After 2 years of talking about it, I’m finally all set! Well, as set as I can be. As the only way to seal the deal is to book a flight, I did it (2 weeks ago)!
For those who just tuned in, last March, I revealed my plan to travel around the world this year. And it begins today–June 6, 2011.
The Grand Route
I wish I could be more spontaneous and decide my next destination by drawing a city from a hat. But holding a Filipino passport makes this impossible. So I had to come up with some kind of itinerary and check on the visa situation for me.
A lot of people asked me, “how many or which countries are you going to?” And it surprised them when I said I don’t know. Not for the reason of paranoia that I don’t want to tell, but the truth is I really don’t know.
My goal on this trip is not to go to as many countries as I can, but to circumnavigate the world–to go around the globe by continuously heading in one direction (west ward in my case now) until I come back from the opposite side. So it’s not a big deal as Christopher Columbus attempted this in the 15th century and Ferdinand Magellan actually succeeded in the 16th century. But of course they had the advantage of being born first. Bajillion of people have done it since but this is my story, and this is my time. :)
In one of my post about the RTW plan, I said I will start in Europe and foregoing Middle East because I don’t have time (lazy is more like it) to secure more visas. But one of my Israeli friend insisted that I should visit his great country. He will be back home after 3 years, just when I start my trip. His enthusiasm is hard to resist, and since we don’t need visa to visit Israel, it will be my first stop.
It’s so tempting to include many countries in the Middle-East but I wanted to be in Europe during summer so I thought I’ll just include short visits to Egypt and Jordan. I never hear back from the Egyptian Embassy and was actually denied visa by the Jordanian Consulate. But guess what? I’m still going to Jordan and I have a fantastic story, but I will tell in a different post.
So this is approximately the direction I’m taking:
Israel & Jordan >> London >> Morocco >> Schengen Region (24 countries to choose from, I’ll pick from a hat) >> back to UK >> New York, USA >> South America (including Brazil Carnaval) >> Australia & NZ (if I can get visa somewhere) >> Home
But this symbol >> holds infinite possibilities!
To RTW ticket or not to RTW ticket?
Google it, there’s such a thing. It is basically a set of tickets by airline alliances (One World, Star Alliance, Sky Team, etc.) where you can book with one airline and use the routes of their alliance airlines to travel around the world. The destinations are pre-set but the dates are open. You have one year to complete your trip. At a glace it seems like a great idea, and I think it can be, if one is a more organized person.
I have been going back and forth (for 2 years) on whether to get one or not. In the end I didn’t, because for one, I’m not that organized. While the dates are open, you have to pre-determine the stops. I can’t decide because for example, I don’t know if I can get visa to Australia or not, so should I have a ticket that includes Australia as a stop? I don’t want to forego Australia because MAYBE, I can get visa in the US. There are plenty of rules and restrictions that my head on holiday cannot process. It is also expensive and penalties apply when you make changes. Maybe I’ll go to Puerto Rico or Mexico City which is not part of my plan today, who knows? Spontaneity and flexibility is very important to me.
What to pack when you’re packing for a year?
With my frequent travels you’d think I have the art of packing down to a T. But the thing is it remains one of the most dragging thing to do for me. It’s not that I find it a difficult task but I just can’t bring myself to it. So I’m always up all night, the night before a trip. Seriously, even for a weekend trip.
For this trip, I’ve been psyching myself, packing in my head for a while. The Eagle Creek Switchback Max 25 rolling backpack (courtesy of Eagle Creek Philippines) will be my home for one year. It’s a trolly bag and a backpack at the same time for those times when wheels won’t do. Columbia Sportswear Philippines gave me a couple of dryfit shirts, an omni heat jacket, and a pair of trail shoes, so basically those are the stuff that’s going into my bag. I’m going to bring about a week’s worth of clothes and wash every 5 days or so.
I’m also kind of a gadget whore so I’ll be bringing more stuff than what people advised me. Let’s learn from our own mistake sometimes. So I will have a DSLR camera with zoom & uwa lenses, compact camera with uw housing, macbook pro, iphone, navigation gps, 1T HD, mask + snorkel. So if I have to be anal about one thing when packing, it will be to make sure to pack all the chargers. Nothing’s worse than lugging around a dead weight. All else, I think I can buy on the road.
I’m going to make a packing list later. Sofia of As We Travel sent me a list couple of years ago when she was promoting being a one-bag wander lass. I have customized it to suit me and you can use it as a starting point.
I’ve not taken off yet and already I’ve spent 66,528.65 pesos already. I’ve never been successful before, but I will try to keep a record of expenses for this trip.
So how much is my budget for this trip? Based on my research, which I will later prove or disprove, I need about USD20-25K for a year. So that is my starting point. I wont be carrying cash with me, only a couple of hundred dollars for emergencies and will have an ATM where I would withdraw locally. The typical charge of banks is 150pesos per transaction, so it’s better to estimate how much you need in a place and withdraw one time.
A friend advised me to get HSBC because it is widely available in Europe and the transaction fee is lower (100 pesos) at HSBC machines. For US trips, get a Citibank. There is no transaction fee withdrawing from Citibank machines. I got an HSBC because Citibank has 3 branches the whole of Europe. I will also use credit card when possible because I earn miles from it and it lessens the need for carrying cash.
Accommodation eats up a lot of your traveling budget so I’m lucky that most of my accommodation is taken care of. I’ll be using a combination of couchsurfing, hostels, and timeshare rentals. But as I’ve hosted a lot of travelers the past 4 years and most of them are already back home, we’ll reverse roles and I’ll be hosted. Meeting them again will be one of the major highlight of my trip.
This is it
To travel around the world is my grandest dream. It’s a dream, 5 years ago, I never thought would ever realized. My intention here is to document my thoughts and feelings before I take off. It’s definitely going to be a life changing journey I know, and I just want to peg the present–sort of like a time capsule. I want to read this back when I come home and see how many percent still holds true.
I’m always so sure of myself but one thing I always believe in, is change. I believe that anything and everything can change in a moment. This exhilarates me. It makes life so interesting to live. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead!