RTW #3: It’s Time to Let ‘er Rip!

It’s only a few days until our third RTW trip begins, and we’re vacillating between giddy excitement and mild panic that we won’t get everything done. As the departure date draws near we’re reminiscing about previous trips, and trying to determine what made them so much fun that we’d go to all the trouble to circle the globe again.

What we came up with is that our travels have taught us to stay flexible, keep an open mind, and embrace the unexpected.

Of course, not everything can be left to chance. Our planning for an extended trip doesn’t normally include exhaustive research into exactly what each place has to offer. We’ve developed a keen sense of what excites us. So instead of looking at the nitty-gritty, we decide if a particular place appeals to us – then leave the details for later. Some places make the cut, others don’t. After we’ve added a destination to the list, we plan the transport and lodging, then forget about it until we arrive. We’ll be taking this approach on the RTW so we can truly enjoy where we are and not worry about the next stop until we get there. 

Skopje, North Macedonia is a good example. Prior to visiting the Balkans we hadn’t even heard of Skopje. We were visiting Montenegro, and realized that North Macedonia was right next door. Reading about the Ottoman architecture and the Old Bazaar, was enough to push it onto the “we’re going” list. The end of the story is that we really enjoyed our time in Skopje and all our surprises turned out to be good ones. 

The point is that travel is largely what you make it.

There are marvelous cities and total pits, but most places land somewhere in between. Experienced travelers know that no place is perfect, and that takeaway impressions are usually determined by expectations, open minds, and the ability to search for and see the facets that make a city unique and appealing. 

Travel surprises aren’t always good, and I’m not sure I’d want them to be. Think how boring it would be to know everything in advance. Travel is about getting outside your comfort zone and leaving yourself open for the unexpected.

If you want predictable, stay home. If you want a little adventure and the opportunity to see things differently, then let ‘er rip.

 Happy Trails,

James & Terri

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed

by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines! Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Photo Credits: 1. JOSHUA COLEMAN 

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

48 thoughts

  1. Hi James and Terri
    It was nice to read this post and really love all of your advice that gets sprinkled into various posts. And today’s big takeaway was “can truly enjoy where we are and not worry about the next stop until we get there.”
    And the Mark Twain quote was perfect for the vibe if your post
    Safe travels 🙏☀️

    1. Yvette, thanks for your kind words. I find that as I age I get pensive at the watershed moments, and this RTW is certainly one in our travel lives. As for enjoying where we are, you may recognize this as the meditation tip for being in the moment: good advice when traveling to lots of different places. Take care and thanks for following along. ~James

    1. Thanks Annie. As you know, long-term travel takes stamina, and we know ourselves well enough to know when we need a break. Frequently it’s just a matter of asking yourself what it is that’s making you crazy and dealing with that issue. Or if not, just moving on. Take care and thanks for following along. ~James

    1. Crossing the US by road is also an exciting experience. We’ve done it a number of times, and with the right mindset and a blue-highway route, it can be great fun. And you never know what you’ll stumble into. Enjoy your trip. ~James

    1. Kathy, like you we prefer to travel E to W. We have fewer problems with jet lag that way. Also, on this trip we’ve worked really hard to take daytime flights only, which also makes a huge difference in how we feel on arrival. A 9 hr flight is tiring enough, but adding in jetlag is the double whammy. We’re getting to old for that stuff! ~James

  2. I only learned that there was a thing called RTW trip in my early years of blogging. I was so fascinated by people who were able to do it, and it partially inspired me to travel for an extended period of time in 2015. Over the years, however, that term seemed to have dissipated… until you said you’re embarking on one very soon! This is very exciting for me, as your reader. I can imagine how much bigger your excitement must be. Bon voyage!

    1. It’s interesting Bama that if you calculate the mileage, once you make it from our part of the world to slightly west of Bangkok, you’re half way around the world, and it’s just as easy to continue west and make it an RTW than return to the east. I’m sure there are lots of Americans that visit SE Asia and never think of that. And BTW, on our first RTW we flew into Bali, made our way to Java and spent a month riding the train from one end of the island to the other. We still talk about that wonderful experience today. Take care and happy travels. ~James

      1. You make a really good point about the distance, James. A month exploring Java on train sounds like a really romantic way of seeing the island. There should be even more rail lines now compared to when you went.

    1. Thanks Nicole. It helps that we’ve done this before, because we know some of the things to expect. We’ve also arranged for the things that bug us, so we should be set to kickback and enjoy. All the best to you and thanks for continuing to follow along. ~James

    1. Pam, I think that once Twain achieved some level of success he was an avid traveler. He also had a keen observational eye, so he has some excellent quotes. All the best to you and Richard. ~James

      1. You are so right! And I assume you read “The Innocents Abroad” – some of those passages are absolute classics!

  3. You two have the perfect attitude for an RTW trip. I have always loved that Mark Twain quote. (Those boats look very much like the luzzus in Malta.) Enjoy your adventure!

