How It All Begun
From the moment Lara was about nine months old and I started having a bit of a confidence that she wouldn't die on me, I also started saying “Just you wait until she is 4-5, I'll grab her and travel the world.” Then, when she was two, I read the Trans-Siberian article of the Hürriyet Travel editor and I knew I had to do that one day too. And that I would continue on my way once I started.
When I researched a bit, I saw that the Trans-Siberian train was free for children under four years of age. We had gone to Mauritius before she turned two because after that we would have to pay full-price for her. Of course, this is just an excuse to do something, an incentive. As I said, it was to be seven years from my last round-the-world tour. It was a nice time. And it felt like, after three years-old it was sort of fine to travel with a child. Lara never used baby food, but now there was no need to carry around diapers or anything special. So, all coming together, this trip turned out a bit sooner.
The first plan was to do the Trans-Siberian from Moscow to Vladivostok, stopping at Irkutsk to see Lake Baikal, and going on to Ulan Bator to see Mongolia. Then to fly over to the US to cross the Panama Canal. We were then to do the Southern Caribbean and fly back. Thus not spending too much time away, my husband needed to get back to work. But then... Then things changed. Our Russian-Italian friends objected fiercely. “What are you going to do? You don't know the language. What if something happens to Lara? Trains are awful, you share a toilet with a whole wagon of people. It is boring, there is nothing to see. Only the steppe. Besides, it's not safe either.”
Well then, reading some more about it... We decided to skip the stops. We just get on a train, the Moscow-Bejing train is more luxurious, so they say, the first-class shares a toilet with only one other compartment. And there even is a shower. There is a lock too. It takes five days. “We can last five days,” I said. Man seat 61 (Mark who realized he always booked seat 61 on trains and had a website dedicated to trains all over the world) was saying you wouldn't know how time passed as there would be many travellers doing the same trip non-stop as you did. So that simplified things.
The Panama Canal
As for the Panama Canal... The one that I chose, a Royal Caribbean ship going to Puerto Rico where the ships to the Caribbean left from was fully booked. This was a year and a half in advance. I tried to protest and said “There must be availability, there must be people who give up or change plans.” But my husband was the one to do the talking with the company and he took “No” as an answer. He said “So what? We take a flight.” But I wasn't ready to take an extra flight. All other Panama Canal ships ended up in Miami. I didn't want to go all the way up to Miami on a ship and fly back to Puerto Rico to take another ship. What for? In the meantime, while searching for cruises, I came across a Holland America South Pacific Islands trip. 45 days. 4500 Euros. I stopped. Could we? Would we? There were only six cabins left on it. After some elaboration...
45 day Tahiti and Hawaii cruise
Of course I considered “These things you do when you are old.” But I don't want to do such a thing when I'm old and cannot really enjoy the sights. We stay put somewhere when we are old. Besides, who knows in what condition the world will be in 10-20 years time? It's getting worse every day. With these controls and “security” mania. I'd rather go now while I can sort of stand it.
Okay, I know it's a lot of money. If everything doesn't go as life should go, that we die or have a serious sickness before old age, it's better we go now and live life while we can. If, on the other hand, everything goes as life should go, that God allows us to die of old age in order, then we will be having money from inheritance. What do we do with that money? We will have money from retirement to live by. Why should we be stacking money up now? Besides, it's not that we're spending all our money and going down to nill...
Would we really do this trip?
... we decided yes.
Then we could take any other Panama Canal cruise ending up in Miami. Thus, spending Lara's birthday in Disneyland and return home afterwards. Talking about the trip to our friends, they suggested we go to the Bahamas together. I of course jumped on the idea. A 3-4 day trip from Miami could be fine. Bahamas needed to be seen too. To be crossed from the list. So we booked that as well. That was enough. Good enough to make a round-the-world tour.
