Follow me as I blog my way through 12 months of travel, 20 countries, 2 volunteer programs, 44,000 miles, over 20 flights, countless chicken bus rides and 365 wonderful work-free days.

Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

Packing it.. literally, physically and mentally

If you have stumbled across this post in hopes of finding some great packing tips, you’ve come to the wrong place. (but please feel free to stay).

To be honest I’m really tired of reading articles and tips on packing for a year-long trip that say one pair of pants is enough and to just pack for a week and wash regularly.

I can’t do that.

I’m not the most fashion conscious person out there. I don’t use hair dryers/straighteners/curlers.  I live in jeans and I rarely wear make up. A pair of pluggers and some runners is fine with me. But I can’t just take one pair of pants and 2 shirts and be happy about it and I don’t want to wear the same thing every day.

For the last month or so I have found myself lingering around my lounge room, during which time I have been gradually adding to my ever-growing pile of clothing, toiletries and electronics. And I don’t even need to mention the little extras that get secretly thrown in there by my mother on a regular basis.  And FYI, I say lingering because I don’t actually attempt to pack anything. I just stand there staring at it in hopes that it will somehow miraculously shrink in size and then pack itself perfectly into my 60L backpack.. with extra room for souvenirs of course.

Knowing that time is ticking away and that what is sitting on the floor in my lounge could potentially fill 2 backpacks, I thought it was time to do some research. I found a book on backpacking tips (that’s a lie.. my mum found a book that up until now I didn’t think I needed to read).

Sitting down to this little gem I hoped that I would find that magic piece of advice that would take all my packing troubles away.  ‘Ahhh a packing list section’ I thought.. brilliant.  Until I read it…One pair of pants.. and wait for it… two pairs of underwear.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I was reading this on my Kindle I would have thrown the book across the room. Two pairs of underwear??? She can’t be serious.

No really.. is she serious?

So I’m giving up on books and articles and I’ve decided to throw it out there in hopes of getting some useful suggestions and advice. Be brutal.. but don’t forget I’m going for a year, living in rural Africa for 1 month of that year, camping for about 5 months of it… and… yeah now I’m just making excuses.

Here’s what I’ve got so far:

4 skirts, 1 dress maybe 2, about 10 singlet tops, 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of black pants, 1 pair of 3/4 pants (suck it pant haters), 8 pairs of underwear, 2 cardigan thingys, 1 black thin jumper, 1 hoodie, 3 scarfs, 4 pairs of socks, few bras.

Thoughts???

13 JULY 2012 UPDATE: WHAT MADE THE CUT?

1 skirt, 1 dress, 7 singlet tops, 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of black pants, 7 pairs on underwear, 1 cardigan, 1 hoodie, 1 thin black jumper, 2 scarfs, 2 pairs of socks, 2 sports bras and 1 normal bra.

Sorry I just won’t compromise on the underwear !!

Total weight, including clothes, toiletries, electronics, volunteer gifts.. 22.7 kilos.

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You give me FEVER… the best injection ever

You’ve been planning it for months. You’ve made lists, and checked them twice 10 times. You dream about it and think about it everyday. You find ways of bringing it up in every conversation you have with every person you see. The trip.. the big trip.

It’s so easy to do all of these things and be blasé about it when you’re still living your ‘normal’ life. But then there is that moment when you stop.. and realise.. oh my god this is actually happening. It’s not a dream anymore. IT’S REAL and there is no turning back.

That moment for me was this morning when I got my Yellow Fever Vaccination.  I’m assuming it wasn’t the rush of a foreign substance being pumped into my veins.. no it was general excitement. I walked out of the doctor’s surgery and I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. I felt free.

The reality is that in 9 weeks I will find myself in Kenya, about to take on something I have never done before – volunteering – or teaching English for that matter. Standing in a class room full of children so eager to learn and hear what I have to say.. but what do I have to say? I have no idea, I’ve never taught before.

