Category Archives: faq

FAQs: Packing

FAQ: What are you going to pack?

I hope not a lot! Everything will be in my rucksack and it will be on my back. I know I will acquire things along the way, so my goal is to pack as lightly as possible.

As I know all too well, anything I need, I can buy on the road.

My route will take me through mostly warm climates but air-conditioned buses and high-altitude will make things a bit colder.

FAQ: So really, what are you going to pack?

I haven’t attempted to actually pack just yet but this is my guide so far. I know I can buy toiletries (and really almost anything) on the road so am starting out with just a few travel size containers. Is 2 overkill? Should I start out with 1 of each instead of 2?

I do not want to be busting at the seams before I even get on the plane. And I would like to go carry-on so need to ensure I have one plastic bag with toiletries coming in at 3oz or less.

If you have any suggestions, deletions, additions, please post in the comments below.

Here goes:

60L rucksack – if I don’t exchange for something a little bit smaller
Foldable daypack

Tank tops (4)
Short sleeves (2)
Long sleeves (2)
Shorts (2)
Convertible pants (1)
Black cotton dress (Just in case? I’d be happy to go shopping should I need something!)
Leggings (1) – Leaning towards no, because of the…
Yoga pants (1)
Pajamas – tee and bottoms (1)
Quick-dry or moisture wicking socks (2; still need to buy once I decide on the shoes – suggestions welcome)
Underwear (8)
Bras (2 regular, 1 strapless, 1 sports)
Jeans (1) – I know this is a big debate for travelers but mine are so super comfortable
Fleece (1) – $11 from Wal-Mart. I tested it on a red-eye flight and it kept me warm. Almost hot. Never happens. A winner.
Bathing suit (Mix and match – 2 tops, 2 bottoms essentially giving me four options)
Beach cover up (1; may buy there)

Trail shoes (1) – Testing out four different pairs in my apartment this weekend, one will emerge the winner
Flip Flops (1)
Foldable flats; debating and would need to buy them first. I will have no problem going shoe shopping – I can always mail them home!

Shampoo (2 travel size)
Conditioner (2 travel size)
Face wash (Kiehl’s samples)
Body wash (2 travel size)
Hand/body lotion (1 travel size)
Razors (2)
Shaving cream (1 travel size – it comes in a pouch so not even a big can)
Toner – for when I can’t wash my face
Eye makeup remover
Cotton balls
Q-tips (1 travel pack)
Nail clippers/file
Toothpaste (1 travel size)
Floss (1)
Mouthwash (1 travel size)
Hair stuff (1 travel size)
Chapstick (2; I will lose one)
Eyelash curler
Mascara (Don’t laugh at these last three, I wear no ‘real’ makeup but these I must take)

EYE CARE; this gets its own category because this is crucial for me
Contact lenses (4 pairs each eye)
Contact solution (2 travel size)
Contact case (4; each time I change lenses)
Dry-eye drops (2 travel size)
Glasses (1 pair, debating on bringing 2) – My reasoning: 1 – because if it breaks, I will get a back up pair poste restante!; 2 – because if it breaks, can I depend on the international post?

Chewable Tylenol (I hate swallowing pills. My quart-sized plastic bag will be filled to the max with other liquids so I have to forgo Children’s Liquid Advil – don’t laugh)
Chewable Pepto Bismol
Neosporin (1 travel size)
Band aids (just a few to start with)
Ayr gel (awesome stuff, especially for dry climates)
Blister stuff (it’s a rub for the backs of your heels, comes in a tiny case)
Bio Freeze (sample sizes in little pouches)
Girly stuff (have heard mixed things about bringing your own stash but I will bring enough to start with and stock up once I get down there)
Sunscreen SPF 30+ (1 travel size to start with)
Mosquito repellant DEET 30%+ (any suggestions on brand?)
I have read about Dehydration stuff? Charcoal stuff? Do I need to start out with it?
Prescription medicine and notes from the doctors saying that I take it
Malaria pills (apparently the FDA does not approve of the liquid version)
Pill crusher (once in malaria zones, this will be as important as my passport!)
Vitamin D – chewable 😉
Travel powder packets; Go Greens Veggies and Benefiber to get vitamins and nutrients I may not get on the road

