Help plan my escape
August 15, 2018 6:26 AM   Subscribe

I want to do some traveling around the world. Do you have tips ?

Owing to a recent unfortunate development in my life, I find myself with a wad of cash (lets say my budget for this is $20k or so, but its flexible), no attachments, and a strong desire to get the flock out of dodge.

New Zealand, Iceland, and Germany are must see places. Where else ? How far can I go ? How do I do it ? Tips ? Blogs ?

I am an experienced backpacker - I've done the CT, parts of the CDT, and AZ trail. Many other hikes of various lengths. I have the low standards required to survive for days on Clif Bars and tortillas. I've got a great 70L pack, good gear, and I don't mind discomfort.

I have two months of health insurance - what shots should I get ?

My big gay son is having a big gay wedding to his big gay boyfriend in MN in October. After that, the world is my oyster. I have a passport and all the time in the world. Hopefully that will be enough to forget what hell I have just gone through.

I have so many questions. I have only some idea how to do any of this and I am... frankly, with the divorce ongoing, and the stress, and lack of sleep - I just don't have a ton of mental bandwidth to plan this all out. Mostly, I would just like to find a hole to crawl into and die.

But, I need to get a plan going. Explain it like I was 9. Please hope me.

If you are someplace and want a visit or can put me up, drop me a me-mail.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt to Travel & Transportation (30 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's a book for this:
Lonely Planet's Guide to The World
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:35 AM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Here is an overview of Round the World airplane tickets with different provider options.
posted by like_neon at 7:02 AM on August 15, 2018


Just sent you a memail.

As for "what shots you need" - that often depends on where you plan to go, but based on what I've seen from helping people get ready for business travel where I work, yellow fever, typhoid and Hepatitis come up a lot. So does malaria, but there's no vaccination for that - instead you get a prescription preventative medication you take while you're traveling. It may be worth talking to your doctor about this; they can recommend a good basic "these will probably do it" vaccination package if your plans are still vague. Or, you can get a little bit of an itinerary in mind and then talk to your doctor; most countries recommend that you've gotten vaccinated just four weeks before your travel, so if you're going to be stateside until October, that's time to get a bit of a general plan in place and then get the shots.

Since you've got a lot on your plate mentally, I might stick to places where it's easy to get a visa, or where there's no visa required. Sometimes getting a visa for a given country can require jumping through a lot of hoops, and that's the last thing you need right now.

A thing to think about: communication. Do you speak languages other than English, and how comfortable are you with travel in a place where you don't speak that language? The second part is important, I think, because some people (like me) have no problem muddling through with English, the occasional phrase I've picked up, and a lot of charades. If that'd freak you out, stick to where you can talk to people; if you think "actually that may be what I need", then that's information to work with.

I'll keep thinking.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:03 AM on August 15, 2018


I just read this. Be careful! Anyway, since you're very stressed out you probably want to avoid dangerous places.

You probably know that people of any age can stay in youth hostels, this will cut your costs considerably and you'll likely meet interesting people.
posted by mareli at 7:06 AM on August 15, 2018


Oh, yes, youth hostels! Easily half the people in hostels when I was using them still were above the age of 30; I was mostly in cities, and that's a great way to stick to a budget.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on August 15, 2018


If you like backpacking and want to stretch your budget a little further, consider South America! Amazing trekking and a lot cheaper to travel in than Europe.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:17 AM on August 15, 2018


I have totally non-religious friends who have done the Santiago pilgrimage and loved it.
posted by mareli at 7:18 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Since you've got the money, I'm going to put a vote in for trip insurance, or at the very least, spring for the airline ticket insurance. My mother in law recently booked a flight that was around $500 and paid the extra $50-ish for the ticket insurance. Turns out she got sick and couldn't go on the trip but the ticket insurance refunded her flight cost, which was a lot for her.

