Saturday, February 20, 2016

Prepping for my longest journey yet

I have been planning to take a long-term trip around the world.  It is looking like it will be a minimum of a year long, and maybe longer.  I was at a crossroads in my life.  I was applying for some jobs, but didn't get any (not even an interview), and, not having a job currently, I realized that my schedule is wide open, so why not travel?  From some of the stuff I have been reading, travel can be cheaper than just day-to-day life.  Also, gas is cheap and the dollar is up compared to most currencies.  So I am cashing in some savings and getting ready for the big kahuna, the kahuna of kahunas. Maybe I wouldn't have the opportunity to do this again, so I guess I'll go for it.

There have been some serious up-front expenses.  I have been planning the first part of my trip, which is probably going to be the most expensive part.  It cost me $1800 for a year-long insurance policy (required to enter Russia but nevertheless a good idea), and $700 to get visas for Russia and China.  I decided to go with a service agency for the visas since the process is daunting and bureaucratic, which almost doubled the cost.

Then I had to buy gear...almost all my gear and clothing is maximized for space since I have to fit it all in my backpack.  I got an Osprey Farpoint 70 backpack, which has an outer storage compartment that unzips to become a day pack.   The inner part holds 55 liters, and the outer part (the day pack) holds 15 liters.  So the day pack will be my carry-on, and the rest will be checked luggage, when I fly to Australia.  I've been packing and re-packing, cutting down on more and more stuff, questioning if I REALLY need something before I decide to take it with me.  I have winnowed my stuff down to where both packs are almost full.  The main pack has about 20 pounds of gear, and I haven't weighed the other one.  But I probably need to cut down just a tiny bit more so I can have room for dirty laundry and food for along the way.  There won't be much space for acquiring stuff along the way, though if I buy a coat in my travels (I'm currently not taking one and am planning on layering, this ought to do me down to about ten degrees F), it will be in an area where I am wearing it most of the time.  I have two high-capacity USB batteries since I will probably be in places where I have no electricity for long stretches.  Also I have electricity adapters for just about any outlet.  Most electronic equipment works on either 240 or 120 volts, with either 50 or 60 Hz.  So everything I am bringing with me that plugs in (not much) conforms to that standard, so I can use each piece internationally, and don't need voltage converters. I also have a plug-in box with four USB outlets, which ought to be enough for me and maybe someone else who needs a quick charge.

The visa for Australia was easy and almost immediate.  It is an electronic visa tied to my passport number, so there is no physical document.  Most of the other places I am planning to go don't require US citizens to apply for visas, so I should be good at most places.  Russia and China put the visas in my passport, so I had to send my passport off to their embassies and wait to get it back.  I also have an emergency second blog on Wordpress at Stuart's Travel Blog in case I can't use this one in China (Google and Facebook are blocked there, from what I have read).  After Australia and my initial entries into Russia and China, the path is wide open and I can go anywhere I wish.  My visa for Russia is for three years, and China gave me a ten-year visa.  Both allow multiple entries during that time.

So the bulk of what I have been doing lately is moving out of my house in preparation.  That has been a daunting task, as I've lived in one place for fifteen years.  I've been packing like crazy.