ELECTRONICS; or anything with a battery
Netbook, case and charger (still a big TBD)
Camera, battery, extra memory card and charger
iPod, charger and earplugs
Head lamp
Mini flashlight; do I need this if I have the head lamp?
Alarm clock
Watch (I don’t even own one, I still need to buy a cheap/cheap-looking one)
Converter to charge said electronics (already own)

Guide book
Book (1)
Pens (2; for the same reason I need two chapsticks)
Moo cards

Passport photos
Yellow card
Credit cards (2)
Debit cards (2)

Packing cube (1; quarter cube)
Packing sac (3)
Compression sack (1; for heavier clothes while I am in warmer climates)
Dry sac for any wet items on travel days (TBD)

Travel bath towel
Silk sleep sack
Sink stopper
Travel clothesline
Sunglasses (2) – I lose and break sunglasses, so two five dollar pairs from Old Navy will suffice
Waterproof money holder for pool/beach
Hand sanitizer (1 travel size)
Wet Ones hand wipes
Floppy hat (1) – May just buy down there to blend in
Gloves (2; 1 fleece and 1 stretchy cotton) – Each was 99 cents and if the buses are as cold as I have read, this is a good investment.
Winter Hat (1) – May buy down there, if it’s necessary
Whistle and Door stop – thanks for these tips, Legal Nomads
Locks (2; 1 retractable cable lock and 1 combination lock)
Hair ties
Plastic bags
Cheap earrings; wear in my ears
Travel toilet paper (2)
Duct tape; wrapped around a pencil
Carabiners (2)
Sleep eye mask
Ear plugs

What do you think? Too much? Am I missing anything?

My departure date looms…let me know what I can eliminate!


FAQs: Vaccinations, Jabs and Shots

FAQ: Did you have to get vaccinated?

Yeppers. Jabs were the bane of my existence for quite a few weeks and I have enough information from my vaccine research for several future blog posts.

Note: I am not a doctor and I don’t play one on tv. My research was specific to my needs and destinations. You should speak to your doctor regarding your own travel plans.

FAQ: What kind of shots did you get?

Me personally? I got jabs for Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Tetanus, Diptheria and Pertussis (TDAP), Meningoccoal and Hepatitis A. Again, please check with your doctor for your needs. I found out I still had immunity to MMR and Hepatitis B so I did not need to get those.

FAQ: Did you feel okay after the shots?

The only one that made me feel badly for a few days was the TDAP. I was achy, tired and sniffly for a few days. Surprising to me, that was the one I was least worried about — it was the most ‘normal’ jab to get. It was the only one insurance covered.

Also, some vaccines cannot be administered if you are not feeling well. I put off getting my meningococcal jab for a week because the TDAP had had me feeling under the weather.

FAQ: Were the jabs expensive?

They can be. You should definitely compare prices because it can get very pricey.
I called my insurance company only to find out that they don’t pay for travel vaccines. But, they told me I could get jabs priced at cost at my job. Score!
I got several jabs at work, at cost. I got one at the doctor, which insurance covered. And I got one at Passport Health because it was a few dollars cheaper than at work.
I also found out that you can go to the local health department in your town for free, or very low-cost vaccinations.
Shop around!
FAQ: Didn’t you have shots before you went to college?
Yes. And I even called the school to get those medical records. Unfortunately they only keep records for ten years. I missed the boat on that one. Oops.
So I had my mom dig up my vaccination history. A mother’s dream.
If you can’t get your records, you can get titers (bloodwork) that test for antibodies in your system for shots you have had as a baby or adolescent to see if you are still immune. Check with your insurance carrier because some of those titers are hundreds of dollars, more than the cost of the actual vaccine.

