Going abroad is a relatively simple task. All you really need to do is to get on a plane.
But if you really plan to do a significant amount of travel, you can begin to do things now which will prepare you to take the trip you’ve always dreamed of.
For one, if you aren’t going to be working while you travel, you need a significant amount of money to support yourself. You can build this cash stash much more quickly if you reduce your expenses. Don’t worry about doing it all at once, just do it step by step.
You should also get out of, and stay out of, debt of any kind. All your debts are draining from your cash flow and they will significantly affect your ‘freedom fund.’
Getting your financial house in order is the biggest part of getting in the on-deck circle for going abroad.
Now, when I say ‘going abroad’, I’m not talking about a 1 week vacation to some resort-covered island. I’m talking about a significant amount of time (3+ months) living abroad, and experiencing a culture not your own.
There are a few other things you can do right now, today:
1. Make sure you have an updated passport and the visas you need.
If you are visiting South America, for example, you’ll need to get visas in advance for countries like Brazil, Paraguay, and Suriname. The worst thing that could happen to you is to show up on a country’s doorstep only to be told you can’t enter.
Many times these visas will require a passport whose expiration date is no closer than 6 months away, so this might be a good time to get your passport renewed in the process.
Getting a visa can take a few weeks, too, so there’s no reason to wait around to get your visas done. In fact, the last time I was in the United States, I was around for about 30 days, but I didn’t have my passport in hand for about 22 of those days because of visa applications!
Get them done now and you’re that much more ready-to-go.
2. Get a bank account which is conducive to travelers
4 words: Charles Schwab Investor Checking.
One of the first things I did after my first trip abroad was to get an account with Charles Schwab. They rebate all worldwide ATM fees, so it is the ideal choice for travelers. (As a point of comparison, the previous bank I was using charged $5 per ATM withdrawal, PLUS an international transaction fee. Not good.)
Getting your ATM fees reimbursed also means that you don’t have the pressure withdraw maximum amounts of cash everytime you go to the ATM in order to avoid the transaction fees. You have the freedom to go to the ATM whenever you need to, without worrying you’ll be charged another $5 for doing so. (Of course, as part of minimizing your theft exposure, you shouldn’t walk around with too much cash, that way the thieves have less to take.)
Also, with the Charles Schwab account I’ve even skipped calling them to tell them which countries I am going to. The ATM card works in any location, right when I arrive. SUPER convenient.
3. Start work on learning the foreign language
There are now so many resources available for learning foreign languages, there’s really no excuse not to get started. On my Spanish page, I talk a little bit about my journey to Spanish acquisition, including the methods I used when I was still in the US. (I also talk about methods which wasted my time, and those which were most helpful. Check it out!)
Again, this is something you can start today, and thus prepare yourself for your time abroad. If you get to a basic or intermediate level of the language before you arrive, you will be able to get things done a lot easier, and opportunities and friends will multiply in a way that they couldn’t have.
Plus, you will avoid looking like a dumb gringo, which should be motivation in itself.
4. Address your biggest concerns about leaving
At a certain point, you really want to address those concerns you have about extended travel. So, it might be a good idea to sit down and reflect what you are really concerned about.
For example, one thing I was really concerned about was the security of my cash, cards, wallet, and passport while I was traveling. I simply did not know how to handle these things, especially when I would be staying in hostels. So how could I be sure my stuff is safe?
I also definitely did not want to carry them around with me all the time, especially in a place like Latin America, where petty theft is common.
So, I had to do some google-ing and some internet research, until I finally came upon the Pacsafe traveling safe. It is literally a safe that fits in your luggage and can be attached to practically any structure.
It accomplishes just what I needed it to– deter the casual thief as much or more than any other solution (hostel lockers, hostel reception, storing in my suitcase, etc.). I just lock it up out of sight, attached to a far corner of my dorm bed, and I feel pretty confident no one would get into it at all. Thus far, they haven’t!
Tip: If you end up getting the Pacsafe safe, get rid of the lock-and-key lock and buy a standard combination padlock from walmart or a hardware store… one less key to keep track of!
After my first trip abroad, I addressed even more concerns than I had before, because then I was somewhat knowledgeable as to what I needed. But, even before you travel, just sit down and make a list of the concerns YOU need to address and resolve them.
It won’t take very long, and it will free up your mind to dream, plan, and look forward to the trip you’ll be taking!
So, you see, it doesn’t matter where you are in life. If you want to travel, you’ve got to begin to prepare now, and indeed you CAN prepare now, wherever you are.
Your turn for travel and adventure is just around the corner.
Step into the on-deck circle.