Hi everyone! 😀
The end of this month I will finish my contract in Bangkok and begin a long travel break around different parts of the world. ✈️ 🌍
Why Take a Travel Break?
Now first I’ll explain why I decided to take a travel break, and what I hope to gain from it.
- Professional development
- Financial stability
- Personal growth
1. For starters, let’s begin with the mighty underdog- professional development. Now don’t get me wrong, teaching ESL is excellent experience and I love what I do, but there are also so many unique skills that are built through travelling. Through travel, I’m hoping to encounter and overcome challenges, as well as, adapt and persevere in situations unfathomable in my everyday life. In particular, with ESL teaching, I’d like to build cross-cultural communication skills, and help network for future jobs. Purposeful travel will reap countless benefits and life-changing experiences. 📝 🍎
2. Now, let’s get into the logistics- financial stability. 💵💲
Now although I always find that the benefits of travel far exceed the costs, I’m a realist and understand that it takes funds to travel. 😛
Funding a trip of this sort is not simple. Taking a travel break has required saving, budgeting, and preparation. Since the cost of the living in Thailand is so low, I’ve been able to put aside money specifically intended for this trip. Overall, I expect the travel costs to average 1,500 USD monthly, including transportation, accommodation and activities. 😀
I could probably travel cheaper, but my motto has always been, “Go big or go home.” If I’m visiting this place once, I’m going to do it right. 😀
3. Finally, to my top reason for a travel break- personal growth. Travel helps me see the beauty of the world. It helps me find common ground with people from every background. As silly as it sounds, I feel like I gain a friendship with countries once I’ve traveled through them. Like a friend, I find myself reminiscing nostalgically about my experiences with that country. 😀
I even find myself, with the media’s harsh criticism, defending these countries against their stereotype. I now have positive personal experiences to show for it.
I mean, I still distinctly remember my trip on the local bus in Zitácuaro, Mexico, en route to the Monarch butterfly sanctuary. As I sat with the local market sellers, they began to pull produce out of their buckets, and offer me fresh tomatoes and avocados. It seemed as if being on their bus was like walking into their home. They prepared me a breakfast sandwich, and we sat and chatted about the beautiful butterflies that awaited me. I’ve never felt so welcomed in my life. ❤
And it’s through these ‘friendships’ with foreign places that I make connections to a country and its people. These foreign lands become familiar. I see new ways to live life, and also realize how interconnected we all are. I feel a sense of belonging to a place, carrying memories of it both in my mind and on my heart. ❤
Now that being said, I will confess, that I almost talked myself out of taking a travel break. I mean, I’ve had a job and steady income since I was 16, and the idea of not being employed was a little unnerving. I thought that maybe I shouldn’t spend so much money on travel. Maybe it was too big of a risk. Maybe I should wait for a better time. 😬But then I remembered- jobs will always be there if I fail. Time is short and the world is wide. If I want a pursue a dream, then I should do it now.Anyway, now that you have a bettering understanding of WHY I’ve decided to take a travel break, I’ll explain HOW I’ve planned this travel break. 😀
I have six months of travel planned, and below I’ve outlined my travel planning process, which I’ve broken down into five distinct parts.
How to Plan a Travel Break
1. Plan Where to Go
1. Consider the Seasons
When deciding where to go, one major consideration was the month I would be traveling. For example, Indonesia and the Philippines sure look beautiful, but certainly not during rainy monsoon season. Likewise, Russia and Canada have stunning landscapes, but I know I’d freeze during their brutal winter months. 😮
Things to avoid:
For this reason, since I’m starting in autumn, I’ve decided to enjoy the fall colors of Eastern Europe, then head south across Asia into Africa.
2. Book Flights
I found flight deals on Skyscanner, a website which scans multiple airlines for the best deal. I booked my flights to Europe at least 3 months in advance, and my flights to Africa around 6 months in advance.
Tip: Don’t know where to go? Skyscanner lets you search flights to ‘everywhere,’ listing cities you can fly to for the lowest price.
3. Book Local Transportation
For this I relied heavily on Rome2rio. Simply enter in where you want to go, and the site provides you with different routes and transport options, all at varying price ranges. This helped me to understand the feasibility of getting from place to place.
