When I actually stop and think about the fact that I am in the process of planning a year-long trip around the world, I get excited; tremendously, genuinely, overwhelmingly excited. Sometimes, in the midst of chaos and non-stop busyness, this feeling is what gets me through the day. I’d be eliminating a part of the truth, however, if I didn’t admit that underneath the exhilaration, there exists a slight shadow of another emotion: panic. I am a procrastinator by nature; with a trip like this, putting things off until the last-minute is simply not an option. Luckily, unlike homework, chores, or something similarly unpleasant, planning my adventure has been really fun…there’s just a lot to do.
I am by no means an expert at this (some might even argue that I have no clue what I am doing ;)), but if you’re getting started planning your own trip and are looking for some guidance, or if you’re just curious as to what I’ve been up to, here are some steps that I’ve taken so far.
This is one of the easiest (albeit time-consuming) steps in planning a RTW trip. I started researching the minute I typed “How to buy an around the world plane ticket” into Google, and I haven’t stopped since. This imperative step in the planning process helps you to choose where, when, and how you’re going, as well as the costs, risks, and rewards associated with those choices. There are tons of great websites out there that specialize in travel, such as Lonely Planet and National Geographic Traveler, but in my opinion, the most useful, specific, and engaging information can be found on travel blogs.
2.) Travel Blogs
Blogging has become a prominent force in the online community. There are blogs for anything and everything that you could think of or have an interest in: cooking, exercise, books, movies, shopping, beauty, travel. The list is truly endless. I have followed a healthy living blog, Peanut Butter Fingers, for close to a year now, and I’ve contemplated starting my own blog for longer than that-I just never knew what to write about. I honestly don’t think I had ever really realized that travel blogs existed. Everything changed when I clicked on the first site that came up when I searched RTW tickets: The Art of Non Conformity. I felt like I had accidentally stumbled into this incredible underground world full of fascinating people who were willing to share their passions, struggles, discoveries and dreams. If you “meet” one of these individuals, you are automatically introduced to the adventures they follow through a link love page (a common feature on blogs). These pages help to connect you to other travel blogs, which have their own preferred network, which in turn have theirs….the cycle continues infinitely; it’s incredible. I truly cannot express how integral these blogs have become to my own journey. They have become an irreplaceable source of information, motivation, and weekend reading material. I’m working on setting up my site so that I can share some other great blogs with you all, but in the meantime, check out some of my favorites:
The Art of Non Conformity – Chris is somewhat of a rock star in the travel blogging community. He is an extremely talented writer with some great philosophies to share. A traveling veteran, he is currently in the process of visiting every country in the world.
Wandering Earl – Earl’s engaging, interactive site is full of great tips and advice on extended travel. He also happens to be a really nice guy; when I was first starting my blog, I emailed him on a few separate occasions for help, and he always responded quickly and answered thoroughly.
C’est Christine – Christine is a great writer with some really fantastic pictures of her travels and food. I especially enjoy reading her posts related to Melbourne, where she lived for a while after France, and where I’ll be spending my first three months.
Nomadic Chick – “Cubicle Dweller to Traveling Gypsy” is this blogger’s summarization, and she candidly takes you there, every step of the way. Her self transformation throughout the process is really inspiring.
Peanut Butter Fingers – As I mentioned above, PB Fingers is a healthy living blog that I’ve been following for quite some time now. Julie shares some great recipes (the Greek yogurt pancakes are awesome), some killer workouts (treadmill incline!) and lots of pictures of her adorable dog, Sadie.
3.) Materialize your Dreams
Before I bought my ticket, before I got a second job, before I even knew that I was going to make this trips’ focus wine, I bought a necklace. This might seem silly to some, but it was really important to me. I wanted something material, something that I could see and touch-a daily reminder of what I was working for, the inspired life that was now in my near future. I found the necklace, which is a simple compass designed by Lulubug, on Etsy; I never take it off. To me, the compass embodies the direction that I have chosen to take, the path that led me to that decision, and the adventures that will ensue. I know things may not always be easy along the way, but the delicate silver that hangs around my neck reminds me every day that I am certain that I am headed towards my true north, and that’s what matters.
