“Throw it all out on the porch and see what the cat licks up.”  That pretty much describes our method of planning for this.

After setting an arbitrary 2 year timeframe to save and plan, we started by consuming knowledge.  We poked friends and asked them about their previous travel experiences, accessed our mental databases: My Life folder–>bucket list—>Must-See.doc, and watched a lot of Planet Earth.  The discovery and history channels, as well as KQED inspire more than they get credit for. During this period Jeff developed an uber-affinity towards Rick Steves that Mari will never understand.  Then we started to read.  The internet provided discussion forums like Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree and Trip Advisor,   travel websites, and books like 1000 Places to See Before You Die, and Earth From Above rounded out the things we pulled from.  Anything that piqued our interests went into an excel list.  When we got to the point at which our list could be called “exhaustible”, we began to pare down.  For the most part, expensive places and places one or both of us had previously been to were taken off.   Sayonara Tokyo, Adios Machu Picchu.  Remaining places were thrown onto a map with our attention turning to optimal season and proximity to other locations.  More places were nixed.  Goodbye Oktoberfest and the Galapagos. But what emerged we welcomed as our basic route.

Here’s a list of some of our most helpful resources for this phase:

Books–

  • The Great Book of Archaeology
  • Earth From Above (beautiful photography and so inspiring!)
  • 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (Good suggestions, but we had to nix like 60% off the bat since it was luxury resorts…)
  • Lonely Planet- Blue List

Websites-

Beyond just figuring out where we wanted to go we began looking into the whats and hows of traveling.  What should we bring?  How should we carry it?  What are the norms?  How should we poop?  Travel tips came from those same friends and forums, and from new resources as well.  After awhile, things seemed to run together and for the most part, much of the advice were stated in all of the books, but it was still worthwhile to find the unique nuggets of advice each book’s perspective had.

Books—

  • The World Awaits: How to Travel Far and Well
  • The Big Book of Adventure Travel
  • The Rough Guide First Time Around the World (This book was perhaps the most complete of the around the world books and helpful for making sure to think of everything)
  • Trekking in Tibet (Great read for the specific activity and place)
  • How to Eat Around the World (Jeff didn’t find this one too enlightening…)
  • How to Shit Around the World (but both of us were glad we read this one)
  • Express Yourself (Nothing to do with N.W.A. but some solid advice on things like national sense of humor and sense of personal space)

Websites—

After our basic route informed us of our leave date, we were able to reverse sequence the rest.   This is to say, for example, if we decided on January as our departure month, then one month prior, we would need to have our vaccinations; three months prior we would need to settle on and finalize a rough itinerary; four months prior, we would need to think about our jobs; and for a year (or two, or three) we would need to do some serious saving.

The following is a time table of when to start and how to manage your time, once you’ve chosen a route.  Bear in mind, this is partially based on what we actually did, but quite a bit on what we should have done, or wished we’d done.

Time until departure Actions needed:
One year or more Save, save, save!  Think about opening an account specifically for your trip.  Now might also be a good time to start learning another language if you don’t know one already.
Start doing some country by country research, in terms of what other attractions, events, or festivals are available or occurring around your time of travel.  Take full advantage of the books and internet resources out there.
6 months Price out airline tickets, to see what your options look like.  If prices are good and you know your route is set, you might think about purchasing a round-the-world ticket.  Certain sites such as Air Brokers allow you to plug in your destinations and they will quote you a price.  Or it may end up being cheaper to just purchase one or two tickets at a time, especially if you don’t have set dates of travel.
Do some research on which countries are going to require visas and apply.  Many of them require several passport quality photos and can take several weeks to issue your visa, so always a good idea to do this ahead of time.  Note that some countries also have requirements about obtaining a visa within a certain time frame of your expected arrive, so be aware of these restrictions too and don’t get them too early.
Get a passport OR check your current passport to make sure there are extra pages and that there is a 6-month validity left from the end of your trip.
Research volunteer options, programs, and courses in various countries
Vaccinations (Hepatitis A and B are a series of shots to be administered over a 6 month time period)
Purchase travel insurance before you start purchasing tickets
4 months Consider what you will do with your house/apartment, find a house-sitter/renter, and make appropriate arrangements.
Make an appointment with your doctor for a full check-up.
2 months Vaccinations (other than Hep A/B) – bring a list of all countries you are going to as well as general time frame for being in each to help your provider determine which shots you’ll need.  If your health care provider does not cover travel vaccinations, check with the CDC and call around for rates.
Get credit cards and bank cards specific for travel and set up corresponding online banking accounts
1 month Buy travel gear.  Break in shoes.
Set up mode of communication, whether it be cell phone service, an email account, a networking site, or blog.
Make a will, and set up power of attorney if someone will be helping handle any finances back home
Make a dentist appointment!
Order prescription refills for daily meds and order contact lenses
1-2 weeks Start taking typhoid pills
Make packet of copies of documents (passport, credit cards, drivers license, etc.) to leave with someone at home
Take care of any pet needs (thank you to Jeff’s sister for taking his fish).
Arrange for mail forwarding to parents/friend/roommate.
Start selling, donating, items if need be.
A few days Do a packing trial run. Determine which things you really need vs. those you might be able to do without.
Deposit any paychecks, cash, take coins to Coinstar (you’d be surprised…we made $619.01…not bad at all)
Start taking anit-malaria pills if your first destination is one that’s requires you to do so.
Reconfirm flight
One day Get a good night’s rest, run through check-list one last time