T-minus One Week!

One week from now, I head to Logan Airport and then East around the world; almost exactly three years ago, I was headed to Logan to go West around the world. In the interim, I didn’t do much traveling, but I think (I hope!) my travel skills haven’t gotten too rusty.

The itinerary for this trip is pretty straightforward, because I decided to go with a tour company for the bulk of the trip. I will get myself to St. Petersburg, where I will have several days solo, and then I meet up with the tour. With the tour, I will take the train to Moscow, and then the Trans-Siberian for four days to Lake Baikal and Irkutsk. At Irkutsk, we will turn south to Ulan Bataar (another few days on the train), and when we get there we will spend a couple days on the steppes before getting back on the train to Beijing. The tour ends as soon as we get to Beijing, but I will stay for another few days, since I’ve never been to China and really want to see the Great Wall. And then I fly back to Chicago, on a flight that takes off at noon and lands at noon on the same day! So technically I will not have gone alllll the way around the world, I will be 1,000 miles short, but I think it still counts.

Going with a tour group as a solo traveler will be a new experience for me, since I’ve mostly only traveled either alone, with family, or with friends. I have been on two bus tours with groups of peers, once in high school and once shortly after college, and I didn’t love how tightly scheduled they were, or how weird the group dynamics occasionally got. This tour will be much smaller (I think they cap it at 12 people), and it seems to be much more lightly scheduled–other than the trains, hotels, and a half-day walking tour in each city, the rest of the time appears to be free. So, fingers crossed!

I chose a tour primarily for safety reasons. The way the train cars on the Trans-Siberian are organized, there are three classes: first class has two beds per compartment, second class has four (two bunk beds) per compartment, and third class is like a dorm, with the hallway running down the middle and bunks on either side, so it’s 54 beds per car. I had read online that one of the most popular ways to pass the time on the Trans-Siberian is to make new drinking buddies, and that etiquette suggests you bring along a bottle of vodka to share, so it seemed like my choices were either opting for a third-class bunk for safety reasons (and not getting much sleep), or a second-class bunk for privacy and sleep reasons (but potentially being shut inside a small room with three drunk strange men). Neither choice was particularly appealing, so I decided to go with a tour group. This way, while the three people I share the room with may be strangers at the beginning, they won’t be by the end, and I will have much better odds of getting female roommates. (I also decided to spring for the single supplement, so that for the 8 or so non-train, non-yurt, non-“guesthouse” nights I will have a room to myself.)

Continuing the theme of safety, I have also taken a few more precautions then I normally do. I have registered with Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://step.state.gov/, so that the U.S. Embassies in Russian, Mongolia, and China know when I will be in each country in case of emergency. I am also planning to get a VPN for China (so I can still use Google Maps and Google Translate), and I will do some technological housekeeping to minimize the amount of unnecessary data I have floating around on my devices. To reduce the risk of theft, I am planning to bring only my iPad mini and my phone, and I bought a smaller camera, so I should be able to carry all of my electronics with me at all times on the train. And I have a small cable that I will use to lock my suitcase to the train compartment.

I still have lots of packing to do, but I’m starting to get excited!


My name is Emma, and I graduated from law school less than two weeks ago. I’m spending this summer studying for the bar, and also planning my post-bar trip: a 47-day (mostly) solo adventure around the world. This is my third I’m-making-a-big-transition solo trip, and I’m hoping to share some of my planning tips and tricks before the trip, as well as my stories (and plenty of photos!) once I’m on my way. I also joined Instagram half an hour ago, so you can find me there at #atwlawyer (https://www.instagram.com/atwlawyer/).

A little bit about me and traveling: I grew up in Illinois but have also lived for 6 months or more in Australia, England, France, Ithaca (NY), Boston, and DC. I have been to 41 states and 38 countries on 6 continents, and I am as into food (both cooking it and eating it) as I am into travel. I spent my first year after college as an au pair in a Paris suburb, dipping my toes in the water of solo travel by going all around Western Europe during school breaks and on the weekends. My first big transition trip was the two weeks between when the kids got out of school and when my visa expired and I headed to DC to get my first real job. I went to Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland) and Germany. My second transition came between quitting my job and starting law school (four weeks in Australia and New Zealand).  Now, I’m done with school and I’m about to start my career, and it’s time to get out of my comfort zone and figure out who the new-and-improved Lawyer Emma is and how she should interact with the world. I’m hoping that 6 weeks in 9+ countries will do the trick!

If you decide to join my on my journey, expect to see pictures and hear stories from Japan, Singapore, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Finland (very briefly), Budapest, Croatia, ??? (TBD; Italy? France? Spain?), London, and Iceland. Right now, the only thing I have planned are the dates I will be in those countries/cities, because I had to buy plane tickets, but over the summer I will work on where to go and what to see/do/experience in each place. I can’t wait!