Tag Archives: packing

Big Trip Weekly Status Update – Three Weeks Left

Packing

  • Kept buying more stuff, but haven’t yet had a chance to re-pack after the first time I did it two weeks ago and noticed MOST of my clothes took up 3/4 of the space already.
  • Two purchases arrived that I’m excited about: 1) a old-school digital watch that I will use mainly to tell time without taking out my phone in public and to wake me up, again without leaving my phone out while I’m unconscious. I’ve started wearing it to get used to having something on my wrist and also to test-drive it. And 2) a tiny little indulgent purchase, the Joby tripod adapter for my phone for photographing the aurora (or try to at list). It’s very lightweight and folds flat.
  • Travel/Hostel sheets arrived. I’ve been testing it on my own bed for past few nights. Very thin (almost too thin) but still warm (my room’s warm anyway, though).
  • Finally bought my daypack…s. I got the packable version and a theft-proof version. I honestly can’t decide, partly because I don’t know if I have room for the larger theft-proof version. I’m going to decide near the very end and return the other one.
  • Started reading up on money and currencies. Let’s just say there are a lot of currencies.

Accommodations

  • Finally started going through the cities and booking places to stay. So far, I’ve only done Johannesburg and half of Lima. It’s still somewhat difficult to decide the hostel that’s right for me when I’ve never stayed in a hostel before. At this point, I’m relying a lot on reviews, and there always seems to be something negative said about each hostel. It is what it is.
  • What I realized that I also need to do is arrange airport transfers to and from the hostels. Having traveled in the US, I feel lucky to rely on public transportation or different types of private transport services. But when I go to a foreign land, airport transfer services are really useful, and I get why it’s important now!
  • So right now, for the first fourteen nights of my trip, I know where I will sleep for twelve of them. Progress.

Digital Preparation

  • I started setting up my devices and apps for traveling. Cleaned out a bunch of space on my devices and my Dropbox and downloaded the apps that people recommend.
  • WikiSherpa/Wikivoyage, while super basic, has been really useful. And it can be used offline once you downloaded the pages for the city!
  • Word Lens is also really cool. It’s the one where you aim the camera at a sign in a foreign language and it translates it for you. It was featured on an Apple commercial but was recently bought by Google. And I think that’s why they offered all the language packs for free “for a limited time” whatever that means. So I downloaded all the languages and tested out French both ways. It works pretty well.

Logistics

  • Submitted my application for Chinese visa this past week. The process was much more efficient than I thought. Just a lot of prep work. So once I get that visa, I can technically travel all the way around the world.

Languages

  • I forgot to mention in the past two weeks because it’s been such a passive activity now for the past five months. I’m reviewing all six languages that I will be trying to speak on the trip. I had planned to review 10 lessons from each language over six weeks, and I will be starting week five. With every lesson review, I realize how much I forget. Let’s hope I can get by.

Next Week

  • One thing I’m still really concerned about is my luggage, especially when I still haven’t gotten everything I “need” for the trip and my luggage is probably full. So I really need to do another packing test and make some tough calls on what to and not to bring.
  • Accommodations. Gotta get those booked, at least most of them, something at the start of each city.

(18 days. WHAT?!)

(The sun just had a giant solar storm and triggered really strong aurora borealis that even northern US can see. I’m sort of jealous. Hopefully there’s some residual material leftover in the next month so I can see it in a little over a month.)

Big Trip Weekly Status Update – Five Weeks Left

Ever since my “Advanced To-Do List” where I consolidated all my tasks into one, I had gotten a little more productive. Also, having a three-day weekend helped as well. I had made copies to most of my important documents. I had just went out and bought a bunch of things I had been putting off in “research mode,” including the two pairs of shoes I planned on wearing that need to be broken into and could not wait until the last minute to be purchased. And I have officially started packing.

The okay news is that I started test-packing my clothes, and it already took up 3/4 of the only luggage (carry-on size) that I plan to bring, and I haven’t finished getting the clothes I’d like to get, but that means I have to make cuts already. The good news is that I have a month to figure out what to cut. With all the other stuff I’m packing, I’ve divided them into categories of how frequent I need them so I can group things accordingly. Everything’s laid out, so it’s hard to tell if they will all fit. But something tells me I’m going to have to make cuts in that department as well.

The outstanding items on my Advanced To-Do List (basically just a spreadsheet of tasks with dates and priorities) that are heavy on my mind right now are booking places to stay, getting my Chinese visa (which requires me having a reservation at wherever I’m staying), and getting tickets for the events and tours that this trip was planned around. I made good progress this past weekend, but I have a slate of other things that I’ve scheduled myself to complete this week as well. One thing I’ve learned about this whole experience this year is that planning something this big pretty much occupies my life where any spare time I have is devoted to it, meaning my social calendar has to compromise. But I still try to find a balance when I can.

I also just rewatched A Map for Saturday. It’s given me stronger feelings about what I had already felt. The fact that the travelers’ lives both change and didn’t change is interesting, and it’s good to know how I would feel after the trip and what I should expect.

Based on my notes, I watched it just under four months ago. Defeatedly, it doesn’t feel like that long ago, and it also doesn’t feel like I’ve progressed much with my planning. The only major things I’ve done are buy my remaining plane tickets, booked the two major tours I’m taking, bought the clothes I was going to wear, and made a visit to the travel clinic to make sure I’m taken care off health-wise. They felt like such major tasks at the time, but now they’re just things I had to do and didn’t think much of it. Finding a place to stay or being able to legally enter a country are clearly important to me right now, but I’m sure once they’re done, they’re also just things I had to do. I don’t know how I feel yet about this experience in particular. Maybe it has to do with how I’m always chasing the next thing and it’s difficult to stay satisfied.

(31 days until start of trip.)

(19 work days left.)

(iPhone 6 coming out in a week… and maybe more. I wish they could say more. 🙂 )

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!)