Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Money and RTW Travel

Greetings from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  In the next few days you can expect an update on our transatlantic cruise from Europe back to the Americas, but first let’s take a pause from our regularly scheduled programming to address an important topic:  Money and RTW Travel.

This blog post is inspired by some of the comments on CNN.com in reaction to last Tuesday’s article ‘Summer chasers’ keep sun in their sights which features our Chasing Summer adventure along with a couple others.   The article was a huge success, drawing close to 200,000 readers from around the world and over 150 website comments.  It also drew over 8,000 new visitors to this blog.  Thanks CNN!

Reading through the comments on the CNN website, I noticed that a lot of readers were skeptical about whether “regular folks” can afford to travel around the world like we’re doing.  There seems to be a common misconception, at least in the United States, that international travel is a luxury that only the rich can afford.  I’d like to put that misconception to rest.

Let me start by dispelling the myth that “only trust fund babies can travel the world.”  The style of travel that Lauren and I have chosen certainly requires some cash in the bank, though it’s probably not as much as you think, and if either of us have trust funds nobody has told us about them yet!

As the CNN.com article mentioned, our trip is financed by cash I’ve saved up over the years, mostly profits from my company, Infosurv.  I started Infosurv in college with no outside capital and spent the last 12 years working hard to grow it, with the help of course of dozens of incredibly dedicated and talented employees.

We realize how fortunate we are to be able to travel in the style that we’ve chosen.  That said, I believe strongly that anyone can travel internationally if they have an able body and the discipline to work within a budget that suits them. It all comes down to the style of travel that they choose.

To illustrate, here are a few anonymous profiles of other travelers that I’ve met along the way:

The French Migrant Worker

On a bus to Arlie Beach, Australia, I met a pretty French girl who told me that she’s traveling though Australia and New Zealand as a migrant worker.  She picks fruits and berries on organic farms, alongside other migrant workers from Thailand and Indonesia (she admitted they are far more productive than she is.)   She enjoys working the fields and meeting other travelers along the way.  She saves up money as she goes, taking a few weeks off here and there to sightsee or chill at a hostel by the beach.  I’m guessing that she started her trip with just enough money for a cheap flight from France to Australia.

The British Retailer

At a hostel in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I met a 23-year old British girl who was traveling though Australia, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, and South America for 10 months.  After graduating from university she worked for 6 months as a front-line employee at an H&M clothing store in Liverpool, living inexpensively at her parents’ house to save up as much money as possible.  Her self-funded trip cost around £8,000 pounds (or about $16,000.)

The Australian Software Engineer

At a bar in Thailand I met an Aussie software engineer who funds his travels as he goes by working on software projects remotely for clients back home.  Since the cost of living in Thailand is just a fraction of that in Australia, he doesn’t need to work on nearly as many projects to support himself as he did at home.  This leaves him lots of extra time and money for sightseeing, transportation and recreation.

You may notice that none of the people profiled above would be considered ‘wealthy’ by Western standards. Yet, they’ve all found a way travel internationally for extensive periods of time.

You may also notice that none of the people that I profiled are American… I hate to admit this, but Americans are vastly under-represented amongst RTW travelers.  For every 1 fellow American that I’ve met traveling aboard, I’ve met 10 Australians, 8 Brits, and 3 Canadians.  Since our population is more than 10x each of theirs, this is a shameful state of affairs.

Admittedly, there are plenty of real-world constraints that make extensive travel more difficult.  For example, those with physical disabilities will find that other countries don’t typically have the same accessibility infrastructure that we enjoy in the States (although low-cost international cruise ships usually do.)

Those traveling with small children will find it more challenging than traveling alone, with older children or other adults, but it can be done.  Most of the people I’ve met traveling with children are living abroad more so than just traveling abroad, usually renting a house in a foreign country for several months or a year.  Though this kind of traveler isn’t quite as mobile as the single young backpacker, they still enjoy a similar sense of freedom, adventure, and cultural immersion.

For Americans, the most commonly cited impediment to long-term travel is our jobs  — or more specifically, the country’s relatively tight vacation policies.   In Europe, it’s not uncommon for employees to enjoy 6-8 weeks of paid vacation each year.  In the US, many employees get only 2 weeks.  This is a cultural problem, and unfortunately not much can be done about it at this point short of government intervention, as any American company that offers more paid vacation than its peers would find itself at a competitive disadvantage.

However, even the most workaholic American will find himself between jobs from time to time, especially in today’s economic environment, and these career breaks are the perfect time to knock the dust off one’s passport.

I believe that many of the reasons Americans cite for not traveling are intellectual covers for what’s really a cultural hesitancy.  The United States is very isolated by world standards.  We’re physically isolated by two vast oceans, politically isolated by the strongest military in the world, financially isolated by economic self-sufficiency (oil excepted), and culturally isolated as the world’s best exporter and worst importer of music, film, and media.  Americans have grown so accustomed to the bubble in which we live that most of us don’t even realize how much exists beyond it.  What little we do know about the outside world often comes from our sensationalizing media, thus giving us fears of other countries in vast disproportion to the dangers that actually exist there.

