Announcing My Big Adventure

If you are a regular reader of this site, you likely have seen my recent interviews with some of my fellow thirty-somethings who are leaving their jobs to travel or work overseas.

I am thrilled to announce that I am about to join them!

Yes, that’s right.  I gave notice at work yesterday that my last day will be August 12.

At the end of August, I plan to embark on what I like to call Katie’s Great Post-Soviet Adventure (I’m open to suggestions for better taglines!).

Traveling through all 15 countries of the former Soviet Union


As some of you know, I majored in Russian & East European Studies for a while in college and studied Russian language for 3 years.  I also did research projects on democracy in the Ukraine and ethnic conflict in Armenia and Georgia.  In short, just as Russia has long fascinated me, the former Soviet Union as a whole has held a strong interest for me.  So, although it’s a bit unconventional, this is an ideal way for me to spend the next year!

Here’s the approximate plan:

August 30: I depart Chicago on a one-way flight to Helsinki, Finland.

August 31-September 2 : Helsinki.

September 2-11: Estonia.  I am running the Tallinn Marathon on September 11 and will likely spend some time in both Tallinn and Saaremaa Island.

Mid-September through early NovemberRussia. It’s not quite my dream trip to Russia, but I do plan to spend 3 months immersing myself in the country and culture.  I will be volunteering through Geovisions’ Conversation Corps program for the first 2 months. I am still waiting for my family placements, but I should be spending a month in St. Petersburg and a month in Moscow, living with families and tutoring them in English.

November: More Russia. From Moscow, I will fly to Vladivostok and spend the next 3 weeks taking the Trans-Siberian Railway all the way back to Moscow, likely stopping in Ulan Ude, Irkutsk and Lake Baikal, Yekaterinburg and Kazan. Of course, all of my Russia plans assume that Russian authorities decide to grant me a 3-month business visa.  If they don’t, I’ll be resorting to Plan B…(not sure what that is yet)

December: Latvia, Lithuania & Belarus. Back to the Baltics, I will hit Latvia and Lithuania before hopefully moving on to Belarus (I say hopefully because I will need to get a visa, which is not guaranteed).

January 2012: Ukraine. I plan to ring in 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine (anyone wanna join me??), and am looking at options for taking some Russian language lessons there, possibly staying up to a month.

February: Moldova.  I may stay in Moldova just a week, but I am working on arranging a volunteer opportunity with a nonprofit there, in which case I may stay a month.

March: Armenia. From Moldova, I’ll head down to Odessa and take a ferry across the Black Sea to Georgia and then Armenia, where I may also stay for a month volunteering.

April: Georgia-Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan. I’ll backtrack through Georgia to Azerbaijan and then take the Caspian Sea ferry to Turkmenistan (would love to meet up with some adventurous souls here, for a variety of reasons).

May-June: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. From Turkmenistan, I’m planning to head up to Uzbekistan, heading to Kazakhstan by train from Nukus and visiting the underground mosques outside of Aktau before continuing on to Almaty via the Aral Sea. From Kazakhstan, I’ll head to Kyrgyzstan, where I would love to do some hiking, and then finally to Tajikistan and the Pamir Highway.

What do you think? Fun? Crazy? Ambitious?

I realize I will be traveling through Russia and Eastern Europe in the dead of winter, which I am sure would not appeal to most people.  However, I am a cold weather person and I would much rather experience some cold and snow than suffer through extreme heat and humidity.  As I’ve written about in the past,  I love Europe in the winter!

I am SUPER excited about my plans and I hope you’ll enjoy following along – sign up for my RSS Feed.

I would also love to meet up with fellow travelers or readers along the way, so please let me know if you think we might cross paths!

69 thoughts on “Announcing My Big Adventure”

  1. Pingback: My Soviet Sojourn: What I Don’t Want to Miss «

  2. Sounds like quite the adventure Katie! I look forward to reading all about it over the next year. I don’t know much about that part of the world.

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  5. Now that is an interesting itinerary!! Quite different from the usual RTW trip plans that catch my eye on the web 🙂 We will definitely follow your adventures in the former Soviet Union – have a good start into your trip!

