The idea of packing up and hitting the road in the current economic climate is seriously intimidating. Everyone will probably tell you that you’re mad but It’s not crazy to explore your options at all. If you’ve always wanted to travel for a prolonged period and get a more authentic experience that the average seven- to ten-day vacation permits, to get a real feel for the people, the issues, and the lifestyle of a destination, you can make it happen regardless of the circumstances.
Just be sure to take the time to get your personal affairs in order before walking out the front door with your backpack. If you leave everything behind in a shambled mess, rest assured that shambled mess will have accumulated exponentially into nightmarish proportions on return! As the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”.
Reaction of Family - Your family will naturally begin to worry as soon as you reveal your intention to travel abroad. They may have mixed emotions – pride that you’re taking a bold, independent step, fear you are doing the exact same thing and concern for your well-being and safety. They may even suffer a little jealousy that you have the ability to do it, especially if they haven’t enjoyed the same opportunity you intend to grasp. Perhaps they will worry you will fall in love with someone, never to return! Soften the blow by being patient with them and putting their minds at ease by keeping them informed. Plan the trip with them, show them maps, your intended path of travel, points of interest for you. Discuss your hopes, aspirations and expectations. Chat over their concerns regarding adequate preparation, health and safety issues, and what happens in an emergency situation. Showing that you are thoroughly prepared will go a long way to easing their concerns and talking about the trip with definitely help build your confidence leading up to it.
Power of Attorney – This is not as serious as it sounds! Just be sure to give the authority to a trusted individual (such as mum or dad) to pay off bills, gain access to your bank accounts if needed, handle tax affairs or any legal matters that may arise while you’re away. Ensure your responsibilities are covered. Ensure you’ve paid any outstanding fines.
Housekeeping – if you are leaving for an extended period and own your own place, think about subleasing your room, allowing extra money for your travels. A great place to advertise for a short-term tenant is in backpacker hostels. If you aren’t returning to the house, you’re going to need somewhere for the temporary storage of your gear. Ensure you have paid any outstanding bills or arranged someone responsible to cover them for you while you’re away. If you have a car, get someone to take it for an occasional drive. Arrange for someone to take care of your pets and plants if you have any. Leave your keys somewhere you will remember. If you live by yourself, arrange for someone to collect your post, clear your answering machine messages and keep an eye-out on your possessions.
Elections – if you know an election will be held while you’re traveling, and you wish to exercise your democratic right to vote (if you have that luxury), organise a postal or absentee vote.
Work – Thanks to technology, many people can work from any desk, regardless of its longitude and latitude. If this is applicable to your job and when you’re ready to present this ‘working from afar’ masterplan to your boss, also be ready with statistics about companies who provide flexible work environments to staff and solid evidence that a happy employee is a loyal and productive employee! If your employer is less inclined, consider working abroad … for someone else. Volunteering is a rewarding and practical option, and lodging and meals are often completely free. While helping others and other causes, you are also helping yourself!
Learn to rough it a little - Have an easy to manage haircut that doesn’t require a hairdryer or mountains of product and time to style and for the ladies, keep your make-up kit and jewelery to the minimum.
Season - Be realistic about what you want from this experience - are you a beach bum or ski bunny? Always make sure you know what weather to expect in your chosen destinations. This is also really important when choosing flights; off-season is obviously cheaper, but shoulder season (right before or right after your destination’s prime season) can deliver a cheap deal and a great experience too.