In the end, I believe than all Americans should travel the world, and than almost all of us can afford to if we have the courage, the desire, and the discipline to make it happen.

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What to Pack for RTW Travel (for women)

Some would be surprised to know that I am using the exact same bag as Jared, an Osprey Meridian 22. We researched a lot of bags and thought this was the best because it was carry-on size for most major airlines so we don’t have to check luggage. There are also wheels to use when in an urban area (I have not had to convert it to a backpack yet).

You will see that I have a lot more stuff than Jared, but somehow I fit it all into the same size bag. I like to have options, and I have been wearing everything I brought. I did ship back a few items from Italy that I found I was not wearing…regular jeans, Chaco sandals, and a black pashmina.

Clothing:

• Pants:

o Skinny jeans – J Brand

o Khaki pants that are convertible to shorts – North Face

o Khaki Capri pants – very old and I have no idea where I bought them

o Black yoga pants from Victoria secret – great for travel and pajamas

o Black harem pants (purchased in Italy for 10 euro)

o One pair of gray khaki shorts

• Skirts/Dresses:

o Long navy blue cotton dress

o Short tube top dress (great for beach and extremely hot weather) by LA Made

o Cotton gray skirt

• Shirts:

o 2 wool icebreaker short-sleeve shirts

o 2 bamboo cotton shirts (one short sleeve, one long sleeve) by Avani

o 1 long sleeve Columbia button down shirt

o 1 white cotton tank top

o 1 gray Rese workout tank top

o 1 nice dressy shirt (tank top)

o 1 Gap hoodie

o 1 North Face shell for rain and wind

o 1 gray wool wrap sweater from Banana Republic

• Shoes:

o Havianas flip flops

o Puma tennis shoes

o Tory Burch ballet flats

o Stylish Birkenstocks (purchased in Italy after my Chaco’s were bothering me)

• Other:

o 1 set of pajamas – shorts and tank top (purchased in Italy when I realized I didn’t have pajamas and we had been staying in dorm rooms with other people in hostels)

o 2 bikinis

o 7 pair of underwear

o 2 bras, 1 sports bra

o 3 pair of socks

o Bandana

o Baseball cap, ski cap, and safari type hat

o 1 pashmina (a must for religious places, can also be used as a blanket or pillow while traveling)

o Quick dry camping towel

o Silk sleep sack

o Small purse for everyday (cross body)

o Extra bag – flip and tumble for the beach, groceries, etc

o LL bean toiletry bag with toiletries – yes, I did bring a couple of items of makeup in case I feel like getting pretty

o Extra bag of medications (prescription and over the counter) – I brought Prednisone and Cipro with me in case we needed antibiotics and were somewhere we couldn’t get them right away and the prednisone is for me because I get horrible reactions to bug bites. I also have emergency migraine medication with me including an injection

o Ray ban polarized sunglasses

o 2 combination locks

o Platypus ½ Liter water sleeve

o Headlamp

o A variety of Ziploc bags (this is a must!)

• Electronics:

o Sony W series mini notebook (has held up really well and has about a 7 hour battery life)

o Jared’s hand-me-down iPhone 3GS – I use this to read books, check email, etc.

o Canon PowerShot SD880IS – camera I bought Jared a couple of years ago and works great. We discussed buying a nice SLR and decided it was too much weight and bulk to carry and everyone we found traveling extensively with a nice camera, had it stolen or were targeted for a crime.

o Universal power adapters from The Container Store

I think Jared explained in his post that most of our clothes are quick drying which is essential because it seems no one abroad uses dryers. Two of my shirts are made from bamboo and two are wool which makes them all quick drying and anti-microbial (they don’t smell bad!).

I could probably get by with less stuff, but I like the fact that I do not have to wear the same thing every day and I am able to fit it all into my bag so it’s not a problem. I did consciously bring items that can all be interchanged fairly easily. Most of my clothes are khaki, navy, gray, white, black and all go together. One the other hand, I did make sure that I had some bright colored shirts and my one sweatshirt is a bright purple so it makes the wardrobe not as boring. Some guys would not understand this, but I think I would get depressed wearing the same clothes for a year if they were all drab colors. I also know that when I get tired of something, I can give it away or send it home especially because I enjoy taking part in the local fashion style of where ever we are at the time.

We had done some research on a packing list from another couples RTW trip blog. I took her list and then tweaked it to what I needed. I think a female has to be more strategic with packing especially because we plan to be in urban and rural areas. I need to look appropriate when walking into a church in Italy, into a club in Buenos Aires, on the beach in the Greek islands, and on safari!

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What to Pack for RTW Travel (for men)

It’s our hope that this blog will serve as not only a chronicle of our Chasing Summer adventure, but also an inspiration and resource for those considering a similar experience. So to supplement our regular posts about what we’re seeing and doing, we’ll also include posts from time-to-time with travel advice, lessons learned, and other stuff that may be useful to the world.  In this post, we’ll focus on what we learned about how to pack for a round-the-world (RTW) trip.

