Monthly Archives: June 2014

100 Days Before the (Little/First) Big Trip

I think I’ve covered a lot of my progress in a recent post, but here’s a quick recap of what I’ve done and what I still have to do.

What I’ve done

  • Flight
    • Booked the main part of my flights
  • Logistics
    • Bought travel insurance
  • Languages
    • Learned introductory Italian
    • Learned introductory Japanese
    • Learned 5/6 of introductory Spanish

What I still have to do

  • Flight
    • Book the two remaining flights (first and last leg)
  • Languages
    • Finish learning introductory Spanish
    • Learn introductory Norwegian
    • Refersh/Learn introductory Mandarin
    • Review all languages
  • Activities
    • Make reservation for Machu Picchu tour
    • Make reservation for Safari tour
  • Accommodations
    • Make reservations at hostels and places to stay
  • Packing
    • Get travel-friendly cltohes
    • Get travel gear
  • Health
    • Get necessary immunization and medication
  • Logistics
    • Get Chinese visa
    • Find out if I really need a visa for transit through Brazil
  • Destination research
    • Prepare a list of things I must do and I could do at each destination

As I may have mentioned before, work has been busy and I rarely have time during the week to plan, and with the summer season, I also want to take advantage of the beautiful weekends and go outside. Still, I am glad to have this much time to think and plan, but I would be disappointed if I have to rush a lot or make sacrifices as it counts down to 20 days and 10 days, etc.

(100 days!)

(Greece edged out Côte d’Ivoire in the last few minutes to advance to the Knockout stage.)

Trip Planning Progress: Mid-June 2014

Flight and Travel Insurance

After booking my Round-the-World ticket (the first time), there was an issue with my credit card authorization process. I didn’t find out for about a week, and I had to do it again, calling the credit card company to make sure the previous reservation is not being paid for, and to let them know about a purchase that I was about to make.

But by the second time I made the reservation, the shorter set of flights from Lima to Johannesburg were sold out, and I had to take a longer route.

Soon after booking the trip the second time, I started shopping for travel insurance. The advice I got from the Internet for travel insurance is that everyone’s needs are different, so I should figure out my needs and prioritize based on that. In the end I decided to go with WorldNomads.

About a month after booking the trip, I was contacted by Star Alliance saying that I had duplicate bookings, and if I don’t cancel one of them, both would be canceled and I would be charged with cancellation fees. I was confused and a little upset that there are more problems with my reservation. In the end, the issue was resolved and I wasn’t charged any extra fees, but I still don’t understand the issue exactly, because I thought since my first reservation was not paid for, the transaction isn’t complete and therefore not a “duplicate” booking.

Moral of the story: If you want to book a round-the-world trip, call your credit card company that you’re about to make a big purchase and they should do everything they can to make it go through correctly. It’ll save a lot of headache.

Next tasks:
  • Book flights for the beginning and end of my trip (San Francisco to Albuquerque, Hawaii to San Francisco) because the round-the-world trip actually starts from Albuquerque and ends in Hawaii to keep me under the next distance/price tier.

Immunization, Visa

I looked up the CDC website and consolidated a list of shots I may need to get based on the places I’m going to. I think they’re pretty standard as far as traveling goes. I’m most concerned with malaria in South Africa, so I’m going to make sure to cover my bases there. And I’m going to make sure I have a good first-aid kit and medication if I get sick on the trip.

Regarding visas, I want to say the only place where I need a visa is China. There’s a lot of conflicting information regarding layovers in Brazil. I will be at the Sao Paulo airport for a few hours in the same terminal that houses the two airlines that I arrive in and depart from (I checked the airport map). I need to check with the airlines and the airport as it gets closer so I could have enough time to apply for a visa that I would only be using for a few hours.

Next tasks:
  • Make appointment to get immunizations two months before trip.
  • Contact airlines and airports regarding Brazil visa.

Accommodations

I looked into my options: hostels, AirBnB, couchsurfing, hotels. I looked into the whole couchsurfing culture and feel that it might be too limiting of an experience for me for this trip. I’m still open to AirBnB and hotels, and I think for China, since my visa will require me to submit the location of my stay, I’m going to be safe and book a hotel room. But for most of the trip, I think I’m going with hostels. I’ve never stayed at a hostel before, but I watched “A Map for Saturday” and realized the potential of staying at a hostel and meeting so many travelers.

Next tasks:
  • Make reservations for at least most of the 40+ nights that I’ll be spending.

