Tag Archives: Italy

Initiate REAL Countdown

So, today is October 11, 2013. It has been 3 whole months since I last posted and I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed! Distracted by this summer’s happenings and interim travel plans, I slowly stopped stalking my countdowns and eventually lost track of the number of days left to go altogether. The result; without realizing it, I breezed past the 150 day mark, then the 100 day mark, and find myself, today, with 88 days left until I depart. 88!

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88 days are bound to fly by, so it is time for me to get serious about getting my ducks in order!

Money: I am ahead of schedule with my savings and am going to beat my goal! Now, the only question is by how much. But no matter how much I end up saving, I don’t plan to spend more on my travels, instead paying down a little more student debt and saving a little more for later. Of course, I say that now…

Gear: Since my last post I have purchased, among other things, a new daypack that will double as a front pack during periods of travel and transportation. I also purchased a rain coat and an around the waist money belt. I have recently become obsessed with packing cubes and have stocked up on the sizes and shapes I think will be optimal for my big travel backpack. I got a Swiss Army Knife for my birthday, which may or may not come in handy for things other than wine bottle opening in Italy. Left to acquire: a travel clothesline, hostel bed sheet, headlamp/flashlight, and hiking shoes. I may decide I don’t need all of these things in the end, but for now, they are still on my wish list.

Gregory Miwok 22

Volunteering: Things appear to be all set-up for Belize. In the next few weeks I will pay the fee to hold a spot in Spanish school and will in tandem secure the ability to volunteer in Guatemala. Now that September is over, I will purchase an annual membership to WWOOF Italy so I can start investigating farms I might want to volunteer with there. I don’t want to commit to volunteering in any additional places in advance, but will remain open to other opportunities while I am on the road.

Entry/Exit Requirements: I need to renew my passport before I depart. I filled out the application and wrote the check but haven’t yet put it in the mail. Thank goodness because at this moment no passports are being processed and I can just picture piles of passports building up in some dark room, underground, never to be seen again by their owners. Once the government decides to function normally again, I will get that done. But not before I get a set of passport/visa sized photos to use for my renewal and any other visas I may have to apply for along the way.

At some point it also came to my attention that I might not be allowed to board my flight to Belize or make it past Belizean immigration without proof of departure from the country. Given my plans to leave by local ferry or bus, and the impossibility of acquiring proof of those plans from here, I had to make a decision about whether I wanted to take my chances or play it safe. After some thought, I decided that I would rather start my trip off drama free and eliminate the chance of being turned away by having proof of departure. So, I purchased a refundable plane ticket from Belize to Miami which I plan to cancel after I make it smoothly into the country.

pile of passports

Health: I have zeroed in on the travel insurance I will buy for my trip and will purchase it a little closer to my departure date. I also went to my Doc and got a Tetanus booster and a Hep A titer to see if I have immunity or need the shots again. Turns out I’m immune! It was kind of pathetic how excited I was when I found out simply because it will save me $60 in vaccination costs that insurance won’t cover. I still plan to get Typhoid Fever and Yellow Fever vaccines just to be safe and will probably do so in early November.

Communication: I am the proud owner of  Google Nexus 7 tablet that I have loaded up with e-book copies of all of the travel guides I have purchased over the last year. It is also loaded up with travel apps, Skype, Facebook, WordPress, etc. I plan to use the tablet for lots of my communication needs but will also buy an international SIM card for an old flip phone that I will carry with me. It will make local calls more affordable, receiving texts free or 10 cents each and sent texts between 25 cents and 75 cents each depending on my location.

Despite having lost track of the official countdown, I have still stayed pretty well on top of everything I need to do to prepare. At this moment, there is only one more thing that I HAVE to do before I can go. One thing I am not looking forward to at all. I don’t want to jinx things, so I won’t talk about it just yet, but I will let you know once it is done and how it went…

Almost there!

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Volunteering on the Road

Aside from just generally living the good life and learning as much Spanish as possible, another thing I really want to accomplish on my trip is to really get to know the places and cultures I visit. Aside from just making  for richer, more memorable experiences, I also might be looking for an interesting corner of the world to ‘expatriate myself’ to… maybe. In any case, aside from traveling slowly and on a small budget, one of the best ways I can think of to accomplish all my goals while leaving behind something positive, is through volunteering.

hands on globe

At this point, I have four such experiences already in mind:

Belize’s Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary: Located on Central Belize’s Western Highway, this Sanctuary provides experiential learning opportunities for people interested in conservation and cultural exchanges. For a small fee of $25 a day, I plan to stay and eat at Monkey Bay for a week. I haven’t decided what type of project I would like to be a part of yet, but I’m thinking something related to conservation methods and ecology. These are topics I want to learn more about and this seems like the perfect way to not only donate my time, but to learn a lot myself (and stay under budget)! You have to apply to volunteer at Monkey Bay and I was told to get my application in by August at the latest, so I guess I will start thinking more about this soon.

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San Pedro Spanish School, Guatemala: After much research about where to stay for 3-4 weeks to learn Spanish in Guatemala, I have landed on San Pedro Spanish school on Lake Atitlan. I chose this school for several reasons including location, reputation, and cost, but also opportunity to volunteer.

A portion of the cost to attend this school goes directly to the Ninos del Lago project, helping to support the education of Lake Atitlan’s children. The fees I will pay (which are amazing by the way; $205/week for 20 hours of 1 on 1 instruction plus room and board)  help pay the children’s teacher’s salaries, for the cost of their classes and other expenses. Not only will my money benefit this organization, but as a student at San Pedro, I will also have the opportunity to donate my time to work with the kids as well!

Wwoof Italy: As I have mentioned, I have always wanted to spend an extended period of time in Italy and this is my chance! But, with a budget of $50 a day, it would be difficult to stay for more than a few weeks. This is where the World Wide Organization of Organic Farms (Wwoof) comes in. At this point I am planning to volunteer on a farm for about a month. If I have it my way it will be on a vineyard or other fruit orchard (unrealistic daydreams at play here). In exchange for my labor, I will get a place to stay and food to eat. The only cost to the volunteer is for the actual annual membership to the Wwoof chapter that you plan to volunteer through. This cost (about $35 USD for Italy) also includes insurance that covers you while you are volunteering. This will be the perfect way for me to spend a few weeks in one beautiful part of the country without breaking the bank.

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Fundacion Pro Ninos de Darien, Panama: I mentioned in my last post that I would like to visit the Darien region of Panama, but am afraid it may be too expensive. Well, I may have found the perfect way to see this region, learn about its culture and continue to volunteer my time: Fundacion Pro Ninos de Darien. This non-profit organization aims at improving the quality of life for the children of the Darien through nutrition, education, health and community development projects. I still have to do more research on this organization, but I read that they sometimes accept volunteers so I think I will apply!

I would still like to include 1 or 2 more of these experiences on my trip so I have a bit more looking around to do to figure out where and in what ways I can do something good out there. Does anyone have suggestions?