Tag Archives: visa

Big Trip Weekly Status Update – Two Weeks Left

This Week

  • Got my Chinese visa. So now I can legally do the entire trip.
  • Bought a few more things for my trip, mainly for security of my stuff.
  • Booked two more places I’m going to stay. Now I know where I will spend the first 16 nights, and 24 overall of my 45-day trip (I recounted: it’s 45 not 47 days), which is becoming more comforting.
  • Booked another tour: zip lining near Cusco.
  • Got some initial currencies for each country.
  • Rushingly signed up for an account with a debit/ATM card that offers no foreign transaction fee nor ATM fees. Still need to finish the process.
  • Started to test drive and practice living out of my luggage. Transformation isn’t complete yet, but it’s getting a little bothersome, partly because I have habits of using my regular stuff at home.

Next Week

  • Really need to book at least the majority of where I’m going to stay. That’ll make me feel much better about the state of my planning.
  • Get that debit card.
  • Get my emergency/contingency plan together.
  • Tying up loose ends for things that I’ve booked (arranging pick-ups, etc.)
  • Start prepping for “at home” tasks while I’m away (stop mail, pause subscriptions, etc.)

(11 days)

(Scotland is staying in the UK. After brief research, at least now I sort of understand the differences between England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom. It still confuses me though when I look up the “country” in a drop-down list, I had to look three times with mix results.)

Big Trip Weekly Status Update – Four Weeks Left

Lots of progress this weekend (and this week).

Packing

  • Still a lot of things I feel like I need to get, but my bag is practically full already. So I need to decide which will make the cut.
  • I did finally got the two pairs of shoes I’m bringing to the trip (one hike/walking and one nice/night out) that I have started breaking in.

Tours and Accommodations

These things kind of go hand-in-hand. I had to figure what I’m going to do at these destinations to figure out where I should stay. And some of these activities I’m purchasing tours for and they need to know where I’m staying so they can pick me up. I had already booked the Machu Picchu and safari trip, but they were multi-day and took care of accommodations.

So this weekend I’ve finally started looking at the three day trips that I needed to do: Get admission to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, going out to “chase” the Northern Lights and visiting the Great Wall. It’s also when I finally began relying on TripAdvisor, however confusing to navigate. After hours of shopping and agonizing over price and tour features, I’ve:

  • (Albuquerque) bought the tickets and confirmed an Airbnb request to stay near the event pickup/dropoff location
  • (Tromsø): booked a tour that should be a good deal and started looking at Airbnb spots near the pickup spot.
  • (Beijing): booked a tour for the Great Wall and reserved a spot at a hostel near city center and public transit.

If it wasn’t for my “Advanced To-Do List” I wouldn’t have been this organized to finally just suck it up and do it.

Flight Seats

I thought it was about time I select the seats on all my flights before all the good ones are taken. Well, the bad news is that because I made the reservation through the airline alliance and not individual airlines, I was only able to select seats for United and Lufthansa, which sort of heads the alliance. And also, I’m beginning to realize that more airlines are only allowing you to select your seats 1) if you pay extra, or 2) when you check-in. This is going to take more pre-planning and looking up Seatguru to make sure I get good enough seats for me to sleep on the longer flights. So for now, that’s almost everything I can do.

Next

This coming week, I have many things I need to tackle:

  • Apply for the China visa now I have an address for where I’m staying to put on the application
  • Really buy as much of the stuff I need as I can online so they arrive on time; otherwise, I’d have to go out and buy potentially inferior and unreviewed products in person.
  • Start looking at places I want to say for the rest of the places. I heard Europe has more options and can be done later but still.
  • Start figuring out how much money I need in each country and go get at least some of that money before my trip.

(25 days)

(I heard recently that Lufthansa’s worker’s having a strike.)

(Hodor and Bran won’t be in Season 5.)

Languages Intro-Learned

This past weekend, I finished the first level of Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese. That makes five languages that I had gone through in the past four and a half months (Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Norwegian, and Mandarin). It also makes me ahead of schedule, which was the opposite of what I expected would happen had I taken one month to intro-learn each language, preventing me from learning the languages before my trip. Going at a rate of three 30-minute lessons in two days was semi-aggressive (except for Mandarin, where I doubled the rate), but I think it was totally manageable.

It had also been mostly enjoyable learning not only the language but the slight as well as the big differences with the same words/sentence structure across the languages as well as the cultural influences within each language. Italian and Spanish are similar in many ways (ex. “perché” and “por qué”), while a few Norwegian words are almost similar to English but still follow gender rules in adjectives (ex. “ett glass” (neutered), “en kopp” (masculine)). Japanese and Mandarin are similar in that they’re totally different beasts for those without previous experience, and I can’t imagine how someone can learn Mandarin or Chinese without an immersive experience with reading, writing, listening and speaking for hours every single day.

As I was learning each language, I imagined myself transported to the countries that speak that language and just live life either as a local or a long-term tourist. This has influenced me to return to one of these countries some time within the next five years and just live out my visa (usually 90 days) and see how much I can pick up and see how different life would be. Going full circle, there are two guys currently doing this for a year that have helped convinced me that learning languages is easier than most people think and that I could totally intro-learn five or so languages in less than 6 months.

I also want to keep intro-learning more languages after my trip, though without an urgent need, I may find it difficult to find the same motivation to learn them this quickly. Some of the languages I want to learn are: Russian (many of my coworkers seem to be Russian, so it’d be fun to be able to greet them in Russian), Korean (I’m already doing Chinese and Japanese, so I might as well do Korean as well), Dutch (It’s quasi-similar to Norwegian, and it’s more popular), and German and Portuguese (I might actually do a short crash course on these as I will have short layovers in Brazil and Germany during my trip).

I sort of wish that one day, I will be able to master a few of these languages, though that may involve learning them in a more immersive environment, meaning I would have to live in other countries, which I totally welcome.

(48 days until start of trip)

(People (mostly public figures) have been doing ice-bucket challenge to raise awareness of ALS. Kind of nice way to use viral marketing.)

 

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!)