If I Were Leaving Tomorrow…My 5 Top Trips

Although loving my present job that accommodates travel on a national level, my adventuresome spirit still prevails in most of my free time apart from work. The yearning of a distant country is always on my mind, and crafting my next potential trip helps to tame the beast – at least, temporarily.

And after purchasing 80,000 miles for less than $1200 via US Airways’ Dividend Miles program (thanks to Brooke!), I should be able to fly to any of the following locations so long as a STAR Alliance member flies there.

And so, here’s a short summary of each of the 5 trips that I’ve been planning and researching for over the last year — plus what I estimate the cost to be. I left the estimated flight costs in although that portion is already paid for. Let me know your thoughts or tips if you’ve been to any of these places or are planning a trip of your own!!

1. Overland safari from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania to Cape Town, South Africa

This has been a new fascination of mine. I was never drawn to the dark continent (with the exception of South Africa) until I became enraptured with the idea of venturing through established cities as well as the unknown, somewhat uninhibited lands; exploring various game parks and spotting exotic wildlife, all the while camping in tents — it screams adventure in one of it’s purer forms; something I was seeking in New Zealand but never quite found.

Botswana Sunset

In addition to the rural landscape of Africa, most of the groups take a quick jaunt over to Zanzibar — have you ever seen photos of Zanzibar? — a beachy place likely teeming with Europeans on holiday, but still a sunrise I’d love to see.

The tours I’ve looked at range from 30-40 days long. I’d love to end it top it off with a 2 week stay in Cape Town.

Estimated Time Frame: 6-8 weeks

Estimated Cost: $1700 flights + $1500 tour + $50/day in Cape Town + $800 for incidentals = $4,700 USD

Potential Challenges: Malaria

Photo credit: potters pics

2. Ireland, y’all

The Emerald Isle is ALWAYS beckoning…maybe it’s my love of U2 and Snow Patrol, maybe it’s because my two dear roommates and my boyfriend have already been…

Cliffs of Moher

…maybe it’s because of too many chick flicks set in rural Irish settings with a sappy ending, or maybe because  it’s a lateral move in terms of travel difficulty…but I’m constantly spellbound by the thought of exploring both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland on my own time, in a rental car, at my leisure. Dublin? Of course! Belfast? Heck yes. Kilkenny? Check. Cliffs of Moher? HELLz yes.

Estimated Time Frame: 16 days

Estimated Cost: $2300. $1,000 for flights; $60/day for 16 days = $960; plus any additional costs.

Potential Challenge: Driving from the passengers’ seat down the left side of narrow 2-lane streets

Photo credit: Daniel & Sophia

3. Trans-Mongolian Railway: Beijing to Moscow; + 3 weeks in Ukraine

This idea has appealed to me for well over a year now. Vastly different cultures; one train ride. Seeing the Great Wall, sleeping in yurts in Mongolia, stopping along the way in Irkutsk to make the trek out to the beautiful Lake Baikal… finally finishing Anna Karenina and starting on The Brothers Karamazov – cursing my inability to speak Russian all the while.

Mongolian Yurts

After arriving in Moscow (perhaps after a detour to St. Petersburg), I would then take the train (or multiple trains) to Kiev. My grandfather was from Ukraine (he lived there until he was 15, when he was kidnapped by the Germans in WWII), and as an adult, Ukraine has piqued my interest for no other reason than to explore it for the sake of understanding and appreciating my heritage.


Estimated Time Frame: Varies! 3 weeks China, 1 week Mongolia, 2-3 weeks Russia, 2-3 weeks Ukraine.

Estimated Cost: This is tricky. Tour groups for the Trans-Mongolian are RIDICULOUSLY overpriced. $2,150.00 for 15 days- really, vodkatrain?! As someone who spent $1k total for a 10 day jaunt to Greece and Italy (including flights AND including Venice!), this could be a real deal-breaker. I’ve read mixed reviews about the ease of venturing along independently – it’s far more affordable – but getting on the wrong train and ending up in Yakustk (note: is that even possible?)  could just as easily break the bank.

Potential Challenges: Language barriers; missing the coveted train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, public spitting, vodka

Photo credit: episa

4. Walk the Camiño de Santiago

Spanish for “The Way of St. James”, it’s lesser known trip, compared to what the usual traveller circuit seems to follow.  If you choose to walk the entire route, it’s roughly a 500 mile walk across northern Spain. There are various paths one can take, the primary one being the Camino Frances, begins in southeast France in Puente la Reina and ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where St. James’ remains are said to be buried.

Regardless of religious beliefs, it’s said to be a spiritual journey. The way extends across northern Spain, stretching a mix of terrain including rolling hills and sprawling fields; weaving through small Spanish towns and alongside quiet streams. With a pilgrim’s passport in tow (purchased for a few Euro), walkers of the trail can stay in pilgrims’ hostels or even in local homes.

As a kid, I used to have dreams and write stories where my friends and I would go on adventures walking through the countryside — the idea of traipsing through Europe on foot isn’t a trip that needs to be romanticized.

Estimated Time Frame: You’re free to walk the trail as quickly or slowly as you please. I envision a “comfortable” pace to be between 10-15 miles per day. If I walked the entire trail, this would take an estimated 40 days — and I’m not sure how feasible walking the entire trail would be. I’d love to spend time in Barcelona and a few days in Portugal on the back end – perhaps, 35 days total? 7 days Barcelona, 7 days Portugal, 15+ days on the trail, with a few extra sightseeing days.

Estimated Budget: $2600, at least. $1000 for flights; $50/day for days not on the trail, $30/day for days on the trail, plus a spare $450 for additional transit costs or unforeseen expenses.

Potential Challenges: Blisters; fellow pilgrims with a propensity to snore

Photo credit: jexweber, james.gordon6108

5. Learn Spanish via Immersion in Central or South America

This has been on my list for years now, but has not been executed due to the time commitment I foresee it needing. Also, I’ve had the heck of a time trying to figure out WHICH country to choose! Colombia is relatively under the radar as a tourist destination, but has exploded in popularity amongst backpacker types – between the low cost of living, friendly people, and decadent coffee, it seems like an easy choice. My parents wouldn’t be too pleased, however, as the FARC has not been completely eradicated (albeit limited to certain parts of the country).

Medellin, Colombia

And then there’s Bolivia, bogged down in political woes, but still bursting with culture and vivacity, including random day-long bans on automobiles. There are a few Spanish schools in La Paz that offer discounted Spanish lessons in exchange for giving English lessons, and located next to Peru, visiting Easter Island could be checked off the bucket list. (Easter Island is part of Chile- cheapest flights are out of Lima).

Estimated Time Frame: Two months. One month stationary, learning Spanish and teaching English; one month travelling around.

Estimated Cost: $3,800. $300/wk at Spanish school; $40/day travelling.

Potential Challenges: Getting past my own assumption that I “know a little bit of Spanish”; actually being able to use said “Spanish” prior to any lessons

Photo credit: muesca

The Catch? Finding Time

Working in TV/film is a double-edged sword. I love what I do and would sooner take a job for 2-4 months over travelling… hands down. Usually, I don’t find out about a long-term job any earlier than 3 weeks ahead of time, which makes planning trips downright impossible. I booked my ticket to Sydney 16 days before it departed!

What are your top trips?

Author: Laryssa

Laryssa has spent 6+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. She writes about her experiences to help (and amuse) others. If she's not working, she's either traveling, reading or writing about travel, or planning travel. Follow , Twitter, or Facebook.

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