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The Mobile Lawyer -- One Lap, No Jetlag: Feedback needed -- ASAP

Monday, February 2, 2009

Feedback needed -- ASAP

Before I left on the trip, I sent out 3-4 emails to companies that book spots on freighters for passengers to take. I had expected that getting a spot on a ship would be pretty easy and that there was a lot of commercial traffic to choose from.

As usual on this trip, I was sorely mistaken.

I got back emails from all the companies I'd found saying there was no available option from South America to South Africa in March/April. It seems there just isn't that much traffic between those two continents and the one freighter that was willing to take passengers in that time frame had been booked for months. As you can tell from my caption -- that was the route I wanted to take. I am totally and completely excited about seeing South and East Africa -- and even more excited now that I have run into a dozen people that all say it is spectacular.

After getting the universal rejection a couple of months ago, I had pretty much resigned myself to getting a freighter from Buenos Aires to Spain, going back across to Morocco and then across North Africa. Nothing wrong with that route -- I think crossing the Sahara would be a pretty great adventure. But for some reason, it just didn't 'pop' to me. It is on my life/travel agenda, but for some reason, this doesn't seem like the right time for that.

So recently, I've thought about revising the trip entirely. How about taking a freighter to Europe, whipping through Northern Europe quickly, then going to Russia and taking the Trans-Siberian railroad all the way to the Pacific?? Then go down China to SE Asia, Australia, New Zealand and back? I'd get to see Russia in May/June, which is perfect weather for that area of the world.

The down side is that I really, really want to do Africa. Problem is that I want to do it so much, I don't think three months is going to be enough time. As much as I'm loving traveling, I seriously think I'm going to do another full year trip in the next couple years -- and taking a whole year to do the Middle East and Africa seems like a perfect fit.

So, I'd resigned myself to the Russia/China option mentally in the last few weeks and was started to get pretty excited about it. I sent out a few emails to the frieghter companies that I'd contacted earlier about South America/Europe options a few days ago.

And today I got my replies: (1) I can take one from near San Paulo, Brazil (and add Brazil to this trip) in mid-April to Roterdam, Netherlands; or COMPLETELY out of the blue, (2) there is an opening on the one freighter from Buenos Aires to Capetown, South Africa.

So here is where I am.

Option A -- original plan. South Africa, up the East side of Africa. Then the Middle East (in June or July, which does pose some weather issues). Then to SE Asia by frieghter, Australia, New Zealand and back. Biggest problem. . . I think I want to do a whole year in the Middle East and Africa -- this route, this time, I'm looking at 4 months, max.

Option B -- Brazil (added to the South America route) to Netherlands. Northern Europe (likely crossing over to Sweden and Finland) in the late Spring/early summer. St. Petersburg, Moscow -- Trans-Siberian Railroad to the Pacific coast. Down through China. SE Asia, Australia, New Zealand and back.

Never thought I'd have two great options.

All input welcomed.


At February 2, 2009 at 12:48 PM , Blogger Lael said...

Do you have to come home in December? If you went to Africa, as it sounds like you had your heart set on doing, and then loved it, could you extend your trip to include all the other places as well?

The trip across Russia to China is brutal. If you think not knowing spanish has been an issue, wait until you don't recognize the alphabet. But you're well traveled enough to know how to navigate.

I guess what I'm getting at is that I have no idea. Follow your gut.

At February 2, 2009 at 1:10 PM , Blogger Michael said...

I'd say stick with the original plan. If you love Africa and the Middle East as much as you think you will, you can always come back. My impression is you prefer rural travel to cosmopolitan; I'd prefer option B, but that's just me.

At February 2, 2009 at 1:21 PM , Anonymous Lori S said...

Go with your gut. Do what you really WANT to do. Like Michael said, you can always go back again and stay longer if you fall in love with Africa and the ME.

At February 2, 2009 at 1:58 PM , Anonymous said...

Not to sound redundant, but go with your gut, and if you are not supposed to be on a particular route, the universe will re-route you.