Also, if you haven't been to Prague, here's me vouching for it. It's gorgeous.
posted by cooker girl at 7:19 AM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Before the B.G.S's B.G.W. in Minnesota, consider some cool-weather camping up north there if you haven't. I selfishly consider it among the most beautiful parts of America. The BWCA might be a bit much in October, but there are parks that would be worth visiting, and you can drive to some amaaaaazing sights.

Do you know about hostels? For travel in Europe, that would be a good thing to pursue.

Do you have health insurance that will travel with you? Owing to a relative's accident in Europe this past spring, I learned a lot about how well things work...but there are still out-of-pocket costs to E.U. health care.

Are you thinking of multiple out-and-back trips, or a glorious string of adventures from place to place? In the latter case, consider that you're starting out when winter is kicking off in the northern hemisphere but summer is starting down south.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:35 AM on August 15, 2018


Things I'd be thinking about:
-Iceland and Germany are going to eat up a lot of cash quickly, so be thoughtful about how you plan to stay there.
- New Zealand is exactly where I'd go! But my understanding is that it takes some planning to hike. They are protective of how many people they let onto the trails for backpacking in their national parks, and I believe you have to make those reservations at least 6 months out.
- WOOFing would be a way to cut your budget and stay in a place long enough to get to know it (always my preference, especially on an extended trip).

If it were me, I'd be looking to head to a restful home base first to get grounded. How about starting with an intensive language program that would be useful for travel? It's pretty affordable to spend a month learning (or improving) Spanish in a place like Guatemala, and jumping into a distracting, all-consuming project would be really appealing for me if I was in your situation.
posted by veery at 8:11 AM on August 15, 2018


I find it helps to stick to one climate range so I'm not carrying warm weather clothes and heavier ones. Or I buy along the way and give away afterwards. Heavy packs are my idea of a nightmare. I've left in northern winter for tropical destinations wearing sandals (and socks) and a hoodie because you know, sidewalks are shoveled and buses and trains are heated on the way to the airport.

If you are planning to travel long term, it helps to know that at a certain point you will hit a wall, where you will get fed up with always being the foreigner and eg, not being able to read the signs. It takes a lot of energy to constantly be figuring out the cheapest/best transport, accommodations, sights, food (although it does simplify life quite a bit). When that happens, don't give up. Find an agreeable place and stop a long while and rest up.

It's probably due to some recalcitrant Protestant work ethic but I like to have a focus or interest on something more than "experience all the new things". It could be something you are already interested in and now you get to see how it plays out in other cultures. It could be taking a tour of a tv station in every country. It could be volunteering for a local non profit. It could be trying out the local dish in several different restaurants and deciding which one was best. It could be something as simple as finding a coin on the street in every country you visit.

I'd also take it easy on the travel blogs which I find are too full of the "omg you must see this! we had the most amazing adventure!" I guess because there are SO many travelers, you just don't hear about them in daily life; blogs make it seem like some unobtainable best life fantasy. There's also exists oneupmanship about who had the most arduous 20 hour bus ride over dirt roads sitting among crates of chickens. You know what? No one is keeping points, just take the cheap flight.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:28 AM on August 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


I am semi nomadic. The one thing I’ve learned is to not plan everything out, as your desires may change as you go along and it’s more fun to roll with those than have everything planned before you even know what you will like or not like.

Also, since you are going through a challenging time right now, it may color your choices. Personally, I would have a general outline (book your ‘must-do’s), then go to your first place for a month or so to get your bandwidth and clarity back. That way you can start ‘running towards’ instead of ‘running away’.
posted by MountainDaisy at 8:32 AM on August 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


These are great Ideas. Hostels are perfect, and I use them often on longer trips.

I'm gonna be in MN for a while. Planning some grouse hunting with dad, and hiking the SHT from Grand Marais --> Duluth.

After that....I think I wanna start in New Zealand. Im happy to do whatever.

I'm on mobile, but in my posting history, theres a story about me running a chinese restaurant ("El Diche"). Point is, Ive got no issues with being the odd one out.

