Hooray! It's the New Year! 2-0-1-6. Happy New Year my friend!
This is going to be a big year for me as I plan to set off on my first round the world (fondly dubbed 'RTW') trip. After leaving my job last fall, the biggest question I got from friends and family after I proclaimed my plans to be the Filipino Magellan was: "Where are you going to go?". It's been weighing heavily on my mind too.
Where the heck was I going to go?
Technically, someone can circumnavigate the globe with as little as two countries. However, it's been a lifelong dream to see the world and it would be a terrible shame if the world I saw consisted of just two countries. POP QUIZ: Without googling it, how many countries in the world are there? (Answer at the end of this post)
Up until this point, I've spent the better part of last year reconstructing my life to be most appropriate for long term travel. I've sold (almost) all my worldly possessions, saved diligently and mostly importantly, walked away from a high paying, albeit unfulfilling position. To use a golf analogy - I'm teed up, roaring to go and all that's left is to smack it right down the middle of the fairway.
Another big reason I have yet to take off on my wild adventure is the ugly four letter word travelers loathe. V-I-S-A. I'm not talking about the credit card company with the gold venn diagram for a logo. Rather, I'm referring to the binding document to legally enter a country's borders, something like a hall pass for elementary school. To make matters worse, I hold a 'lower power' passport as a Filipino citizen which meant that I didn't get a free hall pass or entry into a lot of countries compared to some developed nations such as the United States of America or Great Britain.
In 2015, Filipino citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 60 countries and territories, ranking the Philippine passport 76th in the world according to the Visa Restrictions Index (Wikipedia).
Having the world as my oyster is truly wonderful and agonizing in the same breath. I have enough resources for a 12-month journey and trying to visit every single country in that time frame would be foolish. How do you even play favorites with countries? Before I began the arduous task of figuring all of this out, I kept in mind one of the goals I had for this trip. That goal was to make a complete circumnavigation of the globe, meaning I can undeniably say that I went around the world, and not as a figure of speech. I did mention that I wanted to be the Filipino Magellan, right? Harkening back to being in college, I turned to the almighty source of truth to begin my research: Wikipedia. Fortunately, there was a fantastic page outlining the visa restrictions of each country for Filipinos like me, and off I went.
After some deliberation and back & forth with myself, I finally have an itinerary! If all the stars align (i.e. I get all the visas I need), here are the countries I plan to visit in my year long trip. Before you ask, I am also planning to outline what my trip will look like if I don't get the visas I need in a later post.
Presenting... Nico's RTW 2016/17 (Plan A)
Estimated Departure: April 1, 2016
Departing From: Manila, Philippines
- Vietnam (2 weeks, April)
- Indonesia (1 week, April)
- Cambodia (2 weeks, April/May)
- Thailand (3 weeks, May)
- Myanmar (1 week, June)
- India (2 weeks, June)
- Italy* (1 week, June)
- Greece* (1 week, July)
- Netherlands* (1 week, July)
- France* (1 week, July)
- Spain* (1 week, July)
- Turkey* (2 weeks, August)
- Morocco (2 weeks, August)
- Kenya (2 weeks, September)
- Brazil (3 weeks, September/October)
- Bolivia (3 weeks, October)
- Peru (3 weeks, November)
- Colombia (3 weeks, November/December)
- Ecuador (3 weeks, December/January)
- Costa Rica (3 weeks, January)
- USA* (6 weeks, February/March)
- Australia* (3 weeks, March/April)
*Countries that require a visa in advance
This is what it looks like on a map:
Yes! A full circumnavigation. Note that this is for illustrative purposes only. The actual path taken will vary dramatically based on transportation options at the time of booking.
Japan: Ah, the land of the rising sun. The reason this beautiful country got snubbed was because of my requirement to enter the EU zone in late June (3 months post departure, hard deadline based on the visa). I also want to add that it is relatively easy to get a Japanese visitor's visa and flights from Manila are fairly cheap making it a great candidate for a future visit after I return.
Iceland: With such a tight schedule, I wanted to stick to the European mainland. I am looking forward to visiting in the future.
United Kingdom: I visited England and Wales when I was 10 and absolutely hated it. Why would I go through the trouble of getting a visa after that forgettable experience?
Egypt: Who doesn't dream of visiting the grand Pyramids? I was heartbroken when I found out that an advance visitor's visa would only be issued for a maximum of 6 months. I planned to be there 6 months into my trip. Gah, next time.
South Africa: Turned off from my heartbreak about Egypt's time restrictive visa, I discovered much of the same for South Africa. Damn you in-advance visas. Again, gah, next time.
The Australian Visa is going to be one tricky SOB. I cannot apply for it before I leave because the visa validity is a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 12, if you are lucky. I don't want to take a chance applying before I left because it would be too close for comfort being that I would like to be in Australia around March or April of 2017. In that case, I will likely apply for it online this Fall when I'm somewhere in South America. In the event that it doesn't pull through, I will be flying back home from the USA.
There you have it! 22 countries, 6 continents and 1 solo traveler. This is just the start. Even though I spent the better part of 2 whole days putting this together, IT IS NOT FINAL. I may decide to skip, or even add, a new destination if I feel like it. Ah… The joys of long term travel! I'm still working out a lot of logistics and have been spending most of my days looking up every random thing that could pertain to this trip from vaccinations to flights. Up next will be a post about Plan B and other preparatory aspects such as finances and packing. FUN FUN FUN, indeed.