I look to other blogs and stories and narratives of reaching for the stars and redefining their new normal, all of this I do for almost a year and half, building up the guts and the courage to put my feet where my mouth is and do this thang!
Diving into this virtual world of similarly-minded people and families–oh, yes, this type of journeying applies to parents with children, too, even those with pets–I rediscover that yes, indeed, where there is a will, there is a way, and so, the plan slowly forms to tangible tidbits, and now, the pennies I put aside have a purpose.
For a year-and-half, every purchase goes through the filter–do I want to spend $5 on a mocha here or do I want to save it for a hostel in Laos?–and my rainy day fund grows, grows, grows. I tell myself that once I reach $20,000, I can start actual implementation, and I hit the mark February 2012.
Wow, it is for reals now, and the next three months kick-start a cascade of to-dos, like–
– Pausing my student loan payments via income-based options
– Purchasing iPad and loading it with music and photos of my loves to keep me company
– Establishing a forwarding address
– Packing and storing all of my belongings
– Setting aside re-entry funds
– Getting my financial house in order, like IRA payments, pet payments, etc.
– Signing up for a reward-based credit card to be used as my primary mode of payment
– Making an emergency flash drive with ICE and allergy information and vitals
– Emailing copies of relevant documents to family
– Research plane fare and itinerary
– Apply for visas
– Rounding out my pack list with things like memory cards, batteries, stuff sacks
– Quitting my job and setting up my co-workers for an easier transition
– Securing travel vaccinations, updated shots, travel meds: yellow fever, polio booster, tetanus …
– Creating two blogs: one as a travel journal, another as an online resume to make it easier to re-transition into the working world
– Establishing communication channels with family and friends: Skype, FaceTime, Tango
– Farewell shindig
Before I know it, my d-day arrives, and it’s time to put the wheels in actual motion. By now, I have RTW ticket purchased, a healthy budget and all the material goods a girl could need. And, it’s off!
Now, back from this whirlwind, here are a few words of planning advice to share-
– RTW ticket: I go with OneWorld (the other choice is Star Alliance), and for almost $7,000, I go to Asia, Europe, Africa and South America. Not only does it cost a bit less than purchasing single segments, the customer service is outstanding–I have a direct number, and using my flight record digits, I manipulate my ticket as often as I want, all for only $125 per change occurrence, whether that’s for 10 changes or 1.
– Budget: The Interwebs suggest roughly $20,000 for such a journey, and including airfare, I end up racking up a piggy bank of almost $25,000. You can totally do it on this budget, but know that it is a shoestring, hosteling, cheap-sleeping price point budget. After taking out starting expenses, I depart with roughly $1000 per month of play money, and while that largely suffices in Asia, it’s piddly in Africa, undoable in Europe, and a hard stretch in South America. Doable, but only if know yourself a penny-pincher.
– Duration: Go for at least six months, if you can swing it, and then up to however long you have the tenacity for … it’s amazing what disconnection and reintegration with yourself does.
– Camping and backpacking: The skills I find the most useful and transferable to RTW traveling are camping and backpacking. Knowing how to handle primitive living situations and campfire cooking and eating go a long way for handling many of the conditions in which you will find yourself around the world.
– Openness: The best attitude to take is one of being open to what the journey brings because, no two always around it, the unexpected will happen, the planned will fall through, you will be swindled, people will be mean, you will cry and want to go home. Stay open to it all, see it only as a temporary set-back, maybe even an opportunity, and persevere. There’s a pot of gold at the end.
– Communication: I mostly communicate via my blog, which, in hindsight, is a tad too involved and demands a lot of maintenance. Nonetheless, my family and friends follow along, and now that it’s almost done, I have a ready-made scrapbook. Additionally, I try to make it a point to email, chat, call, whatnot because, well, I miss my loves.
– Itinerary: Go where you want to go and leave enough space to change your mind and explore other options. Once on ground, things change drastically–riots, holidays, storms, unavailable bus routes, etc.–and this type of travel is best if flexible and reactive to your new whims and discoveries. For me, I would have spent more time in Nepal and less in Europe, for instance.
– Downtime: You cannot be go, go, go all the time. Plan for an average cadence of three days touring, one day nothing. Each travel day is like living a thousand lives, and it is okay to sit in a coffee shop and just read. Or, sleep.
– Books and Journals: Although I use my iPad for most everything, I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to break from the screen and flip through a real book or write in a real journal. Not to mention, there will be countless times when it is simply unwise to break out expensive technology.
– Solo versus Partner: I enjoy the mix of solo traveling and traveling with a friend for the different experiences they afford. I plan to travel solo again in my lifetime. However, there are places in this world where I no longer want to go without being accompanied by another person, preferably a man. These are places still steeped in patriarchy and less respectful to women. It wears on you, and I find I have nothing to prove; on the contrary, traveling with my mate makes it comfortable and more enjoyable.
– Things: Don’t bring anything you aren’t prepared to either lose or have stolen. Really, no one looks like a princess or cares that you wear the same pants for two weeks or that your hair is slicked back to ward off humidity and lack of adequate showers. Less is more.
– Photo and document back-ups: Have a plan for how you will safeguard your photos and access the vitals, like copies of your passport and credit cards.
– Credit cards: I prefer charging a maximum to earn points, secure my finances and keep my liquid funds available. Having said that, it turns out that one of my cards is literally point-less, so I rack up dollars with no rewards! Bummer. Research your cards.
– Cash: This will be the currency of choice around most of the world, not credit cards, so plan to have enough cash money on hand. ATMs are plentiful although not always functioning, so make sure your fees are reimbursable and that you have funds on hand.
– Planning: I opt to plan on site for reactivity and flexibility, but the flip side is that it takes time out of your trip, typically a whole afternoon, if not longer. To do over, I would plan a bit more from afar, if only to download more e-guidebooks to my iPad.
– Objectives: Set a goal for each area of the world, whether it is for cultural exploration, fun, animal adventures, nature, what-not. This way, you stay focused and directed. You can’t do it all, so instead, do less but more thoroughly.
– Guidebooks: They are heavy, so don’t weigh yourself down with the paper copies. WikiTravel and WikiPedia and TripAdvisor and Bookings and HostelWorld, in addition to a robust travel app, are all excellent resources, as well as free maps from local tourism offices.