I was trying to do everything right. By the book. Tried and true, ya know?
Despite my best efforts to toe the line, there were several things I did wrong before I left for my trip. Or maybe the rulebook was wrong? Either way – learn from my mistakes!
1. Got extra passport photos taken before I left.
This was a big ol’ waste of money. When you get your passport for the first time, you’ll need to get passport photos for the application. That’s all well and good.
During my research for my first trip abroad, I read that you should get extra passport photos to use for visas in countries that require them. While I might bring one or two (not 8), I found that all the countries I’ve visited will take your picture during the process if you don’t have a photo to give them. One less thing to keep track of, and 1/8th the price!
2. Brought too much shit, especially of the medicinal variety.
I have a lot of headache issues. Stomach issues. Neck-is-so-stiff issues. As it turns out, these must be related to overworked life back home. Ever since I’ve started traveling, they have all disappeared. *mom’s voice in my head in like a ghost* “What you’re doing isn’t real life — OOooOOoooOO!”
Okay, yes, thank you for that. Moving on now.
I thought I’d put together a pretty solid packing list – and solid it is. 50 lbs on my back solid! I certainly didn’t forget anything lol – but I brought way too much. Way too many medications, way too many bandaids, cremes, and other medical stuff. Looking back, I’d bring 5 tabs of pepto, my toothbrush, toothpaste, one bottle of advil, and chapstick. Voila! I’m all set. In case I did need something, pharmacies are readily available pretty much anywhere you go. Again, cheaper than back home too.
3. I went into to micro-planning mode.
As someone who takes pride (maybe to a fault honestly) in their independence, I’m habitually doomed to be a planner – ready for anything! I plan this, plan that, how does this work, what about that detail? I started off planning everything. How many days I would spend it each city and what I wanted to do. I all basically all my hostels for my entire time in Thailand booked when I left San Francisco. Not only was it all unnecessary, but counter productive.
There were several times I found myself wanting to stay in a city longer because I liked the vibe, but having to leave because I had a reservation somewhere else. At one point I said screw it. Biting the bullet on my deposit (in Thailand that’s like $1.82), I started following my soul. From then on, I just took it one day at a time.
4. Bought a round trip ticket.
Now, this one I had actually read NOT to do, but I did it anyway.
It seems logical to buy a round trip ticket, right? Sure. I’ll be coming back sometime! Learning that my travel plans changed radically, even from day to day, a round trip ticket made the list as something I won’t be doing next time. One day I’m ready to leave, one day I want to stay.
Just buy a one way ticket and then buy your ticket home when you’re ready. Fair enough, roundtrip tickets are almost the same price as one way tickets. However, between the ticket change fee and paying the difference, buying a one way ticket will save you money in the long run.
5. Packed travel guides.
“Oh these’ll be great to bring! I can look up stuff, read them, bond with them and love them“….NOPE. Left those bastards in the first hostel I stayed at in Bangkok. While I did see lots of people reading their travel guide books, I found that they were easily outdated. Contact information, hours of operation and location changed often. Most critically – heavvvvy. How am I supposed to bring home tons of chopsticks if I’m schlepping books around the continent?
6. Bought jean shorts to wear.
Planning my wardrobe was intimidating. What would it be like over there?
I went out and bought some basic T-shirts, jean shorts, and lots of athletic socks. This was silly. Any of the clothes I had at home would have worked just fine! Honestly, my day to day life hasn’t changed that much except for lots more walking. I should have taken all that money and bought better shoes! Clothes that work at home will work abroad. Obviously, still be mindful of drastically changing climates. If you’re going to Russia, step up your coat game!
Since I’m more of a skirt person, I have 2 pairs of shorts. The shorts I wear under my skirts! The jean shorts were a realllly bad idea – they are so hot and scratchy. I should have invested in more of the ‘swishy shorts’ I wear under my skirts. Or just brought the skirts!
I ended up only using the jean shorts on laundry day, and rocked my thigh-saving bandelettes whenever I wore a dress or skirt! Should have bought more of those too.
7. Bit off more than I could chew.
Given this amazing opportunity to travel (aka having a mental meltdown and quitting my job), I wanted to make the most of my chance. In the original itinerary, I was planing to be gone for 5-6 months. I used to work with a guy who traveled for 8 months once (and he still travels often). I always admired that. I thought “man, I’d love to do that – that’s the dream life!”
I do love traveling so much. One of the things I love most is learning new things about yourself. I learned that 5 months without friends and family available is a little too long for me. I couldn’t imagine doing 8 months. Granted, he traveled with his wife. I think if I had a friend / husband / family member / someone I had that kind of bond with that I could do it. Solo though, it’s a little too long. Plus I miss my Yahtzee baby.
I decided to cut the trip short by a few weeks – bringing me home around the 5 month mark. I know it’s only a one month difference, but I wrestled a lot wether this would be perceived as ‘failure’. If I would regret coming home early.
In the end, resistance is futile. My threshold is my threshold and the wall has come. Even now, when I’m only a handful of days before coming home, I’m counting down. Can’t wait to have pizza and Pokemon with my family while snuggling my cat while being simultaneously depressed that I’m back to “real life”.
I will go on another trip, but I’ll probably only go for 3 months or so.
Mom, I see you smiling!
Hopefully this list was enlightening to you! If you plan an extended trip, either domestic or abroad, refer back to this post before you go. Remember though, you’re bound to make your own mistakes. When that happens, come back and add yours to this list!