RTW Must-Do List

by Kim on February 17, 2011 · 45 comments

I was recently inspired by a post over at Jack and Jill Travel in which they outlined not the countries they plan to visit but rather the experiences they want to have on their upcoming around the world trip. 

I’m a planner at heart, and with our trip still 10.5 months away, I make it through some long days at work by daydreaming about the countries we’ll visit and crafting (then re-crafting) an around the world travel itinerary in my head.

Of course, the true reason we’re traveling isn’t so that we can sew more flag patches on our backpacks or put more pushpins in our world map.  We’re traveling because we have an insatiable curiosity about the world.  We want to learn about the world and our place in it by experiencing it firsthand. 

So, taking a cue from Jack and Jill, here’s my list of experiences that I want to, umm, experience during our time of travel. 

Can’t Miss Experiences on our RTW

1.  Ride the Trans-Mongolian railroad from China to Russia

Oh how I’ve been dreaming about riding the Trans Mongolian, a branch of the Trans Siberian Railway.  The Trans Siberian is the longest railway on Earth!  The train stops at the largest and deepest freshwater lake on the planet!  There’s lots and lots of vodka!  We plan to board in Beijing and ride all the way to Moscow.  You can learn all about the Trans Siberian here

2.  Learn to speak Spanish, at least a little

I took eight years of Spanish in high school and college and I know that buried somewhere in my brain is the little Spanish-speaking me just dying to get out.  I’ve had dreams in which I’m fluently speaking and comprehending Spanish and then I wake up and no habla espanol.  I want to immerse myself in a Spanish speaking country until I can solidly have a conversation with a local.  I just know that if I spend the time immersed in the language those years of Spanish education will float to the surface. 

3.  Go on a silent meditation retreat

It dawned on me one day that there hasn’t been one day in my almost thirty-year existence when I haven’t shut the f up.  So, I’m going to shut up and see what bubbles up out of the silence.  Almost Fearless recently posted a great blog about silent retreats

4.  Trek in Nepal 

Trekking in Nepal was the first thing that made it onto our must-do list when we committed to our RTW.  Right now I’m dreaming about tea house trekking on the Annapurna circuit.

5.  Overland safari in Africa

I’m not sure where we’ll do this in Africa but this post by Ryan Martin about his thirty-two day overland camping trip convinced me that it’s an absolute must-do experience. The company that Ryan used is a little too pricey for our budget so if you have any recommendations please send them my way.

6.  Attend a European or South American soccer futbol game

I’ve played soccer my whole life and am a HUGE fan.  I even introduced Brian to the sport and now we play on a team together.  I have always dreamed of watching a soccer match live in a country that lives and breathes the beautiful game. 

7.  Drink beer around the world, especially in Germany

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you know that Brian and I are big fans of beer (who isn’t?!?!).  Our adopted home of Portland, Oregon has some of the best beer around but we’re excited to test it against beers all over the world. 

8.  WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)

We’re really excited to volunteer through WWOOF, an organization that links people who want to work on organic farms with organic farmers that need help.  In exchange for a week or two of work we’ll receive a free place to stay and free meals, but even more importantly, we’ll learn a new skill, meet other travelers and locals, and spend a little time tending to a piece of the planet. 

9.  Devote 2 hours a day to writing

There are two reasons we’re quitting our jobs and traveling around the world.  The first reason is to, you guessed it, see the world.  The second reason is so that I can take an honest-to-god-shot at writing for a living.  I am so ridiculously excited to have the time and headspace to focus on writing.  We’re going to be short on money but long on time and that sounds absolutely delicious.  Right now, time seems like the greatest gift.   

10.  Do some good

It has not escaped me how selfish travel can be.  I travel because each time I go somewhere I have never been I fall in love with life just a little bit more.  Travel also helps me understand myself and my place in the world.  However, travel costs money, and our RTW trip will cost a lot of money.  When I think about how much good our RTW budget could do if invested in the right places, I feel a huge surge of guilt.  So, Brian and I plan to volunteer while we travel.  I’m not sure where or what exactly it will look like, but I want to make sure we are a positive addition to the places we visit, not just travelers passing through. 

11.  Haggle in a Marrakech market 

I hear that there is no other place in the world like the vast, chaotic markets of Marrakech.  I’m dreaming of spices, drummers, textiles and snakes in baskets.

