It’s officially official. After 3 years of planning, saving, and praying like mad, Will and I are about to embark on a long-haul adventure that I’m pretty sure is going to blow our minds. It’s been quite a roller coaster getting to this point, (so I’ll spare you the riot of details) but essentially Will has been granted a 4.5 month leave of absence and I’ll be keeping up with work on the road. We’re looking to sublet the townhouse we’re currently renting, come back to Livermore after the adventure is over, and explore our hearts out in between. And I’d love nothing more than for you to join us via the Blog, Facebook, and Instagram!
For those of you who’ve followed my/our travels in the past, welcome back! It means so much to be able to share my stories with you while I’m abroad as well as when I return home, and it makes me feel connected in such a special way to the best people I know! For those of you who have a penchant for pretty pictures, salivate over your keyboard while ogling fabulous food photos, or just love spying on folks in far-away places, these posts will be crafted with you in mind as well. And lastly, for those out there who have always yearned to travel in a way that’s more than just a 2-week vacation, short-term missions trip, or family holiday, (not that those aren’t awesome–I’ve done and loved all of the above) I hope to provide you with the inspiration and practical insight that will bring you one step closer to realizing your dream of long-term travel and experiencing the rewards that beckon.
But first, answers to the most pertinent questions (at least the ones most people have asked us already). If you’d rather not read through all of this, just skip down to the bottom to read the wrap-up!
What’s the itinerary?
We are set to leave San Francisco on September 21, 2012 and return on February 12, 2013. Our dates in between aren’t totally set as of yet, but here’s the general plan:
- Turkey – The western portion of the country, highlighting ancient ruins, the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, idyllic villages and farms, and of course, the epicentre of west meets east and north meets south–Istanbul. How long? Approximately 3.5 weeks.
- Jerusalem + Jordan – A stay in the old city and perhaps Bethlehem, soaking up the ancient Judeo-Christian (and Muslim) sites and culture as well as a trip to Petra, and some brief exploring in the desert and Amman. How long? About 2.5 weeks.
- India – Specifically the state of Rajasthan, in the northwest part of the country. The Taj Mahal at Agra, colourful markets and dazzling fortresses, hopefully plenty of time in the countryside, a trip to see tigers, and a big ticket item on my life’s bucket list: the Pushkar Camel Fair. Look it up, it’ll rock your world. How long? Perhaps 3-4 weeks.
- Thailand – Bangkok, (where I’ll be doing some photography for an organization that reaches out to the women working the city’s sex trade) and the country’s islands and beaches where we’ll celebrate our birthdays and the Christmas season. How long? 3-4 weeks for me and about 2 weeks for Will (he’ll most likely be reconnecting with his company -perhaps in Japan-halfway through our trip).
- Tanzania + Kenya – The island of Zanzibar, the Serengeti, unbeatable wildlife, time spent in rural towns and villages, and hopefully a variety of ministries and organizations located throughout both countries. How long? 5-6 weeks.
Where will you be staying?
We’d like to spend time staying with locals, expats, and organizations along the way so that we can plug into the community more quickly and build relationships with those around us. We really want to use our gifts and skills to bless those we meet and give of ourselves in both ways we expect and ways we’re not yet aware of. Will and I also plan to spend a fair portion of our trip staying in budget guesthouses and hostels. We know we’ll need time to recharge and have our own personal space, and I love finding family-run businesses to support and recommend no matter where I go. We’re also keen on finding hostels with kitchens, and are open to renting a suite with kitchen(ette) for a few days at a time as well. Prices should range between US$12 a night for a highly recommended budget hotel in Pushkar, India with double bed, hot water, free-wifi, and a great rooftop restaurant, to 85 Euros for one night at a basic hotel near the airport in Istanbul, Turkey. (We’ll be avoiding spots like the latter for most of the trip except when needing to catch early morning flights etc.) Most places where we’ll be will have wifi, however, we’re hoping to get out into the boonies a fair bit, and in that case we’ll be gloriously cut off from society for a short time!
What will you be taking?
As little as possible. We’ll be backpacking, so all 4.5 months worth of clothing, sleeping bags, basic toiletries and meds, will be toted on our backs (20kg/44lbs max according to airline guidelines). Camera and computer equipment is another story. Most short-haul flights (ie. Istabul to Tel Aviv) will only allow 8kg/17lbs per person so I have been desperately going over gear lists and trying to minimize the amount of equipment we’ll be taking. I want enough to document what we see the way we’d like to, but don’t want so much that we feel bogged down by it and spend more time shooting than SEEING. When we get ready to officially pack our bags, I’ll provide a packing list for those interested. I have almost finished putting together my outfits for the trip, which I’m super pumped about and will definitely be photographing. I’ve been strategizing for a long time and have been picking up pieces over the last few months and storing them away so I don’t wear them until the trip. I’ve definitely cheated a couple times, but I’m determined not to again until September 21. I’m sure I’ll be sick of everything by the time February 12 rolls around and also want each piece to be in good condition before we start.
