Thoughts Prior to Departure

After months of preparations and years of day-dreaming, I’m finally about to embark upon the most significant trip of my life (at least up until this point).  I’d love to be able to say that the predominant emotion I’m feeling is excitement, but honestly, it is something more akin to nervousness and fear.  It isn’t that I’m scared I won’t be able to follow through on the trip or fearful that I’ll get sick or injured, but having a huge, blank “unknown” facing you down can be a bit daunting.  In fact, the last few months have been quite a roller-coaster of emotions — below are a few of the ups and downs that I’ve gone through:

  1. The Arm-chair Traveler phase (2 years to 6 months out) — At this point, the thought of traveling is only a day-dream you have while plugging away at work or going through your daily routine; something that is just on your “if I won the lottery” list.
  2. The Self-Empowerment phase (5-6 months out) — Once plans begin to gel and your mind is made up to travel long-term, you actually have to quit your job, tell your friends, and convince your family that this is a great idea.  Personally, I found this to be the most difficult step, and one that requires a personal pep-talk to psych yourself up enough to actually go through with it.
  3. The Honeymoon phase (2-4 months out) — You’ve done it.  You left your normal life behind, you’re proud of yourself for going through with it, and you’re surrounded by jealous friends and family telling you what a great, life-changing experience your about to have.  Life is good at this point, and you’re ready to conquer the world.
  4. The “Oh Shit” phase (2-8 weeks out) — Once the glow of the honeymoon phase wears off and you find yourself deep in the final planning stages, it finally hits you: “Oh crap, I’m actually going to be diving into a huge world that I don’t understand, filled with languages I don’t speak, food that I can’t identify, and I’ve got no one to rely on besides myself and nothing with me besides what I can fit in my back-pack.”  This is a bit of an eye-opener.
  5. Acceptance and Excitement (1-14 days out) — At this point, you’ve pretty much finished up with vaccinations, medical check-ups, packing lists, and have nothing else on the schedule beside going-away parties thrown in your honor.  This is where the nervousness that I spoke about earlier begins to slowly creep into your consciousness.  Part of me still relishes this anxiety, however, as it is all part of the experience and will gently melt into excitement as I step off the plane in the first new country

My coffee table for the 6 months prior to departure

When traveling for any length of time, there are generally two competing maxims for how to prepare.  Some like to plan ahead, read literature and guide books based in the destination country, speak to those who have traveled there before, learn the language, and basically plan out their entire trip before ever stepping foot in a train station or airport.  On the other hand, some argue that this hinders spontaneity and causes the traveler to transform into a robot, simply going through the motions they’ve programmed into themselves before the trip.  This faction likes to show up to a new country with very little preparation — essentially a blank slate or sponge ready to clearly absorb their new surroundings and adapt to their new environment.  Whereas the second certainly has a romantic tinge about it, I personally chose to take a middle path between the two — very little planning ahead of time as far as what I’m going to be doing (staying flexible) while still having done enough research to get myself around and (hopefully) not to offend any locals by committing any blatant taboo’s.

My first pass at a packing list, though this definitely didn’t all fit in my pack

For anyone else dreaming about taking a trip overseas, there is a multitude of books, blogs, forums, and guides out there to help out with any of the necessary preparations, but a few of my favorites are as follows:
  • Vagabonding by Wolf Potts – encouragement for those thinking about a long-term trip, but who can’t quite commit yet
  • “Song of the Open Road” from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman – pure inspiration and a must-read poem
  • First Time Around the World by the Rough Guide – all of the planning info you need
  • bootsnall.com – a one-stop shop for forums, plane tickets, hostels, and insurance
  • Globetrekker DVD’s/videos – quick travel guides to various locations from a backpacker’s perspective

A stone cairn marking the start of my trail

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About andrewamiet

I'm a 29 (now 31) year-old former desk jockey who is now making my way around the world, experiencing all of the sights, sounds, tastes, people, and culture that the world has to offer.

7 Responses to “Thoughts Prior to Departure”

  1. If you find yourself traveling through Uppsala, Sweden–my home is yours. I’d be happy to show you around, fix you a traditional Swedish meatball dinner, and introduce you to some fantastic Swedish beers 🙂 Cheers, and good luck!

  2. I am anxious to find out what of the gear in the picture you had left behind! That had to have been a challenge.

    • I’ve already dumped a sleeping pad, a 2nd pair of pants, 2 t-shirts, and a golf shirt. I’m a bit heavy still, so I’ll likely have to drop a book and a few more articles of clothing. They say to buy a small weekend back-pack when traveling like this, as you won’t be able to pack what you don’t need, but it is certainly a difficult challenge.

  3. Just over the weekend I reread one of my favorite poems, “The Road not Taken”, by Robert Frost. “Two Roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both…

    Try to get off the beaten path now and then and take the road that shows no wear.

    Marty

  4. Andrew, the thoughts, prayers, and love of all of us, your family and friends, goes with you as you embark upon this great adventure! We are excited, and also a little apprehensive, about your plans and can’t wait to experience the world through your eyes! Bon Voyage!!

  5. In the brief conversation I had with your brother, he was right about the fact that you were meant to take this trip and write about it for people like me to read. Thank you for letting me peak into your world which reemphasizes why I have a world map on my shower curtain and a globe on my desk – an adventure that will make my mom worry for weeks maybe months is in my future. I hope your family is managing well with it. Travel safe!!!

  6. You’re blog is so inspirational to me!! I seriously want to do this some day. Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

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