Monday 26 January 2009

T minus 51 days

Perhaps unusually, I’m beginning my travelogue from my desk at home. Having told everyone our plans for the next year (top three comments so far: “That’s going to test the friendship”; “Don’t get pregnant”; “What if I die?” Thanks for that, Mum), and after all the calls made and emails sent to travel agents, and having attended nearly all of Alex’s leaving dos, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve already started. We’ve even come up with a departure date: 1st February.

Frankly, the travel agents haven’t responded with quite the enthusiasm we had hoped for. Trailfinders, the agent I used for my last adventure abroad, seemed a good prospect over the phone and said they looked forward to our visit in store to discuss our trip. But they forgot to agree this with the advisor who served us. Our assigned agent listened with professional patience to our wants list and, when we finished, said “Sure” blandly and we sat in silence as she tapped away at her keyboard, finally announcing an approximate cost of £2.5 grand. Surprised that we weren’t prepared to hand over the cash with gay abandon right there and then, she seemed really quite put out when we asked for suggestions to get the most bang for our buck, apparently exasperated that we didn’t have everything all planned out already and wanted something more from her than a finger workout and a total cost.

So, we sent off 5 emails to different tour operators and travel agents with a proposed route. We were the opposite of inundated with replies. We were entirely undated. With one exception: Paul from Travel Nation, the only one who seemed to have a found job that appealed to any kind of personal interest. At last, we heard the words we had been longing to hear: “If I were you” followed by the clincher: “That’ll save you a grand”. All we’d had to do was remove India and Japan from our itinerary. After all, Africa, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and South America is probably enough to be getting on with. He is clearly a genius among travel agents. Now all we have to do is cough up the cash.

In the meantime, I’ve raided Dad’s international contacts list and emailed 99 of his friends and colleagues across the planet. I’m still receiving replies, ranging from offers to connect us with various NGOs, to home invites and road trips, one confused “Professional contact only!” (oops) and only 31 delivery failures. And on leaving Alex’s house this morning, we bumped into the guy from two doors down the road whose family turn out to be based in Nairobi, owning properties all along the east coast of Africa, who has given us his mobile number and promised to send his brother out there an email for us.

So, it feels like we’re well on our way, and we haven’t even bought the tickets.

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