How I Was Totally Wrong About RTW Travel

I always knew I wanted to travel, and amazingly I never really wavered in that belief. It took me two years to save up and plan what I thought at the time was going to be a year-long round-the-world adventure. I thought I had it all figured out but I was so so wrong.

Lately I’ve been looking back at some of the old posts that I wrote before I quit my job in 2010. Back then long-term travel was just a dream, a golden goal. It’s pretty amazing to see how WRONG I was about my own way of traveling.

Here are some of the major things I mistakenly believed:

That I Would Stick to my Itinerary

This trip I planned only vaguely resembles the trip that actually happened. I never made it to New Zealand, or Egypt or Eastern Europe. I never hiked Hadrian’s Wall with my Dad. I’d still love to do all of those things at some point. I actually never even made it all the way around the world, so my entire trip was totally mis-named.

I also never anticipated that I’d spend 3 months living in China of all places, or that I’d end up backpacking through South America. These things were nowhere on my radar when I wrote up that post 3 years ago. It’s kind of amazing.

This is a big part of why I now always tell people to be as flexible as possible with your big trip plans. I could never have anticipated 75% of the things that have happened in the past few years and I’m so grateful that my plans were loose enough to be changed (and that I didn’t buy a RTW ticket).

That I Would Travel Alone Forever

I put my foot in my mouth on this one: in the year before I left I made a pretty big deal about traveling the world ALONE. I wasn’t waiting around for any guy to show up! Solo travel forever!

Well, I still love solo travel and I’ll never really give it up completely, but like I said above, the plan changed. In my case fate rather dramatically slapped me in the face when just two months before I was set to leave I met a terrific, travel-loving guy. The resulting relationship totally scrambled my itinerary, my travel style, everything. It was the start of an adventure that’s ongoing to this day.

When you’re traveling for a long time and totally uprooting your life, you have to be ready to adapt to the curve balls life will almost certainly throw at you. I’m just glad I didn’t pass up on one of the most terrific things in my life because I was too rigid in my thinking.

That I Would Get Rid of all my Stuff

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When you read a lot of travel blogs, you start to recognize the same patterns and process everyone goes through when gearing up to travel. The money-saving, plane-ticket buying, life re-ordering stuff. One of the big components that comes up again and again is the idea of selling all, or at least most of your possessions. In addition to raising money for your trip I think it’s supposed to be a life cleansing process or something.

I bought way into that. I was so ready to sell all my crap and travel the world with a clean slate, I even wrote an article about it. Well, guess what, it didn’t happen. I donated a huge truckload of clothes to goodwill, I sold my car, but that was it. Selling stuff was too time consuming both physically and emotionally. I left behind three bookcases of books, a closet of clothing, a tiny stuffed animal collection and more.

You know what else, I’m glad I did, because I’m back now and that winter clothing came in handy after all. Your free to pick and choose which advice you want to take, and you don’t have to fit your trip into anyone else’s mold. Just do what makes sense.

That I am an Organized Person

My intentions were good. When I was planning my trip I had spreadsheets and word documents, all meticulously researched. I had budgets mapped out and timetables. Everything was planned and perfect.

Of course, once I got on the road I ignored it all. Never looked at any of it. I estimated my budget based on the amount in my bank account and frantically wikitravel searched each new city when I arrived. Because that is just the way that I work. It was fine.

What I failed to realize is that traveling was not going to somehow magically transform me into this awesome Type A person. All my bad habits from home were still my bad habits on the road. I wish I had realized that earlier and planned a system that would actually work for me.

That I Would Take my Malaria Pills

I carried around 300 capsules of doxycycline for months, just waiting til I got to Laos to crack those bad boys open. I took them for a week before I had to stop. They made me so nauseous all the time! I decided to make do with extra strength bug spray instead.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t take your malaria pills. Getting malaria would suck. It’s just that once I was on the ground in SE Asia I was able to assess the situation more carefully than I could from 1000 miles away and make the best decision for myself.

That I Knew Anything At All

Don’t feed the deer? Nobody told me that!

I look back on myself three years ago and I think wow, what business did she have starting a travel blog, giving other people advice on how to travel? Bless you people who have been reading since then and sorry for some of those crappy older posts.

So many things didn’t work out the way I planned them at all, but I don’t feel bad about a second of it. I couldn’t have known how the reality of the road would match up to my expectations, and neither can you, because everyone is as unique as the trips they plan.. That’s part of the adventure I guess.

30 thoughts on “How I Was Totally Wrong About RTW Travel”

  1. I’m typically a planner, in fact I’ve already got a pretty hefty spreadsheet tracking itinerary, temperatures, avg hostel costs, you name it! I feel like it’s better to be over prepared in advance than scrambling at the last minute, that being said one of the main goals of my RTW trip is to be flexible so as to be able to experience whatever the road throws my way.

    I think one of the greatest things about this type of trip is the sheer control you have over your decisions (whether or not your destinations cooperate is another thing, but anyway…) and actual ability to turn your life into a choose your own adventure book.

    Best of luck, keep traveling!

  2. We can so relate to this! We are planning our RTW trip now we leave in June. We already learned selling stuff on EBAY was tooooo time consuming and sometimes we lost money on shipping. We have donated a lot of clothing, but we plan on keeping a lot of stuff so that when we come home we don’t have to go repurchase it all! We have been stock piling malaria pills, but we have taken them before while in Costa Rica and we didn’t have any sickness issues….We are planning a route and everyone says not too but we will see how it goes. We are not buying a RTW ticket so we are open! Great article!

  3. “We don’t know what tomorrow holds, and the only time is now.” I try to live exactly to this theory.

    When I started my round the world trip 4 years ago, I thought I will stay 6 months in Australia and work. The truth is, I didn’t like it After 48 hours I had already bought a ticket back to Kuala Lumpur. And the ticket to KL was cheaper than the taxi to the airport. How ironic.

    During my trip I totally fell in love with the Philippines, which made me to return to this country after my not so great experience with Australia. I never thought about going to Japan. But Cebu Pacific Air had Tickets from Manila to Osaka for US$ 15. And suddenly I found myself in Tokyo.

    And then I got another cheap fare to Chile. I remember I had to look up in Google earth where Chile is and prepared within 30 minutes an itinerary from South America to Mexico. In my darkest dreams I never thought I would ever go to Colombia and it was one of the best places I have ever been.

    Life is full of surprises. Traveling the world is one of the best decisions you can make. So don’t screw this up by buying a round-the-world-ticket. Never Never Never! Cheers from Istanbul… (where I’m stuck now since last summer… So you, I never really got home)

  4. When I left to go travelling I got rid of everything but I made a rule to keep only the things “that couldn’t be replaced.”

    The result worked quite well for me in that I know I haven’t lost my most precious memories but I believe that it is better to be free of all that stuff. It kinds of lifts my mind a bit.

    Good advice about not sticking to your plans too much though..I never thought I wanted to go to South America and yet somehow here I am!

  5. It appears that you’ve learned lots in the past few years! I’ve enjoyed keeping up with your adventures.

    Reading this made me realize that many of the tendencies I’ve had for years likely won’t change simply because of traveling.

    Great post!

  6. I think this sums up what I love about the unpredictableness of RTW travel – it has a mind of its own. It’s funny because you can’t really get off the ground without some planning and forethought, but then everyone seems to hit this point where they have to scrap about 90% of that original plan because nothing is how they expected it to be.

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