Dear reader, this dispatch concludes a 2 year odyssey for us – 1 year of preparation and 1 year of international travel. And so it ends with one last dispatch before this site is frozen in time.
Before we say goodbye, we want to remind you that a trip like this is something you can do too. We often hear statements like “I wish I could do a trip like that” or “I could never do that now”. Our message is that you can do it if you’re willing to make the trip a priority in your life. The hardest part is mental – convincing yourself that a year of travel is a realistic and achievable goal. Once you’re convinced, good long-term planning accounts for everything else. It may not happen next year of or in five years, but the key is to start planning now. You’ll be surprised at how things fall into place.
- Step 1: Set a realistic departure date (this enables you to plan ahead) and stick to it
- Step 2: Alter your lifestyle to start saving money responsibly
- Step 3: Tell your friends and family (a little peer pressure does wonders)
If you need help, we wrote a lot about our preparation and what we called “The Monetorium” – a change in lifestyle built around financing your next big adventure. Further, you can always contact us with questions.
Lastly, we want to extend an earth-sized thank you to the friends, family and readers who made us feel at home where ever we were. Your comments, emails and advice gave us more support than we can put into words. We hope that, through this web site, our trip became your trip too.
It's clear that in the short trip from Russia to Finland, we have entered a different world. Being hungry right off the train, we quickly found a cafe close to the station and walked in. We are used to struggling through menus in other languages and this one was in Finnish. However, what happened next did not happen for the last few months - a smiling gentleman approached us and said, in a slight Scandanavian accent "would you like me to translate for you?" Whahhh? It was true - we are now in a different and more familiar world.
The issue right now, however, is exactly which part of this world we'll see. Right now we have a place to stay tonight in Helsinki and that is the full extent of our future plans. Before us lies the whole of Europe and where we'll go next depends on which hour you ask us. Currently, we're considering at trip to Finnish Lapland - inside the Artic Circle. From there, maybe Sweden and/or Estonia and Latvia.
It’s been a big and long awaited day for us. Since the trip was just a twinkle in our eye, we have been looking forward to the Trans-Siberian Railway, which will take us from Beijing, China to Moscow, Russia and then to Helsinki, Finland over 20 days. It is the longest train journey on earth.
We’ve found that it is one thing to want to do it and another to actually get everything lined up to make it happen. The problem is trying to plan the travel and get Chinese and Russian visas while on the road. For a 30 day Russian tourist visa, Americans have to outline an exact itinerary and have letters of invitation from hotels along the way. Further, because we chose not to plan ahead too far, we have to get the Chinese visa and Russian visa while we are in (expensive)
Luckily we found help and today we’re rejoicing in our luck at settling the whole issue in one fell swoop. We saw an ad for an agency called Monkey Business that specialized in Trans-Siberian journeys that has an office in
Here’s our itinerary:
- August 11th:
Hong Kongto Guangzhou, China
- September 9th: Depart
- September 10th:
(2 nights plus travel) Ulanbaatar, Mongolia
- September 14th:
(Lake Baikal-Siberia) (2 nights plus travel) Irkutsk, Russia
- September 18th:
(Urals) (2 nights plus travel) Ekaterinburg, Russia
- September 21st:
(2 nights plus travel) Moscow, Russia
- September 24th:
(3 nights) St. Petersburg
- September 27th:
It feels a little unreal to have plans like this and we’re both really, really excited. We spend our time in a “Ger camp” (a Ger is a tent like structure, similar to a yurt) in
We’re quickly approaching the halfway mark of our trip, which also means that we’ve written about 6 months of information and posted 6 months of pictures onto this web site. On our minds recently is what we will post in the next 6 months. We want your help with making the next six months more compelling than the past.
First, we should let you know our goals for the site because there are a few. Luckily two of the major goals are accomplished with the same stroke- documenting our trip and sharing it with you, dear reader. Selfishly, we want this site to be our virtual memoir and photo gallery – something we can refer to in years to come. Of course, writing wouldn’t be nearly as fun or exciting without knowing that there are people who are interested in reading. Your involvement in the form of comments, emails and travel experiences is the secret sauce that motivates us to post as much as we do. That is the beauty of blogging- it’s a two way street and when we write, we think about what would be interesting and compelling for you to read.
