Around the World in 2020:

World Wonders Edition

October 19 – November 12, 2020

25 days. 4 continents. 7* countries. 1 life-affirming trip.

*8 countries when you include Vatican City!

Limited to just 12 explorers. 

$19,999.

CHINA  The Great Wall  |  The Forbidden City

CAMBODIA   Angkor Wat

INDIA  The Taj Mahal

JORDAN    Petra  |  The Dead Sea

EGYPT   The Pyramids  |  The Great Sphinx

ITALY   The Pantheon  |  The Colosseum  |  The Vatican

PERU   Machu Picchu

If you’ve already traveled to some of these locations, let us customize a regional side adventure for you! See some alternatives further down this page. 

Beijing

Great Wall

Angkor Wat

New Delhi

Taj Mahal

Petra

Dead Sea

Giza

Rome

Lima

Machu Picchu

Cusco

Itinerary at a Glance

October 19    Official start of the trip this evening in Beijing, China: we can help you arrange an earlier arrival, if you wish

October 20–21    Explore the cultural treasures in and around Beijing: including The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu & the Forbidden City

October 22–25    Discover the beauty of Siem Reap, Cambodia: tour Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm & more 

October 26–29   Experience incredible India in Agra: witness the majesty of the Taj Mahal at sunrise

October 30–November 1    Enjoy every minute in Jordan: discover the ancient carved city of Petra and float in the Dead Sea

November 2–4    Trek back in time in Giza, Egypt: marvel at the ancient Pyramids and Sphinx & the Egyptian Museum

November 5–7   Fall in love with Rome, Italy and its priceless cultural heritage: the Colosseum, Pantheon, the Vatican & more

November 8–12   Journey to Machu Picchu and Cusco and discover Incan ingenuity for yourself!

Why is this the right trip for you?

For more than six years, we (BJ Graf and Lauren Rathvon, the founders of RetreaTours) have traveled non-stop, exploring the most interesting destinations, meeting the most amazing local guides, learning the most useful local tips, and helping curious, engaged people like you discover more about the planet they live on. 

Developing an Around the World itinerary has always loomed large in the back of BJ’s mind since his 1995 adventure around the globe. We wanted to take the concept of an Around the World trip and create one that is accessible to anyone keen on such a journey. Most Around the World vacations on the market cost between $86,000 and $129,000+ and usually take between 50 and 80+ guests. That didn’t sit right with us; we think world travel is beneficial and necessary for growth, empowerment, and connection and should be made as accessible as possible, with a small, like-minded crew and personal attention from your trip leaders. 

Instead, we have limited our group to just 12 guests for $19,999–a much smaller group at a lower price, imagine that!

Using creative planning, commercial flights (as opposed to private jets) and our huge virtual Rolodex of resources, we create brilliant, fully escorted, all-inclusive Around the World itineraries for a fraction of the cost of other options on the market. We lead our first 28-day Around the World journey in October 2018, touring 11 fascinated (and fascinating!) guests through 9 beautiful countries.

For 2020, we wanted to create a “World Wonders” edition of our globe-trotting expedition. Read more about the Wonders we have chosen and why just below in the yellow button!

This journey is very much in line with our mission, to maximize the greatest good for the greatest number, including our guests, our travel partners, and the local community. We hope to travel Around the World with you!

Click here to see how we chose this set of World Wonders

How did you choose these Wonders of the World?

There has been no definitive list of the Man-Made Wonders of the World since the creation of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World list was developed in antiquity. We feel that this trip–our list–should be considered the ultimate and definitive list of the Seven Wonders of the World! It is our not-so-humble opinion that these sites are the most iconic and awesome (using that term literally!) man-made structures in the world. Everyone, of course, is entitled to their opinion and we welcome your thoughts on which of these sites you would replace and with what other site. (Who knows, maybe it will make it to another RTW itinerary!)

 

The “New Seven Wonders”

In 2000 there was a campaign to survey the world’s population, asking which sites the world as a whole considers to be the most iconic and wonderous man-made structures. While an admirable attempt, there were some serious problems in the execution. The organization [The New7Wonders Foundation] asked people to phone in their vote or vote online. Countries lobbied their citizens to vote for the icon of that particular country. In Brazil, for example, there was a campaign to Vote for the Christ. Telecommunications operators had stopped charging voters to make telephone calls and SMS messages to vote. Additionally, corporate sponsors spent millions of reals in the effort to have the statue voted into the top seven. Newsweek reports the campaign was so pervasive that;

One morning in June, Rio de Janeiro residents awoke to a beeping text message on their cell phones: “Press 4916 and vote for Christ. It’s free!” The same pitch had been popping up all over the city since late January—flashing across an electronic screen every time city-dwellers swiped their transit cards on city buses and echoing on TV infomercials that featured a reality-show celebrity posing next to the city’s trademark Christ the Redeemer statue.  — Elizabeth Dwoskin, Newsweek

Indeed, both Chichen Itza and Christ the Redeemer were voted into the top 7 wonders as they are both very populous countries that had similar campaigns. Having visited both these sites, it is our opinion that, while interesting in their own right, neither is worthy of being in the top 7 Wonders of the World. [Interesting note: Christ the Redeemer is currently only the 126th tallest statue in the world. Even at the time of its construction in 1931, it was dwarfed by many other statues around the world, including the Statue of Liberty.]  

 

What do other people think?

Here are some resources on individuals rankings of the wonders of the world.

 

In conclusion…

We’re not so sure that we can rank the wonders of our own list, in order from 1 through 7. We can just tell you wholeheartedly that each of those seven wonders we will be visiting in 2020 deserves to be on the list!

Testimonials from our 2018 Around the World guests

Here is what some of our 2018 Around the World guests want to tell you!

Lauren and BJ are excellent tour guides, organizers, planners, and genuinely good people. Traveling with them is like being “held” in a safe space yet with plenty of opportunities to spread your wings. It’s the best of both worlds in that you are sure of seeing the sites but with cultural knowledge that makes each location memorable. Their pre-trip previewing and work to secure excellent local guides really makes their trips stand out from other group travel that I have experienced. You absolutely couldn’t travel with more thoughtful and caring people who want to offer you the best of everything. It’s more than a job for them and it shows in their kindness and willingness to go the extra mile.  ~C.M.

