In May, I finished a two-year masters program in International Development Studies. On June 1st, my fiancée quit her job and the two of us packed up all of our worldly possessions into a 1999 Honda Accord and drove across the U.S., arriving in our hometown of Roseburg, Oregon just in time to be married on June 23rd. Five days later, we were on a flight to Shanghai, China to begin six months backpacking and meandering through Asia.
We’ve got a loose itinerary we’ll be following with an aim of leaving it open and flexible. At present, the only hard dates/locations we have are our departure date from Portland (Oregon) (June 28th), flight from Kunming (China) to Kolkata (India) (August 28th), and our return flight out of Shanghai (China) on December 5th.
Our draft itinerary:
JUNE-JULY: CHINA – Shanghai, Suzhou, Taishan, Beijing, Pingyao, Xi’an, Chengdu, Yunnan Province (Dali, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Kunming)
AUG: INDIA (and possibly NEPAL & SRI LANKA)
SEP-NOV: SOUTHEAST ASIA – THAILAND (and possibly BURMA/MYANMAR, MALAYSIA & SINGAPORE), CAMBODIA, LAOS, VIETNAM
NOV-DEC: CHINA – Guilin, Macau/Hong Kong, Fuzhou, Shanghai
Though I’ve spent about three of the last twelve months in Africa (Uganda/Kampala/South Africa/Swaziland/Lesotho), Lori and I haven’t actually traveled overseas together since our backpacking trip through Peru and Ecuador in July and August of 2010 (if you don’t count Puerto Rico as travel abroad), so we’re very excited for the opportunity. It’s been tough not being able to share traveling adventures with Lori as we both love to travel, so just being in a foreign country anywhere together is a very exciting prospect indeed.
Also significant is that this will be the first time that Lori has traveled extensively in an area of the world where she does not speak a national language (she is fluent in Spanish and has traveled extensively throughout Latin America and Spain, but not to a country where English isn’t at least a working language. While I have backpacked through such places I anticipate that independent travel through China will be in a league of its own. The two of us frequently like to go off the beaten path and spend time in rural villages and towns far removed from the tourist trail, but the language barrier (as well as China’s rules on accommodations and foreigners) may drastically diminish the extent to which this is possible.
But that’s part of the adventure and part of the reason why China is so appealing to us. We know dozens of friends and family who have traveled to India and Southeast Asia, but only a very small handful who have attempted the China trek. Furthermore, accurate and up-to-date information regarding independent budget travel is difficult to come by. Even the Lonely Planet guide for China seems to offer scant information for shoestring travelers (and evidently, there is no “China on a Shoestring book” as part of the Shoestring series. We expect that China will be our most expensive destination by far, but are confident we can keep costs to a minimum. Lori’s brother, Dan, backpacked through Asia for nine months in 2009/10 (including China) and has confirmed that this is indeed possible (he claims to have done it for about $30/day not including transportation costs). If we can keep costs under $60/day for the two of us (including non-airfare transport) we will be very happy. For the rest of the trip, we expect a budget of about $30-$40/day for the two of us should match or exceed our needs and comfort.
So that’s that! Please feel free to add questions, travel tips or whathaveyou in the comments section (below). We’d love to hear from you!
David & Lori
Travel Planning Resources We Use & Recommend:
- Booking.com — Best rates on lodging worldwide.
- Airbnb — Great for apartments & house rentals and extended stays.
- Get Your Guide — Excellent tool for booking local guides and tours in advance for great rates.
- World Nomads — Top rated travel insurance that we've used for all our independent travels.
- 12Go — Top site for booking transport across Southeast Asia.
- NordVPN — Currently the best VPN out there for keeping your data secure safe online while traveling.
- Amazon.com — For your travel gear and anything else you can think of.