So I have under 3 weeks until I’m off on a 7 month trip around the world on my own, with just a few friends who I’ve met for a few days on past adventures to visit along the way. If you’ve never been travelling alone before I guess that sounds quite daunting, but having spent 2 and half months travelling North America in the summer of 2009 it doesn’t feel like such a big deal. At least not yet anyway.
So how do you go about planning for such a trip? There are various things you need to be aware of and prepare for, the most important are obviously are those that concern money and health. Being properly vaccinated and having the right medication as required is obviously really important, and anyone going on a trip to places which aren’t anything other than the most developed countries you are likely to need some vaccinations. I’ve had to have a Hepatitis A vaccination at the doctors, and also got to go to a private clinic to get a Yellow Fever vaccination for travelling in South America. It’s also not 100% clear if I need malaria tablets for my time in South America, I’ll be getting clarification when I go to get my Yellow Fever vaccination. Additionally good travel insurance is to be blunt a pain in the arse to find. In the end I’ve got mine from Essential Travel and works out at £160 for 7 months, which is pretty reasonable and seems to have good coverage on the key factors. However you only ever find out if these insurance companies are worth while when you need to claim. Here’s hoping I don’t have to find out.
Ensuring you have enough money where ever you go can be quite difficult. If your backpacking, and just staying in hostels for the entire duration then it’s possible dependent on the country to do it on around £1000 per month. Staying in hostels every night whilst cheap can quickly run up the costs, and eating and drinking out a lot quickly runs up the costs. Certain countries will be cheaper, I’m not expecting to spend that much in South America, but Australia and New Zealand will probably be pushing it or exceeding it. Then of course in some places you may decide to take some organized trips for a few weeks which will quickly push up costs. This is all of course on top of your flights and travel insurance costs, and the cost of getting between destinations in addition to the big major flights needs to be taken into consideration too.
Having access to money when you go to different countries can be a hassle too, and you’d be surprised just how much your bank will take from you for each transaction. After careful research, and this MoneySavingExpert being the most useful, I decided to get the FairFX Mastercard credit card, it effectively works as a debit card you put cash on it, and there’s just a flat 1.5% charge on any transaction wherever it happens, the money is stored in sterling, and converted to local currency as you use the card. You just have to check in advance which ATMs charge fees to use when you get to a new country. In addition I will be getting a little Brazilian currency before travelling so I have cash to hand though, it’s always good to be sure before you leave.
Most physical things you need for travelling are just common sense items, power adapters, mosquito spray, padlocks, earplugs, clothes for any weather – regardless if your going to Australia in the middle of summer or not! I ended up camping in the Rocky Mountains on my last trip and really regretted not having warmer clothes for overnight. A sleeping bag is always a good thing to take even if it’s just a very small summer one – you can never be too sure about the standard of hostels regardless of what hostelworld says! Some kind of phrase book for the local language is obviously recommended too, and I’m going to do some of the most basic Rosetta Stone lessons in Portuguese and Spanish, not sure if it’ll make much difference mind – I’m pretty terrible with pronouncing most words in English, never mind a foreign language!
In terms of planning my actual trip and making it all stitch together, I’ve planned the majority of my time in South America but still have a week or two unplanned and also I’ve sorted out Christmas and New Year in Australia, but this is all. The best thing about travelling is not knowing where or what you will do tomorrow, and it’s the big thing I want to do more of compared to my last big trip. I had that all planned out in quite some detail beforehand, then found myself a little restricted what exactly I could do, although that said you are often restricted by what places are where and there’s only one direction to go – if you want to see interesting things at least!
When I land in Sao Paulo on the 5th November I’ll be spending the weekend at Interlagos, the location of the Brazilian Grand Prix with a few people from work. Straight off the plane, jet lagged and not having slept and straight to the track just running on adrenalin alone – maybe! Then we’ll be taking the majority of the following week to go and see a few things. We don’t know exactly what we will do or where we will go just yet, as it depends how things fall with work. By the following Friday I’ll be meeting up with another work colleague to go and see Belle & Sebastian in Rio de Janeiro. Being able to even go to this gig is somewhat of a huge fluke. Firstly the odds of them playing in Rio at the same time I’m there must be minute, then also the chap I’m going to see them with only started at work a month or so ago, and I didn’t even know they were thinking of going to South America until he mentioned it! And to add more into the mix, it’s not possible to buy tickets unless your a Brazilian national due to the weird booking system! So yeah quite a coincidence.
After that first week I’m taking a Dragoman trip across Brazil and then down south to Argentina. This is 3 weeks and camping two thirds of the times. This is when the mosquito spray with deet shall be vitally important! The trip finishes in Buenos Aires, I have two weeks to fill after that which I’ve left open right now. I’ll figure out exactly what I want to do after I’ve met the people on my Dragoman trip, however it’s most likely going to be a week in Buenos Aires followed by going to either Santiago and Mendoza for a week, or checking out Montevideo, Uruguay and some surrounding areas out for a week.
Then after all that I fly from Buenos Aires to Sydney! A day will be spent trying to sort myself out and get rid of some of the jetlag before I take a short 3 day trip from Sydney to Melbourne, this stops briefly in the capitol Canberra, and also goes up to some of the mountains. I don’t think I’d normally take such a trip but to be honest I’ll just want a few days with out having to think after such a long flight. I’m in Melbourne for Christmas on a good looking beach side Hostel in St Kilda, I’m going to the opening day of the Boxing Day Ashes test at the MCG, quietly tucked away somewhere at the back of the third tier of the 100,000 seater stadium! Then I fly back to Sydney for 11 days there over New Year.
That’s all I have planned right now, not too sure what I’ll do after that, but I have 3 months to kill in Australia and New Zealand. I’ll probably spend one month in NZ sooner rather than later, and then go up the coast after that, but I’ll figure the fine details out once I get there. Then I have 6 weeks in South East Asia. I fly into Singapore in the middle of April and fly out of Bangkok at the end of May. I haven’t even remotely thought about where I’ll go whilst there yet. Having said that all of that depends how money goes amongst other things and the best laid plans may yet need re-arranging. Thankfully it shouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg to change my flights.
Still hasn’t really sunk in that I’m going, I don’t know how I’ll handle 7 months away from everyone I know. After 2 and half months away last year I didn’t want to go home, just go somewhere new. But obviously this is a lot longer. I think it’s important that during the trip I mix up going from place to place on my own with going on some organized trips like the Dragoman trip I’m taking in South America. These are good as your with the same set of people for a few weeks rather than a few days.
Anyway that’s all for now. I am looking forward to this trip a lot – obviously, but I still don’t think it’s really dawned on me yet just the size and ambition of this trip. I’m not sure when it will either. I’ll probably realise I’m coming home too soon first I imagine! Guess I’ll post more ramblings as and when I have something worth while posting. Hope the above information is useful for anyone else thinking about doing a trip!