This trip far exceeded anything I could have imagined. The choices of where to stay, where to eat, and what to see, were the result of BJ and Lauren’s commitment to finding authentic, meaningful, experiences in every location. The trip was filled with small (and large) details that made the trip easy, fun, interesting, exciting and challenging. I LOVED this trip…and I LOVE RetreaTours!   ~N.S.

You start out curious, hoping to see iconic sights. You end up feeling more connected to and understanding of parts of the world you were barely aware of. You feel more nurtured and cared for by your trip organizers than you could have ever hoped for….you feel like you have a new family AND you laugh a lot! You will never regret having committed to this experience of a lifetime. ~A.B.

BJ and Lauren did an excellent job in hosting our tour, managing air flights, lodging, meals, guides and shepherding everyone through all situations. In addition, they were of great help in assisting with our extension to the Galapagos Islands. Would highly recommend them as a tour company. They specialize in small group tours which is the only way to travel. Very special people! It was our second trip with them and both were great. They made you feel as family. ~C.S.

This was a trip of a lifetime, filled with new experiences, stunning sights, delicious–and sometimes strange–food to taste, lovely people in every country with whom to interact. If you have a bucket list, this trip will check off many of those places–and you will want to return again to some of them to dig in deeper. BJ and Lauren are the consummate trip leaders, providing an almost seamless, and always enjoyable, educational, and really fun journey. In every country they curated the most wonderful hotels, sites to visit, restaurants to try out, and always brought in an expert guide from whatever place we were visiting to further explain the culture, the historical significance, the foods, and the customs. This trip opened my eyes to all that and so much more. I would HIGHLY recommend signing up for a trip with them–don’t hesitate–just do it! You won’t be sorry.  ~C.R.

Thank you for every thoughtful, researched, beta-tested detail that made it a unique and incredible ‘RetreaTour.’ You are an amazing team. I never felt like I had hired you to guide me. Rather, it often felt like I was along on your personal vacation just joining you for the great trip you were taking! ~M.C.

Please watch our 2018 RTW journey testimonial video below!

We have another epic journey in 2020 you may be interested in! Click here or the button below to see our “Pilgrimage Around the Buddhist World,” September 17–October 7, 2020.  This immersion into the living practice of Buddhism’s major schools takes us to Kyoto, Japan; Borobudur, Indonesia; Singapore; Siem Reap, Cambodia; Bangkok, Thailand; and Ladakh, India. 

The Great Wall & The Forbidden City, China

October 19–21

Ni hao & welcome to China! Our tour will officially begin at dinner on October 19, but if you’d like to arrive early and get a jump on jet lag, we can help you arrange that.

Our home base in Beijing is nestled in a traditional neighborhood, the Sanyanjing Hutong, directly next to gorgeous Jingshan Park. This neighborhood allows for self-exploration if you arrive early, and is a short walk from one of the most popular walking streets. In addition, a short uphill walk in Jingshan Park allows a 360° view of Beijing, including a dramatic panorama of the entire Forbidden City. 

[The Great Wall’s] historic and strategic importance is matched only by its architectural significance. —UNESCO

The Great Wall of China, one of the “New 7 Wonders,” is anything but new. Rather, the Great Wall is actually a collection of fortification walls, with the earliest being built in the 7th century BCE. These early defensive walls were joined together and improved upon around 200 BCE by the first Emperor of China, and the most well-known walls were constructed by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Today, the Great Wall is recognized as the largest man-made structure ever built and one of the most impressive architectural feats in history. Although not one continuous wall, the surviving elements of the stretch an impressive 13,171 miles (21,197 km).  We’ll explore the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall on our first full day in China (~90-minute drive), taking a cable car up in order to enjoy the aerial mountain views!

The next day we’ll get an early start for our exploration of Beijing’s Forbidden City and Palace Museum, which houses some of the most important treasures of China. Built to represent a heavenly palace, the Forbidden City served as the home of emperors and their households as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government for almost 500 years (1420 to 1912). Constructed from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

We’ll visit Tiananmen Square, one of the largest squares in the world (110 acres), a place of great cultural significance and the site of numerous important events in Chinese history. We’ll also pay a visit to the Temple of Heaven. Completed in 1420, this complex of temples held annual ceremonies to pray for a good harvest. Next to the Great Wall, it might be the most iconic structure in China.

 

Siem Reap, Cambodia

October 22–25

Choum reap suor! We’ll depart Beijing on the morning of the 22nd to fly (via Hong Kong) to Siem Reap in the beautiful Kingdom of Cambodia. Here, the Khmer Empire created what was the world’s largest civilization in the 12th century. The most famous relic of this civilization–featured today on Cambodia’s flag–is Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. During our time in Siem Reap, we’ll visit Angkor Wat as the sun rises behind its iconic peaks and afterward we’ll wander its mesmerizing bas-relief lined hallways.

However, Siem Reap is so much more than Angkor Wat. This area is home to loads of gorgeous temples, many being slowly reclaimed by nature (including the picturesque Ta Prohm). We’ll explore Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Kingdom, along with its many temples and terraces. Bayon temple is a favorite of ours, featuring 172 large-scale serenely smiling faces wherever you look.

Angkor…is one of the most important archaeological sites of Southeast Asia. [It] is a major site exemplifying cultural, religious and symbolic values, as well as containing high architectural, archaeological and artistic significance. —UNESCO

We’ll spend two of our three full days here exploring temples with our expert Khmer guide who was a Buddhist monk for 16 years. We can even visit a functioning local wat (temple) to see how modern day Khmer Buddhism is practiced. In the evenings you can explore the festive nightlife of Siem Reap, a short walk (or even shorter tuk-tuk ride!) from our hotel. You can sample local Khmer cuisine like fish amok or enjoy one of the many international restaurants along Pub Street. If you want to stay closer to home, our hotel has a stellar happy hour on their rooftop deck!

We’ll reserve one full day as a free day for rest, shopping, self-exploration, a local village tour, or even going back out to the temples to explore more. Siem Reap has a wonderful Angkor Museum you may wish to visit, as well. We’ll cap off our time in Angkor with a sunset boat ride & drinks on the moat of Angkor Thom.

