Last saturday, 8/6, I received my passport in the mail! So on that front I'm all set. I'm going to be planning out a proper itinerary once I work out my final budget and then get visa's, flight costs, and insurance figured.
As it stands, part of the plan was to use whatever school money would be left after paying for classes, housing, etc. as well as every bit of money from my normal pay since housing will be paid for, will go towards my trip. I was hoping that would equal out to about $2k-$3k as a pretty good starter.
I found out that after all of the other things are paid for (to a degree) I'll have maybe $1500 from remaining grant money. Though the up-side is that pays for the flight and insurance (rough estimates) and if I can save $100 or more per week I can have about $4000 to work with in general.
Leaving myself $1000 in hold for emergencies/alternate transport etc., I'll have $3k to work with for the duration. I may wait an extra month and leave mid-june to give myself an extra $500 or so to work with towards fun things like diving, snorkeling, tubing, etc.
According to most people I've talked to, If I keep to a very minimum budget and keep from drinking a lot all the time (which I don't do anyway. The whole 'heart' thing and all) I can easily live comfortably off of $600-700. So if I have 3k to work with, a 3 month trip is pretty feasible. Add to that if I can do volunteer work in exchange for housing and maybe food I'll have more funds available to travel longer if desired, or to do more things, or even to come home with and save for the next adventure.
Now that I know this trip can happen, it's time to think about gear. I'm going to start with backpacks and footwear since those are pretty much the main items any backpacker will need.
What I'm looking for in a pack is one that can carry what I need to take, can fit as a carry on luggage, is small enough not to be too bulky and still be able to put in on my lap for taxi's, tuk-tuks, etc.
I actually began my search at the local Alpine Shop since I guessed there would be people working there that have actually used some of their own products or could even point me in the right direction if its something they don't sell.
Osprey: The first packs I tried out were from Osprey which are on the more expensive side of things.
- Atmos 50: The first pack I looked at and actually the top of my list as far as comfort and size.
- Very comfortable. Breathable mesh in the back
- Stayed cool during a quick walk during a tryout with sand-bags inside it.
- Has pockets on each side of the belt that can hold things like a camera etc.
- It's large enough at 50 liters to hold whatever I need while still being small enough to useas a carry-on.
- Nearly unlimited lifetime guarantee. Seriously, they call it the “All Mighty Guarantee.” I could pick up an old pack that was torn up and send it off to get repaired and only pay shipping.
- Pockets on belt are mesh and thereby not waterproof.
- Bag doesn't seem to have any kind of attachment for a locking mechanism.
- Doesn't lock.
Lafuma: More affordable than the Osprey, but not by much.
- Mont Blanc 60L
- It has an “easy adjust” back system that seems to work ~okay.
- Can store up to 65 Liters and also pack down to the size of a 35L pack if not loaded fully.
- Comes with a rain-cover that is packed into its own pocket
- Back adjustment system felt like it didn't fit my back like it should have, even after adjusting
- Seemed kinda heavy even when empty.
- Not very vented, Good for winter backpacking, Not so much for tropical areas?
High Sierra: Much cheaper packs, Mostly on the larger side of life. I wasnt too impressed with these packs overall. I was able to find 3 different ones locally, and they all seemed to have the same issues.
While I'll admit these are probably very nice packs and they had decent pocket layouts etc, I just couldn't seem to get the 45L comfortable at all and the other two are too large.
- Long Trail 90L
- Sentinal 65L
- Summit 45L
- Non-adjustable back on some models.
- No Belt pockets
- Hip belt seemed overly large and bulky on every model.
-OVERALL: Though there are more packs available in town (Kelty and Gregory are two) I think I'm pretty much sold on the Osprey Atmos 50 pack. It's by far the most comfortable especially with weight in it. It seems to fit my back and hips better than the other packs I've tried, though I will be going out to look at the Kelty and Gregory packs soon.
As far as shoes go, I bought a pair of Merrell Chameleon 3 hybrid hikers. I've been wearing them for work currently and they're great thus far. I'm considering a pair of fivefingers shoes as something to wear in the rain, but I may just go with some decent sandals/flip-flops since that seems to be what most people suggest.
As of about 2 weeks ago I've been on a new diet and exercise regime to get back into shape and be more ready to handle this kind of trip. My goal is to lose at least 30 lbs (puts me at 200) and ideally 50 lbs (which puts me at 180.) Included in this goal is to hopefully get my heart in check and not have it as a worry or issue in the back of my mind. To get to this goal I am exercising every day, cutting out all sodas, caffeine, and nearly all of the sweets (not all because you need something to look forward to.) I've changed over to almond and coconut milk instead of regular dairy, and I'm starting to lay out a proper diet meal plan.
So with luck, I'll be in much better shape and feeling pretty good, Healthy enough to stay healthy, and have a pretty good time for the beginning of my world travels.