10 tips for RTW travel (learn from our mistakes)

Ten tips for saving time, money and your sanity during round-the-world adventures…

Pack light

1. Pack light

Do you really want to be a high-maintenance crazy with a 100+ liter bag taller than you are? If so, know your fellow travelers are going to point at you – and not in a good way. Instead, be a hardcore travel hobo with a day pack-sized haul others envy. Not only will you look cool, but your back will thank you.

The easiest way to pack light is to purchase a small backpack (duh). In 2003, Her hauled a 95-liter Eagle Creek bag around Europe for six weeks. In 2010, she shouldered a 65-liter Gregory bag on the four-night Inca Trail. Throughout this six-month trip, she carried a 55-liter Gregory Savant and admits even that was too big. She wishes she had been badass enough to simply strap on a 25-liter Jansport school backpack.

man with monkey

2. Always be alert

Her’s iPhone was pickpocketed from a temple in Hanoi, Vietnam. Petty crime is rampant throughout Southeast Asia – so much so that the employees at the temple simply shrugged when we reported the theft. Always be aware of your surroundings and work with your travel partner to keep an eye on each other. Which brings us to No. 3…

Photo Caption: This devious monkey was secretly planning an attack because Him wasn't alert.

Rock climbing

3. Purchase insurance

Before leaving your home country, purchase insurance to cover your health and your belongings and ensure your plan provides international coverage. In addition to our regular health insurance, we purchased extra insurance to cover any injuries or illnesses sustained while outside the U.S. We also had renter’s insurance for our house, and the policy covered the belongings we left behind and the belongings we took with us.

Scorpion in liquor

4. Be cuisine curious

Fried tarantulas and locusts may not be your idea of a tasty meal, but close your eyes, hold your nose and sample them anyway. This is your chance to try truly ethnic cuisine and, with the exception of consuming something dangerous (like brain matter or uncooked, unpeel-able produce) or something unethical (domestic animals like dog, cat or horse), we wholeheartedly encourage you to go for it! Now that our trip is over, friends often inquire about the strangest food we tried and our answer is a bit lame: Kangaroo burgers in Australia or “Happy” Pizza in Cambodia. Believe it or not, we wish we had nibbled on those fried tarantulas – well, at least on a hairy, fried tarantula leg!

note taker

5. Keep a journal...

…and be religious about writing in it. Your travel journal is your record of what you saw, who you met and all the warm and fuzzy feelings you felt along the way. It’s deceptively easy to fall behind on entries, and once you’re behind, good luck catching up! Her should know: She fell so far behind with the entries in her primary journal that she ended up keeping a secondary, notes-filled journal describing that particular day’s adventures so she could go back and write a long-form entry when she finally worked her way to the present in the primary journal. By the time we made it home, she had amassed 10 journals containing everything from narrative to nonsensical notes to out-of-context quotes. She’s still struggling to make sense of it all.


6. Be a shutterbug...

...But be prepared. Her brought along several 4GB memory cards for our digital SLR, but that (and Him’s Mac Book Pro) was nowhere near enough memory to accommodate the 40,000+ photographs she shot in six months. We ended up purchasing a 1TB Western Digital portable hard drive from the Mustafa Center in Little India, Singapore for (about $130 USD) and then, because we were terrified the hard drive would get lost or stolen, we bought a Flickr account to upload photos to the web for later download. In hindsight, it would have been smart to purchase the Flickr account first thing and simply upload as we went along.

NOTE:Unfortunately, Flickr’s uploader can only handle 200 photos at a time, and it frequently crashes when your batch approaches the upper limits of that threshold. You can’t simply select 1,000 photos before you go to bed and upload them while you sleep.

mail stuff home

7. Mail [stuff] home

As you accumulate souvenirs (or, in Her’s case, brochures, tickets, shells, curious rocks and broken pottery) during the trip, mail them home so you don’t have to haul them around. We did this on three occasions (from Melbourne, Australia, in Bangkok, Thailand, and Hong Kong), and all three boxes arrived home safely before we did.

Bronzed Aussie postcard

8. Write postcards

As we couldn’t afford to bring home souvenirs for everyone, we did our best to send family and friends postcards along the way. Her, OCD wonder that she is, even attempted to photograph every postcard message before she mailed it. Her thinking was that we would have a personal copy to record what we did and what we said about what we did. And, if the postcard didn’t make it to the intended destination, we had a copy to show the recipient.

Photo Caption:This awesome example was meant for Her's sister but never made it. :(

tuk tuk

9. Haggle

Sure, it feels like a supreme waste of time trying to pay $15 instead of $20 for your hotel room, but it’s all part of the game. Westerners are easy prey for Asian vendors who possess years of experience negotiating. You’re already paying several multiples of what the locals are paying for the same thing, so you should try to save where you can. It all adds up. And it can be fun (although Her didn’t think so). At the very least, your haggling will keep the tourism-caused inflation down for the next set of travelers coming through by showing we’re not all a bunch of pushovers. The only things you should never need to haggle over are necessities like water, medicine, etc. If anyone is trying to haggle with you on those items, find a different vendor.

Photo Caption: *NEVER climb into a tuk-tuk without first negotiating the price of a ride.


10. Be flexible

And we don’t mean take yoga classes (although that does sound like fun!). By all means, plan your journey, but don’t flip out if you don’t catch the 6AM bus to Siem Reap. Angkor Wat isn’t going to vaporize, and you never know whom you may meet on the 8AM bus. Some of the best adventures we had were the ones when we fell into situations we hadn’t planned, and that’s how we met some of the most interesting people on our trip. Go with the flow and be ready for anything the world can throw at you.

Photo Caption: Him hiding from India

Pack lightman with monkeyRock climbingScorpion in liquornote takershutterbugmail stuff homeBronzed Aussie postcardtuk tukhiding

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