Some things to sort out before you go.

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
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Flag of United States  , Washington
Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Taking a gap year, career break (or whatever you like to call it) to go travel, may feel like a daunting task. To somewhat ease this, you can find several books out there to help you prepare. Then there's the great big Internet with lots of excellent forums and resources like:

http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com/ http://travelindependent.info/
http://www.bootsnall.com/

...to name a few.

I don't know how many hours I've spent researching the upcoming trip, but resources like the above definitively makes it all feel less overwhelming. Just spend enough time, and you will sooner or later feel more comfortable with the whole idea of taking some time out to explore the world. It's great fun as well, and will make the time pass quicker if you cannot wait to get your feet wet. Many travelers prefer not to plan too much (I've become one of those), but some organizing is an absolute necessity. Below is a list of some of the things I've had to go through, sort out or just consider over the last few months (the trip is still a month or so away, so I will probably have to add to this):

Why do I want to travel? If you cannot answer this, then you should probably just stay in your cubicle ;-)

Where to go (interests, climate/travel seasons, working/volunteering, price level, language, family/friends, security, accessibility etc)? How do I get around? This is important, unless you want to totally wing it!

How long will I go for? There's a few things to consider here, finances probably being the major one. There's also other questions you should ask yourself, like... Do I want to alienate myself from my profession? Can I survive a Christmas without Mum?

Do I need a visa to the countries I plan to visit? Should I get the visa in advance, or can I get it from it's embassy/consulate in one the neighboring countries I plan to go? The country where you are a citizen, are likely to have a web site where you can find out what countries you need or don't need a visa for. For Norwegian citizens that site is (the safest is however to talk directly to the embassy for the countries in question or to a travel agent):

Norske borgere er visumfrie til følgende land

Should I travel alone or with a group/friends? I've read page up and page down on this, and it seems the majority out there prefer going solo. There's pros/cons with both, too many to list here. In the end you have to decide yourself what you are most comfortable with, and also if you actually got someone to travel with :-)

Money/Budgeting/Finances, goes without saying. I've seen 12 months budgets ranging from US 8000$-30000$ incl. flights. 8000$ is more than pushing it in my opinion, but then I'm an RTW rookie. Depends on what you want to do and see I guess. Credit/Debit cards, travel checks, cash??

Should I buy an RTW flight ticket or single tickets as I go (aka DIY)? Again there's pros/cons.

Packing. Well I bought the backpack today. It's just 50 liters (that's about 3000 cu. in. for you US guys out there). Strapped to it is also a 15 liter daypack (900 cu. in.) It feels comfortable, but damn it's looks small for 12 months. I haven't tested to pack it yet, but it has to go. This is my home for the next 12 months. I'm gonna have to carry it a lot either I like it or not. Obviously you want something comfortable and not too big/heavy. I'll try to come back with an update on what to put in it...

Coming home (aka reverse culture chock, aka post travel blues). What to do next?

Some additional things to sort out before you leave (not necessarily in that order). Don't leave it to the last month:

- Inform family/friends :-)
- Quit your job or try to get a sabbatical. If you decide to quit, get your manager to write you a letter of recommendation or similar.
- Create an e-mail account with a provider like Hotmail. You want this to stay in touch with family/friends as well as people you meet along the road. This is also useful to send yourself stuff before you leave or on the road (i.e. travel-tips, important documents, address/telephone numbers etc).
- Should I write a journal, Internet blog/travelogue? Should I bring a laptop?
- What kind of camera do I bring? Where/how do I store the pictures?
- Update CV and send it to yourself in an e-mail to your new Hotmail account. You may need this on the road.
- Loans/bills.
- Internet banking may come in handy to sort out finances while on the road (beware of potential fraud/security issues, keystroke loggers, trojans etc.).
- Move out of rented property (leave enough notice). Alternatively rent/sell your house/apartment?
- Sell your car?
- Storage for your stuff.
- Tax return.
- Travel insurance (medical etc.). This is a must!
- Medical/Dentist checkup.
- Jabs/Immunization. Malaria prevention. Talk to a travel clinic if possible.
- Address change?
- Verify when your credit cards expire. Make sure you bring and/or e-mail yourself phone numbers in order to report a lost or stolen credit card.
- Passport. Some countries require that you have 6 months or more left before expiry from the day you enter the country. Make sure you have enough available pages in your Passport for stamps/visas (this is still something I have to sort out before I leave) or get a new one.
- Do I need an international driving license?
- Bring some Visa photos with you.
- Learn a new language?
- If you got private stuff stored on your work computer (you shouldn't :-), make sure you take a copy before you leave.
- Take a copy of your passport and other important documents (credit card numbers, insurance policy, immunization certificates etc.) Bring one or more copy yourself, as well as store a copy with one or more trusted person.
- Re-supply while out there (poste restante etc.). Sending stuff home (CD's with digital pictures etc.).
- Leaving party!!
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