I guess I should’ve known that I’d start freaking out about this damn trip. But I’m fairly easy-going by nature and on the whole took a nonchalant approach to this whole thing. This is typical of me–laissez-faire and then it becomes reality, and I start having nightmares about details left unattended.
An ongoing freakout that lives and festers in the back of my brain is the language freakout. I’m so used to traveling in Latin America, where I’m easily able to communicate–not just communicate, but haggle, tell jokes, charm and lie when necessary (yes, I’m a World Bank consultant here working on the megadam. What do you mean there’s no room in business class?) And, apparently, the whole world does NOT speak English. In fact, I learned that in Russia, they speak a pesky tongue called Russian. I have no doubt that the godless commies are to blame somehow. They even have their own alphabet! And in China, the globalized leader of tomorrow, they are so audacious as to speak Chinese, an impenetrable fortress of characters and tonal subleties. I didn’t bother to even learn the Cyrillic alphabet, though I can say “hello” and “thank you” in Chinese. So, that’s something. Language freakout continues.
Then last week was the safety freakout. I had nightmares all week about dying–being run over by the mighty Trans-Siberian express, falling off a gorge in China, being kidnapped on a night bus to Jakarta. Worse, I imagined getting malaria and being too stubborn to come home, and eventually perishing alone in a fleabag hostel somewhere in the outer reaches of Calcutta while my parents pled with me via Skype.
This past week, though, I was pure adrenaline. I took care of some details in Moscow and that helped get me psyched rather than psychotic. I’ve spent the past few days running like a maniac to help release some of my excited energy. I was feeling good.
Today, though, I got my last paycheck. I normally live paycheck-to-paycheck, so I was eagerly anticipating this one. I deducted out my credit card bill from the past month–an armful of REI gear, a pair of plane tickets, the odd hostel deposit–and checked out my overall savings goal. Faithful readers will remember that my aim was to save $10,000 for this trip, which I did. Having made $24,000 last year, I’m pleased that I managed to save 42% of that–almost as good as China’s trade balance, hey!
But then came the financial freakout. You know, honestly, I chose that $10,000 number very arbitrarily. It just sounded like a respectable number. And six years ago, in Puerto Rico, I met a traveling Aussie who had saved $10k and the number just stuck in my mind. Nevermind that he was camping on the beach every night and hadn’t showered since the Ukraine. And frankly, $10k was the very maximum that I could save. So I saved it, and just now I transferred some (a lot) of it over to my checking account. And realized that… it’s probably not enough to, err, live for 6 months on. So I sit here, financially freaking out, figuring roubles against yuan against rupees.
I’m sure it’ll be fine. I pride myself on doing a lot on a little. So I’ll get more creative than ever, right? No need for alarm, but luxuries like alcohol, dinners out and souvenirs will be minimized for sure. It’ll be an exercise in frugality and resourcefulness, and I think I’m up to the challenge.
Tomorrow’s freakout will likely be about gear, as I plan to do a practice pack tonight. Undoubtedly I have more stuff than fits in the 65-liter backpack, or at least that I care to carry on my back for six months. I did find a creative solution to carrying a sleeping bag: I took an old sheet, folded it in half, and sewed the bottom and sides together (credit: Dan). My dad the master tailor sewed a pillowcase into it, too. Voila! Instant lightweight sleeping bag, or at least barrier between myself and gross cheapo hostel beds.
Freakouts be damned, this trip starts in five days. Stay tuned.