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Packing List Part 4 – Miscellaneous Gear

12 Mar

It’s time for another installment of the packing list series!  If you haven’t checked them out already, head over to our “Things We Carry” page and check out our first three lists – ‘Clothing, ‘Medical and Toiletries’ and ‘Electronic Gear’.

We’ve tried to be as prepared as possible for situations that we know we’ll encounter, but we also wanted to make sure that we were bringing things that were durable and that we’d use regularly.  For the most part we did really well in that regard, especially when it comes to the miscellaneous gear that we cart around.  There are a few exceptions though, the biggest being the pacsafe cable.  This was on a lot of ‘must-have’ lists we looked at, so we got one…and we’ve never used it.  Most of the hostels we’ve stayed in have had lockers, and when they haven’t, we just lock everything up in our packs using our regular luggage locks.  I’ve never felt the need to lock a pack to something, though I suppose that could happen somewhere down the line.

The other thing we haven’t really used much have been the backpack rain covers.  We’ve seen people who keep them on practically all the time, but we just haven’t found them necessary at this point.

Click on over and check out  the full list of our miscellaneous gear.

Packing List Part 3 – Electronics

19 Feb

Welcome to another installment of the packing list series!  If you haven’t checked them out already, head over to our “Things We Carry” page and check out our first two lists – ‘Clothing’ and ‘Medical and Toiletries’.

It’s the electronic age for sure in the world of nomadic wanderers.  Everywhere we go we see travellers with laptops, ipads, mp3 players of all kinds, smartphones, external hard drives…you get the idea.  We’ve brought along quite the assortment of electronic gadgets and gear, and we use everything regularly.

We’ve had fairly good luck with wifi, though in the smaller towns it’s a bit hit and miss in terms of quality and consistency.  We find that having a laptop with us makes it so much easier to plan our next location, stay in touch with family via Skype, deal with banking without worrying about using a shared computer, and download photos onto our external drive.  We could definitely get by without it, but I find it an easy luxury to justify.

Click on over to check out the full list of our electronic gear.

Packing List Part 2 – Med Kit/Toiletries

23 Jan

Like with our clothing list, we thought a lot about what we’d need to bring for medical and personal supplies.  At this point we’ve found that it’s been fairly easy to replenish most of the items we need as we use them up, and often we can find brands we recognize.  There have been a few items that we haven’t found, most notable are Band-aids of the fabric variety (I swear, those stay on way longer!) and athletic tape.

The only antibiotics we brought were a few Cipro pills, because everything else you can purchase easily over the counter.  When we got sinus infections in Peru we just waltzed right into a pharmacy and asked for the medication, which totaled less than $35 for both of us.

We try to stay organized and so far having everything in assorted sizes of zip-lock bags has worked well.

Stay tuned, in the next few weeks we’ll put up our lists for tech-gear and all the other miscellaneous items.  You can always check in at Things We Carry to see if we’ve updated anything.

Packing List Part 1- Clothing

27 Dec

We FINALLY got around to putting up the first part of our packing list – Clothing.

In the months before we left I spent hours looking at packing lists from all kinds of RTW trippers, and even more hours making, then re-making my own list.

So far we’re fairly happy with the clothes we brought, and have worn everything at least once, with the exception of some of the colder weather gear that we’ll more likely use as we make our way further south.

We’re working on setting up the rest of the gear posts – medical kit, tech gear, and everything else – so check back often to the “Things We Carry” link at the top of the page.

30 Days

2 Dec

We’ve been on the road for 30 days.

I sort of can’t even believe it.  On one hand, it still feels like we’re just on “vacation”.  On the other hand, it feels like we’ve been gone for a lifetime.

Peru was a whirlwind, we were so busy doing things because we knew we had only a short time to be there and we didn’t want to waste a single minute.  After nearly three weeks of moving at the speed of light, we felt like we had been on the road for months.

Chile has so far been extremely mellow by comparison.  We have some great friends here who we’ve been staying with and we’ve had the chance to slow down and just be ‘normal’ for the past week.  We’ve done laundry, gone grocery shopping, started running again, and haven’t felt much like tourists at all…except for that whole not being able to communicate very well in Spanish bit.

