Here’s a little trip I’m planning for August:
If you’re asking “why,” “how” or “I wanna go, too,” more after the jump.
Why I’m doing this
My father came from Ireland to the US shortly before I was born, a quarter century ago. He supported the family by working as an aircraft mechanic. Actually, if it wasn’t for the fact that I could fly really cheaply, I probably wouldn’t have gone to Japan as an exchange student in high school (and I DEFINITELY wouldn’t have gone first class).
Around this time last year, while I was working and going to night classes in Tokyo, I realized that I hadn’t seen my (rather huge) Irish family since middle school, and decided that I should go back in the near future. But this posed something of a conflict, since the bar exam would be coming up, and then I would either be going back to Japan or entering a big US firm, and facing a hectic schedule either way. And in any event, there were so many other places in the world that I still wanted to see.
So I began putting together a plan to go from Ireland to Japan by land. This would (a) allow my family’s DNA to effectively circumnavigate the globe, (b) let me see my Irish family and go back to Tokyo in one fell swoop, (c) give me a much-needed vacation after months of studying for the bar, and (d) give me lots of fun stories and bragging rights. Since I haven’t been east of Germany or west of China, the trip would also let me see half of the world that I haven’t gotten around to yet, and the opportunity to do it during one of my last big stretches of free time for a while.
How the trip is set up
This is not the easiest way to get from Ireland to Japan by land. The easiest way is to take the trans-Siberian through Russia. I was considering that plan until Curzon pointed out that I would just be spending a week on a dilapidated Soviet train, and not seeing very much en route. So I switched to a tougher but far more interesting southern route, modifying it a bit over time as I had more chances to read other people’s travelogues.
Most of the voyage is by train (the black lines on the map). There are a few stretches where no trains are available, so I plan to either go by bus/car (brown lines) or ferry (blue lines). If everything connected together ideally, this could be done in 2-3 weeks, but since I know everything won’t connect together ideally (and don’t want to rush the trip anyway), I’m setting aside the month of August.
The total budget for the mapped trip (train/bus/boat fares, visas, lodging, food, and cushioning for souvenirs/bribes/exchange rate fluctuations) is $3,000 US. It’s possible to make the trip for much less, but since I know the central Asian part will not be fast or comfortable, I elected to take options that were reasonably fast and comfortable on either end. So the budget assumes high-speed rail from London to Paris and through Korea and Japan (even though cheaper buses are also available) as well as mid-range rail accommodation through Europe, soft sleepers in China, and bunks instead of floor space on the Tianjin-Seoul ferry.
I haven’t included airfare in the budget, because I don’t know whether I will go back to the US after arriving in Tokyo, and in any event I’ll still be taking advantage of standby fares through my airline industry parents (thanks, guys!)
So do you want to come along?
As interesting as this trip seems, it’s not something I want to do entirely by myself, since there will be a number of lengthy stretches through vast portions of countries where I don’t speak the language. So I’m looking for co-conspirators who would like to travel with me, either for the whole journey or just for part of it. (If the price tag seems scary to you, rest assured that it comes down dramatically if you knock off the portions in developed countries on either end)
Naturally, if you’re a reader of this blog based in one of the highlighted waypoints, I would love to drop in and pay a visit–just let me know.