Travel Planning

When I look back at all the countries, cities, and towns I’ve visited, the places that left the biggest impression were the ones where I managed to conjure up a local experience. Although this is something many of us strive for, it can be difficult to obtain. One of the biggest barriers for cultural immersion while travelling is time. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way and plan to use along this venture to help me soak up the culture in a relatively short period of time.

1.) Do your homework

Getting the most from your experience abroad doesn’t always come easy. Preparing yourself ahead of time is a big help. Learn the common phrases, hobbies, and pastimes of your destination. This also helps you make sure you’ve appropriately matched your destination to your reasons for travelling.

2.) Arrange a homestay

You’ll find that there are many opportunities for a live-in experience with a local family. The homestay experience is an unmatched method of immersing yourself in local culture. My favorite site to use is

3.) Don’t expect to see everything

During a one or two week vacation, you can wear yourself out trying to see everything. The more you see in a short period of time, the thinner your experience is going to be. Have a list of must sees, preferred sees, and remember to leave room for the unexpected. Flexibility will allow you to get the most out of your journey.

4.) Chat to the locals

Although guidebooks are great for recommendations, nothing compares to the recommendation of a local. Try asking them what they do with their friends, and not what you should do while you’re in town.

5.) Eat eat eat

In order to eat with the locals, you need to eat like the locals. Prepare yourself to try foods you’ve never heard of or think you don’t like. Go to local markets and window shop for the right restaurant. Get off the beaten track to find places the typical tourist wouldn’t stumble upon.

6.) Exercise

Lack of proper rest, diet, and exercise aggravate culture shock stress symptoms. By establishing a daily exercise schedule, you can ensure your social-self is in top form. Try joining in on an unfamiliar activity or sport.

7.) Be respectful

You don’t need to disguise yourself as a local to find “the local experience.” As long as you’re respectful and outgoing, your presence will be kindly received…most of the time.

8.) Use local transportation

Don’t fain from the masses – JOIN THEM! The metro system is a great place to be amongst home owners and cover a lot of ground at the same time.

9.) Attempt to speak the language

Even if you’ve never spoken the language before, make an effort. It’s amazing how willing people are to help you through a broken conversation. It brings people together.

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Great books to help with your research:
* Express Yourself!: The Essential Guide to International Understanding
* Vagabonding – An uncommon guide to the Art of long-term World travel – Rolf Potts
* Fodor’s 1001 Smart Travel Tips, 3rd Edition (Travel Guide)

I have gained an extensive amount of knowledge through the research and planning for this trip.  Hopefully this information will be useful to anyone planning a similar trip.
Star and OneWorld booking tools will help to plan a more realistic round-the-world trip…..

if you are a frequent international traveler from the US and have a smart phone/ipad, download the new US Department of State free App called “Smart Traveler.” This app features travel warnings and alerts for countries around the world.  It also provides immediate access to embassy addresses and phone numbers, entry / exit requirements, and safety and security tips for most countries.

Passport and Visas

Thankfully, I already have a passport that is valid through 2014.  However, if you feel you may run out of room along the way, you can always add extra pages:

I am pretty familiar with the visa process but it can be slightly intimidating for someone that hasn’t applied before.  Several of the countries that I am visiting require a visa even for short trips as a tourist.  The following website allows you to search for all of the countries and provides entry/exit requirements, along with a lot of other important information:

Most of the countries allow you to get a visa at the land or airport that you arrive at.  However, some countries require you get it before you leave the States.  I applied for those visas through the mail with the Washington D.C. consulate using  The process is pretty straight forward and I depending how you expedite you can have your passport back anywhere from 2 days to a month after sending it.  This website gives you easy steps to follow for applying by person or by the mail:

Travel Insurance

Normally I use  for my shorter trips, but I researched the World Nomads and Liaison Majestic for travel insurance during a lengthy.
I put together a table to compare them and they looked about the same to me.  I had talked with two people that used World Nomads and were satisfied with their experience, so I have purchased travel insurance for the first leg of my trip with World Nomads.

