On May 20th 2017 we left home to fulfill a lifelong dream and to travel for a year. No worries about work, eating foreign foods, discovering beautiful beaches, travel on ancient routes and learning about new cultures. This is what life’s about.
Earlier long trips
We’ve traveled for extended periods of time before. In 2007 we took the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Moscow, through Mongolia to China, were we traversed the entire country, including Tibet. This trip took us 3,5 months.
This whetted our appetite for more and in 2013 we did a 7,5 month round-the-world trip starting in Romania and Bulgaria. We flew from Istanbul to Malaysia and spent two months in Indonesia before moving on to South Korea and Taiwan. Via Hawaii we flew to Central America where we traveled from Nicaragua to Colombia.
But still this was too short. We wanted even more. We dreamed of traveling for a year, but had something like a ten year wait in mind. But things changed. Roel developed chronic neck and headache problems over the past years that can’t be treated. It already forced him to quit cycling, but it started to impede him in backpacking as well.
Now or never
We don’t know how Roel’s physical problems will develop in the coming years, but for us it was clear that if we ever wanted to travel for a year it had to be now or (maybe) never.
So Eugénie checked with her work if she could have an unpaid leave of absence for a full year. She could. With one income secured for when we’d get back, we were ready to go. Roel – who works as a freelancer – contacted his clients and his most important client said that he’d be welcome to return after our travels, which was very welcome news too of course.
Our Travel plan
Our travel plan for our year on the road can be divided into three separate parts: 3 months by car crossing the Balkans, 100 days on the Silk Road from China to Iran and the last half year we will probably spend entirely in Southeast Asia, the part of the world that feels like home to us.
Balkans – 3 months
During the first part of the trip we intend to visit all the countries of the former republic of Yugoslavia plus Albania. This is going to be a road trip in the real sense of the word.
We’ve packed our car to drive from our home in the Netherlands to Slovenia first, where we stay for a short time before moving on to Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia again, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, a second time Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia for the third time before returning to Slovenia and driving home again.
We plan on going camping in the more touristic and expensive countries like Slovenia and Croatia, but if the price is right we prefer to stay in nice little hotels and guesthouses. It’s been a long time since our last camping trip. When checking our gear we discovered that two out of three self-inflatable beds in our possession had leaks and that our gas burners didn’t work anymore. Before leaving we already had our first unscheduled extra costs.
Silk Road – 100 days
The second part of our journey will take us to the Silk Road, following ancient trade routes between east and west. This especially is something that Roel has dreamed of doing all his life. For him this is the ultimate journey. We will start by flying to Lanzhou in China and then make our way west into Xinjiang province and the Stans.
If we manage to secure all the necessary visa – obtaining them for some of the countries is a real pain in the ass – we want to visit all of the five Stans. From China we will first get to Kyrgyzstan, then make a small detour into Kazakhstan before continuing through Kyrgyzstan again. Next we plan on hiring a 4WD and chauffeur for the very rugged and remote Pamir Highway through Tajikistan, before visiting the cultural treasures of Uzbekistan.
We would really like to cross Turkmenistan to get to Iran, but from what we understand this can become a big problem. Visa applications get rejected quite randomly and we happen to get there in October, just a few weeks before Independence Day. We are told that no visas are issued at all then. We just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best.
Our last month on the Silk Road will be spent in Iran, a destination Eugénie needed some convincing of. Roel has been pushing her for years to travel to Iran, but she wasn’t particularly keen on being all covered up in the heat and having to wear a headscarf in public. But after seeing some travel programs about Iran she was sold. By getting there at the end of October the weather will have cooled down enough. We hope the strict Iranian dress code will not be too much of a nuisance then.
Southeast Asia – 6 months
Over the past two decades we’ve been to Southeast Asia many times. It is our favorite part of the world. Every time we step out of a plane here it feels like coming home. We will first fly to Phuket, Thailand for some much needed R&R after our Silk Road adventures.
Over the next few months we’ll revisit many places we’ve been to before ten years or longer ago and visit some new. Making our way from the south of Thailand to the north of the country, we then want to cross into Laos and travel all the way down again to Cambodia.
From there it’s our intention to fly to the Philippines for two months, a country we’ve never been to before and was high on our bucket list. The last part of the trip has not been decided, though. Maybe we revisit Vietnam, maybe we go to Indonesia again or maybe – if budget allows – we’re going somewhere completely else. Nothing is set in stone. Our travel plan can change.
On June 1st 2018 we plan on returning home.