So You’ve Decided To Travel – Part 1

So the hard part is out the way…No, seriously! Deciding to travel is one of the best decisions you are likely to make in your life but it is also one of the toughest. Soon you will be exploring ancient ruins, climbing mountains and trying exotic foods from around the world, but deciding to take the plunge can be difficult. Travelling changes you, your perceptions and your understanding of the world. I have never met anyone who hasn’t come back from a trip, no matter how short, and not felt a change in them. Embracing those changes is what makes travelling so much fun and such an incredible experience.

The reason I started this blog in the first place was to share my travel stories and experiences and hopefully inspire people to travel. Over the next few weeks, I will do a series of posts that will highlight the things to consider when deciding to travel. This isn’t to say that I am aiming this at people who have never travelled. Hopefully, everyone will be able to get something useful out of it and use it in their travels. I am also not declaring myself a travel expert – I simply feel I have learnt things on my travels which others could find handy and if my experiences helps avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made, even better!

And, as ever, I would love to hear from you. So, get in touch!

So you’ve decided to travel. You will not regret it. It’s time to Explore, Dream, Discover.

PART 1

What’s Your Travel Style?

Ok, so you’re going to travel. Whether you are a seasoned explorer or going abroad for the first time, your destination is something you are likely to contemplate on for a while. Should you head on a couple of city breaks not too far from home or book that Everest Base Camp hiking trip you have been training for. Your options are literally endless and deciding how and where you are going to go is actually not as easy as it sounds.  Here are some options that you could consider:

Round The World Trip (RtW) and Multi-Stop Trips

Popular with backpackers, budget travellers and students, the RtW allows people to realise their dreams and see multiple countries, regions and even continents as part of one trip. While actually going round the world would require a lot of time and money, you could still do a multi-stop trip taking in the sights and sounds of new places in different corners of the world.

Popular locations for this kind of trip include Europe, India, China, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and South America. Of course, there are thousands of potential itineraries and your personal route will depend on where you come from. A lot of European travellers tend to go for the South East Asia and Australia combo – enticed by the rich culture and incredible food of the former and the unparalleled nature and beautiful beaches of the latter.

These trips are a perfect way to tick off multiple countries off your list and allow travellers to experience different cultures and people. This type of trip really allows to get under the skin of every place and soak up the culture. At the same time, it’s a great way to see all the main sights and attractions and to get a taste for a location. You can take it as fast or as slow as you like and there is no one telling you that you HAVE to leave if somewhere really does take your fancy.

I personally think that this is a great way to travel and my two years abroad included a 4 month trip around South East Asia as well as a two month road trip around Australia. I would say that while it’s great to be spontaneous (especially in less developed countries), it’s important to have a rough plan in mind. Longer trips like this require a level of planning to avoid running out of time or going over budget. I will talk more about planning a trip in future posts.

Many travel companies specialise in helping travellers organise RtW and multi-stop trips. STA Travel for example have a number of multi-stop flight itineraries which take the stress out of planning while taking in some of the more popular destinations around the world. Companies will tend to offer good discounts on these flights, compared to booking them separately and many also have great rates for students and young people.

Pros

  • See multiple countries, regions and continents in one trip
  • Great way to experience different cultures, cuisines and people
  • Great for backpackers and budget travellers
  • Well-established way of travelling – you will meet many people doing the same thing

Cons

  • Longer trips mean more time away from home – time off work, away from family etc
  • Can be expensive – requires a bit of saving prior to the trip
  • Requires good planning
  • Living out of a backpack/suitcase for long periods of time is not for everyone

 

Enjoying Angkor Wat in 2013
Enjoying Angkor Wat in 2013

 Group Tour

A group tour allows travellers to go on a more focused trip based on a shared interest, an activity or just to explore a particular country. There are numerous companies offering group tours all over the world and these can range from sampling culinary delights of Italy to tracking gorillas in Uganda.

I really like group tours – it’s a great way to meet people and almost completely takes the stress out of planning a trip. The itinerary tends to be set in stone and the trip can feel a little rushed – you tend to spend less time in each place and there is usually no option to stay longer if you like somewhere. However, this is a great way to get a taste for places and allows you to see a lot in a short space of time. Whereas, with RtW trips, some places you visit could be a bit hit and miss (because you are responsible for the majority of the planning), group tours are generally well-researched and tend to be updated regularly with feedback and experiences of travellers.

Many group tours will allow for a bit of flexibility too. For example, you will tend to have a free day in a popular location and would be able to choose your activities rather that be herded around with the rest of the group.

I’ve been on 43-day trip around the United States and on a 14-day trip that visited 12 countries so there is likely a trip out there that will suit your needs. Meeting new people is a great reason to do one of these and chances are you will make some great friends for life. Companies will also tend to tell you who else is booked onto a particular trip, their age and where they are from. Some companies even let you get in touch with people from your tour so you can start getting excited about your trip together.

