I’m sharing below a few tips and tricks that helped us eventually decide to go on a long term trip and the steps we made to make that travel dream a reality. These are obviously based on an average couple looking to travel on a budget but many of these tips would work well in practice for any type of aspiring explorer:
Tip 1: Narrow down when you are going
It’s no good just saying you’re going to go one day. If you keep saying things like this, you’ll never go. Be structured and both agree an estimated month and year at least – whether that’s 6 months from now or a year from now, or even 2 years from now, having a target to work towards is the first necessary step. Not many people just quit their lives and go on the same week that they make the decision. Of course there are some that do, but I think most people would like a target date to work toward. Also it’s a good idea at this stage to estimate how long you both want to go for – a year? 6 months? 3-6 months? Less than 3 months? You may not know yet which is great, best not to plan too much but the target leave date is important.
Tip 2: Pick your destination
Of course, you now know when it is you’re aiming to go, but where? The world is a big old place indeed so just saying ‘well USA’ or ‘Australia’ most likely isn’t good enough at this stage. Buy a big map or globe and sit down one night and really think what you want. Is it exotic beaches? Bustling cities? Ancient temples and culture? Hiking and extreme sports? Volunteering in a remote village? A relaxing off-the-grid location? Once you have agreed the type of location you want to travel to, you can start looking at continents and from there, start planning the countries and areas you could visit.
Tip 3: Don’t tell too many people
In fact, I should’ve changed that to ‘don’t tell anyone’ because the minute you do, whether it be family and friends or whatever you’ll get constant questions about your trip – what are you going to do? When do you come back? How are you affording that then? This only adds pressure and stress and will end up making you feel anxious about your decision. So for the initial stages I’d keep it between you as it’s also quite fun knowing that no one else knows.
Tip 4: To Group Tour or not to Group Tour?
Now group tour companies are usually for people who want to take all the stress out of planning their trip. There are numerous ones online or even on the high streets – GA Adventures and STA to name a few. They’re great for those who want to travel as a group and have a fixed itinerary with transport all included. Sounds great but come on – where’s the fun in that? Say you meet someone on the first day in the group and don’t really gel with them. You’re stuck with them for the rest of your trip. And then there’s the fact you can’t really deviate away from the itinerary or plan, plus you’ll be paying crazy fees for all of this. In my opinion, don’t think any further than the flight booking and the first 2-3 days accommodation. Wing it from then on and do your research. Of course if you are a young person and not overly confident or are taking a work sabbatical for a few months and have a limited amount of time then I can appreciate these types of tours as a good option.
Tip 5: Money Talks
Now you’ll find many online sources and articles will tell you that you can go with no money, you only live once and all of that nonsense. Its rubbish and yes you should have a reasonable amount of savings behind you before any type of trip.
Research is key to a lot of the planning – read blogs on the area of your choice and see what others suggest as a budget. Once you get a consistent amount coming up you’ll have a better idea of what budget you’ll need. Remember to also include extra money for things like vaccinations dependent on where you’re travelling to (trust me these aren’t cheap), internal flights, insurance, VISA’s, travel gear and appropriate clothing. Hence I revert back to tip 1 – giving yourself enough time to plan and save at the same time is vital. There are many saving tricks that I would recommend but be realistic, work out how much you can both afford to save each month, and work out a comfortable savings plan that doesn’t make you lose sleep. Initial thoughts – get rid of your fancy car lease, don’t have the best phone contract, look at cheaper rental prices, mortgage rates, and read about the ‘pay yourself before you pay your bills’ theory. If you’re a young person who is looking to change their daily/monthly money habits, I strongly urge you to check out this friendly blog Money Nest. I highly recommend it.
Tip 6: The ‘Save for a house’ or ‘go travelling’ dilemma
If you’re a couple, especially younger couples, chances are you’ll have thoughts of owning a house or having a wedding on the horizon or both. Now this is sometimes one of those conversations that you just both need to have. What is more important right now? If it’s the house then maybe look at travel further down the line as an option – maybe you can rent it out while you go? Or if the travelling is more important, then you just have to agree how much of your hard earned savings you’ll spend on the trip and come to the reality that the house can wait a little longer – hey memories vs bricks and mortar? When you’re older sat there in your rocking chair smiling back at all those amazing experiences will you really regret it? Probably not. The thing is, like many things in life, it’ll just work out the way it’s supposed to no matter what you decide so bottom line and tip is just agree as a couple and go from there.
Tip 7: Research, research, research
There are a plethora of sources online – I can’t even tell you how many blogs I’ve read on South East Asia ahead of our planned trip, but I can tell you I feel like I’ve already been, that’s how many. Google and read blogs, The Art of Travel is a great source for any country and Nomadic Matt is another. Listen to the ones that have done it, been there and got the t-shirt. Don’t listen to the negative people who tell you it’s going to be hard to find work when you get back, or that you’ll get some awful disease.
Tip 8: Relax and go with the unknown
Deciding to go travelling for an extended period of time is always going to feel risky. And that’s because it is a risk – but only a small one. I say that because if you didn’t go, and you always wanted to do it, that’s a bigger risk in itself because later on in life you’ll wish you’d done it, when you had a better chance to do so. Do it based on emotion but also use your head too so you can realistically afford it, and have a rough plan of what you’ll do when you return – i.e. where you’ll live etc. Once you have solved that, honestly I think the rest is easy and will always fall into place – that’s just how life is.
So again, what are you waiting for exactly? Take action today by planning ahead your trip of a lifetime – you’ll feel invigorated for it straight away! Just make sure you do it in a sensible and logically thought out way.