““All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
Jon and I headed into London today on one of our last few excursions before we leave in (gah!!) 6 days. One of the places we were headed was Metro Bank, a new bank chain that has recently opened in the UK. One of our friends, Hannah, went travelling for eight months in 2011 and suggested that we look into it, because it’s the only bank in the UK that doesn’t have any charges for foreign withdrawals. With the amount of withdrawals around the world that we are planning, that could save us hundreds of £££!
As the first new high street UK bank in 100 years, I must admit, I was a bit sceptical, but I was won over when we actually went in. The place is completely based around customer service, which is decidedly lacking at other banks. They are open 7 days a week, with phone services 24 hours. They welcome dogs with bowls of water and biscuits, and kids with lollipops. They even have free change counting machines, so I got rid of all my pennies. Superficial, yes, but a nice touch.
The people we met were very professional, spending more time on explaining all the details and making sure we were aware of the fine print before we signed. They even took us through the internet banking in the branch, setting it up with us, and answering any questions we had before we finished. And the kicker, they gave us our newly minted debit card while we sat there.
A bank that seems to care about the little things that are important to people, and make your life easier? I’m sold. Now, lets see how it is in practice. Will report from the road!
It’s all about the getting stuff done.
Normally in life there are things that you know you need to do – go to the dentist, update your bank details, do your taxes, etc. But they are things that you tend to put off until they are necessary, or you finally get around to them.
Then picture yourself leaving the country, and not coming back for an entire year. Now everything you needed to do absolutely MUST be done, and you have a deadline to do it all. That’s what life has been like for the last few weeks. I’ve needed a root canal for months, so that painful appointment (two, actually!) was done. And a nagging muscle injury needed to be tended to, a visit to the doctor showed 5 sessions of physio and an ultrasound had to be booked in. And you know, I really should replace the glasses I have had for 10 years, so off to Specsavers it is. Plus getting enough medicine, contact lenses, and asthma inhalers (Jon) for 13 months.
And then all the paperwork and phone calls. Preparing taxes for both this year and next, contacting banks, credit cards, insurance companies, making sure everything that you’ve been putting off is done.
It’s something I would have never thought about before I left, but I have taken over the dining room table with all the paperwork that ties together your life. My piece of advice for those planning a trip: start early, and get it all done as quickly as you can.
Today was clothes packing day. You’ll never believe how hard it is to decide what to take. You go through everything you own, saying ‘oh I like this’ or ‘oh this would be good for the beach/dancing/snow’ and soon you have a pile that would fill three suitcases. No, it’s the being ruthless that’s the hard part. The general rule of backpacking or travelling is Pack Light. If you might need it at some point, you can generally buy it there. Unless you are going to the deepest darkest wilderness, there will be a shop that sells whatever you are looking for. I remember meeting a family with a young baby in Cambodia, who had brought loads of nappies (diapers) with them. They told me once they got there, they realised their mistake as “they have babies here too.”
The easiest trap to fall into is the ‘it’s small, I’ll just throw it in anyway’. Stop. Right. There. Do it once and you’ll soon find yourself with another 10lbs of unneeded items.
My guideline is firstly, look at the temperatures of where you are going. If you are going to the hot weather first, then snow, see if you can buy snow gear while travelling, rather than hauling it around for months. Or, you can pack a box full and get someone nice to send it out to you. Once that’s sorted, I would say bring enough clothes to last you one week without washing plus a few extra pairs of underwear and socks.
Our trip is a bit different as we go immediately from 32 C/90 F to Antarctica and back to 32C, and then it jumps from hot to cold for the whole trip. We also can’t do laundry on the 10 day Antarctic cruise, so, we’re packing more than we would. You can check out Jon and I’s complete packing list on the What To Pack For a Round The World Trip page, but here’s the gist:
5 bottoms (two trousers, two shorts, skirt)
4 warm tops (fleece, thermals, long shirt)
6 shirts (tank tops, tees and dressy top)
3 dresses (good for day or night)
1 sports outfit (for aerial and normal workouts)
1 pair pjs (for hostel dorms)
2 jackets (one parka, one waterproof)
3 shoes (sneakers, hiking shoes and flipflops)
Doesn’t seem much for a year, but I keep repeating the mantra ‘If I need it, I can always buy it there!’
New Years Day 2012 and we leave in T minus 9 days! Where on earth has all the time gone? I thought we still had ages and yet its creeping up quicker and quicker. There is still so much to be done!
Today’s mission was starting the rucksack packing and getting this website up to scratch! Jon and I went through everything we had considered bringing besides clothes. Now, you might not think you’d have much, other then a laptop, phones etc, but when you get down to the nitty gritty, you have to bring loads. Toiletries (Shampoo/conditioner/shower gel, moisturiser, facewash, deodorant, contact lens solution etc), Travel Essentials (Mosquito Repellant, Sunscreen, Detergent), First Aid Kit/Medicine (Antimalarials, Ibuprofen, Antibiotic gel etc). You sit there surrounded by bottles, tubes and jars bargaining with each other. Ok, I can leave this, but THIS has to come. Then when you add in things like travel towels, sleep sheets, flashlights/torches, water bottles, etc, you start to realise just how much you have!
But its a learning curve, you know? I’m going off of what I used 10 years ago along with the recommendations I’ve read about. And I know we’ll add and subtract along the way. I’ve decided to post a Round The World Packing Plan on the advice pages. I’ll let you know how it goes and what we gain and lose on the road!
Tomorrow = the big one. The final decision about clothes!