Unfortunately we couldn’t drop everything and hit the road like a couple high-schoolers heading to the beach for spring break. Somewhere down the line we graduated to “adulthood” with real-world responsibilities…still not sure how that happened. We definitely had some
house life cleaning to do so we made a list and worked our way through it one item at a time.
Cell Phone Plan or SIM cards: Generally speaking, U.S. cell phone plans are super expensive and/or do not work well in other countries. While in the U.S we use Verizon but will be looking at other options when we cross the border. We can use local country specific SIM cards in our unlocked iPhone, or try T-mobile’s unlimited international plan. We’ll let you know how it goes…or maybe we won’t because we won’t have internet. 🙂
Create a Website and Logo: This mess of garble and pictures didn’t create itself you know. We used WordPress and a purchased theme (Avada) to build the website/blog. Neither of us knew squat about building a website so learning about child themes, plugins that don’t play nicely with others, and some hosting nightmares was a lot of fun. Our logo was designed with the help of our amazingly talented friend Rebecca in exchange for wine…lots and lots of wine.
Travel Cards: As we meet people prior to and during the trip we share our information via a travel card. The cards have our email, website, Facebook, Instagram, etc. and have been a great way to connect with fellow travelers and new friends. Thanks again to Rebecca for designing and gifting these beauties to us! twitter.com/rebeccamachamer
Entertainment: Music, Movies, Podcasts, TV oh my…As entertaining and hilariously charming as I am, Josh said he wanted to have a large selection of movies, music, podcasts and TV shows to watch or listen to on the road for whatever reason. Prior to leaving for the trip we resisted all temptation and Facebook *spoiler alerts* for some of our favorite shows so we could download and watch the most recent seasons on the road. For music we asked some of our friends to make us playlists of their favorite music for the long drives. It’s been fun to have a little bit of home while cruising down the road.
Couchsurfing, Harvest Hosts, WorkAway Profiles:
To spice up the camping experience and life on the road we created profiles on various online websites that offer free stays and awesome experiences around the world. Couch Surfer offers a free place to stay at other people’s homes (or driveways). Harvest Hosts is a membership based program offering free nightly stays on vineyards, breweries, farms, museums and various other properties. (Sample a little vino and then sleep in the parking lot? Sold!) WorkAway and WWOOF are other membership based websites for people who want to volunteer with a family or small organizations around in the world in exchange for food and shelter. Haven’t tried these two yet, but hopefully soon. Using Couchsurfing and Harvest Hosts has been a nice change of pace and we’ve really enjoyed all of our experiences and people we’ve met so far!
Health Insurance: As soon as our jobs ended we were uninsured, unemployed, AND living with my parents. Things were really looking up for us…
We’ve seen how people drive in the D.C. area and definitely wanted medical coverage for our drive around the U.S. so we decided to purchase a short-term medical plan through Sallie Mae to cover us until we cross the border. Hoping to use it for emergencies only we chose a fairly high deductible ($1,000) which helped to lower the out-of-pocket cost.
Shopping for an international insurance plan can be overwhelming, especially with all of the fine print. Most coverage does not begin until after you’ve left your home country on your ‘vacation’. We narrowed it down to World Nomads, IMG and 7 Corners but ultimately selected IMG. With IMG, we found comparable coverage at a lower cost and the option to add a Citizenship Return Rider which will cover us for our visits home. Also, if you plan to partake in any ‘adventurous activities,’ which includes snorkeling, you may want to pay extra and add the “Adventure Sports Rider” to the package. Umm…since when did snorkeling become an adventure sport? My advice: Read the fine print and shop around!
Vaccinations & First Aid: After some research we were able to determine what vaccinations were required and/or suggested for admission to certain countries and what prescriptions were needed for our first aid kit.
We found the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) website to be a solid resource for all travel related health risks, warnings and vaccination requirements by country.
Some fellow overlanders use Travel Clinics for all of the required immunizations and prescription medications. These clinics will do the research and are well-versed in exactly what you will need for your individual itinerary from vaccinations, suggested medications and any travel warnings. Unfortunately, insurance plans typically do not cover these facilities.
