Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I am now in Singapore and it has been almost five months since I departed from Spain to start my trip around the world and many people keep asking me: How did you plan it?, where did you buy the plane tickets?, how did you pack? what places have you visited? Well, I think it is time to answer all these questions and evaluate how this journey is going.

First of all, in my case I always had this crave for travelling, and for the past 8 years or so I had been fantasizing about doing a world trip. However, I always imagined travelling with someone else. Nevertheless, one thing I have to confess is that the best part of this experience has been to do it on my own. Travelling alone I have total freedom to go where I exactly want to go, I mingle with all kinds of people, I keep my eyes and my spirit open to everything that surrounds me, but mainly, I am able to listen to myself, to let this trip penetrate my inner soul. Therefore, once you have a desire to travel and you set up your mind, you have to start finding a way to set yourself free from daily responsibilities such as a regular job, a house, pets, plants. To travel alone you need to be able to say good bye to family members and friends, to figure out what to do with your furniture and your car, to find a way to declare your taxes when you are abroad, and, in my case, to have a plan in mind to keep on going with my life after the end of the trip. Here are some of the steps I followed:

  1. I decided I needed to quit my job, so I calculated my savings, worked some summers to get more money, and chose the best date for me to announce it to my boss and to put my two weeks notice. I am a teacher, so I chose to leave after the first semester of school had ended, right on December 2013.
  2. Fortunately I was renting an apartment, and when it was time to renew my lease, I told them I would be leaving at the end of December. This was a very easy task. The difficulty came when I had to think of my belongings: car, furniture, clothes, books, cooking ware… It took me a while, but I found a moving company and the perfect storage building by my house where I settled a prepayment of six months with a monthly renewal charged to my credit card. My furniture would be safe and my payments would be automatically withdrawn from my account. As for the car, I didn’t want to sell it, so I lent it to a friend of mine who would be driving it under her own insurance and taking care of it until my return.
  3. I joined an international organization called internations.org, where I met people from all over the world who gave me travelling tips and good advice about places to go or not to go. This online group plans events in many important cities worldwide, so almost everywhere I would be travelling I could always join their activities and be part of a trustworthy group of people, no matter which country I would be in.
  4. I booked my flights taking advantage of the good price of a round-the-world ticket. You can purchase it through oneworld.com or staralliance.com. They come with some restrictions, as number of maximum miles you can travel, number of stopovers, and the rule of always following East bound or West bound directions. You can book online and they present you the map of the world so you have a great visual of your journey. Although you have to set specific dates at first to book your trip, you can change these dates later on, during your journey, free of charge. I booked my ticket with Star Alliance and the changes have been very easy to make, just a quick phone call and excellent customer service. Regarding prices, it could vary from US$ 5,000-8,000 total. I paid around US$ 7,000 to visit 12 countries in 5 continents.
  5. I talked to my banks to make sure they knew about my trip and they wouldn’t cancel my credit and debit cards. To know more about the best way to get cash and pay for your journey expenses along the way, refer to my blog entry from December 11, 2013 (Risky business: money, money, money) where I talk extensively about it.
  6. I decided to come up with a potential plan on what to do once the trip was over. I knew even though I loved my job I didn’t want to get back to it, so before I left town I applied for a posgrade college degree. I told myself I could always change my mind later on, but I wanted to have something to look forward to doing upon my return.
  7. Packing is very personal. It depends on the countries you are going to visit and the weather. I chose for the most part to follow hot temperatures and dry seasons, although I had to include a raincoat and a sweatshirt, just in case. My best advice is to make sure you have a good backpack and a light and small sleeping bag. Everything else (and I mean everything else: medicines, clothes, toiletries, shoes, towels, books, phones, cameras, etc.) can be bought during your trip, and probably cheaper than home. I wanted my backpack to be light and easy to pack, so I chose one which opens as a duffle bag and can be turned into a sports bag for easier flight check-in (see picture 1). As for the sleeping bag, right now you can buy some good ones that fit in a very small area and weight no more than 500grams  (see pictures 2 and 3). Many hostels will offer bedlinen, but carrying a sleeping bag will never hurt you.
  8. Some countries will not let you in unless you present proof of some vaccinations such as the yellow fever to enter India if coming from South America. I am not very fond of needles, but I recommend you to get at least your tetanus and your hepatitis A and B shots and to do some research on your own if you want to visit some remote places. A good reference page is passporthealth.com. I met many travellers who didn’t care much about immunizations nor health insurance, but you can always get a cheap annual traveller’s insurance online. I bought mine through AXA. By the way, if you are planning on doing some temporary work or volunteer work while travelling, some companies will require you to present proof of insurance.
  9.  Paperwork is always boring, but you need to make sure you have your passport in good standing, with enough free pages, and that you apply in advance for visas required by the countries you plan to visit (getting my Indian visa wasn’t easy and took me a couple of months and some headaches, so do not let this for the very last minute. Plan ahead). Also, try to be informed about any safety issues affecting the places you want to visit. I have never felt threaten nor unsafe using public transportation or walking by myself in any country (from Guatemala, to Brazil, or Malaysia), but you always need to use good judgement like avoiding conflicting places and dark allies at night. I recommend you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and keep an eye on the news and the International Travel Warnings given by your Embassy or Consulate. But please, do not feel discouraged by the news. The world is a much safer place than the TV wants us to believe. Everybody everywhere will try to help you. In my travels I have encountered the best people in the poorest countries.
  10. Select your destinations wisely. Follow your heart and your own wishes. Do not visit what everybody else visits nor go where others tell you to go. This is your trip. Have fun designing it, imagining it, and living it. It is normal to be nervous at first. It always helps to speak at least a couple of languages, like English and Spanish, but it is not absolutely necessary. Keep an open mind and ask locals for help. To find affordable places to stay, use hostel accommodations or try couch surfing and airbnb. to help your budget. Booking.com and lonely planet were great tools to book my hostels on the go. Finding volunteering opportunities will also help you save money in lodging and food expenses at the same time that you help others and get immersed in the real life of real people living in that place. I started my trip volunteering at a school/orphanage in Guatemala (Casa-Guatemala.org) and I cannot find a better way to begin a world trip journey.

These were the 10 steps I followed and, after 5 months of travelling, I have never regretted quitting my job nor initiating this fascinating adventure. I haven’t felt lonely nor in danger. I have not been robbed nor attacked. I have met pretty amazing people and I have learned about the world first hand. I assure you it is much better than you think. So, go ahead, find the way, book your one way ticket somewhere, get in a bus, or buy a round-the-world fare. Whatever you do, do not deny yourself the joy of travelling.

Picture 1: OSPREY backpack

Picture 2. Sleeping bag

Picture 3 -- Sleeping bag ready to pack

Picture 3 — Sleeping bag ready to pack

Advertisements