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Archive for the ‘Pre-Trip’ Category

Peace Out

Passport?  Check.  Bags packed?  Check.  Tickets?  Check. 

Kelly and I spent our last night in the US trying to stuff all of our belongings in our one carry-on bag and daypack, which was pretty entertaining for our parents.  It was an emotional night…we´re excited, scared, nervous and thrilled to be doing what we are doing.  Thanks to all of our friends and family for your support and sending us off with a whirlwind of parties, dinners, and happy hours.  We will miss you all!

First stop, Costa Rica!!

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Goodbye Austin

Wow.  We leave tomorrow!  I’m sitting here at Jared’s house, just finished cleaning, and it’s starting to sink in.  Wow.  I’m sorry, I  had to say it again.  We will be leaving for Houston in a couple of hours.
 
Our final going away party was on Saturday.  It was sooooo much fun!  Kelly and Sidni are the best hostesses ever.  It was so great to see everyone and have such a good time!  A keg of Lone Star, a vat of Kelly’s famous lemon drops, Sweet Tea Vodka….oh yeah, we had fun:)  I really do have the best friends in the world.  I’m so sorry Kim was sick from either allergies or her flu shot, but she hung in there!  However, the good time made for a VERY rough Sunday.  After finally going to bed at 5am, I woke up with one of the worst hangovers EVER.  But, I will say, the delicious banana pancakes and eggs Kelly made us did help.  Yummy.  After I said my goodbyes, got sick a few times, cried for a few hours in my room, I was ready to start tying up all my loose ends (around 5pm).  I had dinner with Leah, took the Honda out to my grandmother’s in Taylor, and then headed back to Jared’s where Tina helped me pack.  Looks like everything is going to fit! Heck yeah! I then said goodbye to Tina (tear….) and headed to bed. What a day…
 
Jared woke me up this morning for coffee and some wonderful, inspiring words.  Gosh I love that man! I’m so glad I was able to stay with him and feed off his positive energy.  I will see him again when he comes to visit us in Thailand!!
 
So now I’m here with Izzy….letting it sink in.  This is so crazy.  I’m so excited that I get to fulfill this wonderful dream with Kim!  We really did it!  It’s been such a long road to get here.  But I have learned to so much about myself in the past 2.5 years.  I know that my persistance, determination and discipline that I have basically mastered, will really help me along the way.  I am so anxious to see what all else I will learn about myself in the next year. 
 
I just want to say thank you to all of the people that have helped me and put up with me the past few years as I worked toward this.  All of my friends and family have been so supportive and motivating.  I couldn’t have done this without all of you! And Kim especially.  She really is a phenomenal person.  I have  the best sister in the world.  Love you lady:)
 
NOW LET’S DO THIS!!!!!!!!WOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

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The Countdown

Kelly and I leave in 9 days.  NINE days.  There is so much to do and we have such little time in which to do it all.  There is more gear to be bought, more bills to be paid, more research to be done and more details to be sorted, all while trying to spend every minute possible with friends and family.   When I quit my job, I thought 3 weeks of doing ‘nothing’ before we left would be plenty of time to get things wrapped up in a pretty bow…I wish now I would have given myself another week!

Right now we are visiting our mom and some old friends in Port Neches and this weekend and next  we have a couple of ‘going-away’ parties that are being thrown in our honor.  I think it is finally hitting Kelly and me that we are leaving for a year and the emotions have been overwhelming.  We have both been wondering when the ‘oh crap-I-can’t-believe-we-are-actually-doing-this’ moment would hit us and it’s safe to say, it’s here!

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Kim and I received our final vaccinations last week.  Phew!  Glad that’s over, although it was not so bad this time around.  It could have something to do with the fact that I had six pretty painful shots in the mouth at my dentist visit a couple days before, but hey, whatever works.  I did, however, end up having to get an additional, unplanned shot that in turn saved me $60!! 

Rebecca, our travel nurse has been great, but that day, she must have been a little off… 

I decided to “man up” and go first to get my yellow fever shot. Not too bad.  It did sting a little more than the others.  Then, we moved on to the boosters for our previous shots. 

