Having a Plan B

Getting my decidedly Type A mother on board with a year’s worth of travel is practically a 12-step program. After about six months of dropping hints that long-term travel interested me and another year having it be something vaguely on the horizon, we were only around step 3. So when I decided to move my departure up from 2017-18 to this July, she did her best Redd Foxx impersonation and got a lot more serious about having dedicated time for us to talk about my plans.

Installment #1 went well and mostly focused on explaining why this is something I want to do, how I decided to leave sooner than originally planned, and where I’m going. That was enough to chew on for a few weeks and installment #2 – largely about staying safe and healthy – rolled around about a week ago.

As Mom sat perched at the head of her dining room table with a notepad full of earnest if anxiety-rich questions and freshly dug Internet horror stories, she glanced over to my decidedly Type B father sunk into a leather couch, legs crossed, iPhone in hand. “I like how your dad’s over there, not even concerned,” Mom half-heartedly quipped. Dad’s voice wavered up from the living room, “I’m concerned…”

His big question: What’s Plan B? He can recite my planned itinerary by heart. But where are the points where my itinerary might change?

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 3.18.55 PM

My general path through Southeast Asia is unlikely to change, but the exact dates I stay in each city could easily morph as I travel.

Fixed Points

My first flight from the US to Iceland, and my accommodations for that first week of my trip, will be booked in advance and therefore are unlikely to change.

Any flights booked using award miles will be booked in advance. This includes:
* Reykjavik to Barcelona in early-to-mid July
* Istanbul to Delhi in early November
* Tokyo to Buenos Aires in mid-to-late March
* Mendoza to Lima in mid-May
* Lima to San Jose in early June
* Mexico City to home in late June

While the exact amount of time I spend in each of those cities could change, those flights will be relatively set in stone.

Both of the group tours I plan to take will be booked well in advance. This includes:
* Nepal in mid-to-late November
* Peru in mid-to-late May

The basic countries on my list are also unlikely to change – or at least, I won’t be adding new countries to my itinerary after I leave Europe. Between visa restrictions and vaccine requirements, there would simply be too much planning involved in visiting a new country unexpectedly. I can’t be in Vietnam and just decide I’ll hop over to China for a few days.

If friends and family decide to come meet me on the road for their own vacations – yay! Those visits will become part of my unchanging itinerary.

Major Flex Points

Planning to spend more than a week or two in one place is a big commitment to make to a new destination. If I can’t find a good place to stay for an entire month, or I arrive and realize I simply don’t want to stick around for an entire month, I’ll need to re-route a bit. This includes:
* Barcelona in July
* Istanbul in October
* Bali in February
* Buenos Aires in April

On a more serious note, the U.S. State Department currently has a travel warning issued for Turkey due to ISIS activity in the southeastern part of the country and along the border with Syria. Istanbul is on the other side of the country and is not included in the travel warning, but nonetheless, this is something I’ll be keeping a close eye on as I travel through Europe and if the city is likely to be unsafe during my visit, I may have to re-route.

Between that potential safety situation and the possibility that I won’t want to stay for an entire month, Istanbul is the biggest question mark on my itinerary. If I do have to re-route around Istanbul, I’ll stay in Europe all the way through October and travel more slowly through Italy and the Balkans.

The other long stays on my itinerary will be easier to re-route. If I tire of Barcelona, I can hop on a train to Madrid or Seville, or perhaps a town in France. If I want to leave Bali, a short flight could take me to Jakarta or to Japan earlier than planned. And if Buenos Aires doesn’t capture my interest, I can move through Argentina more quickly and spend more time in the other countries on my list.

Minor Flex Points

These major fixed points and more daunting pieces of potential re-routing leave everything else to a more reserved flexibility. By not booking anything more than a month  or two in advance, with the exceptions of my guided tours and award flights as noted above, I afford myself the freedom to fall in love with Montenegro and stay an extra week, or to tire of Cambodia and fly out to Bali a few days early. The broad strokes remain the same, but the precise details can be mutable.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 3.22.08 PM

Istanbul is the biggest question mark on my itinerary, but if I have to avoid it, I’ll simply take more time traveling through the other European countries on my list.

What this all means for my itinerary month by month…

(boldface = definite
italics = potential for major change
no formatting = potential for minor change)


Fly from Baltimore to Reykjavik
Spend about a week in Iceland
Fly from Reykjavik to Barcelona
Spend the rest of the month in Barcelona


Fly from Barcelona to Naples
Spend two weeks in southern Italy
Ferry from Italy to Montenegro
Spend a few days in Kotor
Take a bus from Montenegro to Croatia
Spend the rest of the month in Croatia


Take a bus from Croatia to Bosnia
Spend a few days in Mostar
Spend a few days traveling overland from Bosnia to Greece
Spend one or two weeks in Athens
Ferry to Santorini
Spend one or two weeks in Santorini
Ferry back to Athens


Fly from Athens to Istanbul
Spend the month in Istanbul


Fly from Istanbul to Delhi
Spend about a week in Delhi
Fly from Delhi to Kathmandu
Join a guided tour through Nepal for the rest of the month


Fly from Kathmandu to Bangkok
Spend two to three weeks in Thailand
Take the slow boat down the Mekong River
Spend about a week in Laos


Fly from Laos to Hanoi
Spend about three weeks traveling overland through Vietnam
Take a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh
Spend about a week in Cambodia
Take a bus or train from Siem Reap to Bangkok


Fly from Bangkok to Bali
Spend the month in Bali


Fly from Bali to Tokyo
Spend about two weeks in Japan
Fly from Tokyo to Buenos Aires
Take a bus to Montevideo
Spend about two weeks in Uruguay


Take a bus from Montevideo to Buenos Aires
Spend the month in Buenos Aires


Take a bus from Buenos Aires to Mendoza
Spend two weeks in Mendoza
Fly from Mendoza to Lima, then to Cusco
Join a guided tour of the Inca Trail and spend the rest of my time independently


Fly from Cusco to Lima, then to San Jose
Spend two weeks in Costa Rica
Fly from San Jose to Mexico City
Spend two weeks in Mexico City
Fly from Mexico City back home


One thought on “Having a Plan B

  1. Pingback: What Should I Do in a Terrorist Attack? | WorldSmith

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