  6. So excited for you. Let me know about the marathon too- I just ran a half and i’m trying to decide if a full is in my future! Good luck with your trip- WooHoo!

  7. Um, this whole trip sounds pretty much fantastic.

    My favourite part is that you just kind of nonchalantly mentioned RUNNING A MARATHON in September.

    My travel plans suddenly feel entirely lazy and lethargic in comparison to yours! (But in a totally sweet, inspiring sort of way!)

    Safe travels and I can’t wait to read all about it!

  8. WOW! This is my kind of itinerary!

    Truth be told, I am dreaming of the day that I can write a post like this with my own story of finally making my own travel dreams official. While my trip won’t be focused on the former Soviet Union, I still can’t wait to read along! I am super excited for you and am encouraged to keep plugging away at my own goals.
    I am curious to know how you found your volunteer projects/opportunities? That is where I am finding it challenging to find good resources and other people who can actually tell me about the experience first hand. It seems like at some point I am just going to have to take a leap and figure it out when I get to a certain place, but my fellow “type A” personality finds that challenging to accept! LOL

    Anyway, your trip looks amazing! Enjoy your final countdown! 🙂

    1. Hi Lindsey, thanks for commenting!

      I don’t remember how I came across Geovisions initially (the company I am volunteering with in Russia) but before I applied, I read about Sherry Ott of volunteering through them in Jordan – seeing that she had a good experience made me more comfortable. An opportunity I’m looking at in Armenia I found through a Google search (it’s an organization on the ground in Armenia) and I’ve found some others that sound interesting through It’s definitely taken a lot of digging around!

      Good luck with making your own travel dreams come true! You really do just need to make the decision to go for it – I put this off much longer than I would’ve liked, until I got to a point where I just needed to make the leap.

  9. So excited for you Katie! I love the excitement and liberation of quitting the job and saying Adios! Happy travels!!

  10. It sounds like an adventure of a lifetime! I’m a college student living in Moscow. If you need a guide or any help when you are in Moscow, just let me know! I’ll be happy to make you a company.

  11. Hey Katie 🙂

    Yeah I have not heard so much about these parts of the world as far as tourism, heck I have never been to Europe so what do I know? 😉

    This is so cool everybody (including you) have different tastes and ideas of how they want to travel (and btw you aren’t the only cold weather person on this planet! Even though I am not!)

    I do have one question though: why a business Visa? Would you be willing to write a blog about your experience getting a business visa and what the requirements are, etc instead of getting a tourist visa. This I have not heard anyone do, so that intrigues my thoughts 🙂

    1. Hi Shannon – Russia will only issue tourist visas for one month. Since I want to stay longer, the business visa is the way to go since those can be good up to 3 months. And I will be doing a post in the near future about the process of getting the visa! 🙂

  12. Sounds like a great trip! Though it seems it a bit funny the way you have planned it meticulously. Your dates and plans will no doubt change, but it’s always nice to dream ahead. I know I do! I very well may be in Central Asia next year sometimes. At least I hope to Be! Happy and safe travels!

    1. Well, I have limited time and money so I had to budget things out pretty carefully. I’m sure some things may change, but I’m also arranging some volunteer opportunities in advance, so some stops will be fairly set. I am very Type A – I like to have plans. 🙂

  13. Wow Katie that is some serious trippage going on! Well done for going off the beaten track – can’t wait to read all about it =)

  14. My couchsurfers last week were a Russian guy who grew up in Finland and a Polish woman. They are moving back to Helsinki after a year in the U.S. at the end of July. I’ll send you their CS profile if you’re interested in staying with someone in Helsinki.

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  16. Let me know when you’re in MN if you want to bring my Kazakhstan flag with you. I’m sure you’re traveling light, but it’d be kind of cool if there was a way the flag could visit its homeland.

    I remember at one time you were thinking of squeezing in a trip to China in the middle of this. Are you still going to see if that can work or are you just focusing on the Fab 15?

