Sunday, June 25th, 2017

How I’m Preparing For Long-Term Travel


The Asia Jaunt is two and a half weeks away (!!!) and I’m freaking out at not being prepared, but it still feels like it’s happening far in the future.

This feeling is strangely familiar. In the weeks leading to my semester in Florence, I was having such a great summer with a fun job and a romance that I wasn’t even thinking about it!

But even so, I know it’s time to prepare.  Hardcore.  This trip is bigger than anything I’ve ever done, and especially because I’m doing it alone, I need to take care of myself.

Here’s how I’m preparing for the trip:


In the town where I’m currently living, there’s a lake that’s popular to walk.  From my house to the lake, around and back, the route is a bit over four miles.

So I started to walk…with my backpack.  And my daypack.  Simultaneously.

I’ve been increasing the weight little by little, and I’ve made the four-mile walk without any pain or needing to stop.  Good sign, I hope.

(Everyone has been asking me if I get stared at!  Honestly, if I do, I don’t notice!  Everyone’s out there to exercise.  And check out hot people.)


On the advice of Shannon from A Little Adrift, I opened an account with Schwab.  The reason?  No ATM fees.  Ever. (Well, to be fair, they refund all ATM fees at the end of the month.)  And no charges for international transactions or currency conversion.

Compare that to Bank of America, which charges me $5 for every transaction abroad, and all my credit cards, which charge around 3% for transactions, and I’m so glad that I opened this account!


I took a short trip to New York this week to visit my sister.  In between eating, drinking, and watching Jon Stewart on The Daily Show (no, I did not hit on him like I did last time, but was I EVER tempted!), I used this trip as a chance to try out my travel gear.

The verdict?  Everything worked great, and I *adore* my new netbook: my new Toshiba NB300.  It doesn’t perform at the capacity of a regular laptop, but I love its size, its sleekness, its versatility.  This is going to be a beautiful relationship.

Beyond that, my only real annoyance was that it takes so much work to find things in a top-loading backpack.  I think I’ll be organizing all my items in packing bags — one or two for clothing by type, one for dirty laundry, one for toiletries, etc.  That should make things easier.

More Preparation

In an attempt to give myself a cast-iron stomach before landing in Bangkok, I’ve, um, been eating a lot of Activia.  I HAVE YET TO EXPERIENCE THE MUCH-PARODIED EFFECTS.  But hopefully it’s doing something good.

I’ve called AT&T and have put my account on hibernation for the duration of my trip, at the cost of $10 per month.  Many thanks to Lillie from Around the World L for this tip.

I’ve booked a guesthouse for my first two nights in Bangkok.  It has a rooftop pool and runs me less than $9 per night.  I LOVE YOU ALREADY, THAILAND.

October 20 is my departure day.  I can’t believe it.

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44 Responses to “How I’m Preparing For Long-Term Travel”
  1. Stephanie says:

    I’m so excited for you on this trip! I’m planning a small jaunt to Thailand (~2 weeks) next year, so I’ll definitely be reading up on your adventures for tips. I also have a Schwab account and love their service! and while I haven’t done any international travel yet, I’m glad to hear that they’re quite travel friendly.

    Are you going to be sharing your packing list soon? And maybe a blog with pictures on how exactly to efficiently pack your stuff?

    • Thanks so much, Stephanie! Maybe we’ll run into each other on the road!

      There will DEFINITELY be a packing list post with pictures as soon as I buy everything I need. I’m going to make a Target run sometime this week, I think. Considering that I consider it a success if I spend less than $50 at Target if I have nothing on my shopping list, I can’t even imagine how that’s going to play out! 🙂

  2. Nathan says:

    sounds like your doing some great prep. loving the walking with backpacks 😛 We are planning on visiting Asia again in a few months as well – love so much about that area!

  3. Matt Hope says:

    Awesome tip on the Schwab account! I’m looking into that right now! ATM fees and transaction fees can kill you…

  4. I´m very excited about you taking off soon. I wouldn´t worry too, too much about “getting in shape” before you go. It´ll happen pretty damn automatically when you get there. The pack is one thing, but I think the main way everyone gets in better shape is just walking everywhere. In the States (and Canada, I think), we basically drive everywhere. Going 6 blocks? Get in the car. Pretty much everywhere else in the world, you will be walking your ass off every day. I bet I average 4-5 miles a day, even in towns where I´m not really doing anything.