As for my placement and accommodation, I’ve requested to be placed somewhere as rural and remote as possible so chances are I’ll be living in a simple hut with no water and no electricity. Past volunteers have told stories of only being allowed to bathe once a week in one bucket of water. As for my meals, I’ve been told I’ll be eating lots of rice and potatoes and that it’s not uncommon to have to pick weevils out of your food before cooking. Sleeping is generally on a mattress placed on a dirt floor and I’m afraid to even think about the toilet situation. I’ll live like this for a month before heading South on a camping tour.

So that’s the reality. That’s what hit me this morning while sitting in that doctor’s office. Such a huge impact for such a small needle.

How vastly different my life will be. And I can’t wait.

No wait… I’m not ready

I’m now on the official countdown. Ok so I was technically on the official countdown about 6 months ago but now that I’m into singular digits, it’s super official.

I’m leaving in 9 weeks (oh my god) and it’s really starting to hit me. In just 9 weeks I’ll be leaving my family, my friends, my oh so comfy bed, my favourite foods, my hot shower and my clean and varied selection of clothes, and I won’t see them again for a year. A WHOLE YEAR…

So I’m working myself up for that moment… and freaking out in the process.

I find myself going to bed at night and wrapping myself in the clean sheets, sinking into the comfy mattress and drifting peacefully to sleep. I’m embracing every moment of it knowing that for the next year I’ll be sleeping on god knows what, swatting my mosquito net out of my face every time I roll over and chucking a hissy fit in the middle of the night because something is crawling up my leg. I don’t want to go.

I find myself standing under the shower for a lot longer than I should. Loving that hot water comes out and that I have no chance of being electrocuted by live wires hanging above me. And loving that I’m behind a locked door and I don’t have to wear shoes in case I get a fungal disease. I don’t want to go.

I find myself consuming sushi by the bucket load, craving Thai food and fish and chips. Cooking Sunday roasts on weekdays and eating chocolate like it’s going out of fashion. I miss food from home when I’m away. Does Africa have sushi? I don’t want to go.

I find myself longingly staring into my wardrobe, agonising over what to take with me. I should take 2 pairs of jeans because they always stretch if you wear them for too long and they don’t fit properly and then you have that saggy arse thing going on and you look a bit like you have a penis because the front goes all pouchy.. but I can’t take 2 pairs because my mother has packed my bag so full of useless items that I’ll never use and I don’t even have room for underwear. I don’t want to go.

I find myself spending more and more time with family. The hugs are longer, the laughs are louder and more frequent. I feel like I want to hold on to them and never let go. And I’ve begun questioning myself why on earth I would choose to leave them for a whole year. I don’t want to go.

So here I am.. 9 weeks to go and I’m clearly in the freaking out stage of my countdown. I’m sure next week will be different. I’ll move on to the totally unprepared stage or something, but for now, I’m not ready, time is going too fast. Help!!

Solo Travel… it’s not that scary

Having gotten somewhat used to the “what the hell for?” and the “are you insane?” comments when telling people about my upcoming adventures, every so often someone will catch me off guard and tell me how inspirational I am and how excited they are for me. Thank you. These comments help to ease any doubts or insecurities that may rear their ugly heads from time to time.

What surprises me the most however, is the number of people that tell me I’m brave and that they wished they had the courage to do what I do.

I don’t understand this. I don’t know what people are so afraid of.  So below I have listed a couple of things that people have touched on and hopefully it may encourage some of you to take that leap of faith, and just DO IT. It’s not scary.

  • Safety

Don’t put your life on hold for the ‘what ifs’.

Of course you have to be careful and use your common sense. Don’t walk around at night alone, don’t accept a lift from someone you don’t know, don’t leave your drink unattended in a bar etc. Basically just take the same precautions as you would at home and be alert.

Information is power.. or so they say…DO YOUR RESEARCH. There are so many websites that you can check out regarding safety, and I list some here on my planning page.

