You might not realise just how much planning and preparation goes into ditching your life, and preparing for full-time travel.
This may not be the case for everyone, depending on how much stuff you own, how many accounts and affairs you have to tie up. You also might not be in the same mindset as we were which was to sell all of your stuff. Each to their own. For us, it was all in. We didn’t plan on doing this for less than a year and why keep all our furniture and cars etc? Stuff is stuff. And it weighs you down.
It was an incredible and difficult time. It was so freeing to let go of all of all of our stuff. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. In fact, i was moved to write a whole blog post about the internal transformation that comes with minimizing your possessions.
Some of you may only need to do 50 of the 101 things listed below. Some of you may need to do all of them and then some.
Fo us, it was complicated. We owned two homes, two cars, and a three bedroom home stuffed to capacity with all the garbage we convince ourselves we need. We also had two pets we loved with all our hearts, and very established careers to walk away from.
What needs to be done
Before we could start organizing, selling stuff and closing accounts, we had to first 100%, for sure, no going back decide that we wanted to make the decision. And then commit to it.
The first 13 points on this list are about making that decision and the budget considerations to assist you. We do not recommend quitting your jobs and walking away from your life unless you have thought it through completely and understand the type of lifestyle you are choosing.
From then on, the rest of the 101 points on this long list are all about planning and getting stuff done.
So, let’s dive right in:
Make the BIG Decision
To travel or not to travel? – It is a big decision deciding whether you are ready (emotionally, physically and financially) to take this step. We had wanted to take a trip like this for so long, and we waited a while (too long maybe) before we were ready.
Once you have decided you are ready, commit to this decision. It may take you 6 months or a year to get all your affairs in order and to save up, but it will be so worth it.
You must be sure to commit. Once you’ve made the decision, set a date in your mind and commit to it. Commit yourself to taking just one step every day towards this goal.
Can you afford it? – My best advice for you would be to answer these questions:
How long do you plan on going for? – This answer for me has always been “For as long as i am still enjoying it. I want to travel for as long as i am still happy to call the road my home.” This makes planning a bit tricky. But, we left when we had enough money for a year on the road, without working, based on our answers to the following pointed questions. We knew we’d stop and work a bit on the way, and find ways to make money online so that we could stretch this time out.
Will you work while you are away or just travel? – We do a combination of pure travel and work along the way. Read How to Afford Full-Time Travel for some great ideas on how to extend the travel time and make money on the road.
Which countries will you visit? Some are drastically more expensive than others.
Are you willing to travel slower and in less lavish five star conditions? – The way you choose to travel affects your needed budget in a big way. When you are not getting on a new flight every week, or if you aren’t rushed to see everything quickly, it can cost a lot less.
Will you sell any of your stuff? – If you are going for a year or longer, i wouldn’t recommend keeping your stuff. Also, sometimes just selling all your stuff can make you almost all the money you need for a year of travel. This obviously depends on how many assets you may have to sell. You can read about how we made the majority of our savings this way.
Research how much it costs to live in the countries you want to visit and make a rough cost by multiplying the cost per day by the length of time you want to go. Don’t get too hung up on working out the cost per day. Get an average! Each country is different. Each day is different. Get an average you are comfortable with, and stick with that number. When you’re on the road and you have that number in your mind, you won’t stray too far from it. We humans, out there in the wide world fending for ourselves are remarkable beings and i think you’ll surprise yourself.
Make sure to not forget to factor in the following expenses – Flights, food and entertainment, and overland transportation.
Add about $1,500 dollars extra to your budget. This is a buffer for emergencies, or if you need to catch an unexpected flight back home. You do not want to get stranded somewhere with no money.
Read our post which will help you work out how much money you need for a year of full time travel.
Take all of the above into account and work out an I Need X Amount To Travel number.
You must be sure to commit. Once you’ve made the decision, set a date in your mind and commit to it. Commit yourself to taking just one step every day towards this goal.
