For someone that loves to travel, the thought of spending years on the road is a dream come true. But it can also be very intimidating. How do you prepare for such a journey? How do you know if you are ready?
There are as many answers to these questions as there are people who have left their homes behind in search of adventure. I've had my own share of experiences traveling long-term and there are some things that I wish I'd known before setting out. Here are 10 of them:
1. Know Why You're Traveling
Are you planning to travel long-term because everyone else is doing it, or because you really want to go? The reasons for your trip will affect how you approach it — how long you stay away, how much money you'll need, what kind of things you'll want to see and do, etc. If you're not sure why you want to travel in the first place, take some time to figure it out before making any firm plans.
2. Create a budget.
You should always create a realistic budget before traveling long-term. This way, you will know how much money you need to save up before leaving, and how much money you can spend while on the road or at your destination.Try creating an Excel spreadsheet or using a separate app to keep track of all of your finances.
3. Save up money
To travel for the long-term, you need a substantial amount of money that will last throughout your journey. The money you save up will depend on where you will travel and how long you will travel for. If you are traveling to cheaper countries such as Thailand or Indonesia then it is not necessary to save as much money as someone who is planning to visit Europe or The United States. If you plan on visiting more expensive places, then it is best to save enough money so that you can stay in each location for at least a month. If you are going to travel continuously, then save enough money so that it can last at least 6 months.
4. Choose your destination(s)
The next step is deciding where exactly you want to go on your trip. You should consider the amount of time that you have and your budget when planning out your route. For example, if you are only traveling for a month and have not saved up too much money then it may be best to stick with budget-friendly destinations such as South East Asia or Central America. If you have plenty of time and money then maybe consider traveling around Europe (see: How To Afford Backpacking Through Europe). Do some research on each country and decide what places you're going to.
5. Sign up for alerts
Set up flight alerts with your favorite airlines so they can notify you when prices fall on routes you want to fly. Some sites like Airfarewatchdog and The Flight Deal allow users to set up alerts by city or airport and will email them specific deals as they surface (to help you do this, check out our guide on how to find cheap flights).
6. Buy the best luggage you can afford
You'll be hauling your bag from airport to airport, hostel to hostel, bus station to bus station and so on. Don't skimp on your luggage! The last thing you want is for it to break when you're in a small town with nothing but the local market available for shopping. Checked bags should have sturdy wheels that won't break from the strain. Your carry-on bag should be comfortable to carry (which means it shouldn't be too heavy). And consider getting a padlock or two to keep your stuff secure.
7. Practice packing
Before you go anywhere, practice packing to see what works and what doesn’t. You don’t need to take an entire suitcase with you to the grocery store (though kudos if you do). Just take your bag around the house and practice stuffing it full of things. It will help you discover what you need, what you don’t, and how best to pack it all up.
to make sure that you do not overpack and that everything fits in your bag comfortably.
8. Get vaccinated and get ready for anything
Getting all the necessary vaccinations is a big part of preparing for long-term travel, especially if you’re going to be visiting places like Africa or South America.
But even if you’re staying closer to home, it’s worth getting a check-up with your doctor before you go. Let them know where you will be going and they will be able to tell you what injections might be required, such as hepatitis A, typhoid or rabies.
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, it’s also worth checking that your current medication won’t run out while you’re away. You may even want to stock up on extra supplies of certain medicines to take with you in case you can’t find what you need in other countries. You should also check whether or not your normal prescriptions will be valid in the countries you plan to visit and how easy it will be to get hold of replacements.
9. Make copies of your important documents
It’s important to make copies of all of your important documents before leaving home, such as your passport, ID card, visa, birth certificate and more. These copies should be left with someone at home for safekeeping just in case something happens along the way and you lose them or they get stolen from you.
10. Don’t waste time worrying
Worrying about what could happen is time that could be better spent. Of course, you should never go into situations blindly, but worrying about them will not change anything. Instead of worrying about what could happen, instead think about how you would deal with it if it did happen. That way you are in control and can make the best choice possible if something goes wrong (because believe us when we say that something will go wrong.)
11. Make a list
I make my lists in Evernote because I can access them from anywhere on any device (computer, phone or tablet). You can also use Google Keep or just write your list down in a notebook. First I list the categories that I have to pack (clothing, toiletries, electronics) and then items within those categories. If I don’t have something on hand yet, I note that too. Then I start marking off items as I pack them. It makes it very easy to keep track of everything and ensures nothing gets left behind.
There is no one universal way to plan for long-term travel. The first thing to do is map out the route that you plan to take, and then it is important to book all of your tickets, accommodations, and transportation before you set off on your long-term travels. The more care you take in planning your trip, the less frustrating and stressful it will be once you are in the thick of things.