Enjoying sunset at Sandspit
beach in Karachi.
On June 3, 2012, I set out to travel the world and that would be the most incredible decision of my life yet. Yes, a year has gone by since I left my home, packed everything I needed in a backpack (and the rest in a generous friend’s basement) and left on a journey to explore the world. For months leading up to my departure I spent hours planning, preparing, and imagining what I will do over the year I have “allowed” myself. I felt excited, inspired, privileged and at the same time anxiety, fear, and uncertainty.
For anyone who dreams of traveling, no matter what your age, my advice having done it is for you to pack your bags and go for it! Yes, you will need to do some planning. You may even need to make a few sacrifices and definitely face a few fears leading up to and during your trip. But believe me, it will be one the best gift you will give yourself.
Before I dive in to topics like “how to plan your world trip” or the things you might want to think about, let me quickly tell you some of the highlights of the past year of my life:
- I walked 850 kilometers on the Camino de Santiago from the foothills of the Pyrenees in France to the Atlantic coast of Spain.
- I indulged in delicious desserts in Portugal, exotic spices in Morocco, and world cuisines from the east coast of Canada to the ‘Horn of Africa’.
- I saw goats that climbed trees, hippo’s bathe, baby elephants feeding, lions roaring, and many more exotic animals in their natural habitat.
- I drove around in a convertible with friends in foothills of the Alps in France and Switzerland
- I created music with bedouins and slept under a blanket of stars in the Sahara.
- I swam in lakes, oceans, and seas in North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
- I hiked in mountain ranges including the Himalayas.
- I learned to make wine, speak several languages, relive human history dating back to early humanoids in the Great Rift Valley.
- I volunteered in Europe and Africa then started an NGO working with youth in Asia.
- I met some of the most incredible people I have known and made formed some beautiful friendships.
- Most importantly, I met the love of my life and married her. Now I have a life long companion to share the many adventures to come.
I am happy, healthy, and inspired. Yes, the journey had it’s ups and downs. Times when I got in to trouble – those times that provide the best content for my storytelling sessions. But all in all, as you can see from the list above, I could not have made a better decision.
Now that you’re convinced, let me briefly tell you what I did leading up to my world travel:
- Decide when I will leave and announce the date to your family and friends. This way whenever fears came up I would have people to remind me the reasons I decided to travel.
- Put my life in order. I made sure that my personal and professional committments were fulfilled so that there would be nothing that would come up last minute to prevent me from leaving. Also, I plan to go home one day and I wanted to make sure I didn’t upset anyone before I left for the most incredible journey of my life.
- Give myself time to get used to the idea. Leaving for extended travel is a big life decision. Some of the first things that ‘hit’ you are: the idea of not drawing a steady income for months; the chances of getting sick or having an accident on foreign soil; missing your family and what you’ll do in case of a family emergency; security concerns in some parts of the world. I needed time to wrap my head around all these possibilies and more.
- Plan. I spent a lot of time planning and researching my trip. Though I did not really follow the plan – and that’s the best way to go, not to get bogged down during the trip – I felt a bit more secure having a plan and critical information in my back pocket. In case of an emergency, boredom, or one of many other events that can happen to a traveler, you alway should always have a plan to see where you intended to be.
- Take care of the ‘legal stuff’ like visa’s, vaccinations (I kept to the minimum I needed), etc. Not much to say here because when you plan, you will know what you need to do.
- Prepare my gear and test it. I made sure I had good reliable gear for the kind of journey I was about to take on. Having traveled extensively before, I already had most things I would take with me. But thanks to the folks at Bushtukah (an awesome gear shop in Ottawa) I was able to make sure I had the right stuff for the activities I planned to check off my list during my trip.
- Create an emergency contact list. I chose 6 people comprised of family and close friends who I could trust to be on my list. I gave them a copy of my documents and my plