Many moons ago, a former boss returned from a family vacation with tales of kids who craved salads for dinner and inhaled celery sticks and sugar snap peas by the gallon at snacktime. They had spent an entire week indulging themselves with meals out to the point that they wanted something fresh, healthy, and homemade. Consider that one of those “Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten” moments.
If a six-year-old can crave green things after just a week, I probably will too.
As my location changes during my RTW trip, so will my budget, so I’ll need to have a really strong plan in place and to set aside time for managing my finances responsibly.
I currently use Mint to keep all my transactions recorded in one place, and I honestly can’t believe it’s a free tool. This is totally something that other companies would charge a monthly fee for. But the budget categories I have set at home like rent, groceries, and utilities won’t transfer to traveling, so I need to give some careful thought to how I’ll adjust them.
I like to joke about being a weird enough person that I actually enjoy the more mundane aspects of travel: packing, going to the airport, taking a long flight… all those tiny pieces of the logistical puzzle that everybody else can’t seem to hate enough. To me it’s all part of the bigger travel picture and that’s enough to make it wonderful in my eyes. As Robert Louis Stevenson says in my favorite travel quote of all time, “The great affair is to move.”
But I all too often forget that the excitement and wonder of travel don’t hit others, especially first-time tourists, until they’re at that perfect postcard view that first inspired them to leave behind the comforts of home. The giddy anticipation of being somewhere new is too clouded by the uncertainty and discomfort of the less fun bits.
And even more often, I forget how lucky I am to have had the luxury of traveling young. My first several plane rides were all taken in high school and college with the safety net of accompanying family and friends, so by the time I started traveling more independently, I knew what I was doing. So having a young friend ask questions about her first time flying alone was just the kick in the pants I needed.
For anyone else embarking on their first solo flight, this is the advice I had for her:
Getting my decidedly Type A mother on board with a year’s worth of travel is practically a 12-step program. After about six months of dropping hints that long-term travel interested me and another year having it be something vaguely on the horizon, we were only around step 3. So when I decided to move my departure up from 2017-18 to this July, she did her best Redd Foxx impersonation and got a lot more serious about having dedicated time for us to talk about my plans.
Installment #1 went well and mostly focused on explaining why this is something I want to do, how I decided to leave sooner than originally planned, and where I’m going. That was enough to chew on for a few weeks and installment #2 – largely about staying safe and healthy – rolled around about a week ago.
As Mom sat perched at the head of her dining room table with a notepad full of earnest if anxiety-rich questions and freshly dug Internet horror stories, she glanced over to my decidedly Type B father sunk into a leather couch, legs crossed, iPhone in hand. “I like how your dad’s over there, not even concerned,” Mom half-heartedly quipped. Dad’s voice wavered up from the living room, “I’m concerned…”
His big question: What’s Plan B? He can recite my planned itinerary by heart. But where are the points where my itinerary might change?
One of the hardest pieces of my RTW will be leaving behind a serious boyfriend and trying to make the long distance game work. But to help keep things light and make sure my getting ready to go is as enjoyable for him as it is for me, we finally sat down this weekend and distilled all our passing “We should do that sometime soon” comments from the past several months into a Charlottesville bucket list. It’s a mix of local must-dos, recently opened joints I have yet to hit, and a few special nights in. It’s going to be a busy five months!
When I met a friend at a recently opened beer garden last month, I wound up having my patience tested by a new acquaintance. You know the type – the photographer so obsessed with his own work, he can’t fathom anyone being less than enraptured with it. The guy who, in defending the corporate whitewashing of the world, decides to explain how time works to you, every word dripping with condescension. The guy whose arrogance knows so few bounds, he would probably never admit to not knowing something.
So imagine my surprise when he returned from the bar to catch our friend asking me about my travel plans and said, “Round-the-world? What does that mean?”
I blinked, shocked that not only did he ask a question about another human being, but that the question he chose would have such an obvious answer. It means you go around the world. Make a complete circumnavigation of the globe. Magellan-style, though perhaps without the weeks on a ship and threat of scurvy.
That unlikely question rammed home to me what foreign concepts long-term travel and career breaks are in the U.S. Had this gentleman been able to sustain a conversation about someone else for more than five seconds, he probably would have gone on to question what such a thing would do to my career.
How can you leave the professional world for an extended time and not suffer for it?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.