I wanted to quit and do this forever, sleep in a bed and in a tent, see what was over the next hill and never see a hill again. All of this, all at once, every moment, on the trail, or off. – Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods
Early on in life I knew I wanted to travel, and vaguely to where. In the sandbox, I would use my yellow shovel and blue pail to dig as deep as I could, convinced I would find China. If I dig all day, I would think, I’ll be in Beijing before dinner. Every scoop of sand brought my imagination closer to new sites, new sounds, and an adventure.
Now I shovel through travel blogs, digging my way through photos and scooping up ideas to try out and add on to. Traveling in perpetuity means never losing that child-like wonder of what might be behind the next scoop of earth. It also means that you are constantly searching for new motivation and inspiration.
Travel helps curb the itch that evolution gave us to always be finding more. Instead of scratching that itch with the typical American dream of cars, houses, and stuff. Fill your heart and soul with the wonders of wandering. I compiled this list of ideas, facts, and tips to help you travel for as long as you want.
Sorry to start off on a dark tone, but I’m not actually talking about disaster in the apocalyptic sense. Instead, I wouldn’t advise anyone to attempt long term traveling without having at least 6 months’ savings to use as your financial cushion on the road. Every new place you visit is going to require start-up costs. Think transportation to the new destination, visas and entrance/exit fees, and the time it takes to travel and find your new home. So just make sure you have some savings piled up before heading off on your long-term trip; I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to southeast Asia for six months without knowing I have at least $3,000 to rely on in case of emergency, broken laptop, or anything really. $500 a month is enough to live basically in Thailand for example, so even without income, long term travel is still reasonable. We’ll talk more about earning money while traveling later, but be sure you have your parachute before making the jump.
Speaking of parachutes and protective travel ideas, you should definitely purchase travel insurance. For a few dollars a day or less, you can make sure that your medical and dental emergencies are covered, even basic doctor visits. You won’t need to worry about your electronics or luggage because those are covered, too. Delayed flights, cancelled flights, emergency repatriation? All covered. With different levels of insurance available for all budgets, the investment is well worth the peace of mind knowing you’re protected in case of emergency or illness. If you’re an American traveling abroad, I recommend World Nomads travel insurance. Do your research, however, your credit card, school, or work might offer a better deal.
More than once I’ve seen friends complaining on Facebook or Twitter about not being able to get a visa to a country they already bought a ticket to because their passport expires in 6 or less months. This is an easy thing to do, open your passport, check the expiration date. If it is within six months, you are going to have trouble getting a visa to anywhere, so it’s time to get a new passport and get one now. Those friends who complained about not being able to get their visas? They had to express order their passports and that set them back several hundred dollars more than necessary if they would’ve checked early on. Likewise, don’t forget to look up visa requirements to where you are going, this is your responsibility. Typing ‘Vietnam Visas for Americans’ into Google will usually bring up a .gov website that will outline the visa requirements to whatever country you are searching. That information, however, can sometimes be insufficient or outdated so make sure to do your due diligence. You don’t want to end up flying 14 hours to a country you aren’t allowed to enter because of visa restrictions. Luckily, many countries offer visa-exemptions to Americans if you are staying for less than 30 or 15 days.
I can’t tell you how many people don’t do this, and how easily it can get you into trouble. Many countries require that you carry either your passport or a copy of it with you throughout the country, so do yourself a favor and get copies laminated before you leave. If you’re a single parent traveling with children, have your divorce, custody, and travel permission papers all laminated and ready as well, packed in your carry-on luggage. Don’t forget a copy of your travel insurance contacts and your coverage!
Have your international emergency contacts with you at all times. Not only is this good for you to have, but if the unthinkable were to happen it’s smart to have documentation on you that someone can use to contact your family or friends.
Most of the things you think you would need in a medical kit can be easily found in pharmacies across the world. However, that doesn’t mean you should skip out on packing your own. I always pack antibiotics, a rescue inhaler, and Orajel. Things like Vaporub, pain killers, and rash creams can usually be found along the way as needed, so don’t over pack, just bring what you will really need. For me, the antibiotics are because I trust the antibiotics I bring with me more than what you can get in other countries, the rescue inhaler is for my asthma, and the Orajel is because I occasionally get canker sores and it’s worth its weight to keep around to ease the pain when I accidentally bite one.