    1. Why do you have a Kazakhstan flag? How big is it?

      If I have the time & money left, I may head to China at the end of my trip.

      1. The better question is: why don’t *you* already own a Kazakhstan flag?

        I became a fan of their Olympic hockey team when I found it in a hockey video game that came out at the time of the Nagano games (1998, I think?). Then, somebody bought the flag for me at MOA’s flag store.

        It’s a beautiful flag as flags go: powder blue with a yellow sun and eagle in the middle. I’ll make sure you see it in a few weeks.

  17. Hi Katie! That is a lovely itinerary. I agree with your enjoyment of winters, having spent many in Ukraine myself. As for the Russian language lessons there, maybe you could be convinced to give Ukrainian a spin? Perhaps it’s my western Ukraine leanings, but it is a prettier, softer language. Also, have you ever been to L’viv (L’vov)? Best city in Ukraine.
    I’ll be following your travels, good luck!

    1. Thanks Kate! Hadn’t thought of studying Ukrainian, but will definitely give that some thought. Is it very similar to Russian?

      I haven’t been to L’viv, but it is definitely on my list of places to visit in Ukraine. Sounds lovely!

  18. I’m so excited that you made the announcement! Even though I’ve been hearing about it for months now, it’s still exciting for me to read your posting.

    If I am still in Europe in January I will definitely join you in Ukraine!

  19. OMG CONGRATS>>>> THAT IS FUCKING AWESOME!!! Your plan sounds EPIC and like NO OTHER I have ever seen. I can’t wait to read all about it. This should be very interesting (in a great way) cus I will be learning about countries I dont know much about.

  20. Katie- AWESOME!!! I am so excited to follow along on your adventures. I want a DETAILED post about what it was like to quit your job 🙂 So proud and excited for you!!!!

    1. Thanks Kim!! It has been so great meeting you and supporting each other as we prepare for our journeys! Can’t wait until you’re able to begin yours as well! 🙂

      And yes, there will be a detailed post about leaving work – probably right after my last day.

  21. It’s been really fun to follow your pre-trip journey and I can’t wait to follow the rest of the way. I am so very jealous of the uniqueness of your trip.

    I have a buddy who lived in Moldova for a year, I may be able to connect you to him through FB if you are interested.

    P.S. – Go to a KHL hockey game for me, it will be awesome!

    1. Thanks Scott! Would love to get in touch with your friend who lived in Moldova – especially since I’m considering spending as much as a month there volunteering.

      And not to sound completely ignorant, but what country is KHL hockey in? 🙂 I’m actually hoping to work in some sporting events along the way, so that would be fun.

      1. The KHL has 20 teams in Russia then one in Kazakhstan, Belarus, & Russia. It is regarded as being a top notch hockey league, and many NHL players from Europe actually kind of bounce back and forth between the leagues. You won’t have a problem finding a game.

  22. “What do you think? Fun? Crazy? Ambitious?” – All of the above… and more!

    Hmmm… there are a lot of tennis players from Russia. Maybe you could find some way see some of them while you’re there? 😉

    I am really happy for you and hope that you have the adventure of a lifetime.

  23. Congrats Katie! I know you’ve been dreaming of this trip for a looong time so I’m so glad it’s all coming together! Can’t wait to read all about it, particularly your experiences volunteering overseas which is something I’ve considered in the past but never done.

    1. Thanks! I’m already working on a post about my experience applying for my Russian visa. They definitely don’t make these things easy!

  24. Katie, what a legendary trip!! How exciting! And so brave for doing it in the winter!

    I’m looking forward to reading your upcoming adventures — particularly in the Caucasus, where I think I may visit sometime soon.