World Nomads

Liaison Majestic


Vaccinations I decided to get:
Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Polio booster, Malaria (not a shot)
Vaccinations I already had:  Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Tetanus, and the other routine shots

Note:  It is rare for insurance to pay for these vaccinations, but it doesn’t hurt to submit a claim form with high hopes of a small reimbursement …

Credit Cards/Banking

I rarely use traveler’s checks anymore because it is so difficult to find places that will cash them for you, but it doesn’t hurt to have a couple hundred dollars in them as a last resort. I always use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card and never have any issues, just call and make sure they note which countries you’ll be in so that they do not freeze your card… the following website also gives some helpful tips on bank accounts and credit cards.  It also provides estimates on living costs per day for different areas of the world.


Packing accessories Clothes
REI Day Pack – Flash 18 2 sundresses
Day pack – Osprey Sirrus 24 4 tank tops (2 run, 2 dressy)
2 packing cubes 10″x14″x3″ 2 t-shirts
dry bag 2 long sleeved shirt
CamelBak eddy water bottle – 25 fl. oz. 2 shorts – workout & everyday
CamelBak UnBottle Insulated Reservoir  – 100 fl. oz. 4 pairs capris
Toiletries/Accessories 1 pair jeans/1 pair jeggings
shampoo 1 pair convertible pants
conditioner 14 pairs underwear
makeup & jewelry (nothing expensive in case it gets stolen) 5 pairs of socks
tweezers 3 swimsuits
deodorant 1 Northface Jacket
cocoa butter 1 rain jacket
toothbrush/paste/floss 2 Sports bras
baby powder 2 Bras (1 convertible)
hair ties 1 pair of pj/long sweats
baby wipes Gear
face wipes REI Camp Dome 2 Tent
brush Headlamp
razor Eagle Creek undercover money belt
Eye drops light sleeping bag
travel towel (REI – 15.5×25.5) travel pillow
bug spray/wipes sleeping bag liner
sunscreen Tripod / GoScope
nail clippers SteriPEN Classic Water Purifier with Prefilter & Water Purification tablets (Portable Aqua)
Sewing Kit pepper spray
First Aid kit batteries
Gallon size Ziploc bags REI Camp Bed 3.5 Self-Inflating Pad
sunglasses Crossover Kitchen kit (GSI Outdoors)
Documents Trousse kit (SOL)
passport LED UtilityFlashlight
extra visa photos Waterproof Pak cover
Journal Shoes
yellow fever certificate 2 pairs of flip flops
driver’s license Vibram Five Fingers Shoes – Hiking
1 credit card/1 debit Electronics
Medicine The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger
Aleve Apple Ipad 2
Multi-vitamins, Fish oil external hard drive – 500 GB
Benadryl Canon Rebel T1i camera & Nikon Coolpix AW100 waterproof camera & The GoPro Hero 3
Malaria meds iVari-Zoom adjustable focus on-camera LED light for nighttime filming
Chewable pepto bismol Jump drive, Ethernet cable, World Converters and Adaptors
Midol Revolve Electronics XeMini Plus Hybrid Charging System/Backup Battery
Zap Shot remote control

I’ve decided to go against my normal routine of having no contact with friends and family other than stopping at random internet café’s along my journey….I’m breaking down and taking my Ipad 2 with me mainly to blog, Skype, navigate and research easier.   It’s pretty light, has the camera and mic built in so it is great for Skype. I have an indestructible gumdrop case (for those of you that know me this was a definite necessity since most of my electronics have an unfortunate short life span)

As for the phone situation, I’m still up in the air…  I am probably going to stick with my usual routine of  Skyping or purchasing an international calling card to use on payphones  for emergencies. If you do decide to take a phone, get a cheap phone with an unlocked SIM card, you should be able to buy SIM cards with pre paid data wherever you go and use them.

Here are a few other random links that I have found helpful:

  • This website is helpful in understanding the frequency, voltage and plug types required for different countries:
  • Sign up for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and Register itinerary so that the Department of state can help you in the case of an emergency:
  • – Want to step off the beaten tourist path and experience local culture? You can use Tripping to meet friendly local people, all over the planet
  • is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.
  • – linking volunteers with organic farmers, and helping people share more sustainable ways of living.
  • – I’ll probably be using this once I cross back over the US border. I’m assuming I will have very little money to get back home by this point in time. provides a low cost inter city travel with prices starting from as little as $1. The megabus network stretches all over US and Canada.
  • – Share your Google Latitude location publicly on a blog or web site.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sleepsack
    Aug 23, 2012 @ 06:10:44

    Hi! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m absolutely
    enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.


  2. Trackback: I took the road less traveled… « The Traveling Gypsy

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