Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Background: "The Year of Living"

We recently introduced a semi-regular feature here at ClizBiz, called 'The Year of Living.' Once a week-ish-or-so, I would post a journal page from my mid-90s globe trotting days. I'm just one page in this experiment but joy-of-joys, I got me a real live anonymous reader request! My ego just busted a belt:

*Please* can you write about how you were able to do this world-wide trip? For those of us who aspire to that depth and breadth of adventure and travel --- how does one financially and mentally even BEGIN to think about doing something similar? My friends and I can barely pay our rent, and my parents would kill me traveling 'alone' as a woman... but it's an ultimate dream. Congrats for doing it! Please share how one can do the same!

Aspiring SuperGirl World Traveler


The year was 1993 and some crazy Australian friends quite matter-of-factly announced it was time for my walkabout; I must have been crazy ready to hear that call. After very little thought, it was decided.

I then mapped out the next two years, worked like a dog, saved my money and focused like a horny hummingbird. (Holy shit, where is that girl? I could use her now.) I set up my credit union to take $200.00 out of every paycheck (twice a month) and figured on approximately $10,000.00 for the trip, including airfare.

For the next two solid years, I worked two jobs (ironically, a newspaper restaurant reviewer and a pizza waitress) and poured over maps, with an eye on Africa. Keep in mind, children, that this was still one year before the Internet became known to the general public. I actually had to read travel magazines, investigate ads, and send away for pamphlets … up hill, both ways, in the snow. THEN, I had study them … er, by firelight.

All through this process, I would slowly announce my travel plans to family and friends. My father and brother were predictably excited and envious. Mom raised a worried eyebrow and may have instinctively said, "We'll see." Friends dutifully cheered me on and Fang worried about the lack of plumbing on my behalf. This statement process, I now realize, was really more for me, a promise to myself. I remember working the drive-thru at McDonald's in high school and watching the planes fly by. "I am soooo outta here someday," I'd declare between the McNuggets and the single cones.

Of course, there was also great fear. Part of it was going it alone. I mean, just who did I think I was? Apparently, I was a bad ass. Then again, at 29, I had traveled enough to observe that traveling alone might not only be easier but also present a better opportunity for meeting people. Ultimately, I knew myself - I'm at my best on the road, just like my father.

T-minus six months is when push comes to shove. You have to start actually buying tickets, faxing over visa applications, making a final budget and worst of all, planning where all your shit is going to go. Also, I had a lovely white cat, Nik – what to do with him? (He stayed in Washington with my Dad and stepmom, Shirley.) I almost didn't go out of guilt and then I asked myself, "So, um, you are not going to see the world because of your cat?" I mean, how crazy is that? Thank god I recovered my sanity.

Once I'd decided my trail – Africa (nine countries), Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Hawaii – I had to start gathering gear. You have to start pondering what to put into a backpack for an entire year. What in god's name do you leave out? You have to adapt a turtle brain - a very good excercise in basic needs. (This is another blog post entirely.)

I'm packing a long experience into a fairly short summation here but basically, you just have to want it bad enough. It used to infuriate me (still does) when people would react to plans of my trip with, "How lucky! I wish I could do that!" Turns out, anyone can. I can understand older people with kids, jobs, mortgages and what not – makes perfect sense, but I would get this from 19-30-year-olds! Wandering around the world is the kind of thing everyone apparently dreams about and I feel very fortunate I've experienced it. Recalling this adventure is making me remember how nice it was to want something so bad and just zero in on it. Hmmmm, must find new obsession ...

Supergirl, you say your parents would 'kill you' for traveling alone and it makes me wonder if you are underage, still living in their house and and/or on the payroll? Otherwise, if the idea of defying your parents still terrifies you than yes, you are not ready to travel alone because you will have to defy a lot more than that to get there.

I wish you the best of luck. Please don't hesitate to ask me anything. Seems like all this info should go to some use.

Zippers and ziplocs,



Anonymous said...

Yaaaaaaaaay! Thank you ClizBiz!

I'm so excited this will be a regular series - thank you so much - I think it will be beneficial to folks even beyond we aspiring travelers. And I think a lot of people, especially girls I know, are in the same boat as I. And in addition, in this post-9/11 fearful, anxious world, we look to your experience with awe and fascination.

Some background: I'm 30, going to be 31 in the spring. Like many, I'm doing the whole assessing-one's-life thang and wondering what to do with myself and the future: the past couple years of life have totally sucked, boys and work and the like. Currently job hunting, have only about a thousand dollars in savings. I've driven across the U.S. before, but it was with a girlfriend. I've visited a few European countries as well. I'm not a "camper" or experienced with the outdoors/roughing it --- and I have to admit, since my college years, I've grown more set in my spoiled American ways, and prefer to pee indoors, travel in comfort, not have to sleep on the floor, that sort of thing. ;(

While I'm smart and graduated from a good college, yada yada, I can't claim any exceptional talent or worldliness in foreign affairs, other than following news and staying abreast of world issues. Can barely speak English, maybe a little french/italian/spanish, but only a few words.

What worries my mother is what worries me as well about being alone in a foreign land. Safety concerns and the like. I am not a necessarily physically strong woman, nor do I know much about self defense, and admittedly, would freak out if 'anything were to happen' out there in the world. Please see aforementioned spoiled American reference. (I'm not a super princess by any means, but compared to the rest of the world, uhhh, yeah)....

Some initial questions, as first comes first: how did you decide on taking a WHOLE year to travel? I think it boggles us younger folks' minds, cuz yeah, I would get flack for taking a whole year "off" --- we're not groomed or raised to think about undertaking this kind of thing in upwardly-mobile land. plus, I don't really have a discernable or successful career to come back to afterwards. So with those two issues, I think it's challenging for those of us who are supposed to be getting careers underway, relationships, etc... 'establishing a life' and all that crap.

AH! Such an exciting and daunting idea! Again -- THANK YOU! I think lots of people would enjoy hearing your tales and advice.

xoxo ASGWT

Anonymous said...

I think that is so true, it isn't that you were lucky...it is that you planned. Though sharing how you did it, has got to help the many out there trying to do the same thing. It is inspirational to see someone set a goal and follow through with it!!! I know a lot of your readers will appreciate it and I find it very inspiring!!!

hotdrwife said...

I remember during a garage sale in my hometown, a woman pointed me towards a backpack and said, "I used this to trekking through Eygpt. When you get ready to do the same, you'll have this backpack - it's got a lot of great memories attached to it!"

And have I?


Someday, yes.