My name is Dan. I'm 26 (as of 2012), I used to write software, and I'm now (2012) a Ph.D. student in Human-computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University.

Some FAQs in approximate order of frequency:

Where did you go?
In short: India for 4 months, SE Asia for half a month, Aus/NZ for 1.5 months, the US for a month, and Europe for 3 months. Total time: about 10 months.

In long: India, Nepal, Bhutan, India again, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, back to the US for grad school visits, Bulgaria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, back to Poland, back to Czech, back to Germany, and finally the Netherlands.  (Schedule and Map)

I'm still trying to cobble together a good answer for this. Here's an attempt: part 1, part 2. In short, it seemed like a good idea.

Why Iran?
Why not Iran?
I had a real back and forth on this one. Reasons I wanted to go: to meet Iranians and maybe convince Americans that Iranians are good people toobecause it felt reasonable yet adventurous, and because most of our fears about Iran are unfounded. There are also good reasons not to go, like the fact that you can't travel independently. I didn't see any actual danger in going there until the Amir Mirzaei Hekmati case in January, when the Iranian government sentenced to death an American (/Iranian) tourist for no good reason, except maybe his "questionable" software background. It bore enough similarities to my background that I thought the risk was far enough away from zero that it wasn't worth pushing it.

What are you doing on this trip?
Nothing in particular. I considered working along the way, but didn't know anything that would push me forward at all as a computer scientist. I don't want to dig in anywhere yet.
I considered volunteering, but that'd be even worse: I'd probably be a burden anywhere I went. This is not poor self-esteem talking. It's difficult to be useful in a foreign place, especially in a short period of time.

Who's going with you?
Nobody. I have friends in a few places that I'm meeting up with, but y'know, none of my friends happened to have a year to spare, so most of it's on my own.

How much will it cost?
$17382. See the "costs" page for more details.

How can you afford this?
Money-wise? I've been saving. Software is fortunately lucrative, I don't spend a ton, and I have no real responsibilities. Unfortunately, I can't offer a smarter solution than "earn more and spend less."
Time-wise? Grad school apps are due in December, and you can start in August, every year. I wasn't ready for the December deadline last year, so the soonest I can start is August 2012. Anything I do between December 2011 and August 2012 won't count towards my apps anyway, so I guess I've got a bunch of free months. And why not round up to a full year? I'm *ahem* between careers anyway.

What advice do you have for other people doing something like this?
Figure out where you really want to go and what you really want to do. Err on the side of "more adventurous." If you can figure out something productive to do for a few months out of this year, you might feel better about the whole thing. Most dangers are less dangerous than they might seem. Take less stuff. If you go to more remote places, language barriers may prevent you from meaningfully interacting with people who live there. However, in more remote places, you'll meet more interesting travelers. Look up anyone you even kind of know and ask if you can stay with them for a couple days. Couchsurf, especially in richer countries. Speak languages. Take advantage of languages you already speak and go there. Ask everyone for advice. Make sure you don't have to worry about money. Get on two wheels.