Lets focus on the first thing then. NZ. Where to start with planning that?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:43 AM on August 15, 2018


When I start planning a trip, the first two places I look are Ask Metafilter and wikivoyage.
posted by lowest east side at 8:55 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Iceland and New Zealand being polar opposites, I think I'd plan 2 trips. Traveling is fun, flying isn't. Also, it will be summer in NZ soon. Longer days are more fun while traveling.
posted by theora55 at 9:05 AM on August 15, 2018


You should be aware of this excellent collection of resources. I would start with Jodi’s writing and opinions and go from there. I have never regretted following her tips—and I have followed a lot of her tips.
posted by suncages at 9:35 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also: I am sorry for what you are going for, and travel is an excellent way to process things. From my own prior experience with a similar “big thing processing trip”, I will strongly encourage you to take a journal and write at least a little on every bus, train, and plane you’re on instead of losing yourself in books and music. This is the time to create, not consume, even if doing so feels hard and heavy. Your future “back to normal life” self will thank you. Good luck!
posted by suncages at 10:18 AM on August 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Hey, in that linked comment you are "in the middle of a divorce." Will the proceedings have concluded by October?

Because it would be lousy to embark on this wonderful trip while dealing with lawyer check-ins, or whatnot, pulling your focus. (It would be lousier still if this great thing you're doing for yourself meant the legal work dragged on longer than it normally would.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:58 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Argh, missed last sentence pasting over. So as not to abuse the edit window -- please speak with your legal counsel if you'll have anything outstanding by then, for stress-free travels.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:04 PM on August 15, 2018


I'm not certain how long you plan on traveling for but one thing to consider for long trips is how tiring it can be. I like the idea of starting in New Zealand and making your way back to the US (if that's where you live). Have the longest flight at the beginning of your journey. Also, Much of Western/Central and parts of Eastern Europe are in the Schengen area so you don't need to go through customs as you travel between those countries. But some places like Ireland and the UK are not so you would need to go through customs again. That can alter how you plan out your trip to save time (and anxiety). Of course weather is a factor, so you may end up doing Europe in the Winter (if you do end up traveling to Europe after NZ).
posted by acidnova at 12:50 PM on August 15, 2018


For NZ, a pretty popular and accessible way to get around and see the country, particularly if you're looking to do a lot of hiking, is to rent a camper van. I can't speak to the cost, but if you're comfortable driving on the other side of the road it's an option I'd explore. It's a gorgeous country and you'll love every second.
posted by fso at 1:27 PM on August 15, 2018


I would start in NZ, explore SE Asia for a bit, then fly to Europe. You can get a Eurail pass and hop around for a while before making your way to Iceland, which will be a shorter, cheaper flight if you make your way up to Holland, possibly through Belgium, with a goal of poking around the UK for a bit before hopping over to Iceland.

Fwiw, I travel quite a bit, and if you're eating on the cheap, staying in hostels (keeping in mind some places will have kitchens so you can cook rather than eating out for every meal) and using public transportation to get most places, you can probably stretch your budget to a year or more.

Have fun!
posted by ananci at 1:43 PM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the reasons for the trip, but wishing you the best voyage. If you start in NZ, you can easily stop off in Japan on a return flight to the US. There are lots of mountains and hiking to be done here. Memail if you want some details or contacts for that stuff.
posted by Gotanda at 5:17 PM on August 15, 2018


Rick Steves’ web page is a great place to start. Mostly only covers Europe, but it’s exhaustive. The travel tips section is very helpful. And there’s tons of half hour videos about different cities.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:33 PM on August 15, 2018


Seat61 is the best place to learn about train travel.
posted by soelo at 5:41 PM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I've done this. One-way ticket to my first destination with no particular itinerary setup for the rest of the year. My biggest piece of advice is: DON'T PLAN TOO FAR AHEAD. You're already stressed out, and travel planning for a whole year, with all options on the table, will just make you even more stressed out because that is an overwhelming and impossible task.

