I Guess This is Goodbye

We’re now willfully unemployed. I don’t feel different. Actually, I feel like I finally got the extended weekend I’ve always wanted without calling in sick. Mike and I are getting a couple extra hours of zzz’s in the morning compared to our work wake-up times, but maybe that just offsets staying up until 5am checking off to-do list items.

May 2012 Work Calendar

The most eerie thing about the last month of work wasn’t knowing I was quitting the first full-time job I ever held to take a career break and travel around the world. No, I’ve had about 13 months to train my mind to accept that as normal.

Ever since handing in my resignation and the intent to vacate our apartment letter, I’ve been living through a dichotomy of “my life as-is” and “my life as it will be.” On the one hand, I still had a job and an apartment to call home. But I willfully and officially gave them up. This would no longer be my life. I would become unemployed and homeless. “Can I change my mind?” I wondered for the sake of wondering. And then, because I think too much, I really wondered if I could. Continue reading

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The Haircut Dilemma

For the last three years, I’ve sported a chin-length haircut. Then, in preparation for this trip, I started growing out my hair so it would be easier to manage on the road. All I have to do when it’s long is put it in a ponytail, and there’s no hassle of styling it.

A couple months ago, Mike proposed the idea of cutting it off — all of it. I was intrigued.

Me: You wouldn’t mind it if I had a pixie cut on our trip?
Mike: Look, I think you’re beautiful, and if it’ll make life easier for you, I say do it.

I think a lot of people would say, “He better feel that way!” But even I don’t like when his buzz cut is too short, and I tell him. The fact that he was so sincere when he said it made me feel more empowered to potentially do something extreme.

Tara's hair lengths

Should I cut my hair to pixie cut length or continue to grow it out for our trip?

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Final Pre-Departure Hurdles

“Happy hour this week?”



I’m planning a round-the-world trip.

Ok, so I don’t use this excuse with my close friends, but they already know not to invite me. Every night out eats up time and money, and Mike and I need plenty of both. The end of 2011 marked the end of late nights and weekly happy hours. We had our wedding to get ready for in March and our RTW in June.

Tara's 2nd packing testNow that the stress of planning our wedding has passed, we’re onto the next. Our RTW to-do list has shrunk from 3+ pages to less than one. Completed items include: buy one-way ticket to Iceland (YAY!), change last name (way easier than I thought), create a Couchsurfing profile (yes, Mom, we will talk to strangers), sit with a lawyer to draft up a living will (not something I was mentally prepared for at 25) and (successfully) complete a packing test.

That’s just a sampling, but even with all we’ve accomplished, we’re still not actually ready to depart. We have an apartment full of “stuff” and a bunch of small to-do items to take care of. Many have asked what’s left. Rather than bore you with the little things – updating our resumes, submitting a change of address, notifying credit card companies of our departure – I’ll tell you about some of our most important recent accomplishments and how we got there. Continue reading

I Can’t Do All This Myself

The title refers to how you will hopefully never feel when traveling with someone else.

One of the more important aspects to planning a joint trip (like our round-the-world trip we are currently figuring out) is equally dividing the work. Tara and I have always worked well together when attacking problems — we find a way to let each of our strengths shine, which prevents conflict over who is doing the heavy lifting, because we both are.

With our departure now only a month away, there is no down time. Instead, every second is spent researching, investigating and booking hostels, campsites, flights and trains. This constant pressure creates exactly the right conditions for me to work, but sometimes the fact that we’re just over a month away makes me feel like we have more time than we actually do. And that false sense of security leads me to want to procrastinate, only there is no time for it.

This is why our weekly goals list is something I cannot recommend more highly for those preparing for long-term travel. Each week, we set short- and long-term goals that require team or individual completion. We order them according to importance based on whether they impact other projects or deadlines. Then each day after work, we discuss the list and hunker down for a night of productivity.

A perfect example is our Russian visa. Getting a Russian visa is quite a time-intensive venture that requires you to hand over your passport to the embassy for a couple weeks; however, you can’t begin the process until you have an invitation letter and your entry and exit transportation sorted out. In our case, we booked a trip through a travel agency that provides us with said invitation letter, but until we decided when and through which transportation method we are leaving, we could not begin the visa process. Translation: If you’re the type to figure out things as you go along, Russia may not be the best fit for you. Overstaying your visa in Russia, even if it’s not your fault — such as a delayed plane or train — can lead to you being detained and fined. Continue reading

In Our Packs: The Odd Six

Looking through the packing list porn online, you see the same usual travel items: duct tape, shower shoes, plug adapter, silk sleep sack, quick-dry towels and on and on go the lists. But then there are products that stand out and make you wonder, “Why in the hell are they bringing that?” or, hopefully, “Brilliant!”

We thought long and hard about what our packs would hold during our year+ RTW trip. Here is a spotlight on the odd six we’ll be trekking around with:

Starbucks Via Packets

Starbucks Via Ready Brew Packets
(idea credit: Beers and Beans)
Coffee is expensive and not always available in the middle of nowhere, but hot water usually is.

Vapur Anti-Bottle

(idea credit: Pierced Hearts and True Love)
Some water bottles take up space that could be used for, well, anything. Why bring something that can’t collapse when you can pack an item that can? I introduce you to the Vapur anti-bottle, which rolls up small enough to fit in even my back pocket.

Trailfinder LED Headlight
Whether camping or rummaging through our packs in a hostel at night, a headlight is really a necessity when budget traveling long term. Last time I backpacked, I only had a micro photon light stick. Amateur. Continue reading

Time is Flying, and Soon We Will Be Too

In 47 days, we’ll be on a plane out of the United States. We’re in the final stages of planning, and it’s really all happening.

I think about the progression of this trip over the last year — from a thrilling idea that scared the shit out of me to a soul-filling adventure I would be devastated not to go on — and the fact that it took months upon months to convince myself that we’d be ok if we left our secure jobs for an unpredictable future.

I think about the deep fear I had when I was going to see my parents for the first time in months and knew it was time to tell them and my other family. My parents’ reaction was more of a concern for my well-being than a “you’re crazy to quit your job in this economy” retort like I was expecting. After breaking the news, my conversations with some family members focused on the trip and its meaning, while others couldn’t get over the fact that I’d be jobless. “Talk her out of it,” they said to Mike.

Tara and Mike's First Dance at Their WeddingI think about the stress we took on while planning our wedding and trip concurrently. Our guest list of 25 people didn’t make it less stressful to plan than a 125-person wedding. But there was no way around that. Could we have an intimate and personalized wedding within our budget? And sometimes we wondered about our priorities. Is it crazy that we’d rather put the majority of our savings toward our extended honeymoon than our wedding? But we didn’t want a big wedding — really. And now that it’s over, we look back on that March 3 weekend and are happy and proud of our decision. Continue reading

Boxing Up Our Lives

Boxes of TrashFor months I’ve asked Mike to go through two particular containers of his “stuff” that I knew he was avoiding. And now, with two and a half months until we depart for our round-the-world trip, we really have to start classifying things into stay or go categories. So instead of challenging our livers on St. Patty’s day, we decluttered, and for hours Mike sorted through those two containers while I emptied out my own. Continue reading