2. Plan Where to Stay
1. Book Hostels
To book most of my stays, I used HostelWorld. Their site has great options for budget accommodation, and each hostel lists all their facilities, including pictures. My top criteria when booking included: clean bathrooms, free WiFi, good location, and positive reviews. Price wise, hostels in Europe are more expensive, and range between 11-18 USD per night. I booked my hostels 2-3 months in advance to ensure I got my favorite choice. 😄 🏨
2. Find Unique Accommodation
Aside from hostels, I wanted a more authentic stay in a few destinations. For this, I turned to AirBNB, whose tagline, “don’t go there, live there,” encourages travelers to feel like a local wherever they stay. On their site, I found everything from farmhouses to penthouses, and ended up booking two different stays during my trip. I’ll be reviewing those places in further detail later on. 😀
3. Plan What to See
1. Book Tours
Now I usually prefer to wander on my own, but traveling solo to some of these places just seemed much safer with a group.
For this, I used tourradar, which analyzes a wide selection of tour agencies, suited for all budgets, including unbiased customer reviews. I booked two tours with the companies, Travel Talk and Absolute Africa. I even received a 35% discount on one tour, because I booked 6 months in advance. Score!
2. Budget Sightseeing
For what to see on a budget, I turned to one of my favs, Pinterest.
Just by entering search terms, like “free tour Europe,” I found free walking tours in seven of the cities I’d be visiting. As well, by searching “free in _____,” I found countless free things to do in every city I would be traveling to. 🗺 📷In addition to free tours, another advantage of staying in budget hostels is that they offer discounted excursions, easily booked at their reception. I will include a more in-depth review once I’ve taken these free and discounted tours. 🙂
Lastly, in terms of budget friendly activities, one of my favorite pastimes is wandering solo. Great for people-watching, admiring architecture, and for getting a better vibe of each place. ❤️
4. Consider Dental and Medical Care
Buy Travel Insurance
Since I enjoy outdoor activities, such as hiking and scuba diving, I purchased World Nomads travel insurance, since they offer both a standard and explorer plan. The latter covers you for over 200 different sports and activities. Perfect for my adventuresome travel style. Monthly costs average 100 USD.
2. Get Vaccinated
To check vaccine requirements for each country, I used the CDC website. When comparing this to my immunization history, I found all my routine shots were up-to-date, but I did need a booster for Yellow Fever. Kenya even requires an international health certificate. 🏥 💉
Tip: the Thai Red Cross has a travel clinic in Bangkok, which offers health certificates and vaccines at budget prices. My Yellow Fever booster was only 28 USD, which included the certificate and consultation. Not too shabby! 🙂
3. Get a Dental Cleaning
For this I went to Siam Family Dental. Dental care in Asia is incredibly cheap, so it’s worth considering for both expats and travelers alike. Cleaning and consultation is only 27 USD.
While laying in the dental chair, I couldn’t help but read their educational wall quotes, which highlighted some rather unforeseen benefits of dental care. 😂
5. Obtain Passport and Visas
Although my passport was far from expiration, I realized I was short on pages. For this, I needed to apply for a new passport at the United States Embassy in Bangkok.Passport renewals cost 100 USD, take two weeks to process, and they now offer a 52-page booklet. Perfect for my insatiable wanderlust! 😀
Additionally, any unexpired visas on your old passport are still viable. For example, the 10-year Chinese tourist visa attached to my old passport is still usable. They just hole-punch the old visa, so that it can serve no other purpose. 😥
2. Visa Requirements
As an American, I used this helpful tool to look up visa requirements for U.S. citizens.
For example, Americans can stay in many European countries for up to 90 days without a visa, and entry into most African countries only requires a visa purchased on arrival.
Extras and Final Thoughts
Now I didn’t consider packing a crucial pre-travel task, since I plan to pack light and purchase items as I go. The only thing I made sure to stock up on was my favorite hair product. Gotta look good when traveling! 😉
Anyway, now all that’s left is enjoying the rest of my time in Bangkok. Pretty easy considering how many fun things there are going on in the city. Like last week, for example, Bangkok hosted a light show for the grand opening of the city’s tallest building, MahaNahkon. They held a competition for the most creative photo, offering up to 100,000 baht for the grand prize.
My friend went above and beyond by organizing a music video submission. We wore hundreds of neon glow sticks and had a rave-style dance party on our rooftop. Not only did we have a blast, but the video looked spectacular! 😀
Overall, stay tuned for more specific details about my exact route through Europe and Africa. Those posts are already in the works. 😉 Until then. Take care and have a great weekend! 😀