How You Can Take The Leap & Travel Long Term

Going on a big trip does not have to be a distant idea. Here's how you can start making it a reality today.

(Header image: Admiring the view at the Komodo Islands in Indonesia)

Are you longing for a gap year, round-the-world trip, or career break? Want to get away for more than just your typical week-long excursion and instead travel for many weeks, months, or maybe even a year? Such grand travel ambitions may feel like they’re always out of reach, but take it from me: with the right mind-set you can make them happen.

Going on a big trip can be an amazing life-affirming experience. (Heck, it’s why I ended up blogging about it!) You get to see things with different eyes and really go the extra mile—both literally and figuratively. Read my inspiring post 91 Weird & Wonderful Lessons From Traveling The World For 2 Years for some idea of what it can be like.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be filthy rich (by Western standards), nor some kind of hard-boiled adventurer type, to go on a big journey abroad.

It’s a cliche phrase, but every journey starts with a single step. If you want to go on a RTW trip or to go backpacking long-term, the first thing you need to do is to get serious about it. Too many people try to convince themselves they’ll do it “someday”, but then that day never comes. So whether you want to inter-railing in Europe for 2 months, or maybe go backpacking through Asia for 6 months, or even trot the whole globe for a year, the first step is really to commit to the idea—as everything else will flow naturally from this. When you’re focused on a goal, the solutions and answers to your questions will come to you.

I remember from my own early travels that it can be daunting to even begin to plan something like this. There’s probably a lot of questions swirling through your mind. How to plan such a trip? How do you get the money together? How do you survive life on the road? While there’s a whole heap of practical necessities to tick off the list, it’s also really a personal process of gaining confidence.

If you’re just at the starting point of wanting to travel long-term, here are some of the first steps to take…

Atacama Desert, Bolivia

Step 1: Overcome Your Fears

I believe fear of the unknown is the main obstacle to actually going on a big journey. If you haven’t travelled long-term before, it might feel a little intimidating.

If you’re going on holiday for maybe just a week, you might be staying in just one location, or you might go on an organized tour or perhaps work out some kind of detailed day-by-day itinerary (giving you a very clear plan). When you’re travelling longer-term, it becomes a lot harder (or even completely impractical) to make such detailed plans in advance, and so you have to rely a lot more on working things out as you go. That can be a little scary.

There’s also a lot of uncertainty involved in going to new and unfamiliar places. Before I went on my first big trip, I read every travel guide I could get my hands on, and I still didn’t quite know what to truly expect. It’s just hard to imagine if you have never been to certain places before.

Fear of the unknown can be big obstacle to overcome. As I write this, a friend of mine is flying to Bangkok in two days to go backpacking. It’s his first time, and he told me he’s actually having nightmares about getting robbed. Of course, usually such fears are unfounded, and you may even fully know that rationally, but that doesn’t mean that going on a big trip won’t still feel like jumping into the deep.

That’s why I think the first step is really to get comfortable with the idea that it doesn’t have to be scary or dangerous, and that you can do it too.

One of the cool things I really like about travel is just seeing all the different kinds of people that are travelling. I’ve met people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds, travelling either together with their partner or friends, or on their own. I’ve met shy people and really outgoing people. I’ve met people travelling for all sorts of reasons and at different stages of their lives. All of them overcame any worries or concerns they may have had, and finally just went out there to see the world.

By truly investing in your travel goals, and reading about the experiences of other people who have gone before, you can get yourself into that can-do mind-set.

Visiting rural villages in Flores, Indonesia

Step 2: Save Money

Money is what makes the world go round, and it’s also what makes you go around the world. The second obstacle to a big trip is purely financial. But even though it’s much more of a practical issue, overcoming it nevertheless also requires a belief that you can do it, because many people mistakenly think that a big trip is financially out of reach when it actually isn’t.

Of course, not everyone has enough savings in the bank to just go on a world trip on a whim, and so for most people it means having to save up. The key here is having the discipline to set aside money to go into your travel fund. (I talk a lot in my book on how to use various money-saving strategies.)

