As I sit here looking at my tiny living room completely covered by our four suitcases, I realized I must not be the only one who has to figure out what the heck I am doing when preparing for long-term travel. So, I have compiled a list of 15 things you can do to prepare for long-term travel!
My husband and I are on the verge of immigrating to the US. Well, he is immigrating. I am moving back to my home state of California after living as an expat for 5 years. He just received his permanent residence visa, more popularly known as a green card.
I know most people reading this article are probably not in my exact situation (or do you also have a Turkish husband who has never been to America?), but I think after many years of traveling between the US and Turkey, I have learned a few important things about how to prepare for long-term travel. I am excited to share my tips that are fresh on my mind as we are going through some of this now.
You’ve chosen your location, you’ve bought your plane tickets, and you’re feeling excited! So, how can you prepare for long-term travel?
1. Take a Breathe
Phew, you are getting ready for an adventure! I don’t want to presume too much about your length of stay at your destination, but there is a good chance you’ll be spending a few months or more to where you are headed (I stayed almost 5 years) and there is surely a lot of emotion that comes with that!
Take a moment to collect yourself, breathe, and make a list of manageable action steps to follow rather than trying to think of all that you need to do in one sitting. The latter will be far too overwhelming. Prepare in bite-sized manageable steps.
2. Find out if you will need a visa/residence permit
You’ve got your ticket, but have you checked whether or not you will need a visa to enter the country? Don’t overlook this important step! Sometimes it can be as simple as going online, making a quick payment and printing out the confirmation. That is how most people can get their e-visa to visit Turkey.
But sometimes, it can be much more extensive than this and you need to make sure you do your research before heading out!
3. Make sure your passport is updated
This is another one of those things that could get overlooked in the midst of planning your trip. Usually passports cannot expire within 6 months of your entrance to another country, so make sure your passport is valid for many months to come!
4. Get your “ducks” in a row at home
Whether you are a renter or home-owner, you want to make the most of whatever situation you are in. You can consider renting out your home to friends or see if renting your space on AirBnB is the right fit for you. If that makes you uncomfortable, another good option is finding house-sitters online or through friends who can look after things while you are gone.
If you are a renter, consider sub-letting your room or apartment while you are gone. Maybe you will be really lucky and leave for your trip when your lease is up. If that is the case, make sure you have some storage space for your things. This storage space could be rented or just be your family member’s garage.
Transition is messy, and things get forgotten, left behind, and overlooked. This can cause tension in relationships where your friends and family have to clean up the logistical mess you’ve made. Make sure that you have considered your rent, car or pet situations while you’re gone and be considerate to those who are helping you.
5. Be financially prepared
Money can cause so much stress, especially when you are trying to prepare for the unknowns. Transition can be expensive, and it will most likely cost you more than you expect. Accidents happen, important things are not often anticipated beforehand… This is especially true when you arrive in a foreign country. You just don’t know what you don’t know! What I mean is, you really have little to no idea what you are supposed to do when you get there. You may figure out some of this online, but sometimes it just requires actually being there to figure it out.
How will you pay bills during your long-term trip? Will you be going to a job that is waiting for you? Are you a digital nomad? Will you teach English as a second language in your host country? There are so many ways to pay for long-term travel, but you certainly want to be prepared. If your job security is questionable, you want to leave for your trip with at least 3 months’ worth of salary in your savings (more wouldn’t hurt).
If your job security is pretty good, you should still have anywhere from 500-1,500 USD of emergency cash at your disposal. You never know when you’re going to need to book a flight home or have a medical emergency.
Related Post: The Importance of Community While Living Abroad
6. Create a budget
Setting limits is a healthy thing to do, because it will give you more control over your finances. Traveling can be expensive in some ways, but it can often be very affordable, too! Examine how much money you have coming in each month from your work, allot 90% of that to your budget and try to save the other 10%.
10%?! I know, it may seem a bit high. But since you’re venturing out on the road, there is a bit more risk of something going wrong and sometimes those things can be really expensive. Having some savings is not a bad thing. You may even want the freedom to donate some of that 10% to causes you believe in along your journey.
If you have no income during your long-term travel and are living off savings alone, then you need to make a budget and remain faithful to it more than anyone! I would highly recommend looking into ways to earn while on the road, even if it is not a full-time job. These days there is so much potential to earn online and many countries have access to reliable Wi-Fi.
7. Purchase Traveler’s Insurance
Having insurance while you are abroad might not seem like a necessity, but it is much better to have it than not. While a travel insurance plan cannot cover everything, it is something any long-term traveler needs.
As we said, long-term travel comes with some unique heightened risks, so making sure you are as covered as possible could save you hundreds to thousands of dollars in the long run. It might even save your life. One of the most recommend travel insurance plans is through travelex insurance, who work fast on getting claims processed and resolved for their customers. This great Forbes article has more information about other good travel insurance plans, so you can find what suits you best.
