I leave for the next chapter of my life in one week. Once I set foot in Incheon International Airport, I’ll be saying goodbye to Korea and first make my way over about 5,819 miles (9,364 km) from India to Cambodia over the course of 4 and a half months. After that, it looks like I’ll be returning home to prepare a visa for my next big international move. Details to come this spring (I hope)!
I cannot be more excited. I’ve had this trip around Asia on my mind for the last year as I budgeted, saved, planned and dreamed about all the things that could come my way in 2013. Now, all those nights and weekends in, cheap dinners and lack of anything new in my wardrobe has paid off– I’ll have reached my saving goals just from what I’ve made in Korea. With these savings, I can now go live the life I choose for the next year and travel without being tied down by vacation time or money.
It’s not to say I’m not worried about the next year, though. While I cannot wait to leave Korea, it has been comfortable, and I’m sure the places I will be visiting first most likely won’t (being a woman in India doesn’t seem like all sunshine and rainbows). While maybe I seem brave or lucky for taking a trip like this, I’m really not. All I’ve done is worked hard, and made it happen. I still worry about many aspects of this trip and my life to come, but I just don’t let those worries get in the way of taking the leap. Neither should you.
This blog has also helped a lot in the past year. Spending time writing and working towards something has been a great way to not be out spending money, and help keep me motivated to get through the year. It has also given me the inspiration to continue my travels in the future, something I’ve doubted and worried about. It’s also helped me reflect on my time in Korea, what I want in life, and also what is possible. Who knew a blog, and all that goes along with blogging, could introduce me to so many people doing the same thing and open my mind to so many job possibilities in travel.
Since the one month countdown began, I’ve felt overwhelmed with all there is to do to prepare. The fact that I still have to attend work (even though most of the time I’m just made to sit at my desk because I don’t have any classes) has made getting things done difficult. There is only so much that can be achieved from a desk or after 5pm!
A few mental breakdowns have accompanied me this month, and I’ve sometimes felt like the trip would never arrive and I would never get everything ready. Day by day I work away at my to-do list, waiting for the time when I’m finished and I can just sit back and enjoy my last few days in Korea.
The checklist: Things to do before setting off
There are a few things that are completely obvious that need to be done before a big trip, but I’m starting to realize how much can be missed. Between planning, working, blogging and sending my belongings home, I’m in constant fear I might miss something important– and I almost have!
Here is what I’ve done to prepare, and hopefully it’ll help others know what to expect when planning a trip like mine.
1. Checking your passport for expiration date and number of pages!
Checking the expiry is easy enough to remember, but one thing I happened to overlook during all of this was if I had enough pages left! If I were going to all countries which just gave the normal stamp I would be fine, but it happens that India and Myanmar offer a full page sticker, and Nepal happens to be a sticker which is larger than usual.
A week ago, Simon and I were looking at my passport and realized I was screwed. Luckily, Americans can solve this problem by just adding more pages at a US embassy for a hefty price. Many other nationalities don’t offer this, and you’ll have to apply for a whole new passport altogether.
Cost: Extra passport pages- $83
2. Immunizations and medicines:
There is a big debate when it comes to which vaccines to get, and which to skip for travel. Some people get everything, while others go without. Simon and I have decided to go with the typhoid vaccine, malaria pills, ciprofloxacin (for food poisoning) and a hepatitis A booster (for me). To protect us from other things, we have a strong bug repellent, plan to be extra cautious with drinking water and stay away from eating too much meat in India (which we heard can be a source of sickness).
If anything else happens to come up, luckily we will be in areas where medical care is very cheap and/or we will have our travel insurance to cover us. But let’s hope that’s not necessary!
Typhoid shot in Korea- $4 (bargain!)
Hep A booster, ciprofloxacin prescription & travel clinic visit-$70
If in Seoul, I would recommend visiting the Seoul National University Hospital International Clinic in Jongno-gu for all travel related shots and prescriptions. You can make an appointment online, or walk in from 9-12 and 1:30-4:45 Monday-Friday.
Getting visas for certain countries can be a pain, India being one of those countries. Also, with some embassies only allowing visa applications and pick ups at certain periods of the day Monday-Friday, the process can be complicated if you work full time. Luckily, we made it work, and will be picking up our last visa less than a week before we depart.
India- $110 for me, $210 for Simon 🙁
There is a plethora of information online on how to get the India visa in Seoul, but for the Myanmar visa you can check out my post here.
4. Travel insurance:
No one wants to buy travel insurance, but no one wants to be caught in a situation without it either. Unfortunately, the options for Americans are pretty limited, and unless you have a credit card which offers good travel coverage, then you’ll have to look elsewhere.
I’ve found World Nomads to be the best option, and I’ll be paying about $230 for the time we are gone from February 19th to the beginning of July.
Cost: Four and a half months standard coverage – $230
5. Korea related tasks:
There is a lot to be done if you have been teaching in Korea and it’s time to leave. Thankfully, there is a ton of information online from how to apply for your pension refund, to which boxes are the acceptable size to send to your home country.
Costs: hopefully less than $100 to send three boxes home via the slow boat.
6. Other miscellaneous purchases:
Before a trip like this one, I’ve made sure to go to the dentist, and also get all the contacts and other prescriptions I’ll need for the duration of the trip. It feels like a lot of money upfront, but at least there will be nothing to worry about for the next few months
Dentist visit and cleaning in Korea- $57
Contacts and other prescriptions- $80
Total pre-departure damage: $757. Wait….what?!
After adding all these numbers up I was really surprised to see how much it came out to. Since I’ve been making these purchases slowly over the past month and a half, it hasn’t seemed as drastic.
To put things in perspective, this is more than I plan on spending in three weeks of traveling! This is about the same as how much my plane ticket back to California will cost!
When looking at all these costs together they can seem overwhelming, but luckily this is what I spent the last year saving and preparing for. In the name of safety and health they have all been worth while purchases.
Now, let’s get this show on the road!