We keep hearing some of the same questions over and over again. Must be for a good reason -- we asked many of the same when we first started considering a world trip. For those of you dying to know the answers to these burning issues, we've tried to put together a list of the most oft-asked ones:
Q: Are you really going to be gone for one whole year?
A: Our plan is to be gone at least 9 months, although our current estimated itinerary maps out to be closer to a year. It just depends on what kind of pace we're running at once we hit Southeast Asia. At the end of that year, if we still have the energy and enough trip budget left to continue, we may just break down and extend the trip for another month or three...we would love to make it to New Zealand before coming home! Likewise, we may just get tired after six months and decide to come home (unlikely, but who knows, we've never done this before!). Post-Trip Update: Yep, we were gone just about a full year. Eleven and a half months, to be exact. We made it through the year!
Q: Isn't a world trip expensive?
A: It certainly doesn't have to be! A round-the-world trip can be handled with almost any budget...it's all about planning. By doing your research, buying your airfare through a good international discount broker, and staying in locally-run, smaller hotels and homestays, it's possible to spend very little money and still have a comfortable, enjoyable trip. Also, sticking to less developed countries does wonders to stretch your dollar. Of course, we're not exactly in the ranks of the hostel-staying, ten-dollar-a-day budget, backpacking students any longer. So we're spending a little more than your average "backpacker." But we're definitely not going luxury, and in fact we plan on mixing it up with the locals as much as possible.
Q: ...and also doesn't it take a lot of planning?
A: Well, uh, yeah. That it does. We suppose the level of detail you place in pre-departure planning depends on the type of person you are. First of all, Mike is a compulsive organizer (no surprise to those of you who know us). So we've spent a lot of time figuring out details in advance so hopefully we'll be well prepared on the road. It's certainly possible to just buy an around-the-world ticket and figure things out as you go, but it would be a terrible disgrace to travel that far only to find out later you were just around the corner from a most spectacular sight, but missed it because you didn't read up on the location! So research and planning is really important -- the more you put in up front, the more you will get out of your trip in the end. Post-Trip Update: We were really glad we put all that work in up-front to ensure a smooth-running trip. Surprises did happen, but we were better-prepared to deal with them.
"If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it."
- Albert Einstein
Q: How did you quit your jobs?
A: Very simple: We just did it. Many people seem to get hung up on the notion of leaving one's job for such "foolish folly" as world travel. Don't get us wrong; tackling a world trip isn't something we'd just recommend you irresponsibly quit your job and go into debt in order to do. It takes planning, saving, and the ability to manage your bills and finances while away from home for months or even years at a time. Of the many people we have spoken with that have left their jobs to travel the world, none returned to regret it. Nor have any of them had problems finding jobs upon their return. We found that both of our employers were excited to hear about our plans, and were in general very supportive. We also gave our companies a little more time than the customary two-week notice, so they would have time to get the search going for our replacements and make the transition easier for them. We weren't leaving for the competition, after all. No use in burning those bridges on our way out. Once you get over the idea of breaking the terrible pre-conditioned rule we all grew up with that you should never just leave a job without having a new one first, it's quite easy to do. The Rat Race will still be there when we get back! Post-Trip Update: Well, well...how things can change in one brief year! The world of high-tech took a severe downturn (okay, let's call it a crash) after we left. The market is an entirely different place, and both companies and workers are hurting out here in crazy Silicon Valley. But, the Rat Race is indeed still here and as ugly as it ever was. And now we're back in it. Would we change our plans if we knew what was to happen to the high-tech market while we were gone? No way. We don't regret a thing! (Well, maybe we would have stayed gone a few more months if we realized from afar how bad things really had become). But, aside from that, our year away was the most rewarding one of our lives. Do it all over again? Hell, yes!
Q: Aren't you worried about crime in some places?
A: We are mindful of the situations in some of the cities we will be visiting, but not worried. Remember, there is more serious crime happening on the streets of American cities than there is in places like Egypt and Thailand. We've found the best insurance policy against crime in general is to be alert and not do anything stupid that might put us in a bad situation. Besides, in most third world countries, crime is almost always petty "poverty crime" like pick-pocketing and hustling. Let's face it, by any measure we Westerners are rich compared to most of the world's citizens. This is an open invitation for problems if you don't take a few simple precautions. A confident demeanor and careful observation is usually sufficient to keep out of trouble. For those few places where violent crime is an issue (Johannesburg, South Africa would be a rare example), we will exercise greater caution by staying only in good neighborhoods and avoiding traveling alone and at night. Post-Trip Update: Our pre-departure position on this remains. If you're careful and don't act like an idiot tourist, you can do a lot to minimize your crime risk. Even in South Africa, we never had an incident. The only place anything happened was in Saigon, where petty thieves abound. Jen had a cheap ($1 cost) purse snatched from her shoulder while on a busy street corner one night during the Tet festivities. But we had the last laugh: knowing of Saigon's street thief reputation, she had nothing of value in the purse, just a single tube of lipstick. We would have loved to see the look on that thief's face when he opened up the purse to examine his catch. Hah!