FAQ: How many jabs did you get at a time?

Because I am a big baby, and was overly concerned about side effects and arm pain, I only wanted to get one jab at a time, so the process took me some time to get through.
Again, I am not a doctor, just sharing my experience. Seek specific medical advice that relates to your own travel needs.
More on my vaccination experience to come…

FAQs: Money

Today is the five-year anniversary of my grandpa’s death and while I miss him every day, he has left a lasting legacy.

Today’s post is a thank you to my grandpa and his forward-thinking.

Today’s post is also about the biggest question I have been asked…How much money is this going to cost?

Honestly, I don’t know.

FAQ: How do you have the money to take this trip?

My grandpa had always said ‘pay yourself first.’

While I don’t think he meant pay yourself first so you can travel, that’s exactly what I have been doing for the better part of ten years, even while I was in some serious debt.

While some people save their money to buy handbags, furniture and homes, I save in order to buy airline tickets.

I don’t think that my grandpa wanted me to interpret ‘pay yourself first’ as a travel fund, much less an opportunity to quit my job to peace out for two months. 

I do think that somewhere he is shaking his head in disbelief that his oldest grandchild who lived on grilled cheese as a kid has become quite the adventurer. He shouldn’t be all that surprised though, it was me who introduced him to ikura on the sushi menu.

Thanks Poppy. Without this cushion, I would never be able to do this.

FAQ: What’s your budget?

I think I can do it on $200-400 per week, depending on the country and the cost of living there. And I think that’s on the high end.

What would it say about my cost of living to ensure that my monthly travel budget comes in way under my expenses and outrageous monthly rent! It would mean — get the hell out of New York!

Because I only have limited time on the road, I will have a different mindset than a longer-term traveler. What’s the sense of being somewhere only to not partake because it busts the budget? I’ll make up for the splurge in other places, like food and lodging, or spending more time in less expensive places.

For example, Ayngelina from Bacon is Magic, wrote that she traveled South America for 18 months on approximately $1000 a month. And Wandering Earl wrote about living on $1000 a month.

In the meantime, check out these budget breakdowns from Shannon from A Little Adrift and Betsy and Warren from Married With Luggage. Their trips are longer (and still ongoing!) and cover more countries than my trip but you get the idea that the cost of living is much cheaper once you leave the USA, no matter where you live from sea to shining sea.

Please note: I am not an Excel whiz so please don’t expect me to provide anything like this at the end of my trip. I will probably start, with good intentions, to keep track of my expenses in a good, old-fashioned notebook. And then one day, not even halfway through my trip, I will probably stop.

FAQ: This last point isn’t an FAQ so much as a request from a dear friend and I think it nicely wraps up the money section of the FAQs.

Some background: I moved to London to live and work for six months after graduating from college. Thanks to this experience, which I would do all over again even knowing what I now know, I spent the better part of my twenties in a significant amount of debt.

I worked very hard to eliminate that debt, many years after the pints were drunk and the fancy Paris hotel was a faint memory. I have no intention of getting myself back into travel debt again. And the note my dear friend wrote was a friendly reminder.

My friend, we’ll call her M, writes…

And my only request/piece of advice for your new adventure is not to get yourself back into “London Debt”…you worked so so hard to get out of it, and I remember you feeling so relieved and proud of yourself for doing so. That will be my only comment on the finance matter of your trip. Other than that, I hope you have a fabulous time and wish you safe and friendly travels 🙂

FAQs: Concerns

FAQ: Is South America safe?

Unless you live in a bubble, no where is truly ‘safe.’

FAQ: Do you speak Spanish?

Si. Mientras mi gramatica es asi asi tengo volcabulario grande. The language barrier is actually the least of my worries.

FAQ: What will the weather be like?

Summertime! But it will be colder in some places because of the altitude and it will be the rainy season in Bolivia.

FAQ: What if you get homesick?

