3 Trip Goals

To respond to a frequent question I have gotten about the trip, I am offering up some high level goals that I have pre-departure. I’m sure these will evolve over time and they relate to some of my pre-trip concerns as well.

1. Establish New Routines

The trip is about unplugging from my old daily routine (wake up early, go to the gym, work all day, head home, go to sleep, wash/rinse/repeat) and starting a new one that can change wherever I happen to be.

After several years of being tied to my blackberry, phone and laptop, in an age where up-to-date information is everywhere, I’m looking for something slower and deeper. I want to take advantage of this opportunity to write more extensively, both in journalist my trip but also working on a few creative projects I have always wanted to tackle. This is my chance to hone my voice and try a longer form, more introspective kind of writing.

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New Orleans Highlights

I already covered my first night in NOLA staying with Jon as part of my first Couchsurfing experience. I want to share some other highlights from the trip. For me the biggest highlight was how friendly everyone was down there. Southern hospitality definitely goes a long way.

*Ambience and architecture of the French Quarter – visiting the Quarter is like being transported back in time. The ornate 18th century Spanish style architecture, particularly in the balconies and galleries, is unique enough but combine that with a laid back atmosphere it can’t be beat. Sure Bourbon Street is a wild party but who can argue with the open container laws, street jazz and open air cafes? I especially liked Jackson Square with its art, street performers and fortune tellers. Having nice restaurants lining the park and the Tabasco shop (we tried over 20 varieties of Tabasco) didn’t hurt either.

French Quarter at night

French Quarter at night

French Quarter architecture

another fine example of French Quarter architecture

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First Couchsurfing experience in New Orleans

For the first night of my recent five day trip to New Orleans I needed a place to sleep. I didn’t want to splurge on a hotel and the hostels I researched on the Internet didn’t look very promising.

So I decided to take the plunge on my first Couchsurfing experience. Couchsurfing, or CS, is a hospitality exchange where people freely allow travelers to stay on their couch, spare bed, floor as a means to both help and interact with fellow travelers. There are of course risks in staying with someone you don’t know but it also offers the chance to stay with a local, and do so for free.

The concept is fairly simple. You sign up for the CS site, create a profile with information about yourself, your travel experiences and as many pictures as you want. Then you can start surfing for hosts in an area or put your couch up for surfing. What makes the site neat is the feedback mechanism that allows you to see what fellow hosts or surfers have to say about someone. This alleviates the risk factor of staying with a stranger. If 30 other people can vouch for him or her I definitely feel better about staying with that person.

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Six Things About My Trip That Make Me Nervous

1.  Will I Bring The Right Stuff With Me?

Yes ditching all my stuff and living out of a backpack is liberating. But it’s also kind of confining. What will I do without a full closet of clothes, my blackberry and my laptop?

After all, it’s not like I will have a limitless supply of outfits for every occasion. I am being very careful about the clothes that I’m bringing, making sure they are multi-purpose and quickdry. I will have to frequently wash my clothes by hand and often wear clothes that will be dirtier than I’m used to.

Even more concerning is the genuine possibility of being out of touch for significant periods of time. Sure I’ll have an iPad and a phone that I can use in a pinch. But plenty of areas don’t have WiFi readily available. I hope I can adjust to chunks of time without connectivity and (gasp) sports news.

Traveling without a computer for weeks at a time has never been a problem before but we’re talking about months here. And writing blog posts on the iPad is significantly more challenging than doing so on a computer as I have already learned.

I just need to remind myself that one purpose of this trip is to get away from the non-stop demands of being connected. There are no more work deadlines to stress me out so I should enjoy the fact that connectivity is more of an optional thing.

2. Finances

I have worked hard for the last five years to save for this trip. Will I spend too much, blowing my savings in the process?

Or, will I be so concerned about being frugal that I deprive myself of unique opportunities in this once in a lifetime experience?

This one will take time and will definitely depend on circumstances. But I’m determined to thread the needle, to take advantage of my surroundings without being a spendthrift.

And with Mint serving as my expense tracker, you can be sure I will be eying this carefully. Read more of this post

Top 5 Travel Experiences To Date

Before I leave, I wanted to share my top five travel experiences so far (in no particular order):

  1. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia (Jan 2007)
    My friend Stu and I visited a magnificent set of 12th century Hindu temples in northwest Cambodia during our trip to Southeast Asia in our senior year of college.
    Renowned for Angkor Wat the symbol of Cambodia, there are also many other nearby sites stemming from the Khmer Empire. In our day visiting the temples, we were blown away by the sheer beauty of their design and the immense scale of the thousand plus temples. To think all this building took place in one area hundred of years ago is amazing. It was truly an awesome site to behold.

    Angkor Wat Cambodia

    Stu and I at the entrance to Angkor Wat


  2. Sand-boarding in South Africa (Apr 2011)
    Travel has always been a chance for me to let loose and try something new. So when Alan and I visited South Africa last spring, we jumped at the opportunity to go sand-boarding. Basically, it is flying down sand dunes on the beach on snow boards. What a rush! Unfortunately, there are no chair lifts to take you back to the top of the dunes so you get quite the workout from hiking up after each run. Read more of this post

So…what are you doing again?

I am about to travel the world.

In other words, I am embarking on a trip with future destinations unknown armed with only a small backpack and (hopefully) my wits.

Why would I want to do this, to leave behind a stable job, family, friends and a life that I’m comfortable with? And why now?

Travel has been in my blood for the last seven years. Ever since studying abroad in college there is nothing that has excited me as much as traveling. Whether it’s been weeks-long trips to foreign countries or weekend jaunts to nearby cities, something about a new environment inflames my senses of curiosity and adventure.

Now I want to put those feelings to the test for a longer period of time in a series of new places. Five years out of college, it’s time for a change and I’m ready for my biggest adventure yet.

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