After a discussion with the insurance company we concluded that if everything is billed as ‘preventative care’ during a routine physical it should be covered 100% by our employer sponsored insurance plans. Instead of a Travel Clinic, we booked appointments at a primary care facility for routine physicals and travel immunizations. Physicals, blood work, all required vaccinations and prescriptions we may need while traveling were done in about 2 hours and covered 100% as ‘preventative care’. Success! Here is our list:
- Yellow Fever vaccination–Required in many countries. Make sure they give you the ‘Yellow Card’ as proof of vaccination for entrance into certain countries.
- Typhoid vaccination–Available in capsule or injection. We suggest the injection to prevent the hassle of getting the capsules filled at a pharmacy.
- Hepatitis A & B–We only needed A but both are highly recommended.
- Tetanus–A booster is suggested every 10 years.
Medications: In addition to the standard over-the-counter Ibuprophen, Asprin, Sudafed, etc. we were able to get the following medications and antibiotics from the doctor.
- Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)-Treats most bacterial infections such as respiratory, urinary, gastrointestinal and abdominal infections, etc.
- Cephalexin (Keflex)-Treats bacterial infections such as upper respiratory, ear, skin, urinary infections, etc.
- Metronidazole (Flagyl)-Treats parasitic infections of the small intestine, etc.
First Aid: Aside from these vaccinations and medications we also have a well-stocked First Aid kit.
- Voodoo Tactitcal Trauma Kit: Scary name but a great, fully-stocked medical kit that we will hopefully never use!
- Adventure Medical Kit (1-2 person): Small, portable and good for throwing in a bag for hikes.
- Additional Items: Steri Strips, Israeli Bandage, Waterproof Bandaids, Gauze Bandage, Halo Seals, Moleskin, Neosporin, digital thermometer…
Set-up International Money Access: In addition to our stateside savings accounts and international credit cards, we both have Charles Schwab Investor Checking accounts set-up for our international ATM needs. There are no foreign transactions fees, they refund all ATM fees on your card, no minimum balance, no service fees, free online bill pay and free checks. It takes a few days to get set-up and the money transferred but it has worked great for us and we highly recommend it for travel.
To help calculate the currency exchange rates by country we downloaded the XE app for iPhone. It provides the current rates by country. http://www.xe.com/apps/iphone/
Update Mailing Address and Go Paperless: We updated all online accounts (banking, credit cards, bills, etc) to be paperless so our correspondence is e-mailed directly to us. Other mail is sent to my parents with the hope that they will scan anything of importance to us rather than cash in on our Publisher’s Clearing House winnings for themselves.
Roll-over Retirement Accounts: Leaving our jobs left us with some financial decisions to make. Cash it all out and run like hell or rollover/reinvest? We chose the adult-ish responsible thing and reinvested the money for when we get back or when we get old, whichever comes first. 😉
Packing: Packing all of our clothes, recovery gear, tools, extra truck parts, toiletries, first aid, linens, kitchen items, camping gear and whatever else we need for 1+ years is a daunting task. We packed more than we need (as usual) and will likely be ditching items as we go. Full packing list here!
Learn to Cut Hair: I had been slowly dying my hair back to natural since I won’t be getting highlights on the trip, and also learning to cut Josh’s hair for when I can no longer see his eyes. He actually attempted to cut his own hair once and it went pretty well until he fell off the bathroom counter while trying to use the cabinet mirror to trim the back. I guess a little buzzed bald spot is fitting for a guy living full time in a camper.
International Drivers Permit (IDP): An IDP is a valid form of identification in 150 countries and required in some. For $15 at the local AAA office we have a back-up form of identification to provide policia if we’re pulled over and don’t want our official drivers licenses held for bribes.
What seemed like an endless list of tasks is now a crumpled up piece of paper in the trash. Plenty of items were left unchecked and that’s ok. When recounting some of our preparations to a couple in Mexico, who had been on the road for three years, they had some great advice – “Get your a$$ down here and start living!”