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Route Planning, Budget and Dates.. Resvag, budget och datum...

Written on: Thursday January 14th, 2010

A journal entry from: Vi ar helt ute och cyklar!

Sarah: I was born and raised in Bristol at the age of 15 when choosing what to do with my life I had no idea. I worked some dead end jobs and tried a few college courses but the only thing that I found appealing was the prospect of travelling. When I was 19 I got an au pair job in Sweden and this is where I met Joakim too. He went to find work in the UK and I followed shortly after in the hope that we could find work and an education in Bristol. When we returned however I realised how unmotivated and unprepared I was for going back in education and with the high unemployment level and my savings from my stint as an au pair that it was now or never to go travelling. So I suggested the idea of maybe getting a van or bicycle touring to Joakim.
This van in need of alot of restoration costs £1000 that along with the few hundred pounds required for the new parts.

Joakim: It all started in 1989, life that is... Big thing I'm told - even though I've not really been able to grab it fully yet (will I ever?). However, after mandatory (more or less) education I was employed, unemplyed and back being employed a few times and I felt very unstimulated in many ways. I meet Sarah in Sweden (lucky me!!) and some time after that I moved to London and found work. After planning things together we moved to Sarahs hometown for work and a place to live together but things turned out quite diffrently, to say the least! We discussed what was waiting if we stayed and we didn't hesitate for long before the planning for this journey was on the drawing board.

Sarah: I had considered travelling before and I had thought about travelling overland towards South East Asia using trains, buses etc rather than adding to global warming and pollution with plane journeys. So I had some ideas about what we could do in the way of travelling. However we both had limited savings so I suggested we got a camper van (Joakim can drive) so we could save on accomodation costs and transport fees. To my surprise he thought it was a great idea to get a camper van and tour around Europe for a while. We discussed maybe doing a loop around central and South East Europe coming back up to end in Göteborg, Sweden. After researching the standards of the van we would require we realised that it would eat up half of our entire budget just to purchase a renovation project van. Aside from walking this left only the bicycle as a form of transport. I had been inspired by blogs of Heinz Stucke, cycling around the World for over 50 years http://heinzstucke.com/ and Bize2Oz the story of a young couple travelling from Oxford, UK to Australia http://www.bike2oz.com/. So suggested the idea of the tour by bicycle to Joakim.

This map shows the route of the tran-siberian railway, the trip I had previously hoped to do.

Joakim: Travelling had for a long time been a bit of a sensitive subject for me. I've always had a burning desire for wanting to do it but I've always seen problems and thought "Let's do this later. Maybe next year..."Even though I'm not too fond of that kind of thinking when it comes to myself, I guess I've been struck by it more then once when it comes to travelling. At first, Sarah suggested travelling in a van and I loved the idea! Unfortunately, we didn't have to do much research to realise that we would have little to no money left when, if we even would, get out of the drive way. Our limited savings stood in our way and I must admit that I hate when money is a sole factor that makes an idea go to the grave or even put on hold for a long period of time. However, it was quite obvious that we needed a very cheap way to travel and as far as I can see - the bicycle is the ideal form of transport with a strict budget in mind. So it was settled, surprisingly easily when we actually started talking about it. By this time though - we found ourselves covered in freezing cold snow, without bicycles and only a fraction of all the equipment we needed. And this is with, and I will mention it again, a tight budget!

Sarah: Considering our limited fitness and knowledge we had so much research to undertake and such a short time scale to do it all in! I had quit smoking and drinking 4 months previously and had started training so it was a more feesable option than previously. A winter descended on Europe, the coldest I had certainly ever experienced and our first requirement of the trip was that we would escape for warmer climes. Obviously by bicycle we weren't going anywhere exotic too quickly but we wanted to arrange a route that would work around the climates and seasons of countries. However we still needed some sturdy equipment to be able to cope with camping and touring in minus tempuratures and tropical environments. We were staying at my parents house in Bristol and ideally we needed to figure out our plans as soon as possible to leave so we planned to leave at the end of feburary/ beginning of march because of this.

Joakim: At first, I felt quite overwhelmed to be perfectly honest. There was alot of things that needed to be bought, fixed and last but not least learned. What to begin with? Where to start?  If you, the reader, would be in this very situation I'm describing now - I would recommend two things: Sources of inspiration and ebay! Watch films, read blogs and speak to people that have been doing similar things is all boosting your will to go (providing you really want to do it) and you'll learn from their mistakes! That is what we've been doing and I've found it all very helpful and motivating. I think ebay is quite self explainatory, there is tons of good bargains wheter you are looking to spend a pound on a bicycle bell with a built in compass or £160 on a camera - I've done both. In a way, it did feel quite good to have the cold weather as an excuse for not leaving yet because I can imagine that I'd feel that we're wasting time if we were only waiting to get our equipment. At this point, we had time that we couldn't use travelling so it was natural to just sit down and prepare everything in peace and quiet. After we finish all of our preparations, we should have seen the coldest part of the winter and be ready to leave. I'm confident that the spring will be one of the most exciting so far!