Save, Save, Save
Make a List of everything you can sell with an estimated sale value – Do you own a car? Furniture? Appliances? Jewellry? keep in mind that a lot of your “travel savings” can come from the possessions you already own.
Add up all of the money you can make from selling your stuff. Minus this amount from what you still need to save.
Possessions and Attachments
Start to minimize your stuff. – If you are serious about taking on full-time or indefinite travel, you better get used to not having a lot of stuff. Start as soon as you can to get rid of stuff, or at the very least stop consuming more stuff you don’t need.
SIDE RANT: When we were finished packing up our home (and by packing up i mean getting rid of everything), it felt great. It was so freeing I can’t even tell you. We consume and gather so much rubbish we don’t need. I know that no matter what happens in my life, i will NEVER go back to having so much unnecessary stuff.
If you own, will you sell or rent out your home?
It is important to analyse your finances and whether you think it is worth it (based on how long you go for, and how much it’ll cost or save you) to sell or rent. Answer these questions;
How much do you still owe on your property? Keep this in mind – If for example you still owe $50,000 dollars on your home and you can sell it for about $70,000, that is about $20,000 in the travel savings bag.
We owned two properties before we left. For us it made most financial sense to sell the one and rent out the other. On the house we sold, we made $14,700 for our travel kitty. This was after paying back the deposit, which we owed with interest, and the outstanding balance on the mortgage to the bank.
How long have you owned your home? Property is a long term investment and if you have owned your home for less than three years, depending on the property market at this time in your area, you may end up not making much of a return if you sell it now.
Get a few valuations on your property from some trusted agents in your area.
Check on property websites for similar properties in your area. What are they going for?
Find out about the current property market. Is it a buyers market or a sellers market?
Decided to sell your home?
Give your bank notice of your intent to sell to avoid paying early termination fees, if applicable at your bank.
Get a fair valuation of your property – Contact your estate agent, have a look online at similar properties in your area, in order to maximize the profit you can get from your home.
List your home for sale. – Do this as soon as you can. Remember that a house can take time to sell, and even after you have a buyer the transfer can be a slow process. Also keep in mind that once you have sold your home, if you are not 100% ready to leave yet, you can stay with friends or family for your last month or two. We did this and it was a great way to save some cash and get to spend some quality time with our loved ones before we left.
Leave enough time to; market the property and get a good offer, sign all the paperwork and have the transfer go through on the property.
Decided to rent out your home?
Get a fair valuation for a monthly rental by having a few agents over to value your property and give you advice
Also look online at similar properties in your area.
List your home for rent. Consider getting a managing agent who will look after your tenants and make sure they look after your home. Unless you have a friend or family member you can trust to help you out, there’s a high probability that a time will come when either a geyser will burst, a pipe will leak, a tenant will leave or give you trouble. We got a managing agent to look after our investment for us.
Start Packing Up!
Are you a tenant?
Have a good read through your lease agreement – It is important for you to understand what notice you have to give to your landlord and any penalties you may have for cancelling your lease.
Cancel your lease by giving written notice to your landlord.
Start Packing Up!
Other - Household
Make sure your municipal accounts, rates and taxes etc. are all paid up to date before listing a house for sale or rent.
Fix it up – Whether you are selling your home, renting it out, or leaving your rented home, there may be some repairs, painting, key cutting etc. that you may need to get done.
Will you sell your car?
Get a fair market related price for your car – It is important to sell bigger ticketed items like your car for as much as possible, in order to maximize on your Savings. So do your research and find out what your car is really worth based on its age, condition and mileage.
Get your car serviced if it is due – If you want to make sure you can sell your car for what it is worth, you may need to service it just before you sell it.
Sell your car – We sold two cars just before we left. We sold one sooner than the other and saved a bit more cash by only having one when we both weren’t working in the last month.
We did not opt to keep or pay for a storage unit. We kept so little stuff the price seemed like a waste. We sold or donated almost everything.
