So…You may have wondered while reading the blog how we pulled off some of this stuff. Fair Question.
While I’d like to think that Alyce and I have both worked very hard to set ourselves up for the future, there is no way we could have afforded this vacation if paying anywhere near retail prices for a lot of what we did. Hell, the one-way flight from New Orleans to Hong Kong in first class on Cathay Pacific would have cost in the neighborhood of $25,000 alone.
Since getting back, one of the things I get asked about almost as much as anything else is how in the hell did I plan all of this. The answer – to put it simply – was a lot of time, effort, and organization.
At the very beginning of the trip, the only constraints in my planning were money and time (Alyce’s limit of being gone from home). I also knew that we’d be traveling mainly in our winter months, so I’d prefer the southern hemisphere. And, if we were going to be gone for a long time, it made sense to go somewhere far away that we may not get the opportunity to visit again.
All these factors considered, I narrowed in on Australia and New Zealand. And my original plan to minimize the long flights was to stop at the Cook Islands on the way to AU/NZ and to stop in French Polynesia on the way back…making the flights much more bearable and getting some quality beach/Scuba time in.
I figured our maximum budget and the maximum time away from home I could get away with from Alyce was around 6 to 7 weeks. This would allow for 2 weeks in Australia, 2 weeks in New Zealand, and a week or so in the islands each way.
Now, it was time for the hard part – getting Alyce on board. I still remember plain as day first mentioning this idea to Alyce. We were walking Moose, and I brought up taking a big trip when she finished with school to someplace like Australia and New Zealand.
Her response – “I don’t know….What are we talking about? Something like two weeks? I don’t know. There is NO WAY we will be gone for anything longer than two weeks. I don’t know….” I knew I could work the length up from two weeks; there was still about two years of planning to go at this point. I just did not know exactly how much I’d be able to get away with…So I went ahead with planning the trip I’d plan without worrying about time.
I write this nearly 4 months after the conclusion of our trip. Reality has firmly returned (it didn’t take long). Life is the same as it was prior to leaving – except Alyce is done with school.
So…Was it worth it?
We were able to save plenty of money through various tricks, but we still spent a lot. An even bigger expense was the loss of income from each of us not working for three months. Still, I’d do it again in a heartbeat…to answer the question – it was without a doubt, absolutely worth it.
We were able to see and experience more things in 3 months than many people do in their entire life. We experienced many things we’ll never forget. Plus, we had both been very busy over the last couple years between work and school, so it gave us a break.
We got up early and said good-bye to Tommy, Mallory, and the girls. Similar to when we arrived, a complimentary car ride to the airport was provided for premium cabin passengers. So, we took advantage of the free ride.
The Abu Dhabi Airport is Etihad’s hub. There is a completely separate terminal entrance for Business and First Class passengers, complete with bellhops waiting to take your luggage.
The final destination…Here at last. It was definitely bittersweet. I loved all the traveling we did and could have absolutely gone for more. On the other hand, I was dying to see our dogs. Also, being home and sleeping in our own bed was very appealing as well. Alyce was definitely ready to head home.
Our last stop was almost like a semi-transition to being home. I had ran into my friend from high school, Tommy, at wedding party for another friend not too long back. I told him about our trip – including a planned stop in the UAE.
Tommy, his wife (Mallory, who was in Alyce’s high school class), and his two daughters live in Abu Dhabi, while he works there in the oil field. We said we’d need to meet up when we were there and left it at that for the time being.
Usually, I post my concluding thoughts in my daily wrap up. With so many days/destinations in Australia and New Zealand, those wrap ups were plenty long enough as is. So I broke my concluding thoughts on each country out here.
New Zealand Concluding Thoughts
We loved New Zealand. We went to a lot of places and did a lot of things on this trip, but – if you made us pick a favorite spot – it would probably be New Zealand and especially the South Island. It is probably not fair considering we spent 18 days in New Zealand and much less in most other places…But, oh well, that is our answer.
Everywhere we went was very safe. We caught some of the local news shows, and rarely was there any crime to report. The people were very friendly and helpful on top of that.
The entire country was very beautiful, with a variety of landscapes. There was also a wide variety of things to do at all potential price points.
Maldives Wrap Up
The Maldives were the last addition to our trip (along with the corresponding transit stop in the UAE). I was pushing for some stops in Africa and Europe; Alyce reigned me back in and said enough…probably for the best.
Still, I had one last bullet left to fire…The tropical paradise known as the Maldives.
Alyce was resistant at first, like most things with the trip. But, she opened up to this addition relatively easily. Our final itinerary was set.
The Maldives are a chain of island atolls in the middle of the Indian Ocean. There are 1192 islands in the chain, 192 of which are inhabited. The entire country’s population is just over 300,000 people and about a third of the population resides in the capital island of Male.
For just about the previous 40 days of the trip, we had been in native English speaking countries (Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand). We would be leaving that comfort zone.
But, we honestly were looking forward to it. We were excited to get to an exotic and new destination. Plus, Bali is heavily tourist driven, so they are pretty accommodating to English speakers (similar to the areas we went to in Thailand).
Bali is an island in the archipelago of Indonesia. I was pretty surprised to learn when planning that Indonesia is the 4th largest country in the world by population at 237 million people. Only China, India, and the US are larger.
The vast majority of the Indonesian population is muslim, and several of the provinces are governed under Sharia Law (Islamic Law). Bali is its own province (governing region) within Indonesia and is unique in that the population of Bali is almost exclusively Hindu.