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Posts from the ‘Travel Preparation’ Category

Four Weeks to get the Sudanese Visa

Obtaining a visa for Sudan is very time consuming. You need at least three weeks but it can easily take four to six weeks. I used CIBT, a professional visa service, since the Sudanese consulate is located in Berlin which is too far away to personally drop-off my passport.

When I handed-in my passport I also needed to hand-in all booking confirmations and a list of places we are planning to travel to including a description what we will be doing there and where we will be sleeping. When trying to pick-up the passport after three weeks the consulate requested again the booking confirmations which they have received already so we handed them in again. On the second try to pick-up the passport the consulate requested the papers of the car we will be driving into Sudan and the detailed route we will be taking. Since this is not my car but the one of the British tour operator Dragoman I had to call them to receive a copy of the papers. At the third attempt to pick-up the passport the consulate wanted to speak to me in person and actually gave me a 5-10 minute call. They asked me several questions like: Are you really sure that you want to travel to Sudan since it is a dangerous place? What type of car are you driving? Will you ever travel alone in Sudan? Who are the other people you are travelling with and do they have a Sudanese visa? etc. Finally, one day before departure I’ve been told that my visa is ready for pick-up. The visa service CIBT picked-up my passport and since it was not enough time left to send it to my house, they directly send it to the luggage storage at Frankfurt Airport.

In case I did not manage to obtain the Sudan Visa in Germany, the back-up plan was as follows: In Cairo you can go to the German embassy and request a letter on official embassy paper confirming your identity and that your passport is fine for applying a Sudanese visa with. This letter will help you to apply for the Sudanese visa while in Egypt. In Aswan, a town in the south of Egypt, you can apply for a Sudanese visa which only takes 2-3 days to issue. You will need six passport photos and are requested to pay 150 USD.

The Risk of being a long-term Traveller

Long-term disability insurance is in Germany considered as one of the essential insurances someone should get. As my current insurance is contracted over my employer and I’ll not continue to benefit from this insurance when I’m leaving the company one day, I was planning to get a new one just before my journey since the fees are getting more expensive with every month I’m getting older.

My profile is typically considered low risk since I’m not smoking, I’m not having over- or underweight or any specific health problem and my office job is not associated with any specific risk. However, when I applied for long-term disability insurance I’ve got refused by both insurance companies I was applying to (HUK Coburg and Aachen Muenchener). The reason was my planned journey and the insurance companies didn’t want to cover any risk associated with it. They would rather not get the fees I would be paying over the next 25 to 30 years amounting to a significant number since long-term disability is besides health the most expensive insurance you can get in Germany.

I was also classified as someone doing extreme sports such as diving or trekking in altitude and for sure the insurance didn’t want to cover these kinds of activities. However, for some strange reason snowboarding and windsurfing were not considered extreme sports…

I’m now really questioning if long-term disability insurance makes really sense for me? Why should I pay up to 150 EUR a month when the insurance more or less only wants to cover the risk that I’m getting disabled from sitting at my desk? Probably, I’ll just take the risk on my own…

Travel Library

When covering thousands of miles over land, you have plenty of time to read. On my journey I will read some of the bestsellers I’ve missed during the past years and I also want to read some classic books since I have not done so since I left school. I also asked my friend Anita, who is reading a lot, which books are “must reads”.

On the other side it is also not feasible to carry lots of books with you since your backpack easily gets too heavy. Therefore, I decided to take an Amazon Kindle e-book reader with me and store all books on this device. Unfortunately not all books are available as a Kindle version so my choice was limited to those books which are available on the Kindle, either in German or English language. Below you can find the list of books which I’m taking on my first journey from Cairo to Nairobi. Some of the books are from German authors and I provided a link to the English version as well in case there is one available:

