Are you someone who dreams of quitting your job and traveling the world? Maybe you’re reading this at work right now…. If you are don’t let your boss see it!
I for one spent endless hours dreaming about leaving my bartending job, focusing on my passion for writing and helping others travel the world and traveling the world myself. While I am not a pure digital nomad, I call home-base Brooklyn New York, I did quit my conventional job, pursue my passion for writing, and am able to work from my laptop anywhere in the world.
If this sounds like something you want to do please know that it’s easy to get overwhelmed in the beginning. You’ve never done something like this before! But, there is a set list of steps to help you get on that plane and say goodbye to your old life.
First off: You Can Do It
By far, the hardest thing you will encounter is mustering up the actual courage of quitting your job. You will tell yourself a long list of reasons why you shouldn’t do this.
I’m too old
I won’t make friends
My parents will be upset when I don’t come home for the holidays.
Tina is about to get engaged, I’ll miss her wedding.
I CAN’T DO IT.
The truth is, all those reasons will always be there, and they are more excuses than reasons. Yes, you can do it, many have done it before you and you are just as smart and capable as all them. No, you aren’t too old, there are solo long-term travelers of every age on the road. Yes, you may miss important life events – you can choose to come home or watch from far away.
Don’t let these things hold you back. Each reason, or excuse, has an answer if you try hard enough to find it.
Now that you made it through my pep talk, let’s take a look at the more logistical steps.
Step 1: Research as Much as You Can
You aren’t going to leave overnight or next week. I mean you can, but you probably won’t. Take your time researching as much as possible. Talk to people who have done this by reaching out on social media and joining Facebook groups. Read articles about what people struggled with when they left and what some of the realities are.
Look at a map and circle everywhere you want to go. Take each country and research everything you can about it. How expensive is food? Lodging? Activities?
Step 2: How Much Do You Need Per Day?
Figure out how much you want to live on. Some people travel for as little as $ 50 a day. That includes everything! Food, lodging, transport, EV-RE-THING! It is easier in some countries than in others, but remember some of the most beautiful countries are the least expensive.
At the end of the day, only you know yourself. What can you really live on long-term? Go back to your list of countries. Which ones will keep you within your budget? Which ones are way too expensive and therefore probably not possible? Can you live without them?
The key is being honest with yourself. Make a budget you believe you can stick to. Pick countries that you know will stay within your budget. And then don’t forget about it once you leave.
Step 3: Start Saving
Take a deep hard look at what you spend every day. Most people are surprised to find that they already live on way more than $ 50 a day. Once you include your rent, transport, and everything else you spend a day, you may see that traveling bring your costs down!
I’ve talked extensively about saving plans for travel. Take a look at this article and video for a refresher.
Step 4: Banking, Credit Cards & Bills Abroad
If your current bank isn’t worldwide or has high ATM fees, think about opening a new account for your travels. Personally, I love Schwab. They require no minimum deposit to open a standard checking account. Plus, there are no fees on their checking accounts and all ATM fees are reimbursed at the end of the month with no limit. Don’t waste a dollar here and there on fees. It adds up and every dollar counts when you’re traveling long-term!
As for credit cards, look for travel-specific cards that guarantee no foreign transaction fees. You can also use this opportunity to hoard points so you can travel a bit for free. Take a look at my article on travel credit cards here and here and why you definitely need them.
Technology is great these days, most bills can be set to autopay and managed from an app. Also, a lot of your bills will be eliminated as you downsize and prepare to leave.
Step 5: Airline Tickets
When deciding where to start your trip and how to get around you have two solid options: Round-the-world tickets or buy as you go.
RTW tickets are complicated, you are technically buying an airline alliance pass. If you want to research this option more, check out this article, which explains the pros and cons of these tickets extensively.
If you decide to buy tickets as you go, you simply want to focus on finding that first one-way ticket out and then planning your route. Personally, this is the route I would take. Search for tickets from your hometown to everywhere using Skyscanner so you can simply leave on the cheapest flight available. From there you can create a loose route and plan. Check out this previous article and video for all my tips on finding cheap plane tickets.
Step 6: Backpack or Luggage?
This is more of a personal question. There are some long-term travelers that swear by backpacks and some who refuse to give up their rollies.
When deciding for yourself, take a look at your itinerary. If you’re trekking through jungles and going off the beaten path a lot you probably want a backpack. Here is a great article that breaks down all the different type of backpacks available on the market and the pros and cons of each. But, if you’re sticking to cities or a popular route, you won’t have too much trouble with a rollie luggage. If you are planning to stay in hostels on your route, do remember to keep it small so it fits in lockers and other storage.
The one thing I do suggest is keeping either option to a carry on size. As you travel, everything in those bags will be ALL you own in the world. And since you will be taking many different forms of transport you want to part with your bag as little as possible.
Step 7: Start Thinking About Packing
When it comes to deciding what to bring, you may get paralyzed with fear. How do you pack for nonstop travel? What do you bring for all the different climates you might experience?
My main tips:
- Get used to wearing the same clothes over and over
- Pack clothes that serve multiple purposes
- Buy things, including clothing, as you go
Remember, that anything – clothes, toiletries, OTC medication, cosmetics – can all bought while you travel.
Step 8: Travel Insurance
Do not leave without some form of travel insurance. I’m serious. Things happen when you are traveling long-term. While you don’t want to think about the worse now, you should.
Also remember, travel insurance is a huge umbrella that covers way more than just medical. You can use it to cover lost or stolen goods. It could cover situations that may arise like a canceled or missed flight. And even worst case scenarios could be covered like buying an emergency flight home because of a death in the family.
As you look at policies, keep in mind your travel credit cards may already cover certain things. At the very least you need medical insurance. Look for a plan that covers at least $ 100,000 in hospital expenses.
Step 9: All The Things You Own
As your trip gets closer, you will begin to realize just how much stuff you own. I lead a generally minimalist lifestyle and what I choose to get rid of may not be what you would choose. Go through your things and try and rid yourself of as much as possible. Use sites like Craigslist and eBay to sell things and add that extra cash to your travel fund.
For all the things you can’t get rid of or have to hold on to, try and store them with friends or family. A storage unit should be your last option. While the fees make look small, that money adds up quickly, especially if your trip has no end date.
Step 10: Planning it out
This may seem strange. Why have the planning step at the very end of the list? When you travel long-term, the less planning you do the better. Because you are leaving your life behind, you can travel with no set limit of how long you want to stay in certain destinations. If you love it somewhere, make sure you have the option to stay longer! Plus, trying to plan a year+ worth of accommodations and activities is overwhelming and not exactly feasible.
Do be aware: Immigration in many countries will want to see some sort of proof of exit. Whether that is a plane or train ticket make sure you are ready to answer any questions they may have.
Say your goodbyes, get ready for a trip of a lifetime, and don’t miss your flight!
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