Part 1: Portugal, Spain & Morocco
25.04.2014 53 °F
Having decided to quit my job and leave my wife for the next six months, I now needed to determine where I was going to go. On previous trips I have found an unexpected cost associated with traveling; visas. Several years ago I went to China, which cost about $200 for the visa and to cover the costs of the courier to deliver it to the Chinese embassy in California. This process needs to be completed ahead of time and can take several weeks. Having only decided to do this a few months ago I wanted to avoid similar situations. The first place I looked is http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html. Here you can find information on visa restrictions, costs, safety and vaccinations.
The easiest path is through Europe. Twenty six countries in Europe have signed the Schengen Treaty which abolishes border control between their countries. Most of the western part of the continent is a member with a few small exceptions. While it easy to gain access the main issue is the cost of traveling in the euro zone (currently $1 is equal to .72 Euro). However, a lot of the sights and cuisine I wanted to eat is in this area with one notable exception; Morocco. No visa requirements, about 8 dirham to the dollar, tantalizing dishes and sights. My only major concern is the language barrier as I cannot speak or read Arabic, although due to its colonial past French is used.
Now that we have a plan, we needed to figure out how to get there. Being on the west coast of the U.S. drastically increases the cost of any travel east. The initial plan was to not use any air travel but global issues later in the trip made me reevaluate this decision. Having already traveled across the U.S. mainland and having a limited time (six months is not really enough), I looked at different methods of sea travel. Freighter ships usually have a few cabins on board that you can use although the costs are high. On average the costs can be as high as $124 a day. As one hour of flight time is equal to one day of sea travel this gets expensive quickly. There are a few options to find work on smaller boats through sites like https://www.findacrew.net/ or https://www.crewseekers.net/ to name a few. The main issue preventing us from using this option was the timing on sailings. We would have to find one, then be ready to go at a moments notice. But working two jobs, the wife and wanting to be in certain areas at specific times meant that we needed to go when we wanted so we took the third option: cruise ships. A few times a year these ships rotate their itineraries, shifting from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean. This option was cheaper than a plane ticket, coincided with our timetable and has the benefit of allowing us to eat a lot before we have to start spending our own money on food. The limitation is the nine days it takes for the crossing but the romanticism of entering the same port used by the likes of Vasco da Gama was to tempting to ignore.
Having the cruise determined the first part of the trip, leaving us in Barcelona on the 14th of May. Here we will use the Spanish rail system to make our way to Madrid and Granada before heading to Gibraltar to visit Great Britain. After this a short ferry ride to Africa and into the cultural centers of Fez and Marrakesh. That is the plan at least, and we will see how it goes. Any suggestions from our readers will be greatly appreciated.