Agra, India

October 26–29

Namaskar! We’ll say our goodbyes to Cambodia and fly (via Bangkok) to New Delhi, India. We’ll rest overnight in a comfortable hotel convenient to the airport and depart tomorrow morning after breakfast for the city of Agra (~4-hour drive in our private vehicle). 

Our home base in Agra is a 5-star hotel (with a great spa!) that is convenient to the crown jewel of India: the Taj Mahal. We’ll depart for the Taj Mahal early the next the morning and you’ll be among the first people to behold the beautiful white marble at sunrise. We’ll have an expertly guided tour of the Taj Mahal, and then you’ll have time to explore independently. Take your time to really inspect the semi-precious stone inlay in this hardy Makrana white marble; rest your eyes on the geometric patterns and the soft calligraphy that decorates the facade. It took over 20,000 workers and artisans over 20 years to create this masterpiece, a mausoleum dedicated to a beloved wife, a timeless testament to love. What’s more, the Taj Mahal will have recently finished a years-long cleaning, a painstaking process of applying a special mud mask to remove the impurities from the pores of the marble. The rest of the afternoon can be spent in rest or shopping for some souvenirs to remind you of your time in incredible India.

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who have seen the Taj Mahal and love it, and those who have not seen the Taj Mahal and love it.  —President Bill Clinton

On the morning of the 29th, we’ll visit Agra Fort in the early hours, a perfect time of day to see this expansive 16th-century fort. It was here that the man who commissioned the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan, lived his last days under house arrest, imprisoned by a power-hungry son. You’ll discover a completely different perspective of the Taj Mahal than you enjoyed yesterday morning, as you gaze at the marble domes along the Yamuna River from afar. 

After our time at Agra Fort, we’ll begin our drive back to Delhi and stay at a very comfortable hotel near the airport again. If we have time tonight, we can take a trip to Dilli Haat, an open-air handicraft market that represents artisans from all over the entire country!

Petra, Jordan & The Dead Sea

October 30–November 1

Marḥaba! and welcome to Jordan! We’ll arrive in Amman, Jordan mid-afternoon and drive immediately to Petra (~3 hours on the Desert Highway). We’ll settle into our guesthouse, mere steps away from Petra’s main entrance and the only one on the grounds of Petra. In fact, we’re so close the Petra that our accommodation boasts a “cave bar” built of stonework from Nabatean times! Who were the Nabateans? Glad you asked!

The Nabateans were a nomadic Arabic tribe that eventually settled in pockets around the Middle East, including Jordan. They established Petra as their capital as early as the 5th century BCE! The Nabateans carved the features of Petra into the rose-colored sandstone mountains. Petra became a flourishing trade hub and a site that UNESCO has described as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage.” And this site is so much more than the famous facade of the “Treasury”–the entirety of Petra spans for 102 square miles!  You’ll appreciate the efforts of the Nabateans even more when you learn that everything that has been excavated accounts for less than 15% of the actual site!

A rose-red city half as old as time — John William Burgon, from his poem Petra

We’ll have all day on October 31st to explore Petra, starting with an expertly guided tour through the picturesque Siq and into the carved city that once housed between 20,000 and 30,000 people. You can continue to explore on your own in the afternoon, perhaps taking the scenic hike up to the “Monastery, ” one of the most impressive structures in all of Petra. A few more minutes of walking brings you to an overlook that that reveals the expanse of the Wadi Arabah desert. 

The next day we’ll drive along the King’s Highway (~3 hours) to our resting place directly on the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is a wonder in its own right, as it is the lowest point on Earth at -1412 feet / -430.5 m below sea level. This hypersaline lake, the deepest in the world at around ~1000 feet, has long been used as a “health resort,” dating back to Biblical times.

You’ll get to experience the otherworldly sensation of floating high on top of these salty waters for yourself this afternoon if you wish! We’ll relax seaside and watch the sun set over this endangered treasure–the Dead Sea’s surface level is dropping 3 feet a year due to increased water demand and dams being built upstream by neighboring countries. 

On the morning of November 2nd, we’ll drive to the airport (~1 hour) for a short flight to Jordan’s neighbor to the west–Egypt!

Giza, Egypt

November 2–4

Assalam Alaikum and welcome to the land of the Pharaohs! Everyone feels the pull to Egypt; we seem to recognize the iconography as though it’s in our DNA. As kids we learn about the pyramids and treasures of the Pharaohs; as adults we pine to see them in person. Now it’s your time to make that dream a reality!

We’ll be met by our expert team that will guide us through immigration and customs, and we’ll head to our home base for the next three nights–a hotel with a pyramid view! The pyramids on the Giza Plateau are an unbelievable 4,500 years old; the Great Pyramid is by far the oldest of the ancient Wonders and is the only one still in existence. 

From the heights of these pyramids, forty centuries look down on us. —Napolean Bonaparte

Our first day will be spent with an expert guide and Egyptologist, exploring the sites of Giza, including Saqqara, Memphis, and Dahshur. These were all very important ancient sites in Egypt, the “sandbox” where the construction of pyramids was perfected. We’ll visit the Step Pyramid, the first freestanding stone building in history and the first pyramid ever built. Around Saqqara, we’ll explore the tombs as our guide explains their significance and deciphers the stories told in the beautiful hieroglyphics lining its walls.

Then we’ll head back to our neck of the woods and explore the Giza Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the Valley Temple of Khafre. Fancy a climb into the center of the Great Pyramid? Let’s go!

The next day we’ll enjoy the new Egyptian Museum at Giza, having recently been relocated from its old location in Cairo (slated to open in 2020). The pieces in this museum are jaw-droppingly mesmerizing and at times downright otherworldly. Cast your eyes upon the funerary mask of Tutankhamun, behold the mesmerizing wooden statue of Ka-Aper, and venture into the mummy room if you wish.

In the evenings we can relax poolside and gaze at the pyramids, reflecting on the 5,000 years of history and culture that unfolded in the land around us. 

