Today I'm in Zurich. Not quite the most expensive city in the world, but right up there competing for top spot.
I’m visiting my daughter who's working there. She’s just rented her first ever apartment - I’m not sure who’s more excited, Rebecca to show it to me, or me seeing her making her own way in life.
This is good travelling. My retired early lifestyle gives me the flexibility to go when I want. Sally isn’t with me because she chooses to still work as a teacher, so can’t wander off whenever she wants. But school's off next week, so Sally's meeting up with us in France for skiing with the kids. We skied for the first time last year, so this is our second go – I’m sure mid to late forties is the ideal age to learn😂
After Zurich and the ski trip, I have five weeks at home before heading off again. I’ll be away for almost all of April, again to Zurich, then New York and Boston before heading to the UK to visit my son at college.
It’s great having the freedom to make these trips. But they're just the warm up act for what we have planned for the second half of the year, when Sally is taking a year off from teaching.
I’ve just booked the tickets for our big trip, so really ought to have thought about this before now.
I’m quite nervous about the travelling, even before I came across an old post by Tom at Sightings at Sixty called Why I Don’t Like Travel. Uh oh, I thought, but I couldn't stop myself reading it.
I was glad to find it was a little tongue in cheek. As usual, I enjoyed his post, but one bit jarred in my mind. He said “sometimes, I get the feeling that if you're retired, and you don't travel, then people think you're not making the most of your retirement, and you're somehow letting everyone down”.
Is that me? Do I really want to travel, or is it that I think it’s something that I ought to do, to show what a great job I’m making of my early retirement? Good question.
So rather belatedly, I’ve given it some thought. Why do I want to travel? These are some of the reasons I’ve come up with:
I'm fortunate to have the opportunity, so I shouldn't waste it.
It’s outside of my comfort zone. While this scares me a bit, I’m weirdly looking forward to testing myself – that’s exciting living rather than just existing living.
There are going to be some great memories that we make, and will keep forever.
We’ll meet some really interesting people, and see some fantastic places.
We have friends in Australia and Hong Kong that we wouldn’t otherwise meet up with.
Think of the fabulous stories that we’ll have. I’ll be able to bore people for days on end with them!
A big trip forces us to do it differently from previous shorter trips/vacations. The money and time aspects are different for a start. We’ll stay in different types of accommodation, travel through countries rather than just to resorts, go off the beaten track, meet and get tips from other travelers. That’s all different and exciting.
We’ll learn about ourselves, by being in new and different situations. It’s a bit scary, but I think it’s worth doing.
I’m sure we’ll have a fantastic time, and there will also be times when we doubt ourselves, or long for our bed at home. But even if at the end, we decide it wasn’t for us, at least we'll have found that out for sure instead of wondering or regretting that we never gave it a go. However it turns out, we’re guaranteed to have some interesting experiences and stories to tell.
Make a Memory Every Day
I want to make this my travel mantra.
To do something each day that we’ll look back on and say, “do you remember when we did…” or “how about when we visited…, what a great day that was”.
They don’t have to be massive things, just something that was special for us that we’ll remember in the future. The first one will be simple, a selfie at the airport, us with our backpacks on, about to board our first flight. The day we started our adventure.
It will be interesting to look back and see what the other memories will be. A benefit of having a blog is that it forces me to write about these memories as we go.
Our Travel Plans so far
I’ve booked the flights, so we’re definitely doing it! This is the plan so far:
7 July - We pack up and leave Dubai. First stop is the UK for 8 days to say hi to the family.
16 July - Bali for 9 days.
27 Jul - Australia for 5 weeks plus a day. We fly into Cairns and fly out of Adelaide.
2 September - Hong Kong. Just 2 days visiting a friend. We used to live in HK, so no need to stay longer.
5 September - Japan for 14 days. Flying into Tokyo and travelling overland to Osaka.
20 September - 17 days in Thailand. Probably Bangkok, Chiang Mai, then south to Krabbi.
8 October - Vietnam for 15 days. We arrive in Ho Chi Minh and travel down to Hanoi.
24 October - India for 12 days. Half in the north to see the sights and then flying south to Kerala for a bit of relaxation.
7 November - Dubai for 7 days. Catching up with friends.
14 November - Fly to UK, but only for a week or so, and then we'll go to France, but that's another story.
Travel days are excluded, so will be extra. All told, we’ll be away for just over four months.
I suspect I've tried to squeeze too much in because we can't extend this part of our travels past November. Maybe it would have been better to leave a couple of countries for another time, and to spend more time in fewer places. We'll see, but it's too late to change things now the flights are booked.
Other than country arrival and departure dates, we’ll leave the itinerary flexible, but we'll make outline plans of what we want to do. I need to arrange visas for Australia (easy) and India (perhaps a little less easy), and I want to work out some kind of budget. I’d better get on it as I suspect time will whizz by and it will be July before I realise.
We paid £2,492 ($3,513) per person for the flights. I’m happy with that considering we have 11 flights, 5 of which I count as long haul, and we don’t go the shortest route (Japan for example takes us well out of our way).
The cheapest price I found was £2,210 ($3,132), but we decided to pay a bit more for some airline preferences, to take a direct flight from Adelaide to Hong Kong, and to get extra legroom seats on one of the longer flights. These changes weren’t essential, but I figure we can afford them.
Thinking they’d be low cost, I contacted a travel agency known for putting together trips for gap year students. It was a surprise to find I beat their quotation simply by sourcing one way tickets online. With a little time and effort, based on our final booking, we saved £626 ($883) for the two of us, but if we’d taken the lowest cost option, the saving would have been £1,190 ($1,678).
Maybe it’s a bit early to pack, but I’m allowed to get excited so I’ve already had a practice pack. I made Sally do the same, although she’s not so excited!
I had my reasons. I’ve spent ages reading reviews on luggage – you can’t say I don't know how to have fun! What type of luggage is best, should it have wheels or not, how big, what to pack etc?
I settled on a backpack. Probably because I figured it’s what gap year students would use, and as I still think I’m in my early twenties, then that’s what I should do too. I’m now the proud owner of an Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack (Sally has the female equivalent). To Sally’s shock, it’s airline carry-on size (I could have saved on the air tickets if I knew this earlier), so our packing for four months has to fit into our carry on backpacks. Anyway, the test packing worked, it fits. Even Sally’s stuff fits – now that was a surprise!
That’s the travel plan update for now. I’ll post again once I’ve done a bit more planning and the trip is getting closer.
I’m becoming adept at sneaking in an unrelated running update. At the end of last weeks post, I did two things:·
I proudly announced my new marathon personal best, before,
I got over excited and rashly came up with the idea to try for a sub 3 hour marathon at Boston in April.
This week’s update. I’ve looked at the pace that I need to run for a sub 3 hour finish and made a training schedule. I’ve also tried my first training session at the new pace. What was I thinking? OMG, it nearly killed me, and in fact I didn’t manage to complete the whole session at the pace.
Perhaps I’m not quite recovered from the marathon, and it will get easier? Perhaps I'm not used to the cold weather training that I found in Zurich? Or is it that the sub 3 hour marathon should remain the stuff of dreams? I don’t know, I guess I need to give it a bit more time, but it wasn’t exactly the start to my mission sub 3 hours that I was hoping for.
And if I'm going to do more of this cold weather running, I think I need to work on my fashion sense🤣