Since many of you asked, here it is! Our 10 step guide to plan your RTW Trip.
1. BELIEVE – The first thing you have to do is believe that it is possible. If you are reading this blog, you probably have followed our journey and already believe that this CAN be done. Your life will not end because you take a break. It is Ok to change the order of things.
2. RESEARCH – There is a great amount of information on the internet about career breaks, RTW trips (Round the World) and many examples of people who have done it. Read as much as possible and start creating your To Do List. In my case, I registered for a 30 day program provided by bootsnall.com. This website was created by someone who did a RTW trip. Once you register, they send you an email every day, during a month, explaining each one of the steps. The excitement that I felt every day as I read each one of these emails told me that I really wanted to do it.
3. DECIDE – The most important step is making the decision. Understanding that you will make a pause in your current life, will live out of your suitcase for an extended period of time, will be away from your loved ones and that your “home” will be the country that you are visiting at the moment. It is also critical to come to terms with the fear that comes with the idea of spending money without having a monthly income. You have to let go and enjoy it. Understanding that once you return you will start generating income again, unless you have a job that you can continue doing online while traveling or are already retired and have a monthly income that you will continue to receive even if you are away.
4. BUDGET – There are three steps in the budgeting process.
–The first step is to do an analysis of your current expenses, so that you can clearly understand what you can reduce/eliminate and what expenses you have to maintain. For example, if you own a house, can you rent it while you are away? If you are renting, when does your lease expire so that you get rid of that expense? The same applies for your car, insurance, utilities, etc. The goal is to try to reduce your expenses to a minimum, so that you only have to worry about the costs from the trip.
–The second step is figuring out the budget for the trip. The general guideline is between $50 to $100 per day per person. It will depend on the type of trip you decide to make. You can backpack and stay at hostels and it will be the least expensive option. You can stay at Airbnb rooms or apartments most of the time and visit the sites on your own, like we are doing, or you can stay at top hotels all the time and have private guides in every city and it will probably cost you a lot. Choose an estimated daily cost and multiply it by the number of days you plan to be traveling, and that is your budget number. (ie. $50 x 180 days = $9,000). To that amount, you have to add the monthly expenses from home that you’ll have to pay even if you are traveling (storage fee, P.O. Box fee, mobile, credit card payments, etc). Also consider setting aside some money for your return.
–The last step of the budgeting process is defining where the money for the trip will come from. Do you already have the money from savings, retirement, investments, etc or do you have to start saving for it? If you have the money, meet with your financial advisor and share your plans. If you have to start saving, make a plan of how you are going to achieve your goal. You should try to generate additional income and also reduce your current expenses. Work harder to earn that extra incentive or commission at your current job. Can you sell something, teach, tutor at night? If you live alone, can you get a roommate, become an Airbnb host renting one of your empty rooms, move back with your parents for a while to save the rent money, etc? Also, start eating more at home, don’t buy the expensive coffee, buy less clothes, cancel cable and get Netflix, etc. Another good thing to do is get a credit card that accumulates miles for an international airline. Pay all your monthly expenses with that credit card, so that you can accumulate miles that you can later use to get flight tickets for free. There are many articles on the internet with tips on how to save for your trip. The important thing is to make your plan and start implementing it! It doesn’t matter how long it takes you. Keep in mind that the same amount of time will go by wether you do it or not. It is better to achieve your dream in two years than never.
5. ITINERARY – Your trip itinerary should take into consideration your MUST GO places. The ones you have always dreamed of visiting. Start with those places in mind and continue to add other countries, cities and experiences you want to have on your trip. Make sure that your itinerary makes sense from a direction point of view (ie. east to west, north to south), so that you don’t backtrack yourself and end up spending more money on transportation than necessary. Another thing to consider are events that you may want to participate in. In our case, we wanted to visit the Christmas Markets in Europe, so we had to take into consideration the dates they started in each city and adjust our schedule accordingly. Once you select the places, define how many days you want to stay in each place. Our recommendation is to plan no less than 3-4 nights in each city. The maximum number of days to stay will depend on your personal preference and the things you want to do there. At the end of this process, you should end up with an initial itinerary that should include a list of all the places you want to visit, a route and the number of days you will stay in each city.