Pros

  • Wide variety of trips around the world
  • Meet new people and make great friends
  • Brings together likeminded people
  • Dedicated tour guides take the stress out of planning your trip

Cons

  • Less time in each place
  • Not as flexible as when travelling independently
  • Travelling with strangers is not for everyone

 

On a group tour around USA
With the awesome people on our group tour around USA

Working/Studying Abroad

Admittedly more popular with younger people, this option is another fantastic way of seeing the world. This option allows to live in a foreign country and be a part of the local culture. Things you could do include working holidays, teaching, studying and volunteering work among others. People usually work for a period of time before travelling around and, potentially, doing it all over again. This allows you to live in a new country like a local while also earning money to fund your travels.

Doing this type of “gap year” is not just for young people – I know plenty of people in their 30s and 40s (not to say that they are not young of course) who decided to take time off work and travel or try their hand at something different abroad.

For those with eligible passports, working holidays in Australia, New Zealand and Canada are popular choices. Good pay, First World comforts and familiar cultures tend to make those options popular. Others may find themselves teaching English in China or volunteering with animals in South Africa. Studying abroad as part of a degree, which is how I originally found myself in Australia, is another popular way of living in a new country.

Deciding to do a “gap year” requires a bit more preparation as it is a bit more of a commitment. Accepting a job abroad or deciding to study will generally mean being prepared to live in a foreign country for a significant period of time, away from friends and family and home comforts. Yet it is an incredible experience, providing invaluable opportunity to see a country as a local and is something that more and more employers value. So, this could actually enhance your chances of getting a better job – one thing that a lot of people tell me is that they are afraid to travel because of how that could impact their employability. From personal experience, I say – GO FOR IT.

Pros

  • Live like a local and be part of the culture
  • Plenty of time to discover the country
  • Gain new skills and experience and earn money
  • Rewarding experience

Cons

  • Spending a long time away from home
  • Can be difficult to adapt to new countries/cultures
  • Requires commitment

 

Imagine waking up to this every morning!
Imagine waking up to this every morning!

Short-Term Independent Travel

For those that are unable to take off for months at a time because of work or other commitments, this is a very popular way to travel. You’ll be surprised just how much you can see in a couple of weeks. As I mentioned above, I travelled around Eastern Europe in 2 weeks and had an absolute blast, seeing so many new places and meeting some great people.

This style of travel tends to suit people who have an idea of what they want to get out of the trip. It works well for specialist interest travel, such as photography or trekking trips but can be equally as satisfying when just exploring a new country. All you need is a return flight, a passport and a sense of adventure. Having done all the different types of trips on this list, this is one way of travelling that I would like to do more of – getting out to a new country and moving from place to place at my own pace.

As with the other styles of travel in this list, there are countless possibilities. A trip to climb Mt Toubkal in Morocco, wildlife spotting in Costa Rica or walking a portion of The Great Wall. I get excited just thinking about all the trips on my bucket list! And, all of these can be done without booking expensive tours with travel companies as long as you do your research. Book a flight, walk out of the airport and disappear for a couple of weeks! Flexibility is the name of the game here.

Travelling by yourself can seem daunting at first, especially if you haven’t done it before but it’s really empowering and you are very likely to meet loads of like-minded travellers. Alternatively, bring a friend for the ride!

Pros

  • Easier to take time from work or other commitments
  • Can see and do a lot in a short period of time
  • Great for specialist interest travel

Cons

  • Needs to be well-planned to avoid too many empty or travel days
  • Planning an independent trip can be difficult and expensive

 

Budapest 2014
Budapest 2014

City/Short Break

Not every trip has to be to an exotic far-away land. Travelling is just as exciting when staying closer to home. I realise how lucky I am living in Europe – I can get to most places on the continent within about 2-3 hours opening up so many possibilities for travel. However, no matter where you live, you are never too far away from a new city or country. Unless you live in Antarctica. In which case, um…hey you are in Antarctica! Cool!

Spending a weekend somewhere you haven’t been before is a great way to explore the area and get a taste for a place. I tend to book an extra day off and spend 3 days in a new city, catching up with friends or sightseeing. I have just come back from Basel, Switzerland and was able to fit a lot into my three days there – seeing the city as well as going hiking in the mountains.

Spending a short break away from home is also a great way of getting a feel for whether travelling is for you. Taking a short break can give you confidence for booking a longer trip and giving you an idea of what to expect when in a foreign country. It is also likely to be lighter on your pocket and will not use a lot of your annual leave allowance. However, you are likely to come back refreshed and hungry for more adventures.

I am always planning my next city break adventure because they can be really fun and fulfilling without breaking the bank. Budget airlines around the world have made short-haul travel a fantastic way of exploring new places close to home.

Pros

  • Cheaper/easier way to travel
  • Can fit a surprising amount into a short period of time
  • Discover new places closer to home
  • Gain confidence for longer trips

Cons

  • Big cities can be expensive
  • A short break might not be enough to see everything a place has to offer
  • You won’t want to come home so soon!

 

City breaks are a great way to travel. Paris, 2014
City breaks are a great way to travel. Paris, 2014

Of course, there are so many other ways to travel – package holidays, flashpacking, eco-tourism…the list goes on. I wanted to list the ways of travelling that have worked for me over the years and that I have first-hand experience in. Have I missed any big ones out? Let me know!

In the next part of my unofficial guide to travel, I’ll talk about things to consider when planning your trip and what can make or break your travel plans.

 

 

 

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