During my year away, I had a few non-movable plans to meet people at a specific place and date, so that loosely guided my itinerary, but other than that, I was flexible to do whatever. I ended up planning in 2-4 week chunks, so it was guided by what I felt like doing in the moment.

In your shoes I would do the following:
  1. Decide what is more important - stick to the budget, or see a specific list of places? This will guide future decisions when you have to choose one over the other.
  2. Come up with a list of must-see/must-do things. Research them, make sure you're planning on doing them in the right season, and that you can afford everything! It might help to come up with a theme/goal. For example, I wanted to learn Spanish, so that meant my first few months were in Spanish-speaking countries. That helped narrow it down from "the whole world" to three regions (Spain, Central America, South America). Maybe hiking is your thing? I met some folks who were cycling around South America.
  3. The result of #2 is that you will have a rough itinerary of places and dates you absolutely need to hit. You will plan around these, everything else will be flexible.
  4. Do some research about how you will get from place to place in your must-see/must-do list. This is just to give you an idea of modes of transport available, seasonal pricing, and the general routes people take. Make some notes for future reference, and especially figure out how to enter & stay in the country legally! You don't have to actually book anything yet.
  5. Book your ticket to your first destination and maybe your first few days' accommodation. Also book anything else that sells out, for example, the Inca Trail in Peru.
  6. Get to your first destination, and take the first few days to unwind. You have a new routine, new surroundings, and a new mindset to get used to. Personally I'd take it easy with lots of naps and food, but maybe you're more of a hiker/runner type! Whatever helps you disconnect from stuff back home.
  7. Do the things on the must-see/do list. Then when you feel like you want to move on (or need to move on to hit one of the events on the list) you can refer to your notes from #4 to plan the next step. I think in developed countries you can get moving very quickly and info is readily accessible so you may not need to plan too far in advance. I was in developing countries where not many places were on the internet so I made sure to plan about 2 weeks out.
In terms of gear, I would bring about 7-10 days' worth of clothes, toiletries, an unlocked phone, and a small laptop/netbook. I know the last item is not really "traveling light" but I found it invaluable for trip planning (keyboard, and switching between multiple tabs). Any specialty gear only for activities you will do a lot of! Otherwise just buy locally. I brought a guide book, silk sleep sac, and multi-tool, and I never used them.

For meds/shots, I went to a travel clinic and they sent me home with a stack of pamphlets that were very scary. They can only give good advice if you are specific with your destinations, and I wasn't. In the end, I just made sure I had the big ones covered (yellow fever, hepatitis, tetanus) and brought along some broad spectrum drugs for food poisoning type stuff. I skipped the malaria prophylaxis.

Final thought - Make sure you are clear on the goal for the trip. If it is supposed to be a restorative/therapeutic/forget about the world type of thing, then periodically check in with yourself if your plans are helping you reach your goals. There is no problem with staying at an all-inclusive for a week, if your brain needs it, or in fact, cutting your trip short if it's not what you'd hoped it would be. Make sure it is working for you.

MeMail me if you have any questions!
posted by tinydancer at 7:27 PM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


New Zealand is famous for traveling by hiking and biking. Highly recommend.
posted by aniola at 9:30 PM on August 15, 2018


Awesome. This has been fantastic. I've got a great friend in Hawaii who said he would put me up for a couple weeks in November.

So, I'll go to Hawaii and stay with him, and then... somehow get to New Zealand. Looks like I can stay for 3 months. So I just need to figure out an itinerary.

Any reccys for things to see and do ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:52 PM on August 16, 2018


New Zealand is exactly where I'd go! But my understanding is that it takes some planning to hike. They are protective of how many people they let onto the trails for backpacking in their national parks, and I believe you have to make those reservations at least 6 months out.

This is true for some of the Great Walks, but there are hundreds of tracks in NZ where you can just turns up & go.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:44 PM on August 16, 2018


China to Russia on Train, stopping where you want. My two cents.
posted by fluffycreature at 11:46 AM on August 20, 2018


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