Archive for the 'Planning' Category
In the immortal words of John Denver:
Well, this isn’t completely true. The bags aren’t totally packed. We’ll be back March 15. I’m certainly not standing outside any doors. But all in all, we’re ready to go. I’m happy to say this is the last post I will place in the “Planning” category.
It’s been a strange week. I have been riding an emotional roller coaster all day: one moment I can barely contain my excitement for the journey ahead, and I feel calm, cool, and collected. The next, I am panicked and nervous and just about ready to leap out of my skin. I guess this is to be expected at the eleventh hour; at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
We’ve said a lot of goodbyes this week, mostly over duck eggrolls, fancy grape martinis, Saggio’s pizza, sangria, and the best Mexican food in town, which we will miss dearly. It’s strange to say goodbye to people, knowing we’ll be back but that things will be different when we return. Most times in life, change just happens. We don’t realize until we’re in the throes of transition that things are different, and usually we never could have predicted it. It’s an odd feeling, then, to embark on a process that you know will most certainly result in coming out the other side a different person, not unlike having a gypsy tell your fortune.
As I’ve said my goodbyes and begun shedding the tangible trappings of my everyday life – cell phone, date planner, garage door opener, house keys – I’ve noticed a strange thing. With each item I give up, I compensate for the loss by adding another to the bag. I’ve found myself sneaking in extra razors to my toiletries bag, and wondering aloud if I shouldn’t buy just one more shirt. I think it boils down to an issue of control. Most of the things I am about to face in the next eight months will be out of my hands, but I have some say as to whether I add another item to my scant wardrobe. I am reminded once again of the powerful pull of stuff.
And yet, I look at the meager piles of items that we’re packing. It’s amazing to thing that I have pared down my life to 3,500 cubic inches. I’ll probably regret packing half of it by next month. Even today I found myself clutching pieces of paper, wondering, “Do I really need this?” To ensure that gender stereotypes don’t run rampant, I’ve included photos of Maikael’s pile and my pile of items to be packed. As you can see, they are nearly equal in size.
Signing off from Albuquerque, New Mexico, on the eve of a journey of a lifetime. See you in Madrid! Buenas noches.3 comments
I get a lot of questions about the trip that reflect the normal things that most people worry about when they think of traveling for long periods. What about your job? What about terrorist attacks? What if your plane crashes, or you’re robbed, or you find yourself caught in the midst of a military junta? These aren’t concerns that cross my mind too often. Instead, I prefer to sweat the small stuff: visa issues (and Visa issues), storing my passport, what socks to pack, transferring money between accounts on the road, creating laminated copies of important documents, making calendars. Last night I had a dream that revolved entirely around going to the bank and asking them a million questions. Basically, I worry about fine details — never the broad brushstrokes. In that same vein, I don’t worry about being on the trip; I worry about starting the trip.
I could be wrong, but I imagine the most joyful part of the trip will be somewhere towards the midway point, when we’ve had sufficient time to fall into a routine; or, if nothing else, become comfortable with the fact that we’re traveling for a living. The part I am dreading most is the next month. I’m sure, as most people have mentioned, that boarding the plane on Sunday will help me to breathe a huge sigh of relief. But then we get to the business of actually starting this new life, which will be hard. Not only will our surroundings be constantly changing, but everything will be new: clothes, equipment, technology, credit cards, processes for just about everything imaginable. There are no familiar touchstones; everything has to be learned anew.
