A brand new year dawns on the horizon, what are you going to do with it? Perhaps you want to build a house, learn how to ski, have a baby, rescue a puppy or take up salsa dancing? Or maybe there’s a voice inside you whispering: “I want to travel the world!” Well, you’re not alone. Four years ago that voice had grown too loud for me to ignore and I was preparing to leave the UK for a two-year travel adventure that has now become a full-time lifestyle. If wanderlust is knocking at your door, here are my top tips on how to make your world travel dreams a reality in 2017.
How to make world travel a reality this year
Budgets, maps, gear, itineraries, flights, vaccinations and visas… where do you start? I know from experience that planning a long-term trip or round-the-world adventure can be extremely daunting. In fact, it can be so overwhelming that you decide it’s much easier to just stay at home in your comfy cocoon instead. If you’re struggling to figure out how to get your trip off the ground this year, here are some tips that helped me transition to a life of travel – they might just help you too.
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Just book a ticket
You can spend years planning, dreaming and saving up to travel but if you really want to get out there and see the world, you need to just take the leap. So, pick a destination and book a goddamn ticket. It wasn’t until Andrew and I had spent almost £1,000 on one-way flights to New Zealand that our trip began to feel real, we had a departure date circled on the calendar and we’d spent too much money to back out. Trust me, once you have that flight booked you’ll be forced to get everything else ready for the big day.
Tell everyone you’re leaving
Like buying a ticket, telling your friends and family that you’re leaving will make it feel all the more real and you’re more likely to leave if there’s a weight of expectation on you. One of the most irrevocable moments for me was handing in my resignation and telling my boss that I was leaving London to travel the world indefinitely, I knew there was no turning back after that. Talking about your adventure will also help you and your nearest and dearest mentally prepare for the separation.
Think about earning as you go
If you want to travel for a long stretch of time, think about ways you could earn money as you travel and lay the foundations now. If you want to teach abroad take a TEFL course, or sign up to some freelance websites and update your CV and work portfolio. Think about how you can transfer your current work skills into a more travel-friendly format. When we lived in London I worked in online journalism and Andrew was a teacher, so we use these skills today to earn money online. We’ve also both taught English in Vietnam and Spain. You can read about our experiences teaching English abroad and find out how we currently make money as digital nomads through freelance writing, blogging and online teaching.
Embrace your fear
When you go through any big life change your feelings are bound to oscillate from extreme excitement and joy to fear, doubt and moments of abject terror. I even experienced travel guilt and felt homesick before we’d even left the UK. Just embrace it. Being a little scared means that you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and whatever happens, you’ll be stronger for having taken a risk. I remember arriving in New Zealand and experiencing a brief wave of horror upon realising that I was literally on the other side of the world without a home or job to go back to. Both Andrew and I have had moments like this periodically over the last few years, but I’ve learnt to embrace that fear because I know with a positive attitude, a bit of ingenuity and a lot of tenacity, we can always make things work.
How to plan an itinerary
Don’t try and plan out months of travel in minute detail before you leave, it’s not necessary and you’ll just drive yourself needlessly crazy. I was definitely guilty of being an obsessive compulsive travel planner, but after a couple of months on the road I realised that it was much easier to simply plot out the big journey points and fill in the smaller details as we went along. You might want to start your trip planning like this:
- Pick a region.
- Note down the countries you want to visit in that region.
- Look up the visa regulations for each country.
- Find out when the high and low seasons are for each country.
- Research flight prices and routes (you can read our tips and tricks about how to find super-cheap flights here).
- Use all this information to plot a rough, logical itinerary.
- Book a flight to your starting destination and fill in the finer details nearer the time.
Don’t ever forget why you want to travel. Read travel blogs, watch documentaries about the world, look up flight prices, Google pictures of exotic destinations and search through Airbnb for cheap apartment rentals in random places for the hell of it. Just do whatever you need to do to keep your wanderlust alive and spur you on towards taking that trip. One of the best things you can do is seek out like-minded people who understand your passion. I’m lucky to have a partner who also loves to travel, but starting this blog has allowed me to connect with so many other travel-obsessed people and it has provided me with a platform to share all my travel thoughts, aspirations and experiences.
Practical planning tips
Once your departure date is set, get cracking with the practical aspects of your planning:
Sort out your travel fund – make the most of your hard-earned travel savings by putting them into a high-interest account. Over the last six years we’ve switched between HSBC Regular Saver accounts, ISAs and various different savings and current accounts and we’ve earned nearly £2,000 of interest in the process. Read our original savings account comparisons here and an updated post about managing finances while you travel.
Get the best travel accounts – research the best debit cards and credit cards for travellers to avoid wasting money on bank charges abroad. We have a current account with Norwich and Peterborough, the only bank we know of in the UK that doesn’t charge us anything for withdrawing cash or using our card abroad. We also have Halifax Clarity credit cards as back-ups; here’s our post about the best travel credit cards.
Set up internet banking and get back-up cards – make sure you know all your pin numbers and passwords so that you can access your money abroad. Get back-up cards and carry them in a separate part of your luggage in case your others get lost or stolen. Don’t forget to inform your bank that you’re going to be away; otherwise they’ll probably cut off your card.
Buy insurance – don’t skimp on this, travel insurance is so important. Over the last four years we’ve used many different companies including Globelink, Explorer and Admiral. We tend to buy year-long policies and make sure that they cover us for repatriation. We find that most policies don’t cover all our electronics, so we buy extra annual insurance from Photo Guard to cover that. Here’s some more information about choosing long-term travel insurance and reading the small print.
Have a health check – get your eyes, teeth and general health checked before you leave home. It’s also a good idea to find out your blood type and make copies of any prescriptions you need.
Get your travel vaccinations – we’re lucky that as UK citizens, many of our travel vaccinations were covered by the NHS, however we did get some rabies shots from a travel clinic in London and we had to get a booster at a clinic in Indonesia. Find out more in our original travel vaccination guide and this updated post about vaccinations and malaria tablets.
Organise relevant visas – check the visa requirements for the first few countries you plan on visiting. At the start of our trip we needed to apply for E-Visas for New Zealand and Australia and we also got Indonesian visas in advance at the embassy in London.
Make copies of important documents – take pictures of all your important documents, save them on your laptop and email them to yourself. This can include the photo page of your passport, education certificates if you want to find work as you travel, vaccination cards and medical prescriptions. We always keep a printed copies of our passports on us as they’re handy for visa applications.
Get passport photos – we also keep a supply of passport-sized photos to use for visa applications.
Unlock your phone – this will allow you to buy local SIM cards and use your phone aboard.
Cancel your life – if you’re leaving home on a long or open-ended trip like we did, you’ll need to go through the process of selling your belongings, putting stuff into storage, handing in your notice at work, cancelling bills and direct debits and letting the tax office and student loans company know you’re leaving.
Whatever your travel or life plans in 2017, I hope this post has inspired you to make your dreams a reality.
Happy New Year!