Traveling abroad is usually an exciting prospect. Extended travel, like a two-week cruise or a month-long trip to Australia is even better. The more time you are away, the more you can see and experience of another culture. However, once you start looking at travel in terms of months instead of days or weeks, your planning process becomes more difficult. You have to make decisions about your home and belongings, insurance, utilities, visas, banking, etc.
You don’t have to let such planning become so much of a burden that it detracts from the anticipation of your trip. Instead make a clear plan early on and be flexible to adapting it as you need — skills that will be very useful once you find yourself living and traveling in a foreign land for months on end.
Plan, Plan, Plan
It is obvious that you will need a plan. In reality, you need three plans.
- Things to do before you depart
- Things to do on your trip
- Things to do when you return
The fun stuff is in the second part and there are countless travel books, blogs, and articles to help you choose your destination(s), lodging, deal with customs, etc. Start planning your trip there (yes, in the middle) creating an itinerary, making travel and lodging reservations, finding out what passports, visas, etc., you may need. Then use those tasks to start filling in part one of your plan. The last part of your plan will be informed by the first two parts, so figure it out last.
In an ideal world you will be making this plan months ahead of your departure date. The more time you have to implement your plan and adapt to change, the less stressful the process will be — and the more energy you’ll have to enjoy your trip once you leave home.
There will be certain things in your plan that you have no control over. Passport and visas requirements. Inoculations for certain countries. Pre-paying for transportation or making registrations months in advance for popular hotels. Arranging to pay your taxes, vehicle registrations, etc., while you are gone. Put those things in your plan and make sure you meet the imposed deadlines — ahead of time if possible. For everything else, enjoy the freedom to make your own decisions.
And here are just a few of the decisions you will need to make before going on a long trip:
- Are you going to sublet your home, leave it empty, hire a house sitter, or sell it and put all your belongings in storage with the plan of finding a new place to live when you return? (if you’ve never used a storage unit before, check out the video below.)
- Will your vehicles go into a storage unit, be lent to family or friends, be left in your garage or will you sell them as well?
- How are you going to handle money while you are gone? This may involve changing to a bank with an international presence or simply changing your accounts to allow for currency exchange and online banking.
- Insurance can be a major concern. You will be faced with multiple options, informed by some of your decisions in #1 & #2 above. You will need insurance for your home and belongings, but you will also need insurance for yourself: travel insurance and some form of global or foreign health insurance at minimum. You may also want to look into policies for liability and disability as well as disaster insurance, depending on your destination(s) and length of stay.
- Communication while you are abroad will be key, especially if you have close family and friends that are an integral part of your daily life. Figure out what technology of yours will and won’t travel (not all smartphones run on the same network) and make choices about tablets, phones, computers, and whether you will have access to Wi-Fi or dial-up or no network at all. Will you need a land-line or will you be able to Skype with your kids from halfway around the world?
Every Trip is Different
There is no magic template for planning this type of trip. Every country has its own regulations for visitors, every bank, insurance company, and cellphone provider is different. And, depending on what decisions you make about the life you’re leaving behind, you will face different challenges with regard to preparing for your trip and for coming back to “normal” life afterward.
The only real advice for planning an extended trip is simple: research, plan, be adaptable, and enjoy the travel!