Whether it’s your first time visiting WorldSmith or you’ve been following my destination guides for a while, there are three little letters you see stamped all over my blog. R. T. W. What do they mean? What IS a RTW trip? And why do I want so badly for you to take one?
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What Does RTW Trip Mean?
RTW stands for Round The World, so a RTW trip is a trip that goes around the world. This is just a visual abbreviation; when speaking, I still say “round the world trip.” Technically speaking, a RTW trip makes a complete circumnavigation of the globe and includes destinations on multiple continents. You don’t need to get too hung up on the details though. Any trip that visits several destinations over an extended period of time counts!
How Long Should a RTW Trip Be?
There’s no rule for how long a RTW trip should be, but they are longer than the average vacation. Phileas Fogg’s fictional journey in Around the World in 80 Days was a RTW trip, and fittingly some modern trips fall in that two to three month range. My own RTW trip was about a year long, and this is the most common choice. Your own trip can be shorter or longer depending on your budget and your general travel preferences.
What’s the Difference Between a RTW Trip and a Vacation?
That extended time traveling is one of the biggest things that sets a RTW trip apart from a vacation. On a vacation, you will probably be gone no more than one to two weeks and you’ll likely book everything in advance, including a round-trip flight, hotel room, tours and things to do. Because a RTW trip is longer, you can only plan so far in advance You have to be prepared to make and adjust your travel arrangements while you’re on the road. You’ll also pack for a RTW trip differently — you can’t fit a year’s worth of shampoo in a backpack!
You may work part- or full-time during your RTW trip, and you might include a stretch where you live abroad in one destination. You may even find on a RTW trip, that you get burnt out and sick of constant travel. A vacation is a relaxing break from your life. A RTW trip becomes your life.
How Much Does a RTW Trip Cost?
Every budget is different, especially when you compare trips of different lengths or trips focusing on different parts of the world. (For example, the cost of travel in western Europe is much more expensive than the cost of travel in Southeast Asia.) There are also, of course, different styles of travel and someone staying only in large hostel dorms will have a very different budget to someone staying only in highly rated hotels.
All those grains of salt in mind, the average cost of a one-year RTW trip is around $25,000. A travel budget of about $2000 a month can send a backpacker to any destination. My own RTW trip cost just over $20,000 — you can see the full budget breakdown here.
How Long-Term Travel Planning Works
There are a lot of moving pieces that go into planning a RTW trip, and it’s easy for solo female travelers to get overwhelmed. I want to cut through that overwhelm! I break long-term travel planning into three simple phases: Save, Plan, Go.
Cost is one of the biggest barriers to travel (if not the biggest hands down). Figuring out how to increase your savings, how much you need to save, what things will cost, and how to manage your money abroad is critical and requires diligent planning.
Dreaming up all the places you could go and things you could do is the fun part. Less fun is whittling that down into a feasible trip and working out when to visit each destination as well as how to get from place to place.
Do you need to get visas? What about immunizations? How do you pack for an entire year of travel? The six months (or more!) leading up to your trip are all about the nitty gritty details that will help you put your life at home on hold and be prepared for life on the road.
To be honest all the planning in the world won’t fully prepare you for the riotous, life-changing experience of a RTW trip. You’ll stumble across incredible things you hadn’t ever heard of, and you’ll face challenges you hoped you could avoid. Having a good support network is important, as is understanding how to deal with challenges and setbacks.
Reasons to Take a RTW Trip
So now you understand the basics of what a RTW trip is and how they work, but why should you take one? This unique style of travel isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if going on vacation just whets your appetite and you spend 50 weeks a year counting down to the 2 you have to explore, then maybe it’s time to consider something new! These are just a few of the benefits to long term travel.
You Can Travel More Slowly
Have you ever felt pressure on a vacation to go-go-go nonstop because you had limited time? When you only have a week or so to enjoy your destination, travel can turn into a whirlwind checklist of things to do and places to see. But the world has so much more to offer than any checklist can provide.
On a RTW trip, you can travel at your own pace. When you travel more slowly, you experience destinations in a different way. You can forget about ticking boxes off a checklist and simply enjoy being there.
It’s More Economical
One of the most costly aspects of international travel is simply getting there and back. Typically on vacations, I would not be able to visit India, Thailand and Japan all in the same trip. I would have to purchase pricey round-trip airfare to each of these destinations separately. On my RTW trip, however, I could buy one-way tickets from one destination to the next, seeing all these countries for a fraction of what I would have spent on vacations.
You’ll Have Enriching Experiences
You can naturally have enriching experiences anywhere in the world, but on a RTW trip, you’ll inevitably rack up months of special memories. You will meet so many people, learn so many things about yourself and the world, and start seeing the world in a different way.
You’ll Have More Freedom and Control of Your Time
When I first started planning my own RTW trip, I saw travel writer Rolf Potts give a speech with this poignant topic: “Time is your only possession.” At the end of your life, you won’t be able to take material things with you; instead you’ll only have the memories you made. The only thing we truly control in our lives is our time and how we spend it. Taking a step back from the 9-to-5 working world can help you recenter and think differently about how you spend your time. While you may continue working on a RTW trip, you’ll have more control over when, where and how you get that work done.
You’ll Get to Know Yourself Better
Whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience or just a long, boring bus ride, a RTW trip gives you lots of time with your thoughts — especially if you’re a solo traveler! You might find this daunting or lonely at times, but you’ll also learn things about yourself you don’t normally have time to think about. Personally, I’ve dealt with an anxiety disorder most of my life, but I never thought about it until my RTW trip forced me to confront it. I might never have gotten diagnosed and learned how to manage my anxiety if I hadn’t traveled!
Gain More Confidence
Travel can be difficult, and the more you practice, the stronger and the better you’ll get. Moving frequently from new place to new place — often dealing with places where you don’t know anyone or even speak the language — will give you confidence and bravery you might not realize you have in you. My own RTW trip made me a much more decisive person.
Develop Unique Skills
Many young women are afraid that quitting their jobs to travel will ruin their careers. It’s true that an unexplained gap can send a red flag to some employers. But a unique travel experience like a RTW trip shows so many skills that could make you an asset to the workplace when you return! Even if you don’t have a job that lends itself to remote work (like writing, graphic design, consulting, etc.) all the budgeting, planning and juggling details show off valuable skills. You can absolutely turn your career break into career success. Starting this blog on my RTW trip taught me a number of specific skills that helped me pivot from a hodgepodge of part-time jobs to a full-time career in marketing.
Things You Might Do on a RTW Trip
Here are just a few highlights from my own RTW trip to get your creative juices flowing!
I felt the thrill of buying a one-way ticket to Europe
I watched a geyser erupt in Iceland
I learned to love going out to dinner by myself (thanks Paris!)
I explored the ancient ruins of Pompeii
I spent the night in a nuclear bunker in Croatia and a 13th century palazzo in Montenegro
I climbed an active volcano in Greece
I saw Wicked live in London’s West End (for less than 20 quid!)
I went trekking in the Himalayas
I fed and bathed an elephant in Thailand
I took an authentic Indonesian cooking class in Bali
I attended a weaving class in Laos and a calligraphy class in Japan
I toured notable street art in Athens, London and Buenos Aires
I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Sounds pretty amazing right? This isn’t me bragging; I promise you can do it too. Taking a RTW trip is the greatest achievement of my life so far, but helping you experience this special style of travel would be even better.
Hop on the waitlist for Round-the-World Roadmap — my in-depth course will walk you through step by step how to plan the adventure of your dreams!