Not all RTW travelers are experienced travelers who have been all over the globe on shorter trips. Not everyone who goes round the world is just taking the next logical step. There are plenty of people who have taken RTW trips despite having very little international experience. Most people considering RTW trips have done some traveling at least, but even if you have never been out of your home country before, that doesn’t preclude you from taking part in this amazing life experience.
If you are a novice traveler and contemplating a RTW trip, you probably have some fears and hesitations. But you’re here, so you’re at least thinking about doing it. Realizing that it is possible is the very first step to making your travel dreams come true. It’s important to talk about some of the stuff you’ll need and some of the situations you’ll end up in.
Why do we travel?
To get a change of scenery. To meet people. To learn more about other cultures. To get away from the stuff we’re used to. To learn more about ourselves. There are a plethora of reasons why people travel, and it’s going to differ from person to person. One this is certain, though, and it’s something you need to accept and embrace if you’re going to travel RTW – there is NO correct way to travel. Everyone does it differently, and there’s no one right way to do it, despite what the headier than thou backpackers might say.
When we are traveling, it’s good to remind ourselves why we’re doing this. Sooner or later you may find yourself in a nowhere town, making an unexpected overnight stay because your bus has broken down or the train hasn’t come. Don’t stress on it: this is travel. One of the reasons that we love to travel is the unknown, and part of that is that everything is not guaranteed. So relax; you’re not at work – enjoy it.
When to travel?
Travel because it calls you. If the idea of traveling through a foreign land in the spirit of adventure makes your heart beat faster, then you’re ready. If you’re doing it to impress someone else – that is, so you “can say you did it” – then forget it. That’s the worst reason to do anything.
For me the day before departure is one of the most exciting moments in life. The anticipation, the anxiety, the nervousness, the excitement – they all combine to create this unexplainable feeling that has my heart fluttering. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do know I’m going to have an adventure no matter what!
So forget age. Forget your career. Forget whether you’re single, married, with a family, or retired. It just doesn’t matter. Just like there’s no one right way to travel, there’s also no right age or situation to start traveling. Sure, some situations are going to be more difficult than others, but if you make travel your top priority, you can make it happen no matter your age, marital status, or employment situation. Long term, RTW travel is not just for gap year students, just-graduated-from-college early 20-somethings, or retirees. Long term, RTW travel is for anyone who has a passion for seeing the world and creating one of the best life experiences ever.
Who do you travel with?
In my experience, two is the optimum number for a trip. Over the years I have found that there always seems to be two jobs going, or two beds available, or two travelers of the opposite sex nearby! When you travel in pairs, you have a buddy to share those magical moments like watching the sunrise on the top of a volcano with. Just as importantly, you also have someone to cheer you up when faced with that 10-hour delay in India.
A pair is able to make a decision and go for it so much easier than three. With three you’re now a “group,” and people will treat you like a group instead of individually, instead of Sean & Chris, or Mary & Kim. Two people will get into more good situations than three, and I would not want to consider a long trip with four.
All that being said, remember that there is no right or wrong way to travel. The Lost Girls had a pretty successful trip with 3, even getting a book deal out of it. Families of 4, 5, even 6 hit the road for extended travel all the time. If the time has come and you can’t find a suitable person to accompany you, don’t worry. The biggest myth of travel is that it’s a lonely planet. Solo travelers, both male and female, are very prevalent on the road. It all depends on your situation. You only have to do what’s going to work for you!
If you do choose to travel with a partner or group, obviously money is a big factor. If you have to talk somebody into going, you’re maybe asking for trouble later. Also, your best friend may not make the best traveler. Generally, someone who is honest, somewhat reliable, and relaxed will be a good traveling partner.
You also want to get and keep straight your personal situation with your traveling partner if you happen to be of different sexes. If you start a year-long trip and one person fancies the other, trouble may be around the corner if that person later develops a romance with someone else. Another situation to avoid is three buddies and a girlfriend: the one buddy will be emotionally pulled in all directions, the two other guys versus the girl.
What do you need?
The three things you absolutely need to travel are money, passport, and a plane ticket.
Other than those three, it’s all subjective. Remember our mantra about travel – Everyone does it differently! So what you choose to pack – how big or small of a bag you bring, whether it’s a suitcase or a backpack, whether you bring a laptop and smart phone or just a pad and pencil – it’s all up to you! There are many resources that discuss these things in depth – like what types of clothes to bring, electronics considerations, and whether or not to bring a laptop and/or cell phone.
Finally, a wise man and good friend of mine once said, “Traveling is about having an adventure. Imagine climbing into a river and holding onto the bank while the water flows past. You may be in the river, but you will only go somewhere when you let go of the bank.”
It’s time to get your backpack on and let go!Next: RTW Travel: A Decade of Changes »