Saturday, December 29, 2007

December 2007

It has been eighteen years since Alan's nine month bike trip to India and Nepal and twentyone years since Cyane travelled internationally, working on organic farms. Alan likes to travel for an extended period every so often; for adventure, challenge, exploration, to get in shape, and take stock of life. Cyane wanted to visit friends. The unifying goals we came up with together are: Learning languages, exploring communities and design, visiting friends, exercise, and figuring out how (and where) to spend the next decade.
We spent most of 2007 preparing to travel. Here is a brief outline of how we prepared...

1) Sell House if possible
At the beginning of 2007, we owned two houses. By the end of the year, one was sold and the other was ready to put on the market. The house we sold was a mid-century modern in Columbus, OH designed by apprentices of Frank Lloyd Wright. See article by Florence Williams on Rush Creek Village, from June 24, 2004 edition of the New York Times. The other house is an 1840 farmhouse in the rolling farm land of eastern Pennsylvania. Photo We intend to put it on the market in April 2008. (Anyone interested in a wonderful old farmhouse?)

2. Reduce possessions

We downsized, gave away loads of clothes and books. The rest of our 'stuff' was compressed into a storage cube in Columbus along with the '96 Dodge Pickup.

3. Eliminate old accounts and bills

By selling the Columbus house, we managed to eliminate ten monthly utilities and two bank accounts. We decided to go without a landline, DSL or Cable while travelling.

4. Consolidate remaining accounts and set up automatic bill pay.

We still have some bills to pay (and we still have to eat). We opened a Bank of America checking because it seemed to have the widest reach domestically and internationally. Set up an automatic deposit into this checking account. Credit card and other bills went on automatic pay.

5. Find Health Insurance

This process took six months. Health insurance is tied to a geographic address, so when you move, health insurance has to be looked at and very possibly changed. Alan was turned down by the first company we tried. We ended up choosing a traditional indemnity plan (guaranteed issue) in Pennsylvania...Highmark Blue Shield Classic Blue. Setting up automatic payment took almost four months.

6. Set up a mail address

There are pay services called 'private mail boxes or PMBs'. They provide a mailing address and forwarding services. Popular sites for retirees are South Dakota and Florida because of favorable tax regs. We were fortunate because Alan's parents were willing to be our PMB. Voting, driver's licence, and insurance all tie to mailing address.

7. Set up email and phone for wide access

We need to be available from pretty much anywhere. We have chosen not to carry a computer for the time being but to rely on libraries and internet cafes. We chose ATT as the carrier with the widest international coverage and bought two quad-band phones (see Wikipedia's entries on quad band, mobile phone, and cellular frequencies). Cyane's is a 'smart phone' that has email and internet.

8. Documents and IDs

We got passports (which can take a couple of months to process). We will also carry a state driver's license, credit card, two debit cards and health insurance card.

9. Select a bike

We intend to travel on bikes. Steel touring bikes are rugged, weldable, have braze-ons for racks and water bottles, but there aren't many options. We both chose the Burley Vagabond, from Burley Design Cooperative in Eugene, OR. One is red the other is green. (Sounds like Christmas.) We love the bikes. Unfortunately, Burley stopped making bikes in 2006.

10. Collect Touring Gear

The goal is to travel with what can be carried on a bike: rear panniers, rear rack, 3 water bottle holders, rain jacket and pants, helmet, gloves, one pair of shoes for both biking and hiking, biking tights, shorts, 3 pairs of socks and underware, lightweight pants, base layer long and short sleeve shirts, jacket or fleece, repair kit, first aid, one sleeping bag for two people (hopefully we'll get along), two pads, tent, camera, two phones, dry bags, light weight backpack, toiletries, sun hat and warm hat, bike locks and a few other odds and ends.

So it took a year to get everything in order. Alan says our job is being irresponsible... it takes alot of work to be irresponsible!