In a couple of days we have the big farewell party which means that we should be finished with all the pre-trip stuff by now. So I thought I’d share our experiences on what it takes to prepare a trip of this magnitude. And that’s certainly more than on a regular vacation… But before you even start preparing you have to ask yourself some important questions? Do you want to go back to the same place after your travel? Are you going to sell your house? Will you take time off work or quit your job? Many questions and after you have answered those… lot’s of things to organize. Here’s an overview.
What about your job?
That’s a tough one to begin with. You can quit your job of course. Advantage is that you’re free to stay away as long as you like. But you will have to find a new source of income sooner or later. Keeping your job and take a sabbatical (like I did) is another option. It gives peace of mind because you have your income right after you come back. At the other hand you are not as “free” as you might want to be. Unless you want total freedom, I would recommend to try to arrange a sabbatical with your employer. That way you keep some of your social security rights as well.
What about the house?
If you live in a rental the easiest way out is: give notice. If you own a house it’s either sell or rent out. Since the market in Holland is really bad at the moment, selling was not an option. Also, we love our house and we still have the idea to return here. So we opted for renting out our apartment. In that case here’s a list of things to organize and think about:
- Find a tenant (or delegate this process to a real estate agent).
- Draft the rental contract.
- Draft an inventory list.
- Draft an inspection form.
- Ask the mortgage company or bank for permission to rent the house. Normally your mortgage agreement states that you have to live in the house yourself so if you want to rent it out you need to get permission. Not all the banks are willing to give you that, so I called them beforehand to find out about their policy. It turned out they were OK with it after approving the (unsigned) rental contract.
- Review your homeowner insurance policies: Need to cancel or do they still apply? If so, do they cover renting out?
- Check maintenance contracts (we have one for our central heating system) and inform the contractor.
- Cancel the energy contract.
- Cancel cable TV and Internet subscriptions.
- Find a caretaker for the house (someone the tenant can call in case of a problem).
- Find a solution to send forward any mail.
- Find a place to store your stuff. Preferably for free. We were lucky one of our friend’s parents offered us their attic. Thanks! 😉
- Create a “manual” for using the house (think about the washing machine, oven, central heating system, etc)
How to determine the budget?
So you decided to go on a rtw trip. Excellent! But how much will it cost? That’s one of the first questions that popped into my head. There’s no magic, there’s budgeting. And how much you have to budget depends on your travel style, it depends on the countries you visit and on how fast you move. To determine our budget I used the following resources:
- Other travel blogs. There are lots of people on a rtw trip and some of them share their experiences on how much they spent. Check out the monthly reports on Never Ending Footsteps, the country guides on Goats on the Road or read some of the articles on RTW Budget, a website totally dedicated to travel budgeting. And there are many more out there.
- Lonely Planet guides. Most Country Guides have a free chapter holding information on the budget. They distinguish between budget, flashpacker en deluxe. I chose to get in the middle of the “budget” and “flashpacker” styles. Forget about the “deluxe” category. If you categorize yourself in that one you’re probably not too worried about a budget anyway.
- Maybe the best resource: your own experience. How much did you spent that month in Thailand or on Bali (without the flights)? And how many of the luxury spending (like fast boats, excursions, fancy restaurants, cocktail nights, souvenirs, gifts) can you still strip off that budget? On a vacation you probably splurge a bit more on luxury than you would on a long-term trip.
After some research and doing the math we decided to set the budget on 1000 euro per person per month. That includes food, drinks, accommodation, transport, excursions, etc. Not included are long-distance, intercontinental flights or special activities like a diving course. To cover those extra costs we created an extra budget of around 4000 euro per person. Note that we planned to skip or only spend little time in most of the developed (= expensive) countries such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and the Western European countries. If you plan to spend a considerable amount of time in those countries, you will have to increase your budget.
Next to your daily budget while travelling there will be some costs before you’re on the road. Think about:
- Gear. Do you need a new backpack? Or a laptop? A new jacket?
- Travel insurance (see below).
- Initial flight(s) or a rtw ticket.
- Vaccinations. This often isn’t covered by your health insurance. I think we spend over 300 euro per person on this.
- Anti-malaria and other medications (like antibiotics). Anti-malaria alone easily adds up to 200 euro for a year’s supply (Lariam).
- Moving costs like renting a truck.
- Storage for your belongings.
Now that you have set a budget you have a goal… start saving!
What travel insurance do I need?
Good one. Your normal travel insurance doesn’t cover trips longer than a couple of months at the most so you will need a special “long-term” travel insurance. When calculating your budget, keep in mind that this kind of travel insurance is (a lot) more expensive than a regular travel insurance (about 50 euro per month per person). And the total amount has to be paid in advance! In Holland I found 3 options:
You have to compare their policies to see what applies to your situation. Specially if you plan to do some voluntary work on let’s say an elephant farm, do some research. I found out that the Allianz Globetrotter covers basic administrative voluntary work while working with elephants is qualified as highly dangerous and therefore increases the insurance premium with 70%. For the whole period! Which makes it the most expensive of all three. The JoHo Special Isis on the other hand is more expensive but includes all sorts of dangerous activities and voluntary work by default. Also, it covers molest and travel to countries with a negative travel advice.
We decided on the Allianz Globetrotter mainly because of the costs. We have no plans yet taking care of wild animals or visiting war zones. If such a thing would come up we can still try to find an appropriate insurance (or take the risk). If you live outside Holland you can look into World Nomads since it’s recommended by lot’s of fellow travelers. Compared to the 3 (Dutch) options above it looks expensive to me (but maybe I’ve overlooked something).
