When you finally take that leap to follow your dream to travel around the world, stop and think, “Am I ready for this?” I am no expert but based on my recent trip around the world I realized that it’s not that easy. Long term travel is difficult, exhausting and sometimes frustrating but it is also fun, exhilarating and empowering. Travelling around the world will be some of the the best moments of your life. What I’m really trying to say is, be prepared. It’s not going to be smooth all the time but if you will take some time to get yourself ready, things will most likely work out for the best. Here are some travel tips for your first trip around the world:
Save a Lot of Money
The more money you have saved, the longer you can travel and the more places you can visit. When you are finally out there you will realize that there are so many places to visit. The hunger for new horizons never stops. Once you have decided to travel, make every penny count. Save as much as you can. There are plenty of ways to save money and so many travelers have written about it. Check out this guide to traveling with no money from Nomadic Matt, where he talks about why you do not need to be rich to travel.
Create a Budget Plan
Do some research and check how much it costs to travel per day in the country or city you want to visit. Some people create unrealistic budgets like $10 per day and I think that can be very limiting in terms of the experience you may want. Flights take a big chunk out of your budget, so try to travel overland (like we did in Latin America) or book flights when they are cheap (book ahead of time within Europe or Southeast Asia). In Southeast Asia, our daily budget was usually $20 – $25 USD per person. In most of Latin America, our budget was $30 USD per person. Chile and Argentina set us back a bit more ($40 – $45 USD) since accommodation, transport and food were not as cheap. For most of Europe it was $45 USD per person (we were there in low season — winter). Note that for these budgets, we still saw lots of attractions, stayed in private rooms and ate pretty well. This also doesn’t include the major flights.
Learn Another Language
In Latin America, Spanish is a must (except Brazil, of course). Unless you have a partner / travel buddy who speaks a little Spanish, you should consider learning some conversational Spanish yourself. Chances are, no one speaks English in the cheap hostels and off the beaten track destinations. Spanish will be useful when ordering food, finding accommodation, shopping for essentials (like medicines) and public transportation. If you don’t have time, bring a phrase book (I used the one from Lonely Planet) and download a dictionary on your phone. Google translate is also a good alternative but it’s not available offline. If you have a bit more time you can study Spanish cheaply in places like San Cristobal (Mexico), Lake Atitlan (Guatemala) and La Paz (Bolivia).
Accept that some things (like riding chicken buses or sleeping at airports) are not easy. Even carrying a 16 kg backpack for over a kilometer is not easy. Complain, if you have to, scream and be annoyed. But after that, breathe and let it go. You got this. As you go on, you will realize you are getting stronger and the things you complained about before are nothing compared to what other people experience in other parts of the world.
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Bring a Decent Camera
My best friend struggles with what camera to bring for her travels. In the end, she carries a big pack with 4 cameras – 1 DSLR, 1 GoPro, 1 Instax and 1 Drone. Plus here Iphone, which actually makes 5. That’s a lot of cameras! If you have the room go for it but two is probably enough. Even if you don’t like taking photos of yourself, you will surely want to take photos (even videos) of the destinations you will visit. Photos are great souvenirs of your trip and a good way to relive the experience. A DSLR will most likely bring out the best shots (assuming you know how to use it well) but if you’re a beginner, a compact camera will suffice. An extra waterproof camera or a GoPro will also be great if you want to take photos underwater or during boat trips. Don’t trust a waterproof bag to protect your camera (and other electronics). It’s not fool-proof. I learned this the hard way when I was at a water park and my camera was soaked by the time I finished the lazy river ride (Jon also learnt this lesson while tubing in Laos).
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Carry Your Own weight
Don’t carry too much stuff. Jon and I had about 35kg together split between 40L and 70L backpacks. We also had 2 small carry-on where we placed all the electronics and 1 handbag, where we put all the travel documents, wallet and anything we need easy access to. About 75% of the stuff was mine! I realized I carried a bit more than I needed on that trip but it’s quite difficult to pack when you want to be ready for any kind of weather. But remember it’s easy to buy warm clothes when you need it (coats were cheap during winter in Europe; in Bolivia and Peru you can find cheap alpaca sweaters, hats and gloves and even some down jackets). An ideal set of clothes should last for 1-2 weeks (it’s cheap to get laundry done) and make sure you can mix and match or layer clothes as needed. Here are some essentials you will need (1 week cycle) for women:
5 pcs of shirts / tops
3 pairs of shorts
7 sets of underwear
1 pair of tights
2 pairs of shoes (hiking/ running shoes and a pair of flip flops are ideal)
1 light scarf (which you can use for the sun or wind)
2-3 pairs of bikinis
3 pairs of socks
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Workout and eat healthy before travelling and during the trip. Apart from walking around a lot, there will be a lot of multi-day treks, day hikes and other activities that you’ll want to do. Also prepare for the high elevation by acclimatizing for a few days. Do your research before going on any difficult hike to ensure your safety.
