Travel 101 - Getting Started
Dreaming of relaxing on that tropical beach, hiking the Himalayas or raving all night at a full moon party? You’ve heard about all the cool places people go and things they do,. You’ve seen The Beach, and are you now thinking about planning on taking your own trip but have no idea what’s waiting for you? Never fear, this site is for you and filled with information to get you started.
One of the biggest hurdle you might face is your own state-of-mind and just getting out the door to travel. Most international travel is fairly straight-forward and is not really all that difficult. Every year there are millions and millions of tourists that travel overseas.
You don’t have to fling yourself into it, you can start slowly - If you are an American, perhaps going from America to Canada where you will cross a border and can change currency, but don’t have to deal with a passport. If you want to go to a more exotic locale then you can work with a travel agency and perhaps take a group tour where everything is arranged for you. Once you start traveling you will see how easy and wonderful it is, all it takes is for you to take that first step.
Get Inspired! You will find families with babies and children, single women on their own, people 80+ years old, people with disabilities and tons of average, everyday-normal people traversing the globe. If they can do it, so can you!
Give Yourself Time: The first thing you will want to do is make sure that you give yourself some time to prepare. As with anything, being prepared and knowledgeable about what you are doing makes everything go easier - especially if the unexpected happens and something goes wrong. For some countries you will need anywhere from 1 week to several months to receive a Visa. If you need some inoculations to protect yourself from diseases - most of these can be completed in a week or two, but some of these may take up to 6 months to complete the full series.
Where & How Long: Before you research and plan the rest of your trip you need to answer two basic questions: Where are you going and and how long are you going for. Realize also that when you go and the weather may play a big factor on what you can do.
Who With?: Decide if you are going to travel with some friends, go with other people either on a group-tour or if you like having the freedom and flexibility of traveling solo. Also decide if you want the safety of pre-arranging everything on your trip - possibly working with a travel agent, or just planning and arranging everything yourself. Even if you use a travel agent to help, you will still want to do some preliminary research so you at least know the basics.
One of the best ways to be inspired is the look at the great travel pictures, travel bloggers and v-loggers online. You will find an amazing diversity of single travelers, couples, families, young, old, women traveling alone around the world, students on summer break and everything in-between. If they can do it, so can you. We collected some of the best below:
- Nomadic Matt: Matt has been traveling around the world since 2006 and is a New York Times bestselling author. His website helps people get traveling around the world on a budget.
- yTravel: Originally from Australia, Caz and Craig Makepeace and their two daughters have been traveling for over 16 years and have lived in 5 countries and had adventures through 52.
- Legal Nomads: A decade ago Jodi quit my job as a corporate attorney to travel around the world and now resides in Mexico. Now she tells stories through food.
- Expert Vagabond: Matthew is a full-time adventure travel blogger & photographer who’s been exploring the world for the last 7 years! His stories are quite entertaining.
- The Planet D: Dave and Deb left the rat race in 2008 to follow their passion of travel.
- The Blonde Abroad: Kiersten is a California native who left her career in corporate finance to become a world traveler. Since then she’s traveled to over 50 countries .
- Everything Everywhere: In March 2007 Gary sold his house and has been traveling around the world ever since. He’s been to over 175 countries and territories around the world and is a multi-award winning travel photographer.
“Be Prepared” is the Boy Scout motto and it is very apropos for travel. What you need to know, and what you need to do before setting out on the road is covered in our Before You Go section. Here are the major points to keep in mind:
Passports & Visas: All international travelers are required to have a passport. If you don’t have one you will have to get one. In addition some countries require that you have a Visa before entering their country. You will also want to check into getting an International Health Certificate (also known as the “Yellow Card”), and you will want to check that your Insurance covers you while you are overseas. This is all covered in our Before You Go documentation section, and if you aren’t even sure what a Passport and Visa are, you can find that out as well.
Research: Do some research into the places you are traveling to; not only the travel essentials but also learn about the country’s history and culture. Find out if there are any special safety or health issues - including any vaccinations that may be required, Visa requirement and climate and travel conditions. Learning about the culture and history of your destination will lead to a much more rewarding and fulfilling trip.
International Health: Learn about diseases and health issues that you can encounter internationally - it may just save your life. While most people know about making sure they eat at clean places and only drink bottled or purified water in foreign countries, there are several other health issues to be aware of. Malaria can occur up to six months after the initial exposure, is easily mistaken for the flu and the worst form of it can kill you. If you are going to do any climbing or going to be at high altitudes you also need to know about Acute Altitude Sickness. You can find out more in our health section.
