A Travellerspoint blog

Notice of Resignation Given & 4 Weeks to Go

So the days really seem to be flying by now and it doesn't feel like I've accomplished very much on my to do list that grows daily. That being said, a few weeks ago just before falling asleep I had the idea to give my resignation letter to work in the form of a motion, as I am a paralegal after all. It allowed me to be creative and unique at the same time. It's been a great nearly eight years but the time has come to take off again and explore the world without a timetable. I've taken at least one three week vacation a year since working for the firm but nothing compares to setting off for an entire year. So last Friday 03.20.15 I handed in my letter giving three weeks notice, officially making my last day of work 04.10.15.

On other fronts, a little progress has been made researching both travel insurance plans and possibly outright buying a camper van for my month in New Zealand. If that happens then I would sell it to another traveler before I took off for Australia, ideally breaking even and getting "free" accommodation for the month if not even making a little profit. I also believe that I've sold my moped and have a lead on my car, so wheels are in motion there as well. I also received an awesome email from the Dep't of State this morning letting me know that my newly issued fifty-two page passport was complete and ready for mailing. That allowed me to breathe a huge sigh of relief as the application was only accepted 03.09.15, meaning that the four to six week delivery window could have been as late as Monday, 04.20.15. That would have been cutting it way too close for comfort. My passport was set to expire in September of 2016, but since many countries require validity for six months beyond the time of entry I would have been short by a month or two next spring in a few South American countries. I also thought it would be cool to retire my old passport and start fresh with a new one, meaning every stamp and visa I get in this one is from this trip alone. I also opted for the passport card for an extra $30, which I've never had before. This looks a lot like a driver's license but is a separately issued Dep't of State document that will easily fit in my wallet, allowing me to leave the larger passport locked up or stashed away in my bag while out and about.

Lastly I ordered some traveler cards for myself. You meet a lot of people on a trip like this and I remember always writing my email/FB/etc. info on scraps of paper. During March Madness last week I kept on seeing ads for 500 business cards for $10, so I designed a card to hand out during my year abroad. I think the cards are pretty cool!! Going forward I'll try and blog about once a week until I take off, much like I plan to do once on the road. Until next time . . .

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Posted by trebor722 13:09 Tagged prep Comments (0)

8 Weeks to Go & Antarctica is Booked

So over the last seven weeks I've quietly been trying to create to do lists and have very slowly started to check things off. What's most challenging is trying to keep this trip on the down low, as I don't want to go public until I give my employer notice in March. While close friends and coworkers are in the know, it's my plan to keep this quiet until 03.20.15 when I plan to turn in my resignation. I still feel like the trip is too far away to start chipping away at the big tasks and yet not quite time to start on the smaller details.

That being said one of my biggest accomplishments thus far includes appointing a CFO to look after my finances while away for the year. My sister Katie has graciously accepted the position and will have access to all of my accounts, credit cards, and just about everything else you can think of while I am away. Also quite exciting is the fact that she and my brother in law have already booked tickets to come and see me in Bali in September! I've also been to see a travel doctor named Dr. Akl (which coincidentally is the airport code for my first destination Auckland), whose office is conveniently located about six blocks from mine. I had an appointment to get updated shots for yellow fever and tetanus, and also got an oral typhoid vaccine & malaria prescriptions. Once the doctor breaks the seal on the yellow fever vaccine it's only good for 60 minutes. That being said, on Wednesdays he drops the price by $45 (as none of this is covered by insurance, travel is purely elective) and stacks appointments to maximize the vial.

