My wife and I took some time off to go see the world last year. 90% of the times, it was just as we thought it would be: unreal. But there were also some lessons to be learnt and I wanted to share them here for any future travelers. Before I get to the tips, I want to address who this post is for. Ideally, the reader is someone who is:
1. Time, Money, and Experience –
- Taking a few months off from work
- May or may not have a passive income, but not sufficient enough to compensate for a full time salary
- Willing to take some stress if that means that they can tick off as many experiences from their list as possible
The three sliders you’ll have to play with. It is expected that you’d want to go wild and max out all the experiences possible during these months of travel. How far you can get with this will depend very much depend on your financial situation. As a rule of thumb, the more popular an experience is, the more likely it to be expensive.
The other factor is time. Before you set off, a few months may seem like a long time. But if you are trying to cover a lot of ground in that time, things like transportation will take up a lot of time.
Our major mistake was that we were extremely ambitious about how much we wanted to experience in 7 months across 20 countries on 5 continents. We managed to fulfill our ambition but there were a few costs we bore along the way. 2. Travel burnout is real.
On average, we spent about 5 days in one destination. We realized halfway in Brazil that we were going at breakneck speed and needed to slow down. This was primarily the reason why we spent about 14 days in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, instead of jet setting across the country.
How to avoid this: Treat your holiday like a working week. By this, I mean that you should have at least two days of doing nothing for every 5 days of travel-related experiences. If you can afford it, give yourself 3 days of break for every 4 days of experience.
This way you can ensure that you will avoid burnout and also have time to soak in all the experiences you’ve had so far. 3. Avoid flying as much as possible.
If there is one thing which gave me both anxiety and constant stress, it was the thought of flying. There are many issues with flying when you travel on a limited time and budget.
Firstly, there is the whole time spend going to an airport outside the city, queuing up and wasting unnecessary amounts of time in delays. In many cities especially in Europe, airports can only be reached by Uber or taxis during the wee hours and this can hit your budget significantly. For example, a taxi ride from the center of Dubrovnik to the airport cost us EUR 54 at 4 am in the morning. To put this in context, our average daily transportation cost (excluding flights) came to EUR 19.
Secondly, flights were also our most expensive item. Just saving 50% on our flights would have given us an extra 3 to 4 months of mileage in our trip!
In today's world, flying is probably going to become more tiresome. There are plenty of reasons to avoid flying but if you must fly frequently, investing in a lounge pass membership is a good idea. The thought of having a refreshing beverage in the lounge away from the crowd is a dopamine generator.
How to avoid this: Some flying will be inevitable but it can certainly be avoided. The best way to do this is to select a list of destination which are close to each other. For example, instead of trying to cover 5 continents, just cover Europe and Central Asia instead?
This opens up a lot of additional transport options like trains and bus which are not just vastly more economical, but also far less stressful. 4. No one is happy packing.
Constant packing and unpacking can drive you mad. Packing and unpacking was the second most annoying part of our trip. The stress mainly comes from the fear of leaving things behind. The more you pack, the more the chances of forgetting something.
How to avoid this: Pack as light as you possibly can, but I understand there are things that you just can’t leave behind. One way to not get packing anxiety is to keep your daily essentials in your backpack and leave the rest in your check-in bag. These things should include at least
- Two days of regular outdoor clothes
- Nightwear and pajamas
- Toiletries kit (except any liquids not allowed in-cabin)
- Chargers for all essential portable devices
- All lithium-ion batteries
- Basic medication
This will result in two things: not having to open your bigger check-in luggage during short stopovers, and forming a habit of knowing exactly what to pack and not forgetting things. 5. You’ll have to constantly work out the math.
The more you save per day, the longer you can travel. It’s a simple motto to go with but unfortunately, the decisions that result in savings are seldom simple.
Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you are planning to fly into Athens from Cape Town. You have two flight options. Flight A costs $800 and reaches Athens at 10:30 am. Flight B reaches at 5.00 am but costs $720. Which flight do you take? You may thing that flight B provides a substantial saving of $80 but have you considered if you can access public transport in the wee hours to the airport? And when you land in Athens, how much will the cost of storage be until you are allowed to check-in?
In our experience, flight B type scenarios always end up to be as expensive as the other scenario. On top of that, arriving early at a location always ended up with us napping for 3-4 hours and wasting the entire afternoon.
How to avoid this: Such decision making needs to be made almost all the time and it’s a good idea to set aside some time working these permutations and combinations. Use your 2 days off per week to spend some time on these. When things get too complex, the best decision to take is the one that causes you the least inconvenience. 6. You social interactions may greatly reduce.
If you are a strong introvert, this is music to your ears. But even the most hardcore introverts need to socialize at times, and unless you are traveling in a group or with a partner, this lack of social interaction starts to show.
I remember distinctly how the faces which I was used to seeing just a week ago started to fade away as echoes in my mind, as new experiences started to make a stronghold. Thankfully, social media kept me in touch with them and before long, I started to feel normal with my old friends again.
How to avoid this: Stay in hostels if you don’t mind. Also, tours can be an excellent way to meet new people and make friends. 7. Your diet and lifestyle will go out of the window.
When you find yourself in a new destination almost every week, the temptation to devour the local cuisine is irresistible. While no doubt this is one the main reasons to travel, this can also lead to significant weight gains very quickly.
You’ll also not have access to your gym or fitness center during this time making it harder to burn those extra calories. Just remember that this is a special time of your life and a bit of over-indulgence will not harm you in any way.
I will be posting more stuff here from my trip experience. Happy traveling and stay safe!