Close your eyes for a minute and imagine this: It’s 8 a.m. You roll to the edge of the bed and flick your eyes open. The sun is coming in full strength through the window, only it’s not your bedroom window, just a hole in the wall really, with shutters flung open and warm breeze streaming through. Possibly, there are birds singing or water lapping at a dock not far away.
Slowly it dawns on you. You don’t have to go to work. You don’t have to check your email, file any paperwork or answer any calls. Heck, you don’t even need coffee. You’ve escaped the rat race. You’re free now. The world is yours.
This could be you.
Step One: The Dreaming Stage
1. Dream a little dream
Planning for long term travel is almost as good as travel itself. It’s easy to rush through this critical phase. Take your time. Allow your plans to marinate. Ask friends about their favourite cities. Take some language classes. Check out some guidebooks from the library. Watch some exotic movies. Let the dream ripen.
2. Make a list of all the countries you’d like to visit
Then, pare it down to a number that corresponds nicely to your time and budget allowances. Don’t get carried away with seeing the whole world. There’s plenty of time for that. Travel is about more than checking a bunch of countries off a list, but you’ll figure that out later.
3. Look for a variety of experiences
You’ll get tired of beaches after a while. Leave some room for bigger adventures when the lure of sand and surf wears off.
4. Consider the weather and time of year
Consider the weather of your destination(s). Bouncing across hemispheres also means bouncing between summer and winter. Is it monsoon season in Tunisia? Are you planning to backpack Tibet in the middle of winter? All this translates to one very heavy suitcase. Weather will have an impact on how much clothing you have to pack. Find the middle ground. After a few countries, flights and luggage mishaps, you’ll be glad you didn’t decide to ski and surf.
5. Set a date
Be flexible. Decide what month you’d like to leave and go from there.
Step Two: Procure the Ticket
1. Start shopping at the earliest date possible
Having a ticket makes your dream tangible. It helps you stay motivated. Give yourself time to wait for the best possible deal. Talk to travel agents. Sign up to alerts on a couple of different apps.
2. Do some research
Star Alliance Mileage Calculator and OneWorld Timetable and Itinerary Planner are excellent, no-cost tools for price-shopping round-the-world airfares. Even at $2,000 – $10,000, RTW tickets are usually significantly cheaper than booking each flight individually. The cheapest tickets fly between major travel hubs like London, Los Angeles and Shanghai. Keep in mind that the further you go off the beaten track, the more expensive the ticket. The limit is usually 16 stops, over a minimum of ten days and a maximum of one year.
3. Purchase your round-the-world ticket
If you’re travelling long term and budget is an issue, plan to spend more time in less expensive countries. (Hint: Brazil is a good access point to South America). Avoid Heathrow, if possible, since the high airport taxes will inflate the price of the ticket.
4. Stay open
Date and time changes are usually free with RTW tickets, and often you can re-route the whole ticket for a fee. Be open to the changes. You might fall in love with Australia. You might find your dream job in Belarus. You might take a lover in Mauritius. You might just decide to stick around awhile. But be aware that if you miss a flight, it’s likely the rest of your flights will be cancelled. Keep the airlines au courant.
Step Three: Funding Your Adventure
If the work is there and you’ve got the patience, this is an excellent option. Seasonal work is great since it’s generally well-paid with ample time for fun. Every country has some work of this kind, be it tree planting in Canada or trawling for prawns in Australia. With a working visa, you can even do it abroad.
2. Ditch your apartment
This step is especially important if you plan to travel long term. So much will change while you are away. You might meet someone, find a job or fall in love with a city and decide to stay there. It’ll save a lot of stress if you don’t have to worry about paying rent or transferring your lease from the other side of the world.
3. Sell your stuff
Let go. Sell it cheap. After being away a few months, you’ll hardly remember what it was you thought you would miss so much.
4. Get a working visa
Many countries have these and they’re not normally difficult to get, particularly if you’re under 30 or from a commonwealth country and travelling to another commonwealth country. This will come in very handy when your savings run low and your belly starts to growl.
5. Be prepared to improvise
You don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s the magic of travel. You might try WOOFING (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in the U.S. or teaching english in Japan. Most people find they can get by on very little while travelling. When the money runs out, there will always be some opportunity waiting. Learn to trust. The hardest part is getting on the plane.