Everything starts with an idea.
We had one: Traveling north america for one year. Canada, Unites States, Mexico.
But having an idea is not everything, one has to lay out some plans (despite we are not the “plan every bit beforehand” kind of guys when it comes to traveling) at least.
But, of course, first things first.
Well, for traveling to the US, one has to get VISA. We needed a travelors-VISA. There are several kinds of VISA, B and B+ is for tourists. It is actually not as easy as you think to get VISA!
Step 1: Requesting VISA online
The first step is to request VISA online, at the american consulate. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, it is not. You have to prepare all your things, including pictures of all travelors, your passport, and some more data one might not know from the top of their head.
Also, the websites where to ask for VISA is rather messy, to be honest. It is not one page, but several different ones. The whole process is not that transparent and simple as it could (or should) be. Also, the “Session expired” notifications one gets several times during the process of putting the data into the formular(s) is rather annoying.
After filling out everything (took us about 1.5 hours for the first try, but less for the second one), one should really safe a copy of the formulars in PDF. You’ll never know whether you need it later or not - so better safe than sorry, right?
Step 2: Going to the consulate
The second step is visiting the american consulate (in germany), because they want to ask you questions about your visit.
Beware that driving to the consulate takes time. We drove 2.5 hours, but arrived only 3 minutes early because of rush hour (in Frankfurt a. M.). Highways are packed there!
After some safety checks which took quite some time (understandably), we were allowed to go into the building (which is really nice). Then, we had to wait for about two hours. We had two little interviews were we explained that we want to travel the US with our motorhome for at least six months.
Our expectations of the interviews were completely wrong though. We thought we would meet a nice person with a cup of coffee and they’d ask us several questions what we do for a living and so on. Nothing of that, though. We were asked what we want to do in the US and what our jobs are. That was all.
Rather easy, but still exhausing (because of the fear not to get VISA).
Step 3: Getting back your passport
The last step was easy for us: We got back our passport, which now includes a really nice imprint of the american VISA certificate.
Step 4: VISA in Canada
As complicated and tiresome the process is for the United States, the pleasurable it is for Canada: You go to the canadian website, find the application from and fill it out. Then you put in your Credit Card information and ready you are.
That was rather enjoyable, to be honest.
Planning the Route
Oh my, that’s a hard one. We knew a handful of places we really wanted to visit, but we had no general route in mind.
We would arrive at the east coast of Canada, so naturally we would see some places in the east of Canada first. I asked the beautiful people over at reddit which places to visit in Canada and got a lot of replies, actually.
After days (or almost weeks) of discussing the subject, we agreed upon these basic points / questions:
- Arrival in Halifax mid-May.
- Eastern Canada for about 2-3 weeks.
- To western Canada (about 2-3 weeks). Not sure whether we want to drive through the states or through canada. Every other week we change our decision.
- Banff national park, Jasper national park: Mid-June.
- Up North? To Alaska? Or rather safe the miles and stay in western Canada?
- Enter the US (again?) about Mid-August.
- North-Western US until mid-September.
- mid-September get some visitors from germany for 6-8 weeks. Propably in Salt Lake City or Las Vegas. No gambling though!
- 6-8 weeks in the south western states of the US.
- Early/mid-December to Baja California and down south to Mexico.
- Parking the car somewhere and flying home.
That list is more an approximation of how things should happen rather than a list of how it will be, though.
As I’m a nerd, I’m constantly thinking about the equipment to bring. Of course I will take my camera with me. But I’m also thinking about my notebook and at least one external harddrive to backup my photos. Maybe even a second one - you’ll never know! I even though about buying another small notebook for the journey. I’m still not sure about that, though. My thinkpad is 6 years old and some parts are already replaced. It was not new when bought, too. If it dies during the journey, I will have severe problems.
I will bring my mobile phone as well, for listening to music mainly.
Shutdown of my projects?
Another point I think about all the time is my open source projects. I have to pause them for one year! I will ask a friend to take over the minor projects for me and merge bug fixes and respond to issues and requests as I cannot do that when beeing off the grid.
I also will remove myself from all nixpkgs I maintain. I will add myself again as a maintainer when I’m back home. But during my journey, I guess I will not be able to maintain any of the packages I maintain at the moment.
And then there’s imag. I will continue to develop it as much as possible during the year, but I guess development will slow down anyways.
One thing I really need to do is to put a note on all my projects at github, telling contributors that I might respond rather slowly.