4.) The Ticket
As important as research and planning are, the fact of the matter is that you’re not going anywhere unless you buy a plane ticket. As you read through different travel blogs, you’ll find that everyone has their preference when it comes to transportation while traveling, especially when concerning RTW tickets. It seems that a majority of travelers prefer buying their ticket leg by leg, in hopes of scoring a low last-minute deal, or in case they change their mind about the route. I seriously contemplated this option, but as I mentioned before, I’m a bit of a procrastinator and I had this recurring vision of forgetting to buy a ticket until it was too late and my visa had expired. I would then have to find a way to be smuggled out of the country so that the authorities wouldn’t discover me, but with my luck I’d be the one out of fifty illegal escapees who ended up getting caught. In order to save myself the embarrassment and possible jail time, I decided that a pre-planned, pre-determined ticket would be the way for me to go. As you can imagine, I dedicated an extensive amount of time to researching my options before I made a final decision. If you’re looking for a similar ticket, the sites I recommend are:
After I decided where I wanted to go, I priced out my trip with all four of the companies listed above (and a few other ones). They all vary in format, how the trip is priced, which airlines are included, etc. It’s up to your preferences and your trip which one will work best for you. In the end, I chose to book with STA travel for a few reasons: namely price and customer service. With STA Travel, the entire trip cost me $3,800 USD. To me, that’s incredible; there are TV’s out there that cost as much!! I scored this super low price due to the fact that I will be under 26 for the duration of my travels, and am considered a student eligible for discounted prices. To give you a comparison: the same trip on Star Alliance-minus a few stops-would’ve cost me approx $8,000 USD. On top of this, when I made the booking with Todd, my agent, he informed me that I had a few layover options. The time that I will spend in New Zealand, Dubai, and Peru (my last stop) are basically all free trips. Oh, and Todd already reserved my seats-as per my request. 🙂
When you travel, even if it’s to your grandma’s house two hours away, you have to spend a little time getting prepared. Gas, money for the toll, coffee, etc. Traveling around the world is no different…except there’s just a lot more to prepare for. First, make sure you have insurance. I signed up for a year’s worth of travelers insurance through STA at the same time I bought my ticket, but there are lots of other options out there. You can check out their policy here; it cost me about $800 for 12 months. Depending on where you’re going, you might also need to make an appointment for country specific immunizations. I called the hospital that my primary care doctor is located at, and found out that they have a special clinic that provides this service. Make sure you make your appointment in plenty of time before you travel (mine is in January), and also remember that this won’t be covered by insurance. You can get a general feel of which immunizations you might need at the CDC website. Next, if you’re traveling for an extended period of time, you should really look into visa requirements for the countries that you intend to visit. A great website for information on this is provided by the government and can be found here. Lastly, make sure that your passport is up-to date, and be aware that some countries require your passport to be valid for X number of months after you have arrived into their country. Information on passport requirements can also be found on the government site that covers visas.
6.) Saving vs. Spending
It seems to be a commonly accepted idea that to travel the world comfortably for a year, you will need $20,000 USD at your disposal. I’m doing all that I can to save, sell, and cut back in order to get there in the hopes of making it by March. As anti-spending and pro-miser as I’ve become, there are a few things that I won’t remit. You will never find me trading in my quinoa and fresh produce for ramen, drinking bad wine and cheap coffee, canceling my gym membership, or passing up a frozen yogurt date with my best friend. A girl’s got to have standards ;). While traveling, I plan on staying in Hostels, working with and volunteering for wineries (check out WWOOF is you’re interested in finding places along your journey to become involved with), and steering clear of the shopping districts. I should also mention here that I am not, despite my parent’s best efforts, a natural saver. If I can do this, anyone can.
One of my favorite mantras is to “live in anticipation, not expectation”. I try to remind myself of this as often as possible, because it’s easy to get caught up in the small details of planning and the mounting expectations that will begin to take over your thoughts. It is my intention to go into this situation expecting nothing but anticipating everything; I can’t help but to believe that from there, everything else will fall into place.
No matter what your dreams, goals, or ambitions may be, go fearlessly in the direction of realizing them. All it takes is that first step, the vaguest of a plan.