Perhaps the largest feat accomplished since my last update is booking a cruise to Antarctica. This is the last continent I need to visit and I definitely want to include a trip here on this itinerary. What was so challenging was finding the right company to book through, as there are so many variables that come into play (that you need to book so far in advance, how big of a ship, dates, activities, reputation, reviews, etc.). I talked to friends and family for advice who've been and what it always seemed to come down to was your budget. I knew that I wanted to be on a smaller ship, as this maximizes zodiac trips ashore which for me is the main reason to visit. After about three weeks of solid research & Skype calls back and forth with various companies, I decided to book with Swoop Antarctica based out of the UK. I'll be boarding the Dutch registered MV Ortelius in Ushuaia, Argentina on 01.12.16 for an eleven day adventure. What I'm most excited about are the adventure activities offered on this excursion that most of the competition doesn't offer. I'm already booked into the camping excursions, which will allow me to camp on the ice any or all of my four nights in Antarctica proper! Snowshoeing and sea kayaking are also offered and I'll probably sign up for those down the road as well. While I only put down a 20% deposit with the balance due three months before departure, all in we're talking +/- $10,000, so I think I might try my hand at crowd sourcing to raise some funds for this part of the trip . . . no matter what happens I am definitely excited to finally get to see the White Continent, not to mention the penguins, seals, whales & massive icebergs.

This means that I now have three firm dates on the books : departing Washington DC on Wednesday, 04.22.15, meeting Katie & Drew in Indonesia in early September & leaving Ushuaia, Argentina for Antarctica on Tuesday, 01.12.16. Hopefully by my next entry I'll have made some progress concerning some of my other projects. Until next time . . .

Posted by trebor722 10:28 Tagged prep Comments (0)

Booking my RTW Award Ticket

280,000 miles & $325.18

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So driving back from visiting the family in WNY on Monday 12.29.14 I kept thinking about using my 335,000 Delta Skymiles (in between episodes of Serial) and cashing them in for another RTW ticket. Following some travel blogs over the past few months I learned two things that were happening: that Delta had announced in October that the last RTW award tickets they'd issue would be on 12.31.14, and that my Skymiles were becoming worth less and less almost daily due to constant devaluations to the program. While doing this trip again was always in the back of my mind (as evidenced by my email folder "RTW @ 40??" going back to 2011), the looming 12.31.14 deadline to book brought it front and center.

Back in the office on 12.30.14 I kept thinking about booking something but for some reason was hesitant, as I guess I figured I could book something the next (& last) day. Deadline day came and around 11:00 AM I called the RTW Award Desk and was placed on hold. I had no clue what I would even book but I knew that simply booking anything would get me on the books with a confirmation number and would allow for date and city changes anytime in the future. Also comforting was the fact that anything I booked could be cancelled as long as it was done seventy-two hours before departure, I'd just have to pay a $150 fee to get my miles redeposited and they would refund me any and all taxes paid. So I waited and waited with the call on speakerphone. Two hours passed with nothing but hold music so I went out and grabbed lunch, leaving the phone on speaker. I got back an hour later and was still on hold. It was now 5:00 PM and time to head home so I took a photo of of my desk phone showing me on hold for just under six hours. Mad that no one answered nearly all day but knowing that it was entirely my fault as I had known about this since October, I sent Delta an email with the picture. You never know unless you try, right?!?

So I got an email response from Delta the very next day. They apologized for not being able to handle the volume of calls, but basically called me out on knowing since October about the discontinuation of the RTW award tickets. I was bummed but had no one to blame but myself. Then the unthinkable happened. On Saturday morning 01.03.15 I woke up to another email from Delta, and this one floored me. They wrote me back and said that because of the extremely high volume of calls and complaints received, they were extending the deadline to book to 01.07.15. WOO HOO !!!

So now motivated as ever I really kicked in my research and planning, studying my wall map to see how I could get the most out of this ticket. The ticket has some strict rules: you have to travel in one continuous direction either east or west (determined by the longitude of the airport down to degrees and minutes), you can't backtrack, you have to start and finish in the same country, you get a maximum of three stops on any one continent, and you can book a total of six stops around the world with a maximum of sixteen segments/flights. This was all just about the same as last time with one exception: this time open jaw/overland segments would count against me as one of the sixteen segments allowed. The main questions now were where do I go? When do I leave? Do I try and do this for an entire year again? And do I only burn 180,000 miles booking an economy ticket or do I use 280,000 and go business class? Can I see all seven continents in one trip ? The rough itinerary I came up with was to spend a month in New Zealand, a month in Australia, +/- three months in Asia, +/- three months in Africa, and +/- three months in South America.