Packing

About a month ago, I started looking up packing lists for traveling to my destinations. I logged the advice in a spreadsheet (as I have for so many other aspects of my trip), and consolidated them into one long list. Then I ranked them by necessity and whether I need to buy them. I’m still aiming to bring one carry on, and since I will be going to places of different weather, every item I put in my bag must be essential.

This is my current project. Specifically, I’m shopping for clothes. I realized that I pretty much can’t bring any of my cotton-based clothes. The advice is to wear lightweight, quick-drying, wrinkle-friendly, culturally blending clothes. So I’m looking at companies that make products for travel, like REI, Patagonia, and Icebreakers. The good news is that they have a lot of high-rated items that I like as well. The less good news is that they’re much higher than my price range for regular clothes. Nonetheless, I think they will be worth it.

Next tasks:
  • Shop and buy travel-optimized clothes
  • Shop and buy travel gear (day pack, security items, etc.)

Languages

I’ve been updating my progress on learning languages. Currently, I’m two-thirds way through first level of Spanish. Previously, I had done one level (30 half-hour lessons) of Italian and one level of Japanese. I review the previous languages once a week by going through one of the lessons, but I realize that I’m forgetting a good amount still. By the middle of each review, I could slowly pick up and remember some phrases, and speak at about the same pace as when I was learning it, but I wouldn’t be able to recall everything I learned.

Still, I think it is a really effective way for me to learn. I may not be able to carry on a full conversation with native speakers, but I believe I can put together basic phrases and short, simple sentences in common situations. I wish I had more time and learn more in each language so I could be more independent in my travels. But most travelers don’t learn the languages of the places they visit, and they survived, so I will too.

After my trip (meaning next year), I’d love to resume learning one of the languages, with the intent of returning to the country (or countries) that speak it, either to travel or to live for a short time. It’s a fantasy that I have right now, and I believe it’s very doable.

Next tasks:
  • Finish Spanish Level 1
  • Learn Norwegian Level 1
  • Learn/Brush up Mandarin Level 1
  • Review all languages

It is unbelievable that it’s already almost late June, and I have a little over three months (or 100 days!) before the trip. I had been busy at work, and I had been behind on planning this trip. I wanted to take care of the logistics of the trip early on (like by now) so I can spend the rest of the lead-up time to learn about places I could check out and the culture of my destinations. The things I have left to do are starting to create stress, though I am grateful that I still have this much time to prepare, and that it’s actually mostly fun planning and fantasizing as well, since I have a planner personality.

(103 days until start of trip)

(The World Cup is in full gear, England is eliminated yesterday, and the US’s fate is yet to be determined tomorrow when they play Portugal. Interesting that Germany and Ghana (who are in the same group as USA) tied)

(It’s the summer solstice!)

Spanish Progress 1-15

Word I just learned and kind of like: “demasiado”. It’s simple and long-ish. The other is “juntos”. So different but familiar.

Only in the past two lessons did I finally start feeling intuitive enough to think of words in Spanish without translating seconds before. The pronunciations of all the Rs and Ls from one word to the next is still hard.

Also, I’m starting to blend some really similar words into Italian. I’m also forgetting a little bit of the Italian as well. I do short reviews every week but I may need to review more as the trip gets closer. And it’s getting closer.

(107 days)

(There is some sort of situation in Iraq. Not very clear what exactly)

Spanish Progress 1-6

Favorite word to say: Bolivar
Hardest word to say: restaurante

So far, I’m taking Spanish somewhat casually. That may or may not contribute to my difficulty in “feeling” the language. It may be that this is the fourth language I’m going through and I’m getting very used to the progression of topics and words they are teaching at this point of the program.

Finished Japanese I

Just finished the Pimsleur Japanese I set of 30 half-hour lessons. I’ve enjoyed them, along with the French I and Italian I sets.

I’m realizing though, that this is still giving me very limited vocabularies at my destinations. Even though it’s better than nothing, for sure, and even though I’m going to be at these locations for 3-5 days only, I’ll most likely going to be alone with my English thoughts. And that is fine; that was my original expectations anyway.

But having seen “A Map for Saturday”, I’m expecting to meet people in hostels, but I feel obligated to still communicate in the local language and not just English. Being an introvert and having never stayed in a hostel, I do hope I’ll at least meet some people I can do activities with for even a short part of the trip.

(119 days left)

(It’s D-Day 70th anniversary)

Japanese Progress 1-27

あなたといっしょにいたいです。

As cheesy as that sounds, I sort of wish I will have real use for this utterance sometime this trip.

(Current trip planning status: assembling packing list, may start seriously looking at accommodations next)

(WWDC revealed a bunch of stuff. I may find good use of iOS 8’s new features during the trip.)

(121 days. 4 months!)