I am a novice when it comes to travel, let's be honest. The last time I was overseas, I was active-duty in the Army, more than 20 years ago. Now here I am with a flight booked on British Airways, a passport safely tucked away, and counting down the weeks til mid July.
Back then, I was planning on being stationed in Germany. I would not sign until I had it guaranteed in my contract. Preparing for a long-term stay in a foreign country was so different then-- I bought a "Living Language" course on cassette tape to attempt to become at least partly conversational in German. I talked with friends who immigrated from Schwarzwald, and talked with others who were prior-service military, especially those who did a tour in Germany. I got on a penpal club and wrote letters with friends in Germany. I looked at atlases and familiarized myself with the country. This was all done before I even went off to basic training.
Boy, how things change!! Preparations for this trip have very little comparison to last time. The internet makes all that needed information so much quicker, easier, and more thorough. Virtually everything can be booked from the home computer. Itineraries can be plotted out via Google- one can get a sense of drive-time, alternate routes, stops along the way-- it's all pretty amazing when you think about it.
One thing I didn't have to deal with last time because I was active-duty military, was a passport. I did end up applying for one in Frankfurt back then though, and I do remember what a pain in the neck it was. Passport applications have gotten easier though. I do recommend that you fill out your application online and print it out. It'll save you SO much time when you go to your local Government office to turn it in. I showed up at the city hall about the same time as another lady who was applying for hers, but my application was all printed out and ready to go. She was still writing out all her information by the time I had paid and left the premises. If you can save yourself some hassle, it's good to do so. I applied in April, and the passport arrived on my doorstep in the first week of May. It only took four weeks to arrive.
My trip isn't until July, but I don't want to cut it close with anything. My passport's here, my flight is booked, my car is hired, and hostel beds are reserved at the beginning and the end of this journey. It's just the in-between bits I'm still sorting out-- so much to see, so little time! Where to go first!? Backpacking and camping are definitely going to happen, as are castle tours and a trip to Skye, and a whole lot of exploring by car. I'll provide more info on preps as this trip draws nearer. Hopefully I'll be able to post a bit while I'm over there. :)