I was supposed to get the Hepatitis A/B combo booster.  Apparently, Rebecca recorded our previous shots in the wrong area on our vaccination records, which in turn caused me to only receive the Hepatitis B booster instead of the combo.  This is where the additional shot of 1/3 of the Hepatitis A booster came in.  BUT! Because it was her mistake, she didn’t make me pay for it.  Nice!  What would have cost me $122, only cost me $60. 

Next, it was Kim’s turn.  There was a little confusion at first stemming from the earlier mishap, but she was taken care of.  She received her yellow fever vaccine as well, and her Hepatitis B booster.  

Kim and I have been debating on which malaria medication to take.  The two options we’ve narrowed it down to are Lariam and Doxycycline.  Both kind of suck.  Lariam may cause nausea, hallucinations, bad dreams, and severe depression BUT only needs to be taken once a week.  We won’t go crazy taking doxycycline, but you have to take that every day (thus carrying around more pills) and the side effects are sensitivity to sunlight and, since we are women, yeast infections.  It’s a tough call. 

The nurse prescribed us 2 weeks worth of the Lariam, which we are currently testing out.  We seem to be reacting to it just fine.  There was a little nausea the second day, but nothing too bad.  We plan to take this in Costa Rica, and the Doxycycline in Thailand and Laos since there is a resistance to Lariam in these areas. 

Rebecca also tossed in some Cipro and amoxicillin for travelers’ diarrhea.  Not looking forward to that.  She also prescribed us some sleeping pills and anxiety medication for long bus and plane rides.  Both Kim and I have had a few transportation related panic attacks in the past and we’d prefer to do without that while veering into an open gorge riding up a mountain with a crazy driver going 60 MPH.  Thanks Rebecca!

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An Important Lesson

As I was sorting through all of my junk and boxing up old keepsakes during my move, I came across my big box of photos where I’ve stashed all of my pictures from the past ten years or so. Thumbing through the photos and reliving old memories, I came across some of my favorite snapshots from my many trips to New Orleans.  

The first time I went to New Orleans, I was not impressed.  Two girlfriends and I made the long drive to spend a weekend there during college and much to my disappointment, New Orleans wasn’t nearly as great as everyone made it out to be.  Bourbon Street was filthy and smelled like trash and pee.  The French Quarter had charm, but was not worth exploring in the sweltering heat and humidity.  To make matters worse, the food (one of the main attractions I was looking forward to) wasn’t anything to write home about.  I’ve eaten better Cajun and Creole food at Popeye’s Chicken than at the restaurants we wandered into.  Seriously, why the hell would I drive eight hours for this?   I had no intention of ever going back. 

Me, Mary, and Nicole in the Quarter

Me, Mary, and Nicole in the Quarter

Fast forward a few years.  My friend Nicole invited me to go to Jazz Fest, an annual music and heritage festival held every spring in New Orleans.  I was hesitant at first, but a bunch of my friends were going and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun.  Nicole’s Godparents, Carol and Lionel, lived in New Orleans and were going to put us up for free in their home and show us around town, so I decided to suck it up and go. 

We arrived at Carol and Lionel’s after a long day of driving and were greeted with a feast of boiled crabs, crawfish, grits and grillades.  This meal with Carol and Lionel was the beginning of a surprisingly fantastic weekend, one which jump-started an annual pilgrimage to a city that I didn’t think I’d ever visit again. 

ChowinDown

Enjoying a soft shell crab po'boy at the festival. Mmmm...

Each year now, a group of us pile into Nicole’s car and head to the Big Easy for Jazz Fest.  We typically spend a day enjoying music, people watching, and stuffing our faces at the festival (think soft-shell crab po-boys, fried green tomatoes, crawfish pasta, jambalaya, gumbo…and that’s barely scratching the surface of the cornucopia of food choices available).  Throughout the rest of the weekend, Carol and Lionel take us to see our favorite sights.   This includes a stroll around The French Quarter, coffee and beignets at Café DuMonde, relaxing on the porch at The Columns Hotel, cocktails at The Monteleone’s Carousel Bar , hurricanes at Port of Call, and a drunken piano sing along at Laffites Blacksmith Shop.  After all that alcohol, you don’t even notice the funky stench on the street. 

New Orleans is a blast – but it’s having Carol and Lionel as our tour guides that has truly made our time in New Orleans memorable and caused me to do a complete 180 on my view of this city. 

