Before you hit the road you’ll need to close up shop. While most of these steps aren’t necessary for short-term travel, they are imperative for long-term wandering.
3-6 Months Before Travel
- Get a passport (if you don’t have one).
- Book your airplane flights.
- Visit your doctor or travel clinic to get vaccinations. Check if your employer’s health insurance covers them before you quit!
- Determine how to handle your living situation. Consider renting out your residence furnished. This saves you the hassle of storing your belongings and moves you one step closer to paying off your mortgage. Most people interested in furnished accommodations are working abroad for a year or more: perfect for your intentions.
- Book a dentist, doctor, and optometry appointment for one month before you go to make sure you have a clean bill of health. This gives you time to handle any cavities before you leave.
1 Month Before Travel:
- Set cancellation dates for all insurance policies, credit cards, and other miscellaneous items.
- Close any unnecessary accounts (e.g. banking accounts and department store accounts).
- Sign up for Online Banking (if you don’t already have it).
- Set up a forwarding address with the post office to a friend or a P.O. Box in your name.
- Find someone to rent your car while you’re gone. Make sure they get insurance and to draft an automobile leasing contract.
- Go to your dentist, doctor, and optometry appointments.
- Get travelers insurance.
2 Weeks Before Travel:
- Give your two weeks notice to your employer.
- Email yourself copies of your passport, driver’s license, insurance policy, credit card, and any other important information you might need while you’re away.
- Get travelers checks and email the security numbers from those to yourself.
- Notify your bank that you’ll be making purchases in a foreign country with your credit card.
- Have a garage sale. If you don’t manage to sell the majority of your belongings, have another garage sale following week. My wife and I made over $1,500 of two days work selling our stuff- worth over a month of travel in Southeast Asia. If you can’t sell your stuff, look into a storage unit.
- Get a visa if applicable for your first country.
Remember, you don’t need half of what you may think you do, a truism that applies to a crucial step in preparing: packing for long term travel.
What (Not) To Pack
Prior to departure: create a checklist of items you need to take. At a maximum you should include:
- Drivers license (international if possible)
- Travel tickets (airline, train, bus, etc.)
- ATM and credit cards, travelers checks and US dollars
- Photocopies of identification and important documents
- Youth hostel card (if applicable)
- Scuba diving certification (if applicable)
- Visa photos (they are roughly the same size as the photo in your passport. Most countries require 1 or 2 copies in color.)
- Money Belt
- One small day pack
- A good book
- Pen and notepad
- Laptop and headset for Skype
- Two pairs of lightweight pants
- One pair of shorts
- Three shirts (one for going out)
- 1 Pair Sandals
- 1 Pair Shoes or Boots
- Swimsuit (if applicable)
- Silk sleep sack (not a sleeping bag)
- Sewing kit
- Nail clippers
- First aid kit
- Swiss army knife
- Wristwatch with alarm clock
Possessions will only tie you down. For example, let’s say you purchase a brand new digital camera before your trip (chances are you will). Sure, it’s a great way to document your experiences, but it weighs you down a lot more than you think.
You have to think twice about swimming in the ocean for fear someone will steal it. Crossing a river could potentially destroy it. Strangers become potential threats.
And these are just the tangibles. The worst, and most common, is that it prevents you from truly experiencing a place before reaching for your camera. This effectively removes you from your surroundings, preventing you from ever really gaining anything at all.
OK, that’s the end of my Taoist rant.
When traveling long-term, minimalism is key. There’s no sense packing everything you think you might need, when you can always buy extras along the way as needed. Besides, navigating foreign markets is a highlight on many itineraries… why not buy something there you might actually need?
Remember: pack light and stay flexible!