Monthly Archives: January 2012


That’s how I felt the day I got my last shot.

Oh boy, finally, done!

Well, until I have to go back in six months for the Hepatitis A booster. That’s the only one that requires follow up as it is two jabs given six months apart — but don’t worry, you are fully protected after the first jab.

Hallelujah! Now I have started to research more places where I am protected. Can’t let all these jabs go to waste!


Jabs: Yellow Fever and MMR

Yellow Fever and MMR are live vaccines. I’m not exactly sure what that means other than it’s the live virus which totally freaked me out.
If you need both, you can either get them at the same time, or at least 28 days apart for the best efficacy.
What I also found out that when you get the MMR vaccine, you can potentially be contagious to unvaccinated people for up to two weeks. Well, two women close to me were pregnant.
Being overly cautious, I checked with several nurses and the places where I got vaccinated but I gave a list of all possible vaccines I was going to get, and then some, and made both women check with their OB-GYN to ensure that if I got vaccinated I could be around them, and their unborn children.
Both of their OB-GYNs confirmed we were good to go. 
Better safe than sorry I say. I’d never forgive myself if I passed on anything from these vaccines to an unborn child.
Again, I am not a medical professional. Please refer to one for any needs relating to your health, vaccinations or unborn children.

Jabs: TDAP and Freak Out

As part of my annual physical, my regular doctor gave me a the Tetanus Diphtheria Pertussis (TDAP) shot. Even though I had a TD shot just four years ago from a pedicure gone wrong, I guess there’s an outbreak of Pertussis in the US and it’s recommended to have the vaccine.

I was slightly, okay, very, nervous before every.single.jab.

I read the CDC VIS (Vaccine Information Statement) for each vaccine, and just before each jab I re-read it so I knew what to expect.

After each jab, I would be very aware of my body to see if something weird happened. After 24 hours passed, I could breathe easy.

I mean, what if they gave me the wrong vaccine? What if something went horribly wrong? What if I moved? What if it was expired?

And for those of you who know me, I asked all of these questions.

In fact, when I was getting the TDAP vaccine I asked my doctor so many questions that he just handed over the label from the TDAP bottle so I could take a look.

Of course when I got to a computer I Googled it and it and I noticed that the logo from the actual vaccine was slightly different from the logo on the pharmaceutical website. So of course I worried for a hot ten minutes that it was a fake.

Who does that?

But, just for the record, the shot that made me feel the worst…TDAP. I was under the weather for over a week. A WEEK!

And it was THE MOST NORMAL JAB TO GET. No problem with Typhoid or Yellow Fever. The TDAP.

It shocked me too.

Jabs: Hep A and Hep B

In this process, I learned a lot about jabs so I wanted to share some additional information that I have learned along the way.

Hep A is a series of two shots. You can travel after the first but you need to get the second six months later.

Hep B is a series of three jabs, and you can travel after you have two, which are given a month apart. The third in that series is also six months later.

You may have had Hep B before entering university and from my research the efficacy can vary after 15 years. Me personally, I found out that I still have immunity to Hep B, so did not need to worry about this series. Which saved me hundreds of dollars.

If you do need both Hep A and Hep B you can get something called Twinrix, which is both shots in one. Same vaccination schedule as Hep B, but you are also getting the immunity to Hep A — with two less jabs. I found it to be a little more expensive but if you hate shots, like me, I think the extra cost would have been well worth it for three jabs versus five (ouch), especially if you are getting a full battery of jabs for your destinations.

Again, I’m not a doctor or a medical professional. I did a ton of research and asked A LOT of questions. But please, see your medical professional for advice for what is best for you and your situation.

CDC and Me – BFF

Oh CDC. You and I have become best friends the past few months.

I know you have so much information it’s scary. I know where I can find your maps pointing out risk areas for various diseases I never heard of. I know you have the most updated VIS (vaccine information statements) for any vaccine I could ever imagine wanting to know anything about.

But if I can just say one thing, your VIS’ scare me just a little. I read the warnings before the jab, and then I’d read it a few hours after the jab to make sure I was still okay and not suffering from any of the possible side effects, no matter how miniscule the odds were.

You can Google CDC VIS [and whatever vaccine you are looking for information on].

Examples of my Google searches: ‘CDC VIS Typhoid’ and ‘CDC VIS Yellow Fever’ and ‘CDC VIS Meningococal’ etc.

Go on, take a look.

What’s the most obscure travel vaccine you’ve ever needed?

Jabs: Overview

I have never traveled anywhere where vaccinations were necessary.

Though now after I have done a boatload of research, I think every traveler should have a Hep A jab. This is only my opinion. I am not a medical professional.