Note that in Holland in most cases you still need the obligatory health insurance too! You can only cancel it under special circumstances and unfortunately long-term travelling isn’t one of them. Good thing is that you probably will have no or very little income while you’re on the road so you can apply for a governmental allowance called “Zorgtoeslag“.
I assume that the RTW trip will include many of the so called less developed countries. For most of these countries you need to take precautions against hepatitis, tuberculosis, rabies, yellow fever, malaria, etc. That means a lot of vaccinations. And some of them require a follow up after a couple of months or even a year. Although there are ways to get the most important vaccinations within 2 months before departure, it is recommended to plan ahead. Not only nice for your arms, you also have enough time to get the follow ups which give you an extended period of protection (25 years up to life-long). Also, spreading the vaccinations over some years can be beneficial if your health insurance covers them.
To complete your medical kit, schedule a visit to your doctor a couple of weeks before you leave to get some prescription medications like antibiotics that can be used in case of travelers diarrhea or other infections. If you normally use any prescription medications make sure you get a medical statement from your doctor or pharmacies. Not only to avoid trouble when customs examine your bags, you might need that statement to stock supplies too.
Finally, have a dental checkup before you go.
Backup important documents… and other data
Scan your important documents and store them in your e-mail box. Since I’m using Hotmail I used SkyDrive to store my documents. I encrypted them too so documents like my passport won’t be easily accessible in case my account would be hacked. Just make sure you use a different password than the one used for your e-mail! Here’s a list of documents that I stored:
- Drivers license
- Vaccinations passport
- Insurance papers
- Proof of ownership for the house
- Mortgage certificate
- Permission to rent out
- Bank/Credit card numbers and expiration date
- Social Security number
- University diplomas
- Important addresses and phone numbers
- Employment contract
- Sabbatical leave contract
Next to storing important documents it’s clever to have some sort of cloud backup for the data on your laptop. There are several services nowadays that automatically backup your data in the cloud for about 5 euro a month. In case something happens to your laptop, your photo’s will still be stored safely in the cloud. In addition to that I suggest that you also use an external disk as a backup mechanism. Internet connections tend to be slow when you’re on the road so it could take ages before all these magnificent pictures you took at Angkor are uploaded to your cloud storage. Backing them up to your external disk is your first line of defense Read more on backup plans here.
Now that you have saved a huge pile of money, how to manage it? We keep it safely at the bank of course. But not just one bank, make sure you have a backup bank (or two). It recently happened more than once that people couldn’t get to their money. Whether it’s a technical failure, a cyber attack or your bank card is being rejected for some reason, there can be a situation that (temporarily) keeps you from getting some cash. For those scenarios: make sure you have another card from another bank. Same applies to your credit card: have a Visa Card and a MasterCard (or American Express). And carry some cash (preferably dollars) too, not only for emergencies but they also come in handy when you have to buy a visa (which is often in dollars).
No matter how many cards you have, there can still be situations that you won’t be able to use any of them. Maybe you’re on a remote island or on a trekking for weeks. And at the same time the boiler back home breaks down and needs replacement. For those situations it’s good to have someone at home who can access (one of) your accounts and is authorized to make financial decisions on your behalf. I asked my mother to be our solicitor. She has access to some of our accounts and can take some action if necessary. And make sure all bank related mail is send to your solicitor as well! Otherwise your replacement bank card will be sent to the wrong address.
It’s also important to tell the banks and credit card companies about your travel plans. Or else they might block your card because they find it somewhat suspicious that there’s a transaction from Kyrgyzstan suddenly. Also don’t forget to unblock your bank cards for worldwide use. In Holland (and many other European countries) most banks nowadays by default restrict your card to be used within Europe only.
To keep everyone who’s interested up-to-date with our adventures we’ve created this blog. There are many ways to create a blog, most of them use WordPress as the content management system. You can register at WordPress.com and start a free blog. Or you choose your preferred hosting company like HostNet.nl (which I use). There you can register your own domain name (up to 15 euro a year) and buy a WordPress hosting package for about 3,50 euro a month. I have also created a Facebook page to go with our blog. People who are interested in our travel stories can simply join the page so you don’t have to bother the rest with these idyllic island pictures.
I have changed my telephone subscription to pre-paid. I won’t be using my Dutch phone number while I’m away but I still want to keep it. Instead of a monthly subscription fee I now only have to make 1 phone call (or send a text message) every 6 months to keep my number “alive”. For live communication with friends and relatives we will be using Skype. Next to that people can reach us by e-mail or Facebook.
Depending on where you’re going you might want to look into visa requirements before you leave. You can get most visa while you’re on the road but Pakistan, for example, can only be obtained in your home country. So it’s maybe good to be a bit prepared beforehand and know how and where you can apply for a visa. And how to extend them if possible.
How to manage it all?
Chances are that you have an extensive to-do list a couple by the time you start preparing your trip. These items have to be managed until they are ticked off. In the meanwhile new items pop up, others need further detail, etc. So how to manage it all? You could simply use a bloc-note and a pencil off course. As a techie though, I would highly recommend the free mind-mapping software XMind. I already used it for project management at work and it works great for RTW planning too. I created some mayor topics (Money, Insurance, House, Work, Health, Documents, Visa, Subscriptions) and organized all items under one of them. You can create subtopics on the fly and move items there. Also, the topics can be decorated with one or more icons to make the status visual (Starting, Working, Near Complete, Pause, Completed). Anyway, it worked great for me, giving peace of mind in a (possibly) hectic period.