The Parts About Planning A RTW Trip That Suck

Not traveling as much

We used to go on vacations at least twice a year. But with the big trip coming up we’ve had to adjust the duration and location of our yearly vacations to save money. We stick to domestic destinations, and instead of 2-week-long travels, we do a week here and there.

We used to go on backpacking trips all over the states… Wyoming, Colorado, Alaska… but now we tend to stay within our state. Luckily, with our state’s proximity to the sierras, this has not been as tough as it could’ve been. But we can’t help but feeling a little cooped up at work.

A pair of pants vs 150 meals

On top of all the penny pinching and the saving, every purchase we make needs to be evaluated. A new Smartwool thermal for $90, hmm… that’s like 2 days of living cost for both of us in SE Asia. Or as Wandering Earl in “Currency of Pad Thai” would put it,

β€˜Should I buy those sneakers? They’re only $65. I don’t know. For that amount of money I could feast on 140 plates of my favorite pad thai in Bangkok!’

Even though we don’t care so much for pad thai’s (pad see ew is so much better), you get the gist. You keep comparing the things you want to the things you can get abroad for the same amount of money. And it sucks… because sometimes you really, really want a new pair of pants.

And if you give in, there’s the guilt: My only pants have a hole in the butt. I need a new pair of pants, dang it. Why am I feeling guilty over it?

Realizing the border-less world as seen in from above is an illusion

We can talk about globalization as much as we want, but the world is still heavily compartmentalized. You can be refused entry to certain countries because you have a certain stamp on your passport.

Or you could find yourself being interrogated simply by having been to the wrong country and flying out with the wrong person.

There’s so much distrust and bad blood that certain countries require a copy of your bank statements from the last 6 months to prove that you can afford your trip.

But only if you’re coming from the ‘wrong’ country.

It’s sad and disheartening to learn that even though you want to go and see the world, sometimes it feels like the world does not want to see YOU.

Dealing with broken foreign consulate/embassy websites

And phone numbers that go nowhere. I’m convinced that they actually hire people whose job is to make sure the phones go unanswered. I can just envision the scene: a ringing phone, cordoned off behind a velvet rope, and a guard whose job is to shoot anyone who tries to pick it up.

And what’s up with the ‘getting visa’ links that go to a 404 site?

The only exception I’ve encountered so far: the Swiss embassy. I got a reply within 1 hour of an email inquiry from a real person complete with a phone number to his direct line.

For that, the Swiss will forever have a special place in my heart. Even if they decided to pass that stupid anti-minaret law.

Being unable to answer friends’ and relatives’ questions

I feel like I should know the answer to these questions. But I just don’t…

– “Which countries are you going to?”
– “How long are you going to be on the road?”
– “Are you coming back here?”
– “Are you going to country X, Y, Z?”

After the 10th ‘We don’t know’ in a row I tend feel guilty and slightly awkward. I have a flashback of an image of myself standing in front of the rest of the 6th graders in my class unable to answer the teacher’s question.

I think the ultimate sacrifice we’ve had to make is the decision not to have pets.

We love animals. Both of use grew up with pets and can’t imagine a life without their companionship. But dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds live for a very long time and we are in no position to enter into a 10+ yr commitment that many pets require.

Even though we foster for local rescues and we love our fosters… they will eventually move on to their “forever” home and it’s always tough for us to say goodbye…

Anyway, that’s my official rant post of the year πŸ™‚
As a side note: our foster kitty was just adopted 2 days ago — so it’s a little quiet here once again.

How about you? What part of planning a trip that you like the least?


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43 Replies to “The Parts About Planning A RTW Trip That Suck”

  1. That's funny. We've recently bought a Mac for $1,300 and I thought to myself "Damn, that could be more than a month of travel in SE Asia."

  2. Hahaha – I totally agree! Esp. with the Pad Thai currency. That's how i view everything – "How many days will this get me in Cambodia, Indonesia, Columbia, etc, etc?" I can understand the pet issue too. I have a dog and it kills me to leave him but my sister takes really good care of him so I don't have to worry too much, it's just upsetting to leave and honestly instead of being super happy to embark on a new journey I am also sad as well. I think the fostering idea is perfect! What a great way to help a pet that needs a home, have an animal companion without the added issues of worrying about them when you leave!

    1. Exactly. Often the way the ask seems to imply that we should have all of the answers before embarking on such trips — if only it were that easy.

