Long-Term Travel Preparation and Packing List
This is the final post in the long-term travel series. Today, we're talking practical bidness. These are observations based on my experience, so definitely alter these suggestions to fit your own needs and destinations (this is a live document I'll be updating in the future too).Full disclosure: The links to Amazon, Yoga Download and Dropbox are referral links, which means that I get a small referral fee (or free Dropbox storage space) if you sign up. This doesn't affect your purchase price and isn't the reason I'm recommending these specific products (they are awesome). It's just another way to support BWYA :)
Priorities first.Kindle (plus reading light) - Even if you miss the smell of books, the texture of the printed page and that satisfied feeling that comes with seeing the first spine crease (just me then), you will not regret buying a Kindle. I have the basic model so I also bought a reading light, which has come in very handy as I tend to stay up into the wee hours reading, while Jake (who is a lot more sensible) gets a good night's sleep.A light-weight Laptop/iPod Touch - The device you choose depends on whether you plan to work on the road. If you don't need to work but still want to be able to check your mail and surf at home, I recommend an iPod Touch. It does most things a smart phone will do, plus you don't have the added hassle of having to cancel it if it gets lost or stolen (the only downside is that the camera quality on the cheaper model is a throwback to the early 2000s). Really, you don't need either if you're not working, as internet cafes are ubiquitous in most places. It's more of a convenience issue.
Bug spray/bug bite relief - If you're going anywhere hot, this will be necessary for your comfort and your health, especially in Dengue Fever or Malaria-prone areas. You can get all kinds of crazy things like electric zappers and what-not that are supposed to relieve itchy bites. I tried one of these but didn't really find this effective - tea-tree seems to do the trick (and doesn't require you to purposefully give yourself an electric shock).Vaccinations - Unpleasant but super important. Sometimes different vaccinations are required for different areas of the same country. If you're like us and didn't really plan that much in advance, it's definitely worth getting vaccinated against everything you might potentially need. There is some bad shit out there, and it's not worth jeopardising your trip to avoid a little short-term discomfort.Probiotics - Depending where you go, food hygiene could leave a lot to be desired. Our current favourite taco place looked promising until I saw the owner cut up cooked beef on the same board he'd just used to slice up raw beef (he makes awesome tacos and I don't like beef, so I'm willing to overlook this). Probiotics won't stop you getting sick, but they will help make the change in water, food and bacteria less rocky.
Rent/sublet flat - If you can do it, renting out or subletting your current home will add a huge chunk to your travel budget, especially when you consider that accommodation prices in your destination country might be far cheaper than rentals at home.Storage - We went for the above option, rented out our apartment and stacked most of our belongings into a small storage unit. Generally, the longer you rent a storage unit for, the cheaper it will be; you might be able to get a discount for renting for six months or longer.Small tip: get good quality boxes, especially if you're stacking. We got this tip from our removal man (a little too late), who pointed out that our bottom boxes are likely to be pancakes by now. We'll see...Pets - We fostered a cat for the summer before our trip. It was always a short-term arrangement with a local shelter, but our kind friends agreed to take him when we left so he didn't have to go back to the shelter. Pets can be a huge obstacle to long-term travel, but plenty of people overcome this by fostering them out to willing friends and family for the duration of the trip, or even taking them with them.Mail and other practical things - As we rented out our flat, we redirected our mail to a mailbox. A friend our ours goes once every couple of weeks to collect it, takes a look at it and scans whatever he thinks we might need into a shared Dropbox folder.This set-up has worked really well as it means we can deal with any time-sensitive issues. It was especially useful when we got robbed and I had to get new bank cards, as our friend in the UK was able to mail them to another friend, who then gave them to me when we met up at Christmas (officially, that's not something you're supposed to do, but if you're in a tight spot and the sender hides the cards well, it works).Receipts/important info - We take a photos of all bank receipts and important information like business cards and addresses, and store the images in Evernote so they're easy to find. This means we don't have to carry around bits of paper with us, and it also means that we have a digital copy of important info.Money and ATMs - Check whether your bank has a withdrawal arrangement with banks in your destination country. We've been able to waive bank charges by using a specific Mexican bank to withdraw cash.Currencies - Take a small amount of money for each country you know you'll be visiting so you're not caught short on arrival. You'll need to get out of the airport, train or coach station somehow and it's hard to do that if you don't have any cash.
