12 countries — 15 flights — 28,211 total miles traveled — 5 hotel night stays— 1 confiscated tripod — 7 wonders — 13 days
In December of 2014, I realized my three-year dream of traveling around the world, ten days before departure with three hours of planning and with some guy I’d known for two weeks.
Since my arrival back into the states, I have been inundated with questions stemming from the trip logistics to my mental stability. So, I figured what better way to satisfy people’s curiosity then to write a guide to How to Travel to the 7 Wonders of the World in 13 Days.
A massive misconception is that you have to be Bill Gates to travel the world… false.
Decreasing useless spending on your day to day will allow you to not only save for any trip that you desire; but, it will empower you to get rid of a lot of waste in your life. Personally, I constantly have a savings account specifically for travel and I don’t put anything onto credit cards. But, I also have been wearing the same jeans for three years and my friends know that I always bring my water canteen filled with box wine to any San Francisco bar.
For this trip, I had been saving for the past four years… however, if you are itching to travel right now, do what I did a few months after this trip when my piggy bank was wiped out. I took everything in my studio that I had not touched or used in a year and sold it on Ebay. Result: I ended up with more closet space and a ticket to Istanbul for an impromptu Memorial Day Weekend Trip.
7 Wonders Budget Breakdown:
FLIGHTS: $5,577/per person — booked with 10 days notice.
HOTELS: $250/per person based on only needing to stay for 5 nights
TRANSPORT: $300–400/per person — rental car/taxis/trains/shuttles
FOOD: ? — between the free breakfast at the hotels and the meals on the planes, we didn’t spend much.
APPROXIMATE TOTAL PER PERSON: $6,300.00 USD
Figure out the most amount of time that you can get off of work, and simply work back from there. Sometimes it helps to get a little cancer the month beforehand to play up the sympathy card with the sentiments of “you only live once” while a tear gently falls from the strategically placed eye drops down your cheek.
My boss gave me 13.
A traveling companion can easily make or break your trip, thus the reason I have always traveled solo. Yet, I needed a subject to film, so in this rare case it was necessary to have someone. Therefore, ask the guy that you have been dating for only two weeks. It’s still new, so those annoyances’ that really start to get on your nerves in six months are still relatively cute and adorable.
Added bonus, 13 days of nonstop travel equates to about five months of that awkward dating period for when you are trying to decipher if this guy is the real thing or a psycho.
Now with only 10 days to plan this journey, it’s a good idea to make sure that you are allowed into every country before you book your flights — because there is nothing more awkward than getting stuck in that little room within customs for your ignorance on how the rest of the world works. Out of the 12 countries we flew into we needed visas for four. Here is a little cheat sheet for those of you interested:
Brazil: Whoopsies… this usually takes months to receive and a visit to the consulate for an in-person interview with a $160 price tag for a 10-year visa. Or… you pay an online site $500 for a rush two-day service and trust that the passport you just FedEx’d to that trusted guy in New York gets back to you before your departure… thanks Bob.
Jordan: You can simply purchase your visa on arrival for $56.
India: Go online and purchase your $60 visa via their visa-on-arrival website. It only takes 48 hours to process.
China: Luckily, if you are traveling fast you have a free 72-hour visa upon arrival if you show proof of departure from their country within that time frame.
Take the amount of days that you have and cross-reference to the minimum amount of time needed in each country to get from the airport to the Wonder, with some added cushion time for flight delays and customs lines. Then get a glass of whiskey and start simultaneously booking your flights with your travel companion on skyscanner.com. Three hours later you will have your 15 flights booked with only five calls from your credit card fraud department.
One day before your departure you will realize that drinking while booking causes you to negate the fact that even though you left on the 29th on a redeye doesn’t mean that booking your flight to Peru on the 30th gives you a full day in Mexico. It actually gives you only seven hours to drive the five total hours to get you to and from the Wonder, while still having enough time to check-in to your next international flight…. details.
If you love to procrastinate, just wait until the night before to book all of your hotels. Ideally, you have been strategic with your flight planning and booked all redeyes, for this helps with the jetlag by allowing you to naturally wake up in the new time zones… and when I say “naturally” I mean naturally you will be consuming a lot of Advil PM to ensure that you are sleeping on every flight.