  3. Totally feeling the pets comment. We have a cat and were super lucky that Nicole's parents were open to taking him for the year. I don't know if we would have been able to go if they hadn't!
    As for clothing, we had the same struggles. Lesson learned, 1 set of top quality gear (pants, thermal sweater, socks, jacket, etc) is sufficient. Pack light, the rest you can buy in cheaper countries. Bring all your old, unwanted shirts, etc and either throw away or give away along the trip.
    Remember, you can always wash as you go. Buy a laundry soap bar and wash clothing in your shower, makes life so much easier than finding a laundry person.

    1. Good idea about the tshirts. We happen to have plenty of old ones…

      You're so lucky to have had someone to take care of your cat. Did he still remember you guys after you got back? πŸ™‚

  4. I can completely relate to the spending money guilt. I try not to buy anything and when I spend $20 I'm thinking that could have been one night in Ireland. While all of these things bother me about planning a trip, I need to be bothered and on a budget. It really makes you appreciate travel and the simple things in life I think. I'm with you on the pet issue. I would love to have a dog but I don't thing he/she would enjoy me being gone all of the time.

  5. letting go of my pets is the hardest (sigh)… i just fed my suggies some fruits and in a month and a half they'll be with a new owner… i'm gonna miss them terribly…

  6. I can relate to so much of this! I found it even harder to stay budgeted when going to India because I would think, "Well, where else am I going to find a beautiful handmade quilt sewn from old wedding saris?" — and there would go 100 meals of future pad thai. : )

    1. Traditional arts and crafts is our weakness too!! Handmade quilt from old wedding saris sounds like one of the things that could be our budgeting downfall. Eeek!

  7. Right with ya,

    It's going to be hard to say goodbye to our cat Pi. We were fortunate enough to find someone willing to take her in for an indefinite amount of time.

    I ripped the seat out of my last pear of pants about a week ago. After some convincing, I finally spent the $20 on a new pair, still not sure if a patch would have looked so bad.

    As for going out, we have replaced it with hosting dinner parties. I really enjoy it. We can serve up a few racks of pork ribs and a bottle of wine for less money than a meal each at a cheap restaurant. Now that the house is clean, it's kind of nice to show it off.

  8. Great points.

    Yes, one misses those shorter trips, as well as guilt-free buying. As for pets, we're planning a long-term trip to Europe, but our dog, a JRT, is coming along too. Obviously, bringing him puts certain restrictions on our journey, but we LOVE him, and he's part of the family. Leaving him would be wrong, but not taking our daughter traveling would also be wrong, so there you go. Besides, he can earn his keep by guarding the camera and laptops!

  9. Omg that kitty is just adorable! I know for a fact the hardest thing about planning my trip to Thailand is what I'm going to do with my puppy. It breaks my heart to know I might have to leave him, even if it is for like 3 months.

  10. Really curious to see how your blog will turn out πŸ™‚ It's been a few months, eh sorting out all the bugs? Sorry to hear that. Shoot us an email if you think we can help out.

  11. We're not really sure since we are going to ask a family member to help us out in this case. I know that Christine Gilbert from recommended a mail forwarding service a while back. I tried to dig up the post but I couldn't find it. Might want to shoot her an email.

    Good luck!

  12. The hardest part for me will be leaving my dog behind =(. Fortunately my aunt is willing to take care of him for the year while the hubby and I travel. Haha… we'll see how things go with Skype.

  13. Ahh yes, the guilt of spending money. Our whole life is a budget these days. It's the only way we can continue to live in Turkey. So when our friends come to visit and want to go on boat trips, scuba diving and the like and tell us how cheap it all is, we get bored of hearing ourselves say, 'You've just spent our weekly budget on one trip.' All prices relate straight back to the weekly budget. πŸ™‚

    1. Yeah… it has affected our social life a bit. Less dining out and less weekend ski trips that's for sure. Thankfully most of them understand πŸ™‚

  14. I left behind my baby – a one-eyed beautiful grey maine-coon cat. I still could easily come to tears thinking about it if I let myself. He is with some friends that are taking very good care of him, and when I went back to see him after a year, he recognized and remembered everything about me! He gotten me through some tough times, that one did. It was the second hardest thing I ever had to do in my life (to give him up), so I totally get that.

    I still skype with him sometimes… =)

    1. Ooooh, that's cute. I can't imagine leaving our pets behind. But it's great that you Skype with him and that he still recognizes you. You're so lucky to have such good friends πŸ™‚

  15. As hard or frustrating as all of the above may appear right now, I'm willing to bet that it will all be worth it within the first two minutes of your adventure!

