Our 2016 Travel Plans

We’re six weeks into voluntary unemployment now, and while my infrequent blogging may have you thinking we’ve been totally zenned out with our new lifestyle, it’s actually been a reasonably busy couple months.

It all hit me when Derek, the 20-year-old kid whom I had just met via Craigslist one day prior, drove away in my car. Derek brought his gangly 18-year-old friend Tommy to the coffee shop where we signed the documents.

“How old are you?” Tommy asked abruptly.

“I’m 28.”

“Damn,” replied Tommy, leaving me to wonder what that meant.

“Enjoy your new car! I hope you have fun with it,” I told Derek, handing over the signed title and keys.

“Enjoy your $6,500!” interjected Tommy again, uninvited.

Derek and Tommy hurried off with the keys and peeled out as if they were running from the police. My Subaru disappeared around a corner. My first car. The one I bought with every dollar I had (and then some). The one I’ve been driving ever since. It’s Derek’s now.

I hope he doesn’t let Tommy drive it.

“Wow,” I told Daniel as we drove home. “We’re actually doing this.”

I didn’t expect that selling my 13-year-old sedan would be the emotional tipping point. I’m not really into cars. I can change a tire and check the oil level, but that’s about as much as I know. But with that farewell, our adventure finally felt real. It was one of the last remaining relics of our old lives.

Over the course of six weeks, we’ve left our full-time jobs, moved the last personal items out of my condo for full-time use as a vacation rental, ended our lease and moved out of our apartment near Daniel’s work, sold over $3,000 worth of furniture and other possessions on eBay and Craigslist, put a few remaining possessions in storage (the classic minimalist’s dirty little secret – a pile of junk in mom and dad’s basement!), and sold the only vehicle we owned besides the van. With all this free time, I’ve gotten more involved with advising a friend’s start-up, which has been enjoyable without the pressure of a full-time job. And just to keep things interesting, I even ditched my iPhone in exchange for an Android with an international travel-friendly Google FI plan.

Yep, we’re really doing this.

Most every account I’ve read from experienced long-term travelers shares the same advice for newbies like us: slow down. While we’ve tried to keep slow travel in mind while putting together our itinerary, we’ve still ended up with a relatively fast-paced plan. Most importantly to us, though, our 2016 itinerary will give us meaningful time with family and friends, a chance to revisit many of our favorite U.S. destinations, and a three-month stint in an unfamiliar part of the world.

The adventure begins March 20th – spring equinox.

Spring

Spring 2016

We’re starting our travels with a road trip in our 20-year-old minivan.

We’re at the age where it feels like every single person we know is getting married, so we’re naturally beginning the trip with Daniel’s cousin’s wedding in Portland and planning many of our spring destinations around others’ nuptials. We’ll spend a few days in Portland visiting with friends, then head south to Eugene to see my parents and finish any final tweaks to our van setup.

After that, it’s warm weather ahead! In spite of having grown up in California, I’ve never visited several of the state’s famous National Parks, including Channel Islands, Death Valley, and Joshua Tree. We’ll meet my recently-retired parents for a week of camping in Death Valley, where we hope to catch part of this year’s rare wildflower superbloom.

Photo credit: Marc Cooper

Death Valley – Photo credit: Marc Cooper

From there, we’ll plan to spend the rest of April visiting friends and family in LA and exploring Sequoia and Yosemite – along with a trip to see more family in decidedly unscenic Fresno.

After another friend’s wedding in Davis in early May, we’ll head to Utah to revisit some of our favorite places in the world, including Canyonlands, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Daniel’s parents and 87-year-old grandmother are flying in for a week to join us, too, though they’re planning on slightly more upscale accommodations than the Caravan.

Canyonlands, one of my favorite places in the world - Photo credit: John Fowler

Canyonlands – Photo credit: John Fowler

We’ll end the month visiting friends in Arizona and attending another friend’s multi-day Indian wedding outside Albuquerque.

In June, we’ll take a few weeks to make our way back to our home base, potentially swinging through Colorado to see some friends in Denver.

Summer

Summer 2016

We had originally planned to drive to Alaska to see a friend who has worked near Denali National Park in summers past, but her plans have changed, so we’re not feeling the same urgency to make it there this year.

A few weeks back, one of my college friends called and asked if we had plans in June. “Want to meet us for a week in Istanbul?” “Um… yes!”

Just like that, we’re now planning to spend the whole summer in Turkey and the Balkans. We’ll enjoy two weeks in Western Turkey, visiting Istanbul, Cappadocia, and the ancient city of Ephesus.

Istanbul - Photo credit: Moyan Brenn

Istanbul – Photo credit: Moyan Brenn

From there, we’ll fly to Budapest, Hungary, where Daniel lived for a semester in college, then work our way south through the Balkans in July and August and catch our return flight from Istanbul in early September. We haven’t planned our exact itinerary through this region, which may provide the opportunity for slow traveling and changing destinations on a whim.

Lake Bled, Slovenia - Photo credit: James Southorn

Lake Bled, Slovenia – Photo credit: James Southorn

Autumn

Autumn 2016

In September, we’ll hit the road in the van again, working our way east to a friend’s wedding in Michigan in early November. Along the way, we’ll plan to stop in Alberta’s Banff and Jasper National Parks; Coeur D’Alene, Idaho; Missoula, Montana; Glacier National Park; Yellowstone; and the Badlands. Some of our Midwestern friends are planning to take a week off in early October to meet us at their family cabin in Minnesota, and we’ll also see friends in Minneapolis, Madison, and Chicago.