The salt flat tour in Bolivia takes you to relatively high elevations. Make sure to acclimatize for a few days in La Paz before your tour.
Don’t Get Sick on the Road
Getting down with a fever or stomach flu is the last thing you want to happen while travelling. Be careful with what you eat or drink. Bring essential medicines for minor aches and pains (Paracetamol or Ibuprofen) and stomach problems (Loperamide). Also bring any personal medicine that you need for your trip. I usually bring antihistamine (Cetirizine) for my occasional allergies and motion sickness pills (Dimenhydranate). Carry the prescription from your doctor if you are taking any prescription medication. Take all necessary vaccinations like yellow fever vaccine for Latin America (we got the vaccine shots in Bangkok). We were never asked to present the yellow fever card but it’s better to have the vaccine for your own safety. Malaria pills could also be handy (other travellers bring this) in Latin America although we never really needed them.
Follow the safety recommendations people tell you and be cautious if you come across any warnings about a place. Do some research beforehand. We never had any problems anywhere until our GoPro was stolen during a bus ride in Ecuador. We had read a safety advice on wikitravel about bags being slashed from under the seat and unfortunately, we didn’t take it seriously. Getting travel insurance is also a good idea in case of accidents or mishaps.
Learn to Swim, Tread Water or Dive Even
One of the difficulties I had while travelling was not being able to tread water. I knew how to swim to an extent but I can’t tread water so often I had to stay in shallow waters. I also have to rely a lot on a life jacket like when we did a caving tour in Semuc Champey, Guatemela and went swimming in the cenotes in Mexico. It’s also an important skill in case a boat capsizes. I will definitely learn to tread water properly. Another skill that will be good to learn is diving. There are many great places to dive around the world and if you are into the experience of the underwater world, take diving lessons and certification. Apparently, the certifications are cheap in Southeast Asia.
Learn to Cycle and Drive a Car (Properly)
One of the easiest ways to explore some places is by bicycle. It’s cheap and easy to move around with when public transport is hard to find. We had an amazing time exploring Tulum in Mexico, Ometepe in Nicaragua and Phong Nha in Vietnam on a bike. Another good skill to learn is driving a car. Make sure you carry your valid driver’s license when you travel. If your license is in English, you don’t need a license translation for most countries. New Zealand is one of the best places to explore by car although I failed to impress Jon with my mediocre driving skills. Lesson learned: brush up on driving skills. Driving across the USA and Europe is also recommended.
Prepare to Try New Things
From skydiving to bungee jumping there are many ways to entertain yourself while travelling. One of my favourite experiences while travelling was flying on a two-seater plane in Dunedin, New Zealand. It was an exhilarating experience to be on a such a small aircraft and amidst incredible views.
Accept That You Can’t Go Everywhere
Choose the places that are important to you then work from there to plan your itinerary. We had to skip Brazil during our time in Latin America after considering the expensive flights / long bus rides in and out of the country. We also realized we didn’t have enough time to see it properly so it would be better to do it on a another trip. Do what you want to do. Don’t worry about people when they say you have to stay in a place for this long to see it properly. It’s your trip and it’s your decision. However, consider other travellers’ advice when it comes to must-see destinations in a country or area you will visit.
Travel with a Companion
While it’s true that some people need to do solo travel, travelling with a companion is a unique experience. Having another person lightens the hardships of travel like uncomfortable bus rides and long queues. Everything is much more tolerable when you have someone with you. Also, being with another person like your partner gives you the chance to share that wonderful experience of seeing the world.
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Update Your Friends and Family
While it’s easy to disconnect from the real world, you can’t just put aside everyone you know because you are going on a big adventure. When you leave for a long time, you will miss a few birthdays, anniversaries and events in people’s lives but don’t make them feel that you forgot them. Posting social media updates on Facebook probably isn’t enough. Send family and close friends a message or a call every now and then to keep them updated on your trip and what’s going on.
Write a Journal or Better Yet, Start a Blog
A blog is a great way to capture memories from your trips. It can start with a small audience like your family and friends and from there, who knows. If you do it well enough, you can even start making some money while travelling though your blog.
Do you have plans to travel around the world? Let us know.
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