I have made no secret of the fact that I am a major planner – I like to know where I am going and what is coming up. I like to have plans.
But I am also open to being flexible. And when opportunities arise or inclinations change, I want to be open to going with the flow and changing things up.
That is exactly what will be happening over the next two months as I revise my itinerary and make a few detours – to Italy, to Turkey and to Armenia for a second time.
The driving force behind my detours is my decision to attend the Travel Bloggers Unite (TBU) conference in Umbria, Italy.
When I made the decision in February (and still today), attending TBU appealed to me for several reasons.
After being on the road for over seven months, part of me is craving some familiarity. Italy certainly isn’t the United States, but it is a country I have visited twice in the past, making it my first repeat stop during this trip. More importantly, though, will be the familiar faces. I was thrilled to meet so many fellow travel bloggers at TBEX last June in Vancouver and it will be great to see many of the same people again – Andy, Ali, Jodi and Brooke, to name a few. Furthermore, I am looking forward to meeting a lot of other travel bloggers (like my roommates Laurel and Dalene!) who I have interacted with a lot online over the past year but have to actually meet face-to-face.
I have made no secret of the fact that I do not see myself becoming a permanent nomad and will be searching for a job when this trip comes to an end. While I also don’t see myself being a professional travel blogger, I do want to work in travel so I figure this will also be a great networking opportunity, both with other bloggers and with representatives of travel and public relations companies who will be in attendance – hopefully more valuable than anything I could possibly do online.
Remember a few months ago when I was hitting the wall and stressing over my budget? Well, as it turns out, this former tax attorney made a bit of a miscalculation when she decided how much to withhold from her 401(k) withdrawal before she left. And, as it turns out, that miscalculation resulted in withholding too much, which means a large tax refund showed up in my bank account at the end of February! I certainly won’t be going nuts with it and I will save most of it for my re-entry cushion, but it does give me the comfort level to throw in a trip like this. Additionally, I recently joined Meet, Plan, Go! as Managing Editor, earning a small salary that basically covers my at-home expenses and gives me a bit more leeway in the budget.
While spring has sprung in Armenia, all along I was thinking I would rather explore the mountains of Georgia and Azerbaijan in May when it will be just slightly warmer and greener. With my detour to Italy and Turkey, I should make my way back to Georgia in early to mid-May, which I hope will be perfect.
Oh yeah, this is a travel blogging conference – so of course I want to come away with some ideas about how to improve my blog and my travel writing. I’m looking forward to learning How Not to Make a Mess of WordPress , How to Spice Up My Travel Writing and even How to Get Big Brands to Sponsor Me and my Blog (a girl can dream, right?)
Turkey has always been in the back of my mind.
In one early version of my trip, I planned to travel overland from Ukraine to Romania, Bulgaria and then Turkey before continuing on to Georgia. Now, I am looking forward to meeting up with even more travel bloggers in Istanbul and traveling east in Turkey to the area that was once part of western Armenia – an area that intrigues me now that I have spent over a month in Armenia.
Armenia is pulling me back.
Despite initially succumbing to language shock and feeling left out, I have grown to love Armenia. I have spent nearly five weeks here and the time has flown by. Between volunteering for 7 hours each day, Armenian language class two nights a week and a variety of other activities organized by the Armenian Volunteer Corps and Birthright Armenia, I have barely had a chance to sightsee and explore on my own.
I want to return to the country as a tourist and see some more of the sights in and around Yerevan, as well as spend a night in Gyumri – a city that we visited on an excursion that I would love to explore more. While I considered returning in the fall after Central Asia, many of the volunteers I have met will still be here in June, so it makes sense to return then.
Of course these detours affect my overall route and timing a bit.
I am already a few weeks behind my initial itinerary, which had me spending April in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Now, I will finish up April in Italy and Turkey, flying to Rome on April 18 and then Istanbul on April 25. I will spend May traveling through Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan before making one last detour back to Armenia. From there, I will fly on to Tajikistan to begin the last phase of my trip – Central Asia! Rather than heading back to the United States in June as I initially envisioned, I think a mid-September return is now more likely.