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Just the FAQs – Pre Trip Research

Dedicated to Di Koller and Kathy Lafayette, 2 crazy fun loving girls I am honored to call my friends.

“While starting a flower bed requires some planning and forethought beforehand, it’s not as difficult as one might think, do your research and choose your flowers carefully.”

Committing- This was the easy part. Like a teenager, I made a vision board with all the lands I wanted to see. The day my passport arrived was the day I booked a one way, a non-refundable flight to Italy. Goal & deadline  - check. I felt in my gut, that if I didn’t go now, that if I didn’t change everything I ‘used to know’, I would wither away. My roots required new soil. My intention is not ‘vacation travel’ by any means. My purpose is simple: I want to become a student of the world, to find teachers that inspire me, to push every limit I know. And maybe, along the way, find new career inspirations. Fact is, I do not have enough money to retire, not even close, however this will not stop me.  Decision made, I would visit Italy, South Africa, Thailand, Bali, Vietnam, Australia & Greece.

The Research – Hello Google, please help me find a tour company that specializes in 1 year retreats for women…..on a budget. Hello local travel agency, can you help me plan? Not happening. Then I discovered an entire online community of people who call themselves; Digital Nomads, Global Citizens, Wanderers. Yes, here are my people. I devoured the information of those who have so generously shared their stories online. Here’s what I learned:

1.      You really can do all the booking yourself – travel agent need not apply.

2.      The Schengen Agreement – This rule provides an area made up of twenty six European countries where no visas are required and no border controls are needed. In other words, I can freely travel to this pact of countries for a continuous 90 days.

3.      Airbnb.com –This site is marketplace for people to list and book accommodations around the world. Whether an apartment for a night or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people at any price point in more 190 countries. This is exactly what I was looking  for: I can filter my price range & accommodation type, (females only please, with kitchen privileges)

4.      Hostelworld.com – When you don’t mind sharing a room and welcome the opportunity to make new friends. How else can I afford 10 days in Rome? I am paying $42 USD a day to stay in a converted 17th century convent in a shared room with 3 other female travelers and can’t wait.

5.      Couchsurfing.org – This is free accommodation’s ‘sleeping’ at someone’s house, on the couch.  Seriously, you message a member and literally ask them if you can crash on their couch for free. Their tagline is “You have friends all over the world; you just haven’t met them yet.” While I joined the community, I don’t have a reservation with them.  Stay tuned, as my budget could beeline me direct to this online community.

6.      Money –I made a budget based on the travelers who have gone before me. While I may not be ‘rich in my bank’, I am resourceful.  The budget shouldn’t scare you; there is money to make while travelling if you want it. The key points are this:

Understand that travel can cost as much as you want it to cost, there are a zillion options from budget to luxurious. You make the choices. Ride the chicken bus, or plane? Hotels or hostels?

Understand that it can actually cost less than living in the real world. Just add up your monthly expenses and think how you could spend same amount on the road.

You will need 2 debit & 2 credit cards with banks that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. One of these cards should have ‘chip and pin’ technology. This type of card has an embedded microchip and is widely used outside of the US. For credit cards I have Bank of America Travel rewards card and Capital One Quicksilver, for debit I have Capital one 360 and Charles Schwab. Two cards needed in case of loss, theft, ATM malfunction. One will travel in my daypack and the other stays locked in my room. Notify  your banks of the places you will go.

Track your spending and book your plans accordingly. Seriously, update your budget and pay attention.

7.Luggage –3 Pieces. I opted for the Rick Steve’s tried and tested 6 lb, 20 inch rolling carry on for the main piece and the Velocé Shoulder Bag (backpack). I will also carry the smaller VentureSafe 15L daypack for my day trips because of the safety features. Yes, 3 bags only, I need to be able to carry these pieces with relative ease.

8.Misc. Gear – Microfiber towel and 2 washcloths, clothesline thingy, packing cubes, inflatable neck pillow, neck wallet, Soma travel undies LOL, converter plugs, eagle creek luggage locks, ziplocs, baby wipes.

9.Documents - I scanned copies of my credentials (passport, insurance etc) and uploaded them to google drive. In addition to leaving hard copies with my sister, uploaded a spreadsheet with my logins and passwords for all online accounts. Made folders on Google drive, per country, to store receipts and airline/accommodation confirmations, helpful articles ect.

10.Phone – . Roaming fees for international travel to multiple countries for extended time is cost prohibitive. I have an IPhone 5 and paid off the contract to unlock the phone. This will allow me to purchase local SIM cards in each country with a get a local phone number. Swapping out SIM cards does not wipe out info, contacts or apps already on the phone. This will be an interesting experiment.

11.Laptop – I prefer a pc over tablets or the pad, so my Toshiba Satellite will be tucked in the backpack.

12.TripIt Pro App – Organizer that automatically updates every travel detail received via email from airlines, accommodations & tours. This gotta have app builds your itineraries and updates changes, like flight times or gate changes and alerts your phone and email.

13.My Language Pro App- Speak and it translates, holds your history too. How do you say, “Does your mother know”  in Italian?

14.Currency Converter App – Mine is just called Currency, by Jeff Grossman.

15.Vaccines & The Yellow Card – I used a local clinic called Passport Health. At the consult, they prepared a spiral notebook customized for me, with pamphlets & printouts on every fact I needed to know. Pretty scary stuff, so I opted for all of them: Hep A&B, Japanese Encephalitis, Polio booster, Typhoid, Yellow fever & 35 malaria pills. $1400 and a sore arm, I am good to go. I will have to get 2 additional boosters while in Italy, but am a proud card carrying chick of the CDC International certificate of vaccination (aka the yellow card).

16.Safety – Read all the tips and tricks and watched videos of pickpockets in action. The plan is to try to be aware at all times and use common sense, just as if you were at home. The consensus seems to be the less you carry on your daytrips the better and lock up the rest. I do have suitcase locks and the cable kind too.

17.Foreign Food – Are you kidding?   I can’t wait for the food!!! New flavors, exotic ingredients and party in my mouth experiences. Again, common sense with food vendors. Plan is to stay at guesthouses with kitchen privileges so I can cook too. 

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