Research storage facilities – Find out how much it costs for different sized storage facilities.
How much stuff are you keeping? – Depending on your answer, you may choose to use a storage facility or to keep only some items with trusted friends or family. Personally we only kept important original documents and very sentimental or passed down items. We therefore just kept stuff with family.
Everything else you own
Whether you are getting rid of your stuff, storing some of it, moving it to friends etc. It takes time to go through all of it. We recommend dividing your stuff into the following piles as you sort through it.
Take with on the trip (The packing pile) – Be selective. The number one tip from a full-time traveller; Take less than you think you’ll need. You always need less than what you think you will. Don’t pack stuff for in case you’ll need it. Stuff happens, the in case will happen, but when it does, you’re a resourceful traveler, right? You’ll find a way or you can buy what you need. Don’t lug that sewing kit with you until that one day 9 months into the trip when you eventually need it. Buy one, borrow one, or find a tailor.
Sell – This was all covered in the points above. Start early with selling the stuff you do not need
Throw away – Some stuff you just can’t sell or donate. Throw it away or recycle it.
Storing with family/a storage unit – Make the trek to your chosen storage location and get these things out of your hair.
Donate – We donated all of our clothes and many kitchen items to charity.
The last thing you want to be paying for while you are away is services you are not using back home. We closed the following accounts before we left;
Cll phone contracts, if you won’t be able to use it overseas. There are options for International phone plans, like Google Fi, but they aren’t viable for everyone. SIM cards with data packages are usually quite cheap in most countries.
Medical aid/insurance. Read more in the Medical Considerations section (Points 77-81)
Municipal Accounts of the home we sold
Home internet provider
Some additional ones you may need to cancel
Household contents insurance
Household/building insurance if you sell your home
If your laptop/cellphone/camera gear are going to be covered by your Travel Insurance (discussed more below) you don’t want to duplicate this insurance.
Bank Accounts – Depending on which accounts you need to have open while you are traveling, you may choose to close certain accounts/cards. More below under the Money Section.
You need to think about how you will access your funds while you are away. You may need to:
Find out what your bank charges for international withdrawals and swipes. Some banks are very competitive and others, well… not. This may affect your decision to withdraw instead of swiping, or maybe to even look for a better bank or card to use while you are away.
Exchange Cash for local currencies – Depending on where you are going for your first few countries, you might want to have some of the local currency for when you first land. Alternatively you can withdraw/exchange for US dollars as these will often be accepted in many countries. Just do a bit of research on your chosen country and decide what makes the most sense.
Notify your bank – This is another big one. Sometimes your bank may have security features in place, (for your own protection) whereby if they see foreign charges going off, they may be blocked or your card may be cancelled. This is because of the high likelihood that foreign transactions could be fraudulent. Just let your bank know which countries you are going to and you won’t have to deal with your cards being cancelled.
Get a Travel Rewards Credit Card or join an airline or alliance club. If you are going to be traveling often, these are well worth it. Not only can you use the miles you wracked up to pay for some of your flights, but you can also use them to get into airport lounges or get upgrades on your flights. We got ourselves signed up to each of the major airline alliances and got a Diners Credit Card which gave us discounts on flights as well as lounge access.
Close unneeded accounts – i would advise checking all of your bank accounts to see which ones offer the best international swiping and withdrawal fees. Once you see these numbers, close the accounts that don’t make sense to keep.
Remember that when you are traveling you will be constantly moving. Chances are higher that you lose a card, or one is stolen. Also, it may be a while before a replacement can be sent to you. You might want to consider finding out from your bank if you can have a spare card. Alternatively, i would advise keeping two accounts open with your money spread across both. This way if you lose one card, you are not stranded with no access to your money. You can use the other card while a replacement is sent.
