Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What we might have done differently

Faithful reader Lane commented on our Places we loved post:
I hope you'll also post on what you would do differently if you had it to do again. Given the same time and budget you had, is there anywhere you wish you'd spent less time in order to spend more time somewhere else or go somewhere you didn't have time to go? Anything you'd do smarter? If you had an extra month or an extra 10K, what would you have added?
This is a great question, and a more positive spin than a post titled "Places we hated." I'll try and answer that question with a summary of where we went:

USA - We spent the first two months road tripping through the United States, staying in the following states: Washington (2 nights), Idaho (5), Oregon (4), California (16), Arizona (5), New Mexico (6), Texas (8), Louisiana (2), Alabama (1), North Carolina (4), Virginia (1), Maryland (1), New York (3), Vermont (3) and Massachusetts (9).

Even though road trips in the US are one of our favorite activities, in retrospect we probably could have condensed this into a shorter trip in order to spend more time internationally, especially since several of the places would have been accessible as shorter trips once back home. However, it's hard to think what we would have cut, as we enjoyed each place we stayed.

Australia - 28 days. This was a decent amount of time to spend in Australia, and renting a van for 21 of those days was a great, albeit expensive idea. The only thing we would have done differently is to only travel in one direction. We started in Brisbane, traveled north to the Whitsunday Islands then back south to Brisbane again before driving to Melbourne. Instead it would have been better to pick two starting points and travel between them, moving in one direction only so as to avoid backtracking.

New Zealand - 65 days. This was our longest stay outside of the US, and it was a great choice. WWOOFing worked great, having only one bad stay out of the five farms we worked at. We wouldn't really change anything about our NZ visit, as we feel like we saw a lot of the country and WWOOFing was a great way to save money.

Southeast Asia - We toured around Southeast Asia for roughly two months, staying in Singapore (3), Malaysia (14), Thailand (14), Laos (12) and Vietnam (14). Since SE Asia was very cheap, we could have easily spent more time here. Given more time, I'd spend an additional two weeks in Thailand and probably add Cambodia to the trip. I also wish we'd gone to Indonesia. Everything we've heard about Indonesia has been great, and we wish we'd made it there. Also, we covered the Northern half of Vietnam twice, and if we'd planned better we should have only moved in one direction, instead of entering in the middle, traveling north and then returning south again like we did.

India - 33 days. Trying to decide what we would have done differently in India is tough, as we had a great time and wouldn't really want to change what we did. We traveled from late March to late April which is during their hot season so the only thing I might have changed is to go earlier in the season. Planning differently, I would have spent more time in India to see more of the country and gone either in the Fall or Winter instead of the Spring. We loved Southern India though, especially Kerala and Goa and would happily revisit those areas again.

Egypt - 13 days. As we keep telling people, and is evident from our blog posts on Egypt, we didn't love it there. Doing it over again, I would not bother going to Luxor or Aswan. I'm glad I saw the Nile, but Luxor was not that great and Aswan was even worse. Sinai wasn't too bad and done differently, traveling overland through Jordan and Syria to Turkey from Sinai would be my preferred route, taking the time we spent in Luxor and spending it in Jordan and Syria instead.

Turkey - 12 days. Turkey is another place we would have loved to squeeze in more time. As noted, traveling overland from Egypt so as to visit Eastern Turkey and Cappadocia would have been preferred. As for what we saw in Turkey, I'm happy with our tour of the western coast, although we could have easily spent more time in Istanbul.

Greece - 13 days. We liked Greece, especially Crete, but in retrospect I think I would have traded a week in Greece for a week in Italy. The problem with Greece is getting around. If we could have gone straight from Turkey to Crete to Italy, that would have been ideal, but traveling by ferry you have to island-hop, which is fun to a certain extent, but also time consuming and expensive. We also didn't love Athens, and as far as larger cities go it wasn't our favorite.

Italy and Switzerland - two days each. This was the biggest shame of our trip, in that we didn't do justice to either country by only visiting Venice and Zurich. Time was more of a constraint than money; if we'd planned it out a little better by buying a rail pass and arranging couchsurfing in advance, I'm pretty sure both these countries can be done on the semi-cheap. We hit it right with the strong dollar versus the Euro, but we didn't have enough time to really dig into either country.

Iceland - four days. As noted in our Iceland posts, I'm very happy with our time in Iceland. We could have easily spent more time there, and driving the Ring Road would have been awesome if we had more time, but I don't have any regrets as to our visit there. In fact, to some extent, I'm glad we left something for another time as I can't wait to revisit.

What would we have changed about our route overall? I think adding Central and South America would have been really awesome, although it's a large enough region to stand alone as an awesome trip in its own right. Also, visiting more of Africa would have been nice, but again, a tour of Africa would also be a wonderful stand alone trip.

Knowing that our trip overall would be as cheap as it was, I would have left Seattle a few months earlier and pushed everything forward by a couple months so as to spend more time in Southeast Asia, India and Europe. We also planned on visiting Australia first so as to meet up with Jaimee's sister Michelle who was studying abroad in Brisbane, but without that constraint, I might even contemplate going around the world in the opposite direction, i.e., Europe first, then Turkey, Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, and finally Australia and New Zealand. Then we could have done WWOOFing in Ireland, Spain, France or Italy during late Spring/Summer and been in India by Fall/early Winter and then Southeast Asia in Winter and Spring. This would have put us in Australia and New Zealand during their Spring/Winter which might not be great, so maybe we would exchange Australia and New Zealand for a few countries in South America.

So many possibilities, I could write all day about potential trip itineraries and ideas. But again, I can't emphasize enough how much we loved what we did do and have very few regrets. It turned out great, although I'm sure I'll spend the rest of my life playing "what-ifs" with our trip.

1 comment:

  1. What? You wouldn't add more 12 hour train rides? Those seemed heavenly.


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