Is it safe?
Not gonna lie. Only Americans ask me this question. Canadians and everyone else haven’t even broached the issue. That said, it’s a fair question and while every country in the world has safe areas and not-so-safe areas, we are traveling to countries where there are typically a high number of tourists every year. This is more of a turn-off to me as I like to visit more remote/less touristy areas, BUT it does mean that if we’re caught in a jam, there’ll likely be an embassy we can turn to, or a last-minute flight out that we can catch. We’ll also have access to wi-fi a fair amount of the time, so keeping in touch won’t be an issue, and I always believe that connecting with locals and resident expats is one of the safest ways to travel…they know which neighbourhoods to steer clear of and generally look out for you pretty vigilantly. As far as health issues go, I’m up to date on most of my vaccines, and Will should be too, by the time we leave the US. We’ll only need to be on malaria meds in East Africa, and we’ll be drinking purified water throughout the trip. I’ve also got a pretty good stash of natural concoctions that I always take with me which have proven time and again to kill germs, beat infections, and aid the digestive system. I’m a huge fan of street foods, but I generally go by the rule that if other westerners and lots of locals are eating there, it’s probably safe. 9 times out of 10, I’ve been fine, but I have heard that going vegetarian and avoiding street meat while in India is a good way to keep the tummy from rumbling ;-)
What will the weather be like?
Turkey, Israel, and Jordan, all being Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, will see warm, dry days and cool nights throughout the early fall months. Turkish waters down south should still be warm enough to swim in, and camping in the Jordanian desert shouldn’t be too cold. Northwestern India in November is the post-monsoon season with hot, dry days (33-38 C/91-100F) and warm evenings (18-20 C/64-68F). Southern Thailand will be experiencing it’s ‘cool’, dry season in December and will see temperatures close to those of Rajasthan’s, though not so extreme. Lastly, Tanzania and Kenya are typically hot and dry during January and early February, especially inland. Essentially shorts and tank tops by day (when appropriate–not so much for the Jerusalem’s old city or India) and longer layers for the evenings. Couldn’t ask for better weather than that in my opinion!
How much time in each place?
We realize that we’re covering a lot of ground for the amount of time we’re traveling, but we’ve narrowed it down to regions rather than entire countries, and we’ve decided to try and take at least 4 days in one place (for the most part). Will and I are also on the same page when it comes to how we spend our days. If we’re not with other people or organizations, we’d like to maybe sightsee at most every 3rd day, and spend the other two just doing every day kinds of things…correspondence, laundry, grocery shopping, reading, exercising, attending local church services etc. With being on the road so much, we want to make sure we strike a balance between experiencing the exotic and maintaining the everyday.
Whew…that was a lot. Actually, it was quite clarifying (and surreal) for me to see it all laid out like that. If you’ve stuck with me this far, kudos to you. And if you haven’t, I don’t blame you as that was a lot to cover. Plus this post doesn’t feature any photos to break up the type!
I really can’t believe that I’m going to hit the ‘Publish’ button in a few moments. We have 90 days to plan for this adventure and it’s almost as if once I usher this post into reality, the trip itself will become more real. Thank you so much to the small number of friends and family who have been praying for this dream to come to fruition. We are so grateful and feel so blessed to get this opportunity and want to use it to bless and inspire others rather than just keep it to ourselves. We know that this is a rare opportunity and don’t take any of it for granted. If you know of anyone in any of these countries who would love the chance to be photographed, who’s ministry or organization needs some short term volunteers, (or photographs) or who could just benefit from a visit, please let us know. Just use the contact form here or find me on Facebook…liking Jaime Lauren Photography on Facebook won’t hurt either ;-)
Here’s to a grand adventure!
PS I promise to send postcards to the first reader who calls me out if I ever use the word ‘epic’ or the phrase ‘trip of a lifetime’ during the next year of blogging. I utterly despise the overuse of the word ‘epic’ and avoid it at all costs. The phrase ‘trip of a lifetime’ is just something I could see accidentally slipping into my posts and I want to get more creative with my descriptions of this trip. Note: These instances above do not count!
PPS I need to start training to carry all this gear. Unfortunately I’ve eaten a dessert every day this week and have not made up for that in exercise. I usually don’t crave sweet things so I don’t know what my deal is, but any encouragement to get my butt in gear and build up my cardio as well as some muscle mass would be much appreciated!