Rome, Italy & Vatican City

November 5–7

Buongiorno! Welcome to Rome, The Eternal City! We’ll settle into our hotel in the historic center of Rome this afternoon, looking out on to the Pantheon itself. Completed in 126 CE, the Pantheon still stands today as the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world—a record that has stood for nearly 2000 years! It also held the record as the largest dome in the world until 1436 CE (1308 years). It is one of the best preserved Roman buildings and should rank highly on most lists as a Wonder of the World.

“From its foundation, Rome has continually been linked with the history of humanity.” –UNESCO

The history, the culture, the art, the food…it’s truly hard to even know where to begin when talking about Rome, founded in 753 BCE. You can still witness ancient Roman influences in modern society, from law to literature, art to engineering. We’ll dive into our Roman experience tonight with the most accessible & delicious of all facets, though: the food! 

Our first night we’ll head out for a wine & food experience. Typically we’re big fans of neighborhood-based walking food tours, but since we have plenty of walking in our immediate future, let’s have the food and wine come to us tonight, shall we? We’ll enjoy expert pairings of delicious regional Italian cuisine and wine and hear the stories of the local producers that crafted them.

Let tonight serve as inspiration, as the next two nights you’ll be able to explore Rome’s stellar culinary scene on your own for dinner, with lots of suggestions from us! Your evenings are yours to discover or re-explore the sites that appeal to you the most–perhaps the Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps, or just soaking up the ambiance (and perhaps some wine?) in one of Rome’s stunning piazzas.

Tomorrow morning we’ll start our exploration of historic Rome with a tour that includes the Colosseum and the Pantheon. The Flavian Amphitheatre, more commonly known as the Colosseum, is the largest amphitheater ever built and could accommodate up to 87,000 people in its heyday. Construction was completed in 80 CE, and its design still influences the construction of modern-day amphitheaters.

We’ll start out early on the morning of November 7th to visit Vatican City, the only country (albeit only 100 acres!) designated as a UNESCO site. We’ll get a head start to visit the Sistine Chapel before the crowds; the beauty of Michelangelo’s ceiling and The Last Judgement are truly a wonder in their own right.

Without having seen the Sistine Chapel, one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving.  — Johann Wolfgang Goethe

We’ll explore the Vatican Museums and the abundant art collected by popes over the centuries. We’ll then make our way to what is considered the largest church in Christendom, St. Peter’s Basilica and the priceless art inside, including Michelangelo’s Pietà. Did you know that the Pietà was the only one of his works that Michelangelo ever signed?

It is said that Ralph Waldo Emerson described St. Peter’s as “an ornament of the earth … the sublime of the beautiful” in 1883. There’s little we can say to prepare you for the scale and majesty of St. Peter’s, and truly, historic Rome as a whole. 

Machu Picchu & Cusco, Peru

November 8–12

Machu Picchu & Cusco, Peru

November 8–12

Bienvenidos a Peru! The morning of November 8, we’ll take a daytime flight to Lima, Peru (via Madrid). The transatlantic portion of the flight is 11.5 hours (although, timezone-wise, Lima is 6 hours earlier than Rome). We’ll arrive in Lima in the evening and go straight to our comfortable hotel convenient to the airport to rest. Tomorrow morning we’ll start our journey to Machu Picchu!

We’ll take a morning flight to Cusco (1.25 hours), enjoy a scenic drive through the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo, and board a train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (the town formerly known as Aguas Calientes). Our two-hour train ride is a scenic introduction to the Andes mountains, and we ride along the beautiful Urubamba river for much of the time. Tonight we stay in the quaint town of Machu Picchu Pueblo, readying ourselves for our sunrise trip to Machu Picchu.

After seeing the ruins at Machu Picchu, the fabulous cultures of antiquity seemed to be made of cardboard, papier-mâché…— Pablo Neruda

Peru has been inhabited since 9,000 BC and has had complex societies since 3000 BC. The Incas were an immensely powerful state in the 15th century; the crown in the Incan empire was, of course, Machu Picchu. On the morning of November 10, we’ll have a special private guided tour of Machu Picchu, along with independent exploration time. Sunrise is a palpably special time at these ruins, as the morning fog parts to reveal what had been hidden for hundreds of years. The structures themselves are impressive, but they are closely rivaled by the stunning Andean mountain landscape that kept them a secret for centuries. 

In the afternoon we’ll take the train back to Cusco. There is a certain charm to Cusco that we just can’t get enough of! This UNESCO World Heritage city was the stunning capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th until the 16th century, and it is South America’s oldest continuously inhabited city. The blend of the ancient Incan foundations, topped with the ornate relics of the Spanish invasion and colonization, make this city a marvel at every turn. It’s no wonder that the Constitution of Peru designated Cusco as the country’s Historical Capital! We’ll take a tour of Cusco and the surrounding area on November 11. 

Tonight we’ll share one final dinner together and reflect on our epic Around the World: Wonder Wonders journey together! We may have started in Beijing as strangers, but we close in Cusco as a family, brought together in our shared wonderment at this amazing world we live in.

Your Around the World journey officially finishes after breakfast on November 12th.  But, wait, there is so much more to see! You can stay on in Peru to visit the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest at Puerto Maldonado (a direct flight from Cusco). You can even head to the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, as that is a lovely time of year to visit. A trip to Easter Island is also a possibility! We can help you with any of these trip extensions & more.

Interested? Have Questions? Ready to finally see the Wonders of the World?

Please click on the yellow boxes to expand them.

Who is this Journey for?

This journey is perfect for solo adventurers, couples, or groups of friends wanting to experience the time of their lives together!

This itinerary is ideal for those that want to take advantage of our experience, expertise, and connections, who don’t have the time nor local resources to research and arrange the countless details that go into a trip of this magnitude.

We find that many of our guests enjoy marking major life transitions with a trip of this nature: birthdays, retirements, or commemorating the life of a loved one that has passed.

For our jet setting couples, this is a perfect way to celebrate an anniversary, honeymoon, or a recently emptied nest!

This trip is perfect for those who have been interested in an Around the World journey but were put off by the exorbitant prices and high guest maximums (50 to 80!) that other companies offer.

You’ll quickly discover that your fellow travelers are as curious and enthusiastic as yourself; no matter if you arrive with a travel buddy or not, you’ll come away from this journey with some new friends and treasured lifelong memories.

