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Singapore to Istanbul 2: travel planning and philosophy

trip-snip-2.jpg“Not many people got a code to live by anymore.”

— Bud, Repo Man

Okay, I’m obviously not going to be able to do this while saddled with grad-school debts, so this winter (2007-2008), I’ll be going on leave from UBC to work full-time for a start-up I’ve been associated with since I started my PhD. This is not only going to provide me with a not-unwelcome respite from grad school, but they can pay me something approximating a salary. Given that my lifestyle is decidedly studentish, and I’m not planning to develop any habits more expensive than martinis, second-hand clothes and DVD rental, I expect to be able to save a pretty good chunk of money — enough to travel for a year (probably more, if I want or I’m really thrifty).

And for what it’s worth, I do think it’s important to have enough money. And I’m not talking about a lot of money. Just: enough. I have no desire to travel in insulated luxury in a package tour. That’s boring. But at the same time, you see a lot of backpackers in SEA trying to hold to crazy budgets, living off fruit and pancakes, haggling with the locals over the price of a bag of cookies, and bragging about sneaking into attractions without paying. That’s not the life for me.

I figure once I get back to school after working, I’ll be 12-18 months from finishing my thesis, meaning I should be able to head out in the fall of 2009. A long way off from where I’m sitting now (a Vancouver Starbucks, in the historic year 2007), but it’s nice to have something to look forward to other than school and work.

I’ve made a few vague decisions about how I want to travel. I fully intend to break as many of these as I feel like.

  • I’ll be flying into Singapore and out of Istanbul. All other travel is to be over land and water. (My biggest concern here is the political situation in the middle east circa 2010. We’ll just have to see.)
  • I’m not going to plan the route ahead of time, though I’ll be researching the options. If I find myself in some place cool, I want to be able to stick around for an extra week or a month. If I hear about some place cool from other travellers, I want to be able to take a few days to check it out. (This was a big issue on my last trip to SEA: I was with my friend Janelle in Laos and we would have loved to stay longer, but our schedule dictated we had to get to Hanoi or everything would be screwed up.)
  • I’m seriously considering not taking a camera. It’s great to look at pictures later to remind yourself of what you saw, but it really affects the way I travel, and not for the better. It would be nice to just keep a journal of my impressions. Realistically, though, I think I’ll be packing the camera.
  • I really want to travel light. I made that decision on my previous SEA trip and it was so utterly correct I’m just totally smug about it. I’ll be setting out with a carryon-sized backpack and purchasing what I need as I need it, and discarding it when I don’t. A bag twice as big only makes you slightly better prepared, and it’s way more than twice the inconvenience.
  • While I’m kind of looking forward to travelling by myself for a bit, I’m hoping people will accompany me for most of my trip. I’ve been mentioning the possibility to a few folks. We’ll just have to see what happens between now and 2009/2010.

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