Your decision is set in stone: You are going traveling – for a while. With this long term travel checklist you can be sure not to start unprepared into any long term travel experience.
We love long term traveling and almost as much we love planning our trips. Because booking flights, drafting itineraries and mapping out the trip makes the adventure feel close and real. Especially before going on long trips or when entirely living a nomadic lifestyle, there is a few things you should consider before hitting the road.
Leaving a Life Behind
The decision to leave the old life and to head for new shores might seem fairly easy in the first place, because you are excited about the change, the interruption of daily routine life. The second step is to realize what you will leave behind- and to still be excited.
Leaving a job behind is difficult, since it means giving up the comfort of a stable income, financial security and foreseeable future. You need to be aware of the fact that some employers might not be too happy about loosing their employee and that they will likely not offer you to return to the office after several months of traveling. The decision to quit a job should therefore be well thought and make you relieved and happy rather than anxious.
If you are renting an apartement, you must make sure to cancel the contract in time (usually 3 months notice) or find another person to look after it while you are gone. The more property and personal belongings you own, the more difficult will it be to find a house-sitter, pet-sitter etc. Start organizing these things early.
Another story is leaving social life behind. Friends and family will probably say they are very happy for you and that they hope you will have an amazing time, but it does not mean that they understand your decision. They might be worried about you, envy you or simply be afraid of loosing you. Leaving friends and family behind can emotionally be much harder than quitting a job, but it can also bring you and your beloved ones’ closer together and make you realize who will always be there for you, no matter where in the world you live. And it’s not like you are leaving the planet.
If you have given friends, family and your old job a good thought and you are still feeling confident and childishly excited about leaving for a few months, you are emotionally good to go!
Travelling is usually not cheap, unless you decide to hitchhike, do woofing or couchsurf the entire trip. Even if you are feeling committed to do it on a low budget, flights, transportation, food and hostels are still going to cost you a decent amount of money every day and will noticeably affect your bank account, especially if you don’t have any money coming in.
This is where the budgeting comes in. We usually budget with 30-50 $US a day, which includes accommodation, transport and food, but no daily sight seeing or partying. For 6 months of traveling Greg and I would probably calculate 10 grants, just to be safe. However, it is important that you don’t rely entirely on other people’s budgeting, but calculate your own long term travel and living costs.
Of course, how much you will spend does not only depend on your own standards, but on the destination. Travelling through Asia or Central America for example will cost you a lot less than backpacking Africa, Australia or North America.
Travel Documents and Visa
If you are not travelling for the first time, I won’t have to tell you, that you need to make sure your passport is valid for at least another 6 months and more. If that’s not the case, get it extended BEFORE you start packing.
The second important thing to check on before going anywhere, is visa regulations. Most countries don’t require a previous visa application if you are visiting for the purpose of travel and don’t stay longer than 3 months before moving on to the next one. Especially for long term travel, it can be important to look into work visas and requirements for long-term stays. Inform yourself about work and holiday visas and electronic visas that you will need to apply for from your country of residence.
Additional Advice: Make a copy of everything. Passport, ID, Licence, Credit card, Visa Permit.
Health insurance and vaccination
Some people never get sick, and (knock on wood) I rarely do. Anyhow, it would be pretty stupid to go traveling for a longer period without checking your health insurance.
Some private insurances might already provide you with a backup of worldwide coverage, but it is the exception rather than the norm. If you are insured by the government, it is even less likely to have international health insurance, especially outside of Europe.
At this point you will have to decide which train you want to jump on: change to a private, likely pretty expensive insurance company with worldwide cover, or stay with your old one and consider adding a temporary coverage plan for the countries you are looking to explore.
Another precautious, but necessary step would be to check on your current vaccination protection and see if anything could need a refreshment. I am talking of Hepatitis, Tetanus etc. Some regions are also at higher risks for infectious diseases like Malaria and require additional immune protection. Your house doctor will be more than happy to assist you with these questions, but the Internet is also full of information.
Smart Packing for Long Term Travel
My favorite part is the packing. It is not as easy as it might sound though, because packing for long term travel sometimes includes packing for every weather condition.
Some basic advice on long term travel packing:
Without the comfort to wash your clothes whenever, you will need enough clothes to get by for more than 2 weeks.
For backpacking, you might want to consider getting a real backpack. It should not get uncomfortable or too heavy after 10 minutes of walking.
If you want to save on check in luggage for flights, carry-on sized packing is an option. It is extremely hard to pack light, but it is worth it.
Finally, double-check everything. It is impossible to check too many times, unless you are seriously running out of time. These questions can guide you through the final long term travel checklist:
What happens to my old job, apartment, and the life I leave behind?
How much travel budget will I need and how much have I saved up?
Do I have my passport and is it valid for more than 6 months?
Have I checked on and -if necessary- applied for a visa?
Is my health insurance valid internationally or have I added travel coverage?
Is the country I am traveling to a risk country for infectious diseases?
How do I want to travel – light, comfortable, well prepared?
Is my travel pack list complete (travel documents, passport, credit cards)?
All this precaution and pre-organizing might seem a little excessive – and maybe it is. Of course, you could also just pack your things and drive to the airport. It would probably be as exciting, but you might have to come home after a few weeks. You might run out of money or you simply forgot that nobody has agreed on feeding your cat…
Speaking for myself, I still find that the greatest pleasure lies in the anticipation. I am excited to hear about your travel planning tips and packing advice. Please let me know what your experiences with long term travel packing is and what I am missing on my check list.