Testimonials from our 2018 Around the World Guests

Here is what some of our 2018 Around the World guests want to tell you!

Lauren and BJ are excellent tour guides, organizers, planners, and genuinely good people. Traveling with them is like being “held” in a safe space yet with plenty of opportunities to spread your wings. It’s the best of both worlds in that you are sure of seeing the sites but with cultural knowledge that makes each location memorable. Their pre-trip previewing and work to secure excellent local guides really makes their trips stand out from other group travel that I have experienced. You absolutely couldn’t travel with more thoughtful and caring people who want to offer you the best of everything. It’s more than a job for them and it shows in their kindness and willingness to go the extra mile.  ~C.M.

This trip far exceeded anything I could have imagined. The choices of where to stay, where to eat, and what to see, were the result of BJ and Lauren’s commitment to finding authentic, meaningful, experiences in every location. The trip was filled with small (and large) details that made the trip easy, fun, interesting, exciting and challenging. I LOVED this trip…and I LOVE RetreaTours!   ~N.S.

You start out curious, hoping to see iconic sights. You end up feeling more connected to and understanding of parts of the world you were barely aware of. You feel more nurtured and cared for by your trip organizers than you could have ever hoped for….you feel like you have a new family AND you laugh a lot! You will never regret having committed to this experience of a lifetime. ~A.B.

BJ and Lauren did an excellent job in hosting our tour, managing air flights, lodging, meals, guides and shepherding everyone through all situations. In addition, they were of great help in assisting with our extension to the Galapagos Islands. Would highly recommend them as a tour company. They specialize in small group tours which is the only way to travel. Very special people! It was our second trip with them and both were great. They made you feel as family. ~C.S.

This was a trip of a lifetime, filled with new experiences, stunning sights, delicious–and sometimes strange–food to taste, lovely people in every country with whom to interact. If you have a bucket list, this trip will check off many of those places–and you will want to return again to some of them to dig in deeper. BJ and Lauren are the consummate trip leaders, providing an almost seamless, and always enjoyable, educational, and really fun journey. In every country they curated the most wonderful hotels, sites to visit, restaurants to try out, and always brought in an expert guide from whatever place we were visiting to further explain the culture, the historical significance, the foods, and the customs. This trip opened my eyes to all that and so much more. I would HIGHLY recommend signing up for a trip with them–don’t hesitate–just do it! You won’t be sorry.  ~C.R.

Thank you for every thoughtful, researched, beta-tested detail that made it a unique and incredible ‘RetreaTour.’ You are an amazing team. I never felt like I had hired you to guide me. Rather, it often felt like I was along on your personal vacation just joining you for the great trip you were taking! ~M.C.

Price, Inclusions & Payment

The trip cost is $19,999 USD (double-occupancy price) when you register before December 31, 2019.  January 1, 2020 and beyond, the cost is $22,999.

If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $1999 and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary). Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you may be responsible for the single supplement.

We kept going back to the drawing board again & again until we got this journey’s price below $20,000 for you, so there’s not a lot of wiggle room for discounts. However, if you are part of a group of people (3 or more guests), please contact us for a group rate!

Payment Plan & Dates:

  • A $2999 deposit holds your space.
  • The second installment of $4250 is due February 21, 2020. 
  • The third installment of $4250 is due April 1, 2020.
  • The fourth installment of $4250 is due May 22, 2020. 
  • The balance is due July 11, 2020.
    • Note: If you would like to make smaller, more frequent payments, we can accommodate that!

Payment types:

Payments are accepted by credit or debit card (processed via PayPal, but you do not need a PayPal account), check, bank wire, or TransferWise for our guests that reside out the U.S.  We will send invoices before each due date by email (via PayPal).

Price Includes:

  • All breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, starting the night of October 19th through the morning of November 12th EXCEPT for 3 dinners (2 in Rome, 1 in Jordan) and beverages at mealtimes (water, tea, coffee, soda)
  • All accommodation
  • All transportation, beginning in Beijing, China until the trip’s conclusion in Cusco, Peru
  • All sites entrance fees
  • All local guide fees and tips
  • Carbon offsetting for trip
  • Laundry in two cities 
  • Jordan visa
  • Souvenir photo book of journey and online to access to all of our trip photos

Price does not include:

  • International airfare to Beijing, China or from Cusco, Peru (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
  • Alcohol, specialty drinks (specialty coffee drinks, mocktails, etc)
  • 3 dinners (2 in Rome, 1 in Jordan)
  • Travel medical insurance (required)
  • Visa fees for a total of ~$161 (Cambodia @ $36; India @ $100; Egypt @ $25; please note that at this time, you are eligible for a Chinese transit visa on this journey). 

 

Cancellation Policy

Our full cancellation policy can be found in our contract. In the event a guest’s cancellation request is received prior to 150 days, all money will be refunded except the non-refundable deposit. Cancellations received 76 to 149 days prior to departure are subject to a penalty of 50% of the total cost of the trip. Cancellations received 75 days or less prior to trip departure will forfeit the entire cost of the trip. 

We do not require trip cancellation insurance but we do recommend it. Please see the Insurance tab on this webpage for more information.

NOTE: 

  • There is a minimum of 4 guests that must register in order for this trip to take place. We will hold your deposit & payments until the minimum number of guests have signed up. Please do not purchase any airfare until you get the go-ahead from us that we’ve reached our minimum number of participants.  
  • If the minimum number of guests have not signed up 90 days prior to the departure date, we’ll give you the option to transfer your reservation to another tour or fully refund your money, including the deposit.
About the Flights

Information about flight lengths, upgrading to Business Class, and flights to Beijing and from Peru

Air travel has made Around the World adventures much more pleasant & efficient than the infamous 80-day trip posited by Jules Verne.

We will be taking commercial flights for each leg of this trip. They have been very specifically chosen to be the most comfortable way of getting from one location to the next at the most reasonable times of day!