Die Kunst, kein Egoist zu sein (Richard David Precht) – German only
Liebe (Richard David Precht) – German only
Hoehenrausch und Atemnot (Johannes Kaul) – German only
Ich bin dann mal weg (Hape Kerkeling) – German version
I’m Off Then (Hape Kerkeling) – English version of the book above
Eine Billion Dollar (Andreas Eschbach) – German only
Deutschland schafft sich ab (Thilo Sarrazin) – German only
Die Vermessung der Welt (Daniel Kehlmann) – German version
Measuring the World (Daniel Kehlmann) – English version of the book above
Extrem laut und unglaublich nah (Jonathan Safran Foer) – German version
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Jonathan Safran Foer) – English version of the book above
Drachenlaeufer (Khaled Hosseini) – German version
The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) – English version of the book above
Die Chemie des Todes (Simon Beckett, Andree Hesse) – German version
The Chemistry of Death (Simon Beckett, Andree Hesse) – English version of the book above
Zwei an einem Tag (David Nicholls) – German version
One Day (David Nicholls) – English version of the book above
Gut gegen Nordwind (Daniel Gattauer) – German version
Love Virtually (Daniel Glattauer) – English version of the book above
Alle sieben Wellen (Daniel Glattauer) – German only
Feuchtgebiete (Charlotte Roche) – German version
Wetlands (Charlotte Roche) – English version of the book above
Schossgebete (Charlotte Roche) – German only
Ich. Darf. Nicht. Schlafen. (S. J. Watson) – German version
Before I Go to Sleep (S. J. Watson) – English version of the book above
Die Ernaehrungsluege (Hans-Ulrich Grimm) – German only
Der Antichrist (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche) – German version
The Antichrist (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche) – English version of the book above
Schuld und Suehne (Fjodor Dostojewskij) – German only
Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) – German version
The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) – English version of the book above

I also carry two books with me which were not published in a Kindle version. One is a book on physical workouts only using the weight of your body and the other one is a kind of extended manual for my camera.

Lastly, I have one book from a German author with me which I will swap against other books whenever I run out of reading material. I decided to take the following book for swapping because I really much enjoyed reading it two years ago:

Wer bin ich – und wenn ja wie viele? (Richard David Precht) – German
Who Am I and If So How Many? (Richard David Precht) – English version of the book above

I still search for good books to read on my upcoming journeys throughout the next year. So please post you reading tips here. Which are excellent books from all over the world which I must have read?

The Top of Africa

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a big dream of mine and this December it will come true. I have read that many hikers return at Gilmans Point which is at 5,708 metres (18,727 feet) since this point is considered the beginning of the craters top and therefore part of the peak. However, the highest point is Uhuru Peak at 5,895 metres (19,341 feet) and I’m sure that when I have reached Gilmans Point, I will also aim for the very top at Uhuru Peak. I’m honestly wondering what makes people to return only a few metres / feet before the very top? Are there simply too exhausted or do they consider their mission accomplished once they have reached Gilmans Point?

I have not undertaken any specific preparation for this hike. During the past months I regularly went to the gym anyhow so that I consider myself to be in a good physical fitness. Actually I’m more concerned about the altitude sickness which hit me once very badly in Peru around 4,000 metres. Therefore, I’m very sure that I will not climb up further once I will experience any severe signs of altitude sickness such as vomiting or a rapid pulse. I’m still not sure which signs of altitude sickness are still okay so that they can be ignored. Maybe light headache or so. The best medicine preventing altitude sickness is to climb up slowly and drink lots of water (6-7 litres a day). To allow the body to acclimatize it is recommended not to climb more than 300 metres a day once arrived at a high altitude above 3,000 metres. However, the Kilimanjaro hikes last only five days meaning that approx. 1,000 metres need to be covered every day. Therefore, a number of people die each year, probably because they ignored the signs of altitude sickness and went up further.

Regarding the equipment you need for the mountain there is not much to be considered. In general I try to limit my luggage to want is really necessary: good hiking shoes, wind-proof jacket, rain poncho covering the whole body as well as the backpack, warm cloth for the night (long underwear, fleece), winter sleeping bag, warm cloth for the summit (cap, gloves), head torch for walking at night time, small backpack, water bottles, sunscreen, altimeter (Suunto Core) and a camera.