Sorting out my vaccinations and figuring out what’s what caused me the most strife out of anything else in the planning process.
First, shots are not cheap.
Second, I needed a lot of shots.
Third, I switch between calling them shots, vaccinations and jabs. They are all the same thing. I think I like jabs best.
For my actual health consultation, I went to Passport Health. Highly recommend.
The nurse I met with was great and I got a ton of information – like clumping malaria prone countries together so you aren’t taking malaria meds for the better part of your trip. At $11USD per pill this is crucial planning information. Highly recommend.
Key takeaways:
1 – Shop around for the best price. Prices for the same vaccines can vary, sometimes by $40.
2 – Start the process well in advance of your departure date, at least six weeks prior.
Some jabs (Hep A, Hep B) are in a series and you need two jabs a month apart for Hep B before you travel. Others are live vaccines (Yellow Fever, MMR) which can either be given together or at least 28 days apart.
Also, you don’t want your last jab to be given as you are running to the airport as some jabs take two weeks for full efficacy.
 3 – Some of the vaccinations are specific to the region of a country, so you might not necessarily need certain ones.
4 – You can’t drink alcohol for 24 hours after each jab so you must plan accordingly.
5 – had so many hits on their website thanks to me.
6 – I am a wimp.

Who Else Does This?

Now that I have made my big announcement, you may be wondering what inspired me.

First, I was always so jealous of people that I met on my travels who were traveling longer than ten days or two weeks at ‘normal’ intervals of vacation time. I had written about meeting an Italian who said it’s our (Americans) fault for not standing up to get more than two weeks of vacation time.

Second, there is a very inspiring community of bloggers. The people listed below, whether they know it or not, helped me tremendously with research and further inspiration for my upcoming adventure in South America!

This is not the be all end all of blogs I have read to prepare and loosely plan my trip. But, some of the names below may be familiar to my parents, sister and the boyfriend as I sent daily email barrages full of links with great reading material.

If you still think I am crazy for quitting my job to travel, you will see that I have plenty of good company.

Since I love to make lists, here it is, in ABC order:

Warning: If you have even the teensiest bit of wanderlust, reading any of these blogs will up that wanderlust tremendously!

A Little Adrift – Shannon has gone RTW a few times and is currently traveling SE Asia with her 11 year old niece.

Bacon is Magic – Ayngelina traveled solo throughout South America for 18 months. She has been a huge inspiration for me. When I read her writing, I feel like she has taken the words out of my mouth.

Hole in the Donut – Diagnosed with Lyme Disease, Barbara says that she was ‘solid on the outside, but empty on the inside.’ Determined to find joy in life, she left with a backpack to see the world.

Johnny Vagabond – Wes goes around the world ‘low and slow’ – he is currently in Latin America.

Katie Going Global – Katie, a former lawyer, left Chicago to explore the former countries of the Soviet Union. She left in August 2011 for a year.

Legal Nomads – Another former lawyer, Jodi photographs and eats her way around the world, most notably in and around Asia.

Lost Girls World – Three New Yorkers in their twenties who left for a year around the world. Amanda, one of the Lost Girls, has been a huge resource for my questions!

Married With Luggage – Betsy and Warren sold nearly everything they owned and have been on the road for over a year. They are currently in Thailand.

Nomadic Matt – Matt started with a one year RTW that morphed into an 18 month trip, and has now had him on the road for over five years.

Otts World – Sherry calls herself a ‘corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler,’ also a co-founder of Meet Plan Go.

Rainer Jenss – Rainer, his wife and two young boys visited 28 countries in one year. Rainer is the one that introduced me to the Meet Plan Go group and has been a huge supporter of my plan even when I was torn between two continents!

Solo Traveler Blog – Janice traveled solo in her twenties and she’s doing it again. Her story is bittersweet but answers the question, if not now, when.

The Frugal Traveler – Seth ‘seeks first-class living at steerage prices.’ His is the Frugal Traveler blog from the New York Times.

Wandering – Earl’s blog was one of the first I found. He left in 1999 for a post-graduation trip that was supposed to last three months. He’s been on the road for over 12 years.

World Travel for – I found WTFC early on in the process when I was trying to convince the boyfriend to do this with me. Adam and Megan are a married couple who completed a RTW, and are still married 🙂

Resources: BootsnAll

BootsnAll has been a great resource for me. And while there are plenty that hesitate at me going solo, check out these great articles.

While I would love for the boyfriend to join me, and therefore go for a longer chunk of time, that’s not an option right now. This is not a dream of his and I am fortunate that he supports me.

I am not choosing to go solo, it chose me. If I am ever going to do this, this is the opportunity to do it.

If you’re interested, happy reading!