Flight times, including layovers:

  • Beijing, China to Siem Reap, Cambodia: 4-hour flight; 1.5-hour layover in Hong Kong; 2.5-hour flight
  • Siem Reap to New Delhi, India:  1.5-hour flight; 3-hour layover in Bangkok; 5-hour flight
  • New Delhi to Amman, Jordan:  3.5-hour flight;  1-hour layover in Dubai; 3-hour flight
  • Amman, Jordan to Cairo, Egypt:  1.5-hour flight
  • Cairo, Egypt to Rome, Italy:  3.5-hour flight
  • Rome, Italy to Lima, Peru:  2.5-hour flight;  2.5-hour layover in Madrid; 12-hour flight
  • Lima, Peru to Cusco, Peru:   1.5-hour flight

What about upgrading flights to Business Class?

If you would like the option to upgrade any of your flights to Business Class, we can help arrange that and you would pay only the exact amount over the budgeted economy flight option. Here are the approximate costs of upgrading (as of March 2019; as time progresses, these prices may increase):

  1. Flight on Cathay Dragon from Beijing to Siem Reap (with a stop in Hong Kong), Business Class would cost approximately $620 extra.
  2. Siem Reap to Delhi (via Bangkok) there may or may not be an option for an upgrade, we will keep you informed.
  3. Emirates from Delhi to Amman in Business Class would be ~$1110 extra. [Please note that this is not a very long flight, and may not be worth the extra expense.]
  4. Egypt Air from Amman to Cairo in Business Class would be ~$279 extra. [Please note that this is not a very long flight, and may not be worth the extra expense.]
  5. Cairo to Rome in Business Class would be about $277 extra. [This is not a very long flight but a good price.]
  6. Iberia from Rome to Lima (via Madrid) is the longest flight of the trip. It’s an expensive upgrade (costing approximately an extra $2421) but is frankly the one flight that would be the best to upgrade yourself if you really want to do so. That said, the economy seating on the flight is pretty comfortable, with 2 seats in each row. Premium Economy MAY be an option for approximately an extra $500.
  7. Lima to Cusco would be an extra ~$314 extra [Please note that this is not a very long flight, and may not be worth the extra expense.]

 

Flights from Cusco, Peru back to your home

We will assist you in finding the perfect flights for your trip from Cusco to home. You MAY want to continue your trip to the Amazon, the Galapagos Islands, and/or Easter Island. We can help you to arrange any of those trips for no fee/commission to us.

Flights from Cusco to your home city (without having to collect your bags in Lima) usually cost between $600-$900 to the U.S. If, however, you don’t mind first flying to Lima and then collecting your bag and re-checking-in for your flight home from Lima, you can usually save hundreds of dollars.

 

Flying from the U.S. to Beijing, China

We can assist you in finding the best flights for you for you to Beijing and the start of our journey together. Flights from your particular/nearest/favorite airport may be more expensive than these flights shown below, but one-way flights to Bejing from almost anywhere in the country are usually less than $1000 in economy class.  Some sample flights are below from various locations around the U.S. (please note these are not the correct dates, as you cannot search that far in advance!)

From Dallas

From Newark

From JFK

From Los Angeles (via Seattle)

From Los Angeles

From Chicago

About Airport Lounges

For this trip we hope to provide VIP lounge access to all the guests on the tour during the time we spend in airports (before take-off and during layovers). These VIP lounges allow for a much more relaxed and enjoyable time at the airport and there is free food and drinks (including alcohol). BJ and Lauren will be able to get 4 guests into the lounges with our Priority Pass cards. We would like to encourage other guests on the trip to get a Priority Pass card through the Citi Prestige credit card to ensure that everyone can get into the lounges; toward that end, we will give the first three guests who receive a Citi Prestige Priority Pass a $100 stipend toward the annual fee. 

  • Benefits of Priority Pass card
    • You can read all about the Priority Pass card here. To us, it has been life-changing (quite literally, considering how much we travel). Relaxing in the lounges makes air travel so much more enjoyable. On this Around the World tour, we’ll be spending a bit of time in airports so we hope this will make it more pleasant for you.
  • Benefits of Citi Prestige credit card
    • This is a card with some great benefits–most of all, getting a Priority Pass card that allows for 2 guests in addition to yourself.
    • The card looks on the outset to be expensive with a $450 annual fee. But, you are immediately credited $250 the first time you purchase a flight with the card (thus bringing the cost down to $200). You can also earn 50,000 miles/points if you spend $4000 in the first three months after receiving the card. You also earn 5x points/miles for spending on airfares and at restaurants. There are a slew of other great benefits ($100 credit for Global Entry; 4th night free at many hotels; etc–you can read more about the card here).
    • When you receive your card, we will give you $100 toward your fee. If you get a 2nd card for your spouse/partner who is joining on this trip, we’ll give you another $100 [a 2nd card only costs the primary cardholder $50]. The catch is that for each Priority Pass card you get, you can bring yourself and 2 guests into the lounge for free. We would ask that you allow one of the other guests on tour to join you when entering the lounge.

Here is how you would apply for this card:

  1. You would apply for the Citi Prestige credit card (here is the official link–we do not get a commission for people applying or getting the card)
  2. Once you get the card they would send you the Priority Pass card automatically; we recommend downloading the Priority Pass app on your phone.
  3. You can choose to get a 2nd card for your spouse/partner/friend who is joining on the trip.
  4. Let us know when you have the Priority Pass in hand and we’ll give you $100 for each one you get.
  5. Use your card to purchase a flight within the first year and Citi will automatically credit you $250.
  6. If you’re interested in earning miles with the card, be sure to spend $4000 in the first 3 months after receiving the card. You might want to think about using it to purchase your flight to Beijing for the start of this trip.
      •  
About Jet Lag

We’re traveling around the whole world–am I going to feel jet lag every time we move to a new location?

The most challenging portion of this trip in regards to jet lag will be your initial flight to Beijing (which is why, if you are able, you may choose to arrive a day early). We can provide tips and ideas on how to reduce jet lag as much as possible.

However, the rest of your trip will include much more gentle time changes that will not be difficult. Our next big leap in time is gaining 6 hours when we fly from Italy to Peru toward the end of the trip; however, this east-to-west flight, paired with it being a daytime flight, should make this as easy of a transition as possible.

For the most part, jet lag actually works in our favor for some of our early mornings on this trip, such as sunrise at Angkor Waj, the Taj Mahal, and Machu Picchu. We’ll embrace our inner early birds!