As such, we’re curious about your thoughts, ideas and/or feedback. What would you like to see more or less of? What you expect to see that we haven’t posted? Can you think of specific posts (or types of posts) that are your favorites?
Many thanks and arigatos!
- Do not drop laptop in a river or other body of water
- Do not wear a single pair of underwear more than 5 days in a row without a wash
- Stay out of Turkish prisons
- Remember that our dog Amos is happy in a comfy bed with Mark at home
- Be adventurous with food, even as eyeballs stare back at us
- Keep the contents of our pockets in our possession
- Keep the contents of our digestive system flowing in the proper direction
- While on chicken buses, do not play with the chickens
- Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
- Have a good time, even as adverse conditions prevail
One of the most popular questions people ask is "How do you pack for such a trip?" The answer is "very carefully", but that doesn't help much. So, we're providing this list for curious people and people who may be planning a similar trip. Keep in mind that we haven't left yet, so this is what we *think* we'll need.
|Zip-off Capri pants||1|
|Long Sleeve (light and heavy)||2|
|Pack Towel (3X2)||1|
|Misc. small pouch||1|
|packs of pocket kleenex||8|
|Elastic Head Band||1|
|Pack elastic hair bands||1|
|Lotion with spf 15||1|
|Inflatable airplane pillow||1|
|Motion Bands (pair) (wrist)||1|
|Pack-It Cubes (Full Cube)||1|
|Pack-It Cubes (Half Cube)||1|
|Backpack (w/ zip-off day pack)||1|
|Pack Towel (3X2)||1|
|Copy of passport||1|
|Copy of Birth Certificate||1|
|Pairs of Eyeglasses||2|
|Padded gadget pouch||1|
|Zip-off long pants||1|
|Short sleeve button down||2|
|Long sleeve pullover||1|
|Underwear - boxers||3|
|Pack-It Cubes (Full Cube)||1|
|Pack-It Cubes (Half Cube)||1|
|Laptop ac adapter||1|
|Palm treo adapter||1|
|Palm treo sync cord||1|
|Earphone plug adapter||1|
|Extra styli for Treo||2|
|Pentax camera charger||1|
|USB SD card reader||1|
|Camera Pentax Optio WP||1|
|Extra Camera Battery||1|
|PalmOne Treo 650||1|
|Extra Treo Battery||1|
|Protective pouch (laptop)||1|
|Sony Vaio T350 series laptop||1|
|Extra Laptop Battery||1|
|256MB SD card||1|
|1GB SD card||1|
|2GB SD card||1|
|Small stuff sack||1|
|Backpack w/ zip-off daypack||1|
|Electrical adapters universal||1 set|
|Shared (both bags)|
|Bar of soap||1|
|Shampoo (4 oz.)||1|
|Conditioner (4 oz.)||1|
|Sunblock SPF 23 (4 oz.)||1|
|Spare Zip Locks bags||5|
|Zithromax (Travelers Diarrhea)||1btl|
|Trans-derm motion patches||1|
|Advil Cold and Sinus||1btl|
|Duct Tape (3 yds)||1|
|Zoomkit photo album||2|
|Mini mag flashlight||1|
|Sawyer insect repellent||2|
|Deck of Cards||1|
|Passport Pictures (extra)||40|
In doing research for the trip, we quickly learned that travel insurance is recommended and decided that it would be a necessary cost. Luckily we got hooked up with World Nomads, which is a provider of travel insurance for organizations like Lonely Planet. We were a bit skeptical at first but liked their converage and really felt good about the way they communicate- it means a lot to us. Here is an example of how they describe their coverage:
If you are wildlife-watching in the extremes of Alaska and are attacked by a polar bear, are you covered? It depends. You see, if the bear attacks you while you were watching them as a part of a wildlife safari or trekking, then YES we would cover you (assuming the bear didn't catch you of course), but if you were chasing the bear having had a beer too many the night before and you thought it would be a laugh, er, then NO we wouldn't.
We're happy to have World Nomads as a TwinF sponsor for our travel insurance and, judging from our experience so far, we recommend them to others. We should also disclose that we are also a World Nomads affiliate, meaning that if we point potential customers to World Nomads, we can make a small commission.