Time to say Good-Bye

When you go travelling for more than one year there are many good-byes you have to say. Not just a good-bye to your conventional live and the luxury of the western civilization but most importantly to your family and friends. During the two weeks before my departure from Germany I had many guests in my house who spend a couple of days with me. During the last four days my friend Timmi from Berlin visited me and we went together to the Maschinenfest in Oberhausen which is the largest music festival for noisy electronic music.

Today, I did a day-trip to Hamburg to visit my friend Lars. We spend lots of time chatting and his girl-friend Tatjana was also around who just returned from a longer stay in Ghana. In the afternoon Lars and I went to Bikram City Yoga situated close to his house. If you haven’t done Bikram Yoga before you definitely need to give it a try. You will be doing 26 yoga positions, each of them twice in a class which exactly runs for 90 minutes. The room will be heated to 40 degree Celsius which gives you the feeling of doing sports in a sauna. Latest after three minutes you will start sweating and your sweat will run down your body. You are only supposed to drink something during dedicated breaks which your yoga teacher decides on and I learned that you should not even make the attempt to wipe your sweat off because you cannot stop it from running anyhow. After the 90 minutes exercise your cloth are completely wet so that a plastic bag is provided to you for carrying your cloth home. Also some of the Bikram Yoga positions seem to aim to limit your ability to breathe so that you need to take care that your body is not collapsing in the heat. I’m not sure if this sport is really healthy but it is definitely an experience.

During the last days I also had lots of dinners and lunches with colleagues such as Bernhard, Eileen, Soeren and fellow students from my MBA class such as Alex, Steven, Oli and Calen. I also had a wonderful self-made junk food dinner with my former colleague Anita on the river Rhine overlooking the skyline of the big banks in Frankfurt. In the next days my parents will spend four days with me and I’m really looking forwards to see them once more before leaving for my journey.

On one side it is really nice to see your family and friends so condensed and that you have a chance to say good-bye to them in person. On the other side it also gives you the strange feeling of a last good-bye because I might never return in the case of the unlikely event of a disaster abroad. But I’m optimistic that everything will go well and that I will see my family and friends again in a years’ time.

Visa Applications

A major part of the travel preparation is to obtain all required visas. Unfortunately nobody tells you which visas you need to obtain before departure, which you can obtain while travelling and which you can receive at the border. The main reason is that visa requirements differ per nationality and that they are also subject to change. My recommendation is that you check-out the website of a local visa service such as CIBT. I also recommend that you double-check again at another source in case you plan to obtain your visa while travelling or at the border. I nearly missed to obtain the Ethiopian visa before departure because I read that it can be obtained at the border. Later on I figured out that border in this case only means at Addis Ababa airport but that it is not possible to obtain a visa at any of the land borders. So these details are important to notice.

You also need to have an eye on the documents which you might need to hand-in to support your visa application. Here are some examples: For the Iran visa application you will need a reference number which your contact person in Iran obtains for you at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since a few weeks you will also need to confirm that you will purchase a health and accident insurance from an Iranian insurance company upon entry. As a female traveler you will need a passport size photo on which you wear a headscarf completely covering your hair. For the Turkmenistan visa you will need an invitation letter from a local tourist organization and the Uzbekistan visa application requires a confirmation letter from your employer that you are not travelling for work to Uzbekistan. Luckily this letter is not required for German citizens.

It also needs to be considered that many visas expire after a certain amount of time. For instance the Sudanese visa is usually only valid for one month after issue. When you are a long-term traveler who has left his home country months ago this means that you need to apply for the visa while travelling. The application also requires different amounts of time at different locations. While I needed four weeks to apply for the Sudanese visa in Germany, I know US travelers who applied for their Sudanese visa in April and who still did not receive it when leaving for their journey in October. About half of our group was actually able to obtain their Sudanese visa at their home country while the others will try it on the road in Egypt. It is said that Sudanese visas in Cairo or Aswan might only take 1-3 days.

