Moving and storage

Today we moved most of our earthly possessions into storage – a 5×10 foot storage unit to be specific. For the past two weeks, we have been working hard to sell, give away, or donate much of our furniture, clothes, books, and other random stuff that we have collected over the past couple of years. It really is amazing what you manage to accumulate, and move repeatedly from place to place, before you finally realize that you don’t actually need your high school graduation beer stein from 1990 (only in Wisconsin).

So we thought we had it narrowed down pretty well. Upon hauling our remaining belongings over to the storage unit, 5×10 feet was feeling a little tight, but after some creative furniture-and-box tetris we managed to fit all of it with room to spare. The first layer consisted of our mattress and box springs, with a tower of boxes topped by a not-so-light armchair, and the second layer consisted of additional boxes, two bookshelves, two surfboards and a bike. We’ll finish it next weekend with our remaining clothes and bikes.

We’re now hanging out in our mostly empty apartment, sitting on camping chairs and sleeping on our backpacking thermarests, but we figure it’s just toughening us up for the road trip ahead. I think in the future, if we ever accumulate more stuff than can fit in a 5×10 foot space, our lives will have gotten too complicated.

Can you really just take off for a year of travelling?

The answer is an emphatic yes. When we tell people about our plans, we invariably hear one of two responses: 1) Isn’t that going to hurt your career? or 2) I have always wanted to do this and I will now live vicariously through your blog. So I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to both of these statements.

First, we do have some friends who have taken similar long trips – they are all gainfully employed and did not encounter difficulties finding new positions when they returned from their travels. In fact, it seems that during many of their interviews post-travel, their interviewers were so distracted and jealous about their travels that they talked more about their international vacation experiences than their previous job experiences. A nice way to break the ice and connect with people for sure. And frankly, if someone is going to be a stick-in-the mud about taking some time off to enjoy life, they’re probably not an employer that I’d be happy working for.

Second, you don’t need to live vicariously through our blog – you should make it a goal that you are going to do this at some point in your life if it’s something you really value. There will probably never be a ‘perfect’ time to do something like this, and there will always be reasons or difficulties or fears, but make it a high enough priority and you will make time.

Planning travel for optimal weather

While we like to believe that we are going to be traveling without any plan, agenda, or itinerary, some measure of thought does need to go towards figuring out where we should be when, to avoid either the hottest (or coldest) and rainiest (or snowiest) parts of the year. The National Geographic Map Machine is by far the slickest weather mapping site I’ve found. It lets you look at average temperature, rainfall, and snow cover for both January and July (among many other things), and looks pretty while it’s doing it too. Given that we’re going to be heading out of the US at the beginning of September, from the overall weather patterns from these maps, I think we should try to drive down the Pacific side of South America, arriving at the Southern tip sometime in January or February, and head back up on the Atlantic side to the Amazon arriving there by May or June. Looks like it’s always going to be hot and rainy in Central America. We’ll do more in depth checking with our guidebooks and more local weather information, but this is at least a beginning.

This is a screen shot of the average rainfall in January:

Potential plan for this summer

Before leaving for points south, we’re going to visit family across the US. I mapped a potential route that would get us there in the least time possible time to maximize time with the family. Our thoughts are to visit various aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandparents who are scattered across the midwest, spend a couple of days at each of their locations, and then continue on to the east coast to spend a couple of weeks with our parents. The end goal is to head out of the US by the beginning of September.

View Larger Map

Voting in the US Presidential Election from Abroad

I was very concerned that we would not be able to vote in the November 2008 Presidential elections as we would be out of the country and wouldn’t have any official forwarding address for receiving absentee ballots. Cornelius didn’t seem as concerned as me (bad citizen!) so I spent some time poking around online to make sure we would be able to vote. I found my way to the Federal Voting Assistance Program and they referred me to the local registrar of voters. The local registrar was very helpful, and it turns out that you can actually list your email address as your forwarding address (as long as you can explain why that is your only address). They will email your ballot to you, whereupon you print it out, fill out the ballot, and then fax it back.