Month: February 2014

Goodbye Old Passport

I had to replace my old passport before I left – it expired in May. In honor of receiving my new one today (I can actually go now!), here’s a look back at my past 10 years of travel.

The passport I sent in was my passport since I was 17. It served me well on many international excursions, as well as those 6 months in San Francisco when I lost my NJ drivers license and put off taking the test to get my CA one. Whenever I took it out I loved flipping through the pages and seeing the visual proof of places I’ve been. The stamps triggered so many memories. Before I sent it in, just in case they didn’t send it back, which I’ve heard happens even though the website tells you they will, I scanned its pages so I would still have access to the memories. (As of the time of posting this, they still have not sent it back, but they say it may come in a separate mailing.)

Here are a few highlights.

Germany, Hungary, Austria, the U.S.

Germany, Hungary, Austria, the U.S.

Israel, Peru, Germany, Nicaragua, the U.S.

Israel, Peru, Germany, Nicaragua, the U.S.

Switzerland, Mexico, Austria, England, the U.S.

Switzerland, Mexico, Austria, England, the U.S.

Peru, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, the U.S.

Peru, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, the U.S.

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The Revised Plan

About three months after I wrote my first list, I started to freak out a little. I had been looking into flights and timelines, and realized that I was committing to an outline through June of 2015. Doubts started coming to mind about whether I should lock myself into a whole year on the road. I’ve never traveled alone for that long before, can I really make it a year?

Also as I was looking at RTW tickets I was being locked into starting and stopping in the same country. So on the reverse side, what if I didn’t want to come back at the end of a year? I’ve always wanted to live in Europe again, but these tickets weren’t letting me have that option, I had to come back to the U.S. Will I want to?

And as I told people about the last leg of my trip – Middle East and Africa – the general response was concern for my safety. I realize that traveling alone as an American girl is going to have its challenges. I do think that I’m a very aware traveler and I will keep updated on where I should and should not go. But this feeling of uncertainty started to sink it. How could I know what the world will be like in 2015?

So I thought a lot about what I’m doing and had some key conversations, and I was reminded that this trip is entirely my choice. Sure I started out thinking it was a year and I’d hit all my original pillars, but if I’m feeling unsettled about it I can change it so that I feel better. I thought more about how I could make this is a trip that was more on the exciting side than the terrifying side (although it will still always have both elements) and eventually came around to a compromise that made me feel worlds better.

9 months up front. No return flight.

I came to the 9 month mark because of three points in the trip: 1) starting in June, I could start at the World Cup, somewhere I’ve always dreamed of going, and somewhere I knew I had friends to help me kick this journey off; 2) my family agreed to Christmas in Thailand, giving me visitors to look forward to and a little taste of home 6 months in; 3) a friend decided to come to India with me in February 2015, so I would again have a friendly face and wouldn’t be alone in India. This gave me a structure that I felt good about and the timing worked out to hit pillars 1, 2, 4, and 6. This is how I ended up with the route that is on my Itinerary page.

Not having a return flight gives me freedom, and that freedom was relieving. Now in March of 2015, if I want to keep going and make it to 3, 5, and 7, I can. Or if I want to go live in Europe I can. Or if I’m exhausted and need to come home, also possible. Or maybe I just did not have enough time somewhere and I can go back. I’ll be halfway around the world with endless possibilities and that became the most exciting part of this plan.

The most important thing I learned from all of this: this trip will evolve. No matter how I set out, anything could happen along the way, and I have to be open to it and ready to just go with it. If necessary, I can and should change whatever I need to to make this experience the best that it can be for me.

Which includes not totally freaking out when I think about leaving. I’m happy I’m past that point.

Where to Start? The First List.

Ok so I want to do this. Great. Now what? How do you go about planning a trip like this?

Of course at first I wanted to go every place in the world I had ever heard of, and more that I hadn’t heard of, and try to fit it all in within the year. But I had to remind myself that this isn’t about checking boxes, getting a picture of a place or putting a pin in a map and moving on. I needed time in places. Not to mention that it is logistically impossible. There is just no way to go everywhere in this one trip.

In this trip being the key phrase. I will get to them at some point.

