Nine things to plan for a round-the-world trip
1. Research destinations
You know where you want to go. You know where you don’t want to go. But do you know where you don’t know you want to go?
Accidental discovery is one of the marvels of long-term travel, the backpacker’s equivalent of finding money on the sidewalk. Which is why, with any planning, it’s essential to leave oneself room for change. When you’re reading guidebooks and travel publications, you’ll come across places you never knew existed but can’t wait to see.
My advice: Go to the library and check out guide books that cover entire regions, not individual countries. You just might find something that could change all your notions.
And this is equally true during your trip. Other traveler will tell you of little-known treasures. You’ll pick up a stray tourist pamphlet and see a spot Lonely Planet never approached. And you’ll be glad you cheated on your itinerary.
2. Plan your finances
Whatever you think a round-the-world trip costs, you’re probably wrong. It’s considerably more expensive or cheaper than the number you have in mind.
And yet, It’s very difficult to pin down a precise number since it depends on where you go, how you get there, how long you stay there, where you sleep and what you eat.
The breadth and duration of your trip could mean a budget of $12,000 to $30,000. This is why you need to do a good amount of research. You’ll have to learn the approximate price of:
• plane tickets
• local traveling
• local tours
You can find this information through guidebooks, travel websites, and traveler discussion forums. Learn how much backpackers spend in each location and do some rough math for yourself.
Plus, you have to consider all the equipment you need to buy.
Once you have an idea of the total cost, I suggest adding another $1,000-2,000, as a safety buffer.
Now you just have to save all that money. This is where a good financial adviser can give you a hand. He will analyze your financial situation and determine the best way to cut your current costs.
For more in-depth tips on saving money, read this post.
3. Find your plane tickets
This can be one of the most time-consuming steps, but it can mean thousands of dollars in savings if you do it right. There’s no shortage of options of round-the-world travel. You can choose from:
I won’t tell you what’s best, since it depends on so many things, like where you live, where you want to go and for how long. There are just too many factors.
4. Buy the right clothes and equipment
I’ve seen backpackers with a 90-liter pack on their backs, a standard backpack slung on the front, and two bags on each hand.
That’s no way to travel. If this was the wild, he’d be the prey of choice for a lazy tiger.
You actually need a lot less than you think. That means a smaller pack and much more mobility. There are lots of tips on what to carry, but they all follow these basic guidelines:
• a pack no larger than 50 liters.
• enough clothes to last four days
• good walking shoes and secure sandals
• compact towel and a light sleeping sack in case of a questionable bed
• tent and sleeping bag if camping
• a few tools: Swiss army knife, clothesline, duct tape, spork
The rest is optional!
5. Get your shots
Unless you want to spend your trip recovering from typhoid, you have to get vaccinated. Ask your doctor about it. Some cities have clinics that specialize in travel medicine.
6. Learn to cook
You don’t have to be Jamie Oliver, although it will win you lots of friends if you are. Learn to prepare a few dishes with simple ingredients that you can find anywhere.
Most importantly, you’ll learn techniques that you can use to create your own dishes with whatever you find.
This will have two effects: a) you’ll save a lot of money, and b) you’ll earn the admiration of those you feed, be it your hosts, local friends, or attractive travelers you may encounter.
7. Do some practice travel
Circling the globe is a big endeavor. You’ll undoubtedly find yourself in foreign cultures with baffling customs and not a soul that cares what you think.
If it’s you first trip, then I suggest warming up a bit first. Spend a few days roughing it in the countryside. Too easy? Go to the nearest country with a lower standard of living than your own. Stay in the cheapest hostels, eat only street food, haggle with merchants. You’ll pick up some know-how that will leapfrog you our of jittery novice status.
8. Talk to other people
Whatever you plan on doing, you can be sure someone has already done it. And they’d love to share that knowledge with you. We’re one of them.
If I was lazy, I would make this advice the only point in this blog post. That’s because some of the most important information for your trip you’ll get not from guidebooks or agents, but from people who have been there.
If you can’t find people in your city, then seek them online. There’s no shortage of travelers’ forums where seasoned trotters happily share their wisdom. Here are a few:
9. Know yourself
This might be the step that defines all other steps. It’s what will determine what you can put up with.
Do cockroaches disturb you? Do you have food sensitivities? Can you stand long trips crammed with strangers? Are you comfortable communicating exclusively with silly hand gestures?
So do an inventory of yourself. List what you love, what you can tolerate, and what you can’t stand. Then read this post all over again.