November 3, 2009
Our friends Eric and Beth are traveling the world. They are currently on the road (and airplane, and boat) for the next half year (give or take). So, they’ll be popping in from time to time with trip updates and postcards of their journey. Of course I had loads of questions for them regarding a trip such as this, which made the interview quite fun.
Here’s my Q&A session with Beth just before she joined Eric on their trip. Friday, I’ll check back in with them in Dubai. Also, be sure to follow all their travels and updates on their fantastic blog, El Mundo.
danapop (dp) What is the overall trip agenda? How did you pick places and start mapping destinations out?
Beth Eric and I picked countries that were of interest to the both of us. We have already done a good portion of Europe on previous trips so we both decided a few weeks there with some other friends would be more than enough. We had two main criteria for picking countries; how affordable they were to get to, and which countries would we most likely not get to travel to after settling down. Of course we would like to see France, Belgium, many parts of Italy, Africa, and other parts of South America however, they are quite expensive and we would both enjoy them just as much in 15 years.
Eric and I are meeting in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest. The festival sounded like a good starting point and it was an easy flight for me to book from London (I already had a one way ticket to London from a trip I took in March).
Eric began in South America 3 weeks prior to my departure. He met his dad and brother there to explore Peru and Buenos Aires.
Once I meet him we are working our way east and ending our world tour in Australia and New Zealand. The stops that we have booked so far are: Germany, Prague, Greece, Dubai, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China, Japan, Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. We have a little bit of flexibility throughout our trip so our dates and destinations may change.
dp Is there an area or particular region you’re looking forward to traveling to the most?
Beth I have wanted to go to Australia for years now. It has always seemed like the perfect place to me. It sounds like it has great weather, activities, and amazing people. A few years ago I said “I will go there before I’m 27” and it just so happens that I will be there a month before my 27th birthday so it’s pretty perfect timing. Another one of my top destinations has always been Greece but as we planned I became more excited about Thailand and the surrounding area. Three of our best guy friends are meeting us there for 3 weeks so I am sure it will be an interesting journey.
Eric, is most excited about South East Asia, with particular interest in Vietnam and the Philippines. He has always wanted to go there and explore the coastlines of Vietnam and the Islands of Philippines. It is also quite nice for us that the dollar is still relatively strong in both countries.
dp I think many people want to do what you guys are doing, but, so many do not – what made you guys actually stop talking about taking a trip around the world and actually start planning?
Beth As ordinary 20 something’s in a big city we began to get a little stir crazy. The great news is that we both share the same passion for exploration in foreign countries. In fact one of the first times we met we talked about traveling for the better half of our conversation. After almost 2 years of talking about our goals for world travel, all the pieces started to fall into place, that goes without saying that there is a large amount of work we had to put into preparation.
The pieces began to fall into place when Eric was laid off from his job and my apartment lease was up a few months later. I am a freelancer so taking a few months off at a time is more acceptable for me than people in other careers. Eric had enough sky miles for an around the world ticket through the Skyteam alliance of airlines and we managed to find decently priced flights for me to book that coincided with most of his flights.
The final decision basically came down to the fact that it’s the only time in life that we can leave our life behind in the states with nothing holding us back. We both love traveling together and without many fixed expenses it seemed like the best and only time to make something like this happen.
What did the preps entail prior to leaving for the trip? I’m curious about job, apartment, bills, doctor/shots, and overall logistics to plan such an endeavor.
Ok, Where to begin….
The first thing we did was start researching the immunizations or inoculations that we would need. Using the CDC as fundamental resource we were able to know exactly what shots we would need, which was pretty much all of them except for Yellow Fever. We started heading to the CVS minute clinic and getting the shots that needed to be in a series. Luckily insurance covered many of these.
Secondly, we began doing our homework on each country that we were interested in. Using our criteria for selection we chose which countries we wanted to visit and what time of year we wanted to be there (its very important for dodge specific months for certain countries, Ex: Monsoon season in India).
After we had a skeleton outline of the countries and dates, we began the dreadful visa process. By utilizing the Department of State’s International Travel section, we were able to determine Entry/Exit Requirements for every country. Eric began contacting each embassy for the countries that required Visas Prior to arrival (mostly in Washington D.C.) to find out the cheapest way to obtain the Visas. For most of the Visas we ended up sending our passports directly to the Embassy with an application, passport photos, a money order and return shipping. This saved us around 30 to 60 dollars per Visa.
After the trip began to mature, we started to book flights, and accommodation for certain places (Ex: Germany for Oktoberfest).
As I mentioned above, my lease was up on my apartment, so I knew when I could leave. The only challenge was finding a place to store my furniture and other things. Eric on the other hand lives at his friend’s house. He was responsible for finding a tenant to move in while he was away. Currently it looks like someone will be occupying his room starting in October, so he will not be paying rent for the 5 months abroad. He stored his belongings in the house.
Now the fun part, bills.
