By Danielle Isbell
When my husband and I made the decision to travel long-term, with the goal to live internationally for at least a year, we had no idea what we were in for. What we did know was that we were no longer satisfied with our 9-5 routine, we were aching to travel the world, which is important to both of us, and a 10-day trip just wasn’t going to cut it.
Something in our lives needed to change, so we decided to take the leap.
For us, the leap has meant selling everything and jumping head first into a long-term life abroad. As we are almost ready to set out on our big adventure, I wanted to share what some of the preparation has looked like for us.
Preparing for your own trip might look a little different for you, as there is no right or wrong way to plan for a new life on the road. In fact, a big part of our plan is not to have one. However, there are some things we needed to take care of before we could make this dream a reality.
Below is the roadmap we took to preparing for our upcoming adventure.
10 Ways to Prepare for Long-Term Travel
10. Decide where and how you’ll go
First, decide what kind of traveler you are and where you want to go. Are you interested in doing a work exchange for free accommodations while you travel? How about house sitting? If you know that you only want to stay in private rooms or hotels, factor that in. There is no wrong way to travel. You don’t have to sleep on couches to travel long-term (however, couch-surfing is a great option too!) but know what you are going to be comfortable with.
Where do you want to go and how long do you think you want to spend there? Imagine your perfect trip and start doing research into what kind of traveler you are and the kind of trip you want to take.
Related: Volunteering in Exchange for Room and Board with Workaway
9. Come up with a budget
Now look at that ideal trip you just created and figure about how much you think it will cost. Factor in lodging, food, transportation, and a buffer for the extras. Find a daily estimate of how much you think it will cost in each country you plan to visit and multiply by the length of your trip. There are several bloggers who have provided some great cost breakdowns by country, like the site RTW Expenses by Betsy and Warren Talbot. They listed out all of their costs by country for the two of them traveling for three years.
Keep in mind that visiting countries where you have a more favorable exchange rate for your local currency can help a great deal in making your money last longer.
8. Consider your job
Quitting your job isn’t for everyone. I appreciate how lucky I am that I can earn income online as I need to. This may not be an option for you, or you may just not want to quit your job. That’s okay! See if there is an option to work remotely or even just take an extended leave of absence (yes, unpaid, it’s really okay!).
Having a month or more off from your job may be just what it’ll take to make you a happier and more productive employee. Tell your boss some larger companies are recognizing the importance of sabbaticals and are rewarding employees with a month off or more, depending on how long they have been with the company. Check and see if your company has a sabbatical program or maybe encourage them to start one. There are so many options, and leaving a job isn’t the end of the world.
Think! There is a way to make it work, you just have to find it.
7. Start saving
I know, saving and budgeting your finances is not glamorous, but it’s an important part of your pre-travels! Here are some tips for this that we found helpful:
Get out of debt if you can.
I completely understand that this is not possible for everyone, especially with the amount of student loans out there, but, take the time to come up with an out of debt plan if you can. The last thing you want is to return with more debt than you had before you left.
Open a rewards credit card.
The only caveat is that you must be able to pay this down every month. If you know that you tend to rack up credit card debt, skip this. The rewards aren’t worth going into high-interest debt for.
If you do open a new credit card with rewards, check for any promotions. Many cards will offer a sign-up bonus of 50-100,000 miles or points when you sign on with them and spend a certain amount during the first few months. This worked well for us, as we were paying for a wedding when we signed up for our card. We hit our bonus with no trouble at all! We love our Chase Sapphire Card, as we get 1 point per purchase, 2 points for any “travel” related purchase, like eating out and transportation, and there are no foreign transaction fees for when we do travel abroad. Do some research on what the best option may be for you.
Cook at home.
We realized we had been spending a lot of money dining out. Little things like buying lunches every day and takeout every week add up. We saved a lot when we really committed one of our weekend days to shopping and meal prepping. Prepping in advance and having food ready when we get home makes it much less tempting to order takeout when we don’t feel like cooking. Having lunches prepped and ready means there is no excuse to buy.
