Once you finally decide to take that plunge and head off on an extended trip, whether it’s a traditional round the world trip or any type of international adventure, excitement and anxiousness is in the air. You can’t wait to get started planning – the research, the plane tickets, the accommodations, the activities – all the things that will go into making your trip great.
Most people dive in head first when first making that decision to go on a big trip. You will devour guidebooks, travel websites, blogs, books, movies, and television shows, reading and watching everything you can get your hands on. The planning consumes and takes over your life. You spend all your free time researching and planning that trip of a lifetime. For months, and sometimes even years, you tinker with the itinerary, you read up on more destinations, you try to find those off the beaten path places that not many others have found.
But after a while, you run out of things to plan for. You get sick of guidebooks. You are tired of contemplating what a 20 hour bus ride is actually going to be like. You feel like you’re best friends with the bloggers you follow. You feel confident in how your trip is shaping up, and there really isn’t much else to do until those last few frantic weeks of getting everything finalized and taking off.
So what do you do in the meantime? What can travelers to do to keep themselves occupied and excited about the trip in those months in between initial excitement and planning and those last couple weeks before departure? It can be difficult, and these are the times when doubt is most likely to creep in. But have no fear because we have 13 different activities you can take part in to not only prepare you better for that trip of a lifetime but also keep that excitement level at its highest.
Take a language class
If you plan on traveling to a country whose first language isn’t your native language, then taking some language lessons before departing is always a good idea. Learning the basics of a language for any country you’re traveling to should be an automatic, but what if you want to take it to the next level? Take a look at community colleges in your area who offer language classes specifically for travelers. Or peruse sites like Craig’s List to look for one on one tutors, or even better, someone who is looking to do a language exchange. There are most likely plenty of people living in your city who do not speak English as their first language, and many are looking to improve. If you find someone from the country you’re heading to, you may be able to work out a language exchange program between the two of you where you teach each other. This is a great way to make some contacts for the place you’re visiting as well.
Read the Guide to Taking Classes on your RTW and Budget Language Study: 5 Alternative Locations Around the World for information on taking language classes once you’re on the road. Plenty of research can be done before leaving home.
Take a photography class
A lot of travelers get into photography while on an international trip. Whether it’s using your trusty point and shoot or taking a step up and getting a DSLR camera, there are plenty of aspiring photographers out there. But you don’t have to want to become a professional in order to take better pictures. You may always just want to take better photographs for you. You may be shocked at how much better your pictures turn out after taking an introductory photography class. Again, start with a local community college and look for classes there. You can also google “photography classes” plus the city you live in, and you may come across several options. Many cities have their own photography clubs who offer all manner of different classes.
Join a meet-up group
The preeminent group to go to for inspiration, advice, and just to meet plenty of like-minded people is Meet, Plan, Go!. They hold an annual event to promote the ideas of career breaks, sabbaticals, and long term travel, and many cities hold informal meet-ups each month as well. This group is great for all travel lovers – those who need that nudge to get them out the door, and those who are actively planning their own getaway. Meet, Plan, Go! is especially great for those who don’t have anyone else in their lives who get what it is they are doing. You may also want to check out Meetup in your city to see what type of travel groups exist. If there isn’t one that interests you, you can always start your own.
Stay up to date in the BootsnAll forums and you may find a meet-up being organized in the city you’re in.
Spend as much time as possible with loved ones
You are absolutely going to miss all your friends and family when you’re away on an extended trip, so be sure to spend as much quality time as possible with them before leaving. If you hope they stay involved with your trip, help them out. If you started a blog for family and friends to follow, don’t just send them a link via Facebook or email, get together one night over some beers or a bottle of wine and show it to them. Show them how to make comments and make it obvious that you want them to get involved. Start the process before you ever leave and you’ll probably have a lot more contact and interested parties once you’re gone. Do the same thing with Skype – get together with family and friends before leaving and get them all set up. Do a few test runs to get everyone else excited about it. It will give you an opportunity to spend some time with those important to you and hopefully get them excited about being more involved in your trip once you’re gone.
Eat at all your favorite restaurants
No matter how much you love ethnic food and how much you are looking forward to eating new and interesting food on the road, you will miss your favorite foods while you’re gone. There will be days when you yearn for something familiar, and many times that piece of familiarity may be your favorite slice of pizza. Make sure you eat all your favorites as much as possible leading up to your departure. Before we left for our RTW, our friends threw us a going away party with a St. Louis theme – including all the food and drinks we love – and it was a great send-off!