12.  Run around the world

Well, not literally around the world, but you know what I mean.  I can’t wait to lace up my running shoes and pound the pavement, beaches, and forest paths of countries around the world.  Running is one of the best ways to explore a new place and I plan on sniffing out, and writing about, the best running routes wherever we roam in the world.

13.  Visit as many National Parks as we can

Some people are city people and others are people people, but Brian and I are both definitely nature people.  I’m completely inspired by mother nature.  A major goal of our trip (Pilgrimage? Sojourn?) is to see as much of this beautiful world as possible: to climb up the mountains, sleep under the stars, roam through the jungles and paddle the meandering rivers.

The other night I turned to Brian and said “can you believe that we’re about to go do everything we’ve always dreamed of?”  And he said no, and then we giggled like children.  Just a few years ago doing even just one of the things on this list seemed nearly impossible, yet soon we’ll be setting out to do them all.  I feel so incredibly lucky to carry this dream with me and know I can make it come true.


Do you like what you’ve read? Keep up with our journey by subscribing to email updates or by following the So Many Places Facebook page.


{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica February 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm

You guys are too cute!

Love your list – sounds a lot like ours! Shaun isn’t a super excitable guy but when I was talking about Patagonia, it was the first time in a long time I saw his eyes light up like a kid at Disneyland. 😀


Kim February 18, 2011 at 9:48 am

Oh man, Patagonia is a region I am dying to explore. I’m not sure yet if our travels will take us to south america but if they do Patagonia will be the first place we go. I can’t wait to read about your travels there. All of the photos I have seen are so amazinging, indescribably beautiful.


Mike Lenzen February 18, 2011 at 6:53 am

I’ve been thinking about putting together a wish list for our trip. Like yours, I think it’ll include a lot of experiences and ways to spend time.

I think it would also be good for Ashley and I to really get on the same page with what we each want out of the trip.

You guys astound me with how much further along the preparation track you are when compared to us.


Kristin February 18, 2011 at 7:35 am

This is a great way to begin planning – starting with your intentions. All the details and the “hows, wheres, whats” fall into place after that.


Kim February 18, 2011 at 9:50 am

Hi Mike,

We have done so much preparation but in some ways it makes the waiting harder! I just love to daydream and make lists and so it is fun for me. I don’t think it really makes us any more prepared, honestly.

But yeah, it was fun to sit down with Brian and figure out what we really wanted out of the trip, the experiences we want to have, etc. so that we have some kind of framework.


Kim February 18, 2011 at 9:51 am

Hi Kristin. Ah, yes… “intentions” is such a good word. We figure if we list what we really, really can’t miss that the trip will sort itself out around those experiences.


Lily (Explore for a Year) February 18, 2011 at 9:59 am

Hi Kim,

This is a great list!

The Trans-Mongolian Rail, trekking in Nepal and overland in Africa are definitely on my list of to-dos (though probably not on this current RTW).

A few more RTW ideas: Pyramids, Machu Picchu (i.e. at ones of the 7 world wonders), (learning to) dive somewhere, and seeing a local wedding or festival (e.g. Lunar New Year in Asia, or Carnival in Brazil).

– Lily


Kim February 18, 2011 at 10:28 am

Oh yes, Pyramids!!!! Machu Picchu is something I have to see in my life but I don’t know if we’ll make it to South America on this trip. Maybe our next RTW 😉 I love, love, love seeing a local wedding or festival. That definitely has to happen, what a great way to understand a place more deeply.


Skott and Shawna February 18, 2011 at 7:51 pm

We find ourselves reading this, going “yup….uh huh….you bet…”

‘Do some good’ is a decent idea, but you really had our hearts a little earlier with ‘drink beer around the world’.

Ideally we would actually run at least one half marathon along the way somewhere…haven’t really looked into this any further, but I imagine there would be some great marathon tracks out there!


Kim February 19, 2011 at 8:10 am

@Skott and Shawna- maybe drink beer while doing some good? I am excited to run a few races while traveling as well. There are definitely some amazing races out there!


Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World February 21, 2011 at 10:26 pm

We should plan to meet up to watch the World Cup in Brazil! Wouldn’t that be crazy? We’re so planning to make that happen.


Kim February 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Oh, heck yes!!! We should so totally make that happen, seriously! Lets do it!


