You set your mind on turning your back on your home for longer than just two weeks? You want to get out and see the world for more than only a weekend-trip? In that case, there are tons of things you have to consider, plan and be aware of. Today, I'll prepare yourself for a long-term stay abroad and and I will try my best to give you some insight in what lies ahead of you.
On your own, two by two or even a whole group?
The decision has been made. This nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach, telling you that you want to leave for longer, has become overwhelming and you finally plucked up the courage to say:” Yes, I am starting to plan a long-term stay abroad”.
It is the wanderlust that drives us travellers, the itchy-feet and it's with us all the time. Once I'm home from my latest trip, the delight over a washing machine and my own bed isn't for long continuance. I'd preferably like to start planing my next trip right away and sometimes it's just not enough to be gone for the “usual” trip length.
But your first question will be, whether to pull it off on your own or to travel with somebody else. However, I haven't really been traveling on my own yet. Well, okay, I've traveled to Costa Rica on last year but that is kinda cheated since my aunt is living on-site and the only time I've really spent on my own was during the flight and at the airport. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with traveling on your own. Neither as a woman.
I've came across heaps of blog posts, gushing about it being a whole new experience. You're more free in your decisions and you're able to do what you want or look for what you need without having to consider other persons. Maybe you're even able to meet new people faster as you're kinda forced to talk to somebody else, since there's no one to confer with.
But there is also nothing wrong about not wanting to be on your own.
It's always great to share special moments with somebody else. So you're not really coming out as a wimp, if you choose differently. But keep in mind that the person you want to travel with is somebody you're really comfortable with. Wether it's your boyfriend/girlfriend or any other kind of friend, you should know each other for quite some time and be aware of each others quirks. You're going to spent a lot of time together, sometimes in the smallest spaces with little privacy and there will be moments when you struggle with each other and nobody wants to come home, saying that you're glad that you don't have to spent another minute with the other one.
I, usually, travel with my best friend. We've known each other for ten years, being through thick and thin and both of us know, when the other one has her bitchy moments that we'll be able to have the greatest fun only minutes later. But I'd also say that you shouldn't travel with too many people. The more people also means the more difficult regarding the scheduling and the accommodation and there are also more causes of friction between each other.
So, my recommendation would be the following constellations: on your own, party of two or four people. Why four? Because if you're three people, someone usually feels left out and if you're four people, there is always the option of two people team up and share some activities.
Where to go?
This will be the next big question. Where am I ending up? Certain country's visa regulations will probably have a big say in your decision. If you're from Europe, traveling around Europe, it'll be quite easy since you won't need any visa. It's more difficult in countries likes the United States, Canada, Costa Rica and Australia. The following informations apply if you're from a European country such as Germany, Austria or Switzerland.
With ESTA you'll be able to enter the USA for a duration of 90 days, so a three month stay inside the country but you're not allowed to work locally, for that you will need a working-holiday-visa. You have to be a least 18 years old to be able to apply and will need the DS-2019-form, a so-called suitability certificate as well as a written and positive job answer and a proof of adequate financial funds.
Canada, on the other hand, allows you to stay inside the country for six month as a tourist once you've filled in eTA (electronic Travel Authorization). Costa Rica also assigns a tourist visa for 90 days, such as the United States but you won't need to fill in any form before you're leaving. You'll receive the needed papers right before your landing approach on the airplane. If you want to stay longer than 90 days in Costa Rica, you will have to leave the country for three days to Nicaragua or Panama for example and will receive a new entry stamp on return.
If you're choosing Australia, you will have to fill in the so-called eVisitor form prior to your journey. The visa is valid for one year and allows you to stay for three month. Australia also offers a working-holiday-visa but you can't be older than 35 years, are able to stay for one year but have to choose a different workplace after six month at latest. The visa costs $390. Check out >>this<< page for all informations regarding your WHV-application.
The time schedule
Up next will be planning your travel period. How long will you be able self-finance, if you don't want to work? If you want to stay longer, where's the place with best job options? Or do you want to become a digital nomad after all? Meaning your laptop and the internet are your workplace and you're able to work from wherever you are.
You may want to work as a housesitter, if you're traveling through Costa Rica. You're staying at private accommodations, whose owners are out of the country, making sure that everything stays clean and tidy and therefor you don't have to pay any rent and you're even paid for doing it.
f you want to stay at one place for longer, just like I did during my time in London, you may want to rent a room via a so-called flat share agency. But you should be aware of not being able to choose with whom you're living with. So you may be lucky but could also have bad luck. During our six-month stay in London, me and my best friend saw 22 housemates come and go – believe it or not!
Some of them were great people with which we had an awesome time and coexisted quite well – most of them were Australians which only increases my sympathy for the country – but there were also some, more complicated, housemates among all of them.
If your Belgian flatmate has a soft spot for cooking curry as soon as you hung out the freshly washed laundry and the whole place starts to smell like curry, it can get kinda annoying but that's just one of the smaller problems you will have to face. That isn't supposed to discourage you. As exhausting my time in London had been sometimes, I don't ever want to miss it just as little as all those great characters I've got to know. And the bad ones? Well, those are also experience that will make your trip unique.
If you're choosing not to work, then the first thing to do is saving up money. Start in time and lay a certain amount by every month. Gather informations on where to get the cheapest groceries, which accommodations you like best but is still affordable and so on.
If you're having an apartment on your own and came to the decision, to stay abroad long-term, you could sublet your flat. Otherwise, the costs would probably afflict you quite more. Talk to your landlord about your whole plan, otherwise you could get in trouble, if you're simply renting out your flat without letting him know. If you're on the road for a month or so, like I've been in Costa Rica once, you don't really need to rent out your flat to a stranger.
Here we go!
Your flight is booked, you've taken care of everything and the only thing that is still in store for you is the packing. What has to go in, what should you definitely not forget?
First of all, your travel insurance. You cannot go without one. They're not too expensive and really could safe you if something happens. Just make sure to check for how long you're insured once you've started your trip. The rate amount of your travel insurance could depend on that.
Your passport/I.D. Should also still be valid. Most countries, just like the United States, demand your travel document to still be valid six month before and after your stay in the country.
Catch up on how the climate will change during your stay. Will it get colder? Warmer? Monsoon season upcoming? Pick out the right clothes on the basis of those informations.
Unfortunately, I'm one of those travellers, who preferably wants to bring her whole wardrobe on a trip. But with longer stays, every pound in your suitcases or backpack counts and you always get somehow a chance to wash your clothes wherever you are.
Apart from that, you will need your laptop – important for all kind of planning your onward journey – adapters and all other papers you'll need just like job promises or any rental contracts. (If you've chosen Costa Rica for your long-term stay, you'll find my Costa Rica packing list >>here<<)
And then there is only one last thing, that you should absolutely pack, namely a huge amount of pleasant anticipation, since the adventure of a lifetime is waiting for you and if you're clear about that some things might not work out as planned, your good to go.
Everything you'll get out of it will become an experience that will get you further in life, that will change you and that nobody will ever be able to take from you. So take charge and dare it.
Until then, happy traveling.