Things to consider before embarking on a long journey abroad
Type in any country in the world into Instagram and you will go down the rabbit hole of beautiful photograph and videos of people gallivanting from country to country for extended periods of time. I was once one of those “Instagram travelers”, filled with wanderlust generated by my phone. One day, I took a leap of faith and quit my job as a Cybersecurity professional in 2017 to travel for two years, I was thrilled and excited about the prospect. But I was also a nervous wreck in the days and weeks before the trip. Here are five things I wish I knew before taking that one-way flight to Europe:
- You’re going to be okay: The idea of quitting and traveling for more than 2 weeks is ludicrous at first. What if I get lost? What if I don’t speak the language? What if I run out of money? Try this exercise, make a list of things that scare you. Good. Now next to them, I want you to write out how likely are they to occur? Often, the problems we dream up are solvable. For instance, you could work a few more weeks at your job to save more cash, for directions you utilize a local data plan for your phone, if you can’t speak the language there’s an app that helps you translate even without internet.
- Travel slow: Having worked in Corporate America for over a decade, any travel was, obviously, limited to my two-week vacation benefit. That two-week mindset initially made me race across Europe. I could check off Germany and Spain in a week, then keep going to Hungary. I had to remind myself that two weeks was just a mindset. I could travel slowly, and I did. The richest parts of my travel involved staying in a country for a month or longer. I spent three months in Romania in Winter of 2017 experiencing the shift from fall to winter during my runs around Tineretului Park, Bucharest. One of my fondest memories was preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal with two other Americans for a group of our Romanian friends.
- Keep a routine: Having a large chunk of time without routine may feel incredibly liberating. It can also be a curse. You’ll forget the day of the week and sometimes struggle to get simple things done. By my third month of travelling, I fashioned a routine. Tuesdays I would run a 10k, Wednesdays I would have personal time without appointments. On weekends, I would video chat with friends and family in the morning before going out into the city.
- Social media burnout: You’ll get tired out of posting photos along the way and question why people share every meal on Instagram. I found it helpful to remind myself, this is your unique journey, you worked hard to get here, and you’re not obligated to share every moment of it on social media.
- Unlimited upside: Our brains invent the worst-case scenarios (refer to tip #1), my worst fear was not being able to get another job. This proved to be irrational, as I have had more than a decade of work experience. Little did I know, six months into my trip I would be hired to work remote, which allowed me to extend my travels to two years. Try to worry less about them and focus more on the experiences, and friendships you gain; these “best-case scenarios” will be far greater and far more likely. Before my trip, I never could have imagined making international friends that would visit me in the United States.
Long term travel is the best gift I have given myself and hope to inspire others to do the same.