I also knew I had to narrow down some of the larger areas and focus on just a few regions. I have already been around Europe a lot from high school and college so I ruled that out completely. China, Japan and Russia just seem like their own trip to me, and places I can visit any time in life. I wanted this to be a backpacking trip, staying in hostels and meeting other travelers around my own age doing the same kind of trip. I also knew I had to pick places that were relatively cheaper since I am not planning on working while I’m abroad. This narrowed down my focus to South America, Southeast Asia/India, Australia/New Zealand, and Africa.

Now the trip needed structure, something to base my route on. So after looking around at various travel blogs about how to start planning a RTW trip, I decided I had to pick my top list, my must sees, my “pillars,” and write them down.

Writing them down is key. Not only will I not be able to forget them, but there’s something permanent about writing them. I could step away and revisit them, give them time to sink in, make sure these are really the pillars that I wanted to base the next year of my life around. I started an Evernote so that as long as I had some sort of technology I wouldn’t be without them, and now they’re in my small travel notebook that I carry with me everywhere.

I thought about what was important to me – architecture and nature. They may seem like opposing ideas, but it’s amazing how similar they can be. Mountains and buildings, made by different forces, both have the ability to inspire a feeling of awe within me. I studied and now work in architecture, so that’s a given, but I have also always loved landscapes and being outdoors. I knew I wanted to have a mixture of important architectural and natural sites.

A few things I kept in mind: I did not want to repeat anything (e.g. I went to Machu Picchu last year so I didn’t need to put that on the list anymore) and I wanted to spread the destinations out around my target regions.

So I drafted my list:

list_photo

1. Taj Mahal
2. Iguazu Falls
3. Great Pyramids
4. Angkor Wat
5. Mt. Kilimanjaro
6. Great Barrier Reef
7. Wadi Rum/Petra

I wrote this list on the first page of my notebook in July 2013, 11 months before I planned to leave. I wanted to structure my future planning around it but also had time to get used to it. And I am very happy I did that. If you’ve looked at my itinerary, some of these places are missing. I went through some major revisions in the next half a year to get to where I am today. But that’s for another post.

San Francisco Bucket List

I moved to San Francisco almost three years ago and have loved every minute of living here. Leaving is going to be very hard, so instead of focusing on the sadness of saying bye I decided to celebrate my time in the city before I go by making a bucket list.

I’ve always enjoyed discovering as much as possible about where I live, whether new restaurants and bars or quirky lesser known places to explore. While I did this to a degree in NYC, I did this tenfold when I moved to SF. My enthusiasm for the city and all it has to offer made it incredibly hard to even narrow everything I want to do down to a bucket list – I could’ve filled a whole spreadsheet with just a list of restaurants if I really let myself go crazy with it. But I showed some restraint and was able to narrow it down to a hit list that I think I can accomplish before I go (although I’ve been told this is still a very long list). The main rule was no repeats; if I’ve been before, it doesn’t make the cut. Then it was about trying to spread out neighborhoods and types of activities.

The Bucket List

Part of the Bucket List

What was really fun for me, before even going on any bucket list adventures, was blasting out my bucket list to my friends on social media and seeing the response – next to each activity I put a “Who wants to come?!” column that people have been filling in. It’s pretty awesome to have so many people want to join me for these events. Now, each time I think I might be able to do something, I email the people who signed up and we try to coordinate a date.

To keep track of everything I’m doing, I hashtag it all on Instagram and Twitter with #brodgesbucketlist

Some of these posts have two hashtags: #brodgesbucketlist #unofficialversion These are for the activities or places that didn’t make the final cut for the spreadsheet, but are on my secret mental list. They’re things I want to do but had to sacrifice since the list would be unmanageable if they were all on there.

In all honesty, I plan to return to San Francisco. I realize that complicates the fact that I have a bucket list when I think I’ll be back here in the end, but for me it’s just a fun way to say goodbye for a while and finally do these things I’ve wanted to do for so long.

I’ll post some of these adventures in my Bucket List section (under Preparing to Go). They’re part of this journey too. Just like I have to say bye to friends and family, I have to say bye to my city for a while too.

196 Reasons to “Just Go” in 2014

I will elaborate more on my love for the BootsnAll website very soon, but I just had to post this as I came across it today. I’m a subscriber to BootsnAll’s emails and I always look forward to their travel tips and stories. So when I received an email this morning talking about a new series called “Just Go!” I was especially interested. And I think it’s great. Getting excited!

Check it out: 196 Reasons to “Just Go” in 2014