Travel doesn’t just happen overnight you know. It stews …  like an overripe avocado … ok I’ve run out of analogies. In any case, preparation is the key to success. A good friend recommended I treat this as an adventure not a “trip” or an “OE”. The word adventure stirs emotions and inspiration and anticipation and potential!

Reading books expands the mind, offering the mind food to chew on while you prepare. I recommend reading some classics as well as novels about the area you are going, it doesn’t matter if they’re old books – the essence of the culture is still there. Some great options:

  • On The Road – Jack Kerouac
  • The Art of Travel – Alain de Botton
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig
  • Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Travel – Rolf Potts
  • Experimental Travel – Lonely Planet
  • The Snow Leopard – Peter Matthiessen
  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • The Prophet – Khalil Gibran
  • The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • The Great Railway Bazaar – Paul Theroux

Some of these are deep-coated in philosophical creaminess and well worth spending the time over. Of course, you’ll have to start early! Also thanks to Google, for those of you with a yen for more: www.bravenewtraveler.com/2008/01/03/the-50-greatest-travel-books-of-all-time and www.worldhum.com/explore/tags/tag/Top+30+Travel+Books. For some more in-depth thoughts: a description of travel writing.

Packing is also essential. Take things that will aid you in your adventure!

Things not to take:

  • Expensive stuff that you will miss if/when it gets nicked by ruthless gangs of orphans in the backstreets of Ulaanbaatar
  • Too much crap. Keep it simple if you are travelling in warm countries. You can always buy stuff
  • Hard cover biography of Warren Buffet (1kg)- Tristan’s light travel reading
  • Long hippy hair – get the buzz cut and comb out those lice easier
  • Sleeping bag. Too damn hot most of the time!

Things to take:

  • An unbridled sense of adventure
  • Pack. I bought a Macpac Genesis – hybrid travel backpack with detachable day pack
  • Sleeping bag if going to cold places (like Nepal) with silk liner so it stays cleaner longer and you can sleep in the liner if the sleeping bag is too hot
  • Medical pack – spent $125 getting one from the travel doctor in Queen St – expensive but its the last thing I’ll worry about if I’m sitting on a long drop somewhere desperate for something to make it all go away!
  • Camera – no real advice to give here but something digital with good optical zoom, large screen, decent megapixals, point and click size (rather than SLR unless you are a keen photographer and want to lug it around) and plenty of SD cards (I think 2 GB at the largest so you go and get them burnt/upload then to Flickr often instead of losing them
  • Multiple passports (if able) thereby offering an easy way to raise cash by selling one.
  • Good footwear. I went for running shoes that I have had for awhile and also some Keen sandals that fit super well
  • Zip-off pants for hot climates and temples
  • International Drivers License. $20 from AA.
  • Debit Visa card (many versions) – thereby able to pay for stuff via the Visa network using the $ in your account
  • Membership of www.couchsurfing.com – great for travel on the edge and meeting new people
  • A blog. People who share are so much cooler!
  • Diary. I have really enjoyed recording my day to day doings and its easy once you get into a routine of writing with breakfast

Itineraries are useful but not essential. Leave it to the vagaries of wind and train schedules! Alternatively, work out which seasons you enjoy (spring and summer?) and plan a country schedule around it. Orgainsed tours are for those not willing to expand their comfort zones! Go somewhere weird where you can marvel at the strangeness i.e. Tajikistan or Bhutan.

Visas are greatly underrated. Useful to understand the requirements before you go. Most of Southeast Asia offers them at the door but some require proof of onward travel , e.g. train or air tickets. I have discovered that it is a real pain for places like Central Asia, some of which require a huge amount of planning (i.e. your visa starts from the date specified which effectively means that if you are travelling through many countries you need to plan your itinerary in advance which is somewhat annoying for those of you who want to keep it loose. Russia, Turkmenistan and Iran are especially complicated.

That’s all for now. I might add to this post progressively as I go to provide a resource for those you interested in getting the good oil.

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