I always imagined that starting a RTW trip would feel like flipping a switch. In one moment I would be a resident of my regular life, and in the next I would be comfortably ensconced in my RTW trip life. But I think it’s more like passing through a veil. There’s a transition period that occurs between those two phases, a state of limbo that is neither here nor there. While we are setting off on Sunday, I’m not sure that it will feel like we’ve fully begun this journey. I’m beginning to realize that the first month is more likely to feel like a long vacation than the beginning of a RTW adventure. But rather than fighting it, I’m going to try to embrace it for what it is. Like most challenges in life, there is no way around this uncomfortable adjustment period; it has to be faced head on. I’m sure there’s no more beautiful place than Portugal, though, to feel completely out of touch with one’s own life.No comments
There are two metrics of my stress level: the length of my fingernails and the amount of canker sores I am currently harboring. Suffice it to say, my nails are bitten down to the quick, and the flesh inside my mouth is throbbing. Being five days away from traveling around the world for eight months is a surreal experience that, if you think you too much about it, is likely to throw you into a tizzy.
What’s keeping me grounded this week is being able to stay in touch with the online community that is RTW travel. I’m beginning to understand why support groups are so effective. Since Maikael and I are the only people we know who have embarked on a trip of this scale, it’s great to be able to find others like us, with the click of a mouse, all around the globe, who are experiencing the same trials and tribulations. These are people who know first-hand the stresses of buying a RTW plane ticket and can weigh in on such lofty topics as the relative merits of money belts and wool socks.
I love it when I open my inbox and discover that a stranger has stumbled upon our website and taken the time to send me a message. Such was the case a few months ago when a woman from Seattle, who was about to embark on a RTW trip with her husband, found our site. Since then, we’ve written back and forth about lots of things, from how to arrange a trek on the Milford Track (which they did earlier this year and we hope to do in November), to sharing tips about airline ticketing systems. When I was hemming and hawing yesterday about buying a PacSafe, I thought, “Who would have an opinion on this?” I immediately turned to my online community of fellow RTW travelers, enlisting the kindness of strangers. I think I felt my nails grow a bit in that moment.
Check out Jodi and her husband’s website at: www.chrisandjodi.net2 comments
Buying plane tickets is one of the most torture-inducing parts of planning a RTW trip. I am fortunate that Maikael has almost exclusively handled this part of the planning process. Still, it’s gotten to the point where I can’t even be in the same room when Maikael is calling the airlines: it makes both me and him nervous when I’m there, so it’s best if I just leave.
We thought we were done dealing with complicated ticket purchase processes when we bought our RTW tickets in April. We’ve been avoiding buying our South American Airpasses (SAA) knowing, deep down, that it was going to be harder than we wanted it to be. By means of explanation, the SAA (offered through LAN Chile, who partners with American Airlines) is used to supplement our RTW ticket. Because we only get four stopovers per continent, and expect to explore South America extensively, we are able to add on additional “a la carte” flights at a relatively low cost.
One of the reasons we bought our RTW ticket through American Airlines is that it made us eligible for deep discounts with the SAA. However, after spending too many days this week charting our course through South America, we learned that there are actually two SAA options: one offered directly through LAN Chile and the other offered through American Airlines vis a vis LAN Chile. Both were different birds, offering different fares, routing options, and rules. Comparing the relative pros and cons of each plan quickly became a classic exercise in comparing apples to oranges. (We eventually purchased our Airpass directly through LAN Chile, which cost a bit more but was ultimately a more feasible transaction that involved less hair-pulling.)
The only saving grace of this process is making phone calls to LAN Chile, which is probably the only time in my life that I will say ”fun” and “airlines” in the same breath. The phone rings once, like it normally does when you’re placing a phone call; then, the tone modulates down a half step, giving the impression that you have now crossed international waters. Strains of pan flute music waft over the phone line as you hold for the next available representative. Their reservationists are kind, polite, reserved, and competent. But the best part is the woman whose voice appears on the recorded message. We’re not sure what accent she might have, but she seems to be channeling some cross between Fantasia Barrino from Season 3 of American Idol and The Girl from Ipanema. All of her “s”s sound like “sh”s. She kindly asks us to “presh sheven” if we have already purchased a ticket, or to stay on the line for “more optionshs.” She also warns us that our calls may be monitored to “enshursh quality ashurish.”
