A vacation is a time to relax and recoup from working hard. But, sometimes we long to travel. To take a voyage, an odyssey, an adventure to a far flung location where the flight to get there might take a few days itself. It warrants wanting more than just a precious week. It requires time to explore, get to know a place and not just pass on through while voraciously ticking the highlights off your bucket list. Taking a RTW (round the world trip) is a different mindset, a different kind of trip, a different way of traveling. Let me do my best to convince you …
You need more than just one or two precious weeks of down time.
Typical vacations are meant to rest and rejuvenate. But I find when I work hard that taking one week or even two weeks vacations leaves me feeling unsatisfied. It seems to take our bodies at least 4-5 days just to get out of “work mode.” It may take over a week to get our minds out of it too. Sadly most people who vacation from work are still connected via their devices, answering emails and even taking conference calls. This modern age makes it even more impossible to stop thinking about home and all the worries and concerns that cause your anxiety level to sky rocket. Most people feel more stressed by vacationing than rejuvenated as they originally set out to be.
Probably the number one place to visit is a beach where you want to lay in the sand and surf and just do nothing. But traveling for a long period of time requires visiting a place that may offer some comfort, but more than likely will take you completely out of your comfort zone.
Dare to be “frivolous and selfish”
Some people think you are selfish and self absorbed if you travel. Hell, you might even think that of yourself. Well I’d like to see everyone tell that to Homer who wrote the great epic “The Odyssey.” Taking an odyssey is a right of passage that has existed since ancient times. Sometimes it is a soul’s desire and sometimes a life altering decision. Many people have traveled before you and many will travel after you. You are not selfish for following your heart’s desire, you are brave. Guilt is a wasted emotion, especially if you are not doing anything wrong. Turn a deaf ear to the naysayers and the energy suckers and go for it, if it’s something you really want to do.
Another archetype of long term travel is going on a pilgrimage. Going off to see sacred sights that mean something to you. Whatever spiritual background you come from, going to see a temple, church, tomb, walking a pilgrimage trail or taking a retreat, is an important experience for your soul. These places are not called “sacred” for no reason. There is a feeling that exists there, mostly because of the people like you who sincerely go to pray, meditate and pay homage.
Some people think travel is frivolous. After all you could put a down payment on a house, you could invest your money in the stock market. While that is smart, will those actions be the thing you regret on your death bed? Most likely not. However you may regret not going to that place you always dreamed about in your wildest fantasies. If you feel like you might regret not doing it, then it is an activity that is worth doing, in my opinion.
The three fold pleasure of memory
They say the best thing about travel are the memories you make. Memories of the places you’ve been and the things you’ve seen bring pleasure three times.
1: the pleasure of anticipating and planning
2: the pleasure of doing
3: the pleasure of remembering for the rest of your life over and over again, maybe even on your death bed.
How is a RTW trip different from a vacation?
1: you need more time than 2 weeks. You may need a few months to a whole year, the timeline is up to you.
2: more time = traveling slowly. Maybe some days you see a tourist sight and some days you just do laundry and decide to buy vegetables to cook dinner. Slow travel means savoring your time and not rushing around. Spend a long time in a place or a country and indulge in a completely different pace of living. It takes on the feeling as though you are living, not just touring.
3: you’re going to go to places that are interesting to you and not just a beach to do nothing, that will get boring very quickly on a long trip. Believe it or not.
4: you may learn something. Having extra time means you can volunteer, take a class, learn a language and go deeper into understanding a new place and culture. If you’re lucky, you may find a new purpose in your life.
5: at times it is pleasurable but at times it can be frustrating, lonely, hard and sad too. Traveling long term means a series of lows and highs. It is life at its most beautiful, strange, interesting and challenging. But, it will be one trip you will remember.
Start squelching your fears right now
Most people tell me they dream of quitting their jobs and traveling around the world, but alas it’s just a dream. It’s too expensive, too daunting to plan, too scary, and they worry about retaining their lives back home. Some of these worries may be true, and may be very real. But more than likely we blow our worries way out of proportion and our fears keep us from doing the thing we want to do. Where there is a will there is always a way. It just takes time, money and planning to chip away at those fears and make your dream start to appear like a do-able reality.
One way to start to squelch some of your fears is to tackle them. If you are worried about money, make a budget. Do some research into how much flights and places to stay cost in the place you want to go. More often than not, if you live in the U.S.A. or Europe amongst other developed nations, you will find it is cheaper to travel to other countries than to live in your own city doing what you normally do! In fact after traveling you might feel like the prices you pay for the same things at home are dramatically inflated. For instance 2 bags of groceries in Italy costs $25 USD, but the same two bags costs $80 USD in San Francisco!
