Month: May 2014

Travel Forums

Travel forums can be incredibly helpful tools. I find myself on them frequently seeking advice from other travelers on everything from visas to overland travel to insurance. They are a great way to hear advice from people who have lived travel and relate to specific questions that only other travelers could help you answer. Some of the most helpful tips I’ve found came from these sites.

Having said all that, I also recently hit a point of travel forum fatigue. There is a limit to how many times you can read posts from people telling each other how to do their trip the right way. Yes there is a lot of helpful advice, but there are also a lot of extraneous posts to wade through to find it.

Ultimately I’ve mentally come to the decision that a RTW trip comes down to one thing: how do you want to do it? There are a plethora of ways that this can be done. Some people will tell you that you’re overplanning, or that you’re bringing the wrong size backpack, or that site that’s been on your must see list is so overrated. But my personality warrants a mixture of outline and flexibility, I would like to go more than two days without doing laundry, and isn’t the point to see for myself if something is overrated instead of taking your word for it?

Don’t get me wrong, like I said before, I love travel forums. But at the end of the day sometimes I have to remind myself to shut the laptop and stick to my decisions.

And if I end up deciding that somethings was wrong, then at least I know from experience. Isn’t that the point anyway? To experience it all, good and bad, and learn my travel lessons for myself? Sure I don’t want to learn on the go that I’ll be denied entry to a country without the proper documents, or that a 30 hour bus ride could be avoided by a cheaper 2 hour flight (unless of course I want to experience the bus ride), but if I was able to figure it all out in advance then I would be denied a certain knowledge that comes with the backpacker experience.

And it’s not like I can’t alter my preconceived ideas along the way. If I brought too much, I can leave something behind. It’ll be a lesson on letting go of an attachment to possessions. If I underestimated the amount of time I wanted to spend in Colombia then Ecuador might just have to be sacrificed or Buenos Aires cut down from 4 weeks to 2.

It is great to plan ahead. It is necessary to read up on how to travel long term. But sometimes, if I’m finding myself getting caught up in all the dos and don’ts, I just have to trust that I’ve done well in my preparations. Whatever decisions I’ve made, I stick by them, and the rest I’ll figure out as I go.

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Bucket List Reflections

I want to preface this post by saying that I love my bucket list. It’s motivated me to go out and do so many things throughout San Francisco that I never got to before, and it has been a great excuse for get togethers with friends and in different neighborhoods. But there is a mentality that comes with a bucket list that I am trying to shake before I go on this RTW adventure.

Lists in general are made to check things off. Who doesn’t get some sort of satisfaction out of putting a check mark next to or a red line through an item on a list? I have even added things to lists just so I could cross them off. When planning a visit to a new place, it seems natural to me to make a list of what interests you and try to get to as much of it as possible. I am guilty of traveling this way in the past, but I am trying to remind myself not to focus like this going forward.

As everything I read keeps telling me, a RTW trip isn’t about checking things off your list. It’s about being there in the moment. Say I miss a big tourist attraction because I get lost – this isn’t something to stress about. Wandering the streets of a town is just as good a way to get to know it as hitting the highlights; often it’s actually better. I may find some off the beaten path site that is even more interesting, or maybe I’ll have a chance to interact with locals, or just get a better feel for the architecture (I am an architecture student after all).

And isn’t this how I grew to love San Francisco anyway? It took me years to get Alcatraz, I avoid Fisherman’s Wharf like the plague, and despite living on a trolley car line I never take it. I like exploring the neighborhoods of SF without an agenda just as much as anything on my bucket list, so I should enjoy other places I visit in the same way.

So even while I make amazing progress on my bucket list (seriously, I’m almost done!), I am still trying to keep in mind that lists will not be a main focus of my RTW trip. The things I see and do will happen as they happen, not because I needed to write a check mark.