As a long-term traveler you also want to consider applying for a second passport. I did it when I noticed that I otherwise need to return to Germany for several weeks just to apply for visas. So I’m travelling on one passport while the other one stays at home with my friend Michael who will apply for a number of my visas in Germany. However, you cannot simply obtain a second passport in Germany but need to have a valid reason which you have to hand-in in writing.


When traveling to Africa, Central Asia and South America you should get a number of vaccinations in order to not catch any of the life threatening diseases. Approximately 1.5 months before I started to travel I’ve got mine. The doctor at the university hospital in Duesseldorf told me that I more or less need to get all available vaccinations since I’m travelling to many different parts of the world. The only vaccination which is not really necessary is the Japanese B Encephalitis when I’m not going to sleep with pigs in a rice field which I’m actually not planning to do. However, after looking-up the disease patterns I decided to still get this vaccination since quite a high percentage of infected people die from this disease and I would like to be on the save side as much as possible.

So below you can a list of the vaccinations I’ve got for my journey. The first five of them were still active so I only needed to get six more. However, for most of the vaccinations you need to show up multiple times to get a shot, e.g. for the Rabies vaccination you get four shots: on day 1, on day 7, on day 21 and after one year. And of course all the vaccinations will expire after a few years so you frequently need to refresh them.

Yellow Fever
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Meningitis / Meningococcal
FSME / Tick-borne Encephalitis
Japanese B Encephalitis

In total I’ve paid 810 EUR for the vaccinations and it will be close to 200 more Euros for the long-term refreshers in one year. I’ve got all vaccinations at the Amt fuer Gesundheit in Frankfurt which is very convenient since you can go there at 8am just before work and the time you need to spend there is often not more than 30-45 minutes.

In addition to the vaccinations I also need to take Malaria prophylaxis which you take in the form of tablets. If you are just going for a short 2-3 weeks holiday you can take Malarone which has very little side effects and most people get along with it very well. Malarone tablets need to be taken every day which makes it very expensive for a long-term journey. In total I will need to take Malaria prophylaxis for 37 weeks so my choice is Lariam which only need to be taken once a week and the total costs for the tablets is around 300 EUR. Although many people cannot stay with the side effects I went along with it pretty well on my past long-term travel and hope I will also this time.

Why this Journey?

It’s probably never the right time to go on a long-term journey around the world. However, this summer several conditions were fulfilled which made the current point in time perfect for a long term journey:
– I’m in a good physical and psychical condition,
– I have nobody to take care about such as kids or parents in the need of care,
– I’m single so that no relationship will break-up while I’m travelling,
– I’ve saved-up lots of vacation time during the past years and might want to change my professional life after my return.

Therefore, I thought that now it the perfect timing for a long-term journey and simply signed-up for it. But on the other side it also feels strange to pause your conventional life for a bit more than one year. I will not worry anymore about business cases, value creation, efficiencies and so on. My greatest challenges will probably be to deal with the corrupt practices of second and third world countries, find a hot shower and cock something eatable for my fellow travelers.

But this journey will for sure have a long-lasting effect on my life and the way I see and approach things. When you are stuck in the recurring activities of your everyday live it is harder to see things from a totally different perspective and enhance the way you are thinking and acting.

I decided to travel to places which are harder to reach (e.g. Sudan, Iran) which do not have a strong tourist flavor and require time to be travelled to. Therefore I excluded places like the US, South East Asia or Australia straight away not just because I have been there already but mainly because I can still travel to these places when I’m older or a family is travelling with me. I also put focus on my white spots meaning places where I have a strong desire to travel to and where I have not been so far.

So I hope that you cross your fingers that all my travels will go well and that you read my blog from time to time to see how I’m doing…