Seven Solo Female Travel Myths Debunked

7 Things You Learn About Yourself (and the World) While Traveling Solo

Top Tips for Solo Travel

RTW Myths

Indispensible Resources for Solo Travelers

Is This Crazy?

Once I have a booked flight – no matter where it is – I get giddy and excited that a trip is in my future!

My immediate reaction after booking my international flights shocked me.

I questioned myself.

Every negative comment I have heard about my plan came flooding at me.

It was the wee hours of the morning when I booked the flights but I needed some reassurance that I was doing the right thing.

Once I booked the international flights and the one domestic flight in Chile, I sent an email to A and C, who I am meeting in Chile. Here’s the gist of my email:

Am I a total nutjob and have I fallen off the rocker? I’m well on my way and flipping my shit! I’m totally freaking out tonight. Yesterday I finished all of my vaccines and today I am flipping out.

FLIPPING OUT. Am I really doing this? Seriously?I am a member of the Basic Training program that Meet Plan Go offers. With that comes access to a built-in support group full of people who think like me. I wasn’t sure if there would be any cheerleaders at that ungodly hour (on a work night no less) but I was desperate and hopeful for reassurance. Here’s what I wrote:

Please someone tell me I am doing the right thing. I know I am but I am second guessing everything right now. Why you ask?! I literally just booked my international flights ten minutes ago. Why this is freaking me out has me beside myself. It’s not like this was the first step of my planning process. I have gotten all of my vaccinations, I have bought my rucksack and have started to fill it, I have already put money down on a hotel (oh, a hotel!) to meet friends halfway through my trip and I booked an internal flight within Chile…yet booking my international flight scared the absolute crap out of me!? WHAT? WHY? HELP!

Not expecting a response at that hour, I was shocked when I got one just a few minutes after I posted on one of the discussion boards. Here’s an experienced career breaker’s abbreviated response:
Yay!! So exciting. You are feeling scared…you know what that means? You are feeling ALIVE! It will happen more too. But you will get used to it. Take a breather and know that everything really does fall into place…especially after all this great planning you’ve done!
My response:

Thanks for the encouragement!! I so need to be reminded of the amazing experience ahead of me.
Funny you say I am feeling alive. One of the best fortunes from a fortune cookie I ever read was something along the lines of ‘if you don’t do things that scare you, you aren’t really living.’

I eventually got to sleep, for three hours. The next day I was in a Chase Bank with a friend, I will call her V, as in Victor, and I told her I booked my flight and slightly freaked out. And then, I started crying.

I was crying IN THE BANK. And then I started laughing because I realized how ridiculous I must have looked. She reminded me how excited I had been during the past few weeks and blamed my reaction on lack of sleep. She told me to get a good night sleep that night and then see how I felt about my decision the following morning.

So I did.

That night I went to bed at 6.30pm and thankfully I did not have work the following day because I did not get out of bed until 10am. It didn’t happen right away but I’d say after the initial 24 hours passed I had better perspective and renewed excitement!

C responded to my email with a quote that a friend of hers had told her when she made a move to Chicago.

Any type of change takes courage.

I like it.

What A and C are Doing

So what are my friends A and C going to do in Chile aside from meet up with me for a few days in San Pedro de Atacama?

For those of you bad with your geography, the length of Chile is comparable to the width of the United States from coast to coast. Yet Chile’s width is still less than 200 miles at its widest.

These lovely ladies will be flying on the overnight flight from Chicago to Santiago via Miami for a ten-day vacation in Chile. Once the girls land in the capital, Santiago, they will board their first domestic flight bound for Calama, the closest airport to San Pedro de Atacama. From there the hotel has arranged an airport transfer to the hotel. The ride will take about an hour. And then they will meet up with me for a few days of their trip.

A and C booked themselves on various flights around the country using the LAN Airlines air pass. It is similar to the Aerolineas Airlines air pass that the boyfriend and I used to hop around Argentina that you may remember me writing about last year.*

After our three nights and four days together, the girls will take the hotel’s airport transfer back to Calama and visit Viña del Mar (beach town and wine tastings), Santiago (a taste of city life) and Torres del Paine for glaciers and hiking, assuming the fires are out, before heading back to Chicago via Santiago.

*Airlines offer air passes allowing travelers to purchase a certain number of flights in a specific country or around the continent for a discounted rate, rather than paying full price for each leg (a la the $500USD one-way I found from Santiago to Calama). You are paying a set amount for the number of legs flown rather than the price of the individual flights. I’m not sure about the specifics of LAN but Aerolineas started their air pass with a minimum of three legs (the boyfriend and I flew three legs: BsAs to El Calafate, El Calafate to Ushuaia and Ushuaia to BsAs) for far less than booking each leg individually. The catch: there may only be a certain number of seats that can be sold as the air pass, and this can be extremely frustrating to figure out.