Real ROUND THE WORLD Trip: Asia, Australia & Africa

How great would it be to have the time to go on a multi-month round the world (RTW) trip with your signifiant other?  Pretty amazing, right?  When you both have full-time jobs it can be really hard to turn that dream into a reality, so when the opportunity presented itself to Robin and Darin (i.e. a cross-country move and the start of a new job), they enthusiastically took it.  Read all about their absolutely incredible travels in Asia, Australia, and Africa below:

How long was your RTW trip, and how did you find the time to go?

We traveled for seven weeks – July through August [2013] – and we were really lucky to travel for that amount of time. We had been living in Boston, and Darin was offered, and chose to accept, a job in Florida. Since we were moving and both of us were going to have to change jobs, we tossed around the idea of traveling before starting work. Before we knew it, our apartment in Boston was all packed up and heading to storage, our new lease in Florida wasn’t starting until September, and we were on a plane to Asia.

Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef

Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef

Where did you go (and how much time did you stay in each place)?

Darin has family in Sydney and Johannesburg, so we knew when we started talking about the trip that we had to go to those cities. We then planned around those destinations and decided to go to places that would not be easily accessible on a one or two-week trip once we went back to work. We basically looked at a map and picked out places we had interest in going to or that our friends had been to. We are an active couple, so we were more excited about seeing a country’s natural beauty rather than eating at high-end restaurants or wandering through museums.

Bike riding in Tokyo

Bike riding in Tokyo

We also tried to plan our trip by choosing destinations that we could get to on direct flights. So inevitably, our first destination was going to be a big city.

The Itinerary:

Tokyo – 3 days
Beijing – 2.5 days
Hong Kong – 2.5 days

At this point in our trip we were tired of big cities and were excited to have the same currency for longer than a few days. We spent about two weeks traveling around Thailand.

Chang Mai – 3 days
Koh Tao – 4 days
Koh Samui – 3 days
Gillham’s Fishing Resort, outside of Krabi – 1.5 days

From Thailand we headed to Cambodia based on friends’ recommendations.

Siem Reap – 2 days

We left the northern hemisphere summer for winter down under. It was nice to be able to spend time with family without being jetlagged.

Port Douglas (launching point for the Great Barrier Reef) – 2.5 days
Sydney – 5 days

From Sydney we had a direct flight to Jo-burg, and met up with Darin’s parents for two weeks of travel throughout Southern Africa.

Johannesburg – 2 days
Botswana – 4 days (Nxabega Okavango (tented camp) and Sandibe Safari Lodge)
Zambia (Victoria Falls) – 2 days
South Africa – 5 days (Londolozi and Ulusaba (Richard Branson’s private game reserve))

At Victoria Falls in Zambia

At Victoria Falls in Zambia

Did you have a set itinerary from the start, or did you play things by ear?

We booked our RTW ticket on OneWorld, and they have a very user-friendly website that made it easy to build an itinerary. Although the ticket is flexible (we could change the flight dates and times without a penalty and pay a small fee to add a city), we had all of our stops planned before we left the States, and we had our hotels booked before we arrived in each city. We only had to change a flight once, which is pretty impressive since we took more than 20 flights during the trip.

We planned most of our activities when we got to city based on hotel recommendations and from other travelers we met along the way.

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

How hard was it to pack for a RTW trip?    

The hardest part of packing was that we needed clothes for both the northern and southern hemispheres. Southeast Asia is very hot, humid, and wet in the summer, and southern Africa is very cold at 6AM which is when you do your morning safari drive.

In the weeks leading up to the trip I followed the blog Travel Fashion Girl which has great advice on how to pack for various cities and activities, and there is even a packing list for RTW travel. We certainly were not fashionistas on this trip and definitely packed for function. We are embarrassed to admit that our lifeline in Asia was our Tevas – they kept us cool, they didn’t get ruined in the rain, they were easy to hike in, and we didn’t have to travel with many socks (clean or dirty).

We packed a lot of exercise-type clothes because they are light, sweat-wicking, and easy to hand wash. We quickly got tired of our bathroom being a laundry facility but we couldn’t afford the laundry prices at the hotels. However, just blocks from our hotels we were usually able to find shops that do laundry for $1 / kg.

The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China

The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China

What were your three favorite places that you visited on this trip?

Safari was definitely our favorite experience. We stayed at 4 different camps and they were all terrific. If you are a wildlife lover, put Africa on the top of your list of places to go.

Our other favorite spots were the temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and the Great Barrier Reef. We did very little research before arriving in Cambodia which might be why our expectations were greatly exceeded.

Holding a hippo's jaw while on safari in South Africa

Holding a hippo’s jaw while on safari in South Africa

Were there any places you wish you had skipped?

No, we were happy with all of our stops and the amount of time we spent in each city. However, we wish we planned the Thailand portion of our trip a bit differently. We found the beach areas that we visited to be very touristy (think Key West), and we much prefer more remote areas. In retrospect we would have liked to have traveled to more places within Japan and Cambodia than we did, and possibly visiting the beaches in Cambodia.

Darin's favorite moment of the trip: catching a giant fish in Thailand!

Darin’s favorite moment of the trip: catching a giant fish in Thailand!

Do you have any tips for other couples who are considering going on a RTW trip?

Our tips are not specific to RTW other than if you are talking about it, just do it! The airlines make it really easy to book a multi-city trip.

  • Try to limit how many times you withdraw money from an ATM in each country you visit. We would always take out more money than we budgeted for, and any remaining currency we would use to pay down our hotel bill.
  • If you are concerned about internet access, consider renting a MIFI (it’s a pocket 3G device) – it came in very handy in Tokyo since it gave us access to Google Maps. It also gave us excellent internet access in the hotel.
  • Don’t be a fashionista – Tevas are terrific travel shoes.
  • Make sure you visit an infectious disease doctor before leaving the States. We each had to get four vaccines plus we traveled with a lot of medicine.
  • 7-Elevens are everywhere and sell everything. They also usually have ATMs that accept American debit cards.
  •  iMessage and FaceTime work over wifi – another reason you may want to rent a MIFI.
Gorgeous scenery in Chiang Mai

Gorgeous scenery in Chiang Mai

Where do you want to go on your next big trip?

I’m not sure a big trip is in the cards for us anytime soon. I would love to get to Patagonia; we met a couple traveling for a year who spent an extensive amount of time in South America and they spoke so highly of the area.

Our trips for 2014 will likely be skiing and visiting a remote island in the Bahamas.

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