What makes you feel strong? do it. What makes you feel weak or blehhh? don't do it. Follow it. (Whatever it is...!!)

I am a wuss and am scared of Africa. So there.

At February 2, 2009 at 3:25 PM , Blogger Alessandra said...

you're gonna fall in love with Africa over and over again each day, I'd suggest to go for Plan A all your life, just try avoid touch down in the Middle East later than June thou, season can be a killer, you'll realize how much Middle East deserves a dedicated trip simply cause there's so much to see, you'll be wanting to be back for sure..
Option B is intriguing but quite the majestic plan, I was 2 years on the road and could "only" focus on Oceania and Middle East..decided then to put off those countries I visited it by ear..
I'm excited for you!!!

At February 2, 2009 at 6:51 PM , Anonymous EdC said...

The one opening on a freighter to Capetown is a gift out of the blue. Grab that berth, even if it's a coal bin. Nothing like fortune smiling on your original plan. I agree that transiting Russia with no clue to Cyrillic meaning is a monster. Many speak English, but most don't.

At February 2, 2009 at 10:43 PM , Blogger Joyce Kennedy said...

Hi, Mike,
I'd go with Option B. Option A would involve going up the east side of Africa where all the pirates are. Besides, if you take Option A, you'll be in an area where you might be able to visit the Freesian Islands---the island of Fuhr is vacation spot for a lot of Europeans. Angie and Adam's ancestors immigrated to Louisiana from there. Just a suggestion. Then maybe from there you could visit Latvia and Lithuania on your way to Russia. Have fun. I've always wanted to visit Iceland and sit in one of their volcano spas. Maybe on your way back home.

At February 3, 2009 at 12:22 AM , Blogger Kevin said...

I'd do Africa. I spent May-August there and it was great. I did the same route you are thinking about doing but in reverse. I did Cairo to Cape Town skipping Sudan. A lot of beautiful country and good people.

Go to the continent and countries that you want to see the most.

At February 3, 2009 at 12:23 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last comment was from Scott Lauck. Don't know why it says Kevin.

At February 3, 2009 at 9:29 AM , Anonymous Dan (of the inauguration in PC) said...

It sounds like you’re leaning towards Option B, because you might not see as much of Africa as you'd like with Option A. If you are leaning in either direction, even slightly, then I’ll echo what others have said and tell you to just go with your gut.

But if you’re still unsure, the weather should make you feel better about Option B. Not only are you avoiding the Middle East in the summer, but it would be a good time to traverse northern Europe, Russia, and China.

I’ve never been to East Africa or Russia, and East Africa is high on my list so this would be a very tough call for me as well. But if I were still on the fence, what would push me off would be the chance to add Brazil to the itinerary with Option B. Yes you can make it back there another time, but why not see Rio while you’re backpacking through South America?

At February 3, 2009 at 9:35 PM , Anonymous Casey said...

I'd, personally roll with the audible. If you are already contemplating a year to do the middle east and Africa while having the time and means to do so, then Europe and Russia aren't a bad side step.

All in all, it's your trip. Whichever destination you feel suits the intended nature of your trip the best, roll with it. I don't believe there to be a wrong answer to this question.

At February 4, 2009 at 4:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


At February 5, 2009 at 11:32 AM , Blogger SoloTraveler said...

OK -- decision made. I think it will make most everyone (and me) happy.

Will blog it in a day or two.

Thanks for tall the feedback.

At February 7, 2009 at 6:34 PM , Blogger wagelb said...

hello michael. i am walter gelb your mom's cousin. i go to the following site for info on cruiseships. good luck. i am sure that when you get to buenos aires you'll find what you need. read borges to prep yourself. be careful. wish that we were with you. i would like to go there next. walt

At February 21, 2009 at 9:44 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I vote for Capetown. Beautiful city! The drive up the east coast to Durban is spectacular. It can only have gotten better since my visit. (1962)
Uncle Steve


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