Happy Boxing Day. It's 7:45 am and we are en route to Arusha. We have been on the road for just under 2 hours and should arrive by 1, making for a 'short' day of traveling-only 7 hours. I woke up sharply at 5:00 when Debby knocked on my door. She asked if she could use the shower as hers and Vincent had no water pressure. I said sure. I packed up my 'completely unpacked' overnight bag and got dressed for the day. It was a little chilly here in Lushoto and expect it to be similar in Arusha...though much colder within the Ngorongoro Crater due to its high altitude. Breakfast at 5:30 and on the road by 6:00.
Today we are arriving at camp just outside Arusha around 1:00 and making lunch for ourselves. Afterwards we are taking a tour of a local Maasai Village, which also has a snake park. I'm not sure what to expect, but am excited nonetheless.
I have been thinking a lot about my round the world (RTW) trip over the last several weeks--actually for the last 1-2 years really. Over the past 2 hours I have been driving myself crazy with thoughts/ideas so I figured I would try to capture some of them in hopes of clearing my mind.
I plan to travel the world for ~12 months. I would like to go to South America where I can hike Machu Picchu and Patagonia. Depending on budget I may consider Easter Island. It goes without saying that every other mainland country will be visited. Maybe I start my trip going through the national parks here in the US and drive down through Mexico and take busses and trains through South America. This way I can start my ticket in South America. Another destination would be Southern India--I've seen a lot of the North and would like to see more, but I may revisit the Northern portion...cost/day is so low here and could probably be budgeted <$50/day for two people for hotel and food....but $25 is also very possible. Eastern Europe is also a destination I would like to visit. The unique cultures, ease of traveling within, and central access makes it high on my list. Western Europe bores me, so I'll visit there when I am older and just want to take a short 2-3 week trip. Don't get me wrong I really enjoyed Ireland, and London wasn't horrible, but I just feel the US offers more 'diversity' within it's own 50 states than does Western Europe...or least it's not too far off. I am not a fan of going to "see stuff" so the appeal of the ruins in Greece just does not excite me too much. Plus I have already been inside the Pantheon and the Parthenon (if you count the perfect recreation in Nashville, TN). However, I am very excited to Visit Amsterdam next week. Everyone I have met from the Netherlands seems to possess certain distinguishing characteristics that I really appreciate. They are light spirited, quirky, educated, sarcastic, goofy, and just plain old fun. I have a very strong personality so I can pick up fairly easily on if someone wants nothing to do with me. The dutch people I have met while traveling are not as eager to 'prevent rocking the boat' as many other cultures and this is important to me. They tend to speak their minds, a quality that is useless in the others as their minds are mostly empty.
Eastern Europe has a different feel and the foreignness of it intrigues me. I would like to then venture into Russia and travel around for a while. Russian culture is so beautiful and I have immense respect for their people (nudge, nudge, Ayn Rand). A country that values science and art to the fullest. A country where a young male child can practice gymnastics and ballet while not getting picked on has some true merit. The contributions to the Maths and Sciences brought by the Russians goes largely unparalleled. Do you think America would ever be proud of their strong chess competition leagues? Not a chance. I wont go into the specifics of the types of achievements but just turn on your iPod and listen to you favorite classical music--I'm willing to bet there is quite a bit of Russian influence within your playlist. I sometimes wonder about WW2 and the cold war. Why don't we share our victory with Russia, because without the eastern front there could have been a completely different outcome. Also I really find it comical about our reaction that caused the disaster at the Bay of Pigs. But seeing as JFK has been recorded as the Country's worst President, perhaps it was just his doing? If you haven't already seen Stanley Kubrik's "Doctor Strangelove" do yourselves a favor and watch it. It does a great job portraying how ridiculous things were during the Cold War. It was such a great time in history that--for the large part--was a time of peace and scientific innovations marching along at an unprecedented rate. My heart almost goes out to Russia a little bit. I mean Russia has NEVER used a single nuclear bomb as a defensive nor offensive instrument. We used two bombs. Which country to you think was/is more affair of the other using nuclear warfare?
I would like to take the Trans Siberian/Mongolian Railway through Mongolia to Beijing. I know that it is a 4 day journey and runs around $500 per traveler. There are 4 people per train cabin and we remain on the train for the entire 4 days--sometimes given 5-60 minutes to get out at stops and breath some fresh air. Also, there are no showers. 4 days without showers...ha, that's child's play. I've done close to that in the heat of an African summer while traveling in a non-air-conditioned bus--I think I can handle the train. I know that I will need to get my visas for all thee countries--Mongolia and China potentially being much more difficult. Similarly to Vietnam these countries require the visa to have a stated entry and exit date. If something happened and I arrived in China a day early, they wouldn't let me in. Same goes about leaving--one cannot even leave before the stated date. These rules may have become more relaxed, but either way it is a hard restriction on individuals such as myself who wish to backpack through with no set itinerary.
I would like to see some large cities in China as well as the rural areas. I have reasons for both but I will try to stay focused on my passage (yeah, I meant the double entendre.
