Yearlong Trip Uhaul Full of Stuff

So what all did we have to do to get to this point? How do you plan a year-long trip?! This post contains the financial, health and other steps that got us ready for take-off!

Introduction

FIRST, we’ve been planning this for over eighteen months. That’s over A YEAR AND A HALF that we’ve been slowly minimizing our belonging and asking ourselves the hard questions before every purchase, “Do I really need this? Will I be okay donating this when we leave? Is this worth paying to keep in storage or to ship to wherever we’ll be living when we return?”

In most cases, asking ourselves these questions led us to simply buying less. When Nick’s car got flooded during Hurricane Harvey, we collected the insurance money and went down to one car. When our TV broke, we never replaced it. When our blender broke, we didn’t replace that either. Even though we could’ve bought a cheap one for $30, we decided to make do without because that would be one less decision to make down the road. The same logic applied to many things like updating our wardrobes (to a certain extent) and buying specialized sporting equipment (like skis), but not to all. You just have to pick and choose what’s right for you.

If you’re good at sticking to a budget, this probably isn’t a big challenge for you. For the rest of us, it’s a fine-tuned balance between what can I live without? and how do I not make myself miserable? Renting, rather than buying, equipment (such as skis or rock-climbing shoes) became a helpful option. In other cases, we chose a cheaper item, knowing that it would be easier to part with in a few months time (and we wouldn’t have to store it). For example, Michelle bought specialized cycling shoes to participate in a 150-mile ride, but didn’t invest in expensive padded shorts. (That was a mistake BTW; if you’re going to be on a bike for 150 miles, SPLURGE ON THE SHORTS.) Either way, it was incredibly helpful to know that in a few months time, we’d have to decide between donating the item or paying for storage.

Down-sizing covers eighty percent of preparing for this trip since the less we own, the less we have to worry about. But what about the other twenty?

In a Nutshell

Below were our major to-do’s:

Traveler Packing Up Apartment
I was having an emotional time selling our things. Nick convinced me to take the Marie Kondo method to the next level and hug our ottoman.
  • Get vaccines
  • Give our apartment complex 60-days notice
  • Give our employers 1-month notice
  • Buy a one-way ticket
  • Buy health insurance
  • Inventory our belongings (what do we need to take?)
  • Sell the car
  • Sell all our possessions

Notice that no where did list actually planning our trip. Getting ready for take-off took most of our time, and with a trip like this, you have some time to spare, so we were okay with planning our trip along the way. We did however have a high-level idea of our itinerary, purely based on a few key points: We wanted to start in South America (because Michelle speaks fluent Spanish and we figured this would be a good starting point) and then go to Asia. Now for more detail.

Detailed Breakdown

Things to do WAY BEFORE your trip:

Financial

  • Budget for this trip (obviously)
  • Research credit/debit cards for travel. This does NOT mean they must be travel credit cards, but they can be (it’s up to you). We each brought 3 credit cards + 1 debit card, each with NO foreign transaction fees. Review the credit cards you do own, and if needed, apply for any new ones while you have a job. Our favorite cards (all of which have NO annual fees and NO foreign transaction fees) are:
    • UberCard – 4% on restaurants, 3% on flights/hotels/Airbnbs/, 2% on Ubers, 1% everything else. This is the card we use most.
    • Charles Schwab Bank Debit Card – All ATM fees are reimbursed. This is what we use to withdraw cash.
  • For more details on what you should have in your wallet when planning a yearlong trip, check out of Wallet Tips post!

Health

  • Get vaccines and any prescriptions for medicine you may need
    • Vaccines: You need to check the CDC website to see what you will need and don’t trust that your doctor will know (ours didn’t). If you received standard vaccines as a child (in the USA), you may just need the following:
      • Hep B Booster
      • Typhoid
      • Tetanus
      • Japanese Encephalitis (an Asian mosquito disease like West Nile)
      • Yellow Fever (which you have a get a travel clinic due to current supply levels)
    • Prescriptions:
      • Malaria is not an issue in South America cities, but it can be if you venture into more rural areas. We don’t know how deep into the Amazon we will go, but wanted to be prepared just in case. You start taking malaria pills the week before you enter a higher risk area and keep taking them through a few weeks after you leave.
      • Anti-diarrhea (obviously)
  • Purchase water filtration/sanitizing equipment.
    • There is no guarantee that the water everywhere we go will be safe to drink. We brought a steripen, which uses UV light to destroy harmful bacteria, to use in areas where the water quality could be questionable.

Miscellaneous

  • Check the expiration date on your passport. If needed, get a new one.
    • Some countries will not accept a passport that expires within 6 months of your departure date (for a list of countries click here). You can renew your passport by mail. You will need to fill out a DS-82 Form and request an updated Passport Book (you do not need a new Passport Card). Once you fill out the form, you take it to the nearest Post Office that also takes passport photos (not all of them do). The process of going to the post office to get my picture taken and receive my updated passport costs ~$130 ($110 for the form + ~$20 for the photo and postage) and took approximately one month.
  • Make a plan for how you will keep in touch with family and friends.
    • Large carriers such as Verizon or T-Mobile don’t offer international plans that cover trips over 3 months, or if they do, they are excessively expensive. We used unlocked phones (not linked to any carrier) and bought SIM cards in each country. Thankfully there is WIFI just about everywhere nowadays that allows you to be connected via a multitude of apps (e.g., WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, and FaceTime or Skype). SIM cards are relatively cheap and can offer comfort in case of emergencies or where looking for WIFI is simply too tedious.
    • For what we did with our phones to prepare for our trip, check out this post!

Things to do BEFORE your trip:

Financial

  • Lock/freeze all credit cards that you are NOT bringing
  • Notify all credit cards that you ARE bringing of your upcoming travel plans
    • Optional: place a credit freeze on your account with the 3 credit bureaus and sign up for credit monitoring (you can also monitor your credit yourself for free)

Health

  • Purchase over-the-counter drugs such as dramamine (for altitude) and Pepto (obviously)
  • Purchase health insurance for your travels
    • In order to be prepared for the unexpected, we purchased insurance to cover any emergency medical expenses in case one of us needs to see a doctor while we are abroad. We are using the Allianz AllTrips Basic Plan, which offers more than just health insurance (see next section). This particular plan works great for us since we don’t plan to do many adrenaline-junky type activities while traveling.

Miscellaneous

Jardin Waterfall
Once you’ve tackled this list, you’re ready for your adventure! Who knows what you’ll find? Maybe this gorgeous waterfall in Jardin, Colombia??
  • Make a copy of your passport & put it somewhere NOT with your actual passport
  • Register your travels with the US State Department through the STEP – Smart Travel Enrollment Program. This program allows the US to know where its traveling citizens are and sends out periodic alerts regarding each country selected. It’s a tedious process – it took us about an hour – but it will probably make your parents feel better.
  • Purchase travel insurance
  • Check the VISA status in the countries you are visiting first (Note: we did this after landing in Colombia.)
  • Download various apps:
    1. Financial: make sure you can easily sign into all of my credit cards and bank accounts with a few touches. (Make sure you know all your passwords as resetting a password internationally may be more difficult.)
    2. Maps: download offline maps for the first city where you’re going and save any important addresses. (We use Google Maps.)
    3. Entertainment: download a couple of shows & books for your travels!
  • Make at least 2 last-minute trips to Target – who knows what you’ll forget but it will be something!

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