Sarah: We started to work on what kit we needed, beginning with the obvious. We needed a 4 season tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat, 2 bicycles, front and rear panniers, camping equipment, specialist clothing, tools and bicycle kit. We began pricing things up and shopping around to get items as cheaply as possible. I asked my dad  for some help and he got hold of some useful bits and pieces for the bike and priceless knowledge of the finer points of cycling. We scoured the local papers ads for the equipment we needed and trawled around charity shops in search of bargains. We collected all of our kit including the bicycles for roughly £400. We have made another entry with details of how and where we got our kit. Next was the daily budget. I was very ambitious and thought it was possible we could cycle, stealth/wild camp, avoid expensive tourist traps and eat cheaply with a budget of £5 per person, per day. We discussed our main expense would be food and cooking fuel if we didn't have to pay for our accomodation. I already owned a camping triangia and I suggested we attempt making a full meal for the two of us for £1 on my triangia. We went to the local shop and got 3 packs of noodles, red kidney beans, tomato puree and even desert, tinned peaches in syrup! for less than a £1. Now I know this is hardly gourmet cuisine but I am vegan and Joakim a vegetarian and as long as we have a balanced, healthy diet that is all that matters. So if we can make a meal for both of us for £1 then that x3 meals is £3 a day then £1 for snacks. Which leaves us £6 less than the £10 budgeted per day, which means we can make the trip longer, use the cash to repair the bikes, pay for experiences etc.

Joakim: Even though getting all of our equipment would cost us a fair deal of money, the most important thing in my opinion was to keep the daily budget as small as possible. Spending to much money each day would lead to a much shorter trip. £1 per meal is reasonable as long as you stick with the low price brands.  It may seem a bit tight, at least in more expensive countries, but having a daily budget in mind will certanly help us down the road. Where to go though? Our initial plan was to begin in Bristol and cycle through France, Italy, go to Greece by boat and then head north all the way up to Sweden where we should have finished this journey. None of us was satisfied of "only" seeing Europe and ending the trip so soon though. We started working on new ideas and decided that due to the weather, we would like to go further south before we began. So we will start the actual by train - and it is still uncertain where we will go but southern France or northern Italy is the strongest contestants. I was especially passionate about seeing the eastern parts of Europe so going east to Croatia and then south, south-east felt very good. Going to Greece and then to Turkey have been the strongest alternative but after this, we are actually quite uncertain of what to do - wich is rather exciting as well! We've been speaking about going to Iran but it's a hard decision due to protests from my family. Going to Iran could very well bring the greatest dangers that we would face so far in the trip, which has to be taken into consideration.

Sarah: I am very keen to escape to a country with a culture so far removed from my own. We intially planned to just tour around Europe but after some discussion we realised that we both wanted to travel out of Europe and that maybe it was possible to do so. Neither of us have ever been outside of the E.U and we both have dreams of different countries and continents we would like to visit. That was when our one year bicycle tour around Europe turned into the indefinate tour around the World. We have the basic route in mind though but it is very open to alteration. We will begin in the UK, travelling to France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania and Greece. In Greece we have the choice of either turning around going back North to Central Europe, Heading East to Turkey and Asia or going South to Africa. We would both like to head towards Asia but the problem arises after Turkey, we can either go through Iran which we've heard mixed reviews about (and Joakim's parents are very worried about) or veer North through Georgia and Russia. Russia aside from being potentially hard terrian to cycle in has a very high visa cost. After Russia we would head into Kazakhstan, famed for its poor roads and mapping. This is unless we can find some way to cross the Caspian Sea. This is a decision we will make on the road.

Joakim: We are currently unsure where we will end up after we've done our first few steps. Not setting up too specific plans will put us in a better position if we get new ideas or recommendations though. Of course, we might end up with a few problems because of this as well - we might need to stay around and wait for a visa that could have been ordered in advance if we suddenly realise that we want to go to a specific place for example but I'm sure that we will be able to do the best of the situation. Being able to take the most recent information into account will probably be useful as well. I'm thinking about political situations, weather and our budget for example. In the ideal scenarion, we would go everywhere and see everything but I guess we will have to compromise and prioritise. We will unfold our plans and decisions in further entries on this blog, so keep reading!