There are three basic questions everyone asks themselves when planning a trip around the world: Where do I want to go? How long do I want to go for? How much will it cost?
As plans take shape, several other questions come to the fore: Do I really need travel insurance? Should I pack extra shoes? Rabies vaccination costs how much? (Yes, no, wtf.)
There are several other important things to ask yourself when planning a trip around the world. Consider the questions below well in advance of departure to put yourself in good stead not only for your journey but whatever comes after.
1. Quit my job or take a sabbatical?
If you have been working at a company for several years, you may be able to take a sabbatical. In some cases, this is offered in the standard employment contract. In others, you will have to make a special case for it. Either way, consider whether you want to take a sabbatical or quit altogether.
Quitting offers the ultimate flexibility. If you want to extend your time away by six months like we did, you have the freedom to do that. If you want to settle in Samoa, you have the option to do so. It does, however, leave you in a more vulnerable situation financially. Taking a sabbatical on the other hand offers less flexibility (you have to be back on a specific date) but offers more security: you will have a job waiting for you on your return so you know exactly where you stand.
2. Round the world ticket or pay as you go?
There are several RTW ticket pros and cons to consider when planning a trip around the world. On the plus side, an RTW ticket is often cheaper, it reduces the stress of booking big flights on the road, it collects air miles and allows for better budgeting as you know exactly when your round the world trip will start and finish. On the negative side, it stifles spontaneity, follows the tourist trail and can be complicated to organise given that there are numerous rules governing where you can go and how you can get there.
At Atlas & Boots, we prefer pay as you go travel as it leaves open the possibility of jumping on a boat, taking a last-minute road trip or settling somewhere for a while. For us, it is by far the most interesting way to travel.
3. How’s my credit rating?
This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it will determine whether or not you can secure a good travel credit card. Prime options like the Halifax Clarity Card require a very strong rating so start improving yours as early as possible.
Secondly, your credit rating may be affected if you travel long-term with no permanent address. Make sure you register to vote by proxy and have your bills and bank statements going to one address to keep your financial records as tidy as possible.
4. Do I need to get fitter?
If you’re planning a trip around the world, chances are you have a few items on your list that require a level of fitness (e.g. trekking Machu Picchu, climbing Kilimanjaro, tackling a volcano or two). Think about these in advance and consider how fit you need to be. It was in Travels that Michael Crichton admitted to tackling Kili while woefully under-prepared. He underestimated how fit he needed to be and ended up blistered, exhausted and a burden on his companions.
Work on your fitness as early as possible to give yourself the best chance of enjoying not only demanding activities but everyday travelling too. Walking long distances and carrying your backpack will be less taxing if you’re fit.
5. Do I need a will?
It’s a bit morbid we know but writing a will is worth considering if you’re planning an extended trip around the world. Travelling in most parts of the world is likely just as safe as living in London, but it’s sensible to plan for the worst. Without a will, a person’s estate is divided up according to the law, which may not reflect their wishes. Write one to protect your loved ones. This can be done via a solicitor or will-writing specialist, or indeed you can do it yourself if the division of estate is straightforward.
6. What do I want out of my trip?
Before planning a round the world trip, consider what it is you want to gain. Are you travelling out of pure curiosity about the world, or do you want to change your life? Perhaps you want to learn a language, change careers or find somewhere to settle. Maybe you want to worry less and be more positive.
If you have a tangible goal, start planning for it early. For example, if you want to learn a language, you can plan a one-month stop in Mendoza, Argentina, to study at a language school instead of hoping to pick up Spanish on your travels.
Thinking about your goals beforehand can elevate your experience from a round-the-world jolly to a life-changing journey with lasting results.
For more help on planning a trip around the world, get The Rough Guide to First-Time Around The World.