    So looking forward to hearing more about your trip, when you get out there.

    • Thanks, Michael! After four year’s of living in Boston, America’s Walking City, I know that I walk MUCH more than the average American. I just wanted to be sure that I could handle carrying the packs for long periods of time.

  5. Conrad says:

    Bet you’ll have a blast of a time – about the preparations, dunno, but guess they don’t do harm and it keeps you busy. My only preparation before going on a extensive trip is to have a nice bottle(s) of wine with friends the day before leaving. 🙂

    See, to me, sour backs, upset stomachs, financial rip-offs, etc etc, they are bound to happen anyway, no matter how much you are prepared to beat them. Best way to deal with them is to not deal with them and keep on moving, keeping things in perspective – at least it happens while having the best of times on the best of places, and not while spending the days in some kinda cubicle lifestyle. That would really suck.

  6. Emily S. says:

    Oh, the Activia comment made me laugh out loud… maybe you could be Jamie Lee Curtis’s side kick on the commercials!!!… and now the theme song is stuck in my head. Ugh.

    I’m sure you look great on your walks… though the bag in front makes it look like you’re carrying a baby 🙂

  7. Shannon OD says:

    Congrats Kate and thanks for the shout-out, glad that you like Schwab so far! 🙂

  8. Michael says:

    I love this, thanks for sharing these planning stages with us and any tips you encounter. It’s a great idea to go for these 4 mile jaunts while your still in familiar territory. I took some backpacking classes in college and have been on some extended trips. I wrote a post on packing your backpack and I hope it can be of some help. Some of it might be obvious things like packing by color if your using stuff sacks. Our teacher always said the number one thing travelers complain about once they get on the road is that they wish they had packed less. Take that for what it’s worth as I know it’s a hard decision deciding what gets left behind. Anyway, look forward to hearing your experiences and the advice you come away with for us.

  9. Jaime D. says:

    Great post and great tips!!! When my trip gets closer I will be doing the same by walking around with my backpacks to make sure I get it right…lol!!! Also thanks for the Schwab account. Ill be getting one before I leave too~

  10. Jack says:

    It seems you and I are leaving for our trips at nearly the same time. I’m quitting the day job on October 19th and traveling on November 15th! And just as I was typing this someone from Twitter said they are leaving the same day as me… (@cooker3) … We should all meet in Bangkok for a cocktail! 🙂

  11. Abby says:

    You’re so funny, Kate!! I love the photo of you “practicing” with your packs. While I don’t think you really need to get in shape for your trip, I bet it makes it feel real! Keep sharing what you’re doing to get pumped. I’m so excited for you!

  12. Rob says:

    You depart to Thailand 1 after I do, good timing 🙂
    You’re depressing me with your level of preparedness. So much I haven’t done that you did !

  13. Nghia says:

    Howdy there. I’m Josh’s friend from Utah. I have an old Dana Pack that is top loading and has front access. Good luck on the travels!

  14. clarke says:

    Spent 2+ years wandering around China Some helpful hints…
    -walking, you’ll do a lot of it. (went thru 2 pairs of Merrells in 6mo) Don’t expect easy transportation, wheelie bags are a must…carrying a bag(gets tiring eventually).

    -personal space, doesn’t exist. (in Europe, when people get close, you know they’re about to pick pocket or such) in China(& alike), the people aren’t used to non-chinese, they’re want to touch you & be next to you & take photos with you.Always carry your valuable items(Credit Card, Passport, etc) in your front bag/pockets.

    -eating; do not clear your plate. it’s a sign that you’re still hungry, & they’re bring you more food. only eat as much you need. Dining habits will gross you out initially, do not expect a napkin – always carry tissues!

    -bathrooms/stomach issues; take immodium. I only needed in 2x in 2+ years, but was happy to have. Only got food poisoning 1x (remember if you can smell the seafood, DON’T eat it); & I never got used to squat toilets; in public spaces handicap toilets are western toilets.

    -Clothing; Asians are smaller people, most of their clothing is tailored as such. Even they’re XXL won’t fit on a caucasian American. (you’ll need to shop in the expat/tourist location for new clothes)

    -mobile phone, get an unlocked phone with easy access to change SIM cards. Cheapest way to travel between countries.

    hit me up for any other questions.

    btw, I’m thinking of heading down that way in November, got some cheap airfares. Just haven’t made up my mind yet, as to where.

