I knew that planning a RTW trip would take some work, but after a couple of years of compiling exactly where I wanted to go, the big things I wanted to see, the timeframes of when I wanted to be where, I had conveniently put off some of the big scary decisions and planning. Except guess what? Now I actually have to think about all of that stuff...
Big scary decision / cost #1: Sell or Rent?
When I suddenly found myself moving to Charlotte four years ago, the economy and the housing market were both about as low as I figured they could ever get, so I took the opportunity to cobble together some savings and invest in a condo. I figured I wouldn't be leaving in the next 3-5 years anyway, and a good two-bedroom condo would allow me to a) save money by getting a roommate and b) rent the whole thing in case I ever did decide to move or upgrade to a home. Except then the economy and the housing market took another big dip before bottoming out, I never did get that roommate, and with my current monthly payments, renting would likely just cover my costs. Oops. Now I'm having conversations with a realtor around selling to minimize my investment loss versus refinancing to reduce my monthly payments to make renting a more viable option (which means even more conversations comparing mortgage lenders and rates, phew). I'm pretty comfortable with however it turns out, but this is certainly something that's taking more effort than I ever imagined.
Big scary decision / cost #2: RTW ticket or Buy-As-I-Go?
My initial plan for this trip was simple: take advantage of my airline mile hoarding over years of consulting-based travel to purchase a RTW ticket in business class for absolutely nothing (+ tax). Sounds like an easy decision, right? Except that every single person I've spoken to has begged me to consider the desire for flexibility on the road. After all, this isn't a two week vacation where everything will be meticulously planned down to the hour. There will be entire weeks, months even, where I've planned nothing in advance. I will meet people along the way, discover new "must see" destinations, and I may very well get sick of a place and want to move right along a day later (or, fall in love with a spot and decide to stay an extra week or four). Plus, if the last year has taught me anything, it's that I may very well wind up with a random friend in a random corner of the world that I want to stop and visit. So my simple, neat plan of traveling for exactly one year in a specific, planned-out pattern on free airline miles has suddenly shifted. And while I'm thrilled for the added flexibility, the inner planner in me is freaking out at the unknown, specifically the unpurchased airline tickets. And where I had planned to save a ton of money on these flights, suddenly flights are REALLY EXPENSIVE. Even with a stockpile of miles. I went from 280,000 miles for a RTW ticket in business class, to 45,000 miles to get to Peru. One way. In coach. Ouch.
Big scary decision / cost #3: Immunizations
I knew that immunizations would be part of the plan for the trip, but I didn't quite fathom the sheer volume of shots I would need, nor the cost of all those vaccines. Luckily, my insurance did cover a couple of shots, but for most, I'll need to visit an out-of-network specialist. Office visit: $70. Need to get covered for rabies? That'll be a series of three shots at $295 each. Japanese Encephalitis? That's a series of two at $299 each. I'm not sure if the physical pain of the shots will be nearly as much as the pain in my wallet.
Big scary decision / cost #4: Visas
I honestly haven't even looked into this one yet. However, in the last few weeks, I've seen the piles of paperwork required for a simple visa for some colleagues to visit India for a week of work, and a friend had to change her South America trip around at the last minute because the Brazilian embassy in the US never finished processing her paperwork. That she sent in a month ago. The thought of trying to get a visa to India or China while on the road is a little mind-boggling. Serenity now...
And of course, all of this planning is taking place outside of my regularly scheduled program: a demanding job, obsessive trips to the gym, sports leagues, self-defense courses, and planning a few trips this summer to visit close friends and family before embarking on this adventure... But, as somewhat overwhelming as the process can be, I'm still excited for it. Still scared to death, but excited. And I'll finally be purchasing the first flight soon, so stay tuned :)