Almost Fearless

Traveling the World: Getting Started

Today’s how-to post has kindly been provided by Craig Martin of the Indie Travel Podcast.  He’s been on the road full time since 2006, and if that wasn’t enough cred, his book Travelling Europe comes out this fall.
You’ve been sitting at your desk reading this blog for far too long. Haven’t you? It’s time to get out of the cubicle and into the world; but where to start? Let me show you the way.
Many people balk at the idea of planning long-term travel. It just seems far too expensive, far too difficult, far too much like … work. Budgets are hard, the time until you travel seems too rushed — or too far away — and that’s before you try to fit all those dream locations into your itinerary. Although all of this can feel true at times, planning is also a chance to explore your destination before you arrive, meet some great people and take the stress out of your upcoming trip.
Your first and biggest constraint is probably money. I know it’s mine! The good news is that, despite what the travel media has taught you, travel isn’t as expensive as you think it is. Taking a vacation is often expensive because we love to pamper ourselves with nice hotels and nice meals at well-known restaurants. The flights are expensive too and there’s all that time off work.
But imagine if the flight costs were spread out over six months. They wouldn’t seem too bad then. And the cost of one night in a hotel could give you ten nights’ accommodation in a hostel or some nice gifts for hosts you meet through programmes like Couchsurfing or Hospitality Club.
Finding the money
Our biggest financial hurdle isn’t finding enough; it’s simply organising it all. Start early by simplifying your finances and your lifestyle now. This will help you feel more in control and allow you to funnel more money into your savings account. Kill off subscriptions and memberships where you can: you won’t need them overseas! Sell things in your house that you don’t use; it’ll take the pressure off getting rid of them in your final weeks. Unless you have fine wine aging in the cellar, there’s nothing you’ll want to come back to.
Pay off debt and move down to one credit card (preferably one that allows you to build frequent flyer points without charging high fees). Try to get down to one current account with the same financial provider — one with good internet banking and international support. If you have paid off all your debt, look for an internet savings account with easy access and good interest rates. If not, forget saving and throw every cent at that debt instead. That’s three accounts, no financial baggage, and everything’s dealt with. Simple.
The cash trap
One trap often catches travellers during their planning stage: buying travel gear. There’s so much non-essential stuff out there that people buy by the packload. It’s especially difficult not to splash out when the bank account numbers start going black and then start to rise. Don’t confuse buying things with preparing. I’m certainly not opposed to getting the right tool for the job: I’ve got a pack of specialist travel gear that I’ve picked up along the way – it’s a 45 litre pack. You can save lots of money by concentrating on what you’ll use day to day. Forget things you might need or will probably want. Keep that money in the bank and buy yourself a nice bottle of wine. In a Spanish cafe. Watching the sunset.
Maybe now you’re entrenched at work, reading about Christine’s travel and dreaming of a cubicle-escape plan. Maybe you’ve lost hope of ever leaving. It isn’t too late to break free. When my wife and I decided to set off on a two- to five-year trip through Europe we gave ourselves two years to get ready; and that time took the pressure off our finances and a lot of stress out of planning.
If there’s one thing that travel has taught me, it’s to respect the words of Bob Marley: “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing is gonna be all right.” Planning your preparations — including your budgeting — within a reasonable timeframe is key.
Depending on how complicated your situation is and the scope of your travel plans it might take some time to get ready. Don’t stress – just keep the end in sight.
Social Research
One thing’s for sure, it’s never too early to start your social research on world cultures. Subscribe to a few travel blogs like Almost Fearless, Nomadic Matt or Ottsworld. Begin listening to some travel podcasts; try the Amateur Traveler, Everything, Everywhere or my own Indie Travel Podcast.
Join online travel networking sites like Matador, the Thorn Tree or, for a touch of real life, Couchsurfing or Hospitality Club. The last two give you the opportunity to offer your couch or spare bed to an incoming traveller for a few nights. It gives you the chance to meet people from all around the world, either in a local bar, your home or theirs.
Long-term travellers need money, so consider what kind of work can keep you going. Nothing with long contracts; something that pays reasonably; something you might enjoy. Consider doing some training as a bartender or ESL teacher, or spend a day fruitpicking to see if it’s your thing. You’ll be experiencing all sorts of new things on the road, but that’s no reason not to start now.
You might want to consider learning a language — or at least making a start. Try to find a language exchange group that meets in a local cafe rather than splashing out on a school course. It gives you the chance to meet some other travel-minded people and share ideas and dreams too. Some areas offer free or heavily subsidised adult education courses, so you might have luck there.
Final thoughts
No matter where you are, you can live an Almost Fearless life. You can travel full-time, or at least for an extended period. I’m sitting in Perth, Australia right now, approaching the end of year three since I left home. I’ve visited over thirty countries, played host and been looked after, been stuck somewhere earning and been through seven countries in as many days. It’s not as hard as it looks, so get planning and get on the road.
Craig Martin is the author of Travelling Europe (on sale November 2008) and the producer of the Indie Travel Podcast and Eurail Stories. He’s been living on the road since leaving Auckland, New Zealand in February 2006.
Online shopping? Please buy through us.