From China the logical path would be downwards to Indochina. I would like to hit up Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand again (however I would be perfectly fine with skipping over Bangkok). I've been there a couple times for too many days and there really isn't anything else I would want to see.
From here I would go to a few Thai islands, likely work in a hostel or bungalow cleaning and doing yard work, maintenance for free food and stay. This sort of arrangement is very common. I figured a beach may be a good place to unwind for a couple weeks. I could catch up on emails, follow up on my job prospects, take some preliminary and 1st round interviews via phone, etc. Maybe freelance some of my consulting, or VBA/model building back in the states for a week to raise some money.
From Thailand I would finish off with the obvious (Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Fuji, etc.) Maybe onwards to Australia/New Zealand, but I don't have a huge motivation to visit...not yet.
My planning has been pretty basic thus far. I have been working out the logistics mostly. I would sell my car prior to leaving and that would probably be one of the last things I had to sell. I would sell/donate my bed before and just use a blow up mattress until I left. I would sell all my other large furniture. I would probably sell my TVs, speakers, and everything else that can easily be repurchased. It should be fairly easy to determine which items I will keep and put into storage and which items I will sell. I will assume, just for this exercise, that everything I have now I will have also have/get once I return. Thus if the item has a positive NPV I will keep it and if it has a negative NPV I will sell/donate it. I know the fixed costs will be moving truck and storage rental for 12 months. As the number of items I have increases these costs go up, but only slightly. When I return I am not sure where I will take a job. Moving these items, which are currently in storage, to my new location will vary greatly depending on distance and number/size of storage. Thus, this is simply an unknown risk I will build into my model. I will assume I will move within 1500 miles, and I will add upside risk if I take a job overseas and downside risk if I move locally. I will take the current value of an item, let's say a TV for example, and see how much I can sell it for. I have enough forecasting experience to be able to project (with a fair amount certainty) how much a NEW TV will cost 1-2 years later. However, if I would likely buy a used TV as that is the current condition of my TV now. Thus, selling the TV is the rational thing to do. Hard to attain items would be given a premium, as would discontinued items. Then there are things like decorations, which I've accumulated over the years. These have memories attached to them and I quite like them. Also, these types of items are small, easy to store at a friend's/family's house. I'm not sure what I will do with my elliptical though? Shit! Plates, dishes, pots, pans, silverware? Not quite sure? Would be nice to start over with few pieces. I would like to save the inside greenhouse I made, but it is sort of bulky. I will sell it if I can capture at least $300 for it, but I think it's worth closer to $400.
OK SORRY, I KNOW THAT WAS ALOT, BUT I REALY NEEDED TO GET THIS OUT: Things I will bring with me on my trip. I will bring 2 pants, 2 shorts, 3 t-shirts and 3 long sleeved shirts. I'll probably bring thermal underwear/long-t and a light fleece. I will pick up stuff as I need it. I've been doing this type of thing a lot so I'm fairly certain I know what I'll need. I will probably bring my current macbook air. I'll be able to manage, sort, tag, and post-process my RAWs during the long travel rides I will likely have. I will have movies, music, and ebooks for entertainment as well. Depending on the feedback from this blog I may continue keep one. I was actually thinking of making it a bit more dynamic and building in some features that would allow me to generate a small amount of income to help fund the trip. Some ideas include, "A small monthly fee to subscribe to the blog...if you don't pay you can't read it", "Provide the blog for free but upload completed and pre-selected photos and charge a nominal fee to view the photos", "Or I could just ask for a donation of $0.25 every time someone read anything in my blog". In efforts to get more people involved in the blog and to make it more of a back-and-forth experience (as opposed to my just lecturing and you just reading) I could have polls or auctions. For example I could say, "Next week I'm considering going to A.) place a, B.) place b, .....N.) place n. I could have people pay $1 to be able to vote where I should go. Or I could have an auction and the single person that bids the most on a given destination will 'win' and I will go there. The 'winner' could tell me what they want to see in particular
Here are some examples of how I see it playing out: Maybe my Grandfather, Papa Gibby, has always wanted to see the TGIF in Moscow--and say he always wanted to know the year it was built and by whom. He could bid $25 and if he bids the highest I would go to Moscow and use my researching skills to find out the details. I can take detailed photos/videos and any other relevant information. I would then incorporate that portion into the blog. It is sort of a mashup of "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?", those 'choose your ending' type books, eBay, Charity, and give you a great chance to Live vicariously via me. You would be directly impacting the direction of my journey. The butterfly effect would be enormous. I am just brainstorming, I would love to hear input. I like this idea, but I've also been told to just start a blog with many pictures and flood it with adds...but I don't want to do that.