Budget: How much a vacation costs is a major concern of many travelers, however there are many strategies for saving money especially if you create a budget up-front. You will also need to decide on a strategy for dealing with money while on the road. Your money options include cash, ATM cards (Automated Teller Machine) and credit cards, each of these payment methods having pros and cons. Most countries are now hooked up to the major ATM network, so traveling with an ATM card is one of the best ways to deal with money while on the road.
Let’s make this easy:
- Because you want to.
- Because traveling is good for you.
Travel allows you to de-stress, gives you a change of scenery, opens your mind to new things, allows you to meet new people and new cultures, learn more about ourselves… The list of advantages goes on and on and on…
Sure, not everything will go as expected. You may find yourself stuck on a broken-down bus – but don’t sweat it, things will work out and that unknown quantity is one of the joys of travel. So just relax, nobody is going to yell at you for being late –just sit back, enjoy the experience of something completely different and enjoy yourself!
The Cult of Travel
As a cautionary note, there is something of a cult of travel now on the Internet, hundreds of travel blogs preaching that everyone should drop whatever they are doing and go traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling - it’s a passion of mine and I think it’s fantastic, but it has to be tempered that it’s not right for everyone and it’s not a panacea to cure all your problems.
Travel Won’t Fix your Life: If you travel to run away from your problems, it’s probably not going to work. The problems will still be there when you get back. Running away is not an answer to problems, you may gain temporary happiness on your trip, but once you come back you will still have to face your old problems.
Travel Takes Money: It can be expensive to travel and sometimes people aren’t financially ready to take a big trip. We give a lot of information on this site on ways to save money and keep expenses down on your trips, but sometimes you just need to hunker down, pay off debts and do the 9-5 for awhile before you travel. ..and please, don’t become one of the travel pan-handlers that are now unfortunately common, travelers begging on the street for a ticket home, or to help support their travels.
Don’t get caught in the hype: There are a lot of sites of people quitting their 9-5, traveling the world and paying for their travels via a travel blog. That’s great! But not everyone can do it and it’s a lot of hard-work… and a lot of luck. Doing something like that has to be your passion. Also, there is nothing wrong with a family life, the stability of a great job and enjoying being at home. A lot of long-term travelers come to find that they really miss that.
Relish Being, not Sightseeing: Travel for the sake of travel can be empty. If you travel a lot, the 20th beautiful waterfall will loose it’s enjoyment - just going from place to place seeing sights will start to loose it’s luster. It’s the small moments, the personal interactions, the challenges and personal growth that keeps travel exciting and rewarding - and these are not unique just to travel.
What about it being dangerous… expensive… I can’t speak the language…
In our modern world travel is incredibly easy and safe. Don’t let all the information on this site overwhelm you. Truth be told – all you really need is your passport, some money and some common sense.
As long as you have your passport and some money (and an airplane ticket) you can pretty much jump on an airplane, fly to most countries in the world and be fine. No suitcase, no clothes, no… It truly is a flat world now and you can buy almost anything you need at your destination, and probably cheaper then you can get it at home. Unless you are planning a trip to Somalia, or the depth of the Amazon, don’t worry too much.
Why then all the information on this site? Simply to help you from making mistakes that might cost you time or money. But don’t worry, if you do make some mistakes – it will be no big deal. Also, if you are planning on a more exotic or adventurous trip then we provide extra information to help you along.
Once you have traveled to one or two places, you will be amazed at all the things you used to worry about before you started traveling. They really don’t matter. The world is setup for tourists, there are people to help you at airports, people to help you get hotels, people to help you get taxis. Don’t worry! Traveling is actually easy!
Most of the reasons people don’t travel is because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear over money and safety. Most of these fears are unfounded with a little preparation and knowledge. It is now safer to travel the world then it has been in almost any time in history. The most common fears are listed below:
Health & Safety: Remember this - wherever you go people have been living and working there for hundreds if not thousands of years. They would probably be just as fearful of their health and safety going to your home as you are going to theirs.
There are health and safety issues to be aware of, but once you know about them you can prepare for them and minimize the danger.
Money: World travel is actually much cheaper and easier then most people realize. All you really need is the will to go and a passport. It can be cheaper living on the road then it is at home. People have traveled for a year on $10,000, $5,000 or even less. This guide will give you many tips on saving money. One of the best ways is to connect to the network of fellow travelers, many of whom you can meet on this site. They can provide guidance on how much to pay, ways to save money and how to get the most from your travel experiences without spending a fortune.
