So you’ve decided to start travelling the world. Now what?
I’ve been cruising around the web looking for interesting travel and living stories for my friend M who is about to launch her start-up (I’m excited for her, more details once its up!). Looking around, I realized a lot of the successful travel bloggers are the ones who have “finally quit my job and decided I needed to see the world”. Followed up of course with “Travel blogging doesn’t bring you a lot of money”.. which of course is true and “world travelling is not cheap”… also true. Incidentally, my other friend K just decided to resign and is likely to travel the world. K, you will never regret it. I thought I would share my thoughts on how to do it.
1) Decide what kind of traveller you are
This may be a bit of a catch-22 given you may not have actually embarked on full scale travelling yet. I find that you have two options for long term travelling. You could be a hub and spoke kind of traveller, or a point to point kind of traveller.
(Hub and spoke vs. point to point travelling)
A hub and spoke traveller is someone who sets up a home base somewhere, and then travels to places close to the home base, always with the option of returning home. Personally I have always been this kind of traveller. I set-up base in Chicago, then travelled around America, set-up base in Kuala Lumpur, and used it to travel around Asia, set-up base in Amsterdam and used it to travel around Europe. In each of these places, I had long term commitments, rented a house, unpacked all my things and made local friends. It was great because as you all know, I place a lot of emphasis on trying to look good (decent) while travelling and like to mix up my wardrobe a bit. It was good to know you have an entire array of shoes, handbags and clothes (and if you’re lucky a man!) waiting for you somewhere.
After so much travelling, travel fatigue tends to hit as well and you may get tired of moving around so much, unpacking and repacking, and sick of the same old pants you’ve been lugging around. I tend to get homesick as well, if for nothing else, just the basic comfort of having something familiar and seeing familiar sights and faces. Why do you think McDonalds are successful all around the world? Don’t lie, I know your heart sometimes lights up at the sight of the golden arches after weeks of travelling and eating local food only.
A point to point traveller is someone who is constantly on the go. Nomadic in the best definition of the word. Most of the P2P travellers tend to spend longer times in a location then a H&S traveller (except for home base) and thus may be able to see more sights. P2P travellers tend to also be more flexible with their time and location. Met somebody interesting on your solo trip and want to travel together? sure! why not! feel like heading over to Mendoza for the vineyards vs. staying in Buenos Aires? feel free to change your mind whenever you want. Probably best for someone who can truly live out of one backpack for months on end, and is always ready to be on the go-go-go! I think its still most helpful to have some kind of loose goal in mind – i.e. will be in Asia by July to have something to look forward and measure your time by.
To find out which one you are, look back on some of the longer term travelling you’ve done over different countries. How did you feel at the end of it generally? like it was time to go home? or you can’t wait to keep moving? that probably would help indicate which traveller you are.
2) Decide how to pay for it
World travelling isn’t cheap. Trying to do it in a stylish manner is even less cheap. While I was trying to decide on how to do my year off, I actually did a basic calculation. How much would I need to eat daily, how much for accommodations, how much for flights/ trains/ bus tickets/ subway passes, how much extra do I need for urm… extras, like museum tickets!
European branded goods outlet stores! I quickly came to the realization that I seriously couldn’t afford a whole year off in Europe gallivanting the way I really wanted to. So, I was left with the option of either living the dream in Asia (where your money still stretches out a bit) or finding a ‘job’. If you are a lucky trust fund kid, then lucky you, and you should have skipped this entire section. If not, proceed to number 3.
3) Find some income on the side
When I was in college, I would subject myself to one-off psychology tests. Notice I said psychology and not psychiatry. They were quick one hour things, where you most of the time play a little game on a computer to help measure your judgments, and paid 10 -15 dollars an hour. Why not? Luckily for me, when I decided for my year off, my employers were wonderfully supportive about helping me find a secondment position. I wanted to do something good for the world for a change (not that my old job did evil or anything), so my company helped set-me up with WWF. Other NGO’s I would highly recommend for most professionals with work experience is Endeavor and TechnoServe (apparently a pre-MBA favorite). You get to live in the country of your choice, help local entrepreneurs with their business, gain some experience in the start-up world (pump up your CV), AND! get paid! Again, don’t expect much, but it should typically be enough to at least cover the roof over your head and some food in your belly if you budget appropriately. Leaving you to use your savings on other fun things! like shopping!
4) Make local friends
This can be really daunting. Here you are, a grown up man/woman having to introduce yourself and make small talk. Who do you even talk to? You can’t just randomly walk up to some guy/ girl and say hey and expect to be best travel buddies. If your have identified yourself as a P2P traveller, chances are you have also chosen to travel in similar communities of hostels and backpackers and can easily meet people there in the common rooms. If you are a H&S traveller, I strongly recommend you brace yourself and go for a Meetup near you. It may seem daunting, but I went for a Meetup event of choice the day after I landed in Amsterdam. I met a wonderful girl K that night and regaled her with stories of deep fried Scorpian snacks in Beijing. Somehow that got me an invitation to a Halloween party where I met her other friends (and subsequently they became my closest friends there) who also invited me out to an 80’s/ 90’s themed party where I met the man of my life.
Before I went to Amsterdam, I had also emailed all my friends to tell them I was mo ving there and to introduce me to friends they may have that are based there. I assumed that if I were friends with them, and I wasnt that bad a person, their friends cant be that bad as well right? Plus with social networking these days, you can always check them up first to see if you have similar interests.
5) Plan (some things) in advance
(The cute local apartment I stayed at in Vienna, courtesy of Airbnb)
My man and I differ completely on this. I am a super hyper organized traveller (I’ve almost locked down all travels for 2013) and he is a more laid back kind of traveller. In general, there really is no ‘right’ way to travel, but I do suggest that somethings need to be planned in advance. Accommodation is something I typically plan in advance given that hotels tend to price up the closer to the date it gets. Of course, if you are in Europe, I strongly recommend using Airbnb for cheaper, and more authentic digs. Plus if you get one with a kitchen you can cook as well. Flight tickets is another one I tend to plan in advance as well, but typically because I’m REALLY antsy if I don’t have a confirmed ticket back. Also do some basic check-ups on festivals and events and dates. Wouldn’t you HATE knowing you left Chiang Mai the day before Loi Krathong?!
However, even on these things I understand how you don’t really need to plan things in advance (especially if you’re a P2P traveller), but do note that there are some dates you MUST plan around. Christmas, New Years and also Chinese New Year for those in Asia (typically in mod Feb).
Hopefully this shows you that you don’t have to necessarily take a full plunge if you want to have some time to yourself travelling around, which then shows you, taking time off is possible!