Well, the autumn, winter and a little bit of spring, in fact. There'll be no winter for me at all this year, just the northern spring and the meek and mild season that passes for 'summer' for all of you northern hemisphere types. I am 17 days away from pressing 'play' on a plan that has been four years in the making. Four years of dreaming, researching, tweaking, pilot testing, second-guessing and, most of all, saving. Lots and lots of saving. The dreaming has been going on for much more than four years, to be truthful. I've wanted to do the big backpacking trip - something of a rite of passage for Australians - since I was a teenager, but for a variety of reasons when I turned 28 my overseas adventures still only totalled six days in Bali in 2012. The researching started in earnest in 2013, when after some rather seismic life changes I found myself possessed of a job that allowed me to start putting money away, and the option of taking some time out to see the world in my own time, in my own way. The tweaking is still ongoing, though it's very much around the edges now, with most of the details decided. Versions of this trip were scoped and discarded that would have seen me going away in 2014 or 2015. At one stage it was to be a year long, starting in the US to pursue my bucket list agenda item of volunteering on a Presidential election, before stints on each populated continent. For various reasons that didn't happen either; commitments at home combined with slower than desired savings meant the US component was dropped by early 2015, and so I went for a short trip there that year instead. (as an aside, you can be sure that I'll be there for the 2020 election, if we're still around by then). Ultimately I simplified things by discarding all the continent-hopping and landed on what I'm about to start: six (and a bit) months in Europe. Then came the pilot-testing. With only six days experience outside of Australia - and none travelling solo - I needed to ease into it before trying a trip of this magnitude. For one, as an insulin-dependent diabetic, I needed to have a feel for how active holidays in different climates, with different food, would affect my diabetes management. More generally I needed to test how my budget assumptions would work before I tried to spend an awful lot of time - and money - in some of the world's most expensive destinations. And I needed to know that I would actually cope with the unknown stresses and strains of stepping outside my comfort zone. So I took three trips of increasing complexity: a week in Singapore in February 2015 challenged me at the most basic level: would I have the guts to get on the plane? Would I be crippled by fear at being in a foreign country on your own? Would I be able to sleep in hostels? Could I live out of a backpack, insulin supplies and all? The answers were the right ones for each question. Later that year I went to the US, which added jet lag, a longer duration of three weeks and some city-to-city travel into the mix. And in May and June of last year I went to Japan, throwing language barriers and a challenging food environment for diabetic vegetarians in as well. I learned a lot from all three trips. I love solo travel. I'm more adventurous and self-sufficient than I dared hope. I can keep to a budget without compromising my experience. If things go wrong I can fix them. And along the way my life list of zoos visited grew from 33, with just two outside Australia, to 58. I won't claim the second-guessing is all over; a big part of me is terrified at the thought of being away from my partner, family, friends and home town for so long. I'm even missing an entire AFL season. But I've given notice on my apartment, gotten a six month leave of absence from work, booked flights, trains and hostels and it's all too late to back out of it now. I've saved the money and it's time. I'm leaning against posting a detailed itinerary like, say, SnowLeopard does for his great trip threads. But as a teaser, I expect to cover more than 17,000km - well over 10,000 miles - as I zigzag across the continent. Once I land in Europe after a couple of days stopover I won't board another plane until it's time to turn for home: I've made a conscious choice for all of my travel inside Europe to be by surface transport. As with my US and Japan trips, zoos will form a plurality of the attractions I visit, but they aren't the sole focus of the trip. There will be plenty of them but I'm also going to immerse myself in plenty of palaces, cathedrals, town squares, art galleries, museums, ancient ruins and maybe even a beach or two. Even so, I can say with confidence that, having seen only 33 collections at the beginning of 2015, by the end of this trip I will have reached my century. I will of course attempt to write about my trip; I've done it in fits and starts on previous holidays but getting into writing again is a big goal for this adventure. It's something I used to do with a modicum of skill, but I'm very rusty now and I'd like that to change. I'm conscious, though, that I will be treading well-worn paths on Zoochat; with perhaps a couple of exceptions I expect to largely go to zoos that are familiar to many of you who might read what I write. With that in mind, I'm very interested to hear suggestions for how I can approach this thread in a way that's engaging and will keep you reading.