Travelling is awesome, we want to do it or plan on doing it. But how can you prepare for crossing continents for the first time, or a year of backpacking in a country such as Australia or Argentina. That is the same question I asked myself every time before I went on a new adventure. Here are some simple and easy to follow guidelines that will help you prepare for most new destinations.
What am I going to do ?
I’m not saying you should have a hourly schedule of your entire trip. That’s not the goal of travelling, nor should it be. What I am saying is that having an idea of what you expect to do once you reach your destination (ie. Rock climbing, sitting at the beach all day, safari, snowboarding, playing chess in a restaurant with the locals) can help significantly in your preparation. Having an idea of what you are going to do will make it much easier for you to select a fitting insurance, what you will need to pack and what you are going to buy when you get there etc.
What am I taking with me ?
Packing is a pain for most people, lets be honest. Whether it is feeling the fear of forgetting something important or procrastinating about it until the very last minute, most people would agree that packing often feels like a hassle. But does it have to be? Years ago, when I decided that I was going to go on a backpacking adventure through Australia and New Zealand I was exactly like I just described, afraid of forgetting something important and putting it off until I couldn’t put it off anymore. On my way towards Australia I picked up a book (The Four Hour Workweek) but it changed my packing habits forever. What I picked up from that book, and what I want to give to you as advice is one simple question. Is it a BIT or not. BIT stands for Buy It There. Is it something that I simply can’t buy at my destination (like a passport) or is it something that I make myself think is important (for example stacks of clothes and toiletries) but I could really buy at my destination.
I would advise you to ask yourself this question about as many aspects of your travel as you can. For me personally, I apply that question to my clothes, toiletries, electronics and insurance.
For how long will I be gone?
I know, I know, nobody likes to think of how long they are going to be away, because it is never long enough. If you are only gone for a couple of weeks for example, it doesn’t really make sense to sell your house, put all your belongings in storage etc. If you are gone for a longer time these are things you really should consider. The sooner you have this sorted, the more fun you will have on your trip.
Lone Ranger or Team Player
This question really boils down to one thing: comfort. Are you comfortable taking the Do It Yourself approach and take the challenges as part of the adventure, or are you more comfortable paying someone to arrange (almost) all of your journey for you? When you know what you are comfortable with, take a good look at your budget and find the combination that works out for you.
Safety and Security
When it comes to safety, every penny spent is also a penny earned. This is one area I will not slack just for the sake of saving money. There are however quite a few simple and very low cost (often free) guidelines that will greatly benefit you on your travels.
For starters, take in the following, I would recommend reading it aloud a few times as it carries a important message: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. What I mean by this is that in just about anything you do, every bit of preparation you put into it will pay itself of in multiples. This is especially true when it comes to safety. Everybody knows that its a bad idea to walk into a high risk area in a expensive suit, waving around cash like they are something special. Research what kind of area you are travelling to and do your best to blend in as much as you can. Do your research on what is going on on a national level at your destination, are there any factors that may ruin your travel plans, like local political/social unrest.
Leave the bling behind.
When you are going out, try to avoid an excessive amounts of jewelry. Don’t draw unneccesary attention to yourself when you don’t have to. The same goes for cash, as proud as you may be able to carry a wad of benjamin’s ($100 bills, US), take only the amount of money you need and leave the rest behind at a safe location, like a safe in your hotel.
Nights on the Town.
Don’t be a lone ranger when going out at night. Try to avoid going out on your own, or at least let people know where you are going. Avoid unlit alleys and/or streets that have very limited lighting. As far as taking out money goes, try to use the ATMs during the day, and look for the ATM machines within or attached to a bank. That way if the machine swallows your card for example you have somewhere to turn to.