THE 10 COMMANDMENTS OF A YEAR OVERSEAS
Are you dreaming of change? Maybe from the same pool of friends, the same bars and restaurants, the same arguments and the same 9 to 5 job? Travelling overseas for a year may just be the trick.
At 25, I packed my bags, took a leap of faith and went to explore what the world had on offer. It might have set me back financially and halted my career progression, but hey that house and that Audi will always be there, the freedom to travel with no responsibilities won’t be. So I thought there's no time like the present. I sold my stuff, packed my bags and started gallivanting around the globe for 12 months.
Along the way, I have collected some pointers and they go something like this...
1. Moolah will make your world go round
After blowing $20k in six months in Europe, I now know that money doesn’t get you as far as you think. While you don’t need unlimited funds to see the world, you will need enough to properly enjoy it. Your money will last longer in places like South East Asia and Latin America rather than Europe or the Middle East. Polish off your accounting skills and figure out how much you might need for flights, transport, accommodation, food and sightseeing for each country you plan to visit. Tally it, arrive at your total – then DOUBLE IT, that’s how much you’ll really need. Oh, and don’t forget to consider the emergency cash you're going to need when you get back home as you will most likely be living off your parents for a while.
2. Where in the world is Wally now?
Part of the fun is to wake up each day and say ‘What do I feel like doing today?’ Write yourself a skeleton guide of where your heart desires to go over the next 12 months. Book in a few major flights, but don’t lock in too many logistical details. This isn’t a job; you don’t need to know what you’re doing every single day. With flexibility in your itinerary you can take suggestions from locals on the road or travel to wherever the cosmos takes you. Just ensure you book a ticket out of countries like the UK, because getting grilled by immigration for five hours isn’t fun, trust me.
3. Casper the Ghost needs some Vitamin D
On the topic of planning, try to visit most, if not all of your bucket list destinations during the beginning or end of the warmer months. Unless of course you don't mind melting in a pool of humid sweat in Cambodia or coming back resembling Casper the Ghost after turning in to an icicle in Norway during the 20 degrees below zero winter. Oh and did I mention that the weather impacts on your mood too?
4. You’re not Mary Poppins with a bottomless bag
All those high heels you think you’ll wear, well you won’t. Not one. You will be travelling for a year, so you may think you’ll need everything including the kitchen sink, because who knows it may rain, hail or swelter. But remember that you’ll be buying things along the way and there’s this thing called washing. It may be better to purchase a cheap jacket at Primark in London than to carry one around Latin America with you for three months. Whether you use a washing machine in your hostel, hand wash clothes or launder in Eastern Europe, you’ll live like a local and also save yourself from breaking your back.
5. Roll like a local, talk like a local
Learn a language, maybe two. Mandarin? Arabic? Spanish? Maybe not fluently, but just enough. If you’re hopping between countries in Europe, it may be a bit pointless, but do try and learn words like 'hello', 'goodbye' and 'thank you' in the respective language. It may just grant you more smiles and better discounts.
6. Once in a while, treat yourself like royalty
Unless you’ve won millions on the lotto and can afford to travel long-term in luxury and style, you’ll no doubt turn in to a scrooge, stay in bunk bed hostels and stalk supermarkets during their prime discounting time. Although this may be unavoidable, it's also important to budget wisely so that you can pamper yourself once in a while. A day where you might eat in a delicious fancy restaurant rather than the same two minute noodles, or stay in a double bed hotel room all by yourself. Even if it’s the Ibis, at least the room won’t stink of socks, and the only one snoring or farting in the room will be you.
7. Step away from the laptop monitor and go an a group tour
Relying on the internet for suggestions and reviews has become the common tool for figuring out where to go, how to get to places and where to sleep. But from time to time you should consider doing a tour. They aren’t just full of retirees or twenty something’s on a sex frenzy. I’ve met a range of experienced travellers, who like me enjoy the security of people in numbers and want to make new friends from around the world. And although the ten minute photo stops are still alive and kicking, most itineraries give you free time to linger cities independently for at least two nights. Let someone else deal with the organisation, take a break, grab a cocktail and relax!
8. Recharge your batteries; take a holiday from your holiday
All that sashaying around the world in a whirlwind affair can drain your battery levels. After living in European hostels and making my own food for three months, travelling became a tedious and unenjoyable chore. I thought why not take a holiday from my holiday? I booked the cheapest ticket to Thailand and spent two weeks on the beach tanning, eating $1 Pad Thai and drinking the juice of freshly fallen coconuts. Rent an apartment for a few months by the beach in Portugal or a hut with a sauna in the Finnish mountains. Chill out, immerse yourself in the culture, recharge and don’t move a muscle.
9. Travel back in time to the days before mobile phones
You’re overseas for a year, meeting new people and seeing new things. Channel the pre-2000’s, a time before mobile phones, where humans talked to each other face-to-face. Of course you can still post green with envy inducing Facebook updates in the evenings or Skype your mum to tell her you’re alive, but do you really need to be checking how people at home are going every 10 minutes? Turn the mobile off or switch it to silent and immerse yourself in the scenery around you. Just like the good old days.
10. End up with the right regrets
Try things you wouldn't normally do, say yes to things that scare you. Meet people. Get out of your comfort zone. Take a risk, go on! Tandem base jump off the German Alps, white water raft down a Costa Rican river or climb an active volcano in Nicaragua. Don’t forget that time is ticking and the end of your overseas journey gets closer by the day. One day soon you'll be sitting in a shoe box office, doing what you’ve always done and are used to doing. Regret that you did something rather than nothing at all.
So now the only question left is - where are some of the pitstops you would make on a year long adventure?
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