Monday, February 2, 2009

Arriving at "20 Countries in 200 Days"

Many that I have spoken to have asked how the idea to travel through 20 countries in 200 days came about - mainly, had we been planning this for a while?

The truth is that like most things in life, we didn't see this coming. In November 2008 T was let go by JP Morgan - ironically after having survived the collapse @ Bear Stearns where a lay-off seemed more likely. A day after the lay-off we left for a pre-scheduled vacation to St.Marten where we sailed on a catamaran for 7 nights. Rocked to sleep by the waves, anchored on idyllic beaches at night and lying under the stars, we felt happy and content. We had literally sailed away from all the chaos in NY. We pondered about life lessons thus far, and how we wanted to live the rest of our lives ...'working' or 'living'. We asked ourselves, "All things considered (time, sufficient funds, re-employment opportunities), is traveling extensively an option we can consider at this point in our lives?"

After returning from St. Marten, T spent a few days looking at real estate investment options as I went about working my regular 9-6 job. Around Christmas, T started talking about traveling through China. I proposed we temporarily relocate to my parent's home in Cochin and use it as a hub to travel to other South East Asian countries.

Shortly after, our nanny said she would be getting married in the Chech Republic in May, which got us thinking about traveling via Turkey to the former Soviet bloc. T had always talked of traveling on the Trans Siberian rail across Russia, so we added that to the wish list as well.

Initially we thought of breaking the trip into 3 separate geographical loops - 1) The Eastern Bloc 2) Russia 3) China & South East Asia starting and ending in Cochin giving us the R&R that would be needed between each trip especially when traveling with a toddler.

Some research and we found the economies of flying back to Cochin didn't make sense, so as an alternative, we looked into the cost of doing the entire itinerary by train. After some research and perusing train timetables, we mapped an itinerary that started in Istanbul and ended in Singapore, which would take us approximately 208 days and take us through 20 countries.

So to clarify, we didn't try to arrive at the magical number of 20 or push ourselves to do this in 200 days - rather, it has come from practical considerations of train travel and the time we would like to spend in each country. Whether we will indeed be in Singapore by November 8th is yet to be seen, but currently we have 2 definitive 'pegs' that will keep us on schedule - our Russia visa that expires by July 21st, and the Arirang games in North Korea that we hope to attend on August 10th. That would leave us with roughly 2 months to travel through South East Asia.

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