We've decided to go West, rather than East, for two reasons. First, we want to start with a tropical locale, and the Caribbean apparently is in hurricane season right around the time we'd like to start traveling. Second, because jet lag apparently tends to be a lot worse going East than it is going West, and we'd like to avoid that, to the extent possible. (And third, one of us isn't great at sleeping on planes, so part of the advantage of going East -- that you can save on hotels by traveling overnight -- doesn't really help us.) Thanks to everyone who provided comments and thoughts on that question; we definitely relied on your advice (and Wikipedia links). So, that's one problem solved.
That said, here's our tentative list of places to visit:
- Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia (maybe fly to Italy, rent a car, and drive to Croatia?)
- Caribbean (Belize, maybe Aruba?)
There were other places we wanted to visit -- for example, Vietnam or Cambodia -- that we couldn't get to because none of the airlines we can use fly there. We would have to get there on our own, meaning we'd be paying more for flights, train rides, or whatever else; and because we're already worrying about financing this grand adventure, we didn't want to voluntarily take on additional costs. So, continuing with the example, we figured we would just have a great time in Thailand, where Delta does fly, and save Vietnam and Cambodia for next time.
All that said, we would love some feedback on our tentative plans; feel free to comment away. We're particularly interested in hearing about places near where we're going that we really shouldn't miss (and we'll figure out whether we can get to those places), or about things we shouldn't miss in each place (e.g., big festivals, really cool sights and sites, etc.). We'll break out each country in a separate post -- hopefully, someday -- but we'd also welcome any thoughts now!