Many of you have asked, where on earth am I going on this ‘eat, pray, love’ adventure I mentioned earlier. Well first I should clarify, it’s no official ‘eat, pray, love’ – I will likely be doing a lot of eating, but the other two are up for debate 😉 This trip is really about a cleansing of mind and spirit, rebalancing, exploring, and gaining clarity in what my next life chapters will look like.
The whole trip started with wanting to fulfill my bucket list item of going to Mongolia. I’d dreamed of staying in a yurt in the countryside enjoying the peace of a simple life. Sleeping on rustic hard surfaces and eating parts of animals I’d typically avoid. Helping on a farm, breathing in the clean air, and just being in it’s most peaceful form. Awe…
When I started looking at how to get to Mongolia I realized my go-to airlines didn’t fly there. If you’ve read my why I love United post, you’ll know I’m a nervous flyer. Not that I’m opposed to trying out a new airline, especially one under Star Alliance (Air China has a daily non-stop which would have been perfect), but this trip had so many variables already which only increases my nervous flyer-ness (if that’s even a word!). This leg was a short one, so I figured why not do it by land. Seeing more of China and Mongolia could be pretty cool. Which then led me to the Mongolia section of the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar. Awesomeness! It’s a 2 day journey crossing through northern China and southern Mongolia, passing through the Gobi desert with incredible landscapes.
Though once I started thinking about it, I’d been wanting to do the Trans-Siberian for years and if I was already over there, maybe I should just go all the way. Right? Makes sense to me! So I looked at taking it from Ulaanbaatar (capital of Mongolia) to Moscow. It’s 5 days if you don’t stop, however, from reading online it sounds like many people take little day stops here and there to break up the trip and see other parts of Russia. Being a solo traveller who is risk adverse, I figured cruising Siberia straight through was the best plan for me and my preferences.
Which led me to the finale…how do I find a cheap enough airfare, within the right time period, to do the trip. I originally thought I’d start in Beijing and move West, though that proved more expensive. Go figure. So then I looked at doing it the other way Moscow to Beijing going East. However in playing with the flights and prices and dates, I found if I started earlier than I was thinking and entered Europe through Berlin I could save a bundle. Love finding deals!
So if I was going to have a number of pre-days and start in Berlin… well I guess that meant more adventures! Ha! I ended up adding in another bucket list – glass igloos in northern Finland where in the warmth of your glass ceiling igloo you could see the aurora borealis. Sweet! Now with Finland on the itinerary, it meant getting time in Moscow, then St Petersburg, then Helsinki and the igloos. Only made sense if I was going overland I’d experience everything in between, right!
From there the last bit to sort out was how I’d get from Berlin to Finland. Being a stare out the window day dreaming for hours type of person, over land sounded amazing. That’s where the journey took it’s full shape. Time in Berlin, followed by Poland, followed by Lithuania, followed by Latvia, followed by Estonia, with a ferry to Helsinki. Plan finalized!
Admittedly, I have planned a TON of trips in my day – for myself, for my friends, for my family, and for my business. However, 9 countries in 33 days with trains, planes, automobiles, ferries, and horses – it was an incredible feat! My TripIt itinerary is literally at least 10 scrolls deep. I had to put together a spreadsheet to track all the logistics – a little over 60 logistical elements, not including the details in Mongolia which added another 5 or so. Needless to say, 33 days, around the world, 9 countries, for around $5,000. Not too bad. Of course I’m sure someone out there could do it cheaper, but glass igloos and transiberian first class were bucket list musts that consumed about $2,000 of that. Flights were around $1,000 and trains/ferries another $700. So when you break it down like that, it’s actually crazy how affordable the trip was given how many bucket list items and things being seen!
During the journey, I’ll post regularly to this blog so don’t forget to follow me to get the updates! I’m super excited. If you have recommendations for where to see in any of these countries or other tips, I’d love to hear them!