After I finished university, I went on a four-months-trip around the world. That was four years ago and I feel the urge to leave again, not just for four months but for a longer time. This summer, I met so many long term travellers, I realised those two-week-holidays I keep taking aren’t enough for me. And in case you’re feeling the same way, I’m putting together some advise on how to go about planning a longer holiday.
Figure out when to go
This might be the most important step. Figure out where you are in life right now, what you want to do with it and where you want to go. Think about what you need or want to do before you leave and then pick a date to leave.
For example, right now, I am writing my thesis. This will take a couple of months. Then, I will send it to my professor who will read and correct it and send it back to me. I will add in the corrections, send it back to him and he will read it again. This will go on a couple of times and take at least half a year. Once it’s done, I can print it and hand it in. That step will be the fastest and only take a week or two. Once I have handed it in, it can take up to six months until I hear back from my university. They will then provide me with a date for an oral exam. Once I have passed that exam, I still need a couple of weeks to wait for the papers to be issued. So all in all, I’m counting on it taking about a year and a half.
There is little sense in going before I am done. I have already spent two years on my research. If I don’t finish writing that thesis, I will have to start over once I’m back and I would have wasted a lot of time and effort. Therefore, it makes sense to plan my round-the-world trip as a reward for finishing that huge project.
My contract at work will run out in May next year. I will get another one that will be valid for another year. That means my last day of work will be 14th May 2017. For me, June 2017 will be the perfect moment to start my trip.
I know that a lot of people will be more flexible than me but there will always be a moment that fits better than the others. Take into account how much time you need to quit your job. Can you quit it at any moment or do you need to hand in your notice three months in advance? How much money do you have and how long will it take you to save up enough for your trip? These questions can’t be answered without settling on a few details first. Which brings me to my next point.
How long will you be gone?
One of the essential questions. The answer will decide where you can go and how much it’ll cost. If you want to leave for two months, fitting in every continent will not only be difficult but also very stressful. You will have to decide on one region or one continent that you want to see. On the other hand, a two-month trip isn’t too expensive and means you can leave sooner.
If you’ve got a whole year, it’s much easier to make your way once around the world. However, you will need far more money than for a two-month trip.
Maybe you will choose something in between, a trip length that you can afford and that still leaves you with enough time to see everything you want to see. Personally, I want to leave for a whole year. I need the break and since I won’t be leaving until 2017, I will have enough time to save up the money. Plus, this will give me the chance to visit different areas of the world without having to rush through them.
Figure out where you want to go
As I already mentioned above, the time you have plays a huge role when you decide where you want to go. Is there anywhere you have always dreamed of travelling to? For me, that was South America. It’s the one continent (besides Antarctica) I haven’t been to yet and I want to go there on a longer trip, with enough time to see it in depth. The next place I absolutely want to go is the Silk Road. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I barely knew anything about Central Asia and that was what fascinated me the most. Don’t worry, you don’t have to plan any details yet but knowing that you’re going to be in Africa for six months will help you with figuring out how much money you’ll need.
Figure out how much money you need
You will find a lot of ressources online that tell you how expensive various countries are. A month in Iceland is going to cost you a lot more than a month in Thailand. You can stretch your money to last a long time in Belize but you will quickly run out of it if you’re staying in Australia.
Then there’s the question of how you want to travel. I stayed in a 32-bed-dorm in Sydney which was the cheapest accomodation I could find. I barely slept. People stole my food. It was hell. Since then, I’d rather spend a couple of dollars more for a dorm with less beds.
My friend, for example, goes even further. She doesn’t want to share her bathroom with other people which means that she can expect to pay a lot more for accomodation.
Next, there’s transport. I have missed Christmas a lot of times because I had to work. I’m sick of it. In 2017, I want to be at home with my family. That means that I will have to pay a huge amount of money to go home. It will be worth it but it’s an extra expense that I have to keep in mind.
Don’t forget that there’s not just the money you will spend in the country. Do a quick research to figure out how much plane tickets are. Also, keep in mind that you will need travel insurance. And visas. Depending on where you go, those can be expensive. Remember to keep an emergency fund in case something goes wrong and you need more money than you expected.
Now that you know how much you need, you can start saving. It’s simple maths. How much do you need? Substract how much you already have and you will know how much you need to save. Divide it by the months you have until you leave and you know how much you need to set to the side each month.
Does the equation leave you with an impossible amount of money that’s higher than what you earn? Either give yourself more time or shorten your trip.
I made a list of my monthly expenses that I couldn’t get around, like rent, insurances, electricity, phone contracts and so on. That left me with an idea of how much money I have every month. I still have to pay for food so saving all of it wasn’t realistic but it gave me a good idea of how much I could put to the side.
Now you wait…
If you’re like me and still have more than a year to go, there’s not much more you can do at the moment. Read articles or documentaries that make you excited about your trip and remind you why you’re saving up all that money. Talk to friends who love travelling as much as you do. Read travel blogs. Do a few shorter trips to keep you from going insane. And remember, your day will come.