Choosing Accommodations

I still have a little over five months before I leave on my RTW, and yet I’m already encountering my first great challenge in traveling as an introvert: deciding where to sleep.

While it’s obviously far too early for me to make specific selections for each city I’m in, it is smart to start thinking about what kind of accommodations I want to look for as I travel. Dirt cheap dorm rooms and Couchsurfing may be the easiest on the wallet, but variety is the spice of life, and as an introvert, hopping from one hyper-social environment to the next would burn me out fast.

So I need a plan in place for striking a balance. Where I stay will depend largely on how long I’ve been traveling, how long I plan to be in town, and, of course, my budget.

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Choosing Travel Tech

Deciding what electronics to take on the road is one of the most complicated pieces of the packing process. Since I plan on working while traveling, I’m in the position of having to balance quality and functionality with cost, size, and weight.

The phone

Pretty much every long-term traveler is going to keep a smartphone with them on the road.

I’m not exactly a luddite, but I can definitely be a bit of an iconoclast. I was convinced for a long time that I would be the last American with a flip phone. I don’t need my phone to play games and take pictures and tell me every time someone spreads misinformation on Facebook. My little Samsung flip phone lasted me through all four years of college and three more after that. So you better believe that when I finally came around to the whole smartphone thing, I got another Samsung.

My Galaxy S3 isn’t the newest or fanciest, but it meets my needs, and if I can transfer it from my Ntelos family plan to an individual T-Mobile plan, all the better. T-Mobile may not be the best network in the States, but it’s apparently a great choice for travelers as they offer a comprehensive international plan at a low monthly cost. More on that later.

The bottom line: an unlocked smartphone is a must-have and I will trust Samsung until the day I die.

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Getting Insured

Confession time: today was the first time I bought travel insurance. Ever. I’m not sure I even realized it was a thing, much less an important one until I started learning about long-term travel a couple years ago.

Like choosing my backpack, choosing travel insurance proved easier than expected. I’ve heard enough rave reviews from trustworthy sources about World Nomads insurance that I feel 100% comfortable setting aside about 5% of my budget for their basic package.

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How I Chose My Backpack

When I first published my RTW packing list as part of the Indie Travel Challenge, I got a lot of questions about my backpack. Some people can’t believe I’m planning to travel without a suitcase.

Fact is, up until now I’ve always traveled with a checked suitcase and a separate carry-on, but since converting to the leagues of backpackers worldwide as part of my RTW planning, I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

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My Pre-Trip Checklist

I just completed the forms to renew my passport – the first official concrete step to taking my RTW in July.

I spent an hour or two last weekend breaking down everything I need to do to make this trip happen step by step, week by week.

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Getting Immunized

When I was about to embark on my first trip overseas, spending a week and a half in France, my dad, who had lived in Thailand as a child, asked what immunizations I would need. He got a confused blink or two before the response, “Um, none… It’s France.”

Much like complicated visa wrangling, getting special shots for my RTW trip will be a new experience, and if I want to move my trip up to this July, I need to get a plan in place now.

The CDC has a pretty comprehensive section of its website dedicated to travel health, but which of their recommendations I follow is a judgment call.

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Staying Motivated

Travel planning is definitely an all-consuming pastime, and there are plenty of people who get burnt out on it. Personally, I never get sick of the research side of things – travel planning is honestly one of my favorite things to do – but I experienced a different kind of ennui.

A few serendipitous turns have put my savings account in a much healthier state than I thought it would be, so fortunately, I can move my trip up from 2018 to this year. (Yay! And also yikes!)

But before that fell into place, I had years stretching in front of me with no vacations or big trips in sight. I tried seeking out another job, where I wouldn’t feel that urge to escape, but I’m too honest for my own good and also live in a small American town where career breaks are completely unheard of so every potential employer I’ve spoken to has balked at the thought of a new hire not being in for the next five-plus years. Even travel companies. Even with the possibility of that time away being a true sabbatical.

So how do I keep from getting super frustrated with my RTW planning process? Mini-breaks.

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My RTW Visa Plan

Ah, visas. Probably the least sexy part of a long-term trip (or any trip, for that matter). Even I, in all my train-loving, unexpected-turns-relishing, airport-not-minding weirdness, have trouble getting into this part of travel planning.

Visa laws are just so complex and widely varied, there’s not one easy-to-use resource for them. For American citizens like me, the U.S. Department of State’s website is a good start, but the information on each country-specific page varies just enough that you have to pay really close attention during your research to make sure you understand everything, and you probably still will need to consult a few outside resources to fill in any gaps.

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Putting the Pieces Together

Deciding where to go when has been one of the biggest challenges of my RTW planning process because it means getting past my perfectionism and setting priorities.

Priority One: Housing

I have never had any question that I will need to leave in July. Much as I love my apartment, I don’t want to try and sublet it. I’ve had to give up great apartments in the past because it was too hard to find somebody to sign the lease with me. I’m not going through that again. So this is the biggest constraint on the timing of my trip.

Priority Two: Four months, three continents

I pretty quickly determined I want to have three legs to my trip, with four months in Europe, four months in Asia, and four months in South America. At least once per leg, I will slow down and spend 3-4 weeks in a single destination.

Priority Three: Machu Picchu

My bucket list is at least 10 miles long, but far and away the most important thing on it is hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I absolutely want to make sure I do that at the best time of year possible, which many agree is April or May – South America’s fall. This means that South America will definitely be the third leg of my trip, from March through June.

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