In two weeks and one day I will be setting off to travel the globe. I have been planning this trip for the past six months and boy have I learnt a few lessons.
1) Whatever you think your budget is... add on at least another 50%.
I have been foregoing nights out and I haven't bought so much as a new lip gloss since January but I still spend money like it is going out of style. For example, I have always been fairly thoughtful about money (give or take an H and M dress) and would have thought twice about spending £75 on a tee-shirt, or a meal, or a bottle of perfume; yet when someone says I need to spend it three times on a vaccination to protect me from just one tropical disease- an p.s. you will need to do the same for another six, I hand over my credit card faster than you can say ouch. When it comes to travelling some expenses are non- negotiable. You can, and should, be thrifty from time to time about hostels vs hotels or travelling by coach rather than plane, but as safety is always the most important factor, you need to be prepared to cough up for medical insurance (excuse the pun), travel insurance and vaccinations.
2) Planning your trip will be both terrifying and exciting at the exact same time.
There are moments when the buzz of booking a particular experience will overwhelm you. I was to be found dancing round my living room in the manner of a jungle monkey while organising my Amazon rainforest stay. Ten minutes later I realised that there would be huge bugs and massive anacondas and I am quite often a more than a teensy bit scared of giant creepy crawlies. A minute after that I remembered that I wanted to do this trip to push myself and so of course I would put on my big girl pants and brush off my fears and any tarantulas that may fall on me. This sensation has been repeated with every consideration I have made about this trip, every Peruvian cooking course, every white-water rafting day; the excitement is mingled with the sense of trepidation and the awareness that giving up your entire life to see the world is freeing and completely mindboggling!
3) Cutting ties can be a sticky business.
As I packed up my lovely shed-like home (teeny and quite literally in someone else's garden!) I found myself gaily flinging my clothes into black bags to be 'borrowed' by my friends for the next 18 months. I also, it seems, had no problem chucking out make-up, shoes and jackets (who knew I had 4 beige blazers). Yet I clung to, and cried over, throwing out my old uni work (un-touched in a box for the past five years). I physically couldn't get rid of my leaving cards from colleagues and students and I have two giant boxes of photos that will tell you that I wouldn't chuck them either. Ultimately, in practical terms this means that I have had to beg my long-suffering parents to give me some attic space. However, emotionally I have learnt that I am more sentimental than material (good to know- if slightly surprising) but also that leaving behind my loved-ones as I go on this adventure is going to be a messy business (I am guessing a 10 tissue minimum).
4) Some people will be 'weird' about your trip.
I should point out that the vast majority of my friends and family have been amazing about my decision to abandon my well-established life in London for the wide yonder. My parents have bought me some snazzy 'approach shoes', my sister is more knowledgeable than anyone I have ever known about travel cosmetics and electricals and my boyfriend has tested all of my 'kit' -his word not mine- for sturdiness and resilience . Yet there have been a few whose reactions have been a little- how should I put this?- off. 'God you're brave'- this is a fairly standard first response incidentally, however while most people follow it up with 'how exciting/ wonderful/ incredible' these people go for a 'I'm not that brave' (said in an accusatory tone) or a 'what on earth made you do that?'(horrified tone) but perhaps the most honest are those who have said 'I hate you- I wish I'd done that.' It seems that deep down many people have a naughty little 'I wish I'd...' and when they encounter someone who is actually doing it, it can feel like a slap in the face, or worse a criticism of the life they chose instead. In this case I have learnt that this is more about them than me and so rather than be offended, I smile, thank them for complimenting my bravery and offer them a travel buddy if they want to join me along the way.
I am sure that the countdown to any huge life change is as unique as the lives that are changing but take comfort in knowing that when taking on a huge decision and momentous journey, if you feel like me, you will be completely freaked out and unable to freaking wait!