Pacific region. For the first part of our trip, my wish list of places included wilderness of Alaska, Amazon rain forest, seeing wildlife of Galapagos and hiking Machu Picchu. Shuchi was more interested in doing African Safari, visiting Brazil and exploring paintings and architectures in France, Greece, and Italy. We also wanted to visit Egypt but based on suggestions from some friends and looking at the safety conditions we have to drop it for now. Here is the map showing wish list of places we want to visit.
Once we had a rough idea about what countries we wanted to travel and around what dates, we started applying for the visa. We finalized Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, UK and Schengen countries for our first trip. The entire process for applying for visas was so time-consuming and painful that it needs a separate post. In short, 2 months before travel Shuchi and I spent most of our evenings collecting and printing documents. Every week we visited one consulate or the other in the morning before going to the office. Fortunately, we lived in San Francisco and most consulates were local to us. Finally, we got visas for most of the countries we wanted before we started our journey in August 2014.
Next, it was time to book air tickets. There are two ways of doing this. One, you can buy a round the world (RTW) ticket which comes with some restrictions like you can travel only one direction or can book up to a maximum of 1 year with a max of 16 segments. Both Star Alliance and One World offers this service. The second option is to pay as you go. RTW tickets are in general 15 — 20 percent cheaper and are a good option if you are exactly sure about your plans. We opted to book our tickets as we travel because we needed flexibility since with visas lots of things are very uncertain. We always make sure that our next destination is booked at least 15–20 days in advance along with the first couple of nights stay in a hostel. Personally, I found following web sites very useful:
indie.bootsnall.com — lets you book multiple segments of flight with very clean and hassle free UI.
skyscanner.com — sometimes this gives a lot of local flight operators which does not even show up in kayak.com
booking.com: mostly for booking refundable hotels/hostels.
airbnb.com: cheap room accommodations.
With flights and visas done it was time for us get rid of our stuff that we gathered in last 6 years staying in the US. We decided to ship only very important things to India, mostly my books and Shuchi’s paintings, sell or donate rest of our stuff. Shuchi and I divided our work — I was responsible for visas and she was for selling household items. I must say that she did an awesome job in selling most of the things and rest we donated to goodwill.org.
Now, with all the ground work done we were ready to embark on our journey. As we approached our final dates for travel we felt a bit nostalgic about the US, our home in San Francisco and the city in general. We don’t know how things shape up in next 6–8 months during our tour but one thing is for sure we have to have this experience for a better future. Finally on August 1, 2014, we have started traveling and so far had an amazing experience in Alaska, Quito and Galapagos islands.
We’ll post more and share our experiences about different places we visited as and when we get time and good internet connection.