My First Gap Year Travel: Planning World Travel
My name is Lalit Rastogi and while growing up in London, I had always been fascinated by far off exotic places and vowed that I would travel to those regions one day.
A few years after University, I managed to travel around Europe with a group of friends on the inter-rail pass and had a great time. I still had many years to go before working up the courage to travel solo around the world.
In late 2003, I was fortunate enough to be made redundant for the first time in my working career and felt it was now or never. I decided to take a gap year and spent a couple of months planning and researching my solo world trip.
The information available was overwhelming with an endless list of countries to visit, health hazards galore and the little voice in the back of my head worrying about being able to cope with all the new experiences, situations, environments and people.
I purchased a variety of books including the excellent 'Before You Go: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Gap Year' which helped fill in the gaps in my knowledge and allayed many of my fears. Most of the other books were Lonely Planet guides and some of these are listed in the Travel Books section.
I summarised most of the information about each country I wanted to visit in terms of visa requirements, health risks, sanitation, accomodation, modes of transport available, cities and areas to visit, currency, vaccinations required, local customs and annual weather to work out the best time to visit each place.
I worked out a few different routes based on round the world flight schemes such as Star Alliance and One World. After speaking with various companies, I finally settled on a Star Alliance route taking me across India, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Canada, New York and then back home to London. I booked the Star Alliance ticket with Bridge the World (now Travelbag) and also purchased comprehensive insurance at the same time for an overall total of just over £2000.
Six weeks before the trip, I visited my local health clinic and was given six vaccinations by the nurse including polio and tetanus. I did expect to feel quite sick after this but fortunately had no problems except for a fairly numb arm. Some books recommend visiting a specialist travel clinic for vaccinations as they have more specialised knowledge of each area. Unfortunately, the clinic I visited in Central London suggested I should have just about every vaccination going including rabies and Japanese Encephalitis. This makes sense for the clinic as each shot costs £35 to £90 and since I knew that vaccinations for rabies and Japanese Encephalitis were for people visiting remote areas for long periods where these diseases were prevalent, I decided to visit my local NHS clinic instead.
In the last month leading up to the world trip, I purchased a small rugged rucksack as I wanted to travel light and not be weighed down each time I travelled. In addition, I purchased a mosquito net which I never used, insect repellent, strong walking shoes, a small torch, travellers cheques, suntan lotion and various toiletries.
The final step was organising my finances. I decided to take two debit cards and one credit card in addition to some traveller cheques. The Nationwide Flexaccount debit card is good value as it does not charge commission on withdrawals made abroad. I also agreed with friends and family to keep in touch by group email and telephone.
After a nerve wracking and emotional last week with friends and family, I finally set off from Heathrow Airport for my first stop on my world trip - Delhi in India.