Are you dreaming of sipping a drink on a sunny beach or navigating your way through a bustling foreign city? Do you never want your vacation to end? If so, you’re not alone.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or you’re taking your first trip abroad, long-term travel could be a good way for you to soak in a foreign culture. Many travelers leave on extended trips for months at a time to really experience what it is like to live, work, and play in another country. Some people take off for a two-month backpacking trip, while others live abroad for 6 months to a year. You can consider your trip “long term” if you need to make arrangements for your job, home, and finances before leaving.
It’s easy to overlook the important tasks you need to take care of when planning your trip. Make sure you have all your bases covered with this guide on how to pack up your life before you take off.
Make a Budget for Your Travel Plans
Let’s say you want to travel abroad for six months. Most seasoned travelers recommend saving enough to cover your living expenses, as well as having an emergency fund, before leaving for your extended trip.
Start by getting an idea of how much it will cost you to live in the destination of your choice for three months. Research day-to-day living expenses if you are going to be staying in one place for an extended period. Think of rent, food costs, transportation fees, and entry fees for tourist destinations.
If you’re going to be moving from place to place, know that you’ll probably be spending a bit more. Short-term accommodations like hotels cost more in the long run than renting a home for a few months. Whether you plan to stay in hostels, hotels, or short-term rentals, figure out how much your chosen accommodation will cost you per night, then add in food and drinks, public transportation, and entertainment.
Once you have an idea of how much it will cost to travel for six months, factor an emergency fund into your budget. Travelers recommend saving the equivalent of a flight home, because it would probably be your most expensive emergency. Lost luggage, medical bills, or a laptop repair are other unexpected issues you might encounter.
Slash Your Expenses and Save Money
After determining your budget, you should evaluate your expenses. Most of us don’t even realize how much we’re spending on the little things, like a daily coffee, a drop-in fitness class, or drinks with friends. To save money, can you make your coffee at home instead? What about trying a free fitness app to guide your workouts? Why not invite your friends over for a night in?
Become aware of your spending by tracking your nonessential expenses for a week. After that, make an effort to cut them. Whenever you find yourself spending money on things you don’t need, think of your upcoming trip. You can even create a travel savings account and deposit the money you save—you’ll be astounded at how quickly it grows.
Earn Some Extra Money
Living costs are likely one of your biggest monthly expenses. If your trip is going to be long enough to warrant ending your lease (see more about that below), you may have an opportunity to earn some extra cash. Sell your furniture, books, small appliances, sports equipment, and even your clothes by hosting a garage sale or posting an ad online.
If you do sell online, try to stay local so you don’t have to pay shipping costs on the bulky items you’re selling.
You can also make extra money by taking a part-time job or doing some freelance work. Even if you can only put in a few hours per week, it’ll add up in the months before your departure. You might even continue to freelance or find a temporary local job while you’re living abroad to support yourself.
Speaking of Work…
As an employee, you could be granted an unpaid leave of absence if you’re leaving for a fixed period of time. A leave of absence is not guaranteed, but you can request one by scheduling a meeting with your supervisor. Explain why you’re taking an extended trip and what skills you’ll gain on your journey, from new languages to organization, and budgeting to blogging.
If you happen to freelance, it may be something that you can continue to do while you travel. Be sure to let any clients know that you will be out of the office and keep them updated on any changes in your availability or hours while you’re away.
For longer trips or open-ended travel, some people choose to quit their jobs. While this may seem like a drastic decision, it’s a popular option for those who aren’t sure when they will return, or who want to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Prepare Your Home for Your Absence
Once you decide to leave for extended travel, you’ll have to figure out what you’re going to do with your home. Your choices will vary whether you rent or own your home.
If you’re renting and plan to be gone for a number of months, one option is to speak to your landlord about terminating your lease. You can then end your lease either sell or store your belongings (you may be able to store your things at a family member’s home, or you can look into a storage facility). Your lease may also give you the option of subletting your rental unit. If this is the case, you can sublease your place fully furnished or, once again, either sell or store your furniture and belongings.
If you’re a homeowner paying a mortgage, can you afford for your property to sit empty while you live abroad?
If you do decide to rent out your property while you’re away, you will need to prepare your property for rent, find a tenant and sign a Lease Agreement, and hire a property manager or enlist a friend or family member to oversee your rental while you’re away.
Another option for earning revenue from your property is to list your home on Airbnb, a website where you can post your unused space for short-term rentals. With Airbnb, just like renting your property, you’ll need to get a friend or family member to handle management tasks such as cleaning and welcoming new occupants.
If you don’t need the extra income or don’t like the idea of strangers living in your house, you must take precautions so that your property doesn’t look empty to a passerby—empty buildings are often the target of home invasions. Let your neighbors know you’re leaving and give them your contact information so they can keep an eye on your house while you’re gone.
Simplify Your Finances
Before you leave, you should get rid of any small recurring bills, such as your gym membership or your monthly parking pass.
You may be able to suspend your car insurance or cancel your cell phone, but you’ll still need to manage payments for the bills you can’t avoid. You can do this by setting up direct billing through your bank so that all of your payments come out automatically.
Another option for managing your finances is to designate an attorney-in-fact by creating a Power of Attorney. You can grant certain powers to your attorney-in-fact that allow them to pay your bills, cash checks, or even transfer funds in your stead.
Getting Ready to Jetset
The decision to take an extended trip shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider, including your job, home, and monthly bills, but that shouldn’t stop you from having a rich and rewarding experience in a new country.
If you take the time to plan, save, and organize before you leave, you can be sure to have the adventure of a lifetime.
How do you prepare for long-term travel?