Samantha February 28, 2011 at 1:18 am

Your trip sounds absolutely amazing! All those experiences seem like ones that would be almost indescribable once you have them. In terms of being able to speak Spanish, you will pick it up quick. I just moved to Spain last year and it comes relatively fast. Just be prepared to step out of your comfort level and not get frustrated when you can´t explain yourself fully. However once you can have a conversation with a local, it will be a great feeling. I think the best point for me was when I could start being sarcastic in Spanish. I saw it as a mini win. Enjoy!


Kim February 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Hi Samantha. I really hope I do pick it up quick. I was not the best Spanish student but I do know that I’ve retained something. It will be amazing when/if I can ever carry on a conversation in Spanish. And I would see being sarcastic in Spanish as a HUGE win. Congrats to that!!


Rebecca March 3, 2011 at 3:18 am

Nice approach – and these experiences sound amazing. Can’t wait to follow the journey!


Kim March 3, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Thanks Rebecca!!


Anthony March 13, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Kim-these are some seriously exciting things you’re going to be doing!! You’ll pick up your Spanish for sure when you’re in a Spanish speaking country.

In England we take French at school and when I visited France a few years ago I was surprised at how much came back to me!


Kim March 13, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Hi Anthony! Have you created an RTW must-do list yet?

I really hope you’re right about the Spanish! I’m not the best language picker-upper, but I guess we’ll see!


Bryan @ BudgetYourTrip March 19, 2011 at 9:14 am

I’m jealous of your plan and upcoming trip. You guys will have tons of fun.

Number 8 is one of my most favorite things to do 😉

Also, if you’re interested in “Overlanding” it through Africa. Consider doing it on your own without an organized tour – it will be cheaper. There are buses and budget hotels in Africa. Many people make the journey between Kenya and South Africa. On our trip, we went through parts of West Africa. Africa is a whole ‘nother ball game – at times it is like camping. Get some other regions under your belt first and then go for it, it’s totally worth it. You don’t need a tour, though.


Kim March 19, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Hi Bryan, thanks for the great info about overlanding in Africa. It seems daunting to envision doing that on our own but once we’ve got some other regions under our belt, as you suggest, we’ll be ready to tackle it. Thanks for the great tip. Anything we can do to save money is appreciated, it will keep us on the road longer!


Frederic April 1, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Hi Kim and Brian,

Just came across your blog by coincidence, and boy what an amazing trip you have ahead of you… the planning stages are definitely an exciting part of any trip, and I enjoyed reading all about yours so far! Definitely gonna come back and follow how it goes. Happy travels!

On a side note – I would consider changing number 7 into ‘Drink beer around the world, especially in Belgium’ rather than Germany. Germany has fine beers, don’t get me wrong, but Belgium has over 800 different beers: not bad for such a small country 🙂 Cheers!


Kim April 1, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Hi Frederic,

Wow, that is good to know! Maybe we will change it to “Drink beer around the world, especially in Germany AND Belgium!” Brian is really excited to visit Germany… but I don’t think we’ll be able to pass up a country with 800 different beers. Mmmm… I kind of want one now! Thanks for the tip.


margot April 15, 2011 at 3:20 am

Try not to be too planned or too generic. Your trip will unfold even if you just fly to your first location and plan nothing after that. And totally disregard “top whatever” lists. For example, the Marrakesh market thing you list above is just silly. Yes, the main market in Marrakesh is awesome and crazy. But, the market/medina in Fez is even better, and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is amazing and the weekend market in Bangkok is insane. There’s no “top” anything. The world is full of cool stuff. And it’s all relative. And you’re going to be disappointed if you try to check things off a list or race around the globe.


Kim April 15, 2011 at 10:33 am

We are not too planned. Part of this dream is planning it, thinking about it, daydreaming about it. It will unfold as it unfolds. The things on this list are things I dream of doing and I won’t part with one of them. You say that the Marrakesh market thing is just silly. Maybe that’s true? I don’t know and I intend to find out for myself.

I have never been the kind of person that learned much for reading about things or hearing other people talk about them. I need to see it, touch it and breath it in and THEN I understand it.


Manoj Radhakrishnan April 25, 2011 at 7:46 am

No India? Spotting tigers here is worth the effort. Taj isn’t bad either… but, it is not a bad idea to skip India on your maiden rtw.