  15. Love the walking around idea with the daypack and backpack!! Im always exhausted after a trip

  16. Norbert says:

    Haha! It’s inevitable to get weird looks when carrying both packs at the same time. But you get used to it, or simply learn to ignore it. lol

    Sounds like you are set to go! Love the Schwab and At&t tips… Thanks!

    You’re going to have so much fun in Thailand!!!

  17. Shane says:

    Oh God. We’re leaving for our trip in 5 days. Apart from brush dust of the rucksack I haven’t done a thing. If only Schwab was available to non Americans. I’ll be trying to find something similar in the UK. Have fun.

  18. Theodora says:

    How exciting for you! I didn’t do any of the weight-lifting stuff. Just assumed I’d grow into it. And, boy, you should see my upper arms…

    On the backpack front: generally, in Asia, you can pick up motorbike or tuk-tuk transport for a dollar or so and they will know where they’re going. I tend to use this for anything significantly more than a kilometre. When trekking, etc, just dump as much as you can at your guesthouse and carry only the bare essentials in a day pack…

    Food-wise: i’d start small and build up. You want to develop resistance to the local biofauna by eating, basically, as the locals do. Start with hot foods before you venture onto sushi, salads, cured meats, unpeeled fruit. We’ve been in Asia almost nine months and, bar two afternoons, have had nowt by way of stomach trouble.

    Enjoy Asia. It’s amazing…

  19. Andi says:

    That is SO good that you’re walking with the pack. That’s essential that you build up the strength to carry that thing around everywhere. How exciting, 2 weeks!!!!!!

  20. Laura says:

    This is so exciting! Just take care of yourself not to start the trip tired. Exercise in moderation 🙂

  21. ayngelina says:

    Your pack looks tiny, I’m so jealous!

  22. Annie says:

    Kate! I am beyond excited for you!

    What a cute pic of you and your walking gear, I’m sure you are totally getting checked out, hot! haha.

    Great tips here for travel, especially about Schwab. I heard about this and stupidly overlooked it before I left and now BOA makes about a 10% commission on all my paychecks! haha.

    Good luck!!!!

  23. Yea, the top loading packs can get annoying if you are never unpacking your things or staying in one place for too long. I highly suggest the plastic packing bags. It’s much easier to separate everything.

    I’m stoked on learning about the Schwab account! I know there are a few credit cards who don’t charge fees, but I didn’t know there was a place that offered free ATM transactions overseas!

    @Clarke – Your comment made me laugh about the lack of napkins while dining in Asia! So true!

  24. Jeremy B says:

    Kate, good for you to plan in advance! This will be a lot of fun in the pre-trip stages. Some people don’t think about being in shape to carry bags and backpacks around but getting ready for it will get you that much more motivated (as if you needed it!) 🙂 Can’t wait to follow your adventures!

  25. Lissie says:

    For your stomach – the best thing you can do is eat Asian food. I’ve never had serious issues in Asia or India with the food – but I eat Indian and Asian at least once a week at home – if you never eat curry and then suddenly eat it twice a day 3 days in a row – try it at home and see what happens

  26. Keith says:

    Really enjoyed this, Kate. I’m also on the edge of travel, though only for a month at a time. I might have to look into the Schwab account – do you still maintain another, older bank account or did you fully switch?

    Great idea to get some exercise in your gear!

    • Thanks, Keith! I’ve had Bank of America since I was a teenager, but I think I’m going to transition off it entirely. About four years ago, I opened a high-interest savings account at HSBC (though “high-interest” is pretty much meaningless nowadays) and that’s been my travel fund.

  27. Jenny says:

    So happy for you! You obviously are doing much more preparation work for your body than I ever did. LOL I just went for it!

    I’m also going to open up a bank account with Swabb. Bank of america killed me in fees during my 5 months in South America!

  28. Oh you are going to love Thailand so much more!
    I hate top loading backpacks and never buy them. It is so annoying to find things especially when you are in a hurry and just want to grab a long sleeved shirt that is somewhere down there at the bottom! What a great idea to walk the lake with your pack on and I like the tip about the bank account.

  29. It’s really cool to look at this post and see how you prepared! I’m 2.5 months out from my one-year RTW trip and in the middle of writing a 3-part series about how I’m getting ready! It’s a crazy surreal whirlwind of an experience, and that’s just the preparation!

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