With just seven short days to go before I embark on my first round the world adventure, I find it difficult to sleep at nights. Too many thoughts on my mind, too many wonderful things to look forward to, some things still to take care of before I go.
Perhaps writing them down allows me to let them go. So here are some things that are keeping me up at night.
Packing up the flat
As I have been living in a rental flat in the UK, I am selling and donating most of my possessions and packing the rest into a 35 sq feet container. Well, 35 sq feet sounds a lot more than it actually is, since the size refers to the the outside measurements, not the inside.
What I have is a 1.25 m wide, 1.86 m long and 2.26 m high cube to play with. So that’s my first worry: what if it doesn’t all fit? I have few pieces of furniture, most of which also are packed full of stuff, and about 8 storage boxes. So it is not much, but neither is the space available. I guess we will see a few days from now.
Packing up for the road
I just had my first test pack yesterday, and I am happy to inform you that all my currently planned stuff fits in nicely with some space left over, and the fully packed backpack only weighs about 11 kg. There are still a few pieces I will get either before I go or on the road, but I am confident it will all be OK.
Still, the prospect of living out of one piece of luggage for a year is daunting. Yet, there are shops and pharmacies and travel stores abroad as well, so as long as I have my passport, my travel documents and my travel cash card with me, I will be OK. In all likelihood, I have overpacked as it is.
Having stumbled on a few accounts of rough sea crossings, both on the ferry to Iceland and on cargo ships across oceans, I worry that I will spend days puking miserably in my cabin. I will get sea sickness remedies, but they may not be enough, especially if we encounter rough weather.
If the first cargo ship trip to US is utterly miserable, for my own health and well being, I cannot put myself through another 30 days of cargo crossing. In that case, I will have to cancel my two other cargo legs and fly from US to Australia and from there to Malaysia. Health comes first but I fervently hope it doesn’t come to that.
Will US immigration let me in? No reason why not, but I still worry. Will I be able to get a Chinese visa from the road? The rules have tightened recently, so while it used to be possible to get one from e.g. Hanoi, it is not so sure anymore. I may have to fly from Hanoi to Hong Kong, as it should be easier from there. And if worst comes to worst, I may have to fly from Vietnam to Japan, and from there to Russia directly. Assuming I get a Russian visa.
Well, that part of the journey is almost a year ahead, so a lot can still change. The only thing to do is to be informed and flexible.
Having read many solo woman traveler blogs, it seems most people who hear about their plans expect safety to be a major concern. Sure, of course you have to be careful, but a woman has to think about safety even in their own home town. A dose of common sense is a good start, and there are many good tips available online. Most of these tips are valid for men as well as women, as it is mostly about being aware of your surroundings, keeping your valuables locked up and out of sight, and not being stupid or reckless.
I tend to err on the cautious side always anyway, so I am unlikely to say “yes” to a group of drunken sailors promising a fun night out. I have also traveled extensively on my own for several years and have never had any issues. Most of the people you meet anywhere are friendly and helpful, so there is no need to be afraid to travel. And finally, the countries on my list are all well traveled by solo women and generally regarded very safe.
Cost vs comfort
You know that quote from the movie “Twins”: ” I’m grouchy in the morning, cranky in the afternoon, moody at night”?
That’s me, especially if I do not have enough time by myself, as will be the case when I have to share dormitories due to cost reasons. Sleeping in dormitories is also the most environmental accommodation type (barring camping in tents), as many people share a smaller space, thus reducing need for light and heating/cooling.
However, as an introvert I have to accept that there will be days when I cannot bear company. One solution is to sign up on Airbnb and booking flats I can stay in by myself. Another option is single rooms in hostels, where I would get the same benefit of a community of like-minded people when I want company, but a place where I can go when I don’t. I will likely mix and match, depending on the respective cost, and most likely staying in hostels on shorter stays, and in Airbnb for longer.
And if I do manage to make all of my cargo ship crossings, that is over 40 days spent on a very large ship with very few people, and my private cabin, where I can be as unsociable as I want. The cargo legs come conveniently every couple of months in the first 7-8 months of my journey, so they let me re-charge my social battery quite nicely.
Although I have traveled a lot by myself, it has mostly been shorter, 1-2 week trips in Europe. A round the world trip of possibly 15 months is quite another prospect.
On shorter trips I normally do extensive research beforehand, book accommodation and tours before I go and cram 2-5 destinations into one overall trip (say, Milan-Venice-Como, or Paris-Etretat-Mont St Michel-St Malo-Jersey). My days are usually also planned, in that I have a potential “one big thing” per day in mind, but whether I end up doing each of these depends on the weather and what I might discover locally.
On such a long trip, I have to change my mind set considerably. I have to be more flexible, and to accept more uncertainty. As the cargo ship schedules can change last minute, it is no use planning beyond the next one. And as I will have usually about a month, if not two, in each destination country, I have the luxury to space out my activities. Travel fatigue is a real thing, so there has to be do-nothing kind of days, where I can also catch up with my reading, and writing.
I will also try and limit the places I visit in each country to something manageable. So in a month, I could expect to stay in 2-3 places only, for about a week each, to leave time for unhurried travel between them.
And finally, I will only book accommodation a few days or a week ahead, so that I can keep my itinerary flexible. Some place not agreeing with you? Leave early? Hear of a fabulous side trip? Off you go! Loving it somewhere? Stay longer. This is perhaps what I most look forward to, giving time to discover something unexpected and exploring a place until you are truly ready to move on.