I have been planning an extended international trip (I phrase it this way, because as of now, I STILL have no definite plans anywhere, although Australia, Europe, and Asia are all a possibility) for some time now, and I have learned some things. Some of these things are deeper than others. Some of these things probably seem like common sense. But all of them are things I’ve learned as a result of planning this trip, and every single one has brought me some level of strugs at some point or the other, so now I share them with you, hoping that they will decrease your strugs at least a little bit.
1.) Understand that your plans will never depend on just you. I mean, you can hope they will. But more than likely there are people in your life who express concern over your plans, and people at your destination to consider as well. You aren’t an island, and travel planning is a time when this becomes irritatingly clear.
2.) If you’re going for an extended time period, plan to get rid of stuff before you go. Are you traveling for a long time? Do an overhaul of all your stuff. Figure out what you need and what you don’t need, and promptly dispose of the latter. I promise, you don’t want to come home to a place full of old decrepit crap.
3.) Be realistic. If you’ve got a budget, stick to it! If you need to save money for one adventure or the other, DO SO. Don’t half ass this. And be honest about your expectations for when you leave. If you’re trying to survive for x amount of time on y amount of money, just be real with yourself and put together a plan for how to do that.
4.) You’re still Jenny from the Block. You may be getting ready to see the world, but there’s probably still a few people at home you don’t want to forget. Get permanent addresses from people. If you know you want to keep in touch with some people, just shoot them a postcard every now and again; people love getting mail, and it’ll keep a link between you.
5.) Start making a packing list the minute you start planning. Obviously, by the time it’s actually time to pack you’ll have either a gigantic monster of a list, or, a la me, you will have about eight hundred small lists scattered about randomly. But the thing is, EVERYTHING will be on there. Put everything together, and pare it down until you have one normal sized list. With this method, you can be pretty well assured you haven’t forgotten much, and you’ll be consistently dreaming of your trip for months in advance, so hurray!
6.) Itineraries are a good idea. So are embassies. Wherever you are, register with your embassy (because once you become a foreign national, you suddenly become VERY important diplomatically speaking), and have a vague idea of where you’re going when. This will not only keep you from making unnecessary expenditures due to a ticket you didn’t realize you needed to buy, it will also be a tool to let people know where you are. Even if you ARE trying to lose the people around you, the fact is that if you’re FORREAL FORREAL LOST, you want them to be able to find you.
7.) Airline miles are important. Get a credit card that helps you generate more miles; you’ll get to see more places for very slightly less, and if you’re planning to travel quite a bit, it’s (probably) more than worth it! (Editor’s note: I haven’t done this yet. But the internet tells me to, and so I shall.)
8.) The bottom line is, there will always be someone to tell you that your destination isn’t safe. Primarily because there are very few places in the world that are a hundred percent safe, and very few of these places are worth seeing. There will always be people pooh-poohing your travel plans and pissing on your parade. Do it anyway; if this is what you want, find a way to make it happen. Find a way to be as safe as possible wherever you’re going, and give yourself permission to disappoint people every so often. Nothing is impossible. Are there places you want to see and things you want to do? Don’t let money, or life, or whatever, stop you. Just prioritize – if travel comes out on top of all else, make a commitment to that. Make it happen, and don’t let the haterz stop you from doin’ yo’ thang.
Happy Travels :)