If you’re a first time traveller or really worried about safety, think about doing an organised tour. They are great for meeting new people and you’re never alone (if you don’t want to be). One of the things I love most about organised tours is that you’ll often be taken somewhere you would have never considered going, and you’ll end up falling in love with the place. Some companies that I can recommend are:

www.intrepidtravel.com

www.kumuka.com

www.contiki.com

For me, safety has never really been a big concern. I live in Australia which is a pretty safe country and yet you still hear stories of people getting shot, murdered, kidnapped etc. I pay about as much attention to these stories as I would about stories in Mexico or Brazil. Am I naive? Probably. But I’m a big believer that if something bad is going to happen, it will happen, and that you shouldn’t put your life on hold for the ‘what ifs’.

  • Leaving it all behind

Do you stay for them or do you go for yourself?

Some of you may have more to leave behind than I do, or have had to in the past, and you have to consider each aspect of your life and decide, when all is said and done, can you leave it behind?

Whether it’s your job, your house or your family and friends that are holding you back, you have decide what’s more important to you. If the desire to travel means more to you than everything else.. I think you have your answer.

I have a wonderful, loving mother and father, two awesome sisters and some amazing friends. While I’m overseas I miss them everyday. To make it even harder I have 3 beautiful nieces who even now as I write this, bring tears to my eyes just thinking about not seeing them for a year. I’m afraid they’ll forget me or that we’ll lose our close bond with each other. But there came a time when I had to decide, do I stay here for them, or do I go for myself?

  • Being lonely

You’ll get lonely, no doubt about it, but it will pass.

What I love so much about travelling is the incredible people who you meet along the way.  Before every trip I worry about the same thing. What if I don’t meet anyone? What if no one likes me? and it usually takes about 30 seconds after arriving or meeting a new group that those thoughts are gone out the window. I’ve made lifelong friends throughout my travels.

Yes you will miss your family and friends. I think every traveller has that problem somewhere along the line. But it passes. You’re sad for a day or two and then you remember where you are and what an incredible opportunity this is, and you gradually forget about being sad.

  • Not knowing where to go/getting lost

I think it’s all part of the adventure.

I’ve gotten lost and stranded many times but I’ve never come across a local who isn’t happy to help you, and I’ve always been able to find my way. Open your mouth, speak to people, ask questions. Even in countries where you don’t speak the language there’s always an option. Look at the signs, ask taxi or bus drivers. Ask enough people and you’ll eventually find someone who speaks your language. Or my strategy – just keep walking until you see something that looks familiar.

Don’t be put off by the thought that you may get lost. Who cares??? you’re travelling so chances are you’re not late for anything. Enjoy the adventure. And hey, you may even end up stumbling across something wonderful that you wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

Is there anything I’m missing?

I’d love to hear what else worries you when thinking about travelling solo. Let me know by leaving a comment below.  

BANG HEAD HERE….reactions from friends & family

When telling friends, family and random strangers about where I am headed during my year of travel, the reaction, 9 times out of 10, has been somewhat like this…

Hayley: “well I’m starting in Africa and then heading to Mexico and…”

Them: (a look on their faces like I’ve just told them I’m going to join the fight in the Afghan war), followed by “are you insane?/what the hell for?/it’s so dangerous/I saw on the news/a friend of my neighbours uncle went there and…”

Hayley:  (rolls eyes, shakes head, and bangs it up against a wall for the tenth time that day)

Have you noticed there’s always that story of someone’s friend who went there, got kidnapped and held for ransom or was robbed by a syringe wielding junkie? Now I know these things can happen, but is it going to stop me from going? No.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for taking advice from people who actually know what they are talking about. But after hearing the above scenario for the hundredth time, from people who have never even left the State, let alone travelled overseas, I have developed a motto of sorts. It goes a little something like this:

IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN THERE, YOU LOSE YOUR RIGHT TO GIVE ME YOUR OPINION ABOUT IT.

…unless your opinion is “great, that’s so exciting”.

I highly recommend developing a similar motto when planning a holiday or RTW trip, or feel free to steal mine. It’s completely universal.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that maybe I need to add a #11 to things I have learned while travelling, and that is to accept that not everyone is going to be as excited about your trip as you are. And I’m ok with that.

Is it just me, or is this a common thing among other travellers? Please feel free to leave a comment, share your stories or put me out of my misery.