So, you want to travel the world, but you’re not quite sure how to get started? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Below is a beginner’s guide to taking the first steps of becoming the globetrotter you’ve always dreamt of being. Enjoy!
1. Ask Yourself the 5 W’s – Who, What, When, Where and Why
The answer to each subsequent question should correspond with the answer to the preceding question. Here is the order I recommend:
WHY? This is perhaps the most important W to ask yourself. You need to know the reason for traveling in order to reap the most benefits from the experience. Answers may include site-seeing, to explore historical sites, like one of the seven wonders of the world, to see the wildlife around the world, to learn/master a language, to find purpose, etc. Remember, there is no right answer. Your reason for travel is entirely valid, no matter what!
WHAT? In what ways will you be able to turn your travel goal into a realization? Suggestions include traveling as a tourist, participating in a voluntourism project, studying abroad, teaching English, etc. The list goes on! *If you are volunteering, teaching, etc. around the world, make sure that those around you will benefit from your presence. Although you may want to be a do-gooder, you may not be able to provide a community with the type of candidate that it needs. Evaluate your skill set and THEN apply to these types of programs.
WHO? Will you be traveling solo? Do you plan on vacationing with friends and family? Will you be traveling with a study abroad group, a volunteer group, etc.? If you are traveling alone, you will be able to provide your own answers to the following questions. If not, you will have to consider every other person partaking in the journey. Note: The larger the group, the harder it becomes to accommodate everyone’s travel preferences.
WHEN? Most people are consumed with work and/or school in their daily lives. Consider your vacation times and plan accordingly. The when plays a vital factor when considering a destination’s weather, tourist season, holidays, festivals, etc. Plan ahead and you may be able to avoid the busy times!
WHERE? It may seem slightly odd that this W is at the bottom of the list; however, it is in my experience that it doesn’t really matter where you go because each destination is magical in its own way. Pick a travel destination that is in alignment with all of the questions above and I promise that you will take part in an experience that will be more memorable than you had initially planned for! The easiest way to choose a where is to begin by writing down a list of your top 5 ideal destinations and determining whether they fit with the above questions. If they do, great! If they don’t, do a little research, where I am certain you will find a possibly surprising, yet completely ideal location for YOU to travel to.
2. Consider Your Travel Budget and Resources
Be realistic and determine how much you can afford.
The time to start saving is NOW. Here are three easy ways how:
Find a jar. Write ‘Travel Fund’ on it. Place all loose change here. Don’t touch until departure.
Make cutbacks. Any trip you take will be more memorable than a fresh set of paint. I’m talking manicures/pedicures and every other superfluous activity you participate in that eats through your pockets.
Take a reasonable percentage out of your paycheck and set it aside.
Consider the costs of traveling while at your chosen destination. I suggest you determine your chosen destination’s average income. If you wouldn’t be able to financially live there, it may be difficult to travel there, as well. You can also look up restaurant menus, gas prices, movie fares, etc., to determine if you can realistically afford the trip.
Create a trip-long budget and stick to it (you can do this closer to the time of the trip so that you can base it off of how much you have saved). You can then break the budget down into how much you want to spend days on attractions, lodging, food, shopping, etc.
Leave room for error. If you have just enough money to go somewhere, you probably shouldn’t. You need to consider possibilities that may leave your pockets dry, such as foreign illnesses, pick-pockets, etc. If there is one thing I know about traveling, it is that things hardly ever, if ever at all, go as planned!
Consider this: You may not be your only resource! Do you or your friends/family know people that you can stay with around the world? Do you qualify for a travel grant? I graduated college in the June of 2010 and I sent out graduation cards in the process.
You don’t have to visit the ‘top’ destinations or tourist attractions. I know that this is the sexy way of traveling; however, traveling off of the beaten path can be just as rewarding, if not more so, and much, much cheaper!
3. Do the Research!
I know that the term ‘research’ may not be invited to many, but I promise this step can extremely fun and endlessly rewarding!
Remember, the internet is your friend! Check out websites associated with your chosen destination, as well as travel blogs and Instagram’s. These two resources will often time offer a more realistic understanding of the overall experience, tips, etc., which will help you PREPARE for the trip.
Since you should have created your budget by now, you will be able to look into lodging accordingly. Quick tip: Hotels are not the only ways to go! You can have an enjoyable trip by staying in hostels, couch surfing (check out www.couchsurfing.org), etc. The possibilities are endless!
There are plenty of websites that offer travel deals, such as Groupon, Skyscanner.com, etc. FIND THEM.
It is important that you don’t travel blindly. Learn about your chosen destination’s culture. From key phrases to etiquette and the tipping policy to appropriate clothing, it is all important!
4. Make the Commitment
This is the most important step in the entire process. If you don’t commit, you will not go. It’s that easy. Here’s how:
Share your travel plans with friends and family. They will encourage your trip and you will be less likely to back out.
Create a vision board filled with pictures related to your destination to get yourself amped for the excursion!
Create a blog/Instagram for your trip.
Apply for a passport (if you do not have one) and necessary visas.
Make the purchases – traveler’s insurance, airplane tickets, lodging accommodations, excursions, travel essentials, etc. Spending money is a sure-fire way of ensuring you don’t back out!
You’re almost done with planning your trip, now you just have to finalize it! Create/print an itinerary and map your trip out. You can do both online. This step will solidify your plans and allow you to be organized on the go.
5. Take Care of Business
Do your chores before you go to ensure that you don’t come home to unexpected situations.
Pay your bills ahead of time and setup online bill payment if there is a chance you will be out of town for your next payment deadline.
Call your bank and let them know about your upcoming trip. This way, your card won’t be flagged for unusual activity while traveling. You may even consider switching banks to one that is travel-friendly. I believe that users of Charles Schwab do not incur ATM fees. I spent over $75 alone on fees last summer – I wasn’t too thrilled about it …
Other chores include, but are not limited to: stopping the mail, getting a pet-sitter, turning off all electronic appliances, scheduling airport drop-off/pick-up, ensuring home security by setting alarms and monitoring your home with smartphone apps, etc.
Finally … Pack your essentials, step out of your comfort zone and GO!!!
If you would like to know more specifics about the process, let me know and I’d be happy to go further into detail. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this piece and if you have more suggestions on the matter!
Stay Inspired everyone.