Poring over schedules of the carriers I would most likely be using in the SkyTeam Alliance (Aero Mexico, Korean, Kenya Airways, Air France, KLM, Delta & China Southern) I cobbled an itinerary together. Knowing full well that flexibility was the key regarding dates and even cities I called the RTW Award Desk on Tuesday 01.06.15 (a day AHEAD of the deadline this time) and started booking. The call took nearly three hours, but the agent was so helpful and patient working with me to try so many different flights, cities and itineraries. In her experience she said that generally there's more business class availability, and with the devaluation of my miles I took the leap and opted for business class. Another factor that came into play was the fact that you can only book tickets eleven months in advance. That meant that the farthest ahead I could book anything was December of 2015. I picked my departure date to be 04.22.15, as twenty-two is my lucky number, and ironically, when I later looked at the calendar on my phone I saw that it was Earth Day. We put in a lot of "dummy dates" as placeholders, and by the end of the call I had an official confirmation number, had 280,000 miles taken out of my account, and my credit card was charged $325.18 for taxes and airport fees. Lastly she asked me if I had any interest in knowing how much the ticket would have cost if purchased. Doe she know who she's talking to, OF COURSE I wanted to know. $21,398.29, so I guess I got pretty good value out of those miles!! So here's what I booked utilizing all sixteen segments, with an open jaw meaning you fly into one country/city/airport and leave out of another, fending for yourself to fill in these parts of the itinerary:

DCA-JFK-ICN-AKL, open jaw, DPS-CAN-KTM-CAN-NBO-TNR-NBO-ADD, open jaw, JNB-ATL-EZE, open jaw, UIO-ATL

Happy with my booking I felt quite accomplished. And then later that night thinking about the flights I realized I made an amateur mistake. Why on earth did I choose to depart from DCA burning an entire segment just to go from DC to NYC? I called back on 01.07.15, got another super friendly agent and made the change, giving me back a segment to use somewhere down the road. What was also great was the fact the the agent waived the $150 change fee. She explained that it's completely up to the agent to assess the charge or not, but that in my case since I can't even book my return flights home yet for April of 2016 it was a no brainer for her. Going forward I'll be sure to put on the charm when calling again to try and avoid the fee! So now content (for the moment) with my ticket I started daydreaming of being anywhere but in brutally cold DC . . . only 105 days until departure!

Posted by trebor722 14:22 Archived in USA Tagged prep Comments (0)

Welcome to Rob Around the World

So a little bit about me . . .

Hello & Welcome to Rob Around the World !!! Today was probably the day that I knew I was going to do this round the world thing again. Over the next year I'm hoping to update this blog about once a week, sharing the week's best stories, pictures, and experiences from wherever in the world I may be.

But before that, let me start off by telling you a little bit about myself. I grew up Lockport, New York, which is a small town in Western New York State just outside of Buffalo. I had a normal childhood growing up with two sisters (one older and one younger, and then Katie came along when I was in high school) and we vacationed as a family in Florida (think Disney) about every other year. This was back in the day flying on Eastern Airlines, and my older sister and I "assisted" the flight attendants, earning our wings and getting rewarded with peanuts and a trip to the cockpit while airborne to meet the captain & crew. I loved flying from that point on but really caught the travel bug after going to Spain for a class trip when I was fourteen years old and in ninth grade. My parents used to ask us where we wanted to go on vacation each year and my answer was always safari. Needless to say that didn't happen . . .

