Monthly Archives: November 2012

It’s my bag, baby. What Kat’s bringing

So, we leave tomorrow and our heads are exploding. We both woke up before 7am without alarms and have one final day to take care of odds and ends before departure tomorrow morning.
Before we get carried away (LITERALLY!) I wanted to do a run down of what I am bringing.  Dave and I both were really into packing lists. As a control freak, what I bring is really the only thing I can control. And as someone who used to wear high heels every day (and hope to when I get back! Never forget!) I wanted to look cute. I wanted to look like ME, not an REI version of me.  I am not that kind of girl, though I tried to be for a while. I’m a failed REI shopping. It’s ok. That’s why I brought $48 moisturizer on the trip. I will indubitably learn a valuable lesson about that one later.

Needless to say, we obsessively read packing lists. Especially like, in February, when this trip was just a twinkle on my visa card. Ones that I found most helpful for me (DK may have a different story) were from Legal Nomads, Answering Oliver, Traveling 9 to 5, and GQ Trippin‘.
So, what am I schlepping around for the next 3/6/9/? months?

1 pair of North Face Manzanita Sandals (i.e. the anti-Chaco)

1 pair of running shoes

1 pair of Toms

1 pair of flip flops. I bought these at Nordstrom. Havianas cost what a daily budget in Laos can be. #priorities

1 maxi dress

1 midi dress

1 pair running shorts

1 pair chambray shorts

1 pair of purple chinos because, god damnit, I grew up on the Main Line and needed to take SOME preppy with me (note: I am not preppy).

1 knee length pencil skirt for going out mostly. It was less than $7. If I wear it 3x and then toss it that’s ok. Thank you Forever 21. Skirt — you are on your way back to your ancestral homeland.

1 pair god-awful wide leg yoga capri pants which I will wear incessantly once I give up on being fashionable somewhere after Laos when I realize I haven’t worn lipstick in three months, high heels for four, and have been freed from American (read: my own) standards of attractiveness.

1 pair hippie super light pants. yes that is a wee bit of a dropped crotch. Oppa Bieber Style

1 pair leggings

1 spaghetti strap tank

4 wider strap tanks because I have an editing problem. For real. Who needs four tank tops in a 50 L bag? I do.

3 t shirts

2 elbow covering shirts. i.e. my India shirts

1 fleece. Most likely for bus rides as air con will be the coldest temp we’ll feel

1 lightweight rain jacket

2 bathing suits. You will never see pictures of me in them, so don’t worry. Unclench your jaw. Release those shoulders.

Along similar lines: not pictured are 7 pairs of underoos, 2 bras, and 3 pairs of socks.

1 resistance band

1 jump rope

(everyone train with Anthony in DC! Email me for his contact info — awesome trainer!)

Traveling Pharmacy. I am carrying our medical supplies and DK is carrying cords/laptop.

SPF 50 & 30 sunscreen

eczema medicine for me 😦

advair for me and my asthma 😦

aloe vera for DK’s inevitable sunburn 😦


Opposite of Imodium….

Melatonin & Ambien

100% DEET bugspray

Metric shit ton of advil




Band aids

Here’s where i begin to become an idiot

travel journal


alarm clock

tiny playing cards


prescription glasses


Our mascot for the trip: tiny gay purple bear (thanks HRC friends!) we’ve affectionately named JT.

worlds’ greatest showing of accessory restraint

Toiletries in varying level of needs.

amazing makeup restraint IMHO

vaguely named “lady supplies” and make up packed up.


6 packets of tissues

1 packet baby wipes


inflatable travel pillow

travel blanket

silk sleep sheet

water bottle

This is how I’m packing it all

16L compression sack for bulky items

1 small packing cube: holds all my shirts

1 medium packing cube holds: shorts, pants, dresses

black purse for the dolla dolla billz. also for when i need to feel like a lady and carry a purse instead of a backpack.

black case with my unmentionables

This is it. everything going in my large pack.

These are odds and ends for my carry on.

this is it. Probs weighs like, 30 pounds all but I am hoping to shed things as we go. I’m sure by the time I’ve done enough yoga to be more zen about material possessions I’m sure I’ll be ok not carrying around 4 ounces of argan oil like an idiot.
So, lessons from packing this all up?

  • Packing cubes are like tiny zippered gifts from the baby Jesus
  • I am irrationally hoarding toiletries
  • I am irrationally hoarding tissues as part of my coping mechanism when dealing with Asian toilets
  • I tried to keep my capsule wardrobe all in the same family. I went with mostly black and white but pops of color (a lot of purple. it’s an issue). Everything I am bringing can more or less be worn with everything else.
  • I went nuts with gear research and am bringing like none of it. I think it’s fine. I’d rather look cute than be dry. It’s going to be 9,000 degrees with 400% humidity so why not at least look cool.
  • I’m sure I’m going to shed some of this on the road. I’d better. I’m ridiculous.
  • Also, sunscreen is heavy.





How much would you pay to live the dream?

When we tell people about our trip, no one ever asks how we can afford to quit our jobs to travel but I know that they’re thinking it. Personally, I don’t mind discussing our budget. It’s a major part of our planning process and if you’re thinking of taking a trip like this yourself, how much it will cost is obviously among the first questions.

I wish I could tell you that there is some secret easy way to being table to fund your career break, but there just isn’t. We decided nearly two years ago that we wanted to take this trip and we began to save every penny possible to make it a reality from that point forward.


We won’t be saving pennies on the beach…we’ll be spending ’em. Hopefully on drinks with umbrellas…but also on student loans.