Q: How did you decide what to carry with you?
A: Through lots of research. The web and local recreational supply stores helped give us lots of ideas. Oh, yeah, and by careful scrutiny of every item we wanted to add to the list. Since we had to carry everything we needed on our backs, we tried to keep our total pack weight down to under 65 pounds total (about 35 pounds for Mike, 30 for Jen). See our Packing List section for more info. Post-Trip Update: Ah, what we learned through experience. Over the course of the year, we gradually got rid of stuff and lightened up our loads considerably. We found that every ounce counts when you're carrying everything you own from town to town on a nearly daily basis. In the end, we were both down to about 12 kilos (26 pounds) each. Now that's traveling light!
Q: What if you get really sick?
A: While we plan to take good care of ourselves while away, there is always the small chance that something could go wrong. For that reason, we purchased a good international medical insurance policy which will cover us in the event of hospitalization or a required emergency evacuation. Visit our Pre-Departure Planning section for more details. Post-Trip Update: See our Health Page for details on how we did during the trip.
Q: How did you budget for the trip?
A: We could dedicate an entire web page to budgeting topics, we've been through so many spreadsheets and calculations! Basically, we had to consider four major expense categories: (1) Pre-Trip Expenditures, like airline tickets, inoculations, and gear purchases; (2) Daily Trip Expenditures, for our day-to-day on the road costs (lodging, food, etc.); (3) Away Costs at Home, like storage and miscellaneous bills; and (4) Return Costs, which includes a few months' rent, car insurance, and other living costs associated with jumping back in to the real world. For more information on budgeting and planning, see our Pre-Departure Planning section.
Q: Why does your itinerary end in Southeast Asia?
A: Because that's where our last airline ticket ends -- in Kuala Lumpur. Thanks to the vagaries of airline ticketing, any ticket is only valid for up to one year from the date of issue. Since we bought our tickets in January 2000, that meant we would have to be back home by January 2001 if we bought all the legs of our journey in advance. Since we weren't going to leave until May 2000, that didn't make much sense. So, we just bought tickets to get us as far as Malaysia. This gives us the added advantage of leaving our itinerary open for the last four or five months of our trip. We'll figure out the rest of our itinerary once we get to Southeast Asia. Bangkok (like San Francisco and Hong Kong) is well known as a cheap airfare capital, so we know we'll be able to find a good deal on the airfare for the rest of our journey. Post-Trip Update: We ended up buying our tickets for Indochina (Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos) in Bangkok, then bought the rest of our tickets (to Singapore, Bali, and finally home) in Chiang Mai, Thailand after our arrival there from Laos. We also bought a few inter-country tickets (like from Bali to Sumba and Flores and back) along the way.
Q: How did you go about designing this web site?
A: It was an evolutionary thing from initial concept several months before our departure to the eventual product of too much damned typing you now see in front of you. After we sketched out a vision of what we thought the site should look like, Mike pieced it together with FrontPage 2000. At any rate, we hope all the hard work has paid off in an easy to use, fun to visit site. Let us know what you think!
Q: Did you take a laptop with you to update your site?
A: No. For two primary reasons. First, we are already toting a fairly expensive piece of equipment around in our DV camcorder. The thought of having to babysit not one, but two expensive high-tech devices (read: thief magnets) was just too much for us. Second, we're trying to get away from the techie-filled, computer-crazy world of Silicon Valley on this trip, not bring it with us. Not to mention it will save a few extra pounds off our backs as well. We plan to use Internet cafes throughout our journey to keep this site updated. (This is where the old hand-milled HTML skills will come in handy!) Post-Trip Update: All those updates turned out to be a lot of work. So many times I wished we had a laptop, but really, it still wasn't worth the hassle of lugging around with us. We put out 16 web updates over the course of the year, and endured some frustrating problems in the process: slow or broken Internet links, firewall issues which prevented us from using FTP to upload the files, machines with no CD-ROM drive in which to install our digital camera software...the list could go on, and on, and on... But, we think the end result is worth all the hard work. We had over 2500 visitors from many different countries in 12 months, and lots of feedback on our journey from friends and family. It was a huge task, but very rewarding in the end. We hope you enjoyed following us on our once-in-a-lifetime adventure!
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