Hi again! I am back to tell you more about how I am preparing for long-term travel. As I said in my first post, it can be a daunting task. I am still in the thick of it, but hopefully this post will help make a little more sense of it all!
Of course, I have spent countless hours researching travel tips and destinations, and planning my trip. I have read so much information I’m sure it is all going to spill out of my brain any minute and I’ll be left with no travel knowledge. Of course I know this won’t happen, but sometimes the amount of information out there is overwhelming! Don’t let that discourage you, though. The time and effort it takes to truly prepare and do your research will be well worth it in the long run.
I have learned a lot about budget travel and travel hacking since I started planning my trip ten months ago. Travel blogs, travel books, and Pinterest are all great resources. I have also gotten connected with other travelers and travel bloggers through social media, which I will discuss further in my next post.
There is a TON of information out there about backpacking & long-term travel. It’s amazing how many people there are who have done exactly what I’m trying to do. I’ve learned a lot and have been inspired from reading several travel blogs. It’s a daily reminder that people just like me have sold all their belongings and quit their jobs to travel the world, and that I can do it too. These are my favorites so far:
I have read a few travel books – not any boring travel guide books though! The best one by far is How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt. I highly recommend getting this book – I have been hoarding a copy from my local library for four months now (sorry not sorry) and keep referring back to it. The book is divided up into chapters with generalized budget travel tips, and then the second section goes into destination-specific detail for regions all over the world.
And of course there’s Pinterest – I have multiple travel-related boards on my new Kansas Girl Travels World Pinterest account. I mostly find travel tips here, but I also make a new board for each destination and pin activities and accommodations I am interested in, as well as budget travel tips for that specific location.
Above just reading things online or in books, I ask! There are tons of well-versed travelers out there who are willing to help you out. Send them an email, tweet them, or comment on their blog. I have found that the travel community in general is very welcoming and open to answering questions from newbies.
One thing I have done a fair amount of research on is visa requirements in the various countries I plan on visiting. I am not an expert by any means, but I will share with you what I have learned so far.
In Australia you can get a tourist visa or a work visa for up to one year. I got a tourist visa which will allow me to stay up to three months, as well as leave and re-enter the country. I applied online, paid $135 USD, and it was approved within a few days. I also looked at the work and holiday visa, which is $440. I decided against this since I am not planning on staying in Australia for an extended period of time.
I have not visited or applied for any visas in Southeast Asia, so I have no first-hand experience with this. From what I have read online, in most (but not all) countries in this region you can get a 30-90 day visa on site upon arrival, and they range in price from free to $70 USD. Check out this comprehensive post about visas in SE Asia from Goats on the Road for more information.
In Europe, 26 countries are members of the Schengen Area. Basically what that means is that you can travel freely throughout those borders without stamping your passport – similar to traveling between states in the US – and you do not have to enter and exit in the same country. Within a 180 period you may travel the Schengen Area for a total of 90 days. Note: your time does not start over if you exit and re-enter! US citizens do not have to purchase a tourist visa to travel within the Schengen Area.
There are some European Union (EU) countries that are not part of Schengen, as well as some non-EU countries that are part of Schengen. Check out the map I made of the Schengen Area below. Whatever you do, double check the visa requirements for any country you plan to visit well ahead of time! I have not developed a plan yet, but I will be bouncing in and out of Schengen Area countries to maximize my time in and around Europe.
Another part of long-term travel prep is making sure you have the right gear. I am NOT going out and buying all new clothes, but there are some key things I did not already have.
The most important purchase I have made is my travel backpack. I bought the Osprey Farpoint 55 Liter Travel Pack from REI for $180. The best part about this backpack, in my opinion, is that it has a removable day pack (smaller backpack) which is incredibly handy, and the zippers on the pack allow you to open it almost like a suitcase. I also love that the pack’s straps can be stored with a zippered rear flap that rolls up into the bottom of the pack when not in use.
I bought packing cubes, which have changed the way I pack forever. If you’re traveling, whether or not it’s long-term, I urge you to try these. Your bags will never be more organized! Not only are they great for clothes, the small cubes help me keep random little things in my bag together.
