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Long-Term Travel FAQ’s – Getting Started

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Have you dreamed of traveling the world?

Don’t know much about long-term travel – how it works, why people do it, why we urge everyone to take a long-term trip at some point in their lives?

Then this FAQ is for you!

Why is a long-term trip better than taking several individual trips?

You probably already know about the disadvantages of taking that one huge trip instead of a series of shorter ones. There’s a good chance you will have to quit your job and start again from scratch upon return (though not necessarily). You’ll probably have to give up your apartment or house and put things in storage. And you may miss out on several important events in the lives of your family and friends. You already know all the things you’ll be giving up, but friends and family might not understand why you seem willing to make these sacrifices just to live out of your backpack for months or even years. Here are a few reasons why this is a perfectly sane thing to do:

You already know all the things you’ll be giving up, but friends and family might not understand why you seem willing to make these sacrifices just to live out of your backpack for months or even years.

1. Efficiency, or to put it in business terms, Economies of Scale

For much of the world, the long-distance airfare is by far the most expensive part of any trip, so by doing a big trip all at once, you can spread those airfare costs out along the length of your trip.  It’s much cheaper to fly to the other side of the world once to explore multiple countries than flying there multiple times over the course of several years (especially when costs of traveling in certain parts of the world are so cheap).  So by spending your travel budget all at once instead of a bit each year, you get much more bang for the buck.

2. Economy & Serendipity

This is directly related to the point above, but by connecting close places together into one trip, you can do it cheaply, and you also get to see many interesting places in between – sometimes by accident – while en route.

Let’s say you are in Bangkok and you want to visit one of Thailand’s island or beach areas in the south. Instead of one 10-hour train ride you can break it into two 5-hour rides for about the same cost. You take the same train, but half way down you hop off in a small and cheap non-tourist town for a relaxing in-between day. With the clock ticking loudly on your annual short holiday, you can’t afford to take chances like this, but as part of long-term travel, side-trips like this can make for unforgettable adventures, and are actually a great way to avoid travel burnout at the same time.

3. A unique anthropological perspective

This is one you might not think of until you are nearly done with a trip like this, but being able to string together key destinations all on one trip will give you a fascinating look at the history of our civilization that you can’t get in any book, or even on multiple trips over the course of years.

Consider that our civilization started in and around modern day Iran, and then spread west and east from there. So you find yourself in London, which is an ancient city, particularly for North Americans and Australians. Then as you travel you make your way to Rome, which is far older than London. After Rome you hit Athens, which again is much older than Rome. After Athens you can go to Istanbul and Cairo, and it’s like you are going back in time.

Visited years apart these cities are all fascinating, but if done while retracing the paths of humanity all in a row, you get an amazing perspective, not only of those cities, but of younger cities you’ll visit elsewhere as well. Each city is loaded with museums that help tell this story, but many of the buildings and architectural styles you’ll see just walking around will help tell this story in its own way. Even if this doesn’t sound too exciting now, it might be something you’ll never forget after your trip is finally over.

What makes people want to go RTW?

There has been a lot written about this topic, and if you are reading this, you probably have your own answer to this question, so we’ll keep this short. Everyone has their own reason – a feeling of “when else will I be able to do this?” or a desire to get “off the grid” for a while, explore the world in a slower way, or live like a local in a few places for extended periods of time.

For some people, RTW trips are so appealing because they permanently make you a traveling badass, no matter where else you might have gone or not gone. It’s like running a full marathon or climbing Everest. Once you’ve done a proper RTW trip, you are a permanent member of an elite club.

There is a romantic notion that by circling the globe once you’ve “seen the world,” but you’ll quickly realize that you haven’t. The more people travel and see, the more they want to travel and see. It’s an interesting thing that happens. When we went on our RTW trip, we figured we’d be crossing off a lot of destinations and activities from our list. But we soon realized that there were so many more places to see and experience, more that we ever imagined or new about, and that list keeps growing and growing the more you get out there.

The trip becomes an unforgettable experience that will have an impact for the rest of your life.

Read What is Your Why? 

Am I better off alone or with a partner?

This can get tricky. There are major advantages and disadvantages to both ways and most of those are pretty obvious. It does seem that most independent travelers who try solo travel absolutely love it and have a hard time becoming part of a traveling team again. Once you are comfortable going solo and you experience some of those advantages the concept of frequent compromises becomes much less attractive.

For those that are unsure about traveling solo but cannot convince anyone to take the leap with them, remember that even on the road you are only as alone as you want to be. There are tons of other travellers on the road with you at the same time and are, in general, very open to meeting new people. After all, you’re sharing a common lifestyle.

But if you have a committed partner that has similar travel goals and ideas, then this isn’t even an issue. Or if you and your best friend have both been dreaming about this trip for years, then the decision has long been made. The things you want to avoid if you are considering traveling with one or more other people are being in a mismatched group. If one person enjoys saving money by staying in bunks in 8-person dorm rooms, but the other is only comfortable in private rooms, this will be a problem. If one person prefers beaches and nightlife and staying out late and the other is looking for more of a cultural experience, this will also create problems.

The important thing is to be sure that your potential traveling partner is someone looking for similar experiences. There is no right or wrong way to travel, and compromising can often lead you into situations out of your comfort zone that enrich your trip in a way you didn’t expect, but talking someone into joining you on a trip they aren’t equally committed to – or compatible for – is probably a bad idea.

If you find yourself trying to talk someone else into joining you mainly for your own companionship, you should probably start thinking about going alone. You’ll almost certainly be happy you did. It’s true that traveling in pairs can cut costs a bit for each one, particularly by sharing hotel rooms, but you also need to consider that traveling in pairs will make you much less approachable to both locals and fellow travelers.

You are, after all, going out in the world to see it and interact with it, not just to compare your impressions with your partner as you go. If you are alone in a hostel dorm or a pub or a museum even the shyest person will have many opportunities to open up to and be approached by locals and other travelers. In groups of two or more you will seem like a self-contained social unit and it will take much more effort to mix with others in a meaningful way.

Should I get a new passport?

Probably not, but there are a couple of things you need to consider. First, many countries require that your passport be valid for a minimum of 6 additional months once you enter. It’s common that countries have rules in place to try to discourage random travelers from becoming illegal permanent residents there, so check the valid dates of your passport and if you think this might become an issue it’s best to take care of it before you leave. You can get passport services while abroad, but it’s much easier to take care of from home.

The other issue is the number of blank pages you have left. Some countries will require a visa sticker that goes in your passport and often they take up an entire page. If you run out of empty pages on the road you might have a problem getting into some countries. While at home, citizens of the US can mail their passport in for extra pages to be added, or if you are on the road you can get extra pages added at a consulate, usually while you wait (so this can actually be easier). Both services are free. UK residents can’t get additional pages added, but new ones with more pages are available. The point is, you want to figure out where you stand on this before you leave and keep it in mind as you travel.

Should I do my own RTW blog?

Unless you have a computer phobia or are mainly looking to get back to nature, you should definitely think about doing your own RTW blog, and there are several key reasons why. With a basic digital camera and a few extra minutes at the internet cafes you’ll already be visiting, you can have a professional looking site that serves not only as an ever-changing postcard for the folks back home, but also as your own permanent journal of your trip.

Checking out other people’s RTW blogs is a great way to get both information and inspiration for your own trip so by creating your own site you’ll be adding to the general knowledge pool. Some people write long entries every day and upload every photo they’ve taken, but that sort of effort is not necessary unless it’s the thing that makes you happiest.

Your friends and family will always be wondering about you, if not actually a bit worried about you at the same time. By maintaining a simple blog with even a couple of short posts and a few photos per week you’ll not only be able to keep your loved ones informed, but you’ll also be able to get real time feedback on your comments pages. And once a few friends and family members send the link around you’ll likely end up with dozens or even hundreds of people following your adventures.

But as important as it may seem to document your trip for other people, it can be just as valuable as your own personal record. Even a decade ago it was necessary to carry around notebooks and then have photos developed for sorting out later. The clumsiness of all that meant that only the most intrepid writers and organizers would have a meaningful journal in the end. For those of us who love to write, you can take journal writing to any extreme you care to, but even if type slowly and don’t think of yourself as a writer, having a running account of your feelings and activities will be something that will increase in value to you as years go on.

You may think that you’ll be able remember most of the important parts of your trip, but you won’t. You might remember what you felt the first time you caught a glimpse of Machu Picchu, but you won’t remember that amazing little bar you found in Cusco two days later unless you take some notes.

Fortunately, personal travel blogging has become free and very easy. If you already have your own site and you’ll be traveling with a laptop you can certainly create a very cool site you design yourself, but if not you can use one of the free and easy templates out there. Here at BootsnAll, we are a major hub for RTW information and resources and we have loads of RTW blogs, both complete and in progress, and an easy way for you to start your own.

Can I still hold a job while I travel RTW?

Years ago, there was virtually no question: if you wanted to take a year off to travel around the world, you would need to quit your job for the duration of your trip. Sure, you might be able to score some odds jobs here and there, but a steady paycheck was generally not possible. But now, thanks to advances in technology that allow us to stay connected virtually anywhere, a new breed of long-term traveller has emerged – one who enjoys a fairly consistent employment as a “location independent” professional, working a job remotely from anywhere in the world.

Still have questions?

Do you still have questions? Of course you do. Do yourself a favor and join in on our message boards where you’ll be able to compare notes with other travelers preparing for a RTW as those who’ve completed theirs, and also other people who’ve been to (or even live in) every place you’re going.

Once you have made the decision to RTW, it’s time to start the long planning process. A lot goes into planning a RTW trip, but luckily we are here to help you every step of the way. Be sure to read all our FAQ’s about planning a RTW. Start with Where Do I Begin Planning a RTW Trip?

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