#5 – Ideas for African Safari – Serengeti for the migration. Pretty hard to beat that one (this I can vouch for). Okavango can be magical too (so I hear).

#10 – guilt about travel. All of us grapple with that. I just try to run away from it by tipping generously. I dont like giving it away for free to beggers. I dont have the kind of time to volunteer. Tipping seems to be the best way to spread my wealth. At least I am paying for service and (hopefully) cutting off the middle-men…

BTW, I am really jealous. I am always envious of long term travellers… all short term vationers are 🙂


Kim April 25, 2011 at 9:42 am

Is India not on my list? I need to update! In my MIND India is on the list… but who knows? We can’t go everywhere and our plans keep changing! When is the migration in Serengeti? Thanks for the tips!


Katie McAleer April 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I’m enjoying your blog & your list (found you through pedal powered family) – and just thought i’d point you to this site about running in Patagonia – their organized runs are not in your budget BUT apparently it’s not SO insanely difficult to figure out your own plan: http://www.andesadventures.com/run4sum.htm [this is one of my dreams… for a whole bunch of reasons… you’re inspiring me to follow it sooner rather than later – which is part of the reason for that particular dream in the first place…] anyway, have “fun” continuing to countdown & plan for your trip!!


Kim April 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Hi Katie, OMG that site is amazing! I NEED to run in Patagonia!! So, are you going to sign up for one of the runs through the company, do you think?

Thank you for your nice words. It is fun to countdown and plan… but I am so ready to get moving!!


Daniel June 26, 2011 at 1:39 am

Hi guys!

I’m reading all your blog 🙂

I have a question: if you want to practise Spanish and you love soccer (fútbol), how is it possible than you don’t go to Spain?

The best soccer league in the world, is Spain and the national team is the current world champion. And, well, they speak a quite good Spanish 😉

Just curiosity 🙂


Kim June 26, 2011 at 9:55 am

Hi Daniel! That is a good question 🙂

We may go to Spain- we don’t quite sure yet where we are going to go. I know some of the best futbol in the world is in Spain and I would LOVE to see it firsthand. I am just worried about European prices. But, it might happen, we aren’t counting anything out at this point. 🙂


Bern April 1, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Hey guys, sounds all exciting & i hope that after Singapore you head down to Oz!Goodluck with everything,not long to go now!


Kim April 2, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Thanks Bern! We’re getting close!


Cindi June 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Just came across your site – will be following your adventures! My husband & I did a RTW trip in 2008-09. Unfortunately our blog is no longer up (we were bubblesandbugs) but we had a very similar itinerary. If you are looking for a cheap option for Africa – we went with Absolute Africa. Our tour guide SUCKED, but he’s no longer there, so no chance of getting him :). Anyway, we did the 60 day trip from Nairobi to Capetown. We camped every night & cooked our own food as a truck, but it was the cheapest option we could find. Doing by ourselves was definitely doable, but super intimidating! My favorite places we visited were Nepal, Vietnam, Tanzania, and South Africa! Hopefully we’ll make it to South America someday – but we now have a 1 year old 🙂 I will live vicariously through you! Cheers!


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:04 pm


Thank you! We will definitely be looking for cheap options in Africa when the time comes.

I wish I could go back and read your blog, I’m sure you have a million stories.

Congrats on the new addition to your family, I bet he’d travel well in SA 🙂



Jan (International Woman of Mystery) June 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm

This is fabulous that you have planned out even what experiences you want. You’re definitely giving me some ideas. 🙂 Good luck with your entire trip. I’ve just found this blog and intend to read all the posts and keep following. Pity you won’t be able to make it to S.America this trip as I’m enjoying it there immensely. As this is also part of a volunteer experience for me, I’m thrilled to hear that you hope to find some time to volunteer. Definitely inspirational!


Kim June 27, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Hi Jan, we actually will be going to SA after all (our plans changed a bit from the original post). We’re very much looking forward to it. Ecuador is our first stop!


Imma January 28, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Your list of objectives is absolutely glorious! This is very inspiring, and I wish you much luck and learning through your adventures!


Kim January 29, 2013 at 12:16 am

Thanks Imma. I am nine months into the trip now and I have learned so much. I am so grateful to be able to do this.


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 7 trackbacks }