Be a tourist in and around your own city
When planning a trip that is longer than your typical vacation, you usually don’t have much extra money to spend. All the money you’re saving is going towards your trip, so getting out of town is not always easy. If you simply don’t have the funds to travel while you’re waiting to travel, then do the next best thing – become a tourist in your own town. Chances are you have neglected all the touristy sites in your city because you live there, but you may be surprised at just how much you may enjoy some of them, especially if you haven’t checked any of them out since you were a kid. Or make it a point to try to find new and interesting events going on in and around where you live. There’s always festivals and parades, many of them free, that you probably didn’t know about. Seek them out and try something new in your own hometown.
Plan a mini trip
When you are planning a big trip, it means that you love travel, so the thought of not being able to travel for multiple months or even a year is a horrible thought. Just because you’re saving for that trip of a lifetime doesn’t mean you can’t travel at all. Sure, the funds are low, but get creative. Stay close to home. Only travel for a weekend. Go camping, hiking, or take advantage of any outdoor activity that is cheap or free. Travel doesn’t have to involve getting on a plane or taking a week or more. You can cure your wanderlust by taking a mini-trip or two when preparing for your big one.
Take public transport
For someone like me who lives in a city where cars are necessary, taking public transport just isn’t part of my daily life. When traveling, particularly on a long-term trip, public transportation is going to become your best friend. If you’re like me and drive everywhere you go when at home, you might want to start changing that up. Take the bus or subway or light rail or whatever means of public transportation that is offered in your city. Get used to it. Embrace it. Love it. You’re going to have to get used to it somehow, and you may find out that the public transportation options where you live aren’t as bad as you thought they were, and it could end up saving you some cash during the planning process.
Take up any exercise that’s portable
If you are used to exercising on a regular basis, no matter what that exercise is, it’s time to start preparing for life on the road. Unless you are staying put for a length of time somewhere, then chances are you won’t be joining a gym during your travels. So you need to find something that’s portable and needs little to no equipment. Weights don’t really travel well, and neither does equipment for most sports, so take up something like running, yoga, or tai chi before leaving. You don’t need much in the way of equipment for any, and all would be great ways to stay in shape while on the road.
Read or watch movies about your destinations
Obviously we know you are going to spend tons of time reading up on guide books, travel websites, and blogs. But you can also learn a ton about your next destination by reading novels set in those places and autobiographies of important people in those countries. Reading books or watching movies about the places you will be visiting will give you a much better understanding of the places you’re heading.
Read 9 Trips Inspired by Travel Books That Are Probably Too Crazy to Actually Take and check out this thread on the forums that discusses travel books that have inspired you to go.
Set small planning goals rather than trying to plan it all at once
When you decide to take a big, international trip, you want to jump right in and start planning everything at once. That’s to be expected as excitement is at an all time high. But then you get in the position of having most things planned, and travel planning burnout occurs with months to go before departure. Suddenly it’s less exciting. Consider slowing down a bit in the planning and create small planning goals that take you until your departure date. You will be more organized and keep that excitement level at its peak.
Check out our Round the World Trip Planning page and read Planning Your RTW Trip: Overplanning vs. Spontaneity.
Allow yourself the occasional spurge
Saving money becomes an obsession for those planning a long-term trip, and after a while, not ever spending money gets extremely frustrating. Not being able to do all those things you used to love doing – going out to a nice dinner, having some drinks out with friends, heading out of town for a weekend – is hard. It might be a good idea for your sanity to allow yourself the opportunity to splurge occasionally. Only you know your budget, but give yourself a nice night out once a month or so or allow yourself to spend some money on a luxury item you might not need. Those few hundred dollars you may spend in the months leading up to your trip isn’t going to cause you to have to cancel it.
Say yes to anything free
You may be amazed at all the free offerings in your city. Start getting more involved in your community and you will find all types of cool events to keep yourself busy and not spending money. Search for free events on Yelp or peruse your local weekly for free stuff to do. There are things like dance classes, food and wine tastings, book clubs, and museum free days that can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do.
Planning a major international trip can be an exhausting process, and while most of it is exciting, there are times when you hit the wall and want to scream, “No more!” If you have hit the burnout point in your planning, it’s time to take action and get excited and ready to go.
Have you dealt with the travel planning blues before? What did you do to get yourself back on track? Comment below to share your thoughts.
Adam Seper and his wife, Megan, decided that 50+ hour workweeks with 2 weeks of vacation a year simply wasn’t going to cut it. So they decided to take a leap of faith and put The American Dream on hold. In October 2008, they took off on an epic, year-long adventure, traversing the globe and traveling to 89 cities and 11 countries across 4 continents, never to be the same again.
Now Adam is going to tell you how you can plan your own epic adventure. Every week, on “Round the World Wednesday” he’ll share tips for planning, budgeting and selecting a route, plus advice on where to go and what to see and do all around the world.