For the vast majority of my RTW planning, spending a month in Istanbul has been one of my biggest safety worries. That concern was slightly mitigated by the fact that ISIS activity was primarily in other regions of Turkey. Keeping an eye on the news and state department warnings would be enough to assess the capital’s safety, and if I felt uncomfortable as October approached, I would simply re-route to avoid the risk of a terrorist attack.
In the wake of a springtime terrorist attack on Brussels, however, I couldn’t help feeling naive. Reading the news and making a judgment call on a single city in my year-long itinerary isn’t enough. Because nothing is enough. Terrorism is a worldwide threat. Did anyone in Brussels expect to be caught in that nightmare? Of course not. No one ever could. Days like this will always catch us by surprise, on some level.
So what do we do? What do I do, when nowhere in the world is safe and I still can’t wait to be out in that world?
I’ve spent months refining my RTW packing list. Back in September, I used the prize money from a photography contest to stock up on the essentials, but thanks to the generosity of friends and relatives and a few fortunate turns in my budget, a lot of items on my backpacking B-list (stuff I’d love to have with me but don’t necessarily need) have been fulfilled. And I’ve also now had time to do packing test runs and think more about what I really want to take on the road.
So how has my RTW packing list changed?
While I’ve alluded to various aspects of my RTW budget during my trip planning, like what I’ll spend on flights and how I’ll save, it occurred to me that I’ve never broken down my full plan. And it’s best to stay accountable, no? So read on for how I’ll travel all year with less than $25,000.
This week is an important milestone in my RTW trip planning: I bought a one-way plane ticket. (And it was under budget, to boot!)
With my departure now secured, those milestones will only become more numerous and more frequent. It will be easy for me to stay motivated. But when I first learned about long-term travel, it was a few years that stood between me and that dream, not a few months. Motivation was a little harder to come by. The typical travel blog platitudes designed to sell e-books and blogging courses never really resonated with me. Vagabonding did.
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 example of eating healthy 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 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.
Getting my decidedly Type A mother on board with a year’s worth of RTW travel was 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 while and installment #2 – largely about staying safe and healthy – rolled around a few weeks later.
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: choosing accommodations. Where to sleep is a tricky balancing act when you’re both broke and private.
It’s obviously far too early for me to make specific selections for each city I’m in. But 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. Then again, variety is the spice of life. Plus, 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 on how long I’ve been traveling, the length of my stay, and, of course, my budget.