For as long as I can remember, I have had an urge to travel and explore. As a Sagittarius, I like to think it was a given that I would eventually surrender to my wanderlust. At just three years old, my mum caught me walking down the road, clutching a little suitcase, ready to take on the neighbourhood. At age nine, I began taking long walks on my own. Carefully dressed in my Sunday best, I would shoulder a little bag, stuff it with a book from the library and wander off. I recall sitting on a bench by the lake shore in Switzerland, reading my book and marvelling, rather self-indulgently, at just how grown up I was…
Fast forward a few years to when I had completed my apprenticeship as a travel agent — selling and arranging trips for other people whet my appetite for my own worldly explorations. I yearned to meet people from foreign countries and learn more about their customs and cultures.
Now, in my late forties, I can proudly say I have visited 50 plus countries within North and South America, Africa, Asia, and many Pacific islands. I originally hail from Switzerland but have lived in New Zealand, Antigua (the Caribbean), in the United States of America and now call Australia home.
Over time, I have encountered many people who’ve repeatedly asked me the million-dollar question: ‘How did you do it? Weren’t you scared to leave everything behind and start again?’
Yes, I was … But my courage was stronger than my fear of failure. I yearned to see and explore, to broaden my horizons literally and figuratively speaking, and I was not going to allow my fear to hold me back. So, I educated myself about travelling, local customs, read up on what’s fun and what’s best avoided. I put my languages to use, and made sure I had a credit card to fall back on, should I need to escape home in an emergency.
So, take my word for it, it is possible!
I know it’s far too easy to get caught up in life, work and seemingly never-ending obligations, but there is a way out. If you have long harboured a wish to travel the world but haven’t quite found the courage to realise your dream, here are a few steps that will help you inch your way closer to your goals!
1) Narrow down your destination.
I learned from experience, the more clarity I have on the destination, the easier it is to achieve my dreams. If our ideas are vague and elusive, we become scattered or distracted and goals tend to slip out of our reach. Here’s the thing: If you are not quite sure what your dream holiday is, begin compiling a list of places you’d like to visit. Narrow down three of your top goals, write down pros and cons for each and eventually settle on one. Remember, you can always change your plans and add your second choice as well, should time and money allow for it! At this stage you’re merely brainstorming for ideas, gathering information and eliminating goals that might have seemed like great ideas but may not be realistic or feasible (yet). As you continue to narrow down your goals, you will naturally gain more clarity in the process.
2) Figure out a timeframe.
Let’s say your dream is to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or to visit the Galapagos Islands. (Both are still on my bucket list!) This is where you need to do a little bit of research. Science also tells us that educating ourselves helps to eliminate fear. This means a bit of time spent on reading up on your destination, finding out how to get to places, what visas and vaccinations are required and what activities are available, are all positive investments of our time. Figure out if there is anything you need to do or fulfil prior to your holiday. Do you need to get into shape so you can reach the summit of the African mountain? Do you want to get a dive ticket before jetting off to the Galapagos? Once you have figured out how long it could take you to get yourself and all your documents ready, you have a rough timeframe. Now, it’s time to figure out the funds.
3) Money, Money, Money!
In my earlier globetrotting days my budget was tiny. On one hand this was wonderful because I had to be more creative in my travels and I was still able to experience most of what I desired. It also meant spending a lot of time calculating, budgeting, and worrying about my savings. These days I much prefer to work and save a bit longer, to ensure that I can afford that extra tour into a jungle or go on a twilight sail on a tropical island. My advice is to save a good chunk more than you think you might need for an extra luxury here and there. Or to put it simply: Take twice the money and half the gear… Trust me, you’ll appreciate the cash and won’t miss the stuff! Now consider how you are going to take your funds. There are some convenient multi-currency travel cards that charge very little fees. Check out Citibank or Wise to get yourself started. I usually hold an extra credit card for safety, just in case one card gets blocked. Now onto communication: Some people opt for an international SIM card, while others go local. I usually choose the latter. It’s easy and more cost-efficient to obtain a local SIM and this gives you access to local data. If you mainly rely on WIFI in your accommodation and just need a number while country-hopping a lot, the first may be a better choice. Make sure you investigate travel insurance. If you are planning up to three months there are many options available, but for those of you that plan to travel more long-term, be aware that most standard insurance companies have a cut-off for time spent overseas. Sites like worldnomads.com cater their insurances to world citizens on the move.
4) What to do with your home base?
Here’s what you need to figure out depending on how long you plan to wander off: Are you going to give up your home and put your belongings in storage, or are you subletting or getting house sitters in? Factor your choice into the financing and time frame of your trip, especially if you choose to keep paying your rent or mortgage. Whenever I left for longer than three months, I put my household belongings in storage and gave up my rental home. If you’re a homeowner, listing your residence as a short term furnished rental is a fantastic way to keep your home and take the pressure off your finances. Should you have pets, house sitters are a fabulous option and there are numerous reputable websites that can connect you with verified sitters. You might have to save for a bit longer, but you will know that your home and pets are well cared for.
5) Get your travel kit sorted!
By now you will have booked your flight and have your home and contents sorted. This is the time to consider your travel gear. Take less! And I mean way less than you think. You will thank me for it when you are trekking from the bus stop to your accommodation in 30+ degree heat. Get yourself a good quality travel backpack and ditch the suitcase, unless you are prepared to Uber everywhere. When it comes to clothing, I choose to invest in good outdoor gear and make sure I can layer all my clothes. A quality rain jacket, a fleece and long thermal bottoms and shirt. The bottoms will double as dressy leggings, if needed. This will keep you warm on colder days. Two lightweight dresses, a pair of shorts, one or two T-shirts and a pair of long pants. A few changes of underwear, two pairs of socks and swimmers. Trekking shoes and dressy flip flops. Now all you need is a good camera (maybe your phone is enough?), a kindle for something to read, a journal, your toiletries, a small torch and a microfibre towel. You are pretty much set. Load your pack and lift it up. If you are struggling, offload some gear (or take yourself to the gym and muscle up!). You will want your pack to feel snug and comfortable.
Now you are ready to travel the globe!
If you have last minute jitters, take a deep breath. This is normal! Two things I want you to remember. First: People are good. In my travels in 50+ countries, the vast majority of people I have encountered want to connect, help and reach out. Be curious, and the best thing you can wear is a smile! Second: leaving your comfort zone is indeed uncomfortable. Try to tap into the excitement of what lies ahead. You will be immersed in life, see amazing scenery, meet interesting people and taste wonderful food. There will be a little challenge here or there, but you will master it, and each time grow more confident as you venture on!
Life is an adventure. Go out into the world and embrace every moment of it. I wish you safe travels and hope you create memories that will last a lifetime.
Regina Petra Meyer is the author of memoir Change of Course: Sailing into Love & Adversity on Caribbean Shores.
Born and raised in Switzerland, while working as a travel agent, Regina’s curiosity was piqued by coordinating trips around the world. Eventually she packed her own bags and adopted a globetrotting lifestyle. Regina has sailed across all continents, living and working in Antigua in the Caribbean, the USA, New Zealand. She currently calls tropical Cairns, Australia, her home.