So here I find myself less than two months away from leaving for Cambodia and Thailand. While abroad, I'll be working as an English teacher as a means to help with the costs of travel and also to maintain a home base in the region. I know most travelers to SE Asia do the hostel-to-hostel backpacking thing, but I'm partial to a comfortable bed and a private bathroom. I am doing this trip through a company called LanguageCorps. I've signed up for their Flagship Thailand program, which includes complete TESOL training and certification as well as job placement assistance in whatever area you choose. They also have helped a great deal with pre-departure preparation - which conveniently brings me to my reason for writing this post...
There is a huge amount of things to consider when arranging for a journey of this magnitude. This truth is probably one of the greatest factors that discourages so many Americans from international travel. However, I have learned that like everything else in life, it gets easier and less stressful with experience. It is truly necessary to start preparing three to four months in advance if you hope to have all the necessary information, documentation, and itineraries in order in time for you trip. Fortunately, it has all been very familiar for me, because it was only a year and a half ago that I was preparing for my study abroad trip to Chile. So without any further build-up, here is a list and description of many of the things I have had to address in preparation for my trip to Thailand:
- Plane Ticket - Although I will be living in Thailand, my trip will begin in Cambodia. However, I could not simply buy a ticket to Phnom Penh, because without a return itinerary, I would be required to attain their Visa in advance. So instead I bought a ticket to Bangkok and then an additional round-trip refundable ticket to Phnom Penh through Air Asia. Another consideration was the time difference. I have to arrive in Phnom Pen on February 6th, but because there is a 12 hour time difference and my flight is going east (against time), I actually leave home on the 3rd... Crazy, I know.
- Immunizations - I went to my local travel health clinic to get the necessary immunizations for basically all of SE Asia. The shots I got were Hepatitis A and Tetanus, and then I am taking the Typhoid vaccine in pill form. I also bought about a three month supply of Doxycycline (malaria pills) although I have read that you can buy them very cheap in Thailand as well.
- Proper Travel Gear - One of things I learned while traveling in South America is that proper travel gear is vital. An average school back pack will not serve a traveler well even for short weekend trips. So I did some research and found a great travel pack to take to Thailand. Its called the North Face Backtrack 50 in case anyone else is looking for a good pack. "Travel gear" also includes various odds and ends like plug adapters, voltage converters, etc. I plan on getting a new camera for this trip as well, but I have not yet decided on one. If anyone has any suggestions or advice for travel cameras, please share. I am really looking for something in the lower price range.
- Renewal of Credit/Debit Cards - Both my credit and debit card are going to expire while I'm abroad so I had to go to the bank and request new ones. Unfortunately credit cards are not refreshed until two months before they expire, so I will need my parents to ship it over when it comes in. It is also important to specify to your bank which countries you will be traveling to so they don't lock the card when you use it abroad.
- FBI Background Check - This is not necessary for your average traveler, but because I will be working it was important to have this done. Its fairly simple. Just have your finger prints taken on the proper document and then mail in the request form. It does take weeks to hear back though, so its best to send this off early.
- College Transcripts - Similar to the background check; most travelers do not need this, but because I will have job interviews it is necessary to have at least one authenticated transcript.
- Travel Insurance - This is something all travelers should consider. Fortunately I am able to get comprehensive travel and medical insurance through LanguageCorps. The cost is included in the Flagship program fee.
- Passport Pictures - These are needed for visas in both Thailand and Cambodia, and it is always good to have extras with you.
- Future Planning - If all goes as planned I will be attending grad school soon after I return from Thailand. This means I will need to apply to schools while abroad, which in turn means I need to have all the necessary pieces for applications ready before I leave. This includes both academic and professional letters of recommendation, transcripts, and GMAT scores.