Changes Ahead

So long, Australia! This shot overlooks Canberra and Lake Burley Griffin.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about “how to plan a year-long family itinerary” as though I were some kind of expert on the topic. But far from being experts, Morgan and I are learning as we go — with mixed success. As soon as I published that post, we made the big, difficult decision to tear apart and rebuild the last leg of our itinerary.

The rebuilding part has been rather stressful and time consuming, with thousands of dollars and our last month of travel at stake. We ate up much of our limited WiFi access during the last few weeks researching where to go, how to get there, how much it’ll cost and where to stay. As is often the case with travel planning, these issues are maddeningly interrelated.

So here’s the scoop: We pulled the plug on visiting Turkey and the Greek Islands and will drive a big loop around Switzerland instead.

The new plan began to take shape as we puzzled over the Greek Islands. We were having a terrible time figuring out which island(s) to go to and how to get there — and then how we’d get to and from Turkey — without spending too much time on a boat or incurring too much extra cost by flying. And Turkey wasn’t falling into place, either. We wanted to go to both Ephesus and Istanbul, but to get from one to the other involved an extra flight or long drive that we didn’t want to pay for or do. We felt we were belatedly and awkwardly grafting an expanded Turkey itinerary onto our ill-conceived Greek plans.

I listened to an inner voice say, “Admit it, you’re trying to jam a square peg in a round hole … you’re not excited about going to someplace everyone says you should feel excited about … this has started to feel like more trouble than it’s worth.” Morgan admitted he was having the same thoughts. He also kept saying, “I want to go up to see the Matterhorn and be in the Alps … we’re going to be right there at the edge in Italy, and we’re happiest when we’re in mountains and around lakes …”

We therefore dove into a new round of research as though cramming for a geography exam. The more we did, the more excited we got about heading to Switzerland after Italy. We eventually settled on a route from Lugano to Zermatt, then Lausanne, followed by a small village near Interlaken and Lucern.

The crazy thing is we’ll still spend a couple of days in the one Greek place we’ve heard repeatedly is a dirty and crowded disappointment: Athens. And it may be that we find widespread strikes and depression once we get there as the country reckons with its austerity plan. But our tickets are set to fly out of there, and we didn’t want to cut it out because the kids — who turned into fans of Greek mythology, fueled in part by the popular Percy Jackson book series — genuinely want to see the Acropolis, and I want to help make Colly’s Ancient History textbook come to life.

Then we’ll spend our final week in a place we love: England (likely in the southeast coastal area, but those details are still TBD). We also resolved to go to Turkey when we can “do it right”; that is, when we can make it a dedicated trip, not hemmed in by our existing itinerary and the restrictions on our One World airline tickets.

Somewhere in here, perhaps, is a lesson about being flexible and open to change. Either that, or about the importance of researching and planning travel details earlier!

This also serves as a roundabout excuse for why I haven’t blogged as frequently or as well as I’d like about our recent destinations. We’re headed to Hong Kong today, where I resolve to write about our highlights from our final week in New South Wales and Canberra.

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