8. Get the right luggage
Not all luggage is created equal. Your luggage will get beat up on these flights, so you want to make sure you have something durable. Two of my bags are Samsonite and two I bought at random stores. The Samsonite bags are evidently much better quality than the other two I purchased.
Some things I like about my Samsonite bags is that they are able to hold all of my things without appearing to burst. The bag is thick enough that it seems to offer protection to my belongings, unlike my two other slightly cheaper bags. I also really like the pocket spaces on the flap.
This will probably be my last time using my cheaper ones before investing in a nicer set of two. My Samsonite bags seem to be alive and well after many long-haul flights!
9. Learn How to Pack Efficiently
Packing your suitcases in an organized and efficient way is key to being able to bring all the items you want without your suitcase being a total mess. You can find some specific tips and rules on how to pack efficiently here.
10. Join Expat Facebook groups in the city you are going to
It is not enough just to join an expat group for the country, although that is good, too. You should search for Facebook groups for expats in that city, because they are like quasi-locals who can give you so much wisdom from all their experience (and mistakes). I often respond to people’s inquiries on the expat Facebook group I am a part of.
Locals can also undoubtedly offer a lot of great information, but since they are locals there are many things they don’t experience or have to think about as locals in the country. Other foreigners who have gone before you can offer so much wisdom on very specific things that you will walk through.
Related Article: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Moving Abroad
11. Drink plenty of water the few days before your long-haul flight
Long-haul flights can be very rough on the body. It’s kind of cool to be so close to time-travel, though, is it not? Drinking plenty of H20 the days leading up to your trip will help you adjust so much more quickly. I’ve experienced less headaches, better sleep and better digestion all from drinking more water than I usually would the days leading up to my flight.
12. Get roughly conversational in the local language
I still remember the first Turkish word I learned (after hello). It was apple. Elma. Boom! I am so conversational, right?
If you are headed to a non-English speaking country, I suggest downloading apps to practice some of the local language, like Duolingo or Busuu. If you are a real smarty pants, you can even buy some basic grammar books to study before you go.
Language barriers are very real, and it can be so frustrating to want to explain yourself but not be able to. My first year in Turkey felt like a drawn-out game of charades and me putting together jumbled non-sensical sentences while I was trying to improve my Turkish.
Related Post: 6 Things You Need to Learn and Foreign Language
Learning enough language to “survive” is not as hard as you think. Just consider the typical situations you will find yourself in and start there. You can also watch some TV shows or listen to music from the country you’re going to for language practice. This will also help you get a sense of their culture, so win-win!
Be brave and don’t fear making mistakes! Most of the time locals will be very helpful and patient. They will feel thankful you are taking the time and effort to learn their language to speak to them. It’s pretty cool.
13. Visit your Doctor
Make sure that you have visited your doctor and dentist (if that is affordable for you) before leaving and getting any vaccinations you need before you go. You can find what vaccinations are recommended on the CDC website. If you have special medicine you need to take, research whether or not it is available and accessible in the country you are going to. Otherwise, make sure you bring enough for your trip!
On a similar note, try to research what the healthcare situation is in the country you are going to. It was actually cheaper for me to go to the dentist and doctor in Turkey than it was in America, even with health insurance. Also, make sure you understand what types of things your traveler’s insurance will cover and if that is cheaper than how much it would cost in your home country.
14. Get a credit card that is travel-friendly
I have no joke paid a $5.00 fee to withdraw money from an ATM ever since I’ve moved to Turkey and it is time for this baloney to stop. One of the first things I will do when I return to America is find a bank who has debit and credit cards that will not charge international fees (cough, that is not Wells Fargo, cough).
I am looking into getting the Chase Sapphire credit card, which is highly recommended in the traveler’s community.
15. Say goodbye to beloved friends and family
Whether it is for a month or a year, saying goodbye for an extended period of times is not easy. There is a great mixture of emotions. I promise I understand, as I live through it right now. I am excited to reunite with my family after many years as an expat, but I am really sad to say goodbye to my in-laws (who I genuinely love like my own parents), and my close friends in Turkey. We’ve all been through a lot together and this change will be hard.
Grieve as you need to grieve. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel, even if that is numb. Some people process grief before they leave, some people process it after. Just trust that process and be gracious with yourself and your loved ones. Everyone grieves differently.
Try to think of creative ways that you can stay connected during your trip, like FaceTime, Skype, or even hand-written letters. Send selfies and short videos of your days. Share the highlights. This will make the whole process of being apart much easier, and goodbye won’t feel so bad.
Okay, I hope you enjoyed this list of 15 things you can do to prepare for long-term travel. It is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it gets you off to a good start on how to prepare for long-term travel. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
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