This post is written by Jared and targeted at the male perspective.  Lauren will write another post soon for the female perspective.

I’ve learned that you should bring half as much stuff and twice as much money as you think you’ll need. Even before this trip I was a fairly seasoned international traveler, having visited close to 40 countries and hundreds of cities in my life.  I knew that to travel for a year I’d need to pack light, but I still underestimated how light would be light enough.  I limited myself to one carry-on sized backpack, the awesome Osprey Meridian 22, for everything I’d bring (clothes, electronics, toiletries, exercise equipment, etc.) and still managed to pack more than I’ve actually needed.  In terms of clothes, here’s what I packed and have actually used:

– One pair of nice jeans for going out (I like 7 For All ManKind)

– One pair of travel khakis (the Arc’teryx Palisades which have been great)

– Two pairs of colored t-shirts (the Icebreaker Superfine 150‘s which are also great)

– Two pairs of white ExOfficio t-shirts (for working out or the beach)

– Three pairs of ExOfficio underwear (these are a “must have” for long-term travel)

– One nice button-down long-sleeve cotton shirt

– One pair of mesh shorts (for working out)

– Two pairs of shorts (one casual cotton pair and one nice linen pair)

– One Patagonia lightweight long-sleeve shirt (for chilly nights)

– One wool pullover (for even chiller nights)

– One Arc’teryx Beta SL rain jacket (which I also use a wind-breaker sometimes)

– One bathing suit

– One pair of black Prada sneakers (for nice bars and restaurants)

– One pair of black Vibram KSO Trek shoes (for jogging and long walks around cities, plus getting lots of stares from Greeks and Italians)

– One pair of Havaiana flip flops (for the beach)

– Two pairs of black dress socks for the Prada sneakers

– Two pairs of Injinji socks for the Vibram’s

– One wide-brimmed travel hat (looks dorky but great for blocking sun)

That’s it for clothes, and it has easily been enough. Note that nearly everything that gets daily wear is made from a quick-dry material, which allows me to wash it in the sink and lay it out to dry overnight.

In terms of general travel accessories, I packed:

– One pair of sunglasses (I like these Maui Jim’s)

– One hanging toiletry bag (plus assorted toiletries, of course)

– Earplugs and an eye mask (great for hostels, planes, and just sleeping late)

– A travel luggage lock (mine has been discontinued but it’s similar to this one)

– A thin silk sleeping sack (for rough or questionably clean sheets)

Don’t sweat it if you under-pack when it comes to toiletries or travel accessories, as these kinds of things can be easily bought on the road.

I’m a bit of a workout freak and knew that gyms would be hard to come by in many places that we’d visit, so before the trip I started getting into P90X because it requires such minimal space and equipment.  It has proven perfect for travel because all I need is the P90X videos on my laptop, a 5 x 10 foot floor space, a towel to put on the ground, some resistance bands, and my Lifeline chin-up handles (or I use the occasional ceiling beam, tree branch, etc.)  I’ve also found that yoga and running are great for working out on the road — you can do either just about anywhere.

In terms of electronics, my iPhone 4 has been a lifesaver.  I use it everyday for just about everything imaginable… it’s my camera, video camera, email device, GPS, ebook reader, MP3 player, movie viewer, Web surfing device, weather aid, notepad, calculator, Skype device, and sometimes even phone.  I’d be totally lost without it.

I also brought both my iPad and Macbook Air laptop.  I know that’s a lot of technology for someone “traveling light” but I wasn’t sure what I’d end up needing.  As it turns out, I’ve used the laptop daily and the iPad almost ever.  I ended up selling the iPad and bought the new Kindle 3 instead.  I don’t really need the Kindle, but it will be nice for reading ebooks on the beach and my PDF format Lonely Planet guidebooks (the iPhone 4 works for this too).

As for the Macbook Air, it’s a much nicer computer than one really needs for emails, Web surfing, blog updates, and playing P90X videos.  However it packs small and I already owned it, so that’s what I brought.  For most travelers a cheap netbook will do just fine.

While traveling, I also bought a universal electrical plug adapter (nearly all electronics these days accept either 120 or 240 volt current, which means you don’t need a converter, just a plug adapter) and some travel walkie talkies to avoid using our cell phones to coordinate when we’re running around separately in the same city.

Now, regarding money… We’ve been trying to travel frugally, but we’re still spending nearly twice as much in the average day as I’d budgeted.  Part of the problem is that we’re traveling in Europe at the moment and the dollar isn’t very strong against the euro, and the other part is that we’re not making the day-to-day sacrifices that “true backpackers” tend to make.  For example, we’ve spent much more time in private hotel rooms than dorm-style hostels, we eat nearly every meal in a restaurant, and we haven’t hesitated to rent a car, scooter, or ATV when it adds convenience, even when buses or trains would have sufficed.

My advice to other world travelers is simply “know thyself” and budget according to the level of comfort and convenience that you need (or want) and not that of others.

I really hope that this post has been helpful to folks.  If you have any questions, just ask!

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