Taking the Long Way Home

"Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you've never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground."

-- Judith Thurman

Korea-China-Mongolia-Russia(-the Ukraine-Poland)-the Czech Republic-Austria-Germany
by train!

Ever since I was younger I considered myself a citizen of the world, rather than a citizen of just one part of it. The whole world is so fascinating to me, and when my peers expressed disinterest my thought would be, to quote Merry from The Two Towers, "But you're part of this world!"

Two years ago I came to South Korea to teach English Conversation in a Public Middle School. Throughout that time I've explored Seoul, its suburbs, its temples, and I've taken a marvelously scenic train ride to Busan (I even returned back to Seoul standing for six hours!). 

I haven't been able to explore as much as I would like, as I do a lot of overtime via after-school programs. I also take evening Korean classes at Sogang University, lead tours around Gyeongbuk Palace, Bukcheon Village, and Unhyeon Palace on Saturdays via a special program for Young Intermediate English students, and I volunteer Sundays by distributing food bags to the homeless around Seoul Station. I've also been slowly and steadily trying to pay back my hefty student loans. 

Although I've enjoyed my time in Seoul, and I've appreciated the experience of teaching ~1200 teenagers in a Middle School setting, it's time to move on and go home -- but not before the travel that I'm longing for!

My contract ends in February 2013 and I am very eager to return back to the USA. Before I go, I don't want to waste such a splendid opportunity to take one of the most fantastic train journeys of all -- The Trans-Siberian Railway via the Trans-Mongolian. I've been saving a little bit each month in order to take this journey, but I definitely need some help! I'm mostly worried about the cost of the flight home

Firstly, to get into China and the Russian Federation I will have to pay visa fees that are higher than the norm because I am a US Passport holder. Also, for Russia, I would need a sponsor! I'm also planning to stop off and see as many cities as I can throughout the train ride, effectively increasing the cost of the trip. 

I'm also planning on volunteering in Mongolia for two weeks either via one of the projects on ecoteer, or at one of the many orphanages in Ulaan Baatar. I'm still researching.

I plan to end the Trans-Mongolian at St. Petersburg and take outbound trains further into Eastern and Western Europe!

~~~~Updated Itinerary~~~~
My Itinerary so far is as follows! (subject to change!)

Ferry from Incheon to Qingdao (March 2nd)
China, Qingdao (March 3rd to March 4th)
Train (7 hours)
Shanghai (March 4th to March 7th)
Train (12 hours)
Xi'an (March 7th to March 12th)
Train (3 hours)
Luoyang Longmen (March 12th to March 13th)
Train (16 hours)
Beijing (March 13th to March 20th) 
Train (32 hours)
Mongolia, Ulaan Baatar (1-2 weeks)
Train (36 hours)
Russia, Irkutsk-Olkhon Island-Lake Baikal (5 days)
Train (18 hours)
Krasnoyarsk (2 days)
Train (22 hours)
Tobolsk (2 days)
Train (5 hours)
Tyumen (day trip)
Train (5 hours)

Eastern Europe
Russia, Yekaterinburg (1 day)
Train (12 hours)
Kazan (3 days)
Train (12 hours)
Moscow (3 days)
Train (overnight)
St. Petersburg (5 days)
Train (overnight)
The Ukraine, Kiev (5-6 days)
Train (overnight)

Central Europe
Poland, Warsaw (2-3 days)
Train (3 hours)
Krakow (2 days)
Train (9 hours)
Czech Republic, Prague (5 days)
Train (5 hours)
Slovakia, Bratislava (3 days)
Train (2.5hours)
Hungary, Budapest (5-6 days)
Train (3 hours)
Austria, Vienna (5 days)
Train (4 hours)
Salzburg (3 days)
Train (1.5 hours)
Germany, Munich (5-6 days)
Bus (2.5 hours)
Fussen  (day trip)
Train (5 hours)
Cologne (3-4 days)
Train (4.5 hours)
Berlin (1 week)
Flight (10 hours)



China Visa Fee: USD130
Russian Visa Fee: USD150 & USD130 (Sponsor Letter Fee)
Visa Services Fee: USD100
Ferry to China: ~USD150 
Flight Home: ~USD1200 (Berlin) 
Estimated price of Trans-Mongolian in kupe and platskarney classes (with 6-8 stops): ~USD1400
Food and Accommodation: ~USD50/day (~1500/month)

...and admissions fees to museums and other sites of historical interest!

Depending on how much money I save, I want to either end at Berlin or Paris. I definitely want to see as much as I can for as long as I can, though! 

I will update as time goes on, but absolutely anything will be appreciated in allowing me to fulfill my childhood travel dreams! 

Thank you so much! 


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