With a full year of strategic planning and dedicated preparation, almost anyone can realistically travel around the world for a year.
Traveling the world for a year makes it a lifestyle, not a vacation. So you need to plan and prepare for it as such.
*With the 1/1 ratio method you can travel the world for as long as you work and prepare to achieve it.
Many dream of traveling the world. Some plan for years to make it happen but with the right mentality you can start your journey in as little as a year. These 12+ months of planning and preparation isn’t just about accumulating funds, however.
There’s research, self development and gear acquisition.
PRO TIP : Despite the incomparable value of earning yourself a trip around the world and the hard work to obtain it, the process is actually quite enjoyable.
The minimum target you want to achieve for a full year of world travel backpacking is $17,000 USD. I would also set aside $3,000 in a separate account for emergencies and for the final flight back home. More is always better but we are talking about a backpacking-budget-travel-lifestyle, not a weekend holiday where splurging is the idea and money is not much of a concern. This may not seem like much to live off of, but not only is it possible but you can still make it a fulfilling trip.
Let’s assume you already have a couple of grand in the bank so you just need $14,000 – $15,000 to save up within a year’s time. Obviously, find a job if you don’t already have one.
Do the math and figure out if it pays enough to support your current lifestyle (which you should change, you’ll read about this below) and see it how the numbers work out. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a job like this. If it will take a bit longer, so be it.
Set a goal month for when you want to depart to your first city and a year before that date is when you should start implementing the plan.
PRO TIP : In many parts of the world, the cost of living can be less than your current while at home, even as a traveler.
A major part of backpacking is living the lifestyle of a minimalist. This means owning, carrying and spending money on only the absolute essentials. Learning to live like this is also a damn good life lesson you can use for the present and future.
For most people, making $17,000 a year in wages is not all that difficult, it’s saving that much that’s hard. But that’s because most people spend most of their paycheck on things they don’t need or on things they think they need.
You must stop this.
-Eating Out and Drinking
-Cable TV and Fast Internet
-Netflix and Hulu
–Coffee and Cigarettes
-Designer Clothing and Shoes
-Cinema and Concerts
-Day Trips and Holidays
-DVD’s and CD’s
-Credit Cards and New Loans
Some of these may seem nominal but it will add up over the course of a year and its an excellent way to live in the first place.
PRO TIP : Learning to live with less will give you the funds to travel longer, further and even better.
Okay, maybe not everything but all those luxury items and things you don’t truly need. Another way to think about it is; if it doesn’t fit in your backpack and you don’t need it for backpacking, get rid of it. If your going to be gone for a year or longer, you won’t need much of the things you own.
Selling these things will also greatly increase your travel funds.
-Shoes and Clothing
-Cars and Bikes
Start selling or giving away these things about 3 months before your target travel date. Use the usual outlets like eBay and Craigslist. It may be hard to part from so many of your personal items but this is also a good way to ease into the minimalistic lifestyle of a backpacker.
PRO TIP : When you return from traveling the world, you’ll realize you really don’t need so much stuff to just live. Making yourself a more efficient and richer person.
Loans and Credit
You may be tempted to get a loan from a bank or max out your credit cards to use while on your trip. This would be a big mistake. After a year of carefree traveling, you’ll return home with large debts that could take you years to recover from. Not only that, you’ll worry about your ever-increasing debt in the back of your mind while on the road.
Also, making this journey all on your own will make you a more accomplished person and traveler.
PRO TIP : At the most, bring a credit card but use only for emergencies. Try to rely solely on your ATM card.
Now for the fun part of planning. Even before you had the thought of traveling around the world, you were probably fascinated by popular attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building or The Pyramids. You may even had made a list of all the places you want to visit, even if just for fun or to daydream.
Now it’s time to make a list that you will actually and thoroughly accomplish. Make a list… Not an itinerary. The difference is that with an itinerary, your stuck with a structured plan that will give you less freedom and it will inevitably be broken. At most, make a flexible itinerary once you arrive in a city just for that city.
PRO TIP : The initial list will likely be all well known and popular destinations but your list will grow larger and deeper to lesser known places you’ll discover while meeting other travelers and locals.
Gear and Equipment
For the duration of your world travels, you will be “living out of your backpack“. Everything you own will essentially be in this pack. Meaning the gear should be carefully chosen for maximum function and absolute utility.
Researching and gathering my travel gear and clothing was personally my favorite part of the planning process. Not so much the travel list as I knew I would see everything I wanted to. On a side note, I am currently on my 500+ day of world travel and happy to say that my obsession with travel gear has made my travels that much better and lighter, literally. By that I mean the total volume of all my gear is 21 liters. Whereas the average backpacker hauls over 60 liters.
Every world traveler I meet are in disbelief of how little I can live off of while traveling the world indefinitely. My point is that you should keep your belongings to an minimum. This will make your life on the road easier and even more fulfilling.
Read the world travel gear packing system guide here.
PRO TIP : The backpack is without a doubt the best type of baggage to use for long term around the world travel, hence the term “backpacking”. Don’t bother with suitcases or rolling luggage.
Passport and Visas
The passport is the single most important and necessary item you will carry so guard it as such. Your passport should have at least 6 months of validity beyond your final day of world travel as well as plenty of pages for visa, entry and exit stamps.
Visa requirements will vary for each nationality so do your research. Many won’t require a visa, others are granted at the border / airport and some must be obtained before arriving. Some countries can take significant time and effort for visas, in these cases it may be the most convenient to get before leaving for your RTW trip.
PRO TIP : Keep a printed copy of the identification page of your passport somewhere in your gear as well as a part of your equipped EDC and a PDF version saved in your email.
Being away from home base, jet setting on adventures and the fact that you’ll be a foreigner no matter where you go for a year, it’s ideal to have some backup plans for potential problems.
PRO TIP : Don’t worry about planning and preparing for every possible contingency as that’s not possible or necessary.
As the year of planning and preparing nears completion, there are a few steps to take to finalize all the hard work.
About 2 months before your targeted departure date, book your flight to begin your world travels. Acquire a visa if necessary around this time as well.
Call customer service for all the ATM and credit cards you’ll be bringing to let them know about your travels. A common practice with financial institutions is to block cards when they’re suddenly used overseas, a simple call will prevent this.
Cancel or pause all non-travel related accounts and memberships such as; internet, cable, gym, power, phone etc.
PRO TIP : Remember to secure a ride or a way to get to the airport and make sure to check-in 3 hours before the flight.
Accommodations for at least the first 2 nights should be booked a few weeks before arrival. Figure out how to get to the hotel / hostel from the airport before arriving as well.
Don’t bother getting foreign currency before leaving, get it from an ATM after arrival – this is almost always the most cost effective method to get local currency.
PRO TIP : Depending on how exotic your first country is, you may be culture shocked – most see this as a negative effect but if embraced, it can be a great experience.
This guide is for a year of planning and preparing a round the world travel journey lasting a year with the backpacking method. Although vagabonding and flashpacking share similarities, they are different types of lifestyle travel with alternate planning.
Plan. Prepare. Travel…