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Ready and Waiting ...here we come

Last minute trials and tribulations


After months and months of planning we are now at a Heathrow Airport hotel ready to depart on our flight to Singapore tomorrow. It has been a bit stressful during the last two or three weeks what with last minute arrangements and a fair degree of panicking about the potential for delays due to the eruption of Mount Raung in Java, which has been delaying flights in and out of Bali for the last few weeks. In the end, mindful of the fact that we didn't want to get stuck there, we have shortened our time in Bali from 7 days to 4. This might sound like a strange thing to do, there are worse places to be stranded after all. However for us, with a trip of The Ghan already booked only two days after we were meant to be arriving in Darwin, we were concerned this might be cutting things a bit fine. We did toy with the idea of just not going to Bali at all but in the end we compromised and have just given ourselves a five day window instead. Hopefully we won't live to regret this decision! The added bonus is that we have upgraded from a really beautiful room for the second half of our Bali stay, to an even swankier one which has its own private pool. Watch this space for the photos.

We also had a slight panic when we got to our Heathrow Hotel as we had decided not to bring with us the credit card we had booked some of our hotels on. This was because research had shown us that it is worth getting specific cards that offer good deals on overseas transactions. The hotel insisted in crediting the original card and we had to pay again. Not a problem unless it happens with dozens of hotels, leaving us in credit by £1000's on one card and with a cash flow problem in terms of the new one A phone call or two and a trawl through our bookings reassured us that this might not be an ongoing problem. Panic over and calmness combined with excitement has returned.

Saying goodbye to family and friends has been hard, not so much for the time away but the miles there will be between us. Will particularly miss seeing the first few months of my newly arrived grandson Oliver's life. Thank goodness for FaceTime. Am going to go and explore the Sheraton skyline where we are staying tonight and then get ready to meet with my brother and his wife who are driving over to have a meal with us this evening. Happy days!

Posted by Gill's Travels 08:47 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged heathrow Comments (0)

The Kit

Rucksacks and more . . .

We have spent quite a bit of time deliberating the basic kit to take with us. The final decision has been informed by two factors. Firstly there are lots of things that we won't need to carry on our round the world trip, such as tents, sleeping bags or food (when we have the latter we will have the luxury of a hire car). Secondly we don't feel that the advice often given to backpackers of "take three t-shirts, one to wear, one to wash and one as a spare" fits us and our stage in life (we will both be 60 by the time we go). We will be spending nearly 5 months in the clothes we take, so we want to get it right if we can (although given our intinerary we will be able to buy anything else we need en-route). In essence we have tried to balance having capacity whilst keeping the weight as low as possible. We have taken our old rucksacks to the charity shop (who were very happy to have them) and replaced them with rucksacks on wheels which means that we can carry them on our back if we need to, but most of the time just pull them around like regular suitcases. Having thought long and hard, and done my research I have gone for:

  • Osprey Sojourn wheeled rucksacks (60 litres),
  • Osprey Flare daypack (light with lots of pockets, but doesn't fit to the rucksack as I am unlikely to need to carry both on my back at the same time),
  • Small ebags so that I can separate and easily find pieces of clothing (one bag for t-shirts, another for trousers etc),
  • Karrimor waterproof bags (for wet washing, kayaking, wet swimming costume etc)

I also intend to take a very lightweight beach bag that will fold up small and weighs next to nothing. This can also double as shopping bag.

Only time will tell as to whether we have made the right choices, but that will have to wait a few weeks yet


Posted by Gill's Travels 04:42 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

What about work!

Getting the time off

There is a massive difference between booking a couple of weeks leave and being able to get away for over four months. Our work situations are very different and therefore so was our approach to getting time off. For Nigel this meant approaching his line manager and formally applying for unpaid leave. He had to fill in a form saying why he wanted the time off, what the impact might be and how thus could be managed organisationally. The biggest issue was probably the time it took to get the agreement. Responding to this request was understandably not top of their list of priorities given their busy working lives and they had to discuss with him the possible pension implications before granting the leave. It probably took a couple of months to get the agreement and given that you can't really start booking anything until you have this, I guess the moral of the story is put your request in plenty of time. In the end they were very supportive of his plans.

It is very different in terms of my work as I am self employed and in the process of building up my business as a qualified counsellor. Part of the reason that we are taking this once in a lifetime trip now, before my work is fully established, is to minimise the impact of taking so much time out. Part of my budgeting needed to take into account not just my lack of earnings whilst we are away, but also the inevitable wind down time before we go, and to allow for building up the business when I get back. We have timed the trip to coincide with when I am able to start claiming an occupational pension which means that I will have a small income whilst we are away. Although I am self employed I do work for/ out of several organisations so had to at least discuss my plans with them. As a counsellor I have had to explain to clients my timescale for working with them, and naturally this raises some questions and curiosity, which I needed to be prepared for.

Everyone's circumstances will be different and have varying implications for taking time off (unless you are fully retired and in receipt of enough pension to fund the trip). This will determine how easy it will be to get away and for how long. I guess it is a matter of working through these implications and coming up with solutions that work for both you and your employer/ clients.

Once all of this was sorted we could turn our attention to exactly where we were going to go, and enjoying the planning and the anticipation!

Posted by Gill's Travels 01:15 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Only 5 months to go!

Planning, planning, planning

Well, just over 5 months before we depart and it seems like the planning and preparation is going well. I decided to book/ reserve our accomodation before we leave so that we didn't have to spend hours on the Internet when we would rather be off exploring and having fun (and because I am a bit of a control freak / obsessive). Not that I am knocking the Internet as that is what has made this process so achievable. So my top tips at this stage are:

  • Don't be afraid of sorting out your own itinerary, and booking stuff yourself. I have had some lovely email exchanges with accommodation providers and am really looking forward to meeting some of them.
  • Make use of travel agents for the stuff that is more crucial/ complicated. We have used them to book flights primarily, but spent a happy 2 1/2 hours with them whilst they sorted out all of the logistics of hiring seven different hire cars in two separate countries with pick ups and drop offs as near to our hotels as possible.
  • Enjoy the planning process. We might only be away for 4 1/2 months but there is endless enjoyment to be had thinking about where you want to go and what you want to do.
  • Boring though it is keep one eye to your budget, so you know how much you can spend on accommodation, activities and eating out whilst you are away. No one WANTS to cut short a trip or get into debt whilst they are away.

In terms of planning, the following have been my best friends so far:

Trailfinders: great for doing as little or as much as you want them to do (thanks Richard)
Tripadvisor: good for getting an indication of what to do and where to go (and ignore the odd few reviewers who complain their helicopter flight was cancelled because of terrible weather, or that the sand was black on a volcanic beach).
Booking.com: for making it easy to book hotels but retain flexibility to change most up until a week or so before you arrive.

Finally, get excited, stay excited and be tolerant of your friends and family who are fed up with hearing you talk about it your travels, and are understandably probably pretty envious of what you are doing.

Posted by Gill's Travels 03:04 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

The route


Our route (well part of it). The itinary at the moment is: Singapore, Bali, Darwin, Alice Springs, Uluru, Adelaide, Kangeroo Island, Great Ocean Road, Melborne, Sydney, Blue Mountains, several places along the East coast, Brusbane, Cairns, Daintree National Park, Auckland, Bay of Islands, Coramandel .....

Posted by Gill's Travels 18:20 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged testing Comments (1)

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