When embarking on travels like these and getting stuck in a research phase, it’s disheartening because it feels like momentum has stopped.
But wrong! It’s the phase that has to happen before you can buy all the things you need. Like legal stuff. No one goes willy-nilly into legalese-land unless they’re very foolish indeed. Edumacation, friends. It’s pragmatic.
If all goes well, though, this is the week I hammer down my financial coverage, my insurance coverage, and my legal stuff. What legal stuff, you ask? Well, a power-of-attorney, of course. Say what, Willis?
More on that later, but let’s just say I’m old-school because I believe it’s better to cover your ass unnecessarily than to be kicking your ass for lack of coverage if it becomes needed.
Ignore the glossy magazine stories for a while and dive into all the travel forums. That’s when you hear about people getting their backpacks slashed off, or when banks shut down all their credit because of “weird spending patterns.” Because hey, suddenly going all over hell and back on the Mekong River Delta might look a little odd to one not privy to your travelling plans.
So in what ways am I covering my ass?
Theft-Proof & Contingency Stuff
From money belts to slash-proof backpacks, I’m looking for smart gear. Even things like my tiny Lumix GM1 camera are smart from a travel POV because nothing says “Look at the tourist with all the money!” like a 12-pound camera with a zoom lens bigger than a baby’s leg.
I’m thinking of a Scott-e Vest fleece jacket for comfortable air and train travel days. With eleventy-billion pockets, it’s the original travel jacket. Ignore that Kickstarter thingie, you can get a travel-pocket-filled jacket already, and in way more styles. These jackets are smart because I can have all my travel documents and tech in secure inner pockets that cannot be pickpocketed, and I can keep my backpack securely shut for much of the trip. Theft is about opportunity. The fewer opportunities given, the safer your life is.
On the practicality side, I’ll have a military-grade rain poncho that’ll weigh a whopping pound but be great security for days where I’ve already pre-booked travels and have to forge my way through heavy rains or the 200-kilometre-an-hour winds known to hit much of the Mediterranean. “Water-resistant” bags are not waterproof and I’m much more keen to carry an extra pound than risk damaging my $7,500 of gear inside it. A poncho is great because it covers everything from the thighs to my head and even the whole backpack. The poncho I’m looking at has ties so I can batten it down a little when storms rage, and the ties mean it’s able to be used for makeshift lean-tos and as a tarp. Could be useful.
I will detail at length all my purchase plans once I’ve got everything together, so please bear with me — I’ll give you prices, links, and photos all in due time. I promise!
I have been a big proponent of home insurance all my life. When I was 16, a coworker lost everything to a house fire thanks to a loser downstairs and wasn’t covered. He spent months sleeping on sofas and trying to put his life back together.
So naturally, when it comes to travels, there’s no way I’m skipping insurance. If I’m lucky, by the end of this week I’ll have both my health insurance and my camera/gear insurance in place.
I’m a “gimme the max!” kind of girl with any kind of insurance. I over-insure because I know it’s far too easy to miss a few things in the process and then you’re hurting in the replacement phase. Same thing with medical coverage — get the best policy you can. Better to have it and not need it, as the saying goes.
Me, I like peace of mind. I think it’s a great thing to pay a few bucks extra for.
The Paper Stuff
My best friend will be my power-of-attorney when I’m away. That way, if any legal issues arise, anything from passports to banking to taxes, he can intercede on my behalf. If I’m somewhere on the coast of Morocco, eating with Berbers, I really don’t wanna have to fly home just because some bureaucratic hassle has ensued. The guy’s a banker at my bank of choice, his fiance works in the insurance industry, and his father was a government accountant, so I really couldn’t pick a better-prepared POA to represent me.
Like, last year, when I received a letter saying that the government was concerned about fraud because I was issued the same cheque twice and both were cashed, I had to go to a lawyer to notarize me stating “No, dude, I didn’t cash the first one…” and then I had to sign my name three times to verify my signature. Can you believe the forger had the balls to sign my name with a smilie-face on the “i”? Really? If that happened again while travelling, I could resolve it with my friend’s help and not have to fly home, like I’ve heard of many nomads having to do.
