Friday, January 20, 2012

East or West?

One of the restrictions on our trip – pretty standard, we think, for round-the-world travel – is that travel must continue in one direction for the duration of the trip.  As we explained previously, that likely isn’t a burden.  But it does raise an interesting question: should we go East or West?

As best we can figure, each option has advantages and disadvantages.  We’ve brainstormed a bit and shared our results below, but if you have any additional insight, please share it with us in the comments!

The biggest advantage to going West appears to be time.  When you go West, with the unique exception of crossing the international date line, you actually get time back while you travel.  Going East, by contrast, means you lose both your time in the air and the hours lost in different time zones.  Bad example, made up on the spot: say flying between Country A and Country B takes ten hours, and involves crossing five time zones.  If you fly West, by our math, you could leave at noon and land at 5 pm local time, even though you were in transit for ten hours.  If you fly East, using the same logic, you’d still leave at noon but you’d actually arrive at 3:00 am, the next day, local time.  Of course, it all evens out in the end; you eventually will cross the date line, and the number of hours in a day never actually changes by the time you return home.  We also aren’t sure which, if either, is better for fighting off jet lag.

The biggest advantage of flying East, as best we can tell, will be weather.  We’re aiming for mid-September to sometime in November, and during that time plan on visiting tropical and temperate climates (at least, that’s the plan generally).  If we’re going to visit mainland Europe, for example, and we have the option of visiting in September or November, we assume that September will be a lot warmer than November.  Of course, it also goes both ways: maybe Beijing in November will be just as cold.

Whichever way we go, our general plan is to start somewhere beach-y: Hawaii or some Pacific island if we go West, or some Caribbean or Central American paradise if we go East.  This likely doesn’t dictate our ultimate decision, but it comes into play all the same.  For example, there don’t appear to be many direct flights from Central America or any Caribbean islands to Europe, meaning we’d have to backtrack through the United States if we go East, and Hawaii or some Pacific island likely would break up the trip across the Pacific nicely (and, with any luck, not require backtracking).

As a final consideration, we’d like to make sure we visit each destination at a cool time.  By that, we mean that, if we’re planning on visiting Country X regardless, we’d like to make sure we can catch Country X’s annual national celebration, if at all possible.  Of course, we’d first have to decide where we’re going, and then research what types of cool things happen there, and THEN try to figure out how we can plan accordingly.  But if you have any suggestions, including cool events that are not to be missed, please tell us!

We've also been looking through a lot of travel books lately, so stay tuned for some posts on potential destinations!  (think: Belize, Vietnam, and other off-the-beaten-path locales)


Trevor and Melissa


  1. How good are you guys at sleeping on planes? If you can do it pretty well, sleeping on redeyes may make up for some of the time you lose by heading east. Tough call overall, but you might want to spend the last few days of your trip on a beach just bumming around since I'm sure you'll be exhausted from the rest of the trip. Thus, heading east first might make the most sense.


  2. Traveling west to east tends to cause worse jet lag and you lose a day. If you travel westwards, you will gain a day and some extra time. Also, in my experience, westward the flights tend to land mid-day which is a solid time to land, rather than evening or at the crack of dawn. Hope this helps, I'm so excited to follow your adventure here. -- Anushila

  3. You should take the opportunity to let chance play the deciding role. Your adventure will be different in a variety of ways whichever way you choose to go, but don't dwell on it. Flip a coin and let fate decide, you'll always be able to look back and know that whatever you believe in, there was a time when you blindly trusted the universe to guide you on your round-the-world journey. Such blind faith will profoundly change you, and your trip.

    Looking forward to following your journey regardless, of what and how you choose.
    -Rob Erst Fort