Travel: How to smash those long-term travel goals
Travel is something that all of us consider at some point in our lives.
Whether you’re heading out to Europe for a weekend city break, or you’re thinking about going further afield for a while, there are many things that you need to think about before you pack your bags, and jump on the next plane. However, if you are travelling long-term, the planning process is a little more complex, and it can take a while to get everything sorted!
But what do you actually need to think about before you embrace that gap year, or take off on a voyage of self-discovery that could last months like Elizabeth in Eat Pray Love where she discovers the true pleasure of nourishment by eating in Italy, the power of prayer in India and inner peace and balance of true love in Indonesia. Here’s a brief guide to get you started…
Before you do anything, you need to think about the budget that you have for your adventure. Sure, we’d all like to go out to the US for a few months, maybe drive along Route 66, but the fact is that if you’re on a budget, somewhere like Asia may be a more cost-effective option. In the planning stages, you should ask yourself:
How much are flights going to cost to the destinations that you want to travel to? OK, you may be interrailing, or taking other methods of transport. But however you decide to get around, it’s a good idea to have a look at the rough prices of flights, and see whether your budget can accomodate all of your plans.
Is there any way to make it cheaper? Sometimes, you can look at your travel plans and the costs involved, and feel like it’s simply impossible to go to the countries on your list. However, could you make it cheaper by moving your schedule around a little? Flight prices sometimes change dramatically over the course of a few days, and you may want to change your route, so that the overall cost is lower. Tan's Top Tip: if you want to save yourself some cash, try deleting the cookies on your browser between flight searches. Some claim that this brings the cost down!
How much are hotels, hostels, and basic amenities? Do your research, and find out how much everything costs in your chosen destination(s). Sure, flights to Thailand can seem pretty expensive, but the price of food and accomodation can be significantly lower, so be sure to check this out and see how it affects your budget!
Another thing to take into consideration, well before you travel, is visas. Many countries require UK travellers to have gone through the visa process many months prior to their travel dates, and if you leave this until the last minute, you could find that you’re paying out a lot of cash for your visa, or you simply won’t be allowed into the country. If you want to avoid that pre-travel stress, find out a few things:
How long does it usually take to get a visa issued? I went to Birmingham to get a visa when I was travelling to India to make sure I got it in time. Some embassies issue visas with a pretty quick turnaround time, whereas others take longer. You can also pay a little extra sometimes to get an express visa, so see whether this is possible if you need to. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time!
Where do you need to go to get it? Some embassies require an in-person visit to secure the visa - such as the Russian Embassy, who take your fingerprints before the visa is issued - whereas others, like the US visa, can simply be completed online without even requiring your physical passport. Find out where you need to go in order to get it, and make sure that you’ve got enough time and the means to do so.
Wherever you’re thinking about heading to, it’s important to consider any risks to your health that could be presented in these countries. This is particularly true if you’re heading out to a more rural area, areas at risk from Malaria or you plan to trek through a jungle or forest. If you’re a little unsure about the risks that may be present, it’s a good idea to have a look at official advice online, or to speak to a doctor or healthcare professional. You should consider these things:
Do you need any vaccinations? There are different requirements for each country that you visit, but many destinations do have recommended vaccinations. If you’re heading out to Sub-Saharan Africa or South America, the likelihood is that you’ll need a yellow fever vaccine, and there may be recommendations for Hepatitis A, B and C vaccines, too. Find out what you require, and make sure to organise it well in advance.
What are the hospitals like? If you have a pre-existing medical condition or you’re going to a more rural, remote area in a developing country, then you may need to think about taking a small medical kit with you. It is highly recommended that you take a sterile needle and syringe kit; these things don’t cost a lot of money, but they could be greatly useful should you need them whilst you’re travelling in rural areas!
OK, back to the fun stuff. If you’re going to be travelling for a while - and spending a fair bit of money whilst doing so - then you need to decide what you actually want to get out of it. There are many ways in which you can travel, and everybody does long-term travel differently. Before you sign up for anything, you need to think about a few things:
Do you want to volunteer? If you want to get a little more out of travelling by helping others, then volunteering could be a good idea. Sure, there are plenty of ways that you can volunteer as somebody with no set skills, but if you really want to make a difference, then it could be useful to think about what you can actually contribute. Are you a nurse, or even a skilled labourer (like a carpenter, for example)? Think about how your skills could be used!
Or are you more… hedonistic? Some people just don’t fancy volunteering, and that’s fine! Maybe you just want to get out there and see the world, and do it for you. Long-term travel doesn’t always have to look like you’re saving the world; sometimes it just looks like you having the time of your life at the Great Wall of China.
Of course, you need to think about your destination, the visas, the budget, the vaccines… the list goes on. However, it’s also important to think about who you’re going to go long-term travelling with, and whether you actually want to do it with anybody at all. Ask yourself a few questions:
Who do you REALLY want to share this experience with? If you’re going to carry out this trip, which could be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, then you need to make sure that you’re with somebody who has similar values, and wants to get the same things out of it. You also need to be sure that you can actually stand being with them for a few months, as it could put a real downer on your trip if you can’t. Don’t go with people that you’re not sure about; equally, it could be a great experience when shared with your partner, or with your close friends!
Could you do it alone? There has never been a better time to be a solo traveller, and many people now opt to travel alone. Because of this, hostels are full of other independent travellers, and people are super open to make new friends in these destinations. In short, you’ll never be without company (if you don’t want to be, that is!). However, one thing to be cautious of is that as a woman, there are a few other things to consider. Some countries could be more of a threat for a solo female traveller, and it’s vital to do your research. That being said, there are guided tours and other options for group travel in these countries, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t head out there alone. Just stay clued up, and try to speak to other female travellers about their experiences if you can!
If you’re thinking about going travelling on a long-term basis, then there are a lot of things that you need to consider. Sure, it may seem like you’re putting a lot of effort into the planning now, but when you can sit back and relax on your travels, you’ll be glad that you did. Once you’ve been through all of these things once, you’ll find it easy the second time around, and you’ll soon be on your way to smashing long-term travel!
Enjoy your trip, and remember that you’re going to have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these parts of the world. Travel is always what you make it, so don’t waste a single second; meet some great people, put yourself out there, and really try to take in the beautiful cultures around you. I'm totally not jealous at all…
Photos by Tanya Louise