Granted, I’ve met people who were in fortunate positions to go on a big trip. Recently I met an investment banker who was very well off, but became disillusioned with his career and so decided to go backpacking.

I myself was fortunate enough a few years ago to already have some savings as well as a generous redundancy payment to start off my travels. But even if you don’t have the money already, you can save up quickly by being dedicated. You might have to set aside money every month, sell things you don’t really need, or be resourceful and make money as you travel. These are some of the ways I finance my trips now, as well.

The other way to save money is by not travelling in the most expensive countries. Learning how affordable some destinations are can be eye-opening. There are lots of places where you can travel comfortably for a full month for under $1000 / €900 / 650 GBP. By travelling frugally and in smarter ways, you can also extend your trip dramatically.

If you can’t afford travelling in expensive Western countries, go to low-income countries. For instance, go to Asia, Latin America, or the Balkans in Southeastern Europe, and you’ll find that prolonged travel is all the more attainable. Going to cheaper countries is not only easier to get the funds for, it also puts you in a different mind-set while you’re on the trail: when everything is relatively inexpensive you start to think more in terms of sheer possibilities and less in harsher terms of cost versus reward. It becomes much easier to follow your whims and passions when you don’t have to be as calculating. Of course, you don’t have to go to cheap countries, but it makes things easier, and many long term backpackers end up at least adding some to the mix.

For some rough idea on what long-term travel might cost, check out my popular posts on how much it costs to travel for 1 year, and my list of cheap backpacker destinations.

Iguazu Falls, Brazil

Step 3: Make Time

The final obstacle is simply making the time to travel. This can be tricky depending on where you live or what your life/job situation is.

There are some clever ways to save up holidays to go on a big trip, get your employer to allow you a sabbatical or make use of some time in between jobs. Though the longer the trip the more committed you need to be: for instance, if you want to travel for a year you will probably have to quit your job and maybe give up your place (either renting it out, or giving it up entirely and putting your belongings into storage).

That can feel like quite a radical decision, and might prompt all sorts of questions about what this means in terms of finding a job again when you get back, or wondering what others think about you taking a break to seek different experiences abroad. This is something that perhaps takes a bit of courage, though these are the kind of bold decisions that are ultimately the most rewarding ones. Keep in mind that essentially no one regrets going on a world trip, while many regret not having done it when they had the chance.

I keep meeting people in backpacker circles around the world who speak with a glint in their eye about how happy they are to have stepped out of the regular life/career hamster wheel for a while. If this is something you want to do too, I can tell you it can be extremely rewarding end re-energizing.

Going on a big journey, whether it’s for a few weeks, months, or even years, does take some preparation and a bit learning… and ultimately a leap of faith. I’ve tried to answer some common questions in my posts on Indie Traveller, which I invite you to dig into. I also wrote an in-depth book on long-term travel, which multiple readers have called “the single most helpful resource” for planning an RTW trip. I know it’ll be the best book you’ll read on this subject, so if you’re serious about taking the first step towards your journey, be sure to get a copy!

Palawan, The Philippines

Start reading now: 7 great introduction posts

91 Weird & Wonderful Lessons From Traveling The World For 2 Years
This post is sure to get you inspired with lots of anecdotes from the backpacker trail. Guaranteed itchy feet!
7 Amazingly Cheap Backpacker Destinations You Should Go To
Cheaper developing countries are great for long term travel. These are just some of the favorites.
How Much Does It Cost To Travel For 1 Year?
A year of travel can range from costing $6000 up to $100000, all depending on your travel style and destinations. This post breaks it down.
Backpacking Checklist: 15 Things You Shouldn’t Forget Before You Go
There’s a lot to tick off the list before going on a big trip. These are some of the major things to remember.
How To Find The Cheapest Flights – My Tips & Tricks 
Finding cheap flights is less of a science than it is an art. In this tutorial, I show you how I do it. (Recently, I flew from London to Bangkok and back for just 330 GBP / 500 USD!).
How To Pack Light: A Minimalist Example
The longer your journey, the less you’ll want to actually pack. That maybe seems counterintuitive, but being light on your feet just has so many advantages. By the way, you can learn more on this topic by getting the free sample chapter from my book, by leaving your e-mail address at the bottom of this page.
Where To Go Backpacking: A Map Of Every Major Route
This map is the most helpful overview of all the major overland routes. A great starting point for destination research.