With all the redeyes, you will soon realize that you will be sleeping in a bed for five nights, so make sure that they are nice. You can really dirtbag it up by sleeping in a hostel, or realize that by paying an additional $50 a night you can be sleeping in a five-star hotel with great amenities like a breakfast buffet that will satisfy for an entire day with zero food borne illnesses and zero bed bugs. The choice is yours.
If you want to get the most out of your trip, you will need to pack extremely light… and no, light does not constitute you carrying one of those backpacks that is the size of a five-year-old child that will cause you early onset scoliosis while making you stand out like a sorority sister at a Lil Wayne concert. The sure way to get taken advantage of is by looking like an inexperienced traveler wearing all of last season’s outdoor apparel that you found on the clearance rack at REI. You’re traveling around the world; you’re not climbing El Cap, so dress accordingly.
Besides the jeans, Patagonia jacket and shoes I was wearing, I packed three shirts, seven pairs of underwear, and three pairs of socks in a small backpack. Which was plenty considering that you can easily transform your hotel sink into a Laundromat along the way using their body wash as detergent.
THE 7 WONDERS//
Chichen Itza// Mexico
We had realized a pretty crucial error within our “lack of” planning the night before we took our first flight into Cancun. Our flight was set to land at 6:05AM and our flight to Peru was set to take off at 1:40PM on that same day. We knew that it was going to be close…. but who doesn’t like a challenge… right?
Once the plane hit the ground we started to sprint… literally… using a few stiff-arms here and there we ran past the first class passengers to be the first through customs. By 6:40AM we were in the car driving the 2.5 hours to the Yucatan. About 45 minutes into the drive we arrived at our first toll that we were completely unprepared for. With only dollars and limited Spanish to our name, we handed the guy a twenty expecting change. The guy then shook his head and asked for pesos. With only the blank expressions on our faces, followed by a long pause of awkward silence… he kept our twenty and waved us through. Surely, we had just gotten taken advantage of, we would later find out that we were actually short by two pesos and the guy was doing us a favor…. americanos estúpidos.
We arrived into Chichen Itza at 9AM to find a rather long line at the ticket booth. After waiting 30 minutes, we had our tickets in hand entering into our first Wonder with 30 beautiful minutes to get the shots needed while fully experiencing the wonderment of that large Mayan pyramid.
We arrived back to the airport by 12:30PM and were soon boarding our flight to Peru.
One down… six to go.
Machu Picchu// Peru
To get to Machu Picchu, you must fly into Lima first, then take another flight into Cusco followed by a three-hour train ride into the majestic city of Aguas Calientes. Or you can be one of those adventurous types; i.e., a twenty-something Americano looking for the meaning of life by “walking” for days while a group of porters carry everything for you… just to discover thatcerveza has become your new favorite word and your significance in life is limited to your own concocted up reality…. I did the Salkatay trek the year before… it was great, you should totally do it.
This time around I joined the masses and took the convenient shuttle straight to the top while sipping on coca tea. I must say, even for the second time, I lost my breath walking into the forth dimension of this Inca civilization; the beauty is rather spectacular.
We spent the rest of the afternoon running around playing tag throughout the ruins, happy as llamas that we were able to get the shot within the five-minute window of clarity in the midst of the overcast weather. Subsequently, we decided to bypass the shuttle back into to town and get some much needed exercise by taking the Inca trail back to our glorious hotel that was waiting for us on that fine New Years Eve night. By this point, the idea of a bed was foreign and we could not be happier with our decision to upgrade to the five-star accommodations.
The New Year was spent hording food from our hotel’s breakfast buffet and traveling the rail back to into Cusco to take our next flight into Brazil.
Christ the Redeemer// Brazil
Waking up from our self-induced comas, we arrived into Rio refreshed and ready to meet little baby Jesus. Like any prepared world traveler, I figured out the logistics the evening before we arrived. Following plenty of Trip Advisor blogs later, I found the trick was to take a taxi from the airport directly to the top, where you can easily purchase your entry and shuttle passes that will take you into the site.
