Beyond the guidebooks

Isle of Skye

I’ve been traveling solo for eighteen straight weeks, twelve of those in Scotland and Portugal. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things that aren’t in the guidebooks.

Never miss an opportunity to visit a restroom. You don’t know when or where the next one may appear.

If you are lost, tired, or need to regroup safely, duck into a library or church to gather your thoughts in quiet. Don’t be the confused-looking tourist on the corner with the open tablet or unfolded map. Libraries often provide free Wi-Fi, although in Scotland I had to apply for a library card first. Coffee shops and cafés work just as well, but you will be obligated to buy something.

Museums almost always have good restaurants and clean restrooms and you don’t necessarily have to pay admission to use them.

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The key to the highway

My only key
My only key

The adventure begins.

But before it could, I made a series of life-changing decisions.

I left a company that bears my name. I retired from a forty-year career. I sold my house. I sold or donated most of my possessions, including my car, and stored the rest. I said goodbye (temporarily) to family and friends.

In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed a scale for stressful life events. All of the above are on the list.

I must remind myself that I willingly volunteered for this makeover.

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Travellin’ light

Backpacks
I got no bags and baggage to slow me down.
Well, I’m travelling so fast my feet ain’t touching the ground.
Travellin’ light. Travellin’ light.
Well, I just can’t wait to be with my baby tonight.

Cliff Richards and the Shadows

To maximize my mobility, I plan to travel with two bags only, both carry-on. Keeping everything within my reach will, hopefully, reduce the possibility of theft or lost baggage. Fully loaded, the rolling backpack weighs around twenty-three pounds and the zip-off daypack thirteen, for a combined thirty-six pounds.

Here’s my packing list:

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Clearing the decks

Packing

Preparing for an adventure of the magnitude I have in mind will require radical changes to every aspect of my life. Leaving the company I own. Selling my house. Living with less.

To help with planning, I put together this checklist. It has taken most of a year to complete. Feel free to let me know what I forgot.

Purging possessions

  • Rent a storage locker for the household items I want to keep until I return.
  • Find Mac, my cat, a temporary home.
  • Sell the car.
  • Cancel all subscriptions.
  • Hold a moving sale of unwanted household items.
  • Donate whatever is left to charity.
  • Buy tenant’s insurance to cover stored items.

Selling the house

  • Make updates and repairs to improve its appeal to potential buyers.
  • List and sell it.
  • Cancel utilities and property insurance.

Leaving my company

  • Plan for transition with my partners.
  • Finalize the buy-out agreement.
  • Inform staff and clients.
  • Clear out my desk.

Planning finances

  • Set up financial planning and automatic fund transfers.
  • Set up bank accounts with accessibility from Europe.
  • Close any unneeded accounts and credit cards.
  • Contact credit card companies regarding travel plans.
  • Reserve safety deposit box for important documents.
  • Set up online document and password storage.
  • Meet with accountant regarding future tax filings.
  • Share access to financial information with kids.

Obtaining health care coverage

  • Buy international health care coverage.
  • Complete annual medical screenings.
  • Get any necessary vaccinations.

Setting up communications

  • Set up a mailbox.
  • Buy an inexpensive unlocked phone for limited use.
  • Set up new tablet with apps, including email.
  • Set up this blog and hosting.
  • Notify family and friends of my new contact info.

Planning the sabbatical

  • Plan the initial itinerary.
  • Book lodging and transportation.
  • Make sure passport is up to date.
  • Buy travel insurance.
  • Obtain Global Entry Program approval.
  • Update Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
  • Buy a GPS device or download map apps.
  • Renew international driver’s license.

Packing

  • Make a packing list. Cut it in half.
  • Include passport, proof of insurance, vaccination certificates, driver’s license, health-care card, spare passport photos, airline tickets, and lodging confirmations.
  • Back up documents online.
  • Build a medical kit.
  • Fit everything into two carry-on bags.