  25. Rachel Peterson

    Katie, my husband and I are international development professionals and we spent 3 marvelous years in Georgia, another 2+ in Armenia. We have LOADS of amazing friends in Georgia, mostly in Tbilisi, but people who could definitely help you out across the country. Please consider sending me an email if you are interested in getting linked up with great, great people there – people who will help you experience the art, music (Georgian polyphonic music will move your soul), amazing food and wines (best kept secret in Eastern Europe… Georgian wines), theater, dancing, skiing (if you are interested), black sea beaches, oh and the list goes on. You could spent more than a month there, but I see you have other locations on your April itinerary… just saying! rqpeterson (at) gmail (dot) com

  26. THIS TRIP SOUNDS AWESOME! I love trips that have a goal or theme and i think it’s so unique and so you. I’m totally jealous- minus the winter part.

  27. Katie!
    This sounds absolutely amazing. From the sights to the volunteering, I think you will have an experience like no other! Gary and I will for sure be following along on your blog.

    Good luck and stay safe!

  28. Yay! Awesome!! I remember when we met last year at Meet Plan Go and you were slowly devising this crafty plan! I love your trip itinerary and can’t wait to read about it as it differs from a lot of other trips! I have a good friend who lived and worked in Kiev for a while if you need contacts there.

    1. Thanks Lisa! And thank you so much for all of your advice and support along the way – it has been so helpful and inspirational!

      And I would definitely love the Kiev contact! 🙂

  29. That sounds amazing! I too am a cold weather person (why the hell do I keep coming back to Los Angeles?!) and have always wanted to do the Trans-Sib in the winter, so I can’t wait to read about your experience!

  30. Congrats Katie! I know you’ve always wanted to do Russia and the former USSR so this will be a great trip for you! My first trip overseas was to Estonia and it made an impression on me that has impacted my life to this day. I’ve spent nearly 20 days in Estonia and traveled around to various places. For me, I love Tartu. I know everyone sees Tallinn and it’s great but I love Tartu because it’s a smaller town but great feel to it because it is a college town. It’s about a 3 hour bus ride from Tallinn but I would recommend it!

    1. Thanks Jeremy! Yeah, I was debating trying to squeeze Tartu in as well but I really want to see Saaremaa Island and I want to have several days to run in Tallinn before the marathon so I can get really comfortable with it.

      Since I wrote up this post, though, I learned that all marathon finishers are going to receive a free cruise roundtrip between Tallinn and either Stockholm or Helsinki. So I’ll likely head back to Estonia at some point to take advantage of that and may hit Tartu then as well!

  31. I am SO excited for you, girl!! It’s awesome that your dream is coming together. And this will definitely be a trip unlike any I’ve ever read about!

    And as for a tagline suggestions, how about “Katie’s Former Soviet Sojourn”? Haha. Though, no matter what you call it, it’s going to be amazing! I just hope you pack your warm layers!

    1. Haha, oh yes, LOTS of warm layers will be packed!

      Btw, I’ll still be in Chicago when you swing through on your roadtrip, would love to meet up if you have time!

  32. What a great idea for an itinerary! You are obviously interested in the history, culture and people of the area – no better reason to visit a place. I have not read of many people traveling in these areas so I will be waiting to hear all about it! Good luck!

    1. Thanks Gillian! Yep, definitely not the typical RTW trip, that’s for sure! I’ve been in touch with a few bloggers who have traveled through the ‘Stans and a couple who have been through the Caucasus, but I’m not aware of anyone else who has done the whole former Soviet Union on one trip. I hope people will find it really interesting to read about some parts of the world that may never have even considered visiting before!

  33. Katie, I can’t wait to follow your travels!! I’m living vicariously through you for the next year! Congratulations on taking such an awesome step and charting your own path!

  34. Congrats Katie – will be very interested to follow your travels, as Russia is very high on my list of places to go (just need to convince hubby)!

    1. Thanks Erin! I plan to write a lot about the challenges of eating gluten-free along the way on my other blog!

  35. Wow, Katie, that is one fantastic trip! It’s so off-the-beaten track in terms of popular travelling spots with young people, so I’m definitely looking forward to reading all about it! And the great thing is that with your background in the language and culture you’ll be able to enjoy it even more than most. Bet you are so relieved to have handed your notice in, the time will fly by now 🙂

    1. Thanks Julia! And yes, so relieved that I’ve given notice and it’s all official now 🙂

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