Making the decision to undertake long term travel can be daunting. Find out how to get ready for a long trip, develop a long term travel packing checklist and a few long term travel tips and tricks.
Long Term Travel has long been a dream of ours. In November we packed up our lives and set off on our adventure of a lifetime through long term travel – this post is about what we did to get ready and what we have learnt so far. After decades of working hard we made the leap into the unknown, sold our house and set off to travel and explore the world So now, after four months of travelling, visiting 12 countries and sleeping in 32 different beds, we are parked up in the South of France where Spring has arrived, and loving life.
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There are plenty of travel blogs out there that talk about ‘how to travel the world for free’ or ‘how to make money while travelling’. But these have never been our intention. We wanted to take some time out, explore different places, and see what sort of life we can lead totally out of our comfort zones.
It has finally sunk in that long-term travel is quite a bit different than a month-long holiday. Our longest vacation so far had been five weeks, most of which would be spent lolling on the beach. When you are on vacation, life can generally be put on hold. Not so with long-term travel, travel and living is a whole different kettle of fish.
Even though we have only been on the road for four months we have learned loads about ourselves and what it takes to be on the move all the time. Travelling long term requires a different approach, and while we could use the experience we had gained on our other travels, we had to learn a new way of doing things. This post shares some of our preparation and long-term travel tips and tricks we have picked up along the way.
Now this section is not about how we dress and our generally fashionable and stylish approach to the world. Rather, this is about how we choose to travel – and what we prioritise to suit our approach and tastes.
There are so many ways to travel reflecting our own experiences and dreams. We are keen on slow travel, taking time to soak in a new destination and not moving around every two days (although we also had some of that too).
We like a good bargain and are aiming to stretch our money as far as it can go. Throughout our travels, we have realised that budget travel is not our cup of tea and that we can find alternative ways to stretch our bucks. We aren’t out partying every night but we do love sampling the local food and wine, checking out museums and local attractions. Where possible we also want to do ‘bucket list’ things, things that are once in a lifetime chances to do something amazing. So we needed to figure out how to travel cheap but also with some quality.
Our main expense is accommodation. We have discovered a great way to make the most of our love of slow travel, and eliminate the majority of our accommodation costs, is to house sit, plus it also means we can travel and stay in one location for a couple of weeks. Plus we are lucky to have very generous friends and family in the UK and France who open their homes (and spare bed) to us.
To be honest, the hardest part about planning for our long-term trip was starting, once we started making decisions we were on a roll. We were stumped with having too much choice and found it difficult to figure out where to start. We read a lot, checked out the odd travel guide and talked to friends and family. Plus, I would be working remotely for a couple of months, so needed access to good internet. I was going to be a digital nomad!
By starting to put in place some parameters, we were able to start to structure what our next six months was going to look like (can you tell I like planning). We knew we were meeting family in Krakow for Christmas, and then travelling with them for three weeks. So Krakow, Berlin, Nantoux, Paris and London were locked in. We figured out we weren’t fans of going from New Zealand Spring to a Northern Hemisphere Winter, a month of sun in Malaysia and Thailand was locked in. And then all of a sudden, we had planned two months of travel.
As with most travel, there is a bit to organise. There was a lot to get in order before heading off.
Travelling with a New Zealand passport gives us a lot of flexibility with places we can travel without having to get Visas. New Zealand has arrangements throughout most of Europe that enable us to stay for three months at a time in a range of countries. Before leaving we arranged our UK Ancestry Visa’s which means we can stay and work for five years.
We spent ages trying to compare travel insurance options and trying to figure out what the best travel insurance was. We finally managed to get a good deal that would cover us both for the time we were away. We never travel without insurance, and consider it one of those vital travel items we can’t do without. You just never know what might happen!
Making sure our banks knew when and where we were travelling was important. The last thing we needed was our cards to be stopped because suspicious activity had been noticed in Thailand – even though it was us! We didn’t organise any specific travel money but rather sorted a pre-loaded debit card with multiple currencies.
Because we were house-sitting for five months before we left New Zealand we were essentially living out of suitcases already. But, transitioning from work clothes to travel clothes for Winter and Summer takes some planning. So figuring out how to pack for a long trip can be mind-bending. We developed our own long-term travel packing list. We purchased travel backpacks, and in the end, started our travels with a suitcase and a medium backpack each. Because we had the luxury of a five-month trial run, we were able to figure out what was being used and what wasn’t. If we hadn’t used it, it got left behind. As we have progressed through our travels, we have continued with this approach – if it hasn’t been worn or is tatty – out it goes.
My original title for this post was going to be ‘How to travel long term without killing your relationship’ but I think travelling long term has made us appreciate different things about each other, and I think made our relationship stronger. So here are some of our long term travel tips, some of the things we wish we had known before we set out:
Recording your journey is important. Not just what you did but how you did, what you loved, how you felt and sometimes even what you learnt. Living in the moment is precious but it can be fleeting, and as I get older I am finding I don’t remember the detail as much! We blog as a one way of capturing memories. We also take loads of video and photos. Writing letters (or emails) are also nice ways of capturing those moments that may just drift off in the fog of time, and also sharing the journey with those you love.
We find having some structure to your day/month is important for our own sense of wellbeing. I don’t mean overscheduling your day by the hour, but setting some goals and working out a plan of how to get there is a great way to introduce structure. Whether it be going for a walk every morning, writing in a journal or checking emails – having structure to your day is a useful way of making sure you actually do something!
We can’t all be fabulous at everything all the time (although I do my best to convince Andy I can and am fabulous all the time), so playing to each other’s strengths can make life easier. If you are good at navigating and your partner isn’t, then do that job. If you are great at meeting new people and being social, take the lead and bring your shyer partner along with you. If you are on the road with your partner you are in this together, and figuring out who is fab at something – and letting them get on with it – is a great way to share the load.
We love spending time together, but going from busy lives in New Zealand to spending 24 hours a day with each other can be challenging. Combined with moving around a lot, a bit of travel exhaustion setting in, time out from each other is a magic gift that keeps on giving. An hour alone reading a book in a local cafe, going for a walk or visiting a museum by yourself can be a great way of creating your own space within your travel.
We have had the pleasure of meeting up with family and friends throughout our travels. Sharing new discoveries with others is a great way to create more excitement and enjoyment from your travel.
This is the partner of Playing to Your Strengths. Sometimes when you are travelling with your partner sacrifices must be made, you may have to go to events or visit sites that may not be your cup of tea – you never know you may realise that you enjoy this new activity (although you may not necessarily admit it!). The great thing is that it may also mean some of, you have company for some of the things you want to do.
Travel Fatigue is real. Constant travel, un/packing bags, having to always figure out how to get from ‘a to b’ or where the closest supermarket is, sleeping in different beds, irregular eating, exercise and sleeping patterns can be tiring. Is it possible to become tired of travelling. Finding ways to get over travel tiredness is the key to getting more out of your travel.
Our packing tips for long trips are becoming finely honed and we have a running long term travel checklist. We find packing cells invaluable for keeping things organised. We are lucky in that we have been able to store a suitcase at a friends place, so are moving around with two medium backpacks and a case.
Keeping in touch with family and friends is important. Maintaining connections is critical and takes away some of the loneliness of being on the road. The trick is balancing keeping in touch with living your new life.
Don’t forget to relax and enjoy the experience. Things won’t always go to plan, but by relaxing and being present for whatever is thrown your way, you never know what you might discover.
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