I constantly get questions about my travels and I do make an attempt to answer them all back. However when someone asks a question that I think others would really benefit from hearing the answer, I like to share them for my entire Ottsworld audience (my mom + 20 other people)
I had a recent question from a reader Helen from Colorado who is planning her upcoming year long career break trip.
Q: How do you like HTH Global Citizen medical insurance? I read your comment on a Meet Plan Go article and saw you use them. I’m leaning towards them as they offer unlimited maximum, renewable, coverage inside & outside US, travel benefits, etc. I’m generally healthy but want that worst-case-scenario coverage. Also just turned 40.
A: I have been happy with HTH and have used them for a couple of years now. I am 41 and wanted to be covered as I continuously go back and forth in and out of the US and didn’t want to deal with changing insurance all the time. I haven’t had to use the insurance yet overseas, however I have used it back in the US through the Aetna network and it all worked smoothly. Had pap-smears and mammograms and was referred to dermatologists no problem.
So far so good for me with HTH. My rates even went down this year strangely.
Q: Regarding packing… I’m traveling for a year and plan to do some major trekking along the way (New Zealand, Nepal). No set itinerary really – following summer! I’m at a loss how to travel as a trekker/backpacker and be ready to head out at any moment, versus bringing along more worldly items of DSLR, storage, iPad, phone… that I won’t lug into the mountains. Seems I’ll always have to check in somewhere and separate out backpacking needs and store whatever I leave behind.
A: I had/have this problem all of the time – and I still sort of struggle with it – there are a couple of ways I handle it. I take my good hiking boots with me…suck it up and have them take up a lot of space. Then I buy whatever else I need in the way of hiking clothes when I arrive. In Nepal this will be super easy – and cheap. You can find North Face jackets (knock offs), fleece, hiking pants, socks, mittens, hats, and sleeping bags for cheap – also a walking stick. It’s cheaper and easier than bringing it all with you. Then I generally try to sell it to someone else when leaving or donate it to porters as it wasn’t that much money.
In New Zealand that’s not as easy…so I took a few layered things and still bought other things I needed when I got there.
Just remember the cardinal rule about packing is that you can buy anything you need at your destination – so don’t worry too much about forgetting something or packing something that you will only use for one activity. Finally – really, really consider if you need your hiking boots or if you can hike in tennis shoes. Pretty much every place I have hiked, including New Zealand I could hike in tennis shoes. I needed my hiking boots for the Annapurna Circuit, but that was a 3 week hike.
However hiking boots are a bit challenging. If you don’t bring them with you, then you can always leave them with a friend all packed up and then when you need them have them mail them to you! I’ve done this before too – and it’s worked just fine!
Q: I was wondering about storage when/if you take extended backpacking treks/circuits (ie, Milford Track, Annapurna Circuit)? Where do you store the items you do not take along with you (ie, laptop)? When I did long trips in Patagonia I was able to store unnecessary items within the park’s hostel systems. Just wondering what has been your experience in this regard? Do you feel safe leaving valuable items behind in storage?
A: I never feel safe leaving my valuables behind when I trek – however it’s something that’s necessary else I’d never go anywhere! Sometimes the company will store them. Sometimes I store them in a secure room at the hostel or hotel. You can always find somewhere to put them – and simply try to make sure it’s a locked area. I’ve done this all over the world and so far it’s been fine. You just have to remember – if something gets stolen – it’s not the end of the world…everything is replaceable. It would suck, but it’s part of life, it happens.
Here are a few other resources out there regarding packing. It’s personal to everyone, there is no right or wrong way to pack. Yes, you should try to pack light without a doubt, but make sure it also fits your style. Some of these resourcesPacking Resources:
http://www.bootsnall.com/rtw/faq-packing.html (includes a male and female clothes packing list with links)
http://alittleadrift.com/rtw-travel/rtw_packing/ (includes a female packing list)
http://blog.hostelbookers.com/travel/how-to-pack-your-backpack/ (how to best pack your backpack)
By Sarah Lavender Smith December 29, 2011 - 8:13 am
Hi Sherry – thanks for another great post. I wanted to add my two cents re: trekking and hiking boots. As a pretty hard-core trail runner whose RTW itinerary was shaped by trail-running events, I would like to suggest an alternative to hiking boots: trail running shoes. Then, wear these as your main walking-around shoes so you don’t have to pack them. I had one pair of supportive trail running shoes with good traction–thankfully, in not-too-bright colors–that became my main travel shoes. For more advice, you might like my post “Run Long But Travel Light: A Runner’s Packing List” http://www.therunnerstrip.com/2010/12/run-long-but-travel-light-a-runners-packing-list/
By Sherry December 30, 2011 - 9:15 am
Sarah – thanks for adding your advice. I must admit – I”m considering the trail shoes for the Camino Hike I’m doing this spring – but am still a little nervous to pull the trigger. I would need to find something that would be durable sole, waterproof/or really repellent, but that would also be good to run in occasionally and not be super hot. Any suggestions?
By Barbara Weibel December 29, 2011 - 8:59 am
I’ve grown very fond of my hiking boots. My solution is to wear my heaviest pants and hiking boots on the plane rather than packing them. Makes for a longer check-in process, but worth it, and now that they’re broken in I find them very comfortable for every-day wear.
By Sherry December 30, 2011 - 9:13 am
Great advice Barbara – always wear the bulkiest clothes when in transit!
By Jeremy Branham December 29, 2011 - 11:17 am
Love the questions and admit I was drawn to the one about the hiking boots. I have wrestled with this question as well and with my big feet, I HATE having to pack them. I wish there was a way around it but I guess I will just have to suck it up when I travel to places where I will need them.
By Dylan December 29, 2011 - 2:26 pm
Hi, On the question of hiking boots, I’d say definitely bring them. I’d argue that you can get _almost_ anything you need at your destination — a good pair of worn in quality hiking boots is something you definitely can not find at your destination. If there was any one thing to take with you if you plan to any trekking, a good pair of boots would be it. Other equipment can (probably) be found when you get there.
By Sherry December 30, 2011 - 9:10 am
Thanks Dylan – I’m personally in this dilemma for my next trip – considering trail shoes, but I’m worried I’ll miss the ankle support. But regardless – I’m going to mail them home when I’m done so I don’t have to carry them around all over Europe!
By Kristi December 29, 2011 - 4:22 pm
Great tips on lots of things, including the websites about how to pack. I wished I had that information when I was going on my 2 week first backpack trip to England in May.
Regarding the hiking boots conundrum. I bought a bair of Columbian hiking boots, but they look like tennis shoes. I have a bigger problem, because I like to run and I can only pick one. I pick the hiking tennis shoes, because I can run in them. I hope this helps!
By Sherry December 30, 2011 - 9:05 am
Thanks for adding your advice. I think trail running shoes like Sarah and you suggested could be a great alternative to bulky hiking shoes!