Planning a long-term adventure is both hugely exciting and overwhelmingly daunting. At the moment the idea is conceived and when you begin to sense that it is actually a viable option, the sense of anticipation is enourmous and you feel on top of the world. But the moment you sit down and begin to look at the practicalities, a gulf opens up between where you are and getting to a point where the trip will be a success. But it’s not an impossible task. I am one of the least planning-oriented people there is, far but when taking an extended trip, some things simply have to be taken care of in advance. So here’s a bare-minimum, easy-to-do guide which will help you take care of the essentials and leave you free to dream about your trip!
Now, long-term doesn’t necessarily equal long-haul, but it often does and in this case, it pays to sort out your flights early. The flights can account for a significant percentage of your overall budget and the hope of getting a cheap last-minute deal is not worth the stress. Booking early will give you time to shop around, check airline reviews and see what options are available to you, as well as giving yourself time to be flexible with your dates to get the best deals – and this should be your first priority. This also makes the dream a reality – once you have that confirmation email, there’s no going back. The euphoria at this moment is hard to describe, but you might just find yourself telling anyone – and everyone – in the vicinity.
2. Work and Visas
Are you planning to work or volunteer while you’re away? While opportunities for both can be found on the road, if this is a key part of your trip, then advance planning will make sure it’s the experience of a lifetime rather than a disaster. If you’re planning to volunteer, read up carefully about the ethical issues surrounding volontourism and look for independent, local organizations to contact directly. If you’re planning to work seriously, then check the visa requirements surrounding working in a particular country – you don’t want to end your trip before it’s really begun in some kind of immigration mess. General visa requirements should be checked and, if necessary, visas applied for well in advance. That’s two more big things to tick off the list and one less headache in the days leading up to the trip!
Now, unless you want your dream trip to become a disease-ridden nightmare, get your vaccinations sorted in good time. Some, like the Rabies vaccine, need to be given over the course of a month and many need to be given at least 2-3 weeks before travel. Factor in the fact that you can’t have all of them at once, and you need to visit your health clinic well in advance of your travel date. Check requirments and recommendations for individual countries – Bolivia, for example requires travellers to have a Yellow Fever certificate if they have visited an at-risk area. Make sure you’re aware of mosquito bite prevention and seek advice on getting malaria tablets depending on the regions you plan to visit. Phew, diseases dealt with, you’re on your way to a worry-free, limitless trip!
How on earth do you pack for several months away? While the exact details will depend heavily on the kind of trip you have in mind, one rule is foolproof: less is always best. I know, it’s been said a thousand times before, but it is true. If choosing between a suitcase and a backpack, a backpack wins hands down. I was strictly a suitcase girl before my long-term travel, but there’s no way I could have got around some places I went with a suitcase – the thought of it makes me shiver. If there’s anything you’re unsure about taking, don’t put it in ‘just in case’. You will find a way to survive without it – or you’ll buy another. Losing your attachment to material possessions is something to conquer before you start packing.
Now, I am a real-book lover – you know, the old fashioned kind with actual pages – but when travelling, a Kindle or similar is a blessing. You can take an entire library with you and it doesn’t weigh a thing. Oh, and lose the guidebook. While great for poring over in the days leading up to your trip, it’s much better to explore for yourself when you get there, and those things are like bricks. It’s not worth it. I took mine, I think as a security-blanket thing, and it didn’t get any further than the train going to the airport, where I ‘accidentally’ left it behind – leaving me to begin my trip with a delicious sensation of rebelliousness (yes, I’ve led a pretty straight-laced life) and of complete freedom. What could be a better start?
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What are your tips for long-term travel? Have you had any moments which made you wiser?