6-Week Countdown (Panic Sets In)

Jeff and I have been planning our trip for so long that the reality of the thing — 11 months abroad, countless countries, air & overland travel, no jobs — is just now setting in. We’re less than three months out and, having just purchased our first flights (to Belize!), there’s no question that this is happening.

As our departure date — January 17 — nears, we’re getting more questions about our plan, ranging from the general itinerary to our lodging choices to our budgeting approach. We have the major details sketched out, but we are intentionally “baking in” a lot of flexibility; in other words, we don’t want to over-plan and forfeit our ability to be spontaneous.

That said, I’m a planner. I’m usually comfortable with medium- to longterm uncertainty, but I like to know where I’m resting my feet at the end of a long day, and if seemingly minor logistic issues will majorly thwart our plans (will buying last-minute plane tickets from Panama to Colombia prevent us from doing XYZ  later in the trip?). I’m definitely stressing the details, but I’m also starting to worry about some bigger-picture things:

  • Budget: At some point early on, we read that a budget of 20-25k for the whole year would be reasonable, assuming we spend the majority of our time in developing countries, stay (mostly) in hostels, travel overland when possible, and avoid any lavish expenditures. Recently, though, it dawned on me that we accepted this budget number without really crunching any numbers. Why the hell did we let ourselves make this HUGE assumption?! After (literally) sweating this revelation for about 24 hours, during which I panic-dialed half a dozen friends and scoured the internet for further corroboration of this stupidly arbitrary number, I began to feel better. As my *calmer* friends reminded me, we can always adjust our plan if money becomes an issue. The blogosphere also seems to think 10 months is very doable for 25k.
  • “Together Time”: Though living with Jeff has been easy and fun, I’m worried about being together constantly and the challenges so much “together time” will inevitably bring. Between our separate jobs and somewhat independent social lives, Jeff and I spend a healthy amount of time apart — which, I think we would both agree, makes the time we spend together more valuable. Both of us genuinely need solo time too, which we’ll have to proactively seek while abroad.
  • Packing: I could write a whole book on my packing-related woes. As a consumate — if not pathological — planner, I obsess about preparation, probably because it’s one of few trip-related things that’s in my direct control. Suffice it to say that I started a packing list around the time that we firmed up our itinerary (i.e. months ago). At present, it’s still a living document in the form of a Google Spreadsheet, which I have updated countless times and will continue to obsess over until I board the first flight forever. It’s just who I am.
  • Missing Out: A lot can happen in 10ish months, and even though I can celebrate the big milestones (e.g. birthdays, engagements, weddings, babies) with my friends and family from afar, I think I’ll miss the more mundane/day-to-day stuff even more. Even though my close friends are spread out across the country, long phone conversations, group texts and regular email communication have kept us close. Without consistent access to these channels, I’ll have to find other ways to stay (and feel) connected. Which, by the way, is another reason I’m lobbying EVERYONE to come join us on this trip at some point.

I guess that sums up most of the big stuff. By the way, Jeff is not worried about any of this ‘ish. Which is probably a good thing (from a balance perspective).

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