How to Prepare for Long-Term Travel

by - June 03, 2021

 Planning a long-term trip, whether you’ll be spending a year working abroad or driving around Europe, can be quite a challenge, although completely worth it. There are not many things that open your mind and enrich your experience of life as spending time with a) minimal possessions b) new cultures and people c) moving from place to place with an air of detached freedom! I consider my 4-month 2013 trip to America and South America to be one of the very best things I've done. So take note, there’s a lot to organise, and it can be overwhelming to know where to start. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, but these tips can help you to prepare to have the best possible time.

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Decide Where And How You’ll Go

Think about what kind of traveller you are and where you might want to go. Are you thinking about something different like a motorbike tour? Perhaps you could check out Magellan tours. Are you thinking about doing a work exchange or house-sitting to get free accommodation? If you know that would prefer to only stay in private rooms or hotels, factor this into your plans. There’s no wrong way to travel, so plan what you’ll enjoy. You don’t need to couch-surf or stay in hostels in order to travel long-term, although these are a great option too. Just work out what you’re going to be comfortable with. 

Where do you want to go and how long do you think you want to spend there? Picture your perfect trip and start doing some research into the sort of trip you might want to take. 

Come Up With A Budget

Once you’ve worked out what your ideal trip is, you need to try and calculate how much you think it might cost. Take into account the cost of accommodation, food, transport, and a buffer for extras like entertainment or souvenirs. Work out a daily estimate of how much you think it will cost you in each country that you plan to visit and multiply by the length of your trip. 

There are lots of travel bloggers who have written up some very helpful breakdowns of costs by country, so it can be worth having a search. These bloggers often list out all of their costs for all kinds of travel. 

One way to make your money go further and last longer while you’re away is to take your trip to countries where you will get a more favourable exchange rate for your local currency. 

Think About Your Job

Giving up your job in order to travel isn’t for everyone. Many people earn their income online while they travel, but this might not be an option for you, or you might just want to return to your day job when you get back. See if there is any work that you can do remotely or if you could take an extended leave of absence. The second time I left the UK and sent to Los Angeles and Mexico for a total of three months before heading to Spain for three months, I was studying for my MSc and both coaching and teaching English online as I went for some funds. I did a CELTA qualification before I went to ensure work.

Having a month, or even longer, away from your job might exactly what you need to make you a happier and more productive employee when you go back to work. Lots of larger companies are beginning to recognise the value of sabbaticals and are rewarding hard-working employees with a month or more off, often as a reward for long-term service. See if your company has a sabbatical program, or encourage them to start one. 

Think hard. There will be a way to make it work. You just have to find it. 

Prepare Emotionally

There can be a lot of fear and self-doubt that comes up when you have to face the reality of how much your life is about to change when you head off on a long-term trip. For a lot of people, this can come from the worry of leaving everything behind you. If you’re planning to be gone for months, or a year, there might even be some doubt about whether you’ll return home to the same place at all. 

Give yourself some time to really reflect on why you want to make this trip. Surround yourself with people who are supportive of what you want to do. It can also help to find communities of other travelers to get advice and support. You can find these communities online. While you're there, you'll meet some people that will potentially become your life-long friends as travelling is such a bonding experience. Also remember on your return, your experience is completely unique and you may find it hard to convey to people just how truly special and amazing it was! If they haven't travelled, don't expect them to understand! This can feel quite strange. It can also be emotional coming home as you will have been on such a big journey physically, mentally and emotionally (and maybe spiritually!) so allow those emotions to surface and consider journalling your thoughts.

Get Healthy

Before you go on a long trip, see your doctor and dentist. Make sure your vaccinations are all up to date and check to see if you need any additional ones for any of the countries that you are going to be visiting. Make sure you have enough of any prescription medications or know where you can get more while you are away. 

Big life changes are stressful. Think about cutting back on alcohol and caffeine to get your immune system in shape. Meditation can be used to ease your mind. You could also just take some time for yourself every day to focus on your breathing. Add some yoga or strength training to your workouts, or start walking more. Whatever you find works best for you, just take some time for self-care. One of the best things about travelling is that gyms can be a lot cheaper in other countries (than here in the UK!)

Prepare For Your Trip

Plan what you will need to take with you. Do you need to buy anything else before you have to go? Make a list of everything you’ll need and then try to pack less.  Do a test run of your packing so you know how small a bag you can get everything into. Make sure you can lift and carry it on your own too! Check the weight limits for carry-on and checked luggage for your flights. Budget airlines are very strict about their weight limits, so weigh everything to make sure. I donated clothes and books to people along the way. A kindle is a great option because books weigh so much. I took many books with me on my first trip and had to leave Shantaram on the first stop (New York) because it weighs a tonne on its own!

Make sure that you can use electronics that you plan on bringing with you by taking a universal adapter with you. Check your phone plan too. 

Book your flights and book at least your first couple of nights at your first planned destination. Looking for somewhere to stay after a long time travelling isn’t much fun. 

Organize Your Finances

Make sure you will be able to get at your money while you’re abroad. Have more than one account you can draw from in case anything happens to one of your accounts. You could open an account with a bank that will refund any fees for foreign translation fees. Check with your bank first to see if they do this. Remember to notify your bank that you will be traveling. 

A Couple of Extra Tips!

-Take a silk (or vegan equivalent) sleeping bag - they are super cheap and lightweight and pack down small. You can then protect yourself better against bed bugs.
-Keep a travel journal or blog! It will be gold to look back on!
-Back up your photos. They are also priceless.
-Check if you will need to have purchased proof of exit - some countries require it before they let you in.
-Respect the locals and take photos respectfully! Taking photos of people's normal lives can be intrusive.

Wherever you are going, have the best time and be safe! 

Lots of love,


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