The four pillars of life

I live by a notion that there are four key areas in life: family, relationship(s), home, and work. I maintain that if I can be happy with those four things, I am happy with life, and anything else is just a bonus.

As things stand, two of those things are not functioning as well as I would like them to. I have a wonderful family, and I’m very happily involved with the partners that I’m currently seeing. My home is not ideal, but that was a compromise I willingly made to be able to afford this trip, and one that I know is only short-term, so I’m OK with that.

That just leaves my job. I have thoroughly enjoyed working in the casino industry for over five years now, but certain aspects of the job aren’t giving me the satisfaction I need to be able to say I’m happy with this area of my life.

Notably, one of the areas of concern is the new contracts – which we are being given a choice of signing or having to resign – that are being imposed upon us. Without going into the gory details, the revised contract will result in taking home less money, a sacrifice I have to make in order for the company to be able to afford necessary minimum wage increases, apparently.

I will not be signing the new contract.

My last shift at my current job will therefore be on May 29, with the new contracts due to come into effect in June.

Doing this provides me with a unique opportunity to work an extended notice period in a fast moving, high employee turnover industry. I will be using this period to further plan and save money for my round the world trip, and find someone to take over renting my room so my housemates don’t have to pay extra rent for an empty room.

This also means that the proposed start date, and order of my trip, will be changing. I’m still unable to confirm either of these details at the moment, but with these changes going on, a June start is looking like the most likely option. Europe is still my intended focus for the first stages of the trip, with a visit to Asia and Oceania planned for the back end of the year.

This blog will probably go quiet for a few months as a result of recent events, although I will be making occasional entries about my planning process and past locations I’ve visited.

Hopefully, once everything is all said and done, I will be happy with all four pillars of life. What will I do for work when I get back? I don’t know. A change in direction is a possibility, and I’m already exploring other avenues, other careers, or staying in casinos but in a different location, maybe even a different country.

In the mean time, I have more planning to do, and more excitement to garner over the trip of a lifetime.

Making plans

Don’t be too alarmed, but it really is that big.

My planning has finally approached the stage where I have something that resembles an itinerary.

It’s only a first draft, it will change, but it does at least serve a purpose of obtaining a general idea of which parts of the world I want to go to in which order.

So, without further ado, here is where I might be going, in the order I probably won’t be doing it in:

Leg 1 – Getting my (chilly) teeth stuck in:

Faroe Islands – Iceland – Norway

Leg 2 – The Grand Tour:

Belgium – France – Monaco – Italy – Slovenia – Switzerland – Austria – Germany

Leg 3 – West meets East:

Greece – Bosnia – Bulgaria – Montenegro – Romania – Hungary – Poland – Ukraine – Finland – Estonia – Latvia – Lithuania – Sweden – Russia – Trans-Siberian Express – China – North Korea – Japan

Leg 4 – Round the World ticket:

UAE – Sri Lanka – India – Pakistan – Bhutan – Nepal – Cambodia – Vietnam – Thailand – Myanmar – Laos – China (inc. Macau & Hong Kong) – Indonesia – Papua New Guinea – Australia – New Zealand – Canada – USA – Bahamas – Bermuda

Leg 5 – Warming down:

Ireland – Northern Ireland – Isle Of Man

Now, the more astute of you will have made a few observations, so allow me to answer the questions you may have:

Christ! That’s a lot of countries! 
I know, that’s because I’m being as ambitious as I think I can afford to to make the most of this round the world trip before I have thoughts of settling down and having kids *shudder*. Note that some of those countries only have one or two places on my shortlist, and will therefore be short excursions.

When will you start?
I still don’t have a set date yet, a few dominoes need to fall down first before I can answer this. Watch this space.

Why no Africa or South America?
Because no matter how ambitious I want to be, I have to be realistic with what I can afford, and therefore sacrifices have to be made. But, that doesn’t mean I’m definitely not going there, like I said this is a first draft, and I’ve already had an offer to visit a friend in Colombia, so we’ll see.

Are you doing all of this in one go?
Probably not. There will more than likely be gaps between legs (BAZINGA) to allow me to sort myself out, re-acquaint myself with my family, friends & partners, and make sure I have the next stage properly planned. I can also visit places in England, Scotland and Wales whilst on these breaks.

Why are you going to Asia twice?
Because I want to ride the Trans-Siberian Express from Moscow to Beijing, and I also want to take advantage of the cheap Round the World ticket I mentioned in a previous entry. Asia (heck, China alone) is a big place, so the two different approaches will give me the opportunity to visit different areas.

What’s the time frame for all of this?
At the moment, there isn’t one. I want to leave it as flexible as I can to allow for situations where I stay in a country for longer or shorter than I originally expected.

Can you afford to do all of this?
It’s very hard to accurately budget such a big, varied adventure as this, but I have a decent supply of beans stored safely away. If I start running out of money before I’m done, and I still want to see more of the world, I’ll come up with a plan to earn some more in the short-term so I can continue my trip at a later date.

Where specifically are you going in these countries?
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I’ve just had to undertake a journey from the house that I live in on the Isle of Dogs, to King’s Cross station. It’s a journey that, during the Monday evening rush hour and on a day where there are severe disruptions due to tube strikes, should have been a stressful one.

Yet my overriding feeling during the 90 minute commute (that would normally take half the time) was not one of stress, impatience, or resentment towards the striking London Underground staff, it was the realisation that I don’t have a home.

Obviously, I have somewhere to live, but I’m in a small room in a shared house that serves little purpose other than to allow me to save more beans for my future adventures. It’s not a home.

Furthermore, I’ve never, in the roughly six years that I’ve lived here, truly felt that I can call London my home. No matter how settled or happy I’ve been, I’ve always felt slightly put of place. Not that I don’t belong or that I’m not welcome here, but that I’m not the typical mould of Londoner that has lived here for many years before my arrival, and will continue to do so long after my inevitable departure.

But I’m ok with that. I’m ok that I don’t feel like I have a real base, a home town, a location to call mine, and it was walking along the Euston Road just now, amongst all the stressed out commuters in a rush, getting annoyed at anyone who slows them down by more than half a second, that I really appreciated this for the first time.

The world is a big place, and I’m an insignificant part of it, and now I’m in the fortunate position to be able to embrace my freedom and anonymity by travelling and visiting a diverse range of locations with a diverse range of people. Most of these people will call where they are their home, but me? No.

I’m happy being homeless.

A man just changed my world

So today I met a very nice man who works for a company called Trailfinders, and who explained to me that I can fly around the world, choosing whichever flights I want, on one ticket, for less than £2,000.

Game changer.

Obviously there are caveats to this, I have to keep travelling in the same direction, I have to do it all in under a year, and the airports that accept this type of ticket are limited. But in theory I can go London > South Africa > Far East (via Dubai) > Australia > New Zealand > USA > London for less money than a knackered old hatchback. What’s more, I can upgrade the ticket for a mere few hundred extra of my hard-ish-earned money and add extra stops including Fiji and Hawaii.

This does, however, raise a small conundrum. My planning process has so far revolved around building a shortlist of locations – a list that so far stands at a rather overwhelming 196 – and then designing routes, flights and itineraries around the best times to visit these places. If I take one of these tempting tickets, an element of reversal will be necessary, with my stops being done in a set order and working out the best places to go when I happen to be in a specific country.

Still, with the option of separately arranging internal flights to my heart’s content, and the saving I’ll be making on the round the world ticket, this dilemma is one I’m very happy to have.

All I need to do now is try and whittle down my shortlist to a length that I can actually handle (chortle). Unless someone’s got fifty grand they fancy lending me…