    And I actually prefer pad see ew more than pad thai as well, but I just figured pad thai is a little more well known πŸ™‚

    Thank you for the mention!

  16. I can't imagine being in your position πŸ™ I do know that some people do travel with their pets although it is a little tricky in terms of paperwork and the list of countries you'd be able to visit easily might be limited. Dogs seem to adapt to new situations better than cats so, I don't know — might be worth looking into. Give your doggies some hugs from us πŸ™‚

  17. …and oh yes, we were also a little bummed out that we could not escape the -40 degree winters for a warm Mexican vacation….we actually almost came close to still booking one anyways, but figured it didn't make much sense to have to work an additional month here in order to pay for it…all in all this one was a small sacrifice for sure, but when everyone and their dog is coming back with a tan, and my skin is so dry and pale….there is definitely a pang or two of envy πŸ™‚

  18. Honestly, for us, the most frustrating part of the planning has been this flipping blog development…I swear, if Shawna would allow it we would still own VCRs and rotary phones, so the technology of web development isn't really my strong suit. Worse yet, there seems to be a passing of the buck between the Woo Themes and Word Press help forums whenever I have a problem. Both of them feel the fine folks at the other form are better suited to help…I should just be paying someone to get this done for me…PS. I brief shout out to Craig and Caz from Y Travel who have really tried to help…Mucho appreciated.

  19. Lovely post! Planning a big trip is definitely not easy, especially when so many things are so uncertain. Long term commitments are definitely a big no-no. As for me, I have never gone for a trip longer than 2-3 weeks, so I would never fully comprehend the extent of a RTW trip! :O

  20. A great post and one I think we can all relate to. Especially for me with the pets issue. After a long term relationship broke up I was left the single parent of two gorgeous doggies whom I absolutely adore and wouldn't give up for the world, but as I don't have anyone who would willingly look after them if I went travelling for an indefinite period of time, I have to now face the fact that for the next few years I probably can't fulfil my dream of an impromptu rtw trip. Sad, but that's just life I suppose.

  21. All (sadyly) solid points of pre-departure angst. I would add one more (leastwise presently it is the number one pre-departure (to live in some g-forsaken rice-paddy in SEA and/or travel aimlessly potentially permanently) chore that's causing me untold ack!:

    Researching mail forwarding options – arghhh! So hard to predict what such service (i.e. volume/weight/frequency) I'll actually need. Comparing the "apples and oranges" of competing services, and especially – sites that offer neither a telephone contact nor online chat. Suffice I've now compared and contrasted til I'm blue in the face, and still haven't a clue which service/plan to go with.

    What do all the other RTW/expats do for important mail/potential online purchases? (and nope, I don't want to burden family/friends w/ such chores.) Would love to know what others do.

  22. Oh how I was there a year ago, my two best pieces of advice

    1) give yourself some fun money or you'll kill yourself by scrimping
    2) don't worry about planning the trip, now I just show up in a country and figure it out, I haven't needed a visa in advance yet but I remember in Cambodia I was able to get the visa there for Vietnam. The beauty of long-term travel is that you can do it on the road.

    1. Thanks for the solid advice. Yeah, we've learned that scrimping 100% just causes undue stress and tension between us, so we've slowly learned to give ourselves a break on small purchases here and there. I'm still giving myself a headache everytime I think about visa stuff — you canadians and americans really have it easy πŸ™‚

  23. I have to add that it is really tough when we tell close friends of ours that we are leaving and we both know that goodbyes are coming soon, and we will need to start preparing for our final get-togethers and activities.

  24. Good post, I know how those sacrifices feel… especially cutting down on travel, I'm really feeling that lately! You were smart to not have pets, and are wonderful for fostering. We have two dogs, which we both got in college, long before we had the insight not to take on the 15-year commitment. We love our doggies more than anything but we have to leave them with family while we travel. The reality of that is BEYOND hard.

  25. My boyfriend and I both want to get a dog SO BAD! Unfortunately, traveling the world isn't exactly the best place to raise a puppy. We keep talking about how we'll get a dog when we settle down but neither one of us is ready for that just yet. I guess the dog will just have to wait…

    1. I always encourage people to foster… you get to get your animal fix (whether it's dogs, cats, or rabbits, or whatever), but minus the longer term commitment. The first couple of fosters are tough to let go once they're adopted, but it's extremely rewarding in other aspects πŸ™‚

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