Time differences between our destinations

GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time, the solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London (0° longitude).

  • Beijing (GMT+8)
  • Siem Reap (GMT+7)  (one hour earlier than Beijing)
  • India (GMT+5:30)  (1.5 hours earlier than Siem Reap)
  • Jordan (GMT+2)  (3.5 hours earlier than India)
  • Giza  (GMT+2)  (same time as Jordan)
  • Madrid   (GMT+1)  (one hour earlier than Egypt)
  • Peru  (GMT-5) (6 hours earlier than Madrid; Peru is the same time as Eastern Standard Time and one hour earlier than Eastern Daylight Time)

We will advise you on some methods to lessen jet lag as much as possible before the journey!

About the Food

What if I don’t like the local food?

Do I have to eat ‘weird’ things?

What about my food allergies?

Let’s face it–you gotta eat. However, culinary experiences while traveling are more than just a necessity; they’re another avenue to learn and appreciate your environment.  In fact, American Culinary Traveler found that the percentage of U.S. leisure travelers who seek to learn about unique dining experiences on their travels rose from 40% in 2006 to 51% in 2013.

A 2012 World Tourism Organization report found that over 88% of survey respondents consider a destination’s cuisine to be an important part of that destination’s identity. It looks like we travel to EAT!  

Now to answer your questions:

If you’re not a big fan of a certain region’s cuisine, you’ll always be able to find a more familiar substitute (usually in the form of Italian food/pasta, sandwiches, pizza, and ubiquitous french fries). Even if you are loving the food in an area, you might still crave familiar comfort food and that is A-OK. We’ve had some of the best Italian food in the world in Southeast Asia! 

If you are interested in this trip, we’ll have a conversation that will include any food allergies or sensitivities. Generally speaking, all but the most severe allergies or austere preferences will not pose any problem.

And the biggie: do you have to eat weird things? There are two answers to this question:  1)  Of course not!  and 2) What do you consider weird? One of the things you’ll learn on this Around the World adventure is that cultural “norms” vary widely, especially in the kitchen. And besides, I know several people who would make a strong case that lima beans are weird (and they are, of course, wrong 😉 ). 

We don’t seek out bizarre foods “Fear Factor” style, but if an ingredient is a part of the actual local diet, we’ll often give it a try. If you are feeling adventurous, there are plenty of unique local specialties to try, from interesting fruits (mangosteen, rambutan, and the infamous durian) to insects and critters (tarantulas and grasshoppers) to regional meat favorites (guinea pig, snake, and alpaca).

Food on this tour is designed to be FUN and you’ll never feel pressured or judged for anything you choose to eat or not eat. But we’re happy to be providing an opportunity to try the best cuisine of each region! 

About the Weather (Temperature & Rainfall)

Why is the trip in October–November?

Temperature

This was a very intentional choice! When BJ made a grid of all of these great locations and charted the best times to visit according to temperature and rainy season, this was the magical time when all the weather stars aligned, so to speak.

Below is a table of the average highs and lows for each location during our time there (in Fahrenheit and Celsius). We’ve also included the historical record highs and lows to give you an idea of the most extreme conditions ever seen in that area during that timeframe.

There are some significant differences between the highest average highs and the lowest averages lows, so packing layers for this trip will make it easy to enjoy any weather we encounter. The lowest average temperature at night is in Beijing and Cusco (44°F). The average lows for the rest of the trip fall between 48 and 78°F.  The average highs run between 61 and 89°F.

Rainfall

We know Longfellow said, “Into each life some rain must fall,” but we try to minimize that prospect. We don’t expect any serious rain, but it is possible to catch a shower in Siem Reap, Rome, and Machu Picchu/Cusco. Nothing a handy travel umbrella or light shell jacket can’t handle!

For a more comprehensive weather view, including rainfall for the dates we will be there, please see this PDF.

Please see the table below for average lows and highs (middle columns), as well as records.

This table is best viewed on a laptop, computer, or tablet.

LocationRecord LowAverage LowAverage HighRecord High
Mutianyu/Beijing, China36°F (2°C)44°F (7°C)61°F (16°C)69°F (20.5°C)
Siem Reap, Cambodia74°F (23°C)78°F (25.5°C)86°F (30°C)89°F (32°C)
Agra, India60°F (15.5°C)65°F (18°C)89°F (31°C)93°F (34°C)
Petra, Jordan43°F (6°C)48°F (9°C)68°F (20°C)76°F (24.5°C)
Giza/Cairo59°F (15°C)64°F (18°C)80°F (27°C)88°F (31°C)
Rome, Italy40°F (4.5°C)50°F (10°C)64°F (18°C)71°F (22°C)
Machu Picchu56°F (13°C)60°F (15.5°C)78°F (25.5°C)84°F (29°C)
Cusco40°F (4.5°C)44°F (7°C)64°F (18°C)70°F (21°C)
Fitness Requirements

A 25-day journey takes a lot of stamina, but we’ve designed this trip specifically so that you can opt to have a rest day in each city (and of course, ALL activities are optional).

It will be a rare case that you will have to stand on your feet for extended periods of time. Even during our day tours of Angkor Wat and the Pyramids, you’ll have time to recharge in a vehicle as we travel from site to site. And even the Taj Mahal has benches for a quick rest! However, as a guideline, you’ll want to feel comfortable walking for 2-3 miles unassisted, over the course of the day. Again, it will most likely not happen that we will ever walk a straight 2 miles, but that is a safe guideline to follow if you are wondering about your fitness levels.

Many of these sites include stairs; as a guideline, please feel comfortable climbing 3-4 flights of stairs at a time (but at your own pace).

Many of these ancient sites, like Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, will have stone staircases hundreds of years old, and they will not always have consistent heights or handrails. The key here is to feel comfortable going at your own pace. 

If you intend on attending all offerings on the itinerary, you will be participating in 5-8 hours of activity each day (although that activity may just be a food tour where we are sitting in cafes and sampling the local fare; activity does not mean difficult physical activity, just that we are out of our accommodation and exploring).

