I’ve only got one month left to Splendor in the Lemongrass, though I said I’d be here a year. You see, I took a career break to live in Thailand. Most of my life and travel in Southeast Asia has been financed off of my meager savings, and I’ll need to get back to a workplace to replenish when the year’s up. I tried the “digital nomad” thing, but I found it stressful and not suited to my work style, which benefits from routine and an office.
The return to the workforce includes a return to the American vacation schedule, where two weeks a year get divided up between vacation, life appointments that happen during work hours, and family obligations. Travel while living this life is hard; I managed to take two weeks to explore Japan in 2010 under the generous bosses at my old company, but most of my vacation days over the three years spent there were used going to weddings, funerals, taking more than the government-given long weekend for Christmas, and the odd sanity preserving long weekend.
As such, I decided to totally burn myself out around the world so that the stability and routine offered by a 9 to 6 job looks totally appealing. We decided to cut our time in Thailand short–we are so comfortable here that it hardly feels foreign–and journey back to America taking as few planes as possible.
We start with a quick jaunt to Nepal (a quick! jaunt! to Nepal!) to visit one of my college friends who has outdone himself in planning a 6-day whirlwind itinerary. We will visit palaces and temples, stroll through markets, and take a plane ride around Everest, since we’re not so outdoorsy or deathwishy to climb it ourselves.
After a day-long layover in Kuala Lumpur, we will fly to Beijing, where we will eat approximately 40 meals in eight days. Other than visiting the Great Wall and sneaking a peek at the Chairman’s preserved dead body, we have no idea what to do. Suggestions are welcome!
From Beijing we will board the Trans-Siberian railroad to fulfill one of my biggest dreams: wearing a track suit, eating potatoes, and scowling–on a train! We stop just long enough in Mongolia to ride some horses (I want to pretend I’m a Khaleesi) and drink some mare’s milk before entering Siberia.
Our first stop in Russia will be Irkutsk, which we will use as a jumping point to visit Lake Baikal, which should really come with a spiffy tagline. Here are some ideas I might pass on to the Russian Tourism Board:
- Lake Baikal: The World’s Next Ocean! (No, Really.)
- Lake Baikal: Catch Your Own Nerpa!
- Lake Baikal: The Most Scenic Place to Beat Yourself with Birch in a Banya!
We have a two-day stop in Omsk and another two days in Perm. We have very few plans for either destination, other than a visit to the Tchaikovsky Theater to validate my many years spent in the ballet studio. We may see if someone will sell us a bear pelt, but the goal in these central Russian cities is to sit, see, and probably drink some vodka. What am I talking about. We’re definitely going to drink some vodka. We might even drink a lot!
The train’s last stop is in Moscow, where we will spend another two days running around from site to site and dodging the police, who are notorious for messing with foreigners. I’m also going to have to see Lenin’s preserved dead body, because once you’ve seen one Communist leader’s preserved dead body, you kinda have to see them all. One of my goals for 2012 is to have gazed upon the most famous trio: Ho Chi Minh (check!), Mao (planned!), and Lenin (planned!).
From Moscow, we will take what will hopefully be our last flight of the trip to Istanbul. I have chattered about visiting Turkey for six years, as one of my best girlfriends and former roommates hails from the country. Though I’m sort of embarrassed it took me this long to get there, I am super excited to visit the city that bridges Europe and Asia.
Our itinerary from here on out is less planned. All we know is that we will travel by trains across Europe to reach Southampton, UK by December 15. That’s our departure date for our passage to New York, which we’ve booked on the Queen Mary 2. Crossing the Atlantic via boat has long been a romantic dream of mine. I’m psyched to take the journey that got my genes to America, but in a much fancier way than my ancestors traveled. Though the tickets were surprisingly affordable, this boat has strict dress codes; one to three dinners of the seven we’ll have on board will be black tie. Buying formal wear in Thailand was certainly an unexpected expense.
So, that’s where our itinerary stands now! We’ve booked all accommodation and transportation up to Istanbul, and we’re only waiting for our Trans-Siberian booking to go through so we can start the arduous, paperwork-heavy process of getting a Russian visa. This task has been ridiculously difficult thus far, and I’ve lost a few nights sleep worrying over whether we will get the piece of paper in time to travel.
In the meantime, we’re charting out a few routes through Europe. We’re trying to find a balance between affordability and seeing the major cities we’ve heard so much about. We may skip some of the key tourist countries (Italy, Spain, France) entirely, as it might be hard to spend only a week or so in them and feel satisfied.
Hi! I'm Susan, and this is my travel journal. You can read more about me here.
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