When it comes to RTW-ing and traveling as a delicate femme, there’s millions of ways to do so and even more opinions on every matter. Check out World of Mouth to do additional research on the questions you have or on the ones you see below. And if you have a question, I really do love putting my monocle on and answering them.
How do you balance between paying for cool trekking/kayaking/rafting trips and having enough money to get you to your next stop?
I guess, first of all, you have to know how much money is available for you to spend. I had an idea of what I could or wanted to spend before leaving home and asked my parents to transfer funds periodically from my savings to my spending when the pot ran dry.
Secondly, it’s essential to remember why you booked the ticket in the first place. I can completely understand having to pinch pennies because you don’t have the money to spend, but its a bigger waste to spend the thousands to fly, get inoculated, wrangle visas, eat, sleep, and play somewhere and not do what drew you there in the first place. My decision to go to India again was solely fueled by my desire to see massive mountains. When the option came to go to Manali, a location in the foothills resembling Boulder, Colorado more than an Indian hill station, or the Kashmiri mountains with a personal guide, it was painful but clear which way my wallet needed to sway.
However, when I make those decisions to splurge on something essential to my experience abroad, it makes me feel a little better and more stable to react afterward with a frugality spree: cutting out drinks, anything more luxurious than the absolute bottom-priced accommodations, eating at roadside stands and convenience stores, you get the gist.
What are some difficulties and concerns for traveling as a single woman?
The worries that seem obvious with traveling as a single woman are surprisingly, and conveniently, not there. I’m surprise myself when I realize I’m more afraid of sleeping in my house alone than wandering Bangkok at night or sleeping in a bus station in Zambia. In short, I had no big problems of note with being a solo woman, just a little oggling in the Middle East for a day but that was probably because of the sweaty cling of my clothing.
I tell everyone who asks me this that I was fearful before going and then realized I didn’t really need to be while out there. There’s a survival instinct one acquires that helps you watch your own back to avoid bad situations, and that involves things like:
When leaving a spot where you were sitting, standing against something, etc., always walk a few steps and double back to make sure you left nothing. Forgetting something really important could rip your plans, capabilities, and sense of safety clean apart.
Always have an evacuation plan out of any situation that you don’t trust or can’t rely on 100%. For instance, when I was being pressured to go to Kashmir in a tiny one-room travel agency, when I couldn’t get a visa into India from Zambia, when I was wandering alleys in Bangkok, I knew how I would react if I needed to wriggle out of the situation in the most cost-efficient, least embarrassing or socially-awkward way.
Listen to your gut instinct (which comes with the fear of being alone and solely relying on yourself rather than others)
There’s hundreds others one will learn as the trip goes on. And there are ALWAYS people around that want to help out. It becomes an acquired skill to know where to look for such free and accurate assistance. Also know that there are millions of women who do this, travel alone, so don’t be afraid. The world knows we must be tough to be out on our own.
Did you stick to a strict itinerary and plan the whole trip beforehand, or did you wing-it most of the time?
Here is what I knew about my route and the details:
I knew the first leg of the trip would be Italy with the family and an assortment of nearby cities in Tuscany.
I knew I was flying to Uganda and doing a volunteer project three days after getting in the country.
I had a trip booked from Nairobi that I had to get to by a certain date, and I knew when I’d be down in Victoria Falls upon the trip’s completion.
I knew I had to get to Johannesburg, South Africa by a certain date.
I knew I had a month to get from Delhi to Kolkata, India.
I knew I had to find a way to Phnom Penh from Siem Reap, Cambodia, where I had a volunteer opportunity set up.
I had to get to Bangkok in time for a flight to Japan.
I knew I’d see my parents in Maui.
Here are the things I decided upon once on the road:
With a few guide books and a map outstretched, my two travel buddies and I formulated our rough route around Europe before the first train, then threw our plans out the window with each day’s attitude and preference. The decision to go to the Ukraine was based on a coin toss two hours before the night train left.
Rheine and Kiel, Germany as well as Copenhagen, Denmark were side-trips to see friends or former exchange students.
I decided to couch surf in Uganda a week before my flight there.
Upon meeting my overlanding crew in the city where I was volunteering in Uganda, I joined the trip I was supposed to meet in Nairobi right then and there, hitchhiking onto a trip I didn’t pay for and seeing the Masai Mara in the meantime.
I decided to get my Indian visa in Lusaka, a week before the trip. Wasn’t my brightest idea.
The plans for India were initially a blank page, then a completely scheduled calendar of activities and destinations, then a final “seat-of-the-pants” philosophical approach.
The transit experiences before and after Phnom Penh, Cambodia were all planned the day before they occurred.
Japan was about meeting up with a college buddy, who would then show me the ropes.
Hawai’i was detox rehab.
Did you start traveling right after graduation?
I graduated May 3rd, 2008. I flew to Italy May 5th, 2008. I had the trip booked by mid-March.
How did you finance all your traveling in the beginning?
I sold my car and used my life savings I had been accumulating since pre-birth. Thanks to my parents planning methods, the focus was on raising money for college from the get-go, so once the time came to pay those bills, I was covered and needed no loans (holla at in-state tuition!).
I don’t shop, and I hate spending money at home. That helps in the long run, too. I also found ways to get compensated with room and board by working or volunteering in various places while on the Big Journey.
What would you say are the greatest challenges you’ve faced during your travels?
Walking unharmed to the bathroom or a suitable squatting location in a bush camp in Africa
Getting a visa for India on the road
Dealing with countries that wouldn’t let me use my debit card (cough, cough, India and Zambia)
Hiking in the Himalayas at 16,000 feet in a snowstorm in jeans
Trying not to throw up on bumpy trucks when afflicted with the stomach flu or trying not to use the bathroom for 26 hours in transit from Varanasi to Darjeeling after a horrible Delhi belly situation.