It took a long time to figure out what I wanted to do with the three months’ extension I granted myself on this trip.
And just when HR mailed me the signed OK for the prolongation only three days after the expiration of the first sabbatical year (not that I had already booked the flights, anyway…) I came up with the final plan.
My last stop would have been Cape Town, South Africa. I had a flight back to Munich and on to Zurich on 11 January 2015.
But with a new, presumed return to Brussels around 20 March, there were about 10 weeks to be filled.
- A. Just continue traveling and go to new places I have not been before (Peru, Central America, more African destinations…?)
- B. Return to places I really liked and hang out there some more. Hot candidates, all in the South, for I love summer: Chile, Argentina, Australia.
It took a long time to figure that out. I feel that I will not have the energy to go to all new destinations.
After then nearly 18 months, I will need some quiet. I basically just want to wait for the return of spring in Europe.
So with option B in mind I figured I could fly from Johannesburg to Australia. Then I could either fly on, over the South Pacific to South America and see Chile and Argentina again, before heading up to Europe again…
Or, alternatively, I could fly back to Johannesburg, and from there over to South America, basically making Johannesburg my hub. Often return tickets are way cheaper than one-way tickets needed for the first plan.
If you’re planning trip of this scale, it feels like playing chess. The options and potential moves multiply, the further you plan.
I wanted the very best itinerary for the very lowest price. Which borders on impossible.
I spend days and days looking up flights and checking itineraries and affordable prices.
The only solution: a good old spreadsheet. I basically simulated several of the most viable options and tried to put a price tag to it all, in order to make some kind of informed decision.
For me the deciding factors were, of course, the overall price, the feasibility and number of flights to take, and if I could cash in some Star Alliance Miles, or earn some new ones.
This is what this looked like:
Turned out, the best way was option #2, and the cheapest, too!
And when Skyscanner mailed me today that the price Sydney-Santiago had dropped by 200 €, that sealed it.
Here’s the deal:
- A direct flight Johannesburg-Perth was 1400 € or 92.000 miles in Business (Economy was not available) on South African Airways. Emirates wanted even 1790 € with a stop-over in Dubai. But ebookers.co.uk price tag for this was a mere 475 €. 1315 € difference!
- For 1080 € I have a direct flight Sydney-Santiago with Qantas. Rather cheap for a one-way trans-Pacific.
- One tip for ticket hunters: Skyscanner transferred me to the UK version of Expedia, where the ticket price had gone up to 1475 €! Bummer. Quick check on Expedia.com: 1080 €. Same company, same account, 395 € saved!
- Finally, I also managed to get a cheap mileage flight from Buenos Aires to Brussels, using only 40.000 of my miles, and paying 246 € in taxes.
God, I just love the ticket hunting.
But I also have to know: there is no ideal solution, sure thing I might have found some slightly cheaper connection.
But in the meantime the price of the other flights might have gone up again. At one point, you just have to jump and press: BUY TICKET.
So here’s the plan:
I’ll stay there a few days and hopefully meet up with Clint from Auckland, who moved there a few months ago.
Then I either fly to Adelaide, or I’ll book a seat on the desert train that crosses half the continent in two days. It’s expensive, but… maybe!
After a day or two in Adelaide I’ll rent a car and drive all the way to Melbourne, one of my favorite stops on this trip. I’ll hang out for Midsumma Festival, and then drive to Sydney.
It is too early to say what I’ll do, I have San Pedro de Atacama in mind. And hang out in Santiago and see some friends.
Then I’ll either fly to Buenos Aires, or I’ll take the bus to Mendoza, just across the Andes from Santiago, and get to BsAs over land…
On 22 March 2015, I’ll board my flight from Buenos Aires to Frankfurt and on to Brussels, where I’ll arrive in the afternoon of the 23rd.
After 542 days, or 1 year, 5 months and 24 days, this crazy, awesome trip will be over.
Are you still with me?