It is the most alluring advice that never seems to work for us. We’re a bit skeptical it works for anyone in any real sense. But we recently discovered an entirely new way in which the seemingly world-wise travel advice to eschew planning in favor of “just going with the flow” fails us.
When you live an unconventional life you realize quickly that the world isn’t designed to meet your specific needs. From the silly (30 day limits on credit card travel notifications) to the serious (difficulty obtaining health insurance without a fixed address), a range of inconveniences go hand-in-hand with going your own way. Even internet travel resources, as great and as liberating as they are, are built to answer questions different from the ones we need answered.
Sites like Expedia and others are great for pricing airfare on a specific itinerary. If you know the where and the when of your travel, the internet is awesome at aggregating flight options. But what if where and when are secondary considerations to price? The internet is less helpful in answering the question we’re currently asking: what is the best travel deal for a winter flight to a warm weather destination anywhere in the world from any southwestern U.S. city?
40 liter packs are (almost) all you need
Imagine living out of a suitcase no bigger than a 1.5 square foot box. That’s basically what Shannon and I did for two months backpacking around Central America. We’re proud to report that not only did we have the smallest bags of anyone we met but that our 40 liter packs were perfectly adequate for this specific trip.
While “perfectly adequate” is a true enough description of what we experienced, “barely adequate” fits too. We’d have been in trouble if we needed to plan for colder weather or multiple seasons. Traveling through Central America we had the luxury of packing lightweight clothing, although the highlands of Guatemala got surprisingly chilly. I was happy to have a heavy fleece I didn’t originally intend to pack but brought along because Houston was so damn cold when we left.
Even in colder climates, we probably could have made the 40 liter backpacks work if not for all of the electronics we hauled: two laptops, a digital camera, a video camera, an iPhone, a surge protector, a universal power adapter, battery charger, and the cables needed to power all this junk. Leaving the electronics at home would have freed up almost an entire bag – but we’d never do that.
Last week we discussed travel bags, vaccination requirements and communication options for extended overseas travel. This week, we dive into money issues, travel insurance and more.
Managing your finances while traveling for months at a time requires far more preparation than for a typical vacation; especially when you can’t guarantee secure internet connections or uncompromised ATM machines. Here’s how we prepared:
One hundred and six. That is the number of stops we’ve made during twenty months of continuous travel. We move so often that it has become second nature. These days, getting to a new destination isn’t much different than commuting to work. We experience no anxiety, or make special plans. We don’t even really need to give it a lot of thought. We just pack up and go. That is, as long as we’re driving the RV.
Our 107th stop is something else entirely. Shortly we’ll be leaving the RV behind and taking a flight to Belize. From there we’ll spend two months backpacking across Northern Central America. This is a completely new form of travel for us and required a bit more preparation. This is how we got ready.
We didn’t absolutely need new luggage for the kind of travel we envision, but for ultra-mobility a backpack is hard to beat. The variety of bags available surprised and overwhelmed us, though. Complicating matters is that many retailers only carry certain brands, making comparison shopping a bit of pain. We also discovered that most backpacks are designed with the hiker, not the traveler, in mind. Travelers have special needs, and most bags fell short somehow.
Here’s what we were looking for, and ultimately what we got: