This morning I finalized everything for my trip and it feels awesome! I leave 7 weeks to the day and it's pretty exciting to know it's coming up so soon. All train tickets, bus rides, hostels, B&B's, apartments and plane tickets are booked.
The total cost for 5 weeks of lodging Europe came to 860 euros, which is about $1175 USD currently ($33.57/US a night). I know I could have saved more money if I hadn't booked 2 apartments but it's a vacation! I've also had a few friends tell me they know friends in some of the cities I'm staying but I haven't heard any more details besides "I know someone who lives there!". I bought deposit insurance for $1 for each hostel in case something comes up last minute and I find cheaper or better lodging. It would be really nice to spend some time with locals and friends of friends so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
The exchange rate has dropped about 10 cents to the dollar since December (1 euro = 1.36 USD. In December it was 1.46) so I'm considering calling up my bank to see what rate they are using and exchanging some money once I'm able to cash a check my awesome dad gave me for Christmas. Exchanging money also makes it a lot harder to spend here. Linette loaned me a really comfy money belt so I feel a little better knowing that I may be carrying a little bit of cash. Because I'm clumsy though, most of it will be left at home in my bank account to withdraw over there.
For this trip I decided to cash in my 401K that has been sitting at another company since I left in 2007. There has been talk of charging me a few hundred a year to manage this account and since it's under $2,000 it really seems pointless to keep it there and lose money. I could have rolled it over to my own account but I'm still an irresponsible kid at heart who needs any and all the monetary resources available to me for this trip. My birthday is in June but I think some family members might be giving me an early b-day gift to help with costs, which is really sweet.
So, now it's a waiting game! I can focus more on the sights I want to see and wait patiently for my passport to be delivered. I am a member of REI and have a nice dividend coming to me at the end of this month which I can use to purchase some travel gadgets/gear. I know I want one of those lightweight super absorbent towels, 3oz bottles for soaps, a compass and some of that awesome space Neapolitan ice cream just cause they sell it there. Also, a padlock or two for the lockers. And personalized business cards with my name, picture, email and Facebook info to give to new friends. Oh, there are so many things but it's really exciting to be in the home stretch and gathering my final items. REI also has some amazing lightweight pants that are flattering that I may splurge on if my budget allows (they are $55). I've got plug adapters coming and may need to get a voltage converter for my hair straighter. It's the only girly thing that I really am going to give in and bring besides a small amount of make-up. For some reason I feel slightly less grody when I straighten my hair if I haven't had a chance to shower for a day or two.
For fellow travelers reading this blog, what are some essential things I should put on my list to bring?