Up until Hurricane Katrina, Carol and Lionel had lived in New Orleans their whole lives.  They know all of the short cuts, where to park, which restaurant has the best turtle soup, which bar

Care for some crawfish?

Care for some crawfish?

serves the strongest cocktail, and which lounge has the best jazz and blues.  They love to point out all of the local landmarks, take us to the places where they used to hang out as teenagers, show us the schools they’ve taught in, the first home they shared together, and the old cemeteries where their loved ones are buried.   We’ve experienced  New Orleans hospitality by their childhood friends at backyard crawfish boils and devoured one-of-a-kind tamales at a family restaurant after the doors have closed to the public.  These are moments that I could have never experienced as a regular tourist here. 

Obviously, I’ve learned a valuable lesson from Carol and Lionel that I hope to utilize on my trip around the world – get to know the locals!  They can help you experience a city like you never would as an outsider, which will change your perception of a place completely.   Thank you, Carol and Lionel, for showing me how exciting a city can be

when it is seen through the eyes of someone who has loved, lived, and called it ‘home’. 

Carol and Lionel

Carol and Lionel

I’ll miss the trip to New Orleans this April, but I know that while my friends are chowing down on crawfish ettouffee and boogying at the festival, Kelly and I will be exploring a strange and exciting city too, hopefully with a new-found local friend showing us the way…

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Homeless and Unemployed

I completed two major tasks on the trip ‘to do’ list this week – I moved out of my house and quit my job.

I officially moved out of my duplex on Monday.   I lived there for over 6 years, which is  longer than I’ve lived anywhere in my life; it felt strange to leave a place that I called home for the majority of my twenties.  

My little ‘tree house’ is in a great neighborhood – it’s a ten-minute walk to Zilker Park, a two-minute walk to Barton

Trailside Tree House

Trailside Tree House

Springs, and most importantly, a $7 cab ride to downtown.  Factor in a huge kitchen and bedroom, an outdoor deck surrounded by gigantic oak trees, an awesome neighbor, cheap rent and you’ve got yourself the perfect pad!  

I’ll miss the close proximity of the Town Lake running trails, the string of restaurants that were within walking distance of my front door, and my morning coffee from Barton Hills Market.   I’ll miss the fact that after partying in 100 degree heat all day at the Austin City Limits Festival, I was only a drunken stumble away from the air-conditioned comfort of my home while the other sweaty concert goers had to wait an hour for a bus back to the parking garage.  I’ll miss having drinks on my upstairs balcony, playing Trivial Pursuit on the living room floor, and all of the countless late night conversations between my friends and I that took place there over the years.  Hell, I’ll even miss the smelly guitar-playing homeless guys that I

Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs Pool

would pass by on my way to Barton Springs. 

But at the same time, I was ready to leave.  In all honesty, the place hasn’t felt the same since my long-term-roomie Julie moved out last year and for many months now, I’ve practically been living at my boyfriend’s house anyway.  It felt good to throw away all of the crap I had accumulated over the years (seriously, did I really need two VHS copies of ‘Overboard’?)  and liberating to know that everything I own will now be stuffed into a back pack.  

Then yesterday, I gave my notice at work.  I woke up with my stomach in knots, realizing that I was about to quit a perfectly good job in a crummy economy.   I can’t tell you how many times in the past six months that I have muttered the words ‘I cannot WAIT to quit my job’…but now that the time had come, I was a nervous wreck about it.  I think I’ve mentioned that I’m a sucker for stability so the thought of no steady income and no health insurance really stresses me out.  

However, I knew that quitting my job was one of the sacrifices to be made in order to travel for such a long period of time.  I also reminded myself that it’s just a job and there are  tons of other jobs to be had when I get back.  So I took a few deep breaths and told my boss that I would be leaving in 30 days and the whole process couldn’t have gone more smoothly.  Afterwards, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted…I’ve been carrying my little secret around the office for months and it was great to finally have it out in the open.  

I plan to celebrate my new status as an unemployed homeless person this weekend with a bottle of wine and a leisurely canoe trip down the South Llano River! 

Oh and Happy 27th Birthday Kelly!  Thanks for getting me good and liquored up at your birthday celebration the night before I had to meet with my boss.  In addition to my stomach being in knots, I also had an excruciating headache.  Good times!

