Monthly Archives: January 2014

Round the World: Immunizations

I’m going around the world in March (and parts of February and April) and I’m trying to detail the whole ordeal. Here’s what I’ve got thus far:

Who, Where, When…and Why?
How?
Eye of the Storm
Choosing what to do (Part 1)
Immunizations
Dry Run to Rome

I’m not the biggest fan of going to the doctor. It’s not that I’m particularly afraid of something being wrong; I honestly want to know if something is. It’s more that I don’t really like to be told what I’m doing wrong when I already know I’m doing things wrong. One more step on the ladder to self-actualization, I guess.

Because of that, immunizations are one of the things that was really easy to put off. Here we are a month out from the trip and I still hadn’t gotten any of the medicines I needed for the trip.

This may seem like an easy step that could be skipped: don’t have sex with locals, don’t eat suspicious food, and don’t drink the water and you should be covered, right? While honestly, those are good ways to mitigate something going wrong, there’s actual codified reasons for going. Namely that you simply can’t get a visa to certain countries without proving immunization.

My group of doctors luckily had specific travel appointments. It wasn’t covered by insurance, but they could write prescriptions for everything I needed and make suggestions on how to find the rest. Plus, since this doctor specialized in travel immunizations, she could better suggest cheaper generics that would work just as well and would be covered by my insurance. Your doctor may not have something like this, but if you’re going on any trip, it’s definitely worth asking.

For the stops on our trip, I was pretty well covered with getting five things: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B1, Typhoid, Malaria2, and Yellow Fever. While all are suggested for traveling to the places I’m going, the only actual requirement was Yellow Fever to get into/out of Madagascar. There were a couple that were also suggested, especially if you plan on coming in contact with livestock, but I’ve learned my lesson in that arena.3

Immunizations may seem like something you can put off, but it’s kind of important to do this at least a month before you trip. The CDC has a great resource for determining what you need. Some of the medicines require you to take it before you go, in addition to while you’re there. So you want to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get all of that sorted out. Don’t be like me, be proactive in this. It didn’t end up hurting my trip, but it really could have derailed the whole thing.

  1. Hep A and B are good for life and I had those when I spent a couple of weeks going through Mayan ruins in the Mexican jungle in 2006
  2. I’m sure that Malaria medicine has come a long way since the last time I took it, but man, it gave me the most insane dreams. Can’t wait.
  3. On the Inca Trail a couple of years ago, there was a llama that looked like it needed to be hugged, so I obliged. When coming back through customs, the agent asked if I’d come in contact with any livestock and like an idiot, I said yes. They put me in customs jail until they could get everything sorted out. Moral of the story: don’t tell customs agents you hugged a llama.

Round the World: Choosing what to do (Part 1)

I’m going around the world in March (and parts of February and April) and I’m trying to detail the whole ordeal. Here’s what I’ve got thus far:

Who, Where, When…and Why?
How?
Eye of the Storm
Choosing what to do (Part 1)
Immunizations
Dry Run to Rome

One of the most overwhelming things about a trip like this is when you get into actually planning the day-to-day activities. For short trips, it’s one of my favorite parts. But for something as big as this, I’ve found my self really slacking off.

For now, Mike and I decided to focus on the first half our trip (New Zealand, Australia, Seoul, Kathmandu, and Bhutan). When you break it down into distinct pieces like that, making decisions becomes quite a bit easier. Fortunately, I’ve found with most first-time visits to places, there’s such a wealth of great information out there that some of these plan themselves.1

We have a bit of an open-ended swing in New Zealand and Australia. We booked our Skyteam flights into Auckland, New Zealand and out of Sydney, Australia with intentions of getting from New Zealand to Australia on our own. This gave us a bit more leeway into deciding how much time to spend in each place.2

We knew we wanted to road trip around New Zealand. A Google search confirmed that this was not an original plan. Far from it. Hundreds of people have done the same thing and posted guides to doing so. These guides are invaluable tools. Not because we couldn’t find these things to do on our own, but because it gives us a template to work on putting things together. A road trip grants you the freedom to go anywhere at any time, but to continue on with our larger trip, we need to start in Auckland and end in Wellington. Fortunately for us, the New Zealand Travel Bureau already anticpated our need. Those guys are the best.


