FAQ planning a backpacking tip to asia

As we started to clue people in on our plan to fall off the grid for a backpacking trip to asia, we were overwhelmed by how excited people were for us. When planning would get daunting or we’d get timid, it was often the encouragement of others that would re-energize us. (so thanks!)

Both of us had a lot of questions when we started to plan, and find that everyone is really curious about the same things. So, here are our answers to some of your questions.

P1150330{the public library is a great resource for travel books}

What are you doing about your jobs? 
Well, let’s put it this way – we won’t be on any conference calls from Cambodia. The thought of having to tell our bosses was the #1 “scary” factor about this whole thing. Let’s face it, we live in a society that focuses on careers and advancement, so pausing your career and potentially sacrificing your awesome jobs to go galavant around the globe makes a lot of people look at you like you’re nuts. The most awesome news? Both of our companies are super excited for us, supportive about our sabbatical and making things work until we get home.

Are you going to work odd jobs while you’re traveling?
The short answer, no. But who knows what will happen. Danny would love to get to know cultures by helping with the area trades – working fishing docks, helping in the rice fields – stuff like that. And we’re both interested in volunteering to teach English.

How long have you been preparing  for this?
I don’t think either of us really realized how much prep work would be involved. It sounds so carefree to load up a backpack and hit the road – wrong! It’s a lot of work: savings, packing decisions, gear, careers, location research, insurance, vaccinations, real-life logistics… If you’re not uber passionate about it, it’d be easy to give up.

Here are some of the things we’ve had to spend ample time researching and considering.

Itinerary: Weather + Experience Type + Budget
This was probably the second most overwhelming thing to me – there’s so much to see! It was very important to Danny that we didn’t race around the globe to check places off our list. So, we had to narrow our focus based on priorities: weather + experience type + budget.

Weather: We’ve traveled enough to understand the importance of weather – it sucks to be miserable in either temperature direction, plus packing for multi-climates in a backpack isn’t realistic. So, warm was the verdict. We’re following the sun & packing light.

Experience Type: We decided this was our chance to visit places that typically don’t make the summer vacation list. Places like Europe, Australia and Mexico are all awesome, but we’ve been and will go back. However, places like Cambodia, India and Burma aren’t conducive to the typical 10-day corporate or family vacation. We’re hoping to experience developing places that are still raw and will change dramatically in the coming years. Paris is Paris – 10 years ago and 20 years from now.

Budget: When you’re not making money, just spending it, this is a giant factor. In places like Western Europe it wouldn’t be realistic for us to be (happy) travelers on the type of budget we’ll need to stick to to endure this trip (and come back with money in the bank!). However, places like Southeast Asia are a budget traveler’s dream. We’re continually blown away by how inexpensive things are.

Do you have a designated route or itinerary?
In the beginning, I had charts and maps and was a psycho trying to learn as much as I could about everywhere. Then, one day I got so overwhelmed that I started to cry, so Danny took my laptop from me and that’s when we decided that this trip is going to be my chance to really let go of control and be open to the road less traveled.

So… we have a general route of where we want to go (primarily based on ideal weather), but nothing set in stone. We’re starting in Southeast Asia: Thailand, Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thai Islands then off to India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and then China. Pending timing, South & Central America are next on our radar.

Where are you staying?
We anticipate a mix of hotels, hostels, Airbnb home and private room rentals and some family stays. We’ve booked our first two of stops via Airbnb and they look amazing. These are the only two spots we’ve got locked in Bangkok & Chiang Mai).

What are you packing?
We each have an Osprey 55ml (carry on size) backpack. This is probably the #1 curiosity people have – what are you taking?! We just did our test packing and we fit! We’re almost finalized, so I’ll post photos and details on our packing list soon.

Health & Immunizations:
This in itself is a commitment – both physically and financially. We’ve each done a series of physicals and just finished a dozen shots each  – there are SO many. We’ve also done oral vaccinations which make you feel really off. I’ve got some live salmonella bacteria in my fridge right now. Swear. On top of that, you’re constantly working between your physician, pharmacy and insurance company to stock pile prescriptions and make sure you’re covered abroad. We’re super tight with our local Walgreens pharmacist :) It’s a lot of work.

What are you doing with your stuff?
We weighed our options and decided to rent our home fully-furnished verses packing and storing everything. We really lucked out and found ourselves a wonderful snowbird to enjoy our home while we’re gone (and feed the feral cats!). We also decided to sell my car which sold in just a couple of days, so Danny and I’ve been carpooling since early November! Single car family!

What about Hunter?
This is THE single most difficult thing to think or talk about. We’re lucky that friends and family love Hunter as much as we do. Our biggest thing is that he maintains his same lifestyle – i.e. ruling the house and we’ve got friends who allow that. Okay, no more talking about this subject.

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3 Comments

  • Reply December 16, 2013

    Kristin Thomson

    Another question: How long will you be gone?? Best of luck to you two. Such an amazing adventure!

  • Reply February 7, 2014

    Sophia Patten

    The Tings,

    I have stumbled across your blog.. and it couldn’t be better timing. I just quit my job in Phoenix (like 2 hours ago) and am heading to Nepal and China. While my trip won’t be nearly as long as yours (just 6 weeks), your blog is proving to be both helpful and inspirational!!!!! WHAT an incredible journey!!! Would love to hear back from you at spetenakis@gmail.com

  • […] planning a backpacking trip through asia? not sure where to start? the best advice i can give you is to book a ticket and get there. after that, thanks to travel being fairly accessible and affordable, you’ll have no problem figuring it out. city by city, country by country it’ll all work out. for more about our planning mindset read our trip Q&A here. […]

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