A Flight To Moscow

I’ve talked to the Russian Consular in Seattle, United Airlines, and a Russian man in Moscow with decent English.

I have a confirmed (but not booked) flight from Seattle to Dulles (UA916) to Moscow (UA964) leaving at 7:30am on June 2nd and arriving at 10:45am on June 3rd…15 travel hours later.

I also have the return leg booked (a la “Open Jaw” magic) from Frankfurt to Chicago (UA945) to Seattle (UA929) leaving at 8:25am August 3rd and arriving at 2:24pm August 3rd…13.5 travel hours later.

All for the low, low cost of $95.00 plus 105k airline miles 🙂

As for actually getting into Russia, the process goes something like this:

  1. Figure out dates to be in Russia
  2. Find hostel that will issue you a tourist voucher and confirmation
  3. Book hostel and acquire tourist voucher
  4. Fill out Russian Visa application form
  5. Turn in original passport, a xerox-copy of it’s vital pages, the original tourist invitation voucher, one passport size picture of applicant (that would be me), a cover letter explaining who is going, where to, when, and with what purpose
  6. Pay $131.00 for 6 day processing (cheapest)

I currently still think it’s worth it to go to Russia. But there sure are a lot of hoops to jump through. I currently have an email into the HM Hostel Moscow (US$36.05/night) in Moscow and I may end up contacting the Olimpia Hostel (US$17.35/night).

The Free Range Method

After talking with many great people, I think I finally have a plan.

There are really two parts to this story, however I’m going to tell them in reverse order.

On Monday, I was feeling quite anxious. I’ve been feeling rather anxious all semester and I wasn’t entirely sure why. I went to More on Mondays, which is a targeted “seminar” that The Annex arranges. This past Monday was specifically for graduating seniors and they brought Cindy Smith, a woman who specializes in transition. Cindy usually deals with missionaries, expatriates, and repatriation. But being a senior is not entirely different. She provided us with a slide that shows the major steps of transition and then walked us through them:
Click image to embiggen

This was really helpful. Just realizing that transition, especially on this scale, can be stressful and chaotic. This also helped me realize another thing: transitioning from college/Colorado to mission trip to work/Seattle would be way to much for me to handle. So I pretty much have nixed the idea of doing a mission trip over the summer, and I think it’s a good call.

Second, I talked with Jessica a couple weeks ago. She spent last fall traveling for about two months in Europe, which is great because that’s basically what I want to do – although I may go farther East than she did. I also filled in some important details of my trip. For me, it will probably cost about $4k-$5k, which is a lot, but I don’t think unreasonably so. I saved at least $1000 by using airline miles to fly from the US to Europe (assuming there isn’t some insane “fee” for booking said flight). Keeping cash on hand seems the way to go, which is what I remembered from my trip to Europe a couple years ago (I paid cash for everything…still have some left over, too).

In terms of getting around, Jessica said that using RyanAir (which I’d heard of) and easyJet (which I had not heard of) were probably better than getting a Eurail pass, although I don’t have to make that call just yet. In terms of sleeping accommodations, HostelWorld.com is the site to visit. I poked around it a bit and it seems really easy to use and should fit the bill just perfectly. The Lonely Planet series of books is what Jessica used, I currently have one on reserve at the library to see if I like the format and what they cover. If not, I may just end up using Rick Steves’. Or just wing it.

The plan, thus far, looks something like this: fly into and out of Europe via Paris or Frankfurt using airline miles. Spend several days in each city until I’m ready to move on to another city. Use HostelWorld to find places to sleep and meet new people. Theoretically find some other people travel with at a hostel and join them for a little while. Rinse and repeat. I’m calling this the free range method.

I would like to list out some places that I would like to visit, although I don’t want to attach a particular time or order in which to visit them. I think this will help move my journey along.

One of the other major things that I need to resolve is what I’m bringing. I would like to bring some photography equipment, but I’m not sure what and how much. There’s also the problem about what to do with all my photographs after I take them. Since I shoot in RAW, I need some special equipment and software to do any sort of editing, I can’t just upload them to Flickr. Do I want to just bring a stack of memory cards? I’m thinking about purchasing a netbook1 to bring with me. Costco is currently selling an Acer Aspire One Netbook with 8.9″ display, Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz, 1GB DDR2 RAM, 160GB HDD, no optical drive, and integrated webcam for $299.99. I could load it up with the most basic of RAW viewing tools so I could delete any photos I think are absolute crap and would never keep (e.g. blurry photos) and then upload the rest to a secure storage space online. This way I wouldn’t be completely SOL if the netbook was stolen, lost, broken (not that I’m planning on any of that happening).

Also, how much stuff do I really want to be taking? I want to be nimble.

If you’ve ever traveled abroad in this sort of fashion, what did you bring?

  1. A netbook is a small and cheap computer used primarily to access the Internet 

What To Do? Where To Go?

I’m still no closer to finding out where to travel or what to do for my summer travel.

Here’s the my thought progression so far:
Initially, I wanted to study abroad. I had narrowed it down to two universities in the UK before I decided that doing so would set me back another semester. If it was going to take an extra semester, I might as well just travel after I was done with college. So I decided that after I graduated, I would return to Western Europe (UK, Italy, France, Germany, etc) and spend a summer there.

I was bored one night and procrastinating homework. I started looking at my United award miles and where I could fly and how many miles it would take. Two important things popped out at me. First, roundtrip travel from the US to Europe is 55k miles; second, a round-the-world ticket is only 200k miles and provides a maximum of 5 stopovers and “is defined as one Pacific and one Atlantic crossing; you must use legal routings as defined in pricing rules and continue travel in the same direction.” (Source: http://www.united.com/page/article/0,8566,1141,00.html?navSource=RelatedLinks)

So now I have this idea to travel around the world in 90 days.

After talking with friends who have spent time visiting just one country, it seems pretty clear that traveling around the world in only two-to-three months is a bit ridiculous. But I still like the allure of a round-the-world ticket, so I compromise and decide that I’ll only visit countries in the northern hemisphere.

Well, after more thought and some talking, this still seems like too much. So now I’m back to just visiting a region. Currently thinking about Eastern Europe plus a couple of Western Europe countries that I missed last time I was across the pond (Germany and France, for starters).

Another idea that has also been floating around my head is to go on a mission trip. Practically everyone I’ve talked to says I must go on a mission trip, and I think there’s merit to their claim.

I spent some time looking at mission work, especially mission work that could utilize my skills as an engineer, such as through Engineering Ministries International. In talking with friends (and on my own), I’ve also been pointed in the direction of Adventures in Mission (including The World Race), Pioneers’ The Edge, and even Messenger.

There’s still some part of me that would just like to get a ticket into Frankfurt and see what happens.

I think I will need to have something to do while I’m traveling, some sort of goal or mission, which makes mission work appealing. At the same time, I could also see being someones assistant. Anyone looking for an assistant to travel the world with them?