A guest post by Chris Taylor
The notion of long stay travel has long evoked romantic imagery with those who haven’t experienced it. Most probably because of the freedom it grants you to travel far and wide, across an entire country or continent, without fear of being late for your flight just a few days after you arrive at your destination.
While most people have a definitive plan for their long stay trip – whether it be teaching English in a foreign country, or touring an entire continent’s major cities by car – there are some who have the rashness just to say “let’s go here, and see where we end up”.
Being loose and free are admirable qualities on such a trip – I mean, why would you want to stick to a rigid plan if you’ve got months to spare? But at times you might end up finding yourself a little lost; not knowing what your next move should be. Maybe you’ll even become apathetic – or worse yet – bored with your movements; your next plan, your next city.
So this doesn’t happen, here are a few friendly tips from a fellow traveller to help make the most of your time when on a longstay holiday or work experience trip.
Do some forward-planning
Ok. So at the very least, you’d expect to know which country you are flying into for your trip and – more than likely – which airport or country you’ll end up departing from. If you know this, then you should at least be considerate of the time it takes to travel from point A to point B at any time.
To give you an example of this, if you know that it takes three days by train to cross from your penultimate country to your final destination – and you want to spend some time in your final destination – then make sure you are there in plenty of time. Two days is a good buffer in terms of time in practically any country, should you intend on using public transport to get between countries. This will cover you in case you miss a particular bus, train or flight, in most cases.
It is possible that when you have been on longstay trips you are taken ill whilst travelling and end up in a far flung location needing medical treatment (which could be costly) or repatriation to the UK (even more costly) that you really need to have the right travel cover for these costly potential claims.
More importantly you’ll want to know which countries you anticipate visiting for the purposes of carrying the right visas and having the right immunisations. It’s not really worth “just popping over to Myanmar (Burma)”, if you haven’t been taking treatment for mosquitoes, for example, or don’t have the right credentials to be there.
Similarly, you should keep an eye on the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices (FCO) pages before and during your trip. They’re regularly updated and contain helpful advice about the risks each country carries for British tourists.
Speak to the locals and read literature
If at any point you’re losing interest, or not sure what your next move should be, in a particular country, then try and get involved with the local people and ask them for advice. These people are bound to know where all the best spots are – or perhaps know of a hidden gem off-the-beaten path – that you might not otherwise find in your travel guide. *Do obviously exercise caution when taking on board local advice and don’t travel with strangers alone.
That being said, published travel guides and smartphone apps are still an incredibly useful resource, with such sites as Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet being among the better known. You can always check into these at an internet café when you’ve got a moment. International tourism offices too are still useful, providing the staff speak decent-enough English.
Become a “yes” person and be flexible
Once again, within reason, you could always just say yes to experiences that you mightn’t have otherwise tried at home or around members of your family.
This could be watching a local sport, trying out a local delicacy (whatever it may be!) or trying out an extreme sport. If you’ve got friends with you then it’s much easier to get involved with making some sacrifice to do what the crowd wants. Try and do something out of your comfort zone once and a while to really create the experience of a lifetime.
If travelling with others, then also remember to be flexible in your movements and agree to their wishes now and again. You too will get your way at some point. So if someone wants to jump country early, then stick together and make a promise that you’ll get the choice at the next location. However, don’t split up across countries unless you’re with other friends.
Keep mobile and email contact with each other throughout and you should meet up again… eventually!
Overall, you should keep an open mind about your time abroad; never forget this isn’t a trip you can take every year – so experience and breathe every single minute of it.
Photos ©2013 by Doug Bardwell