Where is Katmandu??? how to cut through the bullsh*t

When I sat down to plan this journey I can say with certainty that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing (and still don’t really).

I wanted to do it all – see the sunrise from Table Mountain, explore Matchu Pitchu before tourists swarmed in, swim with sharks, jump off a waterfall, catch the sunset at Angkor What, learn a foreign language, volunteer for a charity, spend time with indigenous peoples and understand the cultures I encountered, oh and… find inner peace, the meaning of life and a purpose for the next 40 years of my life – within an 8 month time-frame of course.

What is it they say about realistic goals and achieving success?!
I sat on the Star Alliance website and planned a round the world trip that would have taken me from Africa to Madagascar then across to South East Asia, Australasia, South America and ending up in Miami and the art-deco buildings of the artistic quarter and a ‘hop’ over to Cuba tagged on the end.

In the time it took me to click the ‘calculate route’ button I understood my ideas about this trip were as realistic as Nigel Farage being ‘papped’ doing his weekly shop at Brixton market. The cost of such wanderlust…just shy of £5,000 on flights alone. That is the best part of my budget for the entire time I’ll be away!

If, like me, you are suddenly presented with the reality that there is nothing stopping you seeing the World, you will go through a similar process. Strangely it connected me with a memory I thought had forgotten from a time when I was much younger. An uncle bought me a plastic globe, the kind that had a bulb in it and lit up from inside. I kept it on my bedside table and at night I would lie in bed, slowly spinning it and reading names of places I had no idea about, picturing strange people, smells and foods – 20 years later it didn’t feel like I was much wiser than that little boy!

At the same time as feeling totally naïve about the world around me – when was best to go to Africa? What is the weather like in Myanmar in April? WHERE IS TIMBUKTU? You have to sift through the myriad layers of virtual detritus spewed out by countless tour operators, budget hotel companies and third party hostel websites.

“How do I know where I want to go if I don’t know whose talking the most shit; me or the internet?”

Daunting it may be, but that stage of the planning process helps focus the mind on what you truly want to get out of the trip you’re planning. Whatever that is, the only thing to do is read, read and read again. There is so much discourse “on the line” as my Grandma would say, that it’s difficult to know who to believe and who is just spouting hot air from their sitting room in Sidcup.

I found it useful to start with the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet books. I say ‘start with’ because like any great body of work you need to break the skin before you really know what you’re going to find inside. My trip at once became both more focused and less organised in equal measure but the books gave me points of reference upon which to plan MY trip. The exemplar itineraries at the front of the Rough Guide books are brilliant for understanding the length of time it takes to move around a country. From there the research took its own path.

I was fortunate to have Round The World Experts recommended to me by a friend. Yes you may have heard of them but remember, I am a complete novice at this! I honestly don’t think this trip would have got off the ground if it wasn’t for Amy (my female knight in shining armour of the travel world). Amy was there from the start – she gave me a comparable flight itinerary to the one I had obtained from Star Alliance and to say she was cheaper would have been an understatement.

More than that she is someone who has travelled and loves travelling – she does the job so her experience can guide laymen like me. She didn’t push me for decisions and wasn’t ‘salesy’ at all. We spoke on the phone first where she raised safety and logistical issues about some of my destinations and while never saying ‘no’ she encouraged me to go back and re-examine my choices.

After 7 days we had exchanged over 50 emails, by the time I booked my flights we were up over the hundred mark – all this and she was seven months pregnant and a week away from maternity leave! Thank you Amy you literally made my 2014!

Beyond that I found some excellent information on budgeting and train travel as well as some really cool bloggers who have been Professional Nomads combining their love for travel and ability to work remotely to stunning effect. All that and much more to come…

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