Saturday, August 20, 2016

Round the World Travel Tips

Life has been busy lately, so I haven't had time to post. Working on my travel/cook book about my trip and getting my self situated in Upstate NY for the time being.
"How did you do it?" some of you have been asking, so here is how I managed to travel around the world for a year. (I did not receive any compensation for any of the recommendations here.)

Networking-Social Media is a great way to network and put it out there that I was headed out into the world. I posted on Facebook that I was going with a link to my blog, with a list on the blog of all the places I wanted to visit. And then Social Media did the rest. Friends who live the ex-pat life, friends of friends, and the family members of friends all either got into contact or were put into contact with me. This gave me safe places to land with incredibly generous hosts and hospitality. I offered to and loved cooking with/for them as a way to repay their kindness'.

Country Choices-Countries were chosen for several reasons. Because of places I have always wanted to visit (Singapore, Naples and Ireland), countries where I had friends or friends of friends (New Zealand, Australia  and Tanzania). After a US State Department update told of troubles on the east coast of Malaysia I, instead, traveled to Thailand and Cambodia. Some countries were chosen because of The Schengen Agreement (Morocco and Andorra) as I only had 90 days in six months to visit Europe and Iceland. A few were countries that intrigued me (Turkey and Iceland). Others were because of the food (India, Spain, Greece and France).

Plane Ticket-My good friend Sara mentioned that there was something she had heard of, a Round the World (RTW) Ticket. So I did the research and lo and behold found it. It's through Star Alliance. They are a Lufthansa company. This gave me a ticket, going in the same direction (east for me) all the way around the world. Once I landed in each place, say Singapore or Malaga Spain, I was on my own to get around the area. From there I purchased trips on planes, trains and automobiles to get me exploring. The RTW ticket specifies that you have almost a year to use it for travel, for the amount of mileage (30,000 miles) that I purchased. Away we go!

Phone-I am a long time T-Mobile user. I did my research, and read a bunch of blogs from other travelers on the subject. Phone charges outside the states can be astronomical! All that research showed me that T-Mobile has the best plan out there. There are no up-charges, so my bill was exactly the same as when I was in the states (phone calls were 20 cents a minute). And the data was unlimited! I used WiFi whenever I could, and most restaurants, coffee/tea shops and cafe's had it. My Nexus 5 took great pictures and kept me connected no matter where I was. I had better reception out in the world than I do in my hometown here in Upstate NY! The only two places I could not connect to a T-Mobile partner were Tanzania/Zanzibar and Morocco. I bought a $1 SIM card in Tanz and just used WiFi in Morocco.

Banking-Again digging in and researching helped a lot here. I found a CapitalOne360 Debit Card. No international or ATM fees. I carried another card as well, hidden away, in case anything was stolen, Each of the banks was informed ahead of time of the countries I would be visiting and approximately when I would be there. That way they wouldn't flag my card unnecessarily, and conversely would flag it if something odd showed up.  I downloaded their banking apps and all my banking was done right from my phone. Super convenient. I made sure to Photo Copy the front and back of all my cards, my license and my passport. Again in case of theft. These were kept on The Cloud so I could access them from any computer if need be.

Budgeting-Researching blogs brought me to A Little Adrift and her experiences traveling the world. She posted a wonderful budget spreadsheet here that I utilized every day to stay on budget. I sold my condo and much of my stuff to finance my trip (after paying off some loans and things) but wanted to have some $$ left over to help me once my trip was done. Volunteering in some places helped with the budget as well, as I got room and board for 4-5 hours of work a day for 5 days a week.  Some were WWOOF placements (working on Organic Farms and Sanctuaries) and the rest were WorkAway. Two weeks house-sitting in France came about from HouseCarers.com.

Health-I didn't get really sick anywhere. A little cold in Tanzania and a recurrance of it in Morrocco were all that I had to deal with. Hot tea and rest were the perfect cure for that. A SteriPen came in handy in SE Asia where the water was suspect. Before I left the states I went to a Travel Clinic to see what shots I needed. Some I had to have before I left the US, but others I could get in other countries, where they are less expensive. Perth Australia and Kuala Lampur both had wonderful clinics where I saved myself well over $300 getting the last of my shots and malaria pills (for India).