Winter weather should be setting in by early November, so we’ll head south as soon as we can, visiting friends in New Orleans and Fayetteville. From there, we’re tentatively planning a few stops in Texas, including Austin and Big Bend National Park, followed by a longer journey back up to the Northwest for the holidays. Finally, toward the end of December, we’ll head up to Whistler for some early season skiing (snow permitting).

Big Bend National Park - Photo credit: Dave Hensley

Big Bend National Park – Photo credit: Dave Hensley

Sounds like a pretty fun year to us. I’m thrilled just writing about it! We may modify some destinations and timing as we go along, but we plan to keep this general itinerary. Come 2017, who knows! We would love to do some more international travel during the Northern Hemisphere winter. Southeast Asia? Australia? New Zealand? Somewhere else? Thankfully, there’s plenty of time to decide.

If you happen to live along our tentative route, we would love to meet up with you! Let us know in the comments.

27 Comments

  1. Great travel plan for 2016! I look forward to read the stories.

    We visited some of the places you mentioned during our honeymoon. We fell in the need-to-see-as-much-as-possible trap. Next time we are there, we will go the slow travel route for sure.

    • Yeah, that’s an easy trap to fall into! I’m hoping we’ll find a good balance. We’re open to any recommendations if you have them!

      • We liked the rangers talks a lot. Worth while to check it these are still existing today… They are full of passion. When we go back, I would love to spend an extra night at each parc to have a few more of these.

  2. Safe travels! I look forward to pictures of the national parks.

  3. Wow that’s a packed agenda! Can’t wait to see pictures and hear about the adventures.

    • Thanks, Fervent. It’s definitely an aggressive plan now that I’ve laid it all out… hopefully mitigated somewhat by the fact that we have been to many of the U.S. destinations before, so we won’t feel the same need to see and do everything.

  4. Yes, a pretty fun year indeed! I hope you make it in time to see the superbloom – the pictures look so awesome.

    • Yes, we’d be thrilled if it lasts until next month! We booked the campsite long before there was any talk of the wildflowers showing themselves this year, so I’ll just consider it a potential added bonus.

  5. I think I would have a similar reaction to selling my old Civic! That car and I grew up together, and even though we won’t need it anymore once we’re done working, it will be sad to see this symbolic object leave our lives. But wow, you guys are going all over the place! I can’t believe how many places you’ll have seen before the year’s over. I’m sure you’ll learn over the course of things what your preferred travel pace is — curious to know what you learn!

    • One thing that struck me about selling the car was how easy the whole process was. I only showed it to one person, and it was gone less than 48 hours after I first listed it for sale. A good reminder of how few things in our lives are truly “fixed” if we want to make changes.

      We’re generally pretty adventure-oriented and fast-paced even at home (I can’t remember ever having a weekend where we just hung out in the house the whole time), so perhaps that will translate into enjoying faster-paced travel… we’ll see!

  6. It looks like a terrible plan! You’re cutting out Alaska and now I can’t have you guys over for a salmon dinner?! Horrible plan! 🙂 Definitely let me know if your plans change to include Alaska again!

    • Argh, now I’m really regretting our decision! We are definitely still interested in making it up there, maybe in 2017. Without our friend’s place to crash for weeks, I’m more inclined to take the inner passage ferry and/or fly rather than drive.

  7. Great maps! I’m super excited to follow along with your travel plans 🙂 Especially the Europe leg. We’ll be taking some pointers from you for a future trip!

  8. Very awesome, so excited for you both. Give me a shout when you head up to Vancouver. Might be around in December, depending when you come up.

  9. Well, looks like you’re skipping the entire east coast of the US! Too bad, as there is so much beauty and history over here. Despite that, you seem to have some pretty cool plans in place. I hope that it’s wonderful!

    • We’ve been lucky to explore much of the east coast in prior years — but there are still many more destinations yet to see! We’ll get out there again soon, I’m sure 🙂

  10. I’m in Chicago, would enjoy meeting and discussing your trip in Oct/Nov over coffee or beer.

    • That would be great! We’ve been lucky enough to do four different meet-ups already, and it’s been a blast. I’ll let you know our plans when we’re closer.

  11. If you’ve got some extra time between SD and MN, you’re more than welcome to swing down to Iowa and say hello! I live right off I-80 in Des Moines 🙂

  12. Um, YES! I’m so excited you will hit Glacier National Park! We will totally have to get together. Keep me in the loop. =)

    • Let’s definitely do it! Montana’s been on my travel list for years, but I’ve never made it happen aside from a sliver of Yellowstone.

  13. Hey Matt! Not sure if you guys are looking for hiking suggestions in Big Bend (or if I could convince you guys to check out the unique fall foliage display at the much less visited Guadalupe Mountains National Park). Seeing the foliage at Guadalupe Mountains may not work out with your schedule though, because the maples there typically peak in the first week of November or so.

    The South Rim is the classic view at Big Bend, and you’ll see lots of other visitors there if you’re there during a weekend. I really like the view from the northeast part of the rim, and there’s rarely anyone there. Seeing all of that would be a pretty big day hike (around 15 miles or so), but it is doable for young active guys like you.

    Consider spending a night camping at one of the car backcountry sites near the intersection of the Juniper Canyon and Dodson Trails. Really great views of the South Rim from below. It’s neat to get the perspective from above and below the rim.

    You’ll have to drive the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive down to Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande, and also spend some time in the hot springs in the southeast corner of the park. It’s a great way to get some of the hiking dust off.

    Have a great time on your trip! Looks like a great itinerary.

    • Awesome suggestions; we’re going to try to spend at least a day or two there on our way home. We’ll check out some of these! We were just talking about going to Guadalupe Mountains NP the other day. I had never even heard of it!

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