I’m not going to lie…it can suck sometimes and it gets boring. Even though we both enjoy cooking, neither of us love to do it all the time, but the amount we have saved is really worth it!
Sell things you don’t need
Because we are planning on being homeless, we got to really take a look at what we needed and what we didn’t. We chose to move into a much smaller apartment and sell off a few things about a year before our trip. We earned some money from the things we sold and saved on rent for the past year.
6. Prepare emotionally
This is one I hadn’t really thought about. Honestly, I’m more of a leap first, worry later kind of person. While we have received so much support from our friends and family, there is also a fear and self-doubt that arises when faced with the reality of how much life is about to change. For us, we are leaving everything behind. We don’t even know whether we’ll return to Seattle, where we are currently living. It really feels like we are saying goodbye to everything.
Take some self-care time to reflect on the reasons for your trip. Surround yourself with people who are supportive. Seek out communities of other travelers for support if you need it. Chances are they’ve been there, too.
5. Get healthy
Visit your doctor and dentist before you go. Make sure you are up to date on all of your vaccines (and check to see if you need any additional ones in any of the countries you will be visiting) and make sure you have any prescriptions that you need on hand.
Related: Passports, Visas, and Immunizations
Big life changes are stressful! Consider cutting back on caffeine and alcohol to help keep your immune system healthy. Try meditation to help ease your mind. I’ve personally become a huge fan of the app Calm, but there are many other apps out there. You can also just choose to take some time every day to focus on your breath. Whatever works for you, just make time for self-care.
Also, add some yoga and strength training to your workouts. Walk more. Your body will thank you later.
4. Prepare for your trip!
Plan what you will be bringing with you. Do you have to purchase anything additional? Make a list and then bring less. There are a lot of packing resources I’ve found really helpful, like Jackie’s Ultimate Travel Packing List and too many Pinterest boards to count. Practice packing and carrying your luggage. Check flight weight limits for carry-on and checked luggage. Note that many budget airlines are very strict about weight limits. So weigh everything just to be sure.
Check that you can use any electronics you plan on bringing by getting a universal adapter and check with your phone/data plans.
Buy your tickets (hopefully with your credit card reward points!) and book at least your first night or two at your first destination. Looking for accommodation after a 24-48 hours of traveling is no fun at all. Jet lag is no joke!
Related: Packing for Long-Term Travel in a Carry On, Ryanair Baggage Restrictions Have Eased Up, Travel Adapter and Voltage Converter Basics, A Complete Guide to Using Your iPhone Abroad, I Switched to T-Mobile and I’m Not Looking Back, 4 Tips for Beating Jet Lag Fast
3. Organize your finances
Make sure you will be able to access your money from abroad. Have more than one account you can draw from in case anything happens to one of them. Consider opening an account with a bank that will refund any foreign transaction fees, like Charles Schwab. Check with your bank first, they may have a similar program.
And lastly, notify your bank you will be traveling!
Related: How to Access Your Money Overseas, How to Open a Charles Schwab Online Bank Account
2. Finish up any “home things”
Switch any paper bills to electronic or auto-pay. If you are moving, make sure you can access your deposit return from your rental. If you’ve moved out, you will want to have a storage plan for any belongings you’re leaving behind. While we’re selling off most things, we are able to store some keepsakes with my parents. That is a HUGE help!
1. Bon Voyage!
Have a party with your friends to kick off your adventures! Now get on that plane and have a wonderful time!
[hr] Danielle Isbell is a digital marketer and photographer from Seattle, WA. She and her husband are about to begin their digital nomad existence. Their goal is to be international for at least a year and to still have freedom of location when they return to the US.
Her favorite things to do when arriving in a new city are getting lost, checking out local grocery stores, and finding the best coffee shops.
Follow her adventure at Snaps, Scribbles, and Suitcases