I have been accepted to Remote Year

I’m in!

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been accepted to join Remote Year as part of the Darién cohort starting on June 1st, 2016 in Prague, Czech Republic, and returning to the US in June of 2017. I’ve been looking forward to doing international travel and participating in the digital nomad lifestyle for many years, and since I now work remotely its presented the opportunity to make that dream a reality. I’m overjoyed to be part of what is surely going to be an epic experience.

So what is Remote Year?

Remote Year is a program that acts for lack of a better term like a “guided tour” of 12 cities around the world, one each month, for a group of 75 remote workers who will live, work, and hang out together during the course of the journey. The Darién cohort, named after the Darién Gap between Panama and Colombia, will have the following itinerary:

  1. Prague, Czech Republic
  2. Belgrade, Serbia
  3. Istanbul, Turkey
  4. Lisbon, Portugal
  5. Rabat, Morocco
  6. Valencia, Spain
  7. Mexico City, Mexico
  8. Bogotá, Colombia
  9. Medellin, Colombia
  10. La Paz, Bolivia
  11. Córdoba, Argentina
  12. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Preparing to Travel

Now that I’ve been accepted I’ve been spending my free time learning about all the ins and outs of visas, passports, vaccinations, customs declarations, insurance, and other required legal items for travel to each of the countries above.

Vaccinations

Since I have the standard routine vaccinations most people in the US get as children, I’ve determined based on information from the CDC that I need to receive the following vaccines before leaving:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow Fever
  • Tetanus Booster

Yellow Fever is the biggie because some of the countries will not allow entrance without it. There is a special form that acts as a sort of ‘medical passport’ called a Carte Jaune that acts as a vaccination certification that must be presented at ports of entry when requested to gain admittance to a country.

Visas

In addition to vaccinations, some countries require doing some legwork ahead of time to receive a visa for entry. Because I am a US citizen, I receive visa-free entry for stays less than 90 (or 30) days to every country we are visiting except for Turkey and Bolivia. This is based on information from the US Department of State Travel Guide. In the case of both Turkey and Bolivia, you cannot request a visa more than 90 days prior to your visit, so I have not yet begun this process, but will likely be able to do so in person via their embassies/consulates in the cities we visit prior. Argentina also requires some effort. While Argentina allows US citizens to visit visa-free, you must have proof of paying in advance a $160 USD reciprocity fee upon entry. This can be paid in person at any Argentinian consular office or via their website.

Customs declarations

Regarding customs declarations, deeper investigation reveals that I don’t need an ATA Carnet because San Antonio by virtue of having an active international airport has a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office. This allows me to bypass using a Carnet in favor of registering my gear with CBP Form 4457. Prior to departing I will need to create a spreadsheet that includes an inventory of the camera and electronic gear I plan to take with me and then bring that and completed Form 4457 for each item to the CBP office to have it verified and signed by an official. Gear I am planning to register and recommend others do so as well is:

  • Camera bodies
  • Lenses and filters
  • Flashes/Speedlights
  • Laptop(s)
  • Any peripherals (graphics tablet)
  • Tripods and tripod heads
  • Any other accessory which has a serial number on it
Insurance

There’s two main types of insurance that I’m concerned with for my journey. The first is obviously insuring my photography gear. Luckily, since I’m an amateur photographer and not a professional, this is pretty easy. In many cases your homeowner’s insurance might cover you, but if it doesn’t its as simple as joining the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), which offers excellent insurance at decent rates as a membership benefit.

The other type of insurance is travel insurance. The term travel insurance seems to be somewhat overloaded, as it refers to various types of coverage. The important one in my mind is being covered for any medical emergencies that might happen while traveling abroad and being covered for evacuation back to the US where my normal medical insurance should kick in. I have yet to select a carrier for this coverage at the time of writing, but will update this post at a later date with more information on this topic.

Luggage

I spent quite a bit of time today researching luggage options both for a carry-on to store the camera gear in route and for a checked bag to put my clothing and the bulk of my other stuff into. There’s a lot of options, many of which seem to be of high quality and fit the bill. Out of all of them though, I made my choices largely based on past experiences with the brand and specific reputation. I’ve now ordered the following luggage to use for the trip.

Pelican Storm im2500:

Pros:

  • Lifetime Warranty/Guarantee
  • Watertight
  • High durability
  • Brand reputation
  • Meets both levels of IATA requirements for carry-on luggage sizing

Cons:

  • Heavy at ~12 pounds empty

TravelPro Crew 9 29” Hardside Spinner

Pros:

  • Lifetime Warranty/Guarantee
  • High durability
  • Well designed compartments for garments
  • Brand reputation
  • Brand used by most airline crews worldwide
  • Meets IATA requirements for checked baggage
  • Great deal at $250 for what is usually a $700 piece of luggage

Cons:

  • Clamshell/Split design vs the more convenient flip-top design
  • Zippered rather than latched

I hope that this luggage choice works out for me in the long haul, and I’m sure that I’ll write an update about my experiences not too far along into the trip. I have had lots of experience traveling domestically prior, and during that time I learned that the small things really do make a difference. With that in mind, I invested in some quality luggage tags, which I usually augment with a colored ribbon on the handle to help me know which bag is mine on the carousel.

Passport

The US State Department is saying that average wait times for passport renewals are up to six weeks in 2016 vs four weeks in 2015. Since my passport was due to expire next year before my trip would have concluded it was essential that I get it renewed. I sent the paperwork off to have that done prior to even being accepted into Remote Year. Based on the current estimated wait time and when I sent it off, I should have my passport back and ready to use near the beginning of April. One thing I did when I renewed was opted for the no-cost addition of more pages in the passport booklet. Many countries entry/exit stamps take up two pages, so you can quickly run out of pages in a standard sized passport.

I can’t wait to get in the air again and see the world. Well that’s it for this post. I’m going to try to post roughly once a week in the lead up to the trip and during the trip. My next couple of posts I have planned are focused on technical topics that people may find interesting. Thanks for reading.

 
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