Flight costs can be dramatically decreased by using a long term travel provider such as Airtreks, who specialize in booking point to point flights in multiple destinations. 21 flights through Asia cost us around $2,500. per person in 2015. That’s the equivalent of one round trip ticket to Europe at peak season! Airtreks also gives you an option to purchase very affordable 6 month trip insurance with your ticket that covers everything from lost baggage to emergency evacuation.
Health: get your shots, pack a first aid kit and get travel health insurance
One of the scariest things to think about is getting sick while traveling. If you are like me and you worry a lot, purchase travel trip and health insurance. This will help cover costs and cover emergency evacuation should you need to be taken out of the country for medical coverage, worst case scenario. For small illnesses, you will find that medication is way cheaper abroad than it is in the U.S. You can get a pack of ibuprofen for $1 USD in Asia. But I highly recommend taking a small first aid kit with basic meds for cold, cuts and tummy. We used it all the time and had to replenish along the way. I will write a post specifically dedicated to this issue soon.
As mentioned above, Airtreks gave us an option to purchase very affordable 6 month trip insurance with our ticket that covered everything from lost baggage to emergency evacuation. The only thing it didn’t cover was extreme sports or snorkeling. If you do those activities, you may want to purchase extra coverage.
Do the research on where you want to go. One of the easiest ways to do this is to visit a Travel Health Clinic about 6 months before you plan to leave. It takes anywhere from 3-5 months to take a series of inoculations. These nurses specialize in preparing your health for a trip abroad. They can do all the research for you, will print you a sheet with info on the places you are going and will prepare you with various inoculations for anything you can feasibly prevent with a pill or shot. You can also check out the CDC website (center for disease and control) for health warnings on the place you want to visit and do your best to prepare, although this will scare you, it’s good to be informed.
Fear of Terrorism
Terrorism is a threat these days, however the chances of being involved in a terrorist event might be smaller than getting hit by lightening. It also seems that they are targeting developed countries, so you may be more at risk by staying home! However you can prepare by applying with the US embassy for their “safe travel” program. You will register your trip and enter the dates of the countries and cities you will be in on your trip and the US embassy from that location will send alerts to your email and cel phone as you travel. I have found this free service very helpful in order to avoid areas that may be at risk. They will keep you on alert with their intel.
Fear of leaving your job
Sometimes you might be able to arrange to return to your job after your trip. If you like your job and your jobs needs you, this might be easier than you think to obtain. Try to have an open and honest conversation with your boss. On the other hand your work might be able to let you work remotely, although this would put a little damper on striking out to explore every day, but it’s a possibility.
Most people have well over a dozen changes in occupation these days, so schedule your break-up for the time when you want to travel and look for work toward the end of your trip and when you return. If you work for a major corporation, then having traveled internationally, and learning different languages and understanding of cultures definitely applies to your new and valuable skill set.
Fear of leaving your apartment
If you are intent on totally changing your life, you may enjoy this excuse of really taking off. In our case we saved and budgeted to keep our apartment, because if we got rid of it there would be no way to return. San Francisco is incredibly expensive these days. So for us, it was cheaper to keep it. If you own a condo or house and can sublet it while you are away, that is an even better option. With Airbnb and other short term rental opportunities, it is even easier now to offset the costs or maybe even make money on your place while traveling. If you have lived in many places and are nomad at heart, then you shouldn’t have much to fear about this topic.
Fear of being disconnected
This should not be a fear anymore. In our experience you can purchase a SIM card for your smartphone after getting off the plane anywhere! It will also be way cheaper than what you pay in the US. In Asia, it cost us around $25 USD a month with a data plan. The only snag is finding wifi in some areas, but that is typical everywhere you go.
On top of this you will still have Skype, email, Whats app for video chat and texting. Our family was worried we would be totally off the grid, but we were able to connect quite frequently and easily. One time we had video chat on while taking our family on a tuk tuk ride via real time via video. Fun!
Fear of death
This should be the one fear that gets you going on this trip! As we get older it may get harder to travel, to climb mountains, to swim against strong currents to see that turtle. One of my biggest reasons to go was that I wanted to do this while I still had some energy. I just turned 40. But I found it to be very relaxing anyway, taking my time, going at a slower pace. I hope to be able to travel my whole life, at any age. But the question “if not now, then when?” always whispers in the back of mind.
In any new endeavor, if you strike out beyond your comfort zone, you will always have worries. Courage means that we do something despite our worries. Just remember, people have traveled before you and people will travel after you. This is your one, true, wild life. What are you going to do with it? I hope you enjoy it and find the courage to climb that mountain, swim out to that reef, get on that bus, train or plane. Do it.