The most physically demanding of the sites we explore will be Machu Picchu. We are not hiking the Inca Trail there; we will take the first bus up from Machu Picchu Pueblo at dawn, but we still have to walk uphill from the official entrance to the site itself (count on a ~15-minute walk up an incline or stairs).  How much you explore of the rest of the site (and how many stairs you conquer) is up to you.

Please see the “About the Altitude” tab on this page for more information about altitude on this trip (only experienced in Cusco, Peru). 

You may wish to bring an umbrella/parasol for our days exploring Angkor Wat, Agra, the Pyramids, and even city day tours, as being out in the sun can certainly cause fatigue. We’ll make sure there is always water available for you to refresh and recharge.

Passport & Visa Requirements

Passport

Your passport will need to be valid until at least May 12, 2021 (6 months from the end of the scheduled trip). In addition, you’ll need at least 8 blank pages in your passport to accommodate your visas and stamps and still allow for the 2 blank pages required upon arrival in Peru.

Visas

This information is for U.S. citizens only; please check your country’s own official government website for details or the official country links below.

You will be responsible for paying for some of your visas on this trip. You will have ~$161 in visa fees you are responsible for along the way.

The only visa you will need to apply for beforehand if your Indian visa and your Cambodia visa. We will advise you on how to apply for the Indian e-Tourist Visa on Arrival and the Cambodia visa, in detail. 

In summary (all prices in USD): 

*Note on the India Visa: A 60-day eTourist visa for India currently costs $100. For those guests that think they will return to India even once in the next ten years, it may be worth it to consider a ten-year visa from Cox & Kings, which is approximately $190. We can discuss this more with you after registration. 

About the Altitude

Almost all of our locations are at or around sea level (or well below sea level, in the case of the Dead Sea at 1,412 feet / 430 meters below sea level!) Petra rests at 2,670 feet (810 m) which should pose no issue.

Your first encounter with altitude will be in Peru. We land in Cusco (a short flight from Lima) and drive immediately toward our train to Machu Picchu. Our hotel in Machu Picchu Pueblo is at 6,700 feet (2050 m), while the ruins themselves are at 7,800 feet (2375 m). We intentionally leave Cusco and immediately drive to a lower altitude to adjust.

Cusco poses the highest overnight stay, at 11,150 feet (3400 m). After Machu Picchu, we’ll be arriving in Cusco in the late afternoon (November 10). On November 11 we’ll take an easy tour around some Cusco sites and enjoy our farewell dinner.

Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to worsen at high altitude, so it is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your physician. Certain medications are reported to aid acclimatizing to high altitude; please discuss these options with your doctor or a local travel physician.

*All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. 

About Vaccinations & Malaria

About Vaccinations

There are no required vaccines on this trip. However, the CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date on their routine vaccinations. Please consult the CDC’s recommendations (or your nation’s equivalent) and confer with your physician or local travel doctor to make the best decision for yourself.

Here are links to CDC recommendations for:

We are also big fans of the Scottish NHS site’s recommendations (click here).

 

About Malaria

There is no vaccine for malaria, zika, or other mosquito-borne diseases, like dengue. We encourage the prevention of mosquito bites as the best solution, through the use of insect repellent and wearing long sleeves/pants at dusk and dawn. We are traveling during every country’s relatively dry season, so we do not expect mosquitos to be a problem. However, you must consult with your physician or local travel doctor to do what feels best for you.

Here are links to the Scottish NHS’s malaria maps of each country. We find them to be an excellent visual resource. You’ll find that our trip locations are all in the “low to no risk” sections”:

 

About the Hotels

We will be staying at 4 to 5-star hotels throughout this trip. All hotels have hot water, wifi, and attached bathrooms with western-style toilets. All hotels in the warmer climates will have air-conditioning.

Here is a list of the hotels we are scheduled to stay in on our journey:

About Carbon Offsetting

The jet set life can take a toll on the environment (well, even daily life at home takes its toll!)  Each flight we take emits CO2 into the atmosphere, but luckily there are ways to mitigate that effect.

We have chosen to partner with Carbonfund.org, whose motto is “Reduce what you can, offset what you can’t.”™  In a nutshell, we tell Carbonfund.org how many miles we are all covering (including to Beijing and from Cusco) and they figure out how many pounds of CO2 that travel creates (air travel and ground transportation).

Then, they take our donation and fund projects around the world to offset that amount of carbon, from the Truck Stop Electrification Project which reduces tailpipe emissions from freight trucks, to supporting wind power and hydroelectric facilities and reforestation projects around the world. You can read more about their current projects here.

Carbonfund.org has a great FAQ if you’re looking for more information.

We chose Carbonfund.org because of their Third-party Quality Assurance Protocol.

Packing List & Luggage Suggestion

Coming soon!

About Travel Insurance

We require that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation. 

We highly suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip. However, we do not require this coverage, as we understand it can increase premiums dramatically. Please familiarize yourself with our Around the World journey guest cancellation policy (found in the contract). 

Below you will find some options to start your search. However, we ask that you carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.

Please see RetreaTours.com/travel-insurance for some ideas of where to start!

About Us

It’s nice to know who your traveling companions are, but even more important to know your trip organizers. After all, they are the ones who carefully craft your voyage based on firsthand experience and are largely responsible for the trip’s success and your enjoyment. That’s why we think it’s important for you to understand that RetreaTours is at heart a two-person operation, created with love and skill by husband-and-wife team BJ Graf and Lauren Rathvon. 

You’ll be working with us personally every step of the way and we are only an email, text, or call away to answer any questions or concerns. We really do become like family, even before the journey technically begins!

While we are supported in every destination by a hand-selected team of awesome locals, we are the ones who put our heart and soul into making these experiences come alive for you from the trip’s inception to completion. If you’d like to get to know us personally a bit better, please take a click over here. If you’re more interested in the origins and the “abouts” of the company, click over here.

Our Mission: We create itineraries that are authentic, accessible, and affecting. We craft each trip to maximize the greatest good for the greatest number, including our guests, our partners, and the local community.

Photo Album

Please click a photo to see an enlarged version; you can use your arrow keys or mouse to navigate within the album. All photos here have been taken by BJ or Lauren during their travels, unless noted otherwise.

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