Have you ever thought of leaving everything behind and taking a long-term trip to travel around the world? Sailing along the Mediterranean coast, backpacking through India, hiking through New Zealand – there are so many places to go and people to meet.
Here are some tips to help you turn that dream into reality.
1: Sort out your money
Money is the single biggest concern that worries people taking time out. It’s true that long-term travel is going to cost you money, but it’s also true that you can afford it. Other people in your situation have:
- Taken a second job to earn extra cash
- Saved hard and cut down on luxuries
- Switched mortgage and utilities providers (this can save hundreds of pounds and takes minutes)
- Worked while they travelled
- Rented out their house
- Budgeted their trip carefully to get good deals
- Cut costs travelling (eg by going overland, staying in hostels, etc)
Remember that long-term travel is a valid investment in yourself. You will be developing confidence, learning new skills and having experiences you can’t put a price on.
2. Sabbatical or not to sabbatical?
You have two basic choices when it comes to your job – to take a sabbatical or to leave your job. A sabbatical means your company will keep your job open for you so you’ve got something to come back to after you’ve finished travelling. It is normally unpaid so you won’t be earning while you’re away – but it does mean you have some job security, which can help with any money worries.
Many people who go travelling long-term simply leave their job. If you do this, remember that you’ll need to start looking for a new job before you come back from your trip. Kep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date, and have your CV in your email account or your cloud, so you can start sending it to people or putting in on job sites about a month before you’re due to return home.
If you leave your job and you’re not sure what to do next, long-term travel is brilliant for clearing your mind and figuring out what you want to do. Some travellers come back with a whole new career in mind, and some even start their own businesses!
3. Get organised
Long-term travel takes a lot of planning, especially when you have a lot of ties at home. It’s more than just throwing a few things in a bag, you need to work out how to put your life on hold while you’re away.
The main things to think about at home (after your job) are:
- Your home. Are you going to rent it out, have a friend stay there, sell it or use a housesitter? Most long-term travellers rent their house out as it covers the mortgage payments while they’re away. Make sure you tell your mortgage company and your insurance. An agent can advise you on the legal stuff. If you rent, it's easy enough to put your stuff in storage and just tell your agent or landlord you're leaving. Make sure you get your deposit back - leave things in the hands of a trusted friend if you think there might be difficulty. And take lots of photos of the place to prove you didn't wreck it.
- Your car. Most long-term travellers choose to sell their car, but a few put it into storage or lend it to a friend. Proper car storage is expensive and selling the car means more money for your trip. If you choose to lend your car to a friend, be clear on who will pay for repairs etc.
- Your possessions. Depending on what you do with your house, you can leave them there, use a storage facility, or use a friend’s attic or garage. Minimising your possessions at this stage can be quite therapeutic as well as practical – eBay, car boot sales and charity shops are all a good bet. If you're renting your house out, assume that anything you leave there could get damaged so put precious things somewhere else.
- Your pets. The most common option is to leave your pet with a trusted friend. Whatever you do, don’t give it to a shelter – they have far too many unwanted pets already. Make sure you are clear on who will pay for the pet's upkeep and what will happen in the event of an unexpected vet's bill.
The main things you need to plan for your trip are:
- Your passport. Obvious, yes, but you need to make sure it’s got at least a year left on it by the end of your trip (some countries have this as a requirement). If you need to renew it, make sure you leave plenty of time to get it done. Passport offices sometimes end up with a backlog so it could take longer than usual.
- Visas. Use a guidebook or the country’s website to find out what visas you need and when and where to get them. Sometimes you need to send your passport to the embassy in this country, other times you can get them abroad. It's vital you have the right kind of visa. If you're working, teaching, training or volunteering abroad, the organisation you're going with will be able to advise you on what visa you will need.
- Money. Most long-term travellers take a mix of cards, a little cash (US dollars are usually good) and travellers’ cheques, changing money and getting cash as they go. It’s always worth checking the banking facilities in your destination as they vary a lot. A pre-paid foreign currency card is also useful.
- Jabs and malaria pills. This depends on where you’re going of course – the travel nurse at your GP’s surgery or a travel clinic will be able to tell you what you need. Leave plenty of time for your vaccinations as some are given in several doses over a few weeks or months. What vaccinations you choose to have is up to you, except some countries require a yellow fever certificate to show you've had the jab. There are lots of different kinds of malaria pills and you'll be able to talk it through with your travel nurse.
- Travel gear. You'll need a backpack, a day pack (ie a smaller backpack for when you're out and about), decent shoes, waterproofs (for both you and your backpack), a basic first aid kit, sun protection (cream, hat and sunglasses), and clothes. What gadgets and technology you choose to take is really up to you; you'll need to balance cost and risk against what you feel you need. Also useful: a pack of cards, snacks, water bottle, a book (exchange or buy new as you go), earplugs and a Swiss army knife. Take security precautions, especially with your gadgets, using digital and physical locks on your stuff.
4. Face the challenges
There are always going to be reasons why you shouldn’t take a long trip.
Fear is a major issue for some would-be travellers, and it’s understandable –you are heading into the unknown! But by giving into the fear, you’re not only denying yourself amazing experiences and new friends, you’re also passing up the opportunity to grow and develop as a person. Almost every long-term traveller finds they are more confident after their trip, and a fair few were scared to set off in the first place!
There might be other challenges too – people telling you that you shouldn’t go, perhaps people saying they need you here. You might worry about the effect on your career, have issues with money, or it might even be as simple as the fact you think you’re not very good at travelling! Whatever the challenge is, there are ways and means to overcome it, and there are people to help you over obstacles as well. Talk to other long-term travellers for advice.
You will never find one who’s regretted their trip.