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You Shall Know Our Velocity isn’t a traditional travel story.

In the book, Dave Eggers’ first novel, two friends embark on an unplanned, one-week, around-the-world trip. They give away thousands of dollars and try to overcome the loss of a childhood friend.

Velocity reads even faster than On the Road. You feel yourself speeding around the globe along with the main characters.

The book is only a dozen years old, but the characters’ use of travelers’ checks already feels dated. I’ve been traveling extensively since 2009 and have never used (or even seen) a traveler’s check.

With the right debit and credit cards, you can travel the world racking up airline miles without being gouged by fees.

This post contains a lot of links and references. Don’t try to read everything today, especially if you’re just getting started. The clunky card names and points-related jargon can overwhelming. Read this post for an overview, then bookmark it for later reference.

Take it slow. You don’t have to figure out everything all at once.

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My most forgotten item when traveling is my phone charger. Even though I have an extra one specifically for traveling, I still forget both of them. My most almost-forgotten item is my passport. I usually remember that as I’m walking out of my apartment.

Even experienced travelers forget things and make mistakes. This checklist will help you catch your memory lapses. Since we already have so many authoritative packing lists, this article will cover everything else you need to do before leaving for your trip.

This is your new pre-trip checklist of everything you need to do after you’ve booked your trip but before you leave.

Paperwork

Renew your US passport

✔ Check the expiration date on your passport and renew it if necessary.

The State Department’s website recommends you renew your passport nine months before it expires.

Many countries require that your passport be valid for six months beyond the end of your trip.

✔ Make copies of all of your important documents including the information page of your passport, your credit and debit cards, and your insurance cards.

Stash a hard copy in your luggage (separate from the originals), save a copy online (your email, Dropbox, or Evernote), and send one to a trustworthy friend or family member in case of emergency.

✔ Get the visas you need. Find the entry and exit requirements for US citizens by destination country on the State Department’s website.

✔ Place a stop on your mail or have it forwarded to someone else if you won’t have a permanent US address while traveling. In the latter case, you can also sign up for a virtual mail service like VirtualPostMail or Earth Class Mail. Both services will receive your mail, scan the envelopes, and upload them to your online account. Then you can review your mail and choose to have each piece destroyed, forwarded to you, or scanned in full for viewing online.

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The Wolf of Wall Street movie poster

In the same weekend, I watched The Wolf of Wall Street, a three-hour celebration of excess, and read the Lifehacker post, Why We’re So Materialistic, Even Though It Doesn’t Make Us Happy.

The two made for an interesting contrast. Jordan Belfort, a real person portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie, couldn’t get enough of anything: money, property, drugs, women.

Some members of the travel community take the opposite approach. They aim for minimalism or even asceticism. Their intentions are good, but some people use minimalism as a proxy for virtue.

The less I own, the better I am.

The Problems with Minimalism

Graham Hill’s New York Times editorial made the case for a simple life with few possessions. I agree with most of his points.

Spending less money buying stuff means you can save your money or spend it on doing things. Studies have shown that experiences make us happier than things do.

In response to Graham’s article, Charlie Loyd posted an interesting response on Tumblr.

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