5 Month Travel Plan

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Last week I announced that I left my job of 11.5 years in pursuit of some long-term travel. Right now, I see this as a six month journey. However, that could easily change to shorter or longer depending on a million things, because…life.

I am a meticulous planner; I love travel planning and I think it’s half the fun of travel. For this trip, though, I’m trying to leave as much open as possible. I want the option of lingering in a town I like, working with tourism boards or jumping on a press trip, changing my route to avoid weather or rerouting to see something new. There are a few spots on my itinerary that require advance planning but for the most part, what follows is a very loose agenda of where I’ll be spending the next five months!


I worked until the 3rd of August, moved my belongings into a storage unit and I’m now on a bucket list hiking trip in Switzerland.

Switzerland Haute Route

After two weeks of wandering the Alps, I fly back to Chicago, with a 24-hour layover in Reykjavik! Upon landing back in the States, I’ll spend a few days with family and friends, tidying up any loose ends in Illinois and then hit the road. My first stop will be Olathe, Kansas. I will then head west to Colorado, where I’ll end the month of August.

9.19.09 - the historical village of Twin Lakes


In September, I’ll spend a bit more time in Colorado, and then boogie on over to Utah. The Salt Lake City area is high on my list for a home base if and when I’m ready to stop moving. I’ve been there twice for quick job interview visits, so I want to spend some quality time here and get a feel for what it might be like to live here. From SLC, I will head up to Oregon for a bit. Despite living in Washington for 3 years, I’ve spent very little time in Oregon. I want to visit Bend and Crater Lake, then I am booked on a 4-day whitewater rafting trip on the Rogue River with OARS. After this, I will head to Lake Tahoe, another first for me, and then swing through Southern Utah, one of my favorite regions in the U.S.

9/12 - Bryce


I will kick off October at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, followed by a trip to Page, AZ for as long as is needed to see all the amazing sandstone features I can. Then it will be time to make my way to New Mexico, where I’ll be meeting up with my favorite ladies for a girl’s weekend in Santa Fe. We’ll start at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival and then travel to Santa Fe for a few days of girl-time. Once the girls have gone home, I will spend the rest of the month bouncing back and forth between New Mexico and Arizona. Places like Taos, Sedona, Flagstaff, Silver City and Ojo Caliente are all on my wish-list.

9/9 - cow pie formation in Sedona


As winter approaches the high country, I will make my way back to a spot that captured my heart many years ago – the Big Bend region of West Texas. I won’t be able to do a ton inside the National park with Bailey, but will explore by car as well as the areas outside the park. I missed out on a lot my first trip because I was sick, so I’ll revisit places like Marfa and Ft Davis. For the rest of the month, I plan to explore Tucson. Tucson is another place that I’ve considered for relocation as I love the desert and there is high elevation nearby to escape the heat. A couple of weeks should give me a sense of whether I might want to come back and settle in.

3.1.09 - Sonoran Desert Museum


Detouring from the road trip, I will begin December in Maui. I got a timeshare pitch/offer that I couldn’t refuse, so I will likely head to San Diego from Arizona and jump a flight to Maui from there. Once I return from Maui, I will make my way down the west coast as far as I can. I would love to spend the whole month in Baja Sur, but will need to iron out the details of driving through Mexico and what my comfort level is with that. I’m told it’s mostly safe, and the danger is in the road hazards more than anything else. I’ve also found online forums of snowbird gringos who drive down and organize caravans. If I decide I’m not comfortable doing that, I’ll kick back in Ensenada for the month, as it’s just a short drive from San Diego.


This is where my plans fizzle out…I have no idea what I’ll do when the new year arrives. If I’m having fun, and not yet broke, I’ll keep going. I would love to spend the whole winter in Baja, eating $1 tacos and drinking Corona to my heart’s content. (My ultimate dream? Winters in Baja, summers in Alaska, with a long, leisurely drive in between) I would love to squeeze in an international trip as well, possibly South America or Central America. Or, I may be heading back to civilization and looking for stable employment again.

So…that’s my plan! Some parts of it feel super rushed. Winter comes early in the mountains and I’ll be racing the clock in September and October. I’m surprised that in a 4-month road trip covering only seven states, I’m still not going to see everything I want. With a plan to camp most nights, I don’t want to move every night, and I’ll supplement with hotels as needed. In anticipation of this trip, I traded in my American Airlines credit card for a International Hotels Group card – this way, every penny I spend will earn points towards stays at Holiday Inn Express, which I have found to be the most convenient dog-friendly option when traveling.

As much as I want to leave up to chance, I would love to hear what your favorite spots are along this route! Especially hikes, campsites, diners, bakeries, taco stands, swimming holes and pet-friendly hotels. Let me have it!


trips out west

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25 thoughts on “5 Month Travel Plan

  1. Been all over your plan. It’s all good babe except for one lil thing. You’re not taking me with ya. 😊

    Sounds perfect!

  2. Be sure to take the trip along the road to Hana when you are in Maui! There are awesome curvy roads along the northeastern coast of the island with waterfalls at almost every turn along the way. Mary C.

  3. Leigh.. this is incredible! We will all look fir and enjoy your posts! Good for you for stepping out of the box and experiencing life
    As you are.

    Just because I am a worrier I will advise to always pay attention.. all around you! I know you are a very smart girl though and got you t covered.

    All the best.. live the dream kid!

  4. Wow that sounds like quite the plan, so many great places, so I am looking forward to reading about them. I have always wanted to do that balloon festival in Albuquerque!

  5. What an epic 6 months! I just did 9 months with a little work here and there but mostly survived on savings. I am so jealous of everything you’re going to see. Some of which I just did! I think the best advice I can offer is expect 6 months, but be open to more. I did that. Or be open to returning to Chicago and wanting to set up stability again. I did that too. As much as I always run away on adventures, eventually by 9 months I usually want to return home by then because being on the road is tough. And it is hard. But it is so worth it! And i look forward to seeing where your travels lead and if you decide to continue or settle somewhere. How exciting for all your unknowns!

    • Thanks! I won’t be returning to Chicago, but I do intend to re-settle somewhere. But you’re right – it could be 4 months, it could be a year.

  6. This plan sounds awesome!! I’m actually thinking of doing something similar. Whenever I make a career switch I would like to travel for 2 months before I start the next job! I’ve been dreaming of visiting the Grand Canyon for a while now!

  7. Your Switzerland road trip looks like the adventure of a lifetime! Looking forward to reading more about your travels throughout the US. I feel like I have yet to see enough of my own backyard and have pretty much stuck to the Northeast and a bit of the South. Have an amazing time!

    • There is so much to see in the US, I spent about 10 years where I didn’t leave the country as I was busy exploring our National Parks in the Western states. Still so much to see…

  8. Firstly, you are extremely brave to take those 5 months off for travel… I wish I get on a similar plan someday :)..All the best to you … I am sure you will execute this well. I liked what you you will be doing in October – That indeed sounds fun 🙂 :)….

  9. Your career break sounds awesome. I spend a lot of time camping and housesitting in Colorado and the South West and am housesitting in Flagstaff at the moment. Enjoy 🙂

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