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



  • What a great post! I love the suggestions on how to handle money.
    We’ve just set a two-year deadline to start a RTW trip with our kids. It’s hard knowing we want to go but reminding ourselves that we need to take our time to plan and get the money and trip details right before we go (especially when you’re cutting back to save for the trip). This post reinforces that we’ve taken the right path – cool!

    wandermoms last blog post..planning family ski trips

  • Cool post. I have another money tip. If you think money is an issue sell everything that has some value before you travel.

    If you plan to travel for a year or longer, sell your computers, sell your car, sell your TV, sell your house. You will be happy to have that extra money on your trip and if you get back, you do not care anymore that you sold it.

  • @Wandermom: Good luck! I’m sure the time will fly by before you leave.
    @Marco: I absolutely agree. Sell it all! I have to admit I have a case of wine and 17 boxes of books in my Mum’s garage, but everything else went. We’re going to be back in NZ in 6-9 months and I think we’ll ensure everything is sold when we leave for South America.

  • Craig, great post.

    The first sentence is both depressing and inspiring at the same time!

    Keeping life simple (and non-materialistic) is the best tip to save certainly, and it is something I am trying to concentrate on particularly at the moment.

    Chriss last blog post..Anti-Procrastination

  • @Gillian @Chris Absolutely! Whenever I’m buying something I like to think about how many hours it took me to save that much and what else I could do with it. Time really does equal money, and I want to spend my time travelling, not tied to a desk. (By the way, I’m on twitter @ITPodcast if anyone uses it.)

  • Great suggestions, especially selling things that you don’t use. So far I’ve sold my keyboard, my slalom skis, my bike, my skateboard, DVDs, books, and some clothes I won’t need when I’m traveling. I think some people have way too much stuff just lying around gathering dust. Nothing wrong about owning things, but it’s important to think about what one really needs. I rather collect experiences than anything else.

    Also, “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing is gonna be all right.” Well said!

    Ericas last blog post..NZ, It’s Not Just About Mountains and Rings

  • A great post indeed. I really wish I planned out my life better. I’m still enjoying it but I wish I could travel more. Money is always the issue. But what can you do. I’m trying to drive myself out of debt to get back to goodness. In the meantime I enjoy travel blogs. They help me plan out my next trip.

    MikeCs last blog post..Live off of Nachos For a Month… Or Two

  • Great advice Craig! It really is so much easier to do than one imagines, isn’t it? I remember how overwhelming it all seemed before we began to plan seriously. Your books a great resource!

    We are into our third year of world travel as a family, living large on 25K a year in total expenses, so have become experts from the “family RTW experience” which is quite different than as a single or couple. I don’t know of any other families doing it as long as we have.

    Hostels are not as good a deal for families, so we rarely stay at them, although we enjoyed the last one we stayed at in Norway on the fjords gabbing with Koreans and Indian new friends in the sauna and eating an all organic meal!