Luggage-The different countries I was visiting, varied modes of transportation and general vagaboundness meant I needed luggage that would work in many different ways. My buddy Elizabeth handed off her favorite Go-Lite bag (no longer in business). It has wheels and straps so when needed I could carry it on my back. It worked perfectly. I also purchased a theft proof bag for every day use, to carry my passport, money, a book to read, sunglasses et al. That and an easily tucked away grocery bag to carry boots and books on to planes and I was ready.

Clothes and Shoes-Four seasons, 17 different countries, oceans, mountains, seas, plains, cobblestone streets, African savannas, beaches of white, black and tan sands, snow, rain, insane humidity, heat, chilly days, gale force winds.... you're getting the idea of what I needed to pack for. I lost some things on the way, some replaced, some just left behind. I did not bring a dress. Why? Because I don't wear dresses, ever. So why bring something I won't wear?
Here is what I packed:

  • 1 pair of blue jeans (which had to be replaced in SE Asia, they wore out!)
  • 1 pair of 3 way convertible pants from Prahna (they can be pants, capris and then the legs zip off into shorts)
  • 1 pair of long shorts (they can roll down to cover the knees, which was a politeness in some cultures)
  • 1 pair of running shorts
  • 2 everyday tanks
  • 2 running tanks
  • 1 long sleeved rash guard shirt
  • 1 long sleeved athletic top
  • 2 T-shirts
  • 1 Sweater (at the end of my trip I was ready to burn this damm thing. I loved having it, and I'm no real clothes horse, but even I was sick and tired of the fucking thing.)
  • 1 Jacket
  • 1 Waterproof Jacket (which I lost in India, so bought a winter worthy jacket in Tanzania, which kept me warm in Turkey!)
  • 1 pair of gloves
  • 1 warm hat
  • 1 Baseball cap
  • 4 pairs of running socks
  • 1 pair of tall warm socks
  • 2 Athletic bras
  • 2 Bras/underwear
  • 1 Bikini with 2 tops
  • 1 pair of PJ bottoms
  • 1 pair of Hiking Boots, waterproof
  • 1 pair of Running Shoes (walked everywhere in them, had to buy new ones once I got to Europe)
  • 1 pair of Chuck Taylors (I lost my favorite Lucky Chucks, black plaid, in Marrakesh, but found a white pair of mock brand in Europe to get me through)
  • 1 pair of Flip Flops
  • 1 pair of Walking Sandals (not my favorite look for myself, but they really came in handy in the extremely hot and humid countries)
  • 2 Scarves (very handy for warmth and covering your head when it's polite culturally)

Lodging-I mentioned the wonderfully warm hosts who were friends, friends and family of friends who put me up as well as my volunteering in exchange for accommodations. I also found AirBnB , Hostels.com, HostelWorld.com and Hotels.com to be the perfect resources for finding a roof over my head. Again, done all over the phone, including payments.


Take Aways-

  • Do your research. Where you want to go, what you want to do, and who do you know. The months I had to do so before my trip were invaluable. 
  • Public transportation around the world is much better and easier than here in the states. Subways, trains, buses, and domestic flights were all easily done, even last minute. I took very few city buses or taxis. And only the occasional Uber. And I walked A LOT. (Which made my pastry explorations much easier to justify.)
  • Leave yourself open to meeting new folks for new adventures and experiences. Chatting over breakfast with a gal in a Singapore hostel got me to Cambodia. Talking with a fellow hostel guest in Madrid about his travel writing career gave me more impetus to write a book about my own travels. And saying "Ok" when asked "Do you want to go with us?" in Bilbao Spain not only got me to see Semana Santa Easter Parades, but in depth knowledge of the food in San Sebastian and a place to stay in Dublin Ireland!
  • Be adventurous with food but be smart too. I eat mostly vegan and I am very sure that is what helped me NOT get sick in India. Use your instincts here. If it looks or smells unappetizing, it probably is for you. 
  • Know that not every day is going to be wonderful and exciting. Once a week I took an admin day where I researched where I would be going next or soon, did laundry and sometimes I just took a day to be lazy and do nothing.
  • And lastly, the world is a truly wonderful kind place. Yes bad things do happen, but they can happen no matter where you are.
Send me a message or comment if you have any questions about it all.
I'll be working on my book now and hopefully I'll have some updates on that soon,