Change your SMS notifications to email notifications – Unless you have an International SIM card like Google Fi, you won’t get SMSes. So for security purposes, make sure to change your SMS notifications to email notifications. This way you’ll stay informed of any activity on your account and be able to stop a card if you notice any suspicious transactions.
Remember to have that emergency money always available as discussed in point 10.
Check the expiry dates of your cards. One of my cards was going to expire 6 months after we left, so i got a new 4 year card before we left.
Now this is a tricky one as it all depends on your travel style. However, if i can add my humble opinion, i will say that the fun and adventure of travelling comes when you do not plan every detail of your trip. I would say you should just plan and research the following:
Plan a ROUGH route. – You want to know which countries you are going to for the first few months. Henry and i knew only our first 6 months-ish worth of countries. We didn’t book any flights except our first one to our first destination before we left (and our proof of onward travel, because it was needed for an Indonesian Visa). But we didn’t know exactly how long we’d stay in each place, exactly which order we would see them in. And after those six months, we would see where the road took us.
Visas – which visas will you need to apply for before you leave home? Which countries are visa free?
Keep in mind the cost factors discussed earlier. Research the cost of living in each country to get a rough idea.
Try to plan a rough route based off of your country wish list that minimizes your travel costs. You wouldn’t want to fly from New York to London only to come back to Mexico on your next leg. Plan an estimated route that minimizes back tracking.
Seasons – When planning your route be sure to take into account the seasons in the countries you are visiting. Some countries have heavy rain or monsoon seasons, or you might not want to go to a beautiful beach destination in sub freezing temperatures. This is all based on preference, but just make sure you research before you plan your starting point.
Also keep in mind the peak and low seasons in terms of tourism in the country you are visiting. This will affect the cost as well as the comfort of your trip. If you can go to a destination in their off-peak periods, why not?
Research, research, research. This is one of the most important steps to make sure you go through very thoroughly.
Apply for any visas you need before you leave home. Some countries will be visa on arrival and some will be visa free. Be sure to note that some visa on arrival countries (like Vietnam for example) still require you to have an application logged online before you arrive.
Give yourself enough time to apply for these visas. Sometimes the consulate for the country you are applying takes a few weeks to issue your visa.
Based on the Visa requirements of your first country, you will need to either book just your inbound flight and sometimes your departing flight or proof of onward travel. Please check with the consulate of your chosen destination for the rules for citizens of your country of residence.
Do a happy dance! When you have booked your flights, it’s real. It makes it so much more tangible and exciting. Enjoy it!
Will you cancel your Medical Insurance? – Medical Insurance schemes in our home country of South Africa (mostly) come with travel insurance. But only for 90 days. So we decided to cancel our medical aid just before we left. We went with comprehensive travel insurance instead.
Go for a full physical check-up. – Henry and i did this a few months before we left so that we could treat anything before we went off of our medical insurance, use any of our medical savings in our insurance fund, and make sure there was nothing to worry about before cancelling the insurance. If you get comprehensive travel insurance (covered in points 84 and 85) you will be covered for any emergency medical treatment you need while you are away.
Go for a dental check-up – I know you are supposed to do this every year, but we weren’t always great at that. Is anyone? The last thing we wanted was to have teeth problems while we were away or to have to pay full price for this when we weren’t covered anymore. So we went for full dentals and got a few fillings and wisdoms removed while we were in our home country so that these could be covered by our dental gap cover.
Get medications you may need from your doctor – During my physical exam my doctor gave me a script for some essentials; broad spectrum antibiotics, my contraceptive pill, pain killers, muscle relaxants, etc. We packed these and took them with us.
Make sure to pick up a few months supply of your contact lenses if needed, and bring your prescription or latest test results so that you can pick up some more or get replacement glasses on the road when you need them.
Find a loving home for your pets – While this may not be applicable to everyone, it was to us and this was a BIG one. It was hard to say goodbye to our two boys and we would not have left until we found them a loving home. If you have pets, start to think now about what you will do with them.
Remember, it is never OK to abandon your pets without a loving home.