Luckily, we landed at 6:30AM and were in line for tickets by 7:30AM, a half-an-hour before the ticket office opened; and thanks to little baby Jesus that we did. Our 15-person line would later turn into a three-hour line by 9AM. By the pure grace of that large hug, we were in and out of the site within an hour… a far cry from the foreigners that we spoke to later that said it took them six hours to visit the concrete statue the day before.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Jesus… but this was probably the most underwhelming Wonder from a site visit stance. Sure those helicopter shots showing him forgiving his people from their sins during Carnival and plastic surgery overindulges throughout the World Cup broadcasts were truly remarkable. However, the 200-foot platform filled with 300 hundred people, selfie-sticks in hand at the base of his holiness, did not live up to his majesty’s expectations.
By 10AM we were drinking at Copacabana Beach wearing the outfits we just purchased from a nearby vendor looking classy as hell. We would spend the rest of the afternoon at Ipanema Beach doing chin-up competitions with the locals and playing a little game that I would like to call, “Ass-fastic or Ass-plastic?” Sad to leave this sinful paradise, we headed to the airport at 10PM for our redeye into Europe.
Before heading to Rome, we had strategically planned a nine-hour layover in Paris, which was glorious. We were able to take an Uber… yes… Uber straight to the Eiffel Tower and make it to the top with enough time to eat at the best restaurant of the trip. Once seated they ask you one thing, “medium or rare” then 10 minutes later you are eating steak and fries while sipping on Bordeaux to your hearts content. After some city climbing and other dirtbag shenanigans we left the bar at dawn to catch our flight into Italy.
We arrived at our hotel in Rome just hours later and were soon napping in our second glorious bed of the trip. Pealing ourselves out of bed three hours later, we ran to the Colosseum to catch the light that was surprisingly fading fast. With no surprise, we found the site riddled with vendors amongst the rumblings of numerous languages and tennis shoes.
After giving a few high-fives to some gladiators, we headed to a little spot to continue our wine-induced sleepless haze and soon we were stealing from our breakfast buffet and back on the train to the airport. Rome, I don’t remember much of you, but you make a good empire.
Conveniently we landed in Jordan at 3AM, giving us enough time to camp out in the airport Starbucks watching The Other Guys until 5AM for when our local coffee spot started serving Americanos. We then used our communication powers, Google Maps, to communicate to a white taxi who took us to the bus station at 6AM. Three hours later we arrived in the deserted town of Petra, home of Indiana Jones.
Surprisingly there were zero lines to get entry tickets, and we were seemingly the only tourists there. Taking advantage of this unassuming solitary, we strolled through the desert admiring the Moab-like rocks, while bypassing the vendors who were selling horse back rides while burning fires to stay warm in the cool winter temperatures. After a mile walk, we arrived at the impressive Treasury carved out of the stone that it was set into. Strategically staged camels and locals dressed in elaborate costumes gave the feeling that we were on set of the next Jack Bauer 24 episode, rather than in the presence of a modern Wonder.
We spent some time exploring the caves that bin Laden hid in and like the dirtbags we are, we climbed the cracks. By 1PM, thousands of tourists came out of the woodwork and we soon realized that we had literally missed the bus, and we were thankful to be heading back to our hotel beating the crowds.
After a glorious five-hour nap, we headed to the hotel bar, which was a converted tomb set into a cave, which was now a space for tourist to smoke on shisha while listening to the great hits of R.Kelly circa 2002. Absorbing the sounds of the local music and wine, we were then approached by something actually native to the land, and his name was Abdullah.
Abdullah proceeded to invite himself to our table and thriving for something real, I politely accepted. It didn’t take five minutes for our hotel security to start circling. Carefully oblivious, I continued to ask him about his cave that he lived in — this is not an ignorant slip, he really did live in a cave — and what he did for fun in the area. He then insisted that we leave the cave and head to this amazing bar, but still exhausted we laughed in avoidance to accept any invitation. Abdullah then proceeded to barter with Chris offering camels in exchange for, well… me. Chris was able to get him up to one-million camels. After declining the sale of a lifetime and another invitation to the bar, Abdullah was escorted out of the cave by security. We would later find out that we were at the only bar in the city… hmm… wonder what would have happened if we went to this amazing bar… it probably would have been awesome with zero threats to national security, right?