We basically made a list of all of our bills and figured out how to handle each one. We both canceled thing like Sirius Satellite radio. We put Eric’s cell phone on hold for six months until returning. We just went down the list and marked each one off as we figured out how to handle it.
Lastly, we spent hours and hours leaning about what we would need to bring. Through recommendations from friends, travel guides, and many Internet resources, we compiled a list of things we needed (ex: Mosquito Repellant, over the counter medications, sunscreen, etc.). We both had very in depth checklists of things to be bought before our departure date.
We have both had a series of shots consisting of Typhoid, Polio, Hep A, Hep B, Flu and Tetanus. We both had to go to a travel clinic to get prescriptions for anti-malarial pills and to get a list of dangers in each country we are visiting.
Luckily my parents live in Atlanta so all of my mail is being forwarded to them and they will let me know how much I owe for each bill. Eric pays all of his bills online so we will just check those periodically.
Eric and I also opened up a joint checking account that we will pay for all travel expenses out of. We will both be doing most activities together so it will be easier to just split all costs.
dp Do you plan on working while you’re traveling? If so, what is involved in that process as far as Visas and such?
Beth Originally we wanted to do volunteer work in either Thailand or India but the cost for the programs is really high. We both want to try and volunteer at random places that we find while we are gone that don’t charge you a fee.
dp How many bags are you packing? Did you have to purchase a lot of items to prepare for the trip?
Beth We both have large packs for the trip. From prior experience I have found that over-packing makes traveling miserable so I am trying to only bring a few things and just buy anything I need along the way. My toiletries are the majority of my pack right now because we won’t be able to refill prescriptions and I have to have enough pairs of contacts to last me the entire trip. I am also bringing a small backpack for day trips.
Eric has his large pack and is also bringing a camera bag as well. Eric is in charge of our medical bag so he has all of our anti-malarial pills and other first aid items that we may need throughout the next 5 months.
We had to buy lots of supplies for the trip. Bug repellent was at the top of our list, along with quick dry towels, rain gear, vitamins, water purification tablets, sunscreen, granola bars and much more. REI visits became a weekly ritual because they have great rain gear, shoes, and other out door gear. We also purchased books to help plan our trip.
dp What do you think you’ll miss most while you’re away?
Beth I am going to really miss my family and my tight-knit group of friends that I have formed over the past few years. I am also going to miss spending the holidays with my family. We have lots of traditions each year around the holidays and it will be hard to not be around for them. It will also be strange to miss an entire football season (harder for Eric than me).
Eric will miss Chipotle. In fact he is in Buenos Aries right now and told me that if I bring him a burrito to Munich he will meet me at the airport and carry my bags (very tempting Eric).
dp What book are you currently reading?
Beth I am going to start reading the ‘Time Travelers Wife’ once I leave. I am also bringing ‘The Art of Dancing in the Rain,’ and ‘A Sunburned Country.’
Eric will be reading ‘The Girl in the Picture; The Remarkable Story About Vietnam’s Most Famous Casualty.’
dp What is something you know you’ll need to work on while traveling? For instance, I know with me, my patience (or lack there of) would be a HUGE issue … do you have something in your personality you hope to change while on your journey?
Beth I am going to try and control my grumpiness when I get hungry. I need to be more laid back about timing and go with the flow a little bit more.
Eric is trying to learn to deal with a bad hand when it gets dealt to him. He already had his iPhone stolen in downtown Lima.
dp How much of the trip is pre-planned and how much are you guys winging it?
Beth We have planned out almost all of our flights throughout the trip. We still need to book our flights to Australia and New Zealand. In some countries we have places to stay already booked and other places we are going to just find something last minute. It is recommended to have prior bookings before entering India so we had a travel agent help us plan for that stop. We have lots of visitors throughout the trip so those spots are a little more planned than others (these include Germany, Prague, Dubai, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia). We are both pretty laid back about places to stay so I don’t think it will be hard to find a bed and a roof to satisfy us along the way.
dp My understanding is that you’ll be gone for 5 months, are you spending the holidays on the road? Are you planning on coming back to the US at all from now until February?
Beth We are staying gone all the way through February. The holidays will be hard but spending them in a different culture and with Eric will be a fabulous experience. We even found a place in Beijing that serves Thanksgiving dinner!
dp You two are dating … what do you think this journey will do to your relationship?
Beth I think that we will learn so much about each other during our journey. From our past trip in March (to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and the Netherlands) we came back with such a better understanding of each other. The memories that we will share and the experiences abroad will most definitely change our relationship and hopefully make our bond even stronger. The things we will see and experience I am sure will be something that we will carry with us forever.
dp Do either of you speak a foreign language?
Beth Eric speaks Spanish and has been perfecting it while in South America. I took a little bit of French and German in school but I am far from fluent.
dp Is there a country / region you’re most nervous about visiting?
Beth I am the most nervous about India. I am really scared of the food and getting sick. The food is very harsh compared to American food and you have to be very careful about the water. This is the only place that we are using a travel agent so hopefully she will guide us in the right direction.
Eric is nervous about India as well, especially the infamous Delhi belly.