F.A.Q. (& post-trip comments!)

Posted on 16 August 2011

- why are you going around the world?
I've wanted to take this trip for a long time, after hearing about it in the uk where I lived during my studies. I've read guidebooks, asked questions on message boards, spoken to other travellers, saved some money and when everything was ready I quit my job, bought my ticket and now I'm about to leave. Why this trip then? 'cause it's my greatest dream, and it's time to make it true! need any more good reasons to travel the world? Take a look here. // well, why not! it has been 9 amazing months: I've seen great places, met fantastic people and had quite a few adventures... definitely recommended, if it's on your wishlist as well!

- where are you going exactly?
I'll start with northern india and nepal, then south east asia, new zealand and finally south america (you can find my full itinerary here). Since a couple of years I've been reading the message board on the Lonely Planet website, where I've really learned a lot about places to see, practical info, and just the awareness that it can be done. I've decided to travel overland as much as possible - as time consuming and uncomfortable as it can be, I think it's best way to get under the country's skin, having a chat with fellow bus passengers while the scenery gradually changes outside the window. I've chosen non-western countries (apart from australia and new zealand) both for budget reasons and for the adventure factor, but I've made sure as much as possible that I'm not going anywhere unsafe. Adventure is cool, but making it back in one piece is even better... // well, now that'm back that "where are you going exactly" sounds really funny, 'cause very often my plans set in stone went out of the window to follow new friends made on the way, or to escape annoying wannabe travel companions! bottom line? it's good to have a plan, as long as you stay flexible about it...

- how long will you be travelling for?
I am planning to travel for 9 months: 4 in asia, 3 in oceania, 2 in south america. I can anyway change the dates on my ticket free of charge (up to 12 months after departure, which is the longest validity of airline tickets). // and yes, 9 months (and a half) it was. I changed my flights a zillion times but finally here I am again, home to enjoy the summer, go out with friends, and find another job.

- what about plane tickets?
I've bought a round the world ticket: these are special tickets issued pretty much by any airline alliance, and allow you to fly around the world using the airlines which are part of that alliance. My ticket is called one world Explorer and allows 4 flights per continent, in 4 continents, for 1800 euros (if bought in the uk - it's around 600 euros more expensive in italy).

- who are you travelling with?
I'm going by myself, which pretty much everyone finds terrifying. That doesn't mean I'm gonna be alone for 9 months, but I am quite sure I'll meet other travellers on the road to share part of the trip, a long train ride or a few beers at the local pub. Don't worry, I won't feel lonely! More on the pros and cons of travelling alone? Take a look here. // and yes, I met loads of people, and it's the people I've met who made for an unforgettable trip, more than one or the other temple I visited. People I've spent a few hours or a few months with (a special mention for the 2 danes who took care of me almost all around asia)... people I've lost track of, and others that are still good friends a few years down the road.

- what will you pack?
as little as possible: I've tried to plan my trip in a way that it will be almost everywhere summer, so that I'll need to bring fewer and less bulky clothes. Everything that falls into the "I might need this one" category will stay behind, and if necessary I can always buy or rent things locally, and re-sell them or give them away once I'm done. It may not be the cheapest way, but it's more convenient that lugging around hiking boots tent and sleeping bag for 9 months while I actually only need them for 3 weeks. The most important items? camera and travel journal. // "as little as possible" turned out to be a 10kg backpack, with a couple of shipments of guidebooks and photos home during the trip, and some new clothes bought on the way to replace the old ones falling apart. A special mention for the H&M hooded sweater, the only item that survived the full 9 months (I'm still wearing it as I write - it's quite run down but hey, it has been around the world!).

- what about money?
I'll bring with me a combination of cash (not much), travellers' cheques and bank cards. Bank cards (where atms exist!) are definitely the most convenient and cheapest way to get local currency. Some cash dollars are needed both as emergency funds (stuck 200 Kms away from the nearest bank, etc) and for some visas that can only be paid in dollars (eg. laos). Travellers' cheques can be refunded in case of theft, so I'm taking them against bad luck! Finally the credit card can be useful for cash advances, to rent a car, to book hostels, or to pay large sums (eg. the bus pass in australia). I'll carry everything in a money belt under my clothes, with the bank card and travellers' cheques numbers saved in my e-mail, so that I can block them quickly in case of theft.

- how much does it cost?
excluding the ticket, I think around 500 euros a month, and about twice that in australia and new zealand - everything included: food, accommodation, transport, sightseeing... there are a few things I'd like to do but are quite expensive so they're out for the time being, like scuba diving or skydiving. If I'll manage to earn some extra money during the trip by writing for a magazine or if someone would like to sponsor my wanderings, that's where the money will go. Interested? get in touch! // one of the most frequently asked questions: how much did you spend? answer: around 8000 euros, ticket included, but it really depends on a lot of things: the destination, if you travel alone or with someone, your desired comfort level... so if you leave with 8000 euros in your pocket and don't have enough, don't be mad at me, and if you end up having something left, you can always buy me a drink! I wrote some articles for a newspaper during my trip and that paid a few weeks of travelling, for the rest I had to dig into my savings! By the way, the scuba diving thing didn't work out, but the skydiving was amazing!

- what if you get sick?
for small issues I'll have a medical kit with me, in case of bigger trouble I have travel insurance (hopefully I won't need to use it). // well, call me lucky but I was always fine, apart from some classic food poisoning, a bit of altitude sickness in south america, and a few kilos gained on the way while everyone around me was so pleased to be shedding pounds, whatever.

- isn't it dangerous?
the uk ministery of foreign affairs keeps an up-to-date list of countries where, for whichever reason, travel is advised against. My route doesn't go through any of these countries. Should things change, I can modify my ticket by paying a small fee. // well, I've got good news: apparently travelling around the world is not dangerous! I have been careful and probably lucky too, but had nothing, absolutely nothing happening to me...

- what do your parents say?
they are not very happy that I've quit my job but I think they have realised how much research I have put into the trip, and hopefully that should help them not to worry too much. My friends think it's a crazy plan but they support me :) // now that I'm back, my parents are somewhere between proud and relieved... my friends still think it was a crazy idea but they like me anyway!

- what will you do when you come back?
good question, and luckily I have some time to think about that! For sure I'll have to find a new job - not sure what impression such a trip will make during job interviews, but I think it's also some kind of "on the road" training, where budgeting, planning and cross-cultural communication are part of everyday life! // well, not sure how, but I ended up in brussels eventually. It was quite easy to find a new job, or actually the same job but for another company and in another country... and living abroad is somehow still a bit like travelling, isn't it?

Do you have other questions? send me an e-mail!