10 Things to do in Preparation for Going Abroad:
Here are some of the things we did to prepare for long-term travel. We don’t know how long we are going to be digital nomads, but it is always better to be prepared. Most/many of these are applicable to short-term travel as well.
1. The Basics. We didn’t know we would be embarking on this journey but a series of events made it clear to us that this was the best choice for us at this time. Because we hadn’t planned to do this, we had a bunch of stuff. Some people will just sell everything before embarking on long-term travel (the longer you are gone, the more if makes sense financially) but we didn’t want to get rid of things so we opted to put the stuff in storage back in San Jose. We brought the rest of our stuff (clothes/basics) home to Florida where we also left our darling cats (with my parents in Niceville). We gave all of our plants to friends, except our avocado trees which we left in Jacksonville. We visited people and said goodbye, and of course we bought our tickets.
2. Check Expiration Dates. We already had our passports and made sure they wouldn’t be expiring soon. Most countries require at least 6 months validity beyond your stay. We also checked the expiration dates of our debit and credit cards and IDs.
3. Look at Travel Information for the countries and areas you plan to visit. We found that we didn’t need visas for Korea but will need them for some other countries. Through research we found that it can sometimes be difficult to get an American visa for country X while in country Y. If you are buying a one way ticket and will be coming as a tourist it may also be necessary to prove that you are leaving the country before your allotted time is up. For example, if you are able to be in a country 90 days on your tourist visa (such as us in Korea), you may need to show that you are leaving the country before 90 days is up in form of a transportation ticket out. In most cases they will not check (no one checked us), but if they do you may need to purchase another ticket at the airport before departing and be subject to the last-minute fares. If you don’t know where you are going afterwards you can make reservations (without paying yet) or buy a refundable ticket. Some people will fake onward tickets as well ;). Either way, it is probably best to document your onward travel if the country you are visiting requires it.
4. Go to the doctor (and dentist and any specialists you need.) If you don’t have insurance, you may just want to wait until you are abroad (depending on where you are going) where the healthcare is cheaper. Medical care does vary abroad and it is a good idea to make sure you are healthy before traveling if you can afford it, though. This is probably one of the first things that travelers should do because appointments sometimes need to be made a while in advance. We both had doctor and dentist appointments.
I would also recommend getting refills for any prescriptions before leaving (e.g. insulin, birth control, acid reflux medication, etc.) and if you wear contacts, make sure you have enough. Check if you need any immunizations and get them. It had been just over 10 years since my last Tetanus shot so I got a booster and Kyle got Hepatitis B (which I had as a child.) We thought about Japanese encephalitis and a couple others but didn’t get them.
5. Decide what gear/things you want/need for your travels. We began by making a list of what we thought we would need and then we checked out the malls and outdoor stores to find these items. Next, we looked online for the items we could not find or didn’t like in stores. You could go straight to the internet, but for us, it was nice to go out and get an idea of size and feel for things before ordering online. We could not spend a lot of time looking, because some items take a while to arrive and we wanted the ability to return items and find something new if anything was not up to par.
In regards to gear, also: 1. Plan according to the weather. 2. Figure out what types of things may be hard to find where you are going- whether it be tylenol, deodorant, or feminine products and be sure to stock up. 3. If you are bringing a Kindle, download any books you might want there. I copied my library cards and hope to be able to check out books as well (but haven’t tried it yet.) 4. Check your tech stuff and see if you need a voltage converter for any of your items that plug into the wall. Many items are 110-240v and 50/60HZ now and so a converter will not be necessary but some products may require one. We only needed one for Kyle’s electric razor. Regardless of whether or not you need a voltage converter, you will likely need a plug adaptor. These are separate items (but can sometimes be purchased together.) 5. In some countries, like China, you will need a VPN to access normal sites (like Facebook). Look it up and decide if that is something you will want/need. We choose Express VPN and initially paid for 6 months but plan to extend it. 6. If the internet is important for your work or anything else, be aware that internet speed varies greatly across the world. Korea has some of the fastest internet in the world but we brought a device to help improve internet speed for when we travel to other countries. 7. Don’t forget to make sure everything you are bringing will fit in your suitcase/backpack!
6. Decide if you want/need an International Driver’s License. There are a couple non-legitimate online sites which claim to provide them. There are only two locations you can actually get these. We got our’s at AAA. The application is $15/person and if you let them do the passport photos they are $10/person (2 photos). We haven’t used them so far but wanted them in case.
7. Bank Stuff. You will want to know if your bank(s) has any locations abroad and know what fees will be charged if you take money out of a foreign ATM. Your debit/credit card may also charge an exchange rate fee, so check that too. Take advantage of any rewards programs you have access to and consider getting alternative cards if you will be long-term traveling. We don’t have any special rewards cards because we did not have them already and didn’t feel we could justify getting an additional credit card when we do not spend that much in the first place. Before you leave, make sure to let your banks and/or card providers know that you will be leaving the country so they don’t put a hold on your card after your first international purchase.
8. Insurance. Travel insurance, health insurance, car insurance. Deal with all of these. Travel insurance can cover a little or a lot, depending on the plan. At this time we cannot afford it, but we will get it if our income ever consistently exceeds our basic living expenses. We would still recommend it to others. Kyle called his car insurance and let them know he would not be driving his car, so they lowered his rate. I am not sure how most health insurance holds up abroad but I don’t have health insurance anymore anyway and Kyle won’t have it after his 26th birthday which is coming up. We will simply use the services we need. Even without insurance, many places have more affordable care than even the copays in the US.
9. Cultural stuff. Research and be aware of the customs of the areas you will be visiting/living. You do not want to offend or disrespect. Even the finger you point with or the way you set your chopsticks can be interpreted as rude. Read books (or at least articles) on the area and learn at least a little bit of the language.
10. Make copies of everything. Copy your passport, IDs, international DL, and anything else you think might be useful. Take some extra passport photos as well if you plan to move between countries as well. I have paper copies and scans of these documents on my laptop.