    We actually lived for much less in a luxurious ocean view villa in Spain than a family of friends who were in SE Asia in hostels and small hotels on their world year tour in fairly primitive places. We did do an overnight in the Sahara and have been on 4 continents, but for the most part, if you are traveling with a young child, you won’t risk in the same way as adults might.

    It is very important to look at what your housing market is doing and the future trend, ( along with what you owe and rental markets) in making that decision before take off. We made the right choice to sell our home in Ca at peak, but the family from the famous book “A year off” and even sixintheworld, made very big errors in this area, by not looking ahead. The first one should have kept their house, the second should have sold before take off, both lost quite a bit by not researching the reality.

    The smartest thing we did while planning was to learn much about financial and currency markets. Things looked very boom in 2005, but we are certainly thrilled that we sold then and mostly got out of the dollar. Keep those types of things in mind when making a plan! Even more important in today economy and remember selling a house today will be extremely different than it was in 2005.

  • Planning ahead of time is perhaps the most important point: but it’s also the biggest holdup. Finding the balance between planning everything out and being open to serendipity is tough, but fun.

    Right now I’m having fun convincing my parents to keep my unused (but needed at some point in the future!) stuff in their garage…

  • As a professional ESL teacher, I really object to the idea that it’s listed alongside fruitpicking! If one didn’t need to learn how to teach in order to be an effective teacher, no school would ask to see your 4-year degree before hiring you.

    In the interests of your own safety, though. before you decide that you’re just going to go off and teach English around the world, take a look at the market and educate yourself.

    Most schools will not hire you illegally, unless they also plan to do such things as not pay you, keep your passport, or threaten to report you to immigration if you should decide to quit. Asian countries have long work visa processing times – 4-6 months for public schools in Korea.

    There are plenty of agencies out there that can help you get a legitimate job. Are there people who successfully bilk the system and work illegally? Sure. Do you want to risk a few years in a South Korean prison until your family pays back all the money that you were paid to work under the table? Hmm… not so sure about that. Would you like to find yourself looking down the barrel of a gun in Indonesia while the friendly policeman asks you to hand over your shoes and your passport? Nope. Didn’t think so either.

    Will you be able to find volunteer jobs? Yes. Just don’t count on being able to fling about as an ESL teacher, unless you have credentials, a job, and the right to work in your country of choice…

  • Thanks everyone for your warm comments. I’m glad this is a useful resource.

    As to V’s comments, I agree whole-heartedly. Quality schools won’t employ untrained people; and who wants to work at a bad school?! That’s why I’m recommending training before you go. Any native English speaker with a degree can do a one month Trinity TESOL or CELTA course and become qualified.

    As for working illegally; that’s right. I never recommend people work illegally and certainly don’t here. Unless you’re American, there are plentiful work and travel visas available in many desirable countries. For those that can’t get W&T visas, working permits do take time. That’s why I’m recommending taking the time to plan.

    Craig´s last blog post..Become a vagabond master

  • Thanks for the great post Craig.

    Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. I would like to add an advice for the travelers who want to save money on flight and accommodation:

    The search engine is a very usefull tool when looking for a cheap hotel and flight.
    Instead of booking a hotel through an angent directly, you should compare their prices. Many agents offer the exact same hotel room, but at different prices. Momondo compares 30 agents (around 300.000 hotels/hostels) and redirects you to the provider’s site to make the booking.
    When it comes to hotels, Momondo includes 550 airline and travel sites when searching for the best offer. So this webpage gives you an overview which is needed today with the travel market’s endless offers.

    I hope you’ll find it usefull,

  • Great post….wondering if anyone knows of anyone who has done some extended travels with very yound kids in tow? We have an almost 2 year-old now and hopefully a second on the way soon. I could see hitting the ‘road’ with a 3 year-old and a 4 month-old. Am I completely insane?
    .-= Tina´s last blog ..Hello world! =-.

  • […] quit her job as a manager for a Fortune 500 company and sold all of her belongings in 2008 to travel the world and work online as a freelance writer. She’s currently working on a documentary called The […]

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