Whitlocks Round the World - Travel Diary for July 03

Click here to read the latest newsThe diary of our trip round the world. You can view other diary entries by clicking the highlighted months at the bottom of the page or by clicking on one of the countries visited so far. Click our logo (on the left) to see the most recent news entries. We are adding new entries from Internet Cafés as we travel, so updates may be irregular. Please check back often to see how we are getting along.

Countries visited so far: UK Latvia Lithuania Poland Slovak Republic Hungary Romania Bulgaria Greece Egypt Tanzania Malawi Mozambique South Africa Swaziland South Africa (again) Argentina Bolivia Peru Ecuador Vietnam China Mongolia Russia England


31st July 2003 UK
Northampton
Leaving our house in Northampton - Click to enlargeWell, here we are! August has nearly arrived; the month of our departure, and around one year since we started to plan our trip.

Often people ask how we came to such a life-changing decision as to leave our life here, resign from work, sell up and leave to travel round the world for a year. There is no clear answer to this question, as there are a number of reasons, and, in a way, I feel the question answers itself! In other words, why not?! Anyway, since making our decision to go, we have lived and breathed the planning and preparations for the trip.

Planning the trip itself was not easy and required us to spend hours researching information on travelling through the various countries on our developing list. I found a website called Boots 'n' all, which gave us inspiration through other travellersí stories, and links to other sites, including Airtreks, where I was able to key in a sample route. This was highly motivating, as the site gives instant electronic quotes, which provide a rough idea of the cost of the trip, and serve to make the whole thing seem more possible, and, well, we never looked back! We adjusted our country list several times, but always stuck roughly to our original idea, which was to travel literally around the world, getting to our destinations overland as much as possible, and only flying between continents. The precise list changed several times, but we remained roughly on the same lines throughout.

Selling the house required having it decorated from top to bottom, which took a couple of months to organise. However once on the market it sold quickly (5 days), and this gave us rather a jolt into action, as the trip plans were still fairly sketchy!

However when we had sold the house and I had resigned from my job, both of which happened in May, we finally got around to actually looking for quotes on tickets for our flights. Initially we hit upon a few problems. Firstly, when I emailed a range of independent travel companies in the UK, I received a rather depressing number of emails in my inbox which all, without exception, told me that this route was impossible on any available Round The World air ticket. This was rather a shock, but we were determined and, unperturbed, continued to insist, and found a small number of companies who were prepared to try to accommodate us. The Traveller UK were helpful, but could not provide a ticket to include Africa, South America and Asia as well as Europe. They suggested we book the European section separately, which we considered for a time, although this tarnished our dream of continuous travel, as we would have had to return to London after three months travel, before continuing to Africa. In the end we went back to Airtreks, an American company, who were willing to piece together our route, booking separate tickets for each section of the trip. The process of obtaining quotes and checking flight availability for appropriate dates took a couple of weeks and a nervous telephone conversation or two, but the end result; a set of tickets for our very own, tailor-made, tour of the world! Our final trip itinerary looks like this:
  • Fly London to Riga, Latvia; overland to Athens, Greece, via Lithuania, Poland, Czech Rep. Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.
  • Fly Athens to Cairo, where we take a one-week stopover.
  • Fly Cairo to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania; overland to Cape Town, South Africa, via Malawi and Mozambique.
  • Fly to Buenos Aires, and then on to Santiago, Chile; overland to Quito, Ecuador, via Bolivia and Peru.
  • Fly Quito to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, stopping in San Jose, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, and travel overland to China, Mongolia, and Russia via the Trans-Siberian Railway.
  • Return to the UK via southern France (to visit my parents!)

Taking a family backpacking around the world is an ambitious dream, and planning such a trip requires countless considerations. Of course, different immunisations are recommended for different countries and regions. Our country list required that we should have them all! We have had vaccinations against Tetanus, Diptheria, Polio, Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Meningitis, Hepititis A and B, Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies. Our kids were not impressed! Neither were they too pleased when we started to sell the majority of the contents of our house, including their toys, on car boot sales! After a while though, they got used to this idea (if not to the injections), a common line in our house being, "I canít find my game/book/jumper/toothbrush! Have you sold it?" Last Sunday we did our fifth and final car boot sale, and I think we can safely say we have sold everything that could be sold. Everything else was then sorted into three categories: Things to keep and store, which we loaded into a hired van and transported to the lofts of helpful friends; things to use until we leave and then throw away, and, lastly of course, things to take with us. The name of the game is travelling light, and our pack inventories are still being refined, little by little. Taking children necessitates taking slightly more than perhaps the average backpacker would consider indispensible, as children require entertaining on long flights and train journeys, need perhaps slightly more frequent changes of clothes, and, when very young, canít be expected to carry their own pack. Tom, our nearly-10 year old, will carry a rucksack of his own, but Esther, who is four, will not. Having a tight budget, our aim has been not to buy too much in advance. We have bought rucksacks, sleeping bags, a few items of essential clothing, such as good walking trousers and footwear, and money belts, but are aiming to pack light and add or discard items as we travel.

In two weeks time we will be in Latvia! Watch this space!!



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