Sometimes spending less, gets you more - if you stay in high-priced hotels and resorts it will isolate you from the local people. By staying in cheaper accommodations (but still clean, safe and sometimes very beautiful) you get a better feel for the place. Eating the local food also lets you widen your culinary experience.
Lack of Time & Inertia: Are you stuck in a rut? Is your homebound existence just too comfortable? Why make the effort to travel? Or maybe you are indispensable from work and just can’t get away for a holiday - you are afraid that the business or your career just can’t handle you being away for a week - let alone a month or two!
You can spend an eternity thinking of someday adventures and let time slip by, but why not get out there and live life NOW! Bill Gates, the president of the United States, the CEO of IBM - they all take vacations and holidays, so can you. The world will not end, the business will still be there and you owe it to yourself to take some time and enjoy life.
What about a longer trip? do you only take 2 week vacations each year? Do you realize it will take you 26 years of vacationing to see the same amount if you took a year off work? If you live to be 80 years old 1 year is only 1.25% of your life… Is that so much time to spend on yourself and enjoy life, aren’t you worth it?!
Fear of Flying?: We have a whole section dealing with the Fear of Flying
What to Take
There are three absolute Necessities:
That’s it! Those three things are the only absolutely necessary, not-to-forget items. Keep these three things with you at all times and guard them. The other stuff you bring isn’t anywhere near as important. Everything else can be bought, replaced or aren’t needed when you are on the road. You can get special travel clothes, cool accessories, backpacks and suitcases. Really, most of it isn’t needed. Your normal clothes are fine and more comfortable, and most of the gee-whiz travel gadgets you will find you don’t use. Most people over-pack and it’s generally advisable, and more enjoyable, to under-pack then to take too much.
Money: You will want to take a credit card (ATM’s are available almost everywhere in the world), some emergency cash (US $100 dollar bills are the most accepted, make sure they are new and not worn). Traveler checks are safe, but loosing their appeal, as they can be difficult to get exchanged and are more of a hassle to use then a credit card.
American express cards (Amex) are great to have as they have offices around the world and emergency services to help travelers in distress. Get a money belt to keep this stuff in. Don’t walk around with it in your wallet as pickpockets abound in tourist areas around the world.
Passport: You will need a passport if doing any international travel. If you have had one for a while check it before leaving, it needs to be valid for at least 6 months after the date of your departure or some countries won’t let you in.
Keep your passport with you at all times in your money belt. Try not to let anyone have it for any extended period of time if you can help it. If you loose it while on the road, immediately get to an embassy and report it missing.
Other stuff? Most people take too much stuff, including too much clothing. What you take will depend on the trip you are taking, but here are a couple of the basics:
- Change of clothing – you can wash one set at night and wear the other set while it is drying.
- Daypack – a lightweight daypack can really come in handy to carry a bottle of water, a guidebook and any curios you pickup along the way.
Everything else you take you should ask yourself “Do I REALLY need this?”. Chances are you don’t.
It can’t be overstated – most travelers find they take too much stuff and wish they left a lot of it at home! There is an old traveler’s saying: “Before you go on a trip, decide how much money you want to take and how much gear. Just before you leave, double the money and halve the gear.”
Just remember, less stuff means:
- Less worry
- Less Hassle
- More FUN!
The number one thing travelers regret taking?… Extra shoes! Dress shoes, hiking boots, extra running shoes.. They take up a lot of room, are difficult to pack and most people find they never use them on their trip.
Life on the Road
How to deal with life on the road, finding a place to sleep and eat, shopping and bargaining overseas and dealing with local customs and culture are dealt with in our On The Road section. There are however, some basic tips which help when dealing with the great out-there:
- Talk to the locals: Meeting fellow travelers and locals is one of the great pleasures of any trip and are also the best source of information and tips. They can keep you informed of the latest news, tell you what to see and what to avoid.
- Be Patient: Things don’t always work the same way as you are used to at home, customs and ways of doing things are different. You won’t get far by demanding western standards, it is best to be persistent, patient and most of all polite. A smile will many times work wonders.
- Trust your instincts: Always take your security seriously and if something seems wrong to you, or unnerving - then get out of there. Also remember the old adage; “if something seems to good to be true…”. Keep your wits about you and learn to judge people and situations out there. There are thieves and con-men in all countries and you need to be careful.
- Enjoy Yourself! Let yourself enjoy the wonder of the world, laugh, be happy and enjoy life! Don’t take everything too seriously; you are supposed to be having a good time after all.
There is only one piece of advice that really matters, if you remember anything from this site – remember this: Relax and enjoy yourself!