Ten Things To Think About Before Your Next Trip.1. Do I really need to quit my job?
In most cases the answer to this question will be an unsurprising, YES! As supportive as your managers may be, the reality is they will probably have found your replacement before you have even had time to arrange your leaving drinks - in most cases.
However have you thought about asking if you can take an unpaid sabbatical? Some employers will support this, and it could make the idea of ‘up and leaving’ slightly less daunting if you have something to fall back on in twelve months time.
Start off by having an informal chat with your line manager, and if this is something they are happy to support, then the next stage will be to speak to Human Resources. If you already plan on going, what’s the worst they can say?
2. Backpack vs Suitcase.
It’s the age-old debate!
If you are going to be away for six months or more, a backpack will be easier to get around with; if you are only going for a couple of months, or will be staying in one or two places, a suitcase is probably a better option.
Me, if I’m backpacking around, you guessed it, I will always favour a backpack. But if I’m going on a more traditional holiday I tend to stick to a standard suitcase. The smaller the better, and definitely something on wheels.
3. What to pack?
Less really is more, so travel light! In my experience you will almost certainly end up taking more than you need. As a rule of thumb I try not to take more that two of anything. Two pairs of shoes, two pairs of jeans, two jumpers, two casual t-shirts, two dresses, two smarter tops…. You will probably want to take more than two sets of underwear, especially as your stomach adjusts itself to the local cuisine.
If you start off light, you will have room to buy new things along the way. Things like clothes are likely to be cheaper on your travels.
Take something to read, but you don’t need to take your entire library. Take one or two books that you would be happy to swap with other travellers when you’re done. I know a Kindle might be the more practical option, but they are a little antisocial if you are looking for a talking point. Other things that you might want to take; a power bar, a portable speaker, a laptop or tablet… but trust me, you will live without them.
What you might not be able to live without is an inflatable pillow, sleeping mask, international adapter, and baby wipes to freshen up. It might also be worth packing a change of clothes in your hand luggage for when you arrive. You never know.
4. Know where you’re going.
No doubt you will have done a decent amount of research before booking your flights; the weather, the food, the best places to see. But make sure that you understand some of the do’s & don’ts of the culture you are visiting. Upsetting the locals because you haven’t done your homework just isn’t worth it and can be easily avoided.
I would thoroughly recommend getting yourself a Rouge Guide for the country you are visiting well in advance. And if you know someone who has already been to the area, take a few hours to sit down with them and your guidebook and listen to their stories. They will be able to tell you what to expect, where to go, and what to avoid in a way that your guidebook can’t. Get them to highlight places to stay or foods you should try.
If anything it will get you even more excited for your trip than you already are!!
5. Get travel fit.
No one gives a fuck if you are ‘beach body ready’. You don’t need to be an iron man tri-athlete. But you should know (if you don’t already) that travelling will be physically demanding.
Your sleeping patterns will be disturbed, you will be staying in lots of different places, with varying levels of comfort and facilities, you are more than likely going to go out partying a fair bit, or spend more time walking around than you usually do. You will also have a brand new diet to adjust to, and so it is really worth getting physically prepared for your trip. Even if you just start walking to work once a week, or go for the odd bike ride, opt for salad over chips in the months before. You could stop smoking – but you should probably do that anyway. There is no one more self-righteous than an ex-smoker.
In a similar vein, make sure that you visit your GP and get proper medical advice before you go. Your doctor will be able to tell you what vaccinations you will need to travel, and other advice for the countries you will be visiting. Do this well in advance as some vaccinations will require repeat doses.
You might also want to have your eyes tested and visit your dentist before you go away. It will give you that extra bit of peace of mind, and will be much easier to get any work done before you go, rather than getting caught out while you’re away.
6. Call your bank.
No one wants to have their card cancelled by the bank. It is hugely inconvenient, and even more so if you are on the other side of the world. Make a quick call to your bank to let them know where you will be so that your funds don’t get cancelled while you are travelling. Your bank will also be able to tell you if it is better to take a debit card or credit card with you. Some banks can also offer you a preferential rate while you are away.
If in doubt take a mixture of cash, credit/debit card or a Fairfx prepaid card. And if all else fails, leave some money with a friend or family member who can send it to you in an emergency.
7. Get travel insurance.
If you cannot afford travel insurance, you cannot afford to travel. Simple. If something does happen while you’re away, and you are not insured then your trip will come to a sharp, swift, stop. And you will be on the next plane home with your tail between your legs.
There are plenty of places where you can get a comprehensive cover for anything up to 18 months. There are literally 1000’s of blogs and comparison sites that will help you find the best deal. It will be the most valuable thing you take with you.
8. Take a copy of your passport.
I cannot stress how important this one is. Make sure you have copies of your Passport, travel insurance, and driving licence. And scan and email a copy to yourself, and leave another set with family or friends.
It can also be a good idea to have copies of your itinerary and hotel receipts in one place, or anything else you have prebooked. If you are thinking of working or volunteering on your travels, you also might want to scan a copy of your degree certificate or other qualifications too.
9. Talk the talk.
With so many Apps and resources out there, you really have no excuse not to pick up a few key phrases before you travel. Your experience will be all the more richer for it.
I use Duollingo, but there are other Apps out there, although none that are as good, in my opinion at least. You can try listening to podcasts – believe me there is one available for almost every language out there. I would also recommend you check out SurvivalPhrases.com.
This is not just about being able to understand and be understood whilst you travel. The language people use is so ingrained in their identity and culture that you will also pick up some of the etiquette of the place that you are visiting. At the very least – carry a phrase book. It could save your life, or rather, save you a great deal of embarrassment and frustration.
10. Tell your story.
Not everyone will be able to make a living as a travel writer. I don’t expect to. There are so many people doing it, and doing it so much better than I could ever hope to. However, there will be people back at home, family and friends, who will want to check in on you while you are gallivanting around the world and starting a travel blog is a great way to tell people where you are.
It can be a great place to post your photos too. If you do decide to set up a blog, make sure that you grab your social media handles. Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – you might not ever need them, but you definitely won’t want to see anyone else using them.
“It is better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for your public and have no self” - Cyril Connolly.
Whatever you write, do it for yourself, first and foremost. Building this website has felt like such a huge personal achievement. Starting with nothing and turning it into something really does get me excited, but building a website from scratch, felt like something I should have ticked off my bucket list eons ago. I am nowhere near getting it right, nor am I posting half as often as I should to make it ‘worthwhile’ but I am enjoying fumbling around in the dark and trying to find my way.
It’s an enjoyable little project to get stuck into as I wait for my departure date to arrive. And I know at some point in the future I will look back and think that all the hard work has been worth it.
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