So now that I just ranted on some schemes to raise funds en route I have to touch upon how I will manage to afford the trip before going on it. I have more than enough money saved in 401k, Traditional/Roth IRAs, and a couple taxable brokerage accounts. I even have a 519 College Savings Plan for my children who don't even exist yet. Saving is a drug to me...so even though I can 'afford' to take many years off and travel there is a huge associated cost. The opportunity cost is the largest. I would have to sacrifice 1-1.5 years of salary, bonuses, and benefits. I would have to build a robust dynamic model to track my budget once I started my trip, but a loose starting point that I think is fair would be $25,000 for myself and $45,000 (if I travel with a partner) for 12 months. Pretty damn cheap for a year, huh? I will have to put aside $5,000 for my college loans that I will owe, though I may be able to put them on hold if I say I am 'out of work'....more on this at a later time.
|Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania|
Just got off the bus to take a bush toilet break and to snap a few photos of Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. Tabby says were less than 100km away.
I just listened to Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' and it has inspired me so much. I can't even put into words, but listening to the song while being in Africa has really left its mark on me.
We arrived at our camp around 1:00. I decided to upgrade and got a bedroom with two twin beds...but I will be sleeping in the room alone. They had asked $45 dollars but I negotiated down to $20. The room has its own shower so it was worth it to me. It's funny because I am paying less than the accommodated people since they paid in advance and in full, I am negotiating when I can and staying in tents when I cannot. Lunch was at 1:30pm. Lunch meat and lettuce, salad, and shredded cheese for sandwiches. We left at 2:20pm and went to a shoprite so we could get snacks for the Serengeti. I'm so annoyed with how often we have to stop. These families are the least outdoorsy people ever. I overhear a few discussing how they will split up tasks while at the market. For Jesus Sakes...we're being supplied water and 3 meals a day while we're gone...these people are starting to get out of my nerves. I'm glad my trip is coming to an end. I have one night here in our campsite just outside Arusha, Ndoro. Then we have three nights in the Serengeti/Ngorongoro and one last night back here in Ndoro. We then drive to Nairobi where I will be staying one more night and I fly out to Amsterdam the next evening--late.
|Our Campsite in Ndoro, Tanzania|
After shoprite we stopped at a shopping mall so a few people could look at some tanzanite. It was overpriced, but everyone was like "Oh, wow, I have to get it". I tried to explain to a few why it's not in the best interest of the shop owner to be honest with you and used another product as a comparison--they had carved wooden coasters and were asking $35 for them. In the Mzuzu Market they would have sold it to me for $5.
It's 4:43 (almost two and a half hour after we left) and we still haven't gotten to where we are supposed to be--a Maasai Museum and a snake park.
6:30 now and we're back on our truck The snake park and Maasai museum were shockingly really enjoyable. First the snake park. We saw a variety of crocs and snakes. There was a turtle what that was 100+ years old. I even got to hold a baby crocodile. I went ahead of the group while they were staring at dozens of snakes that all looked the same and enjoyed a 22oz of Castle Milk Stout. It was a nice change of pace from the typical adjunct lager I have been drinking the preceding evenings.
|Holding a Baby Croc at a Snake Park near Arusha, Tanzania|
Next we went to the attached Maasai Museum, which I found very interesting. I was asking questions and was really enjoying myself. A few others asked some questions--they only had a few. Many of my fellow travelers are brainless brainless sheep. Debby, Vincent, and Cara where in back and couldn't hear anything the Maasai guide was saying. I was the only person to tip the guide. Afterwards, just outside where the museum let out, was a trinket shop. I had wanted to buy a few items--I had bargained down one of the vendors. I heard a few of the others telling me we had to leave "now". I looked for the Germans, the only ones remaining, and we walked out of the shops. She had said, "we've had such a boring day and when something finally gets interesting we have to go". I told her I was happy to stay along with her and to "screw the others" but we just decided to head back towards to bus. As I walked on the bus (probably within 2-3 minutes after the others) a few had commented about me being late--or something that hadn't needed to be said. I said, I have been bored all day and I find nothing wrong with me staying a few minutes at something that was genuinely interesting. This pretentious Aussie girl (I'll leave her name out for her sake) makes a snide remark about something irrelevant to the matter. Something like, "you should have been listening, but you were too busy going ahead and getting your beer". I wanted to call her a stupid twat, but I didn't. I was actually getting a beer with Godfrey "OUR TOUR GUIDE" and the one giving us instructions. He wasn't drinking but he had a Krest with me. She was just trying to be the pretentious little girl she was. If you've ever seen South Park think of the College-Know-it-all Hippie...that's her...just not a hippie. After 1 or 2 years of school and she thinks she knew it all. I'm sure I thought the same thing, and still do, but to be fair I have her easily beat in the IQ department by no less than 2 standard deviations.
I fear I might develop foot and mouth disease, that is, traveling with all these sheep. I told that girl, "thanks for looking out for me babe, but as you may need someone to tell you what to do, where to go, and what to think I got myself covered".
The Maasai people are so interesting. I have asked Godfrey about being able to try a typical Maasai meal and he said it can me arranged, but may cost me a bit. They eat solely the meat from their chickens/goats (not cows), and the milk/blood from their cattle. Beef and bloody milk...count me in!
It's just before 7, and we still probably have another 45 minutes until we arrive back to camp. I just asked Godfrey and he told me, "I don't know, it depends on traffic".
I'll enjoy a meal and watching a movie tonight by myself tonight.