The next day we headed back to Amman around noon to beat the winter storm to catch our next flight into India. However, this winter storm caused a frenzy on the tarmac with the airports inability to de-ice the planes. After four very long hours sitting on the restless plane, our plane took off to Dubai where we knowingly missed our connection into Delhi.
Taj Mahal// India
After spending eight unexpected hours in Dubai, and one confiscated tri-pod later, we were in Delhi only 15 hours later than expected causing us to lose an entire day. Luckily though, we were still able to get our driver to drive us the four-hour ride to our hotel in Agra, where we would arrive at 2AM. Unluckily, we figured out that our next day would not include the tour of the Taj Mahal, for Friday is the only day that it is closed.
We woke up to a beautiful breakfast buffet and a plan to visit the Mehtab Bagh Park, which has a fabulous back view of the Taj Mahal. After a very enjoyable car ride over, one involving you not to look up for fear of an inevitable crash, we arrived at the park with exactly two hours to get our shot and to enjoy the surroundings. If you do arrive in Agra on a Friday, I would highly recommend this park to get your hazy view of the love tomb. After playing around with some locals, and by playing, I mean a pack of kids chasing Chris as the locals asked for photographs of the blonde, we were off to Delhi to get some local food with a friend before our flight.
After watching Chris drink the lemon water that was actually meant for you to wash your hands with following the impressive Indian meal, we knew it was our time to get out of India.
We arrived with just enough time to catch our flight into China. That was until our ticketing personnel decided not to allow us on the plane for lack of visas. Hoping that our description of the 72-hour visa would satisfy the supervisor, it was soon clear that they were not going to let us on the flight, for they had not heard of this new visa policy. Putting my producer hat on, I took the supervisor aside and consulted to the various exhibits proving that this was in fact “a thing”. When the facts didn’t work, I used my blonde charm and complemented his tie… five minutes later we were upgraded to Business class and on our way to China.
Great Wall of China// China
We arrived into Beijing, noting that this was quite possibly the largest Chinatown either one of us had ever been to, and were promptly in a prearranged taxi on our way to the wall.
On arrival, we opted to take the ski lift up to the top, yes… they have ski lifts that will take you right to the top of the wall, or you can walk… but who has the time for that? For good reason they preserve most of the wall, so the portion of that we were on was rebuilt from all the foot traffic over the years. Nevertheless, the resemblance of the Ming dynasty’s ancient architecture is there, but the modern technology of today allows for a toboggan ride back down back to the base of the mountain, yes… a toboggan ride.
After our experience with the Disneyland version of our last 7th Wonder, we were headed back into Beijing for our final night and befittingly, I had accidently booked our hotel for the night before. Luckily, our hotel did not refund us for a night not stayed in their hotel, but happily charged us for another night; and they communicated this all with a giant smile the entire time.
Against all my will not to go to another hotel based on pure principal, we stayed and I have to say that I am glad that we did. Hotel Eclat was absolutely stunning and the rooms were equipped with all the modern day technologies, from auto-lifting toilet seats to bedside lamps that you shoot with a remote gun to turn off… the dynasty would be proud.
We woke up on day 13 refreshed and ready to head back stateside. Still completely oblivious to how we actually pulled this off healthy and still speaking to one another.
If I could summarize with a key take away from this trip, it would be the marketing trademark coined in 1988 of Just Do It. In recent years, and it was made all too clear in recent months that life is short, and to live it with any kind of regret is not a quote that you embroidered into a pillow, but one that one must actually live by. I had a vision three years ago, and instead of letting it go by the wayside with self-indulgent excuses as to why I could continue to put it off, I decided to just do it. Life is complicated enough without having to confuse logistics for what is effortless. Therefore, take that vision or dream, simplify it, and live it.