(33 days to go)
While Pete is certainly the driving force behind this blog – I have my doubts as to whether this will actually be of much interest to anyone outside our immediate family and friends (if them), but will nonetheless be a nice way of keeping a diary of sorts – I will be weighing in from time to time. This will mainly be when I feel that Pete has overlooked something, and although I wasn’t expecting to want to say something so soon I’ve just read his first blog post and here I find myself. As a general rule my posts are likely to be less entertaining and more factual, so feel free to skip over these to get to the good bits!
Before I get into it, I’d like to caveat what I’m about to write by saying that Pete is one of the most laid back, unopinionated and (as a result) indecisive people I know. For the most part this isn’t a bad thing, and has led to us naturally falling into the roles of organiser (yours truly) and general support/sounding board (Pete). I don’t resent this – quite the opposite in fact, as I start getting a bit twitchy when I don’t 100% know what’s going on when it comes to planning any sort of travelling.
That being said, I think it’s sweet in a naive sort of way that Pete reckons all you need to do to undertake this sort of venture is to decide to do it, feel a bit panicky and then wait for it to happen. It also says a lot about his general involvement in the process so far. To be fair to Pete, his post was a pretty accurate summary of his experience of putting this trip together, but unsurprisingly there was (and continues to be) a little more to it than his post would lead you to believe.
I’ve wanted to go on this sort of adventure for a good decade or so now, but only started getting serious about it in the last couple of years. Before then I was too worried about finishing school, getting a degree and starting my career to take a break of this sort, but having now been in my current job for four years (and having found someone I think I can spend seven and a half months with without resorting to violence) I’ve decided now’s the time.
The idea of ‘Quarter-Life Crisis’, though not an entirely original one, came from the fact that we could very easily (and almost preferably, if you ask Pete) be doing the responsible thing and looking for a house right now. A nice house that would be a good investment and mean that we could stop throwing money away on rent every month. But if we did that then we’d all of a sudden be tied to those monthly payments that Pete wrote of, and it would take us at least another few years to save up again (and who knows what our priorities will be in a few years?).
Would I prefer to spend all my money on seeing some more of the world instead? Yes. Yes I would. For me, at least, it was a no-brainer.
So, onto planning. Pete’s never really travelled outside of Europe, and I haven’t done a huge amount either. Pete wanted to see America (read: wanted to go to as many gun ranges as possible); I wanted to go back to Southeast Asia and if we were flying between the two we figured we may as well see Australia and New Zealand while we were at it.
My younger sister Rhianna got round to the whole travelling thing before I did in an attempt to put off entering the real world post-university, and she’s the one who put us onto STA Travel. STA are geared towards younger people and can seemingly help you book everything you need to go on your own adventure. Other travel agencies are available, of course, and probably just as good, but STA have done us well so far. Once we’d decided on our rough plan our first stop was to book an appointment with an advisor at STA to find out whether our plan was feasible and, if so, to get flights booked. This happened in January of this year.
As far as I can tell STA are able to provide multiple flights for a very reasonable price by essentially making any intermediate countries stopovers. We’ve technically got return flights to Auckland, NZ – we just happen to be stopping in the USA, Fiji and Australia on the way there and Bali, Borneo and Thailand on the way back. Another advantage of booking through STA is their ‘Multi-Flex’ pass, which for the price of £99 allows you to make an unlimited number of changes to the flights – perfect for when you want to get something booked but perhaps haven’t done quite as much research as you would have liked.
Having booked the flights, it was time to enter the panic/excitement stage. How did I deal with this? I created a spreadsheet, of course.
Obviously there’s a million different ways of approaching going travelling, and they’ll vary depending on the sort of person you are and the sort of experience you want to have. We decided very early on that we weren’t going to work as we went, meaning that we have a strict budget that we’ll need to stick to. We also wanted to plan enough in advance that we weren’t immediately going to get into a situation where we didn’t know where we were, what we were doing or how we were doing it, but not so much that we didn’t have any flexibility.
For me creating the mother of all Google Sheets was the obvious way to keep track of all this, and so that’s what I did. In contains all the information we need (and we’re still adding to it, of course) and hosting it online means that friends and family can use it to keep track of us while we’re away. Don’t worry – I won’t bore you with the details (though I certainly could).
While Pete was deep into the panic stage, I was getting my planning on. My main concern was that we’d picked some countries and booked the flights but didn’t really have any idea as to whether our budget was realistic. Unfortunately the only proper way of working that out is to book as much as possible in advance, but doing so wouldn’t meet out requirement of maintaining some flexibility. So I decided to get the most expensive bits out of the way, and cross our fingers for the rest.
We’ll be spending three months in America (well, 88 days to be exact due to the 90 day visa limit), 19 days in Fiji, a month in both Australia and New Zealand and then roughly a week in each of Bali, Borneo, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. We’re fully expecting America to be by far the most expensive part of our trip and as such have assigned half of our total budget to the it, despite us spending less than half our time away there. Of the rest, some of it is going on general trip expenses (such as flights) and the rest has been divided up evenly between the other countries depending on how long we’re there for – I’ve got some cracking formulae going on in my spreadsheet.
Other things we had to do something about were:
- Working out what visas (if any) were required for each country
- Deciding how on earth we were going to get around the US
- Finding where to stay in the most expensive places (i.e. main cities)
- Getting travel insurance
- Finding out what vaccinations we needed and what the cheapest way to get them was
- Determining how we were going to pay or everything once we got out there
- Finding somewhere to put all of our material possessions
- Quitting our jobs.
Pete says he’s had a tricky time waiting for it all to kick off, but I’m having a whale of a time putting a plan in place for the next eight months. You name it, there’s a spreadsheet for it.