When people tell you to think with your head you should probably follow your heart.
– Mark Villaflor
- CHOOSE A DESTINATION– Look at a map and choose a city, country or region. Check out the Lonely Planet or other travel guide for the region or country. Don’t choose too many places or be unrealistic about your time-frame and how much ground you’ll cover. We thought we would be in Argentina from Guatemala in 5 months but have so far been averaging a month in each country (and only a specific geographical region of each country). We bought the Guatemala and Nicaragua Lonely Planet guides and have since traded for Costa Rica and Panama. We will continue to exchange travel guides for travel guides. While we are going south we know we’ll be bumping into some others going north. Come in without many assumptions of how things are or aren’t, will or will not be. Be open to the impossible and feel your heart to see if it’s liking where this idea is going.
- BOOK A FLIGHT (or bus)- See if you can afford it and look at dates for when you will FIRE YOUR BOSS. Check out budget airlines and look at one-way tickets. You can also get free airfare if you do some planning right, we did it a bunch and saved thousands of dollars. Sometimes you will need a return ticket out of the country. We have heard several ways of avoiding having to buy a return ticket. Many people we’ve met “have” a word document of a return ticket and simply edit the dates and cities of travel. Sometimes at random people are asked to show the immigration officers their return ticket such as when traveling into Costa Rica. We heard that immigration was even more strict with entry into Panama. Check the specific for each country before arriving.
- SAY GOODBYES– Tell someone where you are going and say good-bye. You don’t know the next time you’ll see your mom, dad, brother, sister or dog when you start your trip. Sometimes you’ll see them in certain destinations or in between trips. This is all just part of living today as if it’s your last, embrace the moment and embrace the people. This was before Pepper, our French bulldog, got on her first plane ride (horrible experience for a dog). We dropped her off in Washington with mom and dad and started 365traveldating. Travel sometimes takes sacrifice.
- INSURANCE– Stuff happens at home, in your car, and on the road. You have home insurance, you have car insurance, you should have medical and travel insurance. These can easily be purchased with your flight but look into details, specifically look at third-party incidentals because if something gets stolen it may not be covered. Happened to us when we got robbed in Africa.
- WORK– Figure out the skills you have and how you can use them overseas. Do you coach sports, can you teach English, are you a carpenter or handy-person, do you have computer skills? There are tons of “jobs” out there. Read more here.
- VOLUNTEER– If you can’t meet #3 be open to learning. There are hostel gigs, certifications (cooking, yoga, scuba diving, etc), volunteer opportunities with wildlife, children and anything you can really think of. If you come with a willingness to listen and learn you’ll build more skills and have more opportunities. As I write this we’re in a cloud forest sitting on a hammock having a work exchange in Costa Rica. We get accomodation in a sweet place full of birds and nature and are learning knew skills. In the last 10 days or so we’ve learned to identify a number of birds, see how a B & B in the mountains is being run, mixed and poured concrete, learned about eco-bricks and more about the environment, beefed up our Spanish, learned about different fruit and added cooking recipes to our list. There are incredible opportunities for work exchange and volunteer opportunities. Read more here.
- MONEY– This is big because it depends on people’s level of comfort. We try to create a daily budget and average it out over a month. It’s sometimes difficult to keep a budget when you are just starting off. You will see what are essentials and non-essentials and where you can save on food and housing. Regardless, whatever money you’ve saved up will likely not be enough especially for long-term travel (without long stays in places). The more you move the more you spend (transportation costs, lack of discounts on long term stays, food and groceries, and getting to know the local places save money). We use an app to track our expenses called Trail Wallet made by and for travelers. Thanks Never Ending Voyage. Currently we are on our 9th month of travel and had some unexpected incidents such as getting robbed in 4 months into our trip. We put this below work/volunteer because we feel like money is the biggest reason people don’t travel. You don’t have to be rich to travel, people without trust funds and assets move around just fine. The people we meet on the road generally have less money in their bank accounts than those in the rat race but tend to complain less about their lives and what they don’t have. Trust that the universe sees your heart and will help you.
- FIRST NIGHT– Book a hotel/hostel for the first couple of nights and get a ride in from the airport rather than taking public transportation. If you are on a budget we still recommend doing this especially if you are going into a “dangerous” city (they are all dangerous and safe) and don’t know the area. The extra couple of bucks is nothing.
- NEXT STEPS– Talk to people- this will be your greatest source of information. If you end up going slow and volunteer at places like a lodge you will get a lot of information about the “backpacker’s trail” including logistics of how to get to places, where to stay and eat.
If any of this appeals to you or you are still stuck and want out give us a shout and we’d love to help you be on your way to your next adventure. People help people.