Mrs. Banh Mi and I are fortunate that we both had(!) relatively well-paying jobs and that our only debt is low-interest student loans. We don’t have a mortgage or car payments, we don’t have credit card debt and we’re both fortunate to be healthy (physically, anyway) and not have medical debt. We didn’t have to sacrifice a lot to save the money for our trip, but we did make some sacrifices and it took a long, long time. Over the past two years, we didn’t eat out or go out to bars with friends as much as we would have liked. We didn’t take a vacation or two that would have been fun but expensive. We didn’t buy new clothes and basically made do with the things we had rather than buy new stuff. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t all that bad once we got used to the lifestyle.

Obviously there are many ways to travel, from couch-surfing backpacker to 5 star celebrity. We hope to be somewhere in the middle of that on a budget of $80-100 US Dollars per day (this is all inclusive: food, lodging, transportation, entrance fees to tourist sites, visa fees, miscellaneous costs etc). Some days we’ll spend more than that and others, depending on where we are, we’ll spend much less. Southeast Asia is a very inexpensive place to travel and your dollar will stretch a long way, but if you want to hold a baby panda (which for Mrs. Banh Mi is not optional), you will pay out the nose for the experience. You could absolutely do our trip for less than $80 per day. You could also spend much, much more. We plan on eating street food and avoiding pricey (and usually lousy) tourist restaurants. We’ll be staying in hostels and guest houses where we’ll usually have a private room and private bathroom. It won’t be the Ritz, but it’ll be clean (hopefully) and basic. You could stay in dorm rooms with shared bathrooms in hostels for much much less, but being a married couple in our 30’s, that’s just not our scene. We’ll be taking trains and buses within the region which are slower but much cheaper than planes.

Flights to and from Asia are expensive (round trip for the two of us could be between $2,000-$4,000) but we’re flying to Singapore for free (in first class, no less!) on Mrs. Banh Mi’s frequent flyer miles that she earned from traveling for her previous job. We haven’t booked tickets home yet, but we’ll have enough miles to cover those flights (in economy, boo) as well. So that’s a huge savings for us.

Furthermore, while we may be leaving a lot of our old life behind us, some things we can’t escape. There are some fixed costs that we’ll have to pay while we travel:

  • Student loans — Approximately $600/month for both of us combined)
  • Storage unit rental and insurance — Approximately $100/month
  • Travel insurance – Purchased through World Nomads — Approximately $125/month

So, right there it’ll cost us $825 per month and we haven’t even left the country yet — that’s about $7500 over 9 months. $90 per day for 9 months is about $24,000. We’re not sure we’ll be gone for that long, but we wanted to have the option. So, $7500 in fixed costs plus $24,000 brings us to our total budget for the trip: Approximately $31,500. I bounce back and forth between thinking that that is an astronomical figure and thinking that it’s really not very much at all. Either way, we’ve never FELT like we had a lot of money because all we’ve been doing with it is NOT spending it…until now.

But even after we hit our savings goal, we still couldn’t leave. We can’t spend every penny to our name on our trip and just come back to America broke as a joke. So we also had to save up a large amount of “cushion” money so that we’d have some funds to live on when we get home — money for a security deposit on an apartment and for general living expenses. We won’t have jobs and we don’t know how long we’ll be unemployed. There’s no way for us to know how large a cushion we’ll need…so let’s hope we get jobs quickly upon our return and we can turn that cushion into a potential down payment on a house a few years down the line.

This is a subject that can make some people feel uneasy, but we’re happy to discuss it. If you have questions about our budget just leave us a comment or email us! We depart in six days. Commencing freak-out in 3…2…1…

This isn’t how I thought things would be

For nearly 2 years now, we’ve been dreaming about the moment when we could quit our jobs, pack up our things and get on airplane and never look back. The dream got us through difficult times at work and in life. Thoughts of beaches in Bali kept us warm during freak snowstorms. Itinerary planning, travel gear research and thoughts of endless possibilities are what we held on to to keep us sane.

So I was surprised at how I felt when I walked out of my office for the last time last Friday. I liked my job and had wonderful co-workers and supportive bosses. It wasn’t my dream job, but it paid well and it was a pleasant place to be. Still, I always knew I would not be there long term. I would sit at my desk daydreaming about the moment when I would walk out the door and NEVER COME BACK and how free and amazing that would feel. Instead, I found myself feeling remarkably sad and empty as I passed through the lobby. I’m going to miss the friends I made there more than I realized. I understand now that in all my daydreaming about our adventure, I had pushed aside all of the people and places that I love that we’re leaving behind.

Mrs. Banh Mi has been processing this for months. We’re on opposite tracks. She had her last day at work earlier this week and we had a going away party last night. She’ll miss all her friends terribly, but I think now that she’s had a chance to say her goodbyes she is TRULY ready to go. Now that I’m only just starting to think of what I’ll miss, I’m realizing that I’m not as ready to go as I thought. I know that I will be — I HAVE to be — but this process might just be slightly more difficult than just packing up and getting on the plane.

Overall, though, I am happy we’re leaving. I’d much rather leave somewhere thinking it was too soon than leave somewhere knowing I stayed too long. The internet is littered with the travel blogs of people who are doing exactly what we are doing — quitting jobs, packing up and just GOING. They’re filled with pictures of exotic locations, all the neat stuff that’s in their packs, and all about HOW GREAT OF A TIME THEY ARE HAVING. We’re going to write about that stuff too. Still, I’m happy to put down some thoughts here as a record of the fact that while I might not know what lies in our future, I fully appreciate everything that we’re leaving behind.

To all of our friends, this isn’t “goodbye forever” —  it’s “smell ya later.” We love (most of) you.