One of the biggest questions I get goes like this: I’m at a point in my life where I want to travel/blog/do photography, but I am not sure where to start.
The question “Where do I start?” is one that I ask myself on a daily basis.
The first thing is: figure out if you are really ready to do this thing. When I started traveling, many of my friends would tell me I was so lucky and that they were so jealous. The truth is, they could have been doing the same thing, but they always made excuses for themselves: not having time, needing to work in whatever place, needing to stay put, “just can’t.” I could have made those same excuses for myself, but I chose not to.
So if you really want to do this, commit to the idea.
There is no “right way” to make travel and adventure your full-time lifestyle. There’s no step-by-step guide that can 100% guarantee that your travels will be safe, happy and life-changing. Be prepared to learn as you go.
So, where do you start?
1. Start Saving
Money is a necessary evil. You are going to need to make a few initial purchases: maybe a flight, maybe gear, maybe a visa. Figure out how to save. Money is the number one reason people give me for not being able to travel. If you want it bad enough, you can make it happen, even if it takes you a little longer than someone else to save the same amount.
Really take a hard look at your spending. Eliminate everything you possibly can, down to the dollar. Down to the cent. Do not buy lattes, do not go out to eat, limit nights out with friends. If you are really committed to your new life of travel, do everything you possibly can to put money towards it. Your friends and family might think this is a bit aggressive… and that’s because it is.
Aggressively saving money might make your life less convenient for a while. Trust yourself that you have made this decision, and trust that it will be worth it once you are on your trip.
2. Decide Where To Go
Do some research (and don’t let it stress you out)! There are so many cool places to go. Things to keep in mind: How long do you want to go for? How expensive are these places you are looking at? Is it easy, logistically, to travel to other countries from where you start? Will there be a language barrier? If you are planning on working, is it easy to get jobs in whatever place you’re considering?
I find it helpful to pick two or three places and weigh my options. A dollar will get you way more in Thailand than in Iceland. Australia is more expensive to leave because it is, hello, an island. Budapest is a fascinating city but is an entirely different landscape than the mountains and beaches of New Zealand. Cities? Beaches? Mountains? What are you looking for?
Think about it and narrow down your options.
There are SO many cool places.
3. Line Something Up
Having an idea of what you’ll be doing for your first week or two is extremely helpful, and will give you some peace of mind in what may be an otherwise unfamiliar situation. This might simply mean booking a hostel for the first few nights, but here are a few other options to think about.
Planning to WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a great idea. WWOOFing means you work on a farm in exchange for lodging and/or food. Often this is a wonderful opportunity that will teach you a lot about the place you are in. If you’re looking for a great learning experience to kick off your travels while having a base for a week or longer, this could be for you. You usually buy a membership for the country you are visiting, which will give you contact information for farms. You’ll then coordinate directly with farms regarding availability.
Another option is doing a Work-Stay or Work-Exchange. Many hostels abroad offer part time jobs in exchange for a free dorm bed. If you know what city you’d like to be in, you can email hostels directly and ask. Work exchanges aren’t only common in hostels or B&Bs, but can also look like a nanny job, or helping folks around the house. Good websites to check out are Help Exchange and Work Away.
Getting a job (like, where you get paid actual money) is also a fantastic option. In some cases, it’s possible to line up a job or internship before you arrive, even a few months in advance. I’ve found a handful of my odd jobs abroad simply by Googling it. In other cases, I prepared a resume before I arrived, then spent a few days seriously job hunting once I got to the country. If you do this, prepare to hustle.
Planning at least the first week or two of your travels is a good idea because it allows you to get your feet wet without being stressed about finding accommodation. You’ll also learn quickly how much you need to plan in order to feel comfortable. Everyone is different!
I took this photo while working in Costa Rica. Really.
4. Do Your Homework
Come up with a budget and calculate your expenses. There are tons of helpful travel blogs out there that will help you figure out everything from expenses, to what to pack, to what to eat.
Find a few travel blogs you like and make reading them your favorite new hobby. Get as much information as you can– it might come in handy, even if it just inspires you to try something new on your travels. A few travel bloggers that have inspired me are Nomadic Matt, Adventurous Kate, and Alex in Wanderland. Travel bloggers have done it before. They are the experts, and loads of information about their travels is at your fingertips!
As you’re accumulating ideas and inspiration, start thinking about what you’d like to accomplish on your travels and how long you’d like to be gone. If you’re booking a round trip ticket, you already know your timeline. If your trip is open-ended, have an idea of how you are planning to fund yourself, and what you’d like to get out of the experience.
Social media can help you in terms of inspiration and networking. On my most recent trip, I met quite a few people through Instagram, and as a result, did more and had more fun! Reaching out to someone on social media can be a great idea. Of course, always use common sense and be safe when meeting people from the Internet.
I connected with people on Instagram to do this backpacking trip in the North Cascades last month. It was a hilarious and beautiful trip!
If you are waiting for the “right” time, stop. There will never be a right time. The right time is whenever you decide it is. If you decide that the right time is now, then the right time is now. That being said, plan well. Once you have saved enough money, book your ticket. Generally speaking, tickets are cheapest about 3-4 months from the date of travel for international flights. Look this up specifically for the area you are going and you could save yourself some money.
Once you’ve picked a date, feel free to get really, really excited. You’ve taken a huge step!
One foot in front of the other, ya know?
I lived abroad out of my backpack for three years, and if there is one piece of advice I have for you, it’s this: Just start. Don’t think too hard about it.
There’s no one resource that will guarantee you’ll be happy and fulfill all your goals abroad. And there never will be. The only person who can make that happen is you.
I didn’t wake up one day feeling ready. I just went, even when I didn’t feel like I knew how. I wasn’t an expert. I got my first Smartphone in 2014 and starting putting photos on Instagram. I am a great example of someone who is figuring it out as they go.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “well DUH,” then Congratulations! But most people, including myself, need a push. So here it is.
The best way to get started… is to start.
Questions? I’d love to answer them. Email me.