How can I call this blog “Life of a Traveling Programmer” if I’m not even traveling? Has it really been more than a year since the last time I’ve left the United States? Yes, it has. And it’s the longest I’ve been here continuously since…well, since I can remember.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all this time stuck at home has made me “unhappy,” but I will say that it hasn’t done wonders to make me the happiest guy around. I’m just not wired to be stuck in one place for this long…especially when that one place is here. But now, at loooong last, the time has come. Next stop: Europe!
In 2008 I visited Brazil, Panama, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Japan, Korea, China, and Hong Kong. The prior couple years included extensive travel throughout Japan and a few other countries in Asia and North America. But Europe, perhaps the most popular tourist destination in the world, has remained curiously absent from my itineraries since as far back as 2004.
It’s time for that little problem to be rectified.
As mentioned in the “comeback post” that marked an end to my year’s hiatus from blogging, I’d promised myself to embark on another international adventure before the year was out. Originally I’d been considering 3 possibilities: Tanzania (for a long-anticipated climb to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro), SouthEast Asia (to finish the trip I cut short by returning from Beijing last February), or Scandinavia (to visit Peder and explore the surrounding countries by bike). Because the scheduling seemed to work, I decided to go with Scandinavia this June and July – if I’m heading halfway up to the arctic circle, I’ll be damned if I do it any time but the middle of the summer 🙂
So I put together a trip that would drain one of my mileage accounts and hit 4 or 5 European locations along the way, departing around two months from today. And then a fantastic opportunity materialized out of nowhere. I was chatting with one of my new contract employers – the owner of a big-time GPR equipment manufacturer in New Jersey for whom I’ve been developing some onboard controller software. I mentioned my plans to head over to Europe. He replied that they have a tradeshow coming up in Munich, and could use an extra pair of hands if I’m available. He said that if I came along, he’d be happy to set my return ticket for wherever and whenever I wanted.
How’s that for “making an offer I can’t refuse?”
The only catch was that I’d have to leave in just two weeks – so since finalizing the dates I’ve been spending most of my time running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to prepare for a quarter-year on the road. Peder and I just finished a 7-hour Skype conversation where we pieced together the Eastern European leg of an ambitious itinerary that covers quite an extensive piece of geography. It looks something like this:
- 1.5 weeks in Munich working at the conference.
- Train to Amsterdam for Queen’s Day, a massive free-for-all party, followed by a few days biking through the Dutch countryside photographing windmills and tulips.
- Bus to Paris for a few days. As you’ll see from my travellog I’ve spent a fair bit of time in France, but have yet to visit its capital, one of the most famous cities on earth!
- Fly to Budapest and move into a short-term apartment. By this time I will’ve been gone for nearly a month, so most likely I’ll hang out, get some work done, and take daytrips to a few nearby locations.
- Somewhere in late May I’ll start a big loop through most of Eastern Europe: from Budapest, I’ll head down through Slovenia to Croatia and across to Serbia, where Peder will fly in from Norway to join up. After a weekend partying in Belgrade we’ll make our way East through Bucharest and Transylvania, Moldova, and end up in the Ukrainian resort town of Odessa on the Black Sea coast. From there we’ll continue North to Kiev, the capital, before returning west through Lviv on our way to Krakow, Poland. Finally we’ll catch a short flight back to Peder’s home in Oslo.
- Once in Scandinavia we’ll have just a few days to relax at Peder’s place before starting the next leg of our trip: a cross-country bikeride from Oslo through most of Denmark to Roskilde, just outside of Copenhagen. There we’ll pitch our tents for a 5-day Woodstock-style music festival, one of the largest in Europe (drawing well over 100,000 visitors). We’ll return via bus through Göteborg, Sweden, again unwinding for a bit in Oslo before spending the remaining days at his summer house in Lillesand, on the southern tip of Norway. I fly home on July 12th.
The total trip will be just under 90 days, the maximum I can stay on a Schengen visa and without bumping myself into a more expensive class of airline ticket. Of course, the above is just a framework and is being revised all the time – so I wouldn’t be surprised if the final trip looked quite a bit different once I finally got out on the road. What is fixed is that two weeks from today, I’ll be on a plane to Munich and won’t be returning until at least three months later.
At long last, back on the road – with a whole new part of the world to explore. I can’t wait 😀