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Bringing a vague idea to life

written by Birgit

Thinking about doing a trip around the world is one thing, but then there's this big step to actually start doing something about it.

In our case there was no clearly pronounced key moment when we suddenly said 'yes, let's do this now'. It was much more of a step wise approach that eventually got so far that the pieces of the puzzle coming together started to look like actual preparation for a world trip.

The very first active step was actually a rather bureaucratic matter: German law requires young parents to apply with their employer before the child's second birthday in case they'd like to reserve up to a year of parenting time which then can be taken before the child turns eight years old. Once the employer's agreement is granted, the option of taking up to a year off work can be requested at any point in time with 8 weeks notification lead time for the employer. So this is what we did: we formally requested to reserve this one year of parenting time for both of us and a couple of days later we had a formal letter in our hands granting us this right. Easy. Soon after that Max turned two and we celebrated the event with going on a long weekend to Ireland.

Whenever we were asked about our plans for the next couple of years, we would always mention a trip around the world both privately and at work. And as we all know, once you start spreading the word about these thoughts, eventually the thoughts come to life with one thing leading to another. I talked with my boss sometime in summer 2014 about potentially taking a sabbatical at some stage already made things become a bit more real.

If you now believe that we started plotting out the when and where of our world trip right then and there, you might be disappointed. Then for quite a while trip planning was very focused on getting our upcoming vacation to South America worked out, such that our minds were concentrated on travel plans anyhow without having to go into even larger plans.

But after that trip, the Christmas holidays and the start into 2015, we can actually talk about the real start of the preparation phase. First thoughts on the 'where' were clearly still influenced by our original idea of driving to Mongolia. Sam preferred the option of buying a 4WD car or truck with the plan of going there and back (motorbikes were ruled out, as we did not want to have Max riding endless distances with us on a motorbike). I rather thought along the lines of taking the Transsib through Russia via Mongolia further into China, Tibet and Nepal, then flying on via South East Asia to Australia, New Zealand to the South Pacific.

The 'when' was defined by a logical sequence of thoughts. We had concluded that we wanted to maximize our time off. In other words: we would take a sabbatical of three months as offered by our company, followed by our one year of parenting time as granted by German law. We were also clear that we wanted to come back a couple of months before Max would start school such that we don't force him to go from a fairly free and non scheduled daily routine into a very disciplined school environment. And last but not least there were some financial considerations: by splitting the time off evenly between two calendar years, we would get a tax benefit due to Germany' progressive taxation of income. Factoring all of this together, March or April 2015 sounded like a good time to start. As March would have been and potentially too cold to go East in direction of Russia, April 2015 is what I communicated at work as the starting point for our time off.

What followed were long sessions of brainstorming potential travel locations (Russia and the former Soviet states, Mongolia, Tibet, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, South America, North America, the Caribbean, Africa...) and travel forms (road trip with camper van, road trip with 4WD vehicle, traveling with public transport, taking a bike trip or walking over large distances...). And there were long discussions trying to decide between the pleasures of an adventurous plan to countries where we don't speak the language and where bureaucracy might sometimes be grueling vs. an easy plan taking us to tourist friendly destinations where we speak the language.

The final agreement was that we wanted a plan that allows us to be outdoors a lot in plain air, nice landscapes and nature. And even though we wanted to move around that we wanted to take a fixed home base with us. In other words: we will be doing roadtrips with either a campervan or doing classic car camping. We also agreed that while we wanted to visit a couple countries, we'd rather spend more time in each one of them vs. trying to cover too much in too short time.
We also had to take some conscious decisions on where we did not want to go: after some research we ruled out any countries with risk of Malaria. And we decided very practically not to go to destinations that can be easily reached from Central Europe in two or three week vacations.

The end result - or I should rather say the current version - of our thoughts can be seen in the travel map: we'll start in April 16, will spend five months in North America incl Mexico and Canada, will then spend another months in the South Pacific followed by about 10 weeks each in Australia and New Zealand. This leaves roughly four months of travels to be identified at a later point in time...

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:48 Archived in Germany Tagged preparation planning

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