From top to bottom
The amount of time we’re spending in New Zealand, puts a weird crunch on the next week of our trip. Because of the way the schedule works out, the other four places on the list are going to be done in just over a week (two days in Sydney, one day in Seoul, one in Kathmandu and three in Bhutan). That means planning takes a much more rigid structure. We’re planning on having a pretty rigid schedule in Sydney, Seoul and Kathmandu, just to be able to see anything. And, as I’ll talk about in a future update, Bhutan is pre-planned for us.

Choosing what to do for any trip can be a daunting task, but when you’ve got one with as many stops as we do, it can seem impossible to plan. My suggestion is to think about these parts of the trip as their own separate entity. Don’t let the things you decide to do in New Zealand affect the things you want to do in Sydney. You may find overlapping activities on your trip, but trust me, you’ll be much more likely to maintain your sanity.

  1. Seriously. Just Google “XX Days in YY”, you’ll probably get a hit. It’s when you start getting into second and third time visits that things get a bit more difficult. I’ve found that for some of the deeper cuts, it’s good to know someone who’s lived there and can give you a fuller view of things.
  2. As I mentioned before, with this specific award ticket, you’re only allowed six stops in total. But you can book into one city and out of another and have it only count as one stop. So instead of blowing two of our six stops on New Zealand and Australia, we’re flying into Auckland and out of Sydney and booked a flight from Wellington to Sydney on our own (using Citi ThankYou Points). This allows us to spend time in both New Zealand and Australia, while only counting as one stop.

Trip Report: New Year’s in Times Square

Oh man, I said I’d never do it again. And I meant it.

Times Square for New Year’s is just as you imagine it: decadent, depraved, and dependent on a buzz that quickly degrades to a hangover shortly after midnight. There’s something about being there, something about the skyscrapers on either side of you and the throngs of people pushing you in every direction. I’ve been a lot of places and seen a lot of things, but at its pinnacle, the energy and anticipation of a new year in that venue has never been topped.

What may surprise you is that it’s a fairly orderly affair. (Almost) anyone who wants to be in Times Square for the ball drop needs to be there by about 4pm. NYPD sets up cattle corrals (no, really) and seals off entrances around that time. Everyone has to go through a metal detector and no one is allowed to leave until after midnight. That means if you want to see the ball drop, you’re going to go over eight hours without being able to go to the bathroom or get any food.

As you can imagine, that’s not the most pleasant of experiences.

Both times I’ve been lucky enough to have atypical experiences, ones that I can’t really complain about (but that doesn’t mean I won’t!). The first time (in 2011), I met this guy, Mike Turner, (yes, the same one who’s going round the world with me) at a party about two weeks before New Year’s. He asked if I wanted to tag along with a group of about 15 people he’d put together. They had two rooms at the DoubleTree Suites right in Times Square.

This time was a bit more of an ordeal. With Hilton’s recent devaluation of its Hhonors program, the price of rooms ballooned to 95,000 points per night. (before the devaluation, you could have stayed four nights at the DoubleTree Suites in Times Square for 140,000 points) Mike and our friend Jason Burrows had already committed to going, so they’d picked up two rooms fairly early in 2013. But as December 31st grew closer and the peer pressure to go grew stronger, Julie and I got sucked into the gravitational pull of the force of nature known as a Mike Turner (and Jason Burrows) trip. I had 95,000 Hilton points, they had about 30 people who wanted to go, so between the three of us, we booked five rooms at the DoubleTree Suites right in Times Square.

That may sound like a lot of people for just five rooms, but honestly it’s not as bad as it sounds. Every room is a two-room suite with a pull-out sofa in the living room and we were lucky that our Hilton status could get us (mostly) on the same floor and (mostly) two-bed suites. We ended up being able to put six people in each of the five rooms and (mostly) everyone had some type of bed to sleep on.

If you’re over the age of 25, employed, have friends that are employed, and want to experience New Year’s in Times Square, you’re probably going to want to copy our model. One of the rooms that Jason and Mike sprung for was facing Times Square, so most everyone congregated in that room. We could open the windows, see what was going on, and listen to all the performances without going outside. We could have stayed in that room for the ball drop, but if you’ve made it that far, you’re going to want to try and make it outside.

