The world is not your oyster
Once you make the decision to travel and set a time frame (a year in our case) you then start to wildly list all the places you want to see and visit. The list becomes very long very quickly. You think a year is loads of time, given that previously you have been limiting travels to a few weeks here and there in between a bit of work.
You start by listing countries like they were bingo numbers (we initially had – Eastern Europe, India. Asia, China, Nepal, Tibet, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South America and North America). Then you realise to squeeze an itinerary in like that you are going to come back way over budget and in need of a good holiday as you will be well and truly knackered. So once reality takes a hold you enter a phase of more realistic planning.
Now that pragmatism is your best friend you centre yourself and conclude that the whole idea of a year off is to take things at an easier pace and spend enough time in one country so that actually get more of the experience than you would on a city break weekend deal. Re-evaluation follows and then you can set out a more sensible wish list. We have chopped quite a bit off the list and started to assemble places to go in each our likely destinations on our google map on another area of this site. Right, congratulations you have a more sedate list of destinations, what next? Well you then need to spend a bit of time looking at when you want to go, when you are setting off, how long in each country.
Getting there at the right time
Some of the things you will need to consider that might get in the way of your pleasure and relaxation.
- Inclement weather, too much heat/cold/rain (India’s monsoons, Asia’s rainy season, winter in Oz, freezing temperatures in Tibet/Nepal) . You will find a lot of (often conflicting) advice about the best time to visit each country. In the end this is down to what you want to do while you are there. If you want to be in India to spend a lot of time by the beaches or rushing round temples then go in October – April when its tolerable heat. Any later in the year and you will get fried alive/soaked during the summer rainy season.
- Political unrest (two of our likely destinations have elections looming which are not expected to be the sedate affairs of UK elections with a battle bus and a bit of on street heckling). So check out if you are planning to hit one in the middle of the hustings here, and avoid if it’s in one of those countries where elections can sometimes lead to unrest.
- Major festivals/country holidays – during these events prices and availability of accommodation and train/air tickets may well put unnecessary strain on your backpacking budget. I have found a couple of resources for this, but you can only really find these out with a hard Google search slog or by consulting your Lonely Planet guide to find whats going on in each country. However, this site is a good start to give you a rough idea.
Be realistic though somewhere along the line you are going to have to compromise between including a destination in your trip, but not visiting the place at the perfect time, not a bad compromise to have to make on the scale of things. So just decide what is most important to you and make sure you hit that destination at the best time for you.
Plan a sensible route
Once you have a rough (and by now realistic) plan about where you want to go and what times to avoid you can start to look at a sensible route of how to get around. Now I don’t mean that you need to spend the three months prior to setting off poring over Indian train timetables (trust me they are almost incomprehensible unless you know the route number), scheduled airline routes and local bus routes. However, you do need to get familiar with the options open to you of getting from one country to the next. My three favourite tools for doing this I have listed for you, so you don’t have to find them, kind aren’t I
- Rail travel – this site from Seat 61 is a fantastic resource full of tips, possibilities and details of all major routes and connections – this is a particularly useful first stop for India, China and Asia train journeys
- Airline connections – Skyscanner is always a good first stop for me, but it does not include all the low-cost airline options that are springing up in Asia, China, Philippines and India. I also use this Wiki site which lists the low-cost airlines based in each country. It can be time-consuming but you can often find you can continent hop for much less than you thought. A little research on these two sites confirmed to me that I did not want to buy one of those restrictive round the world airline tickets and have my plane hops fixed in time. Just found this site IgoUgo which searches multiple flights and manages to include more of the low cost airlines than Skyscanner.