Planning Our Trip Around the World in 18 Days Part 2: Thailand

If you haven’t read Part 1, about how we planned our Europe portion of the trip, read here.

Thailand has been at the top of my bucket list for over 10 years since I took a college Geology course on Natural Disasters.  It was the spring 2005 semester  and the TA had spent the previous Christmas in Thailand.  She was in Phuket the day of the major tsunami that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and caused billions of dollars in damage. She had documented the day – even pre-tsunami disaster – via picture,s and shared her experience running for her life with our class one morning.  Like many others, I don’t always remember too much from college, but I definitely remember her story.

Typically learning about a country based on a devastating natural disaster would deter one’s interest from visiting the destination.  But those pictures, and all of the pictures and stories I’d be exposed to over the next 10 years, made me fall in love with the beaches, the food, the culture, and the people.  I knew I had to visit Thailand someday.

In the Trip That Started It All, I mentioned the flight options took us from New York to Milan, and from Prague to one of four Asian cities (via 24-hr stopover in Paris).  Those four Asian cities were Beijing, Singapore, Tokyo, and Bangkok.  Bangkok!  Even better than getting to go to Europe after 2 previously failed planning attempts, I’d also have a chance to get to Thailand!  Choosing which city was easy.  It was choosing how to spend our time in Thailand that was impossible.

Our work and personal lives ended up dictating how long we had to spend in Thailand – which was unfortunately less than a week.  We briefly discussed ditching the flight to Thailand in favor of staying in Europe a full extra week, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to not only finally make it to Thailand, but to also complete an RTW trip (round-the-world). So, we accepted the short window and laid out our options.

In a dream world, I would’ve had our 30 days in Europe, and at least 2 weeks devoted to Thailand.  I would spend a night or two in Bangkok, head to Chiang Mai to visit an elephant sanctuary, and then fly down to Phuket and Krabi for some beach time.  But, given our reality, we had to make some tough decisions.  We were already spending so much of the trip traveling – why add in even more traveling at the tail end of the trip, despite how badly we wanted to see ALL of the Land of a Thousand Smiles?

In the end we compromised - we would spend 1 night in Bangkok so the Mister could experience all of the amazing street food the top 10 city in the world has to offer -- and I could hit Sky Bar at Lebua a la Hangover 2 (Hello #bucketlist item) -- and we'd spend the rest of the time parked up at a beach with drink(s) in hand. And we ALL agreed that another trip to Thailand was imminent so we could see the elephants in Chiang Mai.

Thanks to TripAdvisor, we narrowed down our beach options to 3 nights in Khao Lak, an hour or so north of Phuket airport, and the last night at Karon Beach in Phuket. After months of debating, bartering, and googling "best place to go in Thailand," we finally had our destinations set.  

Planning A Trip Around the World in 18 Days Part 1: Europe

Generally, when planning a trip, the traveler already has a specific destination or route in mind, and searches for airfare to fit their ideal dates and locations.  So how do you plan a trip when you’ve booked a multi-city or open-jaw flight? (If you’re wondering what an open-jaw ticket is … it’s a return ticket with different origins or destinations.  Like flights from New York to Milan, then Prague to New York, or New York to Milan, Milan to Boston.)

After we booked our Trip Around the World (read here and here) we had to figure out how to spend our 8 days getting from Milan to Prague, plus make a decision on where to go and how long to stay in Thailand.  When you’ve never left the continent and have a bucket list a mile long, and you may or may not be one of the most indecisive people in the world, it can be a little tough to narrow down options.  Not to mention, we all had those pesky things called jobs without unlimited vacation time – unfortunately.  (Although, if you have one of those unlimited vacation benefits packages, can you hire me? Please?) 

Anyway.  Planning. As it usually works out when I have a genius idea or plan, I ran through option after option, itinerary after itinerary until I drove my husband crazy.  For the Europe portion of the trip, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, and Greece were all at the top of my list and were all viable options.  

So, we had to begin the narrow down process.

Since our Oktoberfest (hyperlink) plans were officially pushed out a few years, we figured we’d save Germany and Switzerland for that trip.  We also knew we wanted to make a dedicated Italy trip one day, so we decided not to focus there.  Then Greece and Croatia were ruled out by ease of getting there.  Plus, time of year was a huge factor.

We pulled up Google Maps and right smack in the path from Milan to Prague was Austria.  Austria had not been at the top of either of our travel lists, so we figured, let’s go to a country we wouldn’t have otherwise picked first.  A little bit of Googling and Pinteresting cemented the idea even further.  The pictures we found of Austria were so breathtakingly gorgeous we immediately fell in love.  Austria was the clear winner.   

We ran the idea by the 3 friends we were planning to spend the whole trip with, and they were 100% on board.  I still was contemplating a stop in Budapest or Bratislava, but quickly ruled that out in favor of stops in both Salzburg and Vienna.