Research the best travel insurance for your needs. – There are a ton of different companies and types of cover out there.
What will you cover? – Are you traveling with any expensive equipment? We did and hence we covered our camera gear and laptops before we left. You have to make sure these are covered in your policy and some companies may require you to stipulate what you are taking and/or provide proof of the value of these items. So keep any receipts where necessary and check with your provider what they require before you go.
Breathe! The process can be long and overwhelming. Keep focused on the goal and remind yourself why you want to travel. You’ll either feel very overwhelmed by now, or incredibly excited and anxious for it to start. It is all part of the process. Try to enjoy it.
Get vaccinated – Depending on where you are travelling and where you are coming from, you may need to get one or two vaccinations. To be sure, make a stop in at your local travel clinic or ask your doctor when you go for your pre-departure full physical as outlined above.
Do it in time – For some vaccinations you need to have them done or start on the course of medication (like for Malaria) sometimes a month before you enter the destination country. We highly recommend visiting a travel clinic for some solid advice.
Scan in your important documents – Scan in copies of things like your qualifications, passport, ID, Travel Insurance Policy, etc. Save these to the Cloud or email them to yourself.
Have copies – Get certified copies and keep a few of them with you in one or two different bags so that you never lose them. It is much easier to get a replacement Passport if you have a copy of your lost/stolen one.
Now that you have purged all of your unwanted stuff, (how freeing is that?) you will want to pack. But there are a number of important things to keep in mind.
What luggage/bags will you take? – Will you take carry-on and checked bags? Rolly bag or backpack?
Shoes! – One of the biggest tips i can give you is to not overpack on shoes and to make sure you pack the right ones. Make sure you have one comfortable pair of running or outdoor shoes, and one pair of waterproof sandals that strap on nicely for walking in wet conditions like beaches, waterfalls, etc. These two pairs, and one nicer going-out sandal/boot (depending on the weather, pick one) are all you’ll need.
Don’t forget to pack your medication. Refer to medical considerations points above!
Always take what i would call a Day Bag. – This bag will come in handy a lot when you go out for a day hike or excursion. This way you’ll have a lighter bag to carry the water/snacks/camera etc. you’ll need for just one day. This for me also doubles as my carry on bag that i take on each flight.
Packing cubes – Google it, then Get some! These are the best little inventions ever. I discovered these before my first big International trip. Not only do they save you space if you pack them right, but they help you stay organized and find what you’re looking for in your bag.
The following might not be necessary for everyone, but I thought i’d include them here as something to think about as they were very necessary for us and may get you thinking about other intricacies you may have.
International Driver Licence – if you will be renting or driving a car in your destination you may be required by law to get an international driver’s licence. Each country is different so do your research.
Learn how to ride a bike – This is a completely personal decision, but we wanted to ride bikes all over Southeast Asia, and in particular we planned on doing a trek from the North to the South of Vietnam, all by bike. We went on a riding course together and not only was it a world of fun to do together, we also learnt a lot.
Power of Attorney – because we still owned property in South Africa, and we may have wanted to sell it after two years (if we were still traveling), we gave a trusted family member Power of Attorney. We also did this because you just never know what can happen. If for example, there was a fire and an insurance claim needed to be lodged against our homeowners insurance, if we had legal issues with a tenant, etc. These would all be able to be solved without us being in the country.
Breathe! The process can be long and overwhelming. At this stage there’s almost no turning back. Remember that in life you regret more the things you didn’t do, than the things you did.
Spend some time with your family and friends. – Cherish this time and make it count.
We have family across South Africa, so we got to spend some time traveling our home country before we jetted off. It was a great opportunity to spends some quality time with our loved ones whilst saving some money on accommodation and mentally preparing ourselves for what lay ahead.
Get on that plane!
The emotions and/or fear you experience on this day will probably be too much to handle. Just do it. It’ll be the best thing you ever did for yourself.