After graduating high school I headed off to college at the State University of New York College at Brockport where I earned a Bachelor's degree in Recreation Management. That degree required two internships, so I moved down to the Florida Keys for a summer (Marathon, Florida specifically) and then for my second internship I moved out west to San Diego, California. From the internship I got a full-time management position that took me back to the east coast, where I worked in Orlando & Hutchinson Island, Florida. Just under a year later I was offered a move back out west to manage college interns in California and accepted the position immediately, staying there for the next two years. From there I moved to the east coast yet again, this time to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to manage hospitality student interns at properties across the beach. Then in December of 2000 I finally got my dream job with the company, to be an International Recruiter based out of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. In the position for the next eighteen months I traveled to colleges and universities across the globe giving presentations and interviewing potential students, racking up frequent flyer miles along the way. Sadly, the events of September 11th made issuing student visas much more challenging/nearly impossible which meant fewer and fewer trips until they stopped completely. This turn of events prompted me to enroll as a full-time student at Coastal Carolina University's Wall School of Business, where I got a degree in finance less than two years later, all while simultaneously waiting tables at TGI Fridays & Outback Steakhouse full-time. During my entire time while back in school I had planned on using my frequent flyer miles to take off for a trip around the world to celebrate my new degree and turning thirty upon graduating. I worked ferociously to achieve that goal and did just that, departing the States on Saturday August 7, 2004.

The trip took me to 37 different countries mainly in Europe & Asia, with visits to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Alaska & Costa Rica as well. Sadly, the website I used as my online journal for that trip no longer exists, but the data I retrieved before it went dark showed me logging a total of 68,576 miles (107,659 kilometers) over 366 days. I left the States with a companion, but after the European leg of the trip and the devastating news of the tsunami literally wiping parts of Asia off the map, she headed back and I carried on. Although somewhat nervous at the prospect of traveling solo for the next seven months I decided to go for it and was handsomely rewarded along the way, still vividly remembering sights, smells, tastes & experiences from that trip like yesterday. And here's the thing: although I was technically traveling solo I was never really alone. You're constantly meeting new people on a daily basis in hostels & guesthouses, on buses & trains, looking to do similar activities, and all of us have one huge thing in common no matter where we're from, traveling.

Highlights from that trip include: attending seven different events at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, spending five months in Europe experiencing so many different languages, sights, landmarks, currencies, foods & people, the Taj Mahal, seeing tigers in the wild via elephant back in India, exploring Vietnam & Laos, Angkor Wat, zip-lining off the Great Wall of China, sleeping under the stars in the Australian Outback, snow skiing, zorbing, whale watching and white water rafting in New Zealand, camping in Denali National Park with Mt. McKinley in the background & getting chased by wild boars in Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica.

Once back in the States it was tough to readjust/settle down/work, so (logically and sensibly) I quietly planned another adventure, taking off just over a year later for four months to Central America. Great times were had there as well, like staying on remote Caribbean islands & living on coffee plantations in Panama, volcano boarding, Laguna de Apoyo & Little Corn Island in Nicaragua, watching sea turtles hatch & find their way to the sea in Costa Rica, white-water rafting & exploring the Mosquitia Coast jungle in Honduras & canyoning and the beaches in El Salvador. But this time when I came back I was nearly out of funds, so I knew the time had come to get back in the workforce and find a job.

Three short months later I moved to Arlington, Virginia and got a job a few blocks from the White House in Washington DC at a law firm. I worked as a paralegal (then promoted to Senior Paralegal and then Paralegal Specialist), and while it wasn't my dream job, it paid the bills and offered me seven weeks of paid vacation per year. I used my time off wisely, and when all is said and done when I leave the job in April of 2015, during my nearly eight years there I visited seventeen countries, Hawaii twice, Puerto Rico, and took loads of domestic trips too. And now once again with a treasure trove of frequent flyer points & miles to use (+/- 925,000) I'm ready to cash them in once again and let the adventures begin . . .

So that's more or less my story. I'll be updating this blog a few times before taking off on Wednesday 04.22, so stay tuned for the next entry !!!!!!!!!

Posted by trebor722 12:00 Archived in USA Tagged prep Comments (0)

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