At the very least, I hope that one day this blog will prove a useful resource to other Americans who might want to hit the road for a while. To that end, anyone reading this who wishes to add comments offering advice and recommendations is strongly encouraged to do so below. My own advice will be spread out inefficiently for a while, since I'm learning as I'm going, but at some point I will compile everything into a single place for easy reference.
Visited State Farm Insurance Company today and learned the following:
1) Car. Best-case scenario is to find a friend who is willing to take over paying your insurance policy. That means you don't pay for what you're not driving, and friend can enjoy driving your car in your absence (this also should help keep your car's engine happier).
Note that the name on the insurance must be the same as the one on the car's title (presumably that name is yours). So, add your friend to your own insurance policy and then have your friend take over paying that policy.
Your insurance company will need your friend's name, address, date of birth, and a copy of their driver's license in order to be added. If your friend is over 30, so much the better; then it should not add extra cost to your insurance plan (this surprised me). In such an arrangement it seems monthly payments would be best, because then your friend pays only for the months s/he drives the vehicle, and you can simply take over the payments again when you return.
Another option is to find a good place to park your car during the entirety of your trip, then get the minimum insurance. Finding that "good place" is the challenge, though. You'll probably either pay for parking someplace or wind up storing the car at a friend's or family member's. I think having a friend store your car while denying him/her the pleasure of driving it is a pretty big favor to ask, but maybe your friend does not wish to assume the responsibility and cost, and would rather have the car sit.
A sticky issue could be the titling, depending on the time of year you must renew your title versus when you plan to return. I am fortunate because my car's title arrived in November, so for 11 months there is no issue. I am unaware of how best to handle this situation if, say, your titling comes up two months after you leave. Comments/advice would be appreciated, here. Can you renew your title from abroad? Can you renew it far in advance?
2) Renter's insurance. That's easy; just cancel the policy for everything after your last day at the apartment. Make sure you have an address for them to mail the refund check to (it sounded from my discussion this morning that they won't send one until after policy ends). You don't want to miss out on that reimbursement check.
On to other matters.
I get especially nervous about these plans at night. That's when I am most alone, both physically and psychologically. I have not been sleeping well. I got hooked on "Glee" because it's a feel-good mental vacation from the treadmill. But when I turn out the lights I am back in the hamster wheel again. When I dream I dream of the impending trip. When I awake the first thing I think about is what I have to do to make this thing work. Hamster wheel goes round and round, round and round...
Top concern is running out of money, and it's hard for me to budget when I do not know what circumstances I may find myself in.
Been trying to figure out if I can get an affordable phone that would work oversees, but Skype still seems to be the cheapest and best answer. "Best" is relative; my laptop will basically be my Swiss Army Knife, and if it gets stolen I will be fairly fucked.
On the other hand, I can always log onto Skype from any other computer and make that emergency call then.
I am currently burning about a hundred CDs to take with me. As I see the growing size of the stack, I wish I'd had a better experience with my MP3 mixer. My MP3 mixer, an M-Audio Torq Xponent, was too unreliable in a live setting; the "regular" CD turntables are much better. But they are also much heavier, and I will be lugging them around until they get stolen.
Music is being stored in three places: laptop, on CDs, and soon an external hard drive, which I will pick up closer to departure time. In theory, whatever mp3s I don't get around to burning on "regular" music CDs I could burn anytime, including right in the middle of a DJ gig.