This guide is for those who would love nothing more than to see the world but have no idea how to begin. Hopefully, these simple steps will help get you going.
1. Save your money.
Unfortunately, there is no way out of this step. To travel for the long haul, you need to accrue a fair amount of money before you begin.
There are many articles out there that offer advice on how to make simple cutbacks to save money. Nomadic Matt’s travel site has a helpful post on cutting back expenses that includes some great tips. Check out his whole blog; it has been the main source of inspiration for me to follow my travel dreams.
Many people I know have successfully traveled for one year without having to work at all in regions such as Southeast Asia and South America with $10,000-$15,000 they have saved up.
I know this number seems daunting to accumulate, but it really isn’t as difficult as it seems once you build up some steam and make saving a priority. Simple steps such as getting a roommate, skipping your daily Starbucks, and immediately putting aside 20% of your paycheck for travel will accelerate this process exponentially.
If you don’t want to wait that long to save up that large of an amount, you are still in luck. It is possible to save a couple of thousand dollars initially and then hustle while abroad to accumulate even more money, bringing me to my next step…
2. Work abroad.
There are several ways that you can save money while traveling. In this way, you are working but still living in a new, exciting place. Best of both worlds!
Another great option is teaching English in Southeast Asia, China, or Taiwan. English teachers are in demand all over the world, and monthly salaries range anywhere from $500-$2,000 depending on your hours and the country where you are teaching.
Many travelers choose to make Australia or New Zealand their first destination and stay for a couple of months on a work holiday visa to bartend, serve, work on a farm, or even pick fruit to save up some money.
The Australian minimum wage is $16.87, so you can make a fair amount of money doing pretty much anything. Check out the Wandering Orange’s post on how she saved $10,000 in less than five months living and working in Sydney, Australia.
3. Work in hostels in exchange for free food and lodging.
Many hostels will let you work behind the desk or do basic administrative tasks in exchange for free living, allowing you to stretch out your money on the road.
When I was in Cambodia, I met many Western travelers who had stopped in Koh Rong Island for a couple months working as servers in bars and restaurants in exchange for a free bed and food. In Sihanoukville, an Irish girl I met worked as a bartender on the beach and lived on the upper floor of the bar for free. In Manila, Americans worked behind the front desk at Pink Manila Hostel so they could stay for a longer while in the city.
The point is, you have options. Accommodation does not have to break the bank, and in exchange for a little sweat you can actually have your basic needs covered completely.
4. Don’t worry about not being able to make friends; simply hang out in a hostel’s common rooms.
Reaching out when you are traveling becomes a necessity, and you’ll be surprised at how comfortable you’ll feel about striking up conversations with strangers after some practice. One of the most beautiful lessons that traveling has taught me in the past year is that if you put yourself out there, most people will go out of their way to be friendly and helpful.
I went to China last September on my own. I’d always considered myself a somewhat socially awkward person, but when I arrived in Nanjing, I found myself shamelessly talking to anyone and everyone solely because I did not want to end up alone.
The thing is, everyone abroad is outside of his or her comfort zone, and many people are traveling solo. Thus, there is an inherent openness and willingness to meet new people that you may not experience at home because people are surrounded by their already established bubble of friends and family.
Hostels are great places to meet fellow travelers. Trust me, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make new friends and new traveling buddies. In Hualien, Taiwan, I met two Americans at the bar of my hostel and we ended up traveling together for a week in three different cities.
5. Don’t worry about planning every detail of your trip.
Of course, before leaving home, you should have an idea of what part of the world you want to see. However, don’t feel as if you have to plan out transportation, activities, and places you want to eat before you even get there.
Most research you do on the Internet will not be as helpful as local advice. Just talking the person working behind the desk at your hostel can inform you of the best activities, convenient methods of getting from point A to point B, and delicious local eateries in the area.
While in the Philippines, my friend and I had no idea how we would get from the Puerto Princesa airport to Palawan. A tuk-tuk driver eventually led us to a van packed full of other travelers for a very affordable price. You have to have faith that things will somehow work out and take that blind leap of faith. All it takes once you get somewhere is to simply ask.
I’ve spontaneously chosen some of my most amazing destinations based on word of mouth from travelers I’ve met within the country. The brilliance of flexibility is that it allows you to change your plans if you encounter exciting options that you didn’t know about before.