I’m sure none of this would seem so funny if I wasn’t completely exhausted these days. But last Wednesday night, when we called at 9:45 pm, only to discover that our reservation had been cancelled due to a misunderstanding of Zulu time versus Miami time, I needed to laugh. So Maikael and I called over and over again, listening to the recorded meshage, laughing great guffaws until tears streamed down my face.2 comments
Check out our updated itinerary, under the Itinerary tab (always, of course, subject to change). We’ve made some last-minute changes, primarily to the South American portion, cutting some things and adding others:
- We’ve hammered out our route in Turkey, thanks to a friend from Turkey who has been a tremendous help. We will stay with his parents for a week in Istanbul, which should be a culturally enriching experience.
- Rather than hiking Machu Picchu, we’ve decided to take the train from Cusco. We’ll be there during rainy season, and the trail will likely be closed or impassable. We’re meeting Maikael’s mom in Cusco and not doing the backpacker thing (a welcome break by that point, I’m sure).
- With the time saved in Peru, we’ve decided to add Bolivia to the itinerary. I was lucky enough to meet the Peace Corps recruiter from UNM, who did her term of service there, and was completely won over by her stories.
- We’ve cut Brazil from the itinerary. We really wanted to go, but just ran out of time. It will have to be another trip altogether.
- We’ve added some additional days onto Easter Island. We both agreed that, given the amount of time and effort required to get there from just about anywhere in the world, we should really take our time with the experience.
- We’ve shaved time from Buenos Aires and Santiago and added it onto Mendoza, Argentina, where we’ll spend Christmas with a friend of Maikael’s from high school (can’t wait!).
- We’ve chosen our general route through Patagonia.
- We’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and do The Galapagos, even though we can’t really afford it (unless, of course, we’re severly in debt, the weather is terrible, and/or we can’t get reservations on a boat). Because who knows when we’re going to be in Ecuador again?!
Last week, we learned that we’d have to give up our cellular phone service on the day we leave for the trip. We were hoping we could transfer our plan to “vacation mode” over the next eight months, so that we could keep our telephone number, but Verizon saw it otherwise. I felt angry about this decision; more so than the situation warranted. When these incongruencies occur, I pause to ask myself, “Why is this so bothersome to me?” It’s never about the cell phone. The phone, I realized, embodied the process of detachment, the chipping away of life as we know it. There was safety and comfort in knowing that, if nothing else, we’d return home and have a degree of continuity from our previous life. We could be reached in the same way we always had.
Our life is being stripped down to the bones. The phone was one of many pairing down moments we’ve recently been faced with. Gone are the tangibles: cable, car insurance, magazine subscriptions, memberships, and most of our wardrobe. There are intangible things we’re sloughing away, too. Routines and schedules. To-do lists. Professional identities. States of mind.
As a result, I feel a little naked and emotionally exposed. The stuff of life is slowly being shed, and there’s nothing but the yawn of space stretching out between me and the world. I’m beginning to understand agoraphobia. Each goodbye I’ve had to face this week has been increasingly difficult. Not because we’re never coming back; simply because it’s one less attachment I have to my familiar life.
When we return, we will be in a position where we will be forced to make intentional decisions as to what elements we want to add back to our life. This is a rare opportunity. Most of us are professional collectors. We take on all sorts of obligations, habits, services, things; we don’t often give much thought to what we collect. It’s not until we polish off the veneer that we see the layers of life we have accumulated.
I have started a “Things to Do When We Get Back” list. Most of it involves adding back all the things we have taken away. Call the YMCA. Call AAA. Call insurance company. Teeth cleaned. Hair cut. Get cell phone. Cable? But I wonder how different my perspective will be when we return; if these things we regard as must-haves and must-dos will seem inconsequential (or, at the least, not vital). I don’t see myself “going native” over the course of eight months, and I hope I don’t turn into one of those people who too-proudly touts that they don’t own a TV. But I wonder how important it will be to get Bravo back so I can catch the newest episodes of Project Runway.No comments