In the meantime, I had thought about the name of the book. How many days around the world would it be? We couldn't make this in 80 days. More than a 100 would not be nice. It had to be a two-digit number. Of course, the most logical was 99 days. So I chose it and it was. Without even booking the trip. Just with a general idea.
Now that we booked the South Pacific cruise, we had to work our way backwards. How long would it take for the Trans-Siberian? The tickets could not be bought in advance. They were on sale only 60 days prior to leaving. And the site warned: As that was the most popular route, especially the first-class compartments could be sold-out. September seemed a bit off-season but it was still at the limit. We decided to err on the side of caution. As it was a peg that could upset a fine balance on a long domino if we couldn't get the right tickets. So we decided on September 8th for the train, in case we could not get those train tickets we still would have the one leaving on the 15th and make it in time for the cruise. We were excited when the day to buy the tickets came. The night before, I made a calculation. It would be 59 days to the train, I was scared and stressed that the woman from the agency we were to buy the tickets from made a mistake, that the tickets would be sold-out.
I somehow managed to sleep but woke up with a great expectation to hear the confirmation. When no word came until afternoon, we sent a message. Natalia, our agent said there was a long que. That was a long stressful couple of hours. But she managed to buy the tickets and sent us photos.
So now we could book the flights. Leaving on the 5th was a good idea. A couple of days before the train ride. And even though it was a Saturday, the flight to Moscow was cheap, quite reasonable. So that was booked. As for return... Checking the flights, the best option was a low-cost Norwegian flight. We chose two days after Lara's birthday, 14th of December. I filled in the forms, put in the details of the credit card and pressed the button “Purchase.” It redirected to a Visa password confirmation site. I called my mother. (As we use a Turkish credit card which provides a travel insurance when you buy the tickets with it and earns you lots of miles. And its password goes to my mother's cell.) But there was no password. I asked my mother to call the bank and find out about it.
The answer was that, as she had changed the provider of her cell-phone, the system was blocked and it wouldn't be turned on until two days. Her phone number had not changed, what was this making things difficult for the sake of security? And why would it take two days? Of course I was upset. There still was a lot of time but what if the prices increased? For no reason, we needed to pay more?
Anyway... there was nothing I could do. I went to sleep and thought about it. Perhaps turning on the 11th would make more sense. Yes, the idea of spending Lara's birthday on a plane was not nice at first, but then, thinking about it, as we are going to be going eastward, towards the sun, thus backwards in time, she'll have a birthday longer than 24 hours. What's more, we should be back by 21:15 on the 12th of December, that is about an hour before she was born on that same day. So she will have done, gone around the world before she turns four. Also, I thought there was no point in lingering ffor our days in Miami just for the sake of it when there was nothing more important to do, when we would have been done with the trip basically. Thus, the next day, I persuaded my husband and bought the ticket for the 11th of December. The ship returned from the Bahamas early in the morning, and the plane left around midnight. 12th was also a Saturday, so he would have time to rest and go back to work on Monday. It fit so well.
Of course, during all these arrangements, the priority was optimizing the tickets and timing, thinking about our comfort and what we wanted to do. I never considered if it would be 105 days or 97 days. “99 Days” was for the name of the book only. It didn't need to be actuality. But then, I of course sat down and counted how many days it actually would be. And guess what! Exactly 99 days! Magic! I felt it all fell into place. Once more, it was as if all was arranged by a divine hand.
I do not care much about “travelling” anymore. I do not care about the difference between a tourist and a traveller. My wanderings were for me to realize how the world is partitioned off to political parcels, how we are not born as a human being but as a “citizen”, how we belong to governments and therefore subject to their whims and mandates/dictates.
It's hard to be made to live in a world with everything I don't believe in. But I'm aware I don't have a chance at all as long as the majority sees the world in a different way than I do.
Therefore, I said, let me try to paint the way as I see it. So I put toghether my oldest and most recent reflections on a number of issues such as security, money, citizenship, laws and justice, borders and property (yet not only) and put them on a website to see if anyone out there feels the same.