Joe Biden recently proclaimed the pandemic “over.” And if an American president declares something, it must be true, right?
Even if his pronouncement is a misguided oversimplification of the wider public health picture, the husband and I have decided that COVID—barring the emergence of a variant akin to the one that mangled our Christmas trip to England—has been sufficiently subjugated to permit foreign travel! In fact, I’m less worried about picking up a virus than I am about not picking up my bags on the luggage carousel, if ya know what I mean . . . 💼
But where to go?
Trip 1: Jamaica
Travel Planning Thrill-o-Meter: 1/10
Travel Planning Stress-o-Meter: 1/10
This spring break trip has been years in the making . . . because that’s literally how long it takes me to accumulate enough personal days to take time off during the husband’s spring break. But I’ve finally done it and we’re celebrating by returning for a relaxed week at our beloved couples-only resort in Jamaica.
Travel planning consists of little more than booking the flight and reserving our cabana at the resort. The pleasure of this trip lies not in the planning, but in the execution. And though we’ve had stress and mega-stress getting to Jamaica in the past, I’m not wasting any precious worry points over this trip because they’re all needed for Trip 3 (below).
Trip 2: Revive parts of the first trip to fall under the COVID ax: Spain/Andorra/France
Travel Planning Thrill-o-Meter: 5/10
Travel Planning Stress-o-Meter: 3/10
We’ve been in touch with our Belgian friends and they’ve agreed that the summer of 2023 is a swell time to emerge from the COVID fog and reconnect under the Pyrenean sun. In an effort to avoid cramming too much in, we’re deferring the Spain portion of the trip until a later date (¡Wait for me, Costa Brava!) and instead I’m architecting an “Andorra Sandwich.”
By this I mean we’re planning to fly into Toulouse where we’ll kick about in La Ville Rose for a day or two while adjusting to the time change. After that we’ll explore parts of Languedoc-Roussillion and the eastern Pyrenees (bread) before heading to country number 20—Androrra (fixins’)—where we’ll climb a Via Ferrata route if it’s the last thing we do. Then we’ll mosey on over to the central French Pyrenees (bread). Here we’ll meet up with our bike-loving friends and the husband can finally ascend the last col of his “Big 3” Tour de France routes.
The Thrill-o-Meter sits at an unsatisfying 5 because I already architected most of this trip back before the plague hit and I’m reusing much of what I had planned. As for stress, there’s always some involved in planning an international journey, but now that I’ve begun researching Trip 3, European travel planning seems positively Preschool-y.
Trip 3: Australia!
Travel Planning Thrill-o-Meter: 10/10
Travel Planning Stress-o-Meter: 17/10
I’ll admit that there are at least a dozen countries ahead of Australia on my travel list, but this trip isn’t about me. The husband has long wanted to visit this far-flung, famously friendly member of the Commonwealth family, and with a milestone birthday on the horizon, it was time for him to pull rank.
Not that I’m complaining. After liberating my library’s shelves of every available Australia travel guide, exchanging a few helpful emails with Australian blog buddy Mel at Life… One Big Adventure, and spending a mere ten minutes on the computer in cursory planning, my interest level soared.
As did my stress level.
Australia travel planning isn’t for beginners.
Its main population centers are widely dispersed all around the periphery, and, I’m quickly realizing, the country is huge. Combine that vastness with a low population (relative to area) and you’ll find that there aren’t flights and trains going everywhere all the time like there are in Europe. To complicate matters, the birthday boy insists on seeing Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock). Depending on where you’re setting off from, getting there is neither quick nor easy nor cheap. Because of all this, in just two weeks of (obsessive) planning I’ve run into obstacle after obstacle.
At this point, the only thing I can be certain of is that, since we’ll be traveling in Australia’s winter, we’re avoiding the southernmost parts of the country—think Tasmania, Melbourne, and the Great Ocean Road. We get enough snow and cold here in the Great White North. Instead, here’s what we are considering:
- time in Sydney (our probable arrival/departure city)
- the Ghan train from Adelaide to Darwin (or reverse)
- the Indian Pacific train from Sydney to Perth (or reverse)
- mini road trip through the Blue Mountains and up to the Mudgee wine country
- mini road trip on the Grand Pacific Drive south of Sydney
- fly to Uluru for several days
- the Sunshine Coast
- and more and more and more as I work my way through the books and websites
Quite obviously, we can’t do it all. Even if we had the time, the cost alone could net us a shiny new Qantas airplane. So this is where you come in, dear reader. If you are Australian*, have been to Australia, or have reliable intel on Australian travel, I have a homework assignment for you: please tell me what to see, what to skip, and anything else I don’t even know I need to know.
*Mel, you are excused from this assignment. Instead, I’ve designated you my “teacher’s helper,” which means I’ll be pestering you with private emails for the next two years. 😉
If we all do our part, I just know we can come up with a bonzer birthday trip for the husband.