Getting Ready for Take-Off: Deconstruction
Rainer Jenss and his family have just set off for their year-long around-the-world trip. They’ll be sending their first dispatch from the road soon, but before they left, Rainer managed to jot off some answers to readers’ questions about the logistics of making it work.
Ever get stressed about preparing for a two-week vacation, or even a long weekend getaway? Getting ready for a one-year trip around the world magnifies that anxiety exponentially. Even though we’ve been actively preparing for months (and mentally for years), when the countdown went from months to weeks to days, the to-do list seemed to grow longer somehow, not shorter.
Using an assortment of books, magazines and websites as sources, we prepared a well-documented checklist of things to pack, think about, read up on, and take care of before leaving. Some of the items are obvious: make sure you have up-to-date passports, vaccinations, and visas.
We sorted through advice on what clothes to bring (there are mixed opinions about packing jeans, which Carol and I opted to do) and financial planning. We used the book, The Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World, by Doug Lansky as our go-to. It is a great guide to get you started, but as with most things in life, one size does not fit all. Since we are traveling as a family, additional consideration needed to be given towards luggage, computers and electronics (especially when you’re posting blogs), home schooling options, and accommodations.
With the latter, many places, particularly in Asia, don’t necessarily offer rooms for four people, so unless you’re extremely thrifty, you’ll likely have to pay for two rooms instead of one. And one other piece of advice I learned – not only does your passport need to be valid for three to six months beyond your dates of travel, you need to make sure to have enough blank pages to accommodate all the visas and stamps one will accumulate when visiting 24 or so countries in a one-year period before you leave. You’ll get stopped at many borders if you don’t and it’s very difficult to acquire more when you’re on the road. For U.S. citizens, one can get additional pages added directly to their valid passport, as Carol did. As a German citizen, I needed to apply for a whole new passport to get the additional pages needed. That meant a rush job and additional expense that I didn’t anticipate.
As the final days before take-off approached, something interesting happened that no book or travel blog prepared us for, and that was the realization of just how complex and layered our lives really are. Never mind being overwhelmed at the fact that we only had a few square feet to work with to compress our belongings into for the next year. That’s actually the easy part. It’s deconstructing what you have that’s bewildering.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Deciding to put our careers on hold and possessions in storage meant there was a whole lot more to deal with. We chose, for example, to sell the house, which seemed simple enough back in July 2007. Well, it goes without saying that we feel fortunate to have sold it given the current market, so going through the dozens of responsibilities involved in the closing didn’t seem so bad. Then there are the actual items that go into storage. It’s almost appalling to go through and see all the stuff a family of four amasses, but liberating to toss a lot of it away. (I’m sure we’ll question at least half the things we actually kept when we return, but we’ll worry about that later.) Then, of course, there’s that minor little thing known as work. When you transition what seems like your life’s work to a successor, it’s hard to just let it go as though you’re heading into early retirement. As I told a colleague, it’s like dropping a child that you’ve nurtured and raised off at college– you don’t just forget about them once they are out of the house. You want to make sure they succeed. So I wish my successor the best of luck, although I’m sure he’s much too busy to have time to read this.
Finally, there’s the packing list, and one thing seems certain, less is more! One suitcase and backpack per person, and it has to fit in the trunk of our car for the seven-week trek cross-country. This includes our mascot for the trip, a sterling silver ‘Ekkeko’ statue I bought in Peru this past spring. This good-luck charm depicts an Andean pre-Christian deity carrying all his possessions on his back, which seems appropriate given the journey we’re about to embark on.