So you have the idea to go on a gap year of travel or even just for longer than three months. In this blog post we want to tell you our experience of what you might have to deal with before and after your (very good) decision.

The decision

Before your actual decision, we’re guessing that you must have had this dream twirling around in your head for a very long time. Seducing you with a whole bunch of amazing possibilities but yet never being realised or birthed into action. Maybe now you have come to the conclusion that you actually want to pursue and make this dream into a reality. Maybe you have been working for several years and you feel like you have saved enough money to make it real or you just had something happen which opened doors or maybe, just like us, you felt that urge in your body to explore different places and people and actually love the idea of getting out of your comfort zone.

Making the decision is hard. Very hard. I don’t mean those fake decisions you’ve been making in your head where nothing really came about from it. I’m talking about a concrete promise you make to yourself that you actually are going to make this dream happen. The funny thing is, after you actually make the decision you feel a moment of relief and it elevates your mood and kicks your motivation into hyper-drive. So you’ll finally say “ Yes, I am going to finally do this. I am going on that dream trip I’ve been imagining for so many years now! I…feel…AMAZING!”

The preparation

After that you’ll start making a checklist of what to do first to actually get this plan going. You should begin by telling people about your plans. Like:

  • Telling your parents and friends.
  • Handing in your notice to your boss.
  • Planning your finances and employing the use of money saving techniques.
  • Looking up where you’re actually going to go and what there is to do there.
  • etc…

However if you haven’t booked your flight tickets yet then you can still technically bail out. DON’T! Push through and keep going! You can do this! Because this is normally the moment where certain questions might slowly creep back into your head again. Will my life be OK when and if I get back after giving it all up? Will I miss home too much because the grass is always greener on the other side? Will I be able to travel alone or with someone else for such a long time? Will I even be able to finance it all? These questions and plenty more will come up when you are on the brink of making that decision and even after you have decided they always come and go. So booking those flight tickets will make it almost a “no way back” decision. From then on you can start planning and thinking on how to deal with these questions and hopefully not have a melt-down in the process. It can be terrifying but remember fulfilling one’s dreams is not for the faint of heart but is amazingly rewarding and completely worth it.

The follow-through

So your flight tickets are booked, you told your work, you started planning routes and maybe even installed a countdown clock app on your phone! Days go by where day in day out you are mentally filled to the brim with thoughts about your trip. In the beginning you will love to tell everyone about your plans, you will be overly enthusiastic and tell them to everyone you meet. Yes, even the postman… but just trust us, this feeling will start to dissolve after some time obviously depending on the duration between your decision and the trip. For us, it was many months which felt like an eternally long time of waiting and talking about the trip. After continuously telling the same story over and over again to new people and hearing those exact same questions everyone asks, you can definitely get less and less enthusiastic to talk about it even though you are super excited to go on the trip.

So thus, first phase completed, you have cut the rope and decided to go traveling, Congratulations! Now the second phase; administration hassle, visa applications, to plan or not to plan, to book or not to book?

We found that making checklists is the best and easiest way to keep your mind from melting from all the things you will have to do. First things first, the administrative hassle. It’s different in every country and can contain more hoops than a dog show while putting yourself under a lot of pressure and stress. For example you will be unemployed and therefore your current health insurance might not cover you any more if you don’t arrange it properly. What about your apartment? car? pets? You have a whole range of different things you need to take care of. So like we said, working with a checklist makes everything manageable and organised. Furthermore, every time you check something off from the list you will start to feel that sweet ”freedom” of a less busy and relax state of mind.

Secondly, depending on which countries you would like to visit, you should check if you need to apply for a visa. Most countries work with a standard tourist visa system with which you can stay from 30 days up to 3 months. But for instance, for Australia we applied for a working-holiday visa which allows us to travel and work in Australia for one full year. That said, definitely do your homework before you leave on the wrong visa so find the ones that suits your needs for the countries you are so far planning to travel to.

Lastly, start looking for a good travel insurance. And when we mean good, we mean the one you think is good and best fits the paranoid thoughts you have about what could happen on the trip. This gave us a lot of headaches because every insurance policy has many different options and so it took us a great amount of time, blood, sweat and tears to decide which one to pick.

Choosing where to go

So now your countdown app is running, your mind is feeling less full but still continuously in busy mode and you’re getting more excited with every day. Now you can start planning your travel itinerary. Depending on what kind of traveler you are or what your intention is for this long term trip (i.e. going for the total experience of working/living/bonding in a country or checking as much countries as you can from your list) there will be an important moment in your planning that will happen. You’ll realise this trip is not like ones you are used to doing where you only had two weeks of holiday and probably planned everything out so that you could see every highlight within the shortest period of time. This time you will have time on your side and you will start meeting different people in different places which went different routes. Every one of them will have advice generated from their experiences and will normally be more than willing to share it with you. So if you were to fully plan your whole trip then there wouldn’t be any room left for those unexpected adventures along the way. Should you not plan anything at all then? No, you should research which places you would like to see and visit, write them down or pin them down in Google maps. Have a vague itinerary in your head and maybe have the first few days fully planned. From then on, see where the trip will take you because you will want to…

Know your options but not your destinyRolf Potts

After that months will go by until there is only two weeks left before your flight! Saying goodbye to friends and family. Maybe you even organise a goodbye party. Fun fun fun! Day in and day out you will still have to be telling new people the same story you have been telling for over half a year now. The people who are familiar with it will ask you the same questions; “are you ready and prepared?” And you will proudly say with a twinkle in your eye: ”Well actually I almost have nothing planned!” A scary thought isn’t it?

This society is so well structured in day-to-day planned routines that it’s difficult for most people to understand that you haven’t planned the long trip down to the last minute. It might make you scared and insecure from time to time but just think about all the freedom you will have as nothing is planned and so your trip can just flow freely wherever you want it to go. You are the one living your life, you are are the one thinking for yourself and you are the one making decisions so you can decide what stories you will be able to tell your grandchildren.

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