    1. Thanks Darlene. After a few days to decompress in Hawaii, we’re on to Japan, which is a new country for us. So we’re jumping right into the “foreign” with both feet. It promises to be fun. Take care and enjoy Ireland. ~James

  4. I’ve never been to Japan but my sister has and it sounds like the perfect place to visit after you’ve decompressed in Hawaii, which I have been to. Sounds like you’re going at the perfect time as well. With any luck you’ll be there for the cherry blossom season. Have fun. I’ll look forward to reading about your adventures. Carol

    1. Thanks Carol. We’ve been through the airport a few times, but it will be nice to spend some time in town. Tokyo sounds pretty wacky so we’re only spending a few days there. We’ll be spending most of our time in Kyoto which sounds more to our liking. We’re looking forward to the cheery blossoms, but hope it doesn’t make for huge crowds. And for me personally, I’m looking forward to the bullet train trip from Tokyo-Kyoto. 185mph Baby!! Should be fun. All the best and thanks for continuing to follow along. ~James

  5. The quote by Mark twain has been my mantra for a long time, James and Terri. But ‘let her rip!’ works as well. May the two of you have a grand and glorious journey filled with the surprises and wisdom that only journeys to far and •mysterious places bring. (Mysterious to us at least.) –Curt and Peg

    1. Curt, I don’t think that you and Peggy have to worry much about casting off the bowlines. I think you live in a state of cast off bowlines. And good for you. Our opinion, is that we can always stop traveling, but there may come a time when we can’t, and in the meantime, we going for it. Take care of yourselves and have fun. ~James

  6. While we travel and live very differently than you two, our approaches are similar when it comes to “going with the flow” and leaving destinations to reveal themselves once we arrive. We plan a little bit – you have to – but leave most open to what may come and please – or not! 🙂

    I was hoping you’d give us a rough route and time frame of your RTW in this post…

    Happy travels!

    1. Liesbet, as you’ll hear in a later post, we’re finding that with changed immigration and covid restrictions that it’s harder to “go with the flow.” We’ve found that essentially all the countries that we’re visiting require a visa as well as a round trip ticket back home or proof of onward travel before they allow entry into the country. From an immigration standpoint this is understandable, but it takes lots of flexibility out of the process for travelers like us.

      In the meantime, our route is E to W across the Pacific, with a stop in Hawaii. Then Japan, Korea, SE Asia, through the Middle East, Israel, southern Europe, London and then home. It will be great to be back on the road. Take care and Happy Trails. ~James

  7. I like your advice [bias confirmation? 😀] So many of our best memories come from times when we “embraced the unexpected.” Health problems frequently limit what we do now, and Alie’s reaction to heat kept us from the popular eco-tours in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica yesterday. So instead we just walked in search of a post office to buy stamps to send some cards. Then we wandered back to our cruise ship via streets frequented mostly by locals with no tourists. The role of a post office in Costa Rica was an eye opener. Everyone we met was kind and friendly. We wandered down streets closed to auto traffic, looked in stores, wandered through a neighborhood market, and met a fantastic artist. Then we came to a lovely municipal park where I saw my first sloth in the wild! Most people spoke little English but seemed pleased with our rough efforts to communicate in Spanish — and I think my command of the words improved as the day went along. Not a spectacular day, it will be memorable.

    1. Ray, like you many of our most vivid memories come from chance encounters as well. We’re big believers in wandering normal, non-tourist neighborhoods. We particularly remember places that have a siesta culture, and wandering about when the locals are at home, going about life and things are quiet. Also, it’s interesting that you mention Costa Rica, because I saw my first (and only) sloth in the wild there as well. I sort of thought the slow movement was a joke until I saw one in the wild. FYI, keep an eye open there because we saw a zillion hummingbirds of different varieties and a tarantula. Take care and enjoy the rest of your trip. ~James

    1. Thanks Hannah. We’re in Los Angeles waiting on our flight to Hawaii for a few days and then on to Tokyo. It’s wonderful to have the planning finished and actually be on the road. Take Care and Happy travels to you as well.

  8. Can’t wait to read more of your excellent adventures. We know how much you prepare and absorb while in different places, so share away! We all want to read more.
    Best wishes for a safe trip and the chance to soak up all this world has to offer.

    1. Rusha, it’s really great to hear from you. I hope that all is going well for you and Bert and that the livin’ is easy there in TN. We have already let ‘er rip, and I’m writing this from our hotel in Tokyo. After a stops in LA, Hawaii, and Tokyo, we’re getting into the rhythm of our third RTW. It’s great to be back on the road. All the best to you both. ~James

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