Going outside sounds easy. It is not. Mainly, there’s the aforementioned NYPD-shutting-down-all-entrances-at–4pm issue. Needless to say, New York police officers are not pushovers. Luckily, neither is Mike Turner. Don’t ask me how he does it, but Mike greased enough wheels to not only gain us entrance into supposedly closed off areas, but also get us in only about 15 minutes before the ball drops. Instead of standing in puddles of urine among swarms of hungover people for eight hours, we pulled right into our ball-watching spots with only a few minutes until midnight.

I’ve posted some pictures below (and you can click through to see the whole set). That’s probably the best way to get a sense of what it’s like. There’s a kind of joyous pandemonium that becomes more palpable with every second that’s counted down.

Is it worth going? I think so, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever done.

Will I be going back?

Never again (until the next time).

[alpine-phototile-for-flickr src=”set” uid=”58025372@N07″ sid=”72157639323686025″ imgl=”link” curl=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jwadlington/sets/72157639323686025/” style=”wall” row=”4″ size=”240″ num=”16″ align=”center” max=”100″]

Round the World: Eye of the Storm

I’m going around the world in March (and parts of February and April) and I’m trying to detail the whole ordeal. Here’s what I’ve got thus far:

Who, Where, When…and Why?
How?
Eye of the Storm
Choosing what to do (Part 1)
Immunizations
Dry Run to Rome

Traveling is a lot like a hurricane. There’s a flurry of activity in the beginning when you’re trying to plan the thing. Then there’s a flurry of activity in the end when you actually take the trip. But in the middle, there’s this calm of anticipation. You’re riding high from booking the trip, but there’s not much you can do at the moment. Nothing, in fact. Only waiting.

That’s where I am right now. I’ve got the major flights booked, I’ve got hotels in Seoul (at least the second of three times we’re there) and Paris secured, but besides those things, there’s not much to be done. Except wait.

This trip is decidedly different due to its scale. Because of the many moving pieces, I’m trying to avoid locking myself into things that don’t have to be locked in (i.e. everything but the Bhutan and Iran swings). There’s just too much that can change; an outbound flight delay from Seoul could change the train departure in Iguazu Falls, Brazil. There will come a point where I will have to make semi-permanent decisions, but this far out the old Yiddish proverb comes to mind: “man plans, God laughs”; and I’m doing my best to not get laughed at by God.

That means I’m stuck planning in generalities. Honestly, it’s kind of an interesting way to go about things. Take New Zealand for example. The general plan is to rent a car in Auckland, road trip to Wellington, and then catch a flight to Sydney from there. Normally I would work from the outside inwards: I’d book the Wellington to Sydney flight, figure out how many days I can spend on the road, reserve the rental car in Auckland and then plan the in between parts. But because I’m getting to Auckland a day before Mike and because we’re actively trying to get on the same flight, we can’t book the flights to Sydney because we don’t know how long both of us will be in New Zealand and thus can’t estimate the drive time between Auckland and Wellington.

Instead, I’m finding interesting things I want to do between the two places, regardless of how long it takes or where it’s located. I don’t know what day I’ll be where, so I can literally look at everything New Zealand has to offer and pick my favorites. It’s fun to do that now– much more fun than picking things to do based on what day you’re at a particular place– but I also imagine it’ll be a lot more disappointing when we do solidify the schedule and I can’t do everything I want to do.

I don’t consider myself inflexible, but I do like a solid plan to be in place. I’ve always known that the best plan is one that can fit to circumstance, but I’m quickly learning that sometimes the only plan is to be flexible. A couple of years ago when I was visiting my friend Jeff in Dublin, we missed our flight to Edinburgh due to a calendar mix up. At the airport, we made the decision to hop on a bus to Galway, a cross country drive to the west coast. It ended up being my favorite thing about the trip.

With so many moving pieces to this round-the-world trip, the goal shouldn’t be to prevent missed flights to Scotland, the goal should be to find the Galways in the mistakes.