“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.”
– Asian Proverb
Two of the things I get asked the most by friends and random followers is
“How are you able to travel the world indefinitely?”
“What are your best tips for planning a trip worldwide?”
February 26th 2017 I left Norway to travel the world indefinitely, planning on seeing at least 45 countries before returning home to get on the old hamster wheel again. My official plan was “about one year abroad“, that it turned into “I have enough money for two years abroad“, then I sold my apartment and it turned into three years abroad.
I was neither working (except for a bit of pocket money during my stint in China), nor being sponsored in my travels so I was living off of my saved up and slowly dwindling budget.
Step 1. FINANCES
Save up money. The world’s most obvious “tip”, therefore I’m not gonna drone on about it. There are more ways of saving up money than there are pennies in the bank, to each his own here. Scale back on the restaurants, don’t buy crap you don’t really need. What I did was pay more than I had to on my mortgage (apartment) every month so that when I finally sold it and paid off my loan, the excess money pot was as big as possible. In addition to this came luck. I sold on a “real estate top” so I got more for my share in the apartment than expected. (That’s when I bumped it up to “possibly 3 years”).
One tip I do have for people is: Think thrice on what you buy to “prepare” for the trip. I bought a lot of stuff I have now either given away or sent home. Sleeping bag, cover for my luggage, extra set of warm underwear, extra set of this and that… Granted, you will never be completely sure of what you need before you’ve been underway for a while, but trust me, you don’t need more than one set of anything (not counting panties/socks).
Step 2. INSURANCE
I did a lot of research on insurance and found that if you want to travel for longer than a normal vacation most insurance companies have a massive premium, especially if you want to have the options of doing stuff like bungy jumping or other “high risk” activities. The one I landed on, that I see a lot of my fellow “perma-travellers” are also recommending is “World Nomads”. They seem t have specialized their insurances on people who backpack and/or travel the world without specific plans.
Step 3. PACKING
Do yourself a favour – Pack as little as you possibly can. Then remove half of the stuff you’ve packed, you wont need it. No really, you wont need it.
We tend to pack with a “what if”-mentality and this is what makes your luggage hell to carry around. I recently met a guy who’s travelling around with a 35-40 kg backpack. It’s enormous. Mine FEELS like it weighs that much, but every time I check it in it weighs in at 11 kg in the airport check in desk. I have two backpacks and between them they weigh 17-18 kg. And that includes everything I need for my trip. Everything. There’s even two “what ifs” in there, a pretty summer dress and a slightly posher top for the somewhat better restaurants (like when I was in Dubai). I can’t emphasize this enough: You don’t need half the stuff you think you need. Trust me.
Step 4. PLANNING A ROUTE
I tend to be very organized and half the joy of a trip for me is the planning phase. But the thought of having everything “written in stone” makes me feel suffocated so how to solve that?
I want to be able to jump on spontaneous, crazy stuff I didn’t plan on. Stuff locals or other travellers tell you about while on the road. If I plan my trip in such detail I don’t allow for that then I’m gonna have a bad time. To each his own in this regard, of course, but when I say I “plan my trip” that means I get an overview of what is possible to do in the general vicinity of where I imagine I would like to go. Then I take it from there. This meant I travelled my planned route around southern Africa before I jumped on a plane to Budapest, my unplanned country #1, because I wanted to catch Sting in concert. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have met Lina, Ben and Harsh. I wouldn’t have done 3 Escape Rooms in 2 days with them. I wouldn’t have seen my friend Maja or my mother who came to visit me because Budapest is close to home. And I wouldn’t have fallen slightly in love with Budapest.
Prepare. But don’t plan too much, the best stuff is what happens when you didn’t plan.
Step 5. VACCINES
I took every vaccine under the sun before I left Norway. Depending on where you want to go, this is not technically necessary. The most important vaccine I have is Yellow Fever. Many countries can insist on you having this, especially if you are travelling through several in the same journey, which is the whole concept of permanent, round the world travel.
I would recommend getting shots for Yellow Fever, Tetanus and Hepatitis at the very least, but consulting a doctor is never a bad idea. If you’re gonna work with animals, like I did, remember to check if they recommend the Rabies shots.
As for Malaria, I decided to play it safe and take the pills so I went with a mixture of Malarone and Lariam. I tested Lariam before I left to check for negative effects and experienced none so my doctor and I decided I should be fine. (Which I was). Also: get plenty of bug spray. You’ll probably need it.
Step 6. PHONE
I have procured a global sim card for my travels, so that I don’t have to buy a new one for every country. I went with KnowRoaming and apart from some hiccups here and there they didn’t really let me down. They are expensive in some countries, but it is very easy to check either in the app or on their website what the prices are.
Step 7. WHAT ABOUT YOUR PENSION/FUTURE/INCOME/HOME/ETC?
This is a big deal. It’s arguably the biggest deal of the whole “travel the world”-discussion… I would argue it’s not a valid point on this list, which is why it’s way down at number 7. There is no way to secure your future. You can take precautions and measures and do all the conventionally “smart things” to feel safe, but to be brutally honest, no one knows if they will even SEE their retirement. My father died of cancer just a few months shy of his 51s birthday. He did everything right moneywise: good education, steady job, bought a house, paid the mortgage, life insurance, health insurance and had a savings account.
Compared to him, I have behaved with reckless abandon. I have sold my apartment, quit my job and I am using up everything on my savings account to travel the world. I will have nothing of economic value left when I am done.
But if I die of cancer before my time, as my father did, I will have seen more of the world and experienced more than most. It may not have economic value, but it has great value to me. So what you need to decide if you’re thinking about taking a step into the unknown is what is of value to you.
Step 8. SOME HOT TIPS
- Travel with more than one credit card and don’t keep them in the same place
- Don’t keep all your money in one bank account. Keep the bulk of it in an account with no card attached to it, that way they wont empty your funds if your card is stolen
- Keep a firm eye on your bank account(s). Check every week at least to see if something is off. Keep phone numbers and contact information to your bank handy so you can easily raise the alarm if someone has stolen your information and is using it to steal your funds
- Carry your passport, vaccination card and extra US Dollars in a small pouch. For those times when I suddenly panic thinking I’ve forgotten something, it is a great comfort to me to be able to check quickly if I have that ONE pouch with me. If I have that, my wallet and my phone, everything else is secondary
- Carry a picture of your passport on your phone. Super useful for all the times you need to fill in your passport number (you always have your phone handy, not always your passport)
- Also take a picture of the page in your passport where they put the current county’s Visa
- Buy several smaller SD-cards rather than one big one to store photos, that way if one of them gets corrupted you wont lose everything
- Keep your photos/videos stored in several places to avoid losing them. I store my photo memories on an external hard drive AND in Jottacloud. Think about how much it would suck to come home from years abroad and have NO photos to show for it…