My biggest travel regret will likely be taking so long to get serious about my RTW plans. After I learned about long-term travel, it was over a year and a half before I had a strong savings plan in place and was all in. Had I been diligent about saving and planning from the get go, I would be able to leave now. So for anyone on the fence themselves, I give these three pieces of advice to help you take the plunge.
I am a planner. While I’m pretty good at rolling with the punches should the plan fail, I still always have to have that plan in place. It’s one of the few traits my boyfriend and I don’t share.
When we were first dating and I started sharing my travel plans with Jo, I remember at one point he commented on how intense my planning was. If he were ever to take off and travel the world, he said, he would be more likely to throw some stuff in a bag, go to the airport, and just pick a flight at random.
Fortunately, when we travel together, our two extremes balance each other out.
Over the past few months, my job has quickly escalated from good to moderately stressful to insanely stressful to flat out unreasonable. I’ve reached my breaking point about a dozen times. In the midst of all that, it’s impossible for my travel plans not to start feeling like an escape. For my motivation not to become leaving this terrible position behind me.
Travel as an escape is a pattern for me, as it is with countless other Americans. I hold myself to high standards and work until I literally cannot handle another day on the job. Then I work a few more months, and then I take a vacation. And after a week or two, I start the whole cycle over again. It’s admittedly unhealthy.
I do think the other extreme – the Eat, Pray, Love side of things, if you will – is a bit overblown. I don’t think everyone has to travel to find themselves or to feel fulfilled by their daily lives. And I don’t think it’s a given that leaving your home country for an extended period of time will open your mind and turn you into the best person anyone has ever met.
So why do I want to travel long term? What will answering that siren call really do for me?
Thanksgiving 2015 was a quiet affair. My family went to visit relatives in Georgia, but with my work schedule forever up in the air and the boyfriend’s birthday actually falling on Thanksgiving this year, I stayed behind.
Jo and I had originally planned to have a brief daytime visit with his parents for lunch and a movie, but bit by bit over the weeks leading up that plan changed and we wound up spending several hours on his family’s farm with not a whole lot going on.
Between the unexpected down time and running out of his anti-anxiety medication, he was not a happy camper.
I used to come back from vacations feeling like I needed another vacation. I’d spend a week or two moving nonstop, packing as much as I could in every day, with more alcohol in my system than sleep. And that would work fine for a week or two. But then I would take that rundown immune system and walk through an airport, the ultimate cesspool of human germs. It was a terrible equation.
Like most things, staying healthy while traveling isn’t much different to staying healthy at home. When I take my RTW trip, a few basic precautions will help stave off the sniffles (or worse).
A lot of people have this grossly over-romanticized vision of travel writing, where you get paid to jet around the world. Given the number of actual living, breathing travel writers screaming “That’s not what my life is like!” I can’t believe that myth persists. I carry no expectations of glamour and certainly not of free rides. But I do know I’ll still be able to make money – even just a little – while I travel.
My study abroad in college wasn’t especially conventional. Instead of attending a university in England, I participated in a private program, which owned several houses and flats throughout Bath where we were put up, instead of in dorms.
By the end of the semester, my house was the only one in the entire program still on speaking terms. How did we do it? Cooking and eating dinner together.
So many people are afraid to travel because they’re worried something might go wrong. Personally, I think that’s where the best stories come from, but all the same, there are a few mistakes I’ve made in my travels that I’ll do everything to avoid repeating during my RTW trip.
These travel lessons can all boil down to that old carpentry adage: Measure twice, cut once. Because the trick to keeping things together in a foreign country is to double check everything.
There are plenty of little things I’m ready to learn on the road and bigger challenges I’ll face along the way. But I think the greatest travel lesson anyone can learn is how to understand and accept people in all their complexity. For me, that is very much an ongoing process.
I first experienced this – as I did many things – during my study abroad.
When I told the advisor in charge of managing my college tuition (the existence of which is little more than sheer dumb luck, and for which I am grateful every day), that I wanted to study abroad for a semester, he literally laughed in my face.
Why on god’s green earth would I want to spend money on something as worthless to my future career as an overseas English program, when I could continue investing that money with him and maybe someday put a down payment on a big house in the suburbs?
Michael wasn’t a bad guy, and he didn’t phrase his disapproval in those exact words, but he was one of many people in the world who tended to assess things by their material value, more than their intrinsic or emotional value.
There wasn’t anything he could have said that would have convinced me to forgo my study abroad plans, and turns out, it was completely worthwhile. Hands down, the best experience of my life.