By now you know that taking a RTW trip is far different than going on a vacation. It is most certainly not one big, long vacation, and most RTW travelers figure that out within a few weeks. Because this type of travel is so much different than the vacation style travel most are used to, there are certain things that seem to fall by the wayside and aren’t contemplated.
Mundane daily tasks – like doing laundry, shopping for things like shampoo and tampons, staying in touch with family and friends, and paying bills back home are usually things that you don’t have to worry about when on vacation. In fact, many of these tasks are things you look forward to getting away from while on vacation. But a RTW trip is a lifestyle, and you can’t simply ignore these daily tasks for the length of your trip.
Once you start researching what and how to pack for a RTW trip, you will realize that less is better. You don’t want to lug a jam-packed 80 liter pack up and down the hills of Cusco looking for a place stay for the night. So you are most likely going to be traveling with a small amount of clothes, which presuming you’re not a dirty hippie, you’ll actually want to wash once in a while.
There are several options when it comes to keeping your clothes clean while on the road.
- Doing laundry yourself is the option many RTW travelers think they’ll be doing for most of their trip. While this option is a good one some of the time, you’ll quickly realize that your clothes simply don’t get as clean handwashing them in a hostel sink. There’s no way around it. And if you are in a humid environment, it can take days for your clothes to dry. Packing wet clothes into a pack results in bad things.
- Doing laundry at a laundromat is another good option that will obviously be more expensive than the hostel sink method, but your clothes will actually get really clean. This option is good when you’re traveling in more expensive regions and bigger cities. It won’t cost too much, but you’ll have to spend a good portion of a day each week sitting in a laundromat, which isn’t usually tops on the priority list while traveling.
- Doing laundry at your hostel is possible in certain situations. Many hostels allow you to use their facilities, for a small fee, but you may have to share them not only with other travelers but with the hostel itself. It all depends on the hostel, obviously, but it’s worth it to ask at the front desk or inquire about laundry services when checking out where to stay.
- Sending your laundry out to be washed is a great option if you’re traveling in developing countries. It’s extremely cheap, and all you have to do is drop it off and pick it up. Some hostels even have cheap laundry service, so make sure you ask to see what they offer.
Souvenir shopping is something that nearly everyone does while on vacation, and it is certainly something you’ll do on your RTW, though you’ll have to be more picky as whatever you buy will have to fit in your bag. But this is not the type of shopping I’m talking about in this section. You probably aren’t going to try to pack things like soap, shampoo, band aids, and sunscreen to last for your entire trip, so finding these things on the road is going to be a necessity.
When planning a trip of any kind and contemplating a packing list, many travelers seem to lose their minds a bit and don’t really think things through. Because of airline regulations on liquids, many people think that they absolutely have to check a bag just so they can bring their giant, industrial sized bottle of shampoo with them. 3 oz. containers, the carry-on allowance, is all you really need, at least to begin your trip. If you are traveling overland from your first destination and don’t want to buy new bottles each week, you can certainly get a bigger one once you arrive.
No matter where it is you are going, chances are those people do things like wash their hair, too, so finding basic things like soap and shampoo is not difficult. I was able to travel around the world for a year while washing my hair only with Head and Shoulders. Yes, even in places like Bolivia, Laos, and India, I was able to find the same shampoo I use at home. For some reason people don’t think of this (I know I didn’t when I first started traveling – I planned for every situation!). Sure, you may have to wait until you arrive in a major city to get a certain type, or you may not be able to find that exact same $20 bottle of hair product you get at your local salon, but chances are you can find something that will work just fine.
Even things like tampons and condoms can be found pretty much anywhere. When it comes to medicine, you’ll probably have an easier time on the road than back home, especially if that home is the US. Most countries have pharmacies that sell a lot of over the counter medicines that you need a prescription for at home.
If you plan on hitting up the beach, try finding sunscreen before you get there. Beach cities are notorious for ripping off tourists who come unprepared. They know you’ll need it, so they can charge whatever they want. The same goes for bug spray. These are two items you may want to bring from home if you a beach or particularly buggy area are near the top of the itinerary. If not, you may want to think about both of these while in a big, metropolitan city.
Just keep these things in mind when making a packing list and shopping right before you leave for your trip. You will have to re-up on everything once you’re gone, and there are plenty of stores all over the world that sell the same brands as you can get at home, and if not, there are more than adequate replacements for whatever you need. There is simply no need to plan for every “What if…?” situation you can imagine.
When you leave home for an extended period of time to travel, the rest of the world just keeps on going, unfortunately. Those student loan payments still have to be made and taxes still need to filed. Fortunately we live in an age where doing these things is pretty easy, even compared to 10 years ago.
If you don’t already have online or automatic bill pay set up for all your necessary bills, do it now. It’s so much easier, and once you’re on the road, it’s a necessity. If you know you are going to have to pay your student loans or a car payment or insurance, then get it all set up before leaving. Set it up for auto bill pay and stay on top of your finances so you always have enough in your checking account to pay bills. You never know when you’re going to be without internet for a while, so having it set up on auto pay as opposed to just paying online just makes it easier.
For taxes, it’s probably a good idea to get an electronic copy of your previous year’s taxes and keep it in a reliable place – on your computer (if you’re bringing one), sent to your email, on an external hard-drive, on your parent’s computer at home where it can easily be sent. All are good options, and obviously you should have it in multiple places just in case. Elect a reliable friend or family member to receive your mail, and as soon as necessary tax documents come in, have them scan and send it right along. Taxes can be filed online, so it shouldn’t be an issue.
Voting – We left for our trip about 2 weeks before the 2008 United States Presidential election, and we obviously still wanted to vote. Filling out an absentee ballot made this extremely easy, so if you are going to be traveling during an important election and still want to vote, it shouldn’t be very difficult.
Staying in Touch
There’s an entire article on the best ways to stay in touch while on the road, so I won’t re-hash it all here. But technology has afforded travelers the opportunity to easily stay in touch with the goings-on back home. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and big events don’t always have to be missed just because you’re halfway across the world.
The best thing you can do is make sure your close friends and family members get set up on Skype. Major events like birthdays and holidays can get a little lonely and cause homesickness, so being able to get in touch is invaluable. When we were on our RTW trip, my wife and I got quite homesick on Christmas Eve. December 24th was the day where both our families would get together to celebrate, and while we were gone, they decided to continue the tradition. I will never forget being in Buenos Aires on Christmas Eve and receiving a Skype call from our families, who were all at my parents’ house, with the computer on the corner of the table. It made us feel like we were there despite being thousands of miles away, and it certainly helped cure our homesickness.
If you’ve never taken a trip like this before, you don’t always think of everything in advance. How could you? When thinking of your RTW trip, the first thing on your mind certainly isn’t going to be how you are going to laundry, but it’s an important thing to consider nonetheless. Being prepared is always going to make traveling easier, so make sure you plan for everything you can think of.Next: All Things Transport-Finding and Booking Overland Transport »