Starting in mid-April, I'll be taking a 9-12 month leave of absence from my job to travel the world. I spent a year back in 2002 travelling Europe and living in Ukraine/Russia, but I was 20 then, and did it on very little money. A lot's changed since then - technology, my age, my funds - but I'm ready for another run. Over the next month or two, I plan to ask a variety of questions, seeking tips on specific issues. But my first question is broad: what do I need to consider? What should I be thinking about now? What should I plan for? More details and my thoughts inside...
I'm a U.S. citizen, 30 years old, male, great job, overweight but otherwise pristine health, have a lot of money saved up, budgeting up to $100k USD for the trip though hope to spend substantially less. I'd like to hit South America, the South Pacific, Australia/New Zealand, China, Mongolia, Nepal, India, Jordan, Turkey and Africa (and perhaps some of the former Soviet republics if time permits, though I also like travelling slow and staying in places for extended periods of time). Those are the main regions of the world I haven't visited that I'd like to see. My preference would be to only tentatively plan the outline of the trip without buying all plane tickets up front, preserving flexibility, but I'm not wedded to that if it would be significantly cheaper to plan at least the major plane travel up front. I plan to travel light, with just a backpack as I did when I was 20, but don't plan to bring camping gear. I plan to store all my possessions while I'm gone, and not maintain an apartment - I'll use either my office or my parents' home as my address.
What I'd like to know is what I should be thinking about that I'm not. Here are questions I am considering - feel free to answer them here, but I'm really just throwing out what I'm already considering - the main point here is to figure out what I'm not
considering that I should be:
(a) Insurance coverage - my job can't provide me insurance coverage while I'm on a leave of absence. I plan to buy high-deductible coverage from a company like GeoBlue, one of the expat coverages that provides coverage both in and out of the US (I may have to come back a few times during my trip for work or weddings). It looks like this will be about $200-$300 per month for $10,000 deductible coverage. Does that seem reasonable? Should I be looking at something else?
(b) Technology - I have a basic Canon dSLR camera with a few nice lenses that I use here; I don't think I want to take that with me, though I love photography; I just think it would be too bulky. Similarly, I have a Thinkpad Ultrabook and a full-sized iPad, and use a Droid RAZR Maxx for a phone. I'd like to condense the technology I take down as much as possible. I think I'll need to take a laptop for intermitent work, but perhaps I could make do with an ipad and keyboard. I currently read magazines and books on both my iPad and phone. I'd like a phone that I can use while I travel by swapping out SIM cards - I think that the Droid RAZR Maxx works for that, and I currently read a lot on my phone, so would be happy to continue to use it. But am I missing options? What's the best/cheapest way to maintain a link with the world for limited work, a travelling e-reader (I read a lot and am thrilled to not need to carry physical books any longer) and a useful camera? I also have an original kindle with the worldwide data connection - maybe that's worth bringing? But I really want to avoid bringing anything more than I need.
(c) Plane Tickets - plane tickets, particularly the continent hopping ones, will be an expensive component of the trip. Is it better to buy a round-the-world ticket up front? Or better to preserve flexibility?
(d) When to go where - given the spots I'd like to hit, what order should I go in? I'm thinking start in South America, move to the South Pacific and Australia/New Zealand toward the end of June/early July, then China in early August, Nepal and India in September/October, then Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Southern Africa toward the end of the year, early 2014. But I'm still considering it. I don't love extreme heats, and am trying to avoid being anywhere in peak tourist season - I like shoulder seasons.
(e) Where to stay - when I was 20 I stayed in hostels; that's still my inclination since they're cheap, but I worry that a 30 year old will be a bit out of place. True? I'm pretty laid back and can sleep anywhere, so I'm mainly worried about perceptions and whether I'll feel welcome. I'd like to spend as little as possible on lodging, and spend most on experiences. I also always enjoyed meeting people at hostels, and ended up travelling with the people I met on multiple occassions for short periods of time.
(f) What to pack - I think I've got this down, though realize I'll have to acquire and discard things as I go depending on the weather. Any reason I should bring camping gear? I did do a good amount of backpacking/hiking about 5 years ago and still have all the equipment - but would prefer to minimize what I'm carrrying unless there's a huge advantage to having the supplies where I'm going.
(g) Visas - of the places I mentioned, I realize I'll need visas to vist some of them and will make sure to arrange those in advance.
(h) Medicine - I'll get my vaccinations updated in advance, and get some antibacterials and anti-malarials to take along with me in case of need.
(i) Storage - I'm going to rent a storage place near where I live and store most of my possessions, though will try to sell some in advance.
Anything else I should be considering that I'm not? Sorry for the long question, and thanks in advance for any advice!
P.S. - I saw this question and the answers are coming in very handy already: link
. But it's somewhat different in focus; I'm really just trying to make sure I'm thinking of everything I should be thinking about here.