It’s OK though, we have plenty of time for sightseeing because we’ll be staying in Santiago for another month.  We start an intensive Spanish class on Monday, Justin may complete his next Moving Box Bet Challenge as early as this weekend (it’s a good one, stay tuned!), and there are loads of little day and weekend trips in the works…hello wine tours!

(Inexplicably, the slideshow isn’t working for everyone.  Go ahead and click the link instead if you can’t see the embedded version.  If you hover over the slide show, you can expand it to full screen using the link at the very bottom of the black border.  To see the captions once in full-screen mode you can click “show info” in the upper right corner.  Hate this slide show format? I do.  Have a better one in mind?  Let me know!)

http://www.flickr.com//photos/theparallellife/sets/72157628247374035/show/

Even after 30 days it’s clear that we’ve only just begun, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for us this month.

Time To Move On

19 Oct

It seems like just a few days ago that we were packing up our apartment and driving out of NYC, yet here we are, at the end of our 4 months in Vermont.   In exactly two weeks we’ll be on our kick-off flight to Peru for the first leg of our round-the-world trip.

I’ve had the pleasure of living in many different places over the last 15 years, so I’ve had a lot of practice at saying goodbye to people and places I’ve fallen in love with.  This time it’s different.  This time I have to say goodbye to our home in Vermont, a place that holds some of my most cherished memories.

We spent summers here when I was a child.  In college we invited friends up and had rambunctious weekend festivities.  It was our escape from the grime and the noise of New York.  It is where we were married.  This home feels more like ‘home’ to me than any other house I’ve lived in.  We’ve always had a hard time packing up to leave after being here, but this time is different.  This time we are leaving for good.  The house is for sale, and by the time we return it very probably will belong to someone else.  Saying goodbye sucks.

Just the other day So Many Places wrote this post about the odd combination of paralyzing doubt and manic excitement that comes with this type of journey.  It could not have more perfectly summed up how I’ve felt over these past months, and especially the last few weeks, as we make all the preparations for this journey.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but it’s also terrifying.   There are adventures to be had, beautiful scenery to witness, and interesting people to meet.  In order to do this we have to let go of the sense of control we normally have.  We had to find a temporary home for our kitties.  We had to give up our notion of what adult life is like.  We had to embrace a huge amount of change, and change is hard.

The thing is, without change, well, nothing actually changes.  So, tonight we will spend some time remembering the joy we’ve experienced here, and tomorrow we’ll welcome the next step.

The Final Countdown: 31 Days

2 Oct

31 days until we leave the country.

18 days until we leave Vermont.

12 days until we transport our kitties to their temporary guardians *sniff, sniff*, this one is particularly hard for us to deal with.

4 days until our last set of visitors arrives in Vermont.

How is it possible that we have only one month to finish the, oh, million items left on our giant “to-do” list???  31 days.  It doesn’t seem possible!  We have been super busy here in Vermont and trying to balance enjoying where we are with making sure we are getting everything prepared for a year away is a bigger task than one might imagine.  We’ve done a pretty decent job so far, and we have checked off many things on our list.  The thing is, it seems like for every item we check off, at least one or two more come up to take its place.

The hardest part right now is just trying to figure out exactly what we are taking.  We’ve looked at lots of other RTW travellers’ packing lists.  We’ve bought some new gear, and chosen some of our old favorites that we think can make the trip.  Now it’s down to the nitty-gritty, and when you are trying to carve it down to 5 shirts for the whole year, to span a climate range of 30-100 degrees as well as making sure the items are both hiking and city appropriate, well, let’s just say I’m surprised my head hasn’t exploded.

What are your favorite pieces of travel gear?

 

How We Saved For Our RTW Trip Part I: Trimming the Fat

20 Sep

How did you save for this trip?

How much do you need?

What will you do when you get back?

As we get closer and closer to our actual departure date our family and friends have asked these kinds of questions fairly frequently, and rightly so!  I mean really, it’s a big deal to quit your jobs and be able to survive easily, while travelling, without any source of income.