I can call home. I can Skype. I can email. I can do a video hang 0ut on Google +. I can look forward to meeting up with those who are meeting me on the road. And if all else fails, I can tell myself that a bad day of travel is still probably better than a good day behind a desk…wishing I was traveling.

FAQ: What if you don’t like it?

If I don’t like a place, I can move on. If I really don’t like the idea of being on the road, I can always come home.

FAQ: What about your real life?

I don’t really understand this question and I have been asked it a few times.

It is my real life and I am living it. Maybe it seems like the road less traveled but we each have our own road.

FAQ: What about babies? You are getting up there in age.

Gee, thanks.

FAQ: Do you even want kids?

Yes. And in fact, one of the shots, TDAP, is actually recommended before you get pregnant. So there, I’m already preparing my body so enough with those questions.

FAQs: The Route and Accommodation

FAQ: Why South America?

I love the culture and the people and the food and the lifestyle. There are so many places I want to see. I speak Spanish and I’d love to speak it better. I want to explore. I want to experience local culture. I want to get off the beaten path. I want to participate in local customs. I also love summertime which is the season I will be traveling.

FAQ: Where are you going?

I have booked my flights so that I fly into Buenos Aires and I fly home from Guayaquil, Ecuador.

FAQ: So, you’ll just be traveling around Argentina and Ecuador?

No, I will be traveling through various countries to make my way from point A to B.

FAQ: What countries do you want to visit then?

The short list includes Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.

FAQ: Bolivia? What the hell is in Bolivia?

The Salt Flats. While this is something I would love to do, the time of year I will be there, is the rainy season. From what I have read and heard, the roads in Bolivia are bad on a regular day. That, and some unscrupulous tour operators, may impact whether I go to Bolivia on this trip. Think positively.

FAQ: How are you going to get around?

I will be taking a lot of buses. Slow travel saves money, allows you to explore deeper and is better for the environment.

Bus service in Argentina and Chile is supposed to be fantastic. Bus service in other countries will be part of the adventure.

I have one domestic flight booked within Chile…more on that later.

FAQ: Where are you going to sleep? Aren’t hotels going to be expensive for such an extended period of time?

I am a fan of B&Bs. I am no stranger to hostels though it’s been a long time. We’ll be reacquainted soon.

I plan to use the Couchsurfing network, I would like to try AirBnB and I am hoping to WWOOF which provides accommodation in return for farm work.

FAQ: Hostels? Aren’t they for students?

Not at all. You can choose between a dorm, a single or a double room.

FAQ: Couchsurfing? What is that?

It is a network of like-minded people. It’s not just for a couch.

FAQ: What’s WWOOF?

Click here. And also click here to be redirected to the WWOOF site. There are participating farms all over the world, including the States.

FAQs About My Upcoming Plans

A lot of questions have come up about my plan. So I have decided to create a series of posts that are dedicated to answering FAQs about my upcoming adventure.

If your question is not answered, ask away in the comments or send me an email.

FAQ: What exactly you are doing?

I am going to take a sabbatical, a career break if you will. Through travel, I am going to learn new skills, I am going to improve my Spanish and I am going to take in the world around me.

FAQ: Why are you doing this?

I believe this world is far too big not to try and make a dent in it. There are also personal reasons and the stars aligned.

FAQ: Who are you going with ?

I will be traveling solo.

I will be meeting up with friends in Chile. The boyfriend will be meeting me in Ecuador. And I suppose I will be traveling with friends I haven’t met yet.

FAQ: What about a paycheck?

I have about 35 years before I can retire.  I’m hopeful that I will work again.

FAQ: What about the boyfriend?

I am very fortunate to date a man who supports my dreams, no matter how non-traditional they may be. He has decided to remain employed and hold down the fort at home. While he may not agree 100% with my plan, he doesn’t want to be the person who prevented me from fulfilling my dreams. Sorry ladies, he is taken.

Stay tuned for more FAQs…