This initial itinerary will allow you to finalize plans for your first one or two months of traveling in order to be able to buy flight/train tickets, reserve stays, etc. (You can confirm reservations for the rest of the trip as you go, so that you allow for some flexibility in case you decide to change anything). Also, it is important to determine if you will need visas or vaccinations so that you can request/get them before leaving. If you are an American citizen, visit the US Department of State website here. The timing and season in which you are traveling also determines the type of clothing you will need to pack. In our case, since our trip started in September, it was a bit challenging because we had to pack summer as well as winter clothes. Check the weather and general situation for each country you plan to visit, taking into consideration things like the rainy season or important national holidays that may impact your visit. This part of the process will also require a pretty good amount of research but it’s really exciting because it makes your trip real!
6. NOTIFY – Once you are certain that you are going ahead with the plan, it is time to notify your family, work and friends. I would suggest to explore options at your job. Verify with the Human Resources department if there is a possibility of taking a leave of absence or any other possible arrangement. If quitting is your only option, ensure that you give notice with time for an appropriate transition. Keep in mind that the planning process of a RTW trip requires a LOT of time. I was not able to do anything while I was working. It was after I quit my job that I was able to focus on the planning process of my trip.
Prepare yourself for the different reactions you will encounter from people once you tell them. At first people will be in shock, will ask you many questions but in the end will mostly support your decision and encourage you.
7. MINIMIZE / MOVE – Closer to your departure date, you will have to “finalize” your current life arrangements. You will have to:
-Go to your doctor/dentist and ensure you get checked and have enough medication, if you take any, for the time you will be away. Make sure you do this before you lose medical coverage from your employer.
-Select a storage facility to store your things
-Pack and move from your house or apartment
-Sell or return your leased car
-Cancel your utility accounts
-Get a P.O. Box for your correspondence
-Change the mailing address for all your accounts
-Set up automatic payments
-Notify credit cards of your travel plans
-Request visas and get vaccinations if necessary
-Get a mobile plan with unlimited international data
-Arrange for the care of your pets if you have any
-Buy travel insurance, etc.
Don’t forget that this process will generate some expenses such as moving expenses, car lease termination fee, visas fees, doctor’s and/or medications deductibles, etc. You will also have the expenses related to the first few months of your trip such as air tickets, accommodations, tours, etc. If you plan to document your trip having a webpage or blog, this will also be the time to work on putting that platform together.
8. PACK – Packing is the “tricky” part. We considered ourselves good packers before this trip but we realized after leaving that we still had a lot to learn. For this type of journey, you have to be really minimalistic and pack the least possible. We will dedicate another blog to packing but mainly buy a really good suitcase (lightweight, hard shell, double wheels, two sided) and pack dark colors (avoid prints) that you can mix and match and wear in layers if you have to deal with different weather. A golden rule that I dare to establish is that your suitcase should NOT weight the maximum airline allowance when you leave. If the maximum weight is 50 lbs (23 kg), do not go over 45 lbs. to give yourself a buffer that you will soon need. Do not buy everything before leaving, buy some of the things you will need on the road.
9. GO – Finally, the time has come. You are ready to leave. Try to have a farewell gathering to say goodbye to your friends and family so that you leave full of positive energy. Remember to make sure you have all your documents and equipment ready for departure (passport, visas, itinerary, reservations, credit cards, money, camera, computer, batteries, chargers, etc). Plan to arrive early at the airport, so that you can check in with enough time and have some down time at the gate before leaving. That day will be filled with emotions, so embrace them and be happy.
10. ADJUST & ENJOY – The first destination will excite you. Try to make it as memorable as possible so it serves as a good incentive to continue your adventure. You will also notice that during the first month, your body and mind will go through some adjustments. You will probably get sick, tired, homesick, miss your bed, your loved ones, the food, your pillow and wish you had packed less so that your suitcase would weight less. All of that is part of the process. At the same time, with every new destination you will be internalizing that this is your new life and you will be thanking God and the Universe for allowing you the opportunity of undergoing this life changing experience. Open you mind, heart and soul and get ready for the ride!
DON’T WAIT, MAKE A PLAN, POSTPONE NOTHING.