For 4 years I’ve had 20% of my pay put aside for one magical year off to travel. Finally, I’m down to the wire. I have 4 more months to go before my sabbatical. I think planning travel is an exciting part of the whole thing, so I’m spending all my free time now planning, buying flights, and dreaming about 2018.

Four Legs

My year will be divided into four legs:

  1. Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica
  2. Normandy France and the Camino in Spain
  3. Norway Cruise & Hike
  4. New Zealand

I will be spending lots of time at home in between each leg, to visit friends and family, and of course spend time with Tamale (my 12 year-old Chihuahua).

I hope to blog quite a bit during my time off, and hopefully do some daily diaries.

Planning these trips is taking a lot of time, and in some cases extraordinary effort trying to make decisions, finding decent flight prices/times/connections, and pulling the trigger so I can move along in the process.

Leg # 1 Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica – January 5 to February 4

Click on photo more more details

My cruise is called The Spirit of Shackleton because it traces the voyage of famous explorer Ernest Shackleton.  If you’ve never read the book or seen the movie, the story is fascinating. The cruise will take me from Ushuaia to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, and across the Drake Passage, some of the roughest seas on earth, to Antarctica.

The cruise ship itself is not huge, but big enough to handle the Drake.

click on photo for more details on the ship

My cruise will start and end in Ushuaia Argentina. Getting there is not cheap or easy. One thing I always consider are flight delays, especially leaving Toronto in the winter, so I gave myself 6 days cushion to get down there.

Since I’ll be travelling from one cold climate to another, I decided to make a stopover in Miami both ways. I’ll spend 3 nights in Miami on the way to Ushuaia, and 2 nights on my way home – to warm my bones. I used my airmiles to pay for this portion of the flight, even the taxes and fees were covered, so this section of the trip was completely free.

My flight from Miami will take me to Santiago Chile for a 5 hour layover, then to Buenos Aires where I’ll have 9 hours to get to another airport. Once at the second airport, I will connect to Ushuaia. Those 9 hours will be hell because they are from 3:00 am to noon.  I never planned it that way, but once the ticket is purchased, weird things begin to happen with the itinerary. So an original 2 hours, turned into 9. At least I have my free Priority Pass (credit card perk) so I can take a shower and relax in the airport lounge,to enjoy some free food, drinks and wifi.

Here’s my to do list:

return flight to Miami – check

hotel reservations in Miami – check

return flight to Ushuaia – check

hotel reservations in Ushuaia – check

cruise booked – check

travel insurance – check

medical documents and insurance submitted – check

Argentina Reciprocity fee – check

Shuttle between airports in Buenos Aires – to do

Leg # 2 Normandy France and the Camino in Spain – April 9 to May 26

The Camino de Santiago de Compostela has been completely taking over my thoughts for the past couple of months. I’m truly obsessed with the planning of this 800 km (500 mile) walk across Spain. And you kind of have to be obsessed if you want to succeed. You need to obsess over what kind of shoes to wear, what to pack, and how the hell you will survive it.

Most people put all their necessary possessions in a backpack and sleep in hostels along the route. This isn’t the trip for me, so I have pre-booked all my hotels (private rooms) and arranged for baggage transfers so I only have to bring a daypack each day. It’s not that I’m a princess, I just cannot imagine sleeping in a room with 30 strangers snoring, farting, coughing etc. There is no way I could sleep in that environment, and to walk an average of 22kms/day, one needs to have a good night’s sleep. I also plan to pack extra luxuries to help make the trip a success – like my foam roller to alleviate trigger points in my legs that can lead to knee pain. And extra shoes, just in case.

People who walk this pilgrimage become a community – there are facebook groups and online forums galore. In fact I met a woman from Australia on one of these groups, and we’ve decided to meet up and do part of the walk together. More than that, we have even planned to do a 5-day tour of Normandy France before the big walk. I’ve always wanted to tour Normandy and pay my respects to the 14,000 Canadians who fought on the Beaches of Normandy to defend the free world from Nazi Germany. We will rent a car, stay at an Airbnb in Bayeaux, tour Normandy for 3 days, then drive to Bayonne. Once in Bayonne, we will need to catch a train to St. Jean Pied de Port, where our trek begins. So there you go, 2 trips in one!

I’ve also considered trying to cope with the language. Spending more than a month in Spain without any knowledge of Spanish will add to the challenge. So I’ve enrolled in a class called “Spanish for Travellers”. It’s a 11 week program, 2 hours every Saturday starting September 16. This will also be helpful at the airports and hotels in Santiago, Buenos Aires and Ushuaia, and heck, even Miami!

Here’s my to do list:

Flight to Paris – check

car rental – to do

International driver’s license – to do

Airbnb in Bayeaux – check

train ticket from Bayonne to SJPdP – to do

Camino hotels and baggage transfers – check

Bus from Santiago to Madrid – to do

Flight home from Madrid – check

Stay Tuned for Part Two – Norway and New Zealand

I’ll have plenty of down time in February and March to plan the second half of my year. Stay tuned!




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