Tell friends and family you’re planning on traveling around Europe for three months and you will likely elicit several “are you insane”s, a handful of “please don’t die”s, and hopefully a few “oh wow, may I come along”s. People are going to worry. It’s unavoidable, and while there’s nothing you can do to stop it entirely (hey, people care about you, deal with it) you can minimize their concerns by being a conscientious and prepared traveler.
Share Your Travel Itinerary
Whether you prefer to meticulously plan your trip, or keep things flexible as you go, it is still beneficial to keep track of several vital details concerning your adventures. I have found that a Google Drive excel document is a great way to organize your thoughts and plans, as well as an easy way to share them with friends and family. You have the option of allowing for editing or just viewing privileges. When Rachel and I planned our 2012 National Park Road Trip, we had to communicate from different states and while on very different schedules. We could work on the same file independently or together as we found time.
|My shared Travel Itinerary. Other tabs in file include Budget and Packing List.
Have Some Travel Experience
While this summer will be my first solo traveler experience, I have been around the global block a time or two. I would not feel comfortable going on this trip alone had I not spent years learning how to be a responsible world traveler during trips to Spain, Greece, Italy, South Africa, and Thailand. During my 2013 summer travels I hope to stay in hostels, CouchSurf, and do a little camping along the way, all of which I have used before as primary means of lodging. I made sure to update my CouchSurfing profile, and thanks to spending time as a host, I have several recommendations from surfers and fellow travelers.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from going for their ideal vacation or any wild, exotic adventures. Dream big. So big. But once you have your own grandiose plans for world domina…err, travels, then don’t be afraid to build up to them. Or at least find a partner-in-crime whose experience you trust.
What you want is a genuine comfort with both how your travels should go and, perhaps more importantly, could go. The best you can do is to show others and yourself that you can hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
Reconnect with Friends Abroad
Part of my initial comfort with this three month long trek around Europe was the offer from a dear friend to let me crash at his flat in London whenever I needed. He became my safety net during early planning along with a built-in companion for several outings. My friend has since moved back state-side, but your safety net may still be living abroad studying, traveling, volunteering, turning in their dang work visa forms on time. Don’t be afraid to dig down deep in your friend/acquaintance reserves, especially if they are also away from home. I messaged friends I’d studied with at different internships, friends who had lived in New Mexico, even an old high school friend who has been studying/living in France! She had lots of great advice to share. Don’t underestimate how refreshing even a little bit of familiarity can be when away from home for long stretches of time.
|Wild tree critters in Redwoods National Park.
Don’t know anyone abroad yet? Now is the time to start looking for extra special guest stars for your adventures. I admittedly dropped the blog updating ball last summer, so you didn’t get to hear about Rachel’s and my visit from our friend Chelsea for a short leg of our road trip (Portland to San Francisco)! It was a real test to rearrange our mound of luggage in my car to leave a nook for our third party member, but Chelsea brought a freshness to our adventures (as well as lots of great rock tidbits). This summer, Chelsea has agreed to fly out and meet up with me in July! We’re hoping to meet up in Vienna and make our way to Prague. We’ve known each other for years (and years and years) and when we were wee little Chelsea and Meridith, trying to coerce my parents into letting me go places/do things with the reassurance that “It’s ok, Chelsea’s parents are letting her go” was a bit more difficult. Now, instead of fearing I’ll lemming my way off a bridge after her, they will rest assured (for at least a week of my journey) that I have another smart young woman to travel with.
Check in Occasionally
We all hopefully learned this lesson in high school right after finally getting that drivers license freedom we’d been craving. If Mom wants you to call and check in if plans change, then you had better do that. I don’t know how my mother could ground me at the age of 26 from a continent away, but I know she has ways and I still fea…respect her enough to not cause her and the rest of my friends and family any unneeded, additional stress. Skype, iMessage, FaceTime, and even mail (e- OR snail) are all glorious modern marvels that can help facilitate communication provided you have WiFi (or postage stamps and patience).
Your parents (and/or other older relatives) don’t know how to video chat? Sit down with them before you leave and help then set up an account and do a few trail chats. You do not want to try and walk them trough the process from abroad in the middle of a hostel common room. I plan on bringing my iPad along with me as my main means of communication and interneting, but if you don’t want to drag along any extra technology in your pack try and find hostels/hotels that offer internet access or even politely ask your CouchSurfing host if they’d mind if you sent a few email updates or tweets to reassure those waiting to hear from you back home that you’ve lived to see another magnificent day.
I was admittedly on the fence about this purchase at first. Mostly because obviously nothing could possibly go wrong with my trip, right? A little bit of research and talking with other travelers led me to the decently priced World Nomads travel insurance. For three months of coverage I paid less than $200! As a general disclaimer, this choice may not be for you. Be sure and do your own research that incorporates your own destination(s) and planned activities. Don’t forget to print out pertinante insurance information and keep it on your person while traveling!
Restart Your Blog!
A great communication tool, but also a challenge to keep up with, blogs can be a great way to share your adventures and lessons with readers at home (or elsewhere abroad). I admittedly do not have the most solid of track records with keeping up with this blog, but I’m trying and therefore nobody can criticize me. If blogging isn’t for you, there’s a myriad of social media outlets you can use to update everyone. Twitter. Tumblr. Instagram. Youtube. Facebook. Get creative! Of course, you do want to find a nice balance so you can experience everything and everyone around you.
Question of the Day:
How do you keep in touch with friends and family when living or traveling apart from them?