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The Last Places on Earth  

Journeys in Our Disappearing World 
by Gary Mancuso
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YOUR MASTER PLAN: The Budget for Your Adventure, and What to Bring

Some of the most memorable things you'll see in your travels can cost a bit of money to experience. Gorillas, Bwindi Forest,

Now that you have clear objectives for your travel project (see previous article, “TRAVEL OBJECTIVES: The Most Important Part of Your Travel Plan”), you’re ready to create the master plan for your upcoming adventure. The master plan is a big-picture view of how you will accomplish your objectives. It is not a day-to-day trip plan. Your travel plan will be unique to your interests and goals. The key is to make one so that you have the time, the money, and the things you need (and not a lot of things you don’t) to accomplish your goals. Typically in long-term travels, the key factors in your master plan will probably be money and the length of time you can afford to travel. So let’s talk about the budget first, along with regarding few thoughts on what to bring.

Cost and Money: It’s common for adventure travelers to determine their overall time frame based on how much money they have, and a loose calculation of how long they can stretch this money out.

I don’t like this approach, because it sets you up for a less-than-ideal experience. The key thing to strive for is not how long you can manage to stay on the road, but how long you can afford to have a quality experience while traveling. This could mean taking the maximum amount of time you think you can travel—say, a year—and cutting it back by a third or even half. This way, you then have more money to spend on those activities that will really make your time “out there” most worthwhile and enriching.

Some ideas to consider about budgeting money for a quality experience:

· Traveling on a tight budget may be necessary much of the time, but don’t fall into the trap of pinching every peso all the time. Staying only in low-cost hostels and subsisting on a few dollars a day eating Top Ramen will deny you many interesting, fulfilling experiences in places visited. To save money and stretch out the travel time, the traveler ends up either cooking in their hostel with other fellow budget travelers or eating at the cheap local restaurant that the popular guide book recommended—with other budget travelers.

· On the other hand, eating on the street with the locals can be a great way to really connect with the people and culture where you are traveling. But keep in mind, this puts you in contact only with one part of the society that you are visiting—usually the poorer part. And while poorer people will be the majority in most countries, and perhaps the most intact culturally, they are not usually the segment of society that shapes or determines the trends, fashions, and politics.

Suggestion: To more fully experience a society, I suggest budgeting some of your travel funds so that periodically you can eat in nice restaurants, attend events, mixers, and shows, and visit popular nightclubs or other social settings. Mixing at times with the middle and upwardly mobile classes of whatever society you are visiting will give you a glimpse of how those who may come to shape how the society lives and thinks. Also, by meeting and talking to people of the more educated and affluent classes, you can learn a lot about where you are. It is also makes travel more fun.

A full travel experience can include participating in more refined activities. Bolshoi Ballet performance, Moscow

Sometimes, it pays to ask around and find the “hot” or popular nightspot. These can be great places to meet fascinating, colorful people. This applies especially to poorer or unstable countries, recent conflict zones, and places where a lot of expats are stationed for big infrastructure projects, such as many areas in sub-Saharan Africa. In the hot nightspot in these locales, you can often meet expats doing business in the area who are very knowledgeable about the region, NGO or UN aid workers, journalists, and even intelligence officials and other government agents. Some of the things you’ll learn and the stories you might hear from these acquaintances can be over-the-top unusual and well worth the price of admission. One of the more colorful people I’ve met during my travels was in a popular hotel bar in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was an Indian salesman representing Nepalese Gurkhas for service as mercenaries. Up to that point, I had never met anyone who sold mercenary services, let alone Gurkhas—historically the gold standard of the trade.

Since it is the people you meet along the way who will most shape your experience, why not budget some money to be in situations that all but guarantee you to meet a diversity of people?

· The same can apply to hotels and guesthouses. Sometimes it’s nice, or even necessary, to stay in a more upscale place than the usual budget-traveler digs.

While in Libreville, Gabon, for instance, I chose to spend more than usual for my accommodations. I stayed in a moderately priced hotel that was a popular for traveling businesspeople. In my three days there, I met several very interesting people whom I have stayed in contact with ever since. One, a member of the extended royal family of a neighboring country, even helped me get a visa to visit his country, saving me the hassle and expense of flying back to the States to accomplish this task! The great contacts I made at this hotel more than compensated for the sixty-one dollars a night I spent there.

· Eating healthy should be a priority, and this costs more than a few dollars a day. To keep healthy, try to avoid a diet heavy in starches like white rice, white bread, and cheap noodles. Instead, allocate a bit more of your travel funds to ensuring a daily intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, and other nutritious foods. The small extra expenditure will make you less likely to get sick, and should feel better and more energized in the long run.

In summary, when designing your master travel plan, the most important thing is to plan for a worthwhile and fulfilling experience. If money is tight, don’t stretch your funds just to be on the road the longest time possible. Instead, consider traveling for a shorter time so that you have more money available for a high-quality experience during that time.

About Traveling Light. Traveling light is good, but having the things necessary to accomplish your objectives is better. Many long-term travelers use a backpack and have only one pair of shoes (or maybe even just sandals) and only a few casual all-around clothes.

Suggestion: For almost all long-term travel plans, it’s good to have at least one nice outfit, including proper shoes. This way, you always have access to the different social situations mentioned above.

Some other thoughts on what to bring:

· Along with a nice outfit, it’s good to have some things that make life more “normal” and comfortable. Here, the choices are highly personal and varied. Some obvious items are sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and an umbrella. A basic medical kit is a good idea, along with certain medications and antibiotics. This might include Band-Aids and Polysporin, Ciprofloxacin for severe stomach illness, antidiarrheal medicine, malaria prophylactic, antihistamine, and painkillers such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol. These are things you may really need at times but are hard to find in some places.

· If you will be hiking or trekking, especially in remote wilderness areas, bring an extra set of shoelaces. It may sound silly to worry about shoelaces, but many places won’t have them. When traveling in Ethiopia, I couldn’t find any to fit my hiking boots—even in the capital, Addis Ababa! So I spent an hour in a dimly lit hotel room sewing my broken shoelace back together.

· For outdoor-oriented travels like the hiking/trekking just mentioned, consider bringing a pair of binoculars—and bring a pair that are big enough to use. Much of the best wildlife you might see will be from a distance.

· Other things to consider bringing: a flashlight with replacement lightbulb and extra batteries, electrical and Scotch tape, Super Glue, some small Ziploc bags and larger waterproof Ziploc bags.

· For extended travel in very poor countries (such as many in sub-Saharan Africa), you might want to bring your own set of medical syringes and needles. In the event of a major medical emergency, you can at least be assured of sterile needles if you supply them yourself.

In summary, pack the things that will enable you to have a great experience.

Read Part 2 -

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