Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Planning Begins

The Planning Begins in Earnest: We are 60 days from departure!

Actually this trip has been in the planning stage since we took our first real foreign adventure trip in the Fall of 1984. That trip to Europe had the barest of plans: fly to Brussels, rent a car and follow my father-in-law’s path during WWII, take a train from Vienna to Venice, cruise on the Vistafjord from Vienna to Yalta and back to Genoa, fly to London and fly home. We were gone six weeks, traveled with 7 large suitcases, had a great time and visited 14 countries!

That first trip awakened the explorer in us! Over the years we have made trips almost every year to other countries, visiting 34 more countries on six continents. In addition to the time spent tavelling overland, visiting places such as the hallowed battlefields of Flanders and Normandy, the mystical peaks of Machu Picchu and the beautiful campgrounds of New Foundland and Alaska, we have spent 243 days at sea. We have sailed across a stormy Bering Sea in early April and a placid lake that was the North Sea into the ever setting sun of the Baltics in June. We have cruised to Svaalbard (Spitsbergen), 600 miles south of the North Pole and done an eleven day expedition cruise going south of the Antarctic Circle with a landing on Antarctica’s continental landmass along with numerous Antarctic islands. On this last trip, The Drake "Shake" gave a new meaning to "ship movement" with seas to 30+ feet and a ship roll of 33 degrees for almost 46 hours!

For several years we have been talking about doing a trip around the world when Dick retires. Therefore, for some time now, I have been looking at world cruises and places we might want to spend time. This Fall Dick announced he would retire on December 31. We already were in the planning stages for a trip to New Zealand and Australia for the first part of 2009 so it made perfect sense to just go on around the world.

We had to get new passports for our South America and Antarctic trip this year. So, we ordered ones with extra pages. We got stamps at every research station we visited in Antarctica plus the regular stamps and visa entries for the South America countries. After counting the free sections and whole pages in the passports (30 full pages), several weeks ago, and figuring out how many visas we would have to get either before we left the US or as we traveled plus all the entry stamps (probably 28+ pages worth) Dick sent the passports off for yet more pages. We didn't want to be denied entry into a country at some airport! The passports came back last week with 20 more pages! I don't think we will run out of pages any time soon!

On this adventure we will explore our seventh continent, visit new countries for new experiences and return to some old friends for pure pleasure. Like the first trip, we will travel by rented car, by plane, by train and cruise the seas for 48 days. However, this trip will have a very different feel! Last time we left with a map of Europe and our plane, train and cruise tickets in a travel packet. This time I have a folder with over 40 pages of email confirmations, various tickets and lists of places to visit and eat! Last time we were expected home by three children and two jobs. This time our RTW plane tickets are good till January 8, 2010! That is the "or maybe more " in the title. However, in reality, I guess we are free for as long as we can stand to live on the "go" with the clothes that will fit in two small suitcases weighing, at most 15 pounds, each!

Today, Dick took our passports and our visa applications to the Chinese Consulate in Houston. They were accepted as presented and he got a receipt to pick them up on Thursday.

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