Something else I’ve recently found is a service from Equifax Canada that covers you for identity theft. $25,000 identity theft insurance, cancellation/replacement assistance if anything is stolen or missing, and a bunch of other convenient things, like a quarterly credit report for monitoring my accounts. For $17 CDN a month, that’s some sweet peace of mind. All I would need to do is contact them to say someone stole my wallet or whatever so they could cancel everything and arrange delivery to an embassy or something, and then my power-of-attorney friend could get on the case about my passport, and I could just wait for good news. But god, I hope it never comes to that.
Other Smarty-Pants Things
All my credit cards will be gold cards with reduced interest rates (11.9% and 12.9% respectively) and sexy travel benefits, like car rental insurance, trip cancellation or delay insurance, luggage insurance (which never covers electronics), price protection, theft coverage for the first three months, and so forth.
To protect myself with the banks, I’ll be using “secure mail” from the bank/credit card websites to contact them and let them know what my upcoming travel plans are. With notes on my account, I would hope to avoid having my cards shut down for conspicuous expenditures. The credit card representative was quite keen on my willingness to do this. I also have my two local bank accounts PLUS an international bank account in which I’ll always have $1000 cash so I don’t need to pay the stupid fees and I have enough to get me through any sticky wickets.
I’m also not buying the “best” in anything because I have to be able to afford to replace things if anything happens, so spending less now means having more for later. PLUS, my products are all multifunctional, from my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 to my wireless router and back-up battery for my iPhone (which is also a flashlight I can keep bedside). This means, in a couple instances, I have redundancies in place. I don’t have the luxury of NOT working, so I better be able to do it when I need to do it.
Another thing I’ll do before I leave town in October is gather all the paperwork amassed so far this year and give my accountant my tax papers to hang onto so I just have 8 weeks of receipts to send him come tax time. God forbid I lose paperwork and have to chase it down when I’m abroad and internet might be spotty.
And So It Goes
Soon I’ll move onto the next phase — selling everything that I own. Some big-ticket items I’ve lined up buyers for and get to keep until my last weekend in town, but the rest will be liquidated in 3 weeks of weekend “come in and buy my stuff” sales.
It’ll mean living in increasing awkwardness, but if my friends buy my TV & sofa as planned, then I’ll be donating my bed to someone who’s lost everything in a recent flood or fire (TBD). I’ll also drop off my hand-me-down dresser and all my cookware to the same people, so that means I’ll have all my essentials until the weekend that I split town. Not too shabby. The rest, I don’t mind ditching before I go so I’m living in increasing scarcity… and increasing reality of how much my life is changing.
Every now and then my heart starts to pound and my breath quickens, but hopefully after this week it will be largely from excitement that things are really coming together, rather than having anxiety from fearing the opposite, as I have of late.
It’s getting fun, kids! 54 more sleeps!
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Check out the story on page 88 of the August 2015 print edition of Wired Magazine about a company called SOS Inc. that will rescue you from disasters anywhere in the world for just a few hundred dollars a year. It reminds me a little of the author of the blog “Straight Forward in a Crooked World”, but it’s a little more of a service for everyone, not just corporate executives.
I guess you mean this one! Interesting. Thanks. 🙂
Damn Steff, I can’t believe you’re almost ready to go gallivanting around the world! This is nuts (for me, not you)! I hope you don’t mind someone like me living vicariously through you.
As to the being prepared, I thank my Grandmother’s OCD genes for that aspect of my personality – while I’m still good if shit happens, at least I’ve mitigated the amount I may step in.
I’m hoping for people to live vicariously through my experiences. That’s what travel-blogging is about. 🙂
Yeah, I’m being a little OCD about it. I have to settle my stuff up PDQ.
Hey, Steff. Did you know Chase Visa is the only Canadian credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee? I prefer that to the low interest rates, as I pay it off monthly anyways. There are a few more options for US travellers, but for us Canadians, that’s the only one.
Ahh! I didn’t know that. I was looking for one. I see it’s at 19.9% though. I’ve got an 11.25% card and a 12.9% card, both which give me 1% back plus travel protection, including insurance on rental cars and flight-delay coverage for anything over a 4-hour delay. So, I’ll be “paying” for the perks, I guess. 🙂
I’m hoping to be able to get one of the Big Kid travel cards next year… some platinum stuff. The TD Travel Platinum lets you earn triple the points if you buy your flights or stays through Expedia, too.
But mental note made!