The first thing to set your mind to is that while yes, we are travelling and intend to have loads of fun, this isn’t a vacation in the traditional sense.  We will not be staying at hotels and eating out 3 meals a day like you might on a traditional vacation.  You can’t just take what you might spend on a week-long vacation, and multiply that by 52, to get what our budget is…that would be an insane amount of money, and while it’s probably feasible for some, it’s not for us.

Interestingly enough, when we decided to take this trip we had already saved most of what we needed, just by sheer coincidence.  If you read our post about how we made the RTW decision in the first place, you might remember that initially we had just intended to save for a move back to Colorado.  We thought we might be out of work for a while, so we our intention was to amass enough for us to live on for at least 6 months of potential unemployment.  As it turns out, the amount you’d need to live in America without working for about 6 months is close to the amount we need to travel around the world for a year.  Go figure.

Let’s be clear about something else right away.  We did not make a ton of money in New York City.  I was a teacher for crying out loud!  Justin had a solid job, but it wasn’t something we were going to get rich on.  Saving money is HARD WORK.  You have to make a plan and actually stick to it.  Sometimes it sucks, but you do have to sacrifice things unless your salary is large enough to support your savings PLUS allow you to do whatever you want.

We have broken this down into a few posts because it’s going to get long.  I appreciate details about how to do things, so I’m going to give as many details as I can.  If you don’t want to read all of that, here’s the bottom line:

Don’t spend as much money as you do right now on unnecessary junk.

Most people have way more fat in their budget than they realize.  The easiest way to start your savings it to trim some of that away, sort of like you’re on a money diet.  I mean, if you want to lose weight, you cannot eat ice cream twice a day.

First, you have to figure out where the fat is, and to do that you need to track your expenses for a while.  How much are you spending over the course of an average month?  Start by just carrying around one of those tiny little notebooks and write down everything you spend.  Yes, everything.  Do you grab a coffee and a bagel on the way to work?  Write it down.  Did you make a donation to something?  Write it down.  Did you buy a fake moustache from a vending machine for .50 cents (it’s not like I have ever done anything like that…)?  Write it down.  You really do need to get a clear and honest picture of every cent you spend.  You should be including all your regular bills as well.

At the end of a month, take a look at the numbers.  How much is going out vs coming in?  I know I’m being Captain Obvious here, but in order to save, the amount of money coming in must be larger than the amount of money you are spending.  The bigger the difference, the bigger the savings.

You can do a variety of things to start cutting down on your regular spending.  Many of these seem like such small expenses that most people never realize how much they are spending over the course of a year.  Some of the things we cut included:

Coffee.  I picked up a coffee every day on the way to work, and sometimes I’d get one in the afternoon as well.  Each time, it cost me $2.  I was spending an average of $15 per week on coffee.  That’s $780 a year! That’s fat.  I stopped buying coffee and started just making it on my own and bringing it to work.  Not only was I saving the environment from all of my trashed paper coffee cups, but I was saving myself around $600 a year – you have to factor in that I did have to buy more coffee beans, and it doesn’t mean I NEVER bought a cup of coffee ever again.  When Justin also stopped buying coffee every day, we were able to save about $1200 per year.  If you buy fancy latte-frapa-whapa-chinos every day you can go ahead and double, or even triple that number.

We saved over $2000 in two years  just by making coffee at home.

Lunch delivery.  In NYC most people just order lunch to their office.  In fact, I know a significant number of people who almost never eat at home.  I fell into the lunch trap for a while and spent between $8 and $15 every time I ate out during the work week, which was usually 2-3 times.  When I stopped eating lunch out I saved another $400-500 per year.  When Justin started making his own lunch that number more than doubled.

Alcohol.  We’re young(ish) and we like to imbibe from time to time. This wasn’t something that we got rid of completely, but we did cut it dramatically. We made a conscious effort to find great drink specials, to not overindulge, to gather with friends at someone’s house instead of a bar, or to just not drink during the week.  I don’t have an exact number here because our spending in this area varied greatly, but I assure you we saved more than when we cut out coffee.

