Welcome to the next in a series of traveler spotlights on Katie Going Global, profiling some of my fellow thirty-something travelers who are getting ready to take a break from their everyday lives to travel – not just for a week or two, but for 4 months, 8 months, or even longer. If you missed them, check out previous interviews with Megan Shaw, Scott Hartbeck and Amanda Baker.
This week’s interview is with Ali Garland of Ali’s Adventures. Ali recently got married and moved from Atlanta to Germany – and she soon will be heading out on a round-the-world adventure! You can follow Ali’s journey on Twitter at @AliAdventures7 and on her web site, Ali’s Adventures.
Who are you and where are you from?
I am a 31 year old travel addict. I love the rush that comes with purchasing a plane ticket. I worked in aviation insurance for 9 years, more than half of that spent trying to find a way out. I just got married to an American expat living in Freiburg, Germany (whom I met on Twitter) and as of this past weekend, I am living there as well.
You first went to Europe when you were 14 – what was it about that trip that got you hooked on traveling?
When I first traveled to Europe, I was in awe of all the history I saw. In the States, most of what you see is modern or at most a few hundred years old, but in Europe you can actually see buildings and ruins that were around a thousand or more years ago. I think my travel addiction really grew when I went on a study abroad trip in college because that’s when I realized how much the people I met made traveling so great.
How long have you been planning your RTW trip and what motivated you to do it?
I’ve wanted to take a RTW trip for years but never really thought I could pull it off. Every time I traveled, I met people on their RTW trips and my desire to do one just got stronger and stronger. Last spring after a trip to Hong Kong and Australia, I decided I needed to do something different with my life, and it needed to be something to do with travel. Eventually it evolved into planning a RTW trip to coincide with the start of a new life in another country.
Where are you going and for how long? Will you be traveling solo the entire time?
I’ll be traveling for about 4 months starting at the end of September. I’m spending about 2 months in Southeast Asia: Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam. Then a quick stop in Australia and about a month in New Zealand. Then about 2 weeks in Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Easter Island. After that I’m visiting friends and family in the States before going back to Germany. About half of the trip will be solo, but my friend Amanda will be with me for 3 weeks in Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia, and the 2 weeks in Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Easter Island. Andy will meet me in New Zealand for 2 weeks or so at Christmas and New Years.
You just got married last month, but Andy isn’t joining you for the trip. I think a lot of people may be reluctant to travel without their significant other – what would you say to them?
As difficult as I know it will be to be away from Andy for so long, after finally merging our lives together in Germany, this trip is really important to me and has been since before we met. Andy understands that and is totally supportive. Couples should absolutely keep their partner in mind and discuss things when making any major decision, but I also feel it is important to remain true to yourself. I know I would regret it if I didn’t take this trip, so I found a way to make it work. I would tell anyone who wants to travel whose significant other can’t or doesn’t want to go, talk it out and find a way to take the trip that’s comfortable for both of you. You shouldn’t have to lose yourself to be in a couple.
What has been the biggest challenge in planning your trip?
When I started planning this trip, I was reluctant to tell work too soon since I still needed the job for several months. So not only did I have to hide my travel plans, but I had to hide the fact that I was planning my wedding and planning a move to Germany. Most of my coworkers didn’t even know Andy existed. It was shockingly stressful, and such a relief when I was finally able to tell everyone what was going on.
What kind of a budget have you set for your travels?
I’ve estimated about $10,000 for 4 months, so that comes out to $2,500 per month. I purchased a round the world plane ticket with my Delta Skymiles, so that saved me a lot of money. About half of my trip is in Southeast Asia which is very inexpensive, but the other half of my trip will be spent in Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia, Easter Island, and the US, all of which are rather expensive. I have saved a lot more than that though, so if those expensive countries end up costing more than my estimates, I’ll be fine.
What are your plans for after your trip has ended?
I should be back in Germany by the middle of February, and I will probably need to take more Germany classes. I’m going to take classes while I’m there before my trip, but that won’t be enough to reach fluency. Once I’m fluent enough to look for a job, I’m hoping to find something at a travel agency. I’m also leaving myself open to other possibilities, it just depends on what types of jobs I’m qualified for that fit my interests. Andy and I are also planning on taking our honeymoon to Turkey next spring.
If you could ask any previous RTW traveler any question, what would it be?
Will I really get used to using squat toilets in Southeast Asia? Is it easy to find contact solution in Southeast Asia? Are there any land border crossings to avoid? I’m sure I’ll love Southeast Asia, but that’s the part of my trip that makes me nervous because it’s so far outside of my comfort zone.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about planning a RTW trip?
Do lots of research ahead of time on visa requirements. Make a list of places you want to see and prioritize because you can’t see everything. Find out how long it takes (not distance) to get from one city or country to another. Two places might look close on a map or even be close in terms of distance, but the road conditions or routes could make a seemingly short journey take much longer than you’d think. Research cost estimates and come up with a budget. And if you’re just in the fantasizing stage, GO! Find a way to make it happen, and just GO!