Travelling long-term is a lot easier if you work from home or have a job that's based online. The great thing is that this applies to most jobs these days, especially freelancers, consultants and solopreneurs. Unless you're involved in a 'bricks and mortar' business, you can potentially work from anywhere in the world.The idea of saving up six month to a year's worth of travel costs is very daunting, and the prospect of doing that keeps a lot of people in the "I wish" rather than "I will" zone. As a lot of travel bloggers point out, if you really want to travel you can travel.We've met people who agree to work part-time on hostel receptions in exchange for accommodation. You can also house sit, find plenty of informal jobs or apply for live/work arrangements that help you cut down the cost of your trip (and therefore help you extend it too ;)). A lot of the blogs I've listed at the bottom of this post provide more information on finding cheap accommodation and working while travelling.
Photocopy your passport - It saves a lot of hassle if you lose your actual passport. I also sent a scan of my passport to myself via email so I have a digital copy too.Take multiple bank cards with you - If you have multiple bank accounts, or a debit and credit card for the same account, leave a back-up card at home. Then, if one card gets lost or stolen, you still have a back-up to lean on.Money belts - We both have money belts but have only used them on long-distance trips (especially overnight coach journeys).Talk to locals - Part of the reason I lost so much in Uruguay was because everything we had read about the country said that Montevideo was a lot more peaceful than Buenos Aires, and a lot safer. While this was true a couple of years ago (when most guide books in publication now were written), the situation has changed very quickly due to the currency controls in Argentina.When we got back to Buenos Aires, almost everyone we talked to knew someone who had been robbed in Montevideo within the past year or two. Guide books are great but they are, at best, about six months out of date. Ask locally about any precautions you should take, whether it's safe to hail taxis off the street, and so on.
Backup - As I have my laptop with me, I use an online backup service called Crashplan for my data (I've also heard good things about Backblaze). Even if I broke my laptop or it was stolen, all my data is waiting to be re-installed.Dropbox - After the mugging, I realised that, if I'd had my laptop on my at the time, I would have lost so much work as everything was just sitting on my hard drive. That would have been devastating, so now I keep all my 'in progress' projects in Dropbox so they automatically sync whenever I edit the file. It might seem like overkill with a full disk backup running too, but it's great for my peace of mind.
Regular exercise is pretty hard to maintain, especially when you're travelling around a lot and spending long hours on planes and coaches. The two criteria for exercising on the road are that it requires zero (or minimal) equipment and can be done with limited space. I've found two kinds of exercise fit this category perfectly: yoga and high intensity interval training. In January, I bought a yoga mat from Wal-Mart and, miraculously, it's survived several flights in one piece. I source yoga videos and HIIT workouts on YouTube, and now both Jake and I share an account on Yoga Download, which has been more than worth the subscription fee.
Travel washing line and laundry tabs - These don't take up much space and are invaluable when you don't have laundry facilities at home or a laundrette in your local area.Adaptors - We started off with a few UK adaptors and are now down to sharing one between us! We accidentally left one in an old casita, and a couple of others have mysteriously disappeared. It's worth either packing spare adaptors or purchasing local plugs and cables when you arrive.Eyemask and neck pillow - These make all the difference when you take long-distance or overnight plane and coach journeys.
Items You Don't Need
Hairdryer - Having blow-dried my hair pretty much every day since forever, I've used a hairdryer once in the last six months (and that was for a wedding). The rest of the time, I haven't needed one at all.Lots of clothes and shoes - I mentioned this in a previous post but it's worth repeating again: you really don't need a lot of clothes. We mostly visited warm countries (and layered up in the countries that weren't) and doing this allowed us to travel much lighter than if we had visited chillier climates. Even then, we still packed too much.Even if you want to do adventurous stuff, like climb a volcano, you'll probably be able to rent the relevant equipment on-site, so don't bother schelpping around lots of gear if you don't have to.Books - Seriously, get a Kindle.Mobile (Cell) phone - I used my phone once during this trip; even then, it was more out of convenience than real necessity (and totally not worth the subsequent phone bill). I wanted to keep my cell phone number, so I changed my tariff to the most basic package I could find before we left. Any calls I've made, I've done through Skype or Google Hangout, which is much cheaper than when you're calling from abroad anyway.
Here are a list of blogs by experienced travellers, most of whom travel on a permanent basis. These blogs contain a wealth of practical advice, travel inspiration and proof that if you want to travel, you can travel.Location IndependentMarried with LuggageHecktic TravelsNever-Ending VoyageAlmost FearlessSuitcase Entrepreneur (particularly if you're interested in working on the road)Fearful AdventurerWandering EarlLegal NomadsNomadic MattPhoto Credit: Drew Coffman via Compfight cc