For those of you who really have guts it’s as simple as this: As soon as you can afford a plane ticket, buy it and head out wearing only the clothes on your back. Yes it’s a little extreme, but it’s true. On wits alone you can land in any city in the world and through the kindness of strangers and determination you will soon find a place to stay and the means to support yourself.
On the other hand doing something like that straight out of college or the workplace is tantamount to insanity. You need to ease yourself into long term travel or the pure experience will eat you alive.
Here are the steps RJ recommends one takes in planning a journey around the world:
1) Save money. For the first few months at least you shouldn’t settle and work abroad but instead move about and enjoy. This requires cash. Take as large a percentage as you can afford out of each pay check before you leave and store it in a savings account you aren’t going to touch. Get skimpy – stop eating out and stop buying things. Take an extra job on the weekends. The more money you can save before leaving, the more options you will have on the road.
2) Don’t have a passport? Get one.
4) Put your saved money in a checking account that provides an ATM card. ATMs are pretty much the defacto way of getting cash in any country all over the world. Having a credit card or two in case of emergency is a good idea, too.
5) Quit your job. It may be possible for you to arrange a leave of absence. However, the days fly by once you are on the road and you will probably find you need more time. It will not be difficult for you to get a new job when you return, unless the world sinks into an economic depression. But if that happens everyone is screwed equally. Quit that son-of-a-bitch with pride.
6) Pack. Keep it light. Since you are planning a long journey around the world the lighter the better. There will be long periods of time when you have to lug your gear around yourself. Bringing expensive items only causes worry about them getting stolen. You can purchase clothes or anything else you need as you go. Save your cash for experiences not gear!
Guidebooks help you mostly with maps and transportation schedules. The down side to using guidebooks is that they give you preconceived notions about a country instead of letting you come to your own conclusions. Also, you will find yourself on the same trail as hundreds of other backpackers even in the most remote locations. After nine months on the road I decided to burn my lonely planet and never look back. If you do get a guidebook you only need it for the first country you visit, you can get the ones you need from other travelers along the way.
It is worth bringing a good camera and knowing how to use it. Digital cameras are better since you won’t have to worry about losing all your memories if your film is lost. It is easy to find internet cafes where you can burn your photos onto a disc you can mail home or upload pictures on the fly to share with friends.
6) Go and don’t look back.