 

Get my inspirational step-by-step guide

With my 272 page guide to long-term travel, Travel the World Without Worries, you can plan your trip in a step-by-step way. The book covers everything from budgeting and saving up money, to making the jump and adjusting to life on the trail. It’s simply the best and most in-depth resource you can get on round-the-world travel (don’t believe me? check out the reviews!).

Learn More

8 comments

  1. Comment by Lucy

    Lucy Reply August 5, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    Great read Marek! I travelled Europe extensively in 2014 and plan to see South America in 2017. Even though I conquered all of my fears 2 years ago and took a leap of faith I see myself in the same fearful mindset right now heading into my next big trip. Am I too old? (30), should I be spending the money on a house deposit? Should I be settling down with a partner by now? My brain thinks weird things haha, and I know the answer to all of them I just keep relaying these questions over and over for some reason. Perhaps it’s because at my age I feel the pressure from society to settle down and be an adult when my heart is still so free and wild. Regardless the reasons behind my insecure mindset I loved reading your blog and it’s given me the inspiration I did to do it all over again 🙂
    Keep up the amazing journey!

    • Comment by Marek

      Marek Reply August 13, 2016 at 11:45 am

      Haha well if it’s any consolation I have those exact same questions often enter my thoughts as well! The pressure is real but I think it’s also important to enjoy what you’re doing in the moment, and to let things happen when they happen. That’s my philosophy at least… hope I’m right! 😉

  2. Comment by Daniel @ Path Finder City

    Daniel @ Path Finder City Reply November 17, 2015 at 7:06 am

    I am doing some research on this exact topic and you basically just raised the benchmark of the topic “how to travel the world”, Marek! Damn… lol.

    Bookmarked your wbsite and will dig up some older posts to read during the weekend!

    -Daniel

  3. Comment by Barry

    Barry Reply October 16, 2015 at 5:43 am

    I was in exactly the same position in 2008. I quit my job, sold everything unimportant on eBay and jumped on a 25 hour flight with backpack. No idea how I was going to make money and didn’t even a place to stay.

    My friends and colleagues thought I was reckless and questioned my decision at every opportunity. Yet many of them secretly told me in confidence that they were envious of what I was doing.

    This year I have been living and travelling in 8 different countries. By the end of the year it will be double that. Do I regret it? Hell no 🙂
    Barry recently posted…The Non Free Ride And Why You Need Money To TravelMy Profile

  4. Comment by Soumya Shetty

    Soumya Shetty Reply September 15, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Hey Marek
    Your blog on taking the first step, towards a fulfilling travel dream is just the best I have read. Your encouraging words on conquering your fears, and that of saving money right away made me sit up and plan my next trip.

  5. Comment by Clelia Mattana

    Clelia Mattana Reply May 27, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Great post!

    That’s what I did: I decided to quit a well paid (oh SO WELL PAID) job, I sold everything I owned and I saved for 6 months straight. I left with 16.000$ and 1 year and 3 months later I still have enough money on my bank account to be able to stay on the road for at least other 6/7 months. But I decided to go back home for a few months to seriously work on my blog and save the money I’m finally earning with it. When the income will be stable (now it varies a lot), I wll start traveling again and I will finally become location independent. The dream of a lifetime 🙂 You give very good advice on this post. Especially “don’t travel as you were on holiday”, so true. But sometimes when you travel slow you can even afford to splurge a bit. I found an amazing resort on the beach for 40 days and i paid less than 400$, including meals. Yep. True story. Doesn’t happen very often but if you are patient and find the right deal, it’s paradise!! Traveling long term is so worth it! but not for everyone i guess…

  6. Comment by Graeme Voigt

    Graeme Voigt Reply December 4, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Awesome post man!!!

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