Plan your meals and don’t go to the store hungry.  Buy in bulk when you can. Make more food than you need, and freeze the leftovers for easy lunches that are ready to heat and serve.  Our membership to Costco saved us around $1000 per year in bulk food items like cereal, oatmeal, noodles and meat.  I started making huge vats of pasta sauce and freezing it in small portions.  Justin eats mass quantities of pasta and my sauce cost us about $1 per jar vs. $3-5 of store-bought sauce.  Again, the little things add up.

Clothing.  If we didn’t need it, we didn’t buy it.  You can easily save hundreds of dollars a year by not buying new clothing “just because”, especially if it’s not on sale.

Haircuts.  How often do you cut yours?  Can you get away with going longer between cuts?  What if you went every 5 months instead of every 4?  Over time, this will save you a few hundred dollars.

Small change can mean big savings!  At the end of every day we put all our coin change into a bucket.  When the bucket was full we lugged it down to the bank nearby that had a free coin counter and we cashed it in.  It took us a few years to fill it, but it ended up being worth $700.  $700 for tossing change into a bucket.

There are so many little areas where you can really cut back, and every article ever written by a professional about saving money will tell you the same thing.  What you cut will depend on what you already spend.

Do you need the gym membership?  You can save between $250 – $1200 a year by working out at home or in the great outdoors.

If you haven’t already, QUIT SMOKING.  In NYC a smoker who goes through a pack a day wastes more than $3800 a year.  For real.

If you can, take public transportation, walk or ride your bike instead of driving everywhere.

Buy a reusable water bottle and carry it with you instead of buying bottled water.

The first step is always the hardest and there is an adjustment period to a lifestyle change. If you find it difficult to stay on track,  put a picture, or ten, of your goal (be it a travel destination, a house, whatever…) to your mirror, or door, or fridge to remind yourself of what you’ll earn in the end.

Next time: Making a practical detailed budget, and how to keep yourself on track.


Biting the Bullet and Buying the Tickets

24 Aug

We finally sucked up the nerve to actually purchase our first set of multi-city, one-way tickets today! *insert cheering and clapping soundtrack here*  So, for all of those people who keep asking us if we are “really” doing this, the answer is YES.

When we started researching our options for the flights, we read a lot about RTW tickets vs. buying as you go.  We started researching flights of all varieties, and spent way too many hours crafting (or attempting to craft) itineraries and playing with the interactive RTW ticket maps.

Through our many many attempts to create a workable RTW itinerary it became very clear to us that the RTW tickets were just not going to work for us for a variety of reasons.

  1. You generally have a limit of 12 months in which to use the flights.  We have given ourselves a very open timeline and we may or may not be back in 12 months.  Heck, we might be back in 3 or 4 months, though I seriously doubt that will be the case.
  2. You need to have a relatively stable notion of where you are going.  We know we are going to start in Peru.  We know we are going to Chile and Argentina.  We know we’d like to go to Bolivia, Colombia, maybe Ecuador as well.  We’re pretty sure we are going to make India, but haven’t decided for sure.  Beyond that are a whole lot of maybe and we’ll consider it, and we’d really like to ideas, but nothing solid.
  3. There are some restrictions (they vary from ticket to ticket, so read the fine print!) on how many miles you can travel, and which directions you can go, and how many legs there can be, and how many times you can cross an ocean.  This stuff caused us more headaches than I care to mention, mostly because we couldn’t/weren’t willing to nail the itinerary down.
  4. This is the big one.  We want to be free to do what we want based on a whim, or a great flight deal, or a piece of advice picked up along the way.  Maybe we’ll be in South America for 3 months, or maybe we’ll stay for 6.  Maybe we’ll love it so much that it won’t end up being a RTW trip at all, but rather a Round-South-America trip.  Who knows!

That said, buying as you go isn’t all flowers and ice cream.  To start, it will probably be more expensive in the long run.  It also takes WAY more time and effort in terms of research.  We’ve been looking at prices for just the first few legs of our trip for months.  I generally know what a good flight price is between say, Denver and NYC.  Or NYC and anywhere in California.  Or even pretty much anywhere in the USA to almost anywhere in Europe.  Between the USA and anywhere in South America…no clue.  Within South America…no clue.  We’ve done some research, and I’ve been looking at flight costs constantly for months.  One thing we’ve done is look at different combinations of cities based on where the flights to Peru were being routed through.  We searched lots of different sites, tried to figure out what the local airlines were and looked on their sites.

