So you’re thinking of taking the plunge and travelling the world, hey? You’ve just finished university – congratulations! – or you’ve convinced your boss to take a sabbatical and join the millennials of the Lost World Tribe. You don’t know exactly where or how long you will go; all you have is a rough plan.
A few destinations that you absolutely can’t miss. Welcome to the World of Wanderers – if there’s one thing I can guarantee, it’s that you won’t regret it. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I regret traveling?” No. Nobody ever said that.
While I applaud you for your spontaneity and willingness to take a leap of faith unto unknown foreign lands, there is also a degree of preparation that will only assist you on your journey to come. Some are things I wish I had done or known and some are things I’m glad I did.
Clear any debts
It is not okay to take out a personal loan to go travelling the world. It is not okay to travel on multiple credit cards and assume you will pick up a job on the other side to pay it back. You don’t want that hanging over your head. If you have any debt, clear it first. Pick up a second job, work nights and weekends, move back home with your parents – whatever it takes to pay off credit card debt and loans, etc. Dreams require sacrifice, and it will be all the sweeter when you get there.
The exception to the no debt rule is FEE-HELP (if you’re Australian). FEE-HELP debt will not adversely affect your credit rating, so you can pay it back when you’re back in the country. If you are located in the US, my understanding is that student loans DO affect your credit rating – here’s an article by travel blogger Adventurous Kate to help you make a decision as to whether you should travel before paying back your student loans.
Have significant savings
Yes, the first two are money related. Here’s a truth: traveling will cost at least 1.5 times more than you have budgeted for. Yes, you should be frugal in your spending overseas. Yes, you should find ways to cut your costs. However don’t calculate your budget at the bare minimum – you will not want to stay in hostel dorms or eat street food the whole time.
Most of the time, sure – if that’s your travel style. However sometimes you will ache for a nice hotel room, a nice meal at a nice restaurant. You might meet up with friends who are on holiday from their corporate jobs and you may want to spend a weekend splurging with them.
Obviously the choice is yours, and you may be perfectly happy on a bare bones budget most of the time; however it is always nice to have the option to spend more on creature comforts when you want it. Not to mention, the cash to back you up when things go wrong – and things, my friend, will go wrong.
Non-negotiable. If you’re travelling the world for a year it will probably cost you upwards of $1000 – which is nothing in the unlikely scenario you need to be med-evaced to your home country.
Hopefully you will not be in such a dramatic situation – however it’s handy even if your luggage is lost, flight is delayed, or need an emergency dental treatment. A year is a long time – chances, are you will need your travel insurance. At the very least, the peace of mind that comes with that.
Have some goals
I hear “travel” being spoken of as a grand goal of many, however wandering aimlessly around the planet will only make you wonder why you are doing this in the first place. Humans are most inspired when working toward something. Do you want to live in Argentina and learn to Tango? Live in Rome and learn to speak Italian or cook pasta from scratch?
Do you want to volunteer and make a difference? Work as a Dive Master in Thailand? Do you want to blog about your travels and work on your photography skills? Whatever your passions, let them challenge you.
Become good at something, or a few things that will stay with you long after your feet are firmly back on the ground.
Don’t forget about life about travel
Do live in the moment as much as you can – travel has a way of opening up your eyes to things you never knew you’d see. Keep in mind that this lifestyle is temporary – soak up the magic as much as you can.
Perhaps you will continue to travel for many years – there are certainly many successful people who work online and live nomadically. Perhaps that lifestyle if for you. Then again, perhaps it isn’t – and that’s okay. Perhaps you have a career you can continue in another country – look at your visa opportunities.
If you’re Australian and under 31 you can work in many countries in Europe, UK, Canada, Japan, South Korea, China or even USA (if you’re a fresh graduate).
Don’t go thinking you will “find yourself”
I’m sorry, however no. You will not “find yourself” out there. You will lose yourself – and so you should. Then you will create yourself. A splendid combination of who you are, the person you want to be, and the people and situations you allow yourself to be influenced by.
It is a wonderful thing, to have so much exposure to so many different lifestyles, cultures, customs and traditions. You will find out how capable you are, how strong you are; you will find out what makes you happy and what doesn’t.
However ultimately you will be exposed to a series of choices of which, you will make the best decisions drawing on the knowledge and experiences you have at the time while travelling the world. You will not come home and have all the answers. However you will grow as a person. You will be better, stronger and wiser.