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When Kim told me she was planning this amazing trip in the fall of 2006, I instantly wanted to go.  To most, it would seem impossible to save $30K in 2.5 years.  Not to mention I was already $7K in debt.  But if you know anything about me, you would know that if I want something, I GET IT. I work my butt of until I achieve whatever goal I set my sights on.   Whether it is 2 senior trips, graduating from UT, moving to Spain, or saving a crap-load of money for a once in a life time opportunity, if I work hard, I usually accomplish my goals. 

CashFirst off, I looked at lowering some of my daily/weekly costs of things I “wanted”.  Everyone knows there is a difference (sometimes a very fine lineJ) between wants and needs.  Here are some of the things I started doing to pay off my debt and start stackin’ up the cash: 

Quit smoking

Okay, so this only lasted about 4 months with a couple 1-2 month stints afterwards.  I’m currently still smoking but STILL plan on quitting before I leave. AHH! But with the amount of cigarettes I smoked, this saved me $5-10 a day.  Smokes are insanely expensive but I would also always end up buying gum, drinks, beer, etc. when I went in to by cigarettes. This would average out to almost $3k/year. 

Cook meals at home

This is pretty self-explanatory.  I would literally cook every meal, Monday through Thursday at home.  This was obviously before I got the second job.  Eating out can cost anywhere from $20-$50 for a drinker like me.  Only eating out 1-2 times a week vs. 3-4 would save me almost $4k/year.

Gotta love that FLASK!!

I know what some of you are thinking, what a cheap ass!  But hell, when you are working toward a goal like this and still want to have nightlife and go out with friends, sometimes you have to do things you aren’t proud of.  I would carry my flask full of Vodka in my purse every time I went out.  I’d order club soda or juice at the bar, give em’ the ol’ “I’m the DD” speech, along with a huge smile and tip, and head to the bathroom to mix it up! They usually wouldn’t even charge me for the “mixer”.  I would literally spend maybe $20 for a long night of fun!  $20 vs. $50-$60 could save you up to $5k/year. 

Weekly Transfers/Discipline

For the past 4 + years, I’ve been paid weekly.  At the end of every week, whatever money was still in my account, I’d transfer to my savings account.  I would never let it roll over or set it aside for something else. If it wasn’t in my checking account, it didn’t exist.  So I would just get it out of there. I was very strict with this.  Even when I was out with friends and I would make a comment about only having a few beers because “I was broke”, they would say, “whatever! You have a ton of money!”  And I would immediately snap back, “that money doesn’t exist.”  You HAVE to have that outlook if you want to keep building up your balance. 

Decrease Rent/Bills 

I lived in a one bedroom apartment for 4 years up until April 1st, 2009. One summer I had a friend crash in my dining room and pay me $300/month.  I cancelled my cable in the fall of 2008. As of April 2009, I have lived at my sister’s place paying $325/month total for rent and bills.  On July 1st, I moved into another friends place, paying about the same.   This decreased my expenses by about $430/month.  

Sacrifice 

Again, this one is a given.  One of the main things I had to do without is air conditioning in my car.  And with 105 degree Texas weather, this had to be one of my biggest sacrifices.  IT’S SO HOT! However, the cost to fix it is how much I’ll spend my entire time in Costa Rica plus some. I just can’t seem to justify it.  

I also pretty much eliminated personal shopping.  For everything. I’ve spent maybe $1000 on clothes in the past 3 years.   And that includes work clothes for my second job.  

That leads me to one of my other biggest sacrifices.  TIME.  With only $14K in the bank and only 9 months to go, I Cover 3started my second job in December 2008.  I work 40 hours a week doing sales and then another 25-30 hours at Cover 3, an upscale sports dining restaurant.  Luckily, it’s the best second job I could have asked for.  Great place, amazing food, great staff, great money, and I love the guys I work for.  It’s perfect. But again, working as many shifts as I do, I have had no time for TV, the gym (and I was a GYM RAT for 2.5 years), and I barely have time to hit the grocery store.  It’s crazy.  I also have A LOT less time to spend with friends and family. I hate that.  But it will all be worth it!   I literally don’t touch a dime of what I make at the restaurant.  It goes straight into the bank.  I average about $350-$400 a week. In all 9 months, I should have about $14K from the second job when we leave.  

WOW. I myself still can’t believe what I’ve done!  But, anyone can do it.  You just have to DO IT.  Good Luck!

 

 

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