We eventually found the flight we bought today, which we think has a good balance of what seems to be a decent price, and one that gets us there in a reasonable amount of time since I do not really want to spend 27 hours and 6 layovers getting to Peru.  We could have save $150 or by getting a slightly different flight, but that would have required us to spend a night partway through in an airport (or pay for a hotel near the airport in a random country we weren’t even staying in), AND it would have brought us to our destination at 3:45am, which is not so ideal.  We did, however, save a fair amount of money by getting a multi-city ticket, basically taking us from the USA to Peru, and then on to Chile.  These are the only two places that we have solid dates for so it was helpful to just buy the whole route, and it saved us $600 off the prices we were seeing for buying the tickets separately.

Once we’re in Chile we’ll mainly be travelling overland by bus since it’s far cheaper and we’ll have the time to meander around more at our leisure.  Hopefully that will allow us some time to start researching the next big flight, which might be to India.  Or Bali.  Or….?

How We Made The RTW Decision. The Long Version.

28 Jul

We’ve probably been asked 50 times how we made the decision to leave our regular lives behind and travel the world.  It’s not as concise an answer as most people seem to expect, but nothing ever is.  This is the long version.  If you’d rather stick to the short version, go here.

Initially, our decision to leave New York City had nothing to do with long-term traveling.  We had been talking about a change of pace for many years, specifically a move to Colorado, and we had been building our savings up since we got married in 2009.  In the spring of 2010 we made the final, for real, solid decision that we were going to leave New York at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.  Part of that decision included a mini-break that would allow us to stay in Vermont for the summer and fall before permanently moving to Colorado.  At that point we began to save more seriously in anticipation of living for 3-4 months without jobs in Vermont, and then making sure we’d have enough to take us through a potential of 6 or more months of unemployment in Colorado since we weren’t sure how difficult it would be to find work there.

A little over a year ago a friend of mine from childhood moved to Santiago, Chile with her husband, and I had been hoping to eventually get down there for a visit.  Around the same time, another friend took few months to travel around Chile and Argentina and began posting envy-inducing pictures on Facebook.  Last fall, Justin and I started tossing around the idea of going down to S. America, both to see our friends in Chile, and to take some time to visit Patagonia and other places in Chile and Argentina that had piqued our interest.  It had occurred to us that after our stay in Vermont would be the perfect time since it would be summer there, no jobs meant we could stay for as long as we wanted, and we had already amassed enough savings that we knew we could swing it without a problem.

A few months later we realized that winter in the USA was summer in a lot of places we had always wanted to visit but never had.  Places like Australia.  New Zealand.  South Africa.  We started considering going to New Zealand after the trip to South America.

In December, during my internet research about Patagonia, I found a blog written by a couple who had recently completed a yearlong trip around the world.  We looked at our current savings, and started to try to figure out ways to save even more in the last 6 months we had before we knew we’d be leaving our jobs.  We started checking out travel guides from the New York Public Library  – as an aside, you can check out the most current guidebooks to, well, everywhere.  It’s a great way to get some initial information about a place before you run out and spend a ton of money on guidebooks before you really settle on where you want to go.  It’s also a great way to compare guidebooks and figure out which ones are more in line with your personal travel style.  We took out books about Peru, India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia.  Our friends started noticing the stacks of travel books and began to ask questions.

In early January we started to talk to our friends about our idea to travel long-term.  By the end of January we had decided, with some trepidation, that we were going to take a year and see as much as we could.  Over the next few months we continued to make lists of places we wanted to go, things we needed to take care of before we would leave, and of course, we started saving more manically.  By the end of April we had told our parents, and by the end of June nearly all of our friends knew of “The Plan”.

We are almost exactly 3 months out from our departure date, and there are days when I still can’t quite believe we’ve decided to do this.  It seems as if we still have a million things to do, including purchasing the first plane ticket, but I have faith that we’ll somehow get it all done.  In the meantime we are going to enjoy our time in Vermont since, after all, it’s the first leg of our extended travel.

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