Yes unfortunately the cycling will take it's time. I also have done fishless with pure ammonia. Getting a plant from a tank at the store is a good way to get the bacteria in there perhaps quicker but it still will take time for them to get established in the filter. The only shortcut would be using media from another tank. Be sure to follow a schedule with the ammonia to keep the bacteria fed.
I have had great luck with anubias, not so much with java fern/moss for some reason. My crypts are holding on but not doing all that much. Most of my plants I got on sale from petco, those "gel tubes" (which you wouldn't get for bacteria purposes, you want something that has been in a tank).
I'd keep the stocking light considering you will be away for periods of time. Also, as much as a pain as it is, you may want to set up a hospital/quarantine tank....I added some tetras a couple weeks back and now my tank has ich....I should have learned this lesson by now.
As far as shrimp, I have had success with amanos, still trying to get a small shrimp tank established....