We finally settled on number of days/nights in each city and mapped out the train routes and times.  Our fast and furious 8-day Euro itinerary was officially set.  We would land in Milan and spend one night in Venice (thanks to the train passing through anyway!), 2 nights each in Salzburg and Vienna, and 3 nights in Prague.  From there, our flights gave us a 24-hour stopover in Paris on the way from Prague to Bangkok.  We would soon be traveling through 7 cities over 9 days.  It was turning out to be a whirlwind trip, but well worth it.

The Trip That Started It All...

It all began with Shonda Rhimes....

It was Thursday evening ahead of Memorial Day Weekend, 2014. I stayed up past my usual bedtime to watch the Scandal season finale.  At about 11 pm I looked at my husband and told him that while I should be going to bed, I had to see the finale.

Olivia Pope is my spirit animal

Olivia Pope is my spirit animal

By 11:30 pm, I received a text from a friend.  The text simply provided a link to a blog post, and read, “wanna go around the world??”

Confused, I clicked the link.  Fly around the world for $150.  Flights from New York to Milan, and then Prague to four asian cities. For $150.

This was a joke, right?  A glitch you hear about on the news, and airlines would never honor, right?

Let me back up a bit.

Husband and I were dead set on going to Oktoberfest (yes, the one in Germany) in 2014. We agreed about 14 months ahead of time that no matter what, we were going. We made all our plans around it.  And then, my work schedule proved impossible.  At the advice of my boss, we started planning a trip to France and Spain (2 of our dream locations) for that June instead. Until yet again, a client’s needs interfered. Everything we tried conflicted with my work schedule. I was so utterly devastated that I wouldn’t be able to pull off a Eurotrip in 2014 after all.

So. $150? To go to Europe after all...AND Asia?  All we’d have to do is get from San Diego to New York, make our way from Milan to Prague, and then home from Asia?

You better believe I wanted to go around the world!  

The next half hour was a bit of a blur, but before I knew it, I was booking airfare.  

Even if the tickets got cancelled, we figured it was a really good story.  Hey, remember that time we booked flights around the world for $150?

In the end we opted to shell out the big bucks to have a 24 hour stopover in Paris.  And by big bucks I mean $27.  And then we decided to be smart and get trip insurance because..well…this was way too good to be true.  So, $234 (each) later, three of us were flying most of the way around the world.

In the end a number of friends were smart enough to jump on the deal. We waited some time, but the internet was still telling us our flights were confirmed. Ticketed. Seats assigned.

Before long we realized, holy crap.  We’re flying around the world.

Inspiration for planning the trip - possibilities were endless

Inspiration for planning the trip - possibilities were endless

Travel Makes You Rich

travel makes richer_image

I was born and raised in the same city, and lived in the same house my whole life (in fact, my parents still live in that house).  While I was lucky enough to travel at a young age, it was mostly only to visit family on the opposite coast.  But, I've always had a deep desire to travel, explore, and go on adventures.  

Call me crazy, but I dreamt of my parents picking us up and moving us to somewhere new.  You know, that whole grass is greener thing.  They had moved quite a bit before I was born, but my dad's job kept them in San Diego after I arrived, so I only ever knew one home. 

Since my childhood moving dreams never came true (of course a romanticized notion that never would've turned out as exciting as I had imagined), I jumped at the first chance I had to move away...College.  I had some limitations (within the state), so I specifically wanted to choose the school furthest away, and where I didn't know a single person.  I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone.  Meet new people. Explore a new place. Have an adventure. Re-invent myself if that's what I really wanted.  

And I did that. 

I chose a school 500 miles away from the only home I'd ever known.

Once in college, I studied French and Italian, despite already meeting the foreign language requirement. I was only 3 classes shy of a French minor.

I switched majors at one point from International Business to International Relations.  (The subject matters couldn't be that different, right? Both international and all....)

When I made a 10 year plan at 21 years old, it involved moving to the East Coast, and even living in Europe (France) for at least 3 months.

I took a job on the east coast in my mid-twenties because I thought that might make it easier to travel to Europe, at least compared to my entire life spent on the west coast.

I was someone who didn't really travel, but lived my life as if I did. I made all of my important life decisions based on having such an interest (no, desire) in exploring the world, yet I had barely explored my own country.

In fact, I didn't even get my first passport until I was 29 years old.  

I always assumed I would have traveled to at least Europe at a much earlier age - especially to France since I studied the language - and culture - over the course of six years.  While I have a thing about living life with no regrets, if I had to choose would be that I didn't study abroad during college, or travel internationally sooner in life. 

So, in the last 3 years, I've finally traveled. I've traveled to more states and two continents.  And it's absolutely become a passion.  I didn't realize all that I was really missing out on until I did leave the country.  My passion and desire to see the world, meet new people, explore new places, and learn history has magnified.  

I decided to take this passion - and all the information I've gathered during hours of looking up travel deals and planning itineraries for trips I have yet to take - and put it into words on this blog.

I hope I can inspire even just one person to travel, explore, and wander.  To be pushed out of their comfort zone.  To learn new things and gain a new perspective.  And to be forever changed and inspired.  Travel really does make you rich.