My next favorite purchase has been the 3-ounce GoToob travel bottles from HumanGear. They are made of flexible silicone and they won’t pop open in your bag. I have also bought a luggage scale, luggage locks, and a camping spork.
I plan to sell my old laptop and camera and trade them in for new ones, and I am on the hunt for a great pair of walking shoes that are also cute (I’m seriously considering forking over the cash for a pair of gold Tieks). Other than that I am using what I have. I figure if the flip flops, sunglasses, or clothes I’ve been wearing here at home give out on me, I can buy some new ones wherever I am!
Planning – Destinations & Activities
I have not yet done a lot of research on specific activities I want to do in certain areas, but the resources mentioned above are a great place to start for this type of planning as well. Most travel blogs have destination-specific sections, and there are a slew of destination-specific travel books available.
Whenever I see a post on Facebook or Twitter about a place I plan on visiting, I always like to check it out for tips and information on things to do. There are certain activities I definitely want to do; at the top that list is snorkeling. I have never been and can’t wait to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef and other tropical destinations!
Like I mentioned previously, experienced travelers and travel bloggers are a great resource. Another surefire way to get information and advice is to ask locals! I like to follow people (travelers or not) on social media who are from where I am going. I also follow tourist accounts for those specific locations. Then don’t be afraid to engage with them! Tweet them, message them, etc. The worst that can happen is someone doesn’t respond. Then, if you build a relationship with someone online, you may just be lucky enough to have a friend to meet up with on your travels!
As far as specific travel plans after Melbourne (my first stop), that is kind of up in the air. I do have a rough itinerary of where I want to go and my timeline, but I am a very spontaneous person so I will not be making concrete plans too far ahead of time. The general idea is Australia for 4-6 weeks traveling up the east coast with a possible trip to New Zealand thrown in there, then Southeast Asia (Bali first!) for 2-3 months, and up to Europe after that!
I have started to research transportation options in various locations online, but have not dug deep into this yet. For example, I am contemplating getting a rail pass to travel up the east coast of Australia, but I am also still holding on to my dream of meeting like-minded travelers and going in on a campervan to travel up the coast!
In general, I like to do a simple Google search to find local websites pertaining to public and national transport systems in various locations. Again, travel blogs are also a good resource for information on transportation.
I will start more detailed planning over the next couple months, but right now my focus is mainly on making and saving money, and spending time with friends and family before I go.
Vaccinations and Travelers’ Insurance
If you are able to, start your vaccinations six months before you travel, in case there are any shots that need two rounds six months apart. The one vaccination I got that needs to be six months apart is Hepatitis A – I started five months pre-departure, but fortunately the second dose can be given at a later date, and I am still covered with only one round, just for a shorter period of time. So, if you are not able to get vaccinated that far in advance, do not worry! Most shots only need one round, just make sure you give it a few weeks before traveling to take full effect.
I have found that most travel vaccinations can be received at your local health department. I chose the health department over my doctor’s office because they are set up to do travel vaccinations, whereas a doctor’s office may not be.
The only vaccine I was not able to get locally was Japanese Encephalitis, which I am getting since I will be spending an extended period of time in Southeast Asia. If you run into this problem, search online for a travel clinic near you, and they should have you covered. I was able to find on in Kansas City, which is only 45 minutes from where I live. Note, this shot requires two rounds one month apart. I do recommend the health department over a travel clinic for the majority of your vaccines, as I have been told it is much cheaper.
Whatever you do, speak with your healthcare provider about where you are going and what vaccinations are right for you! I am not a medical professional and you should not base your vaccination decisions solely on my advice!
Coinciding with your health is travelers’ insurance. No matter what you do or how long (or short) your trip is, if you are traveling overseas, get travel insurance! The general consensus I see online is that World Nomads is a great choice. Experienced travel bloggers I trust, such as Nomadic Matt, use World Nomads and have for years. There are other companies, but I have not looked into them much.
Over the last several months I have searched for prices from one to twelve months a few times, to determine the cheapest per-month option. Each time I have come to the same conclusion: buying travel insurance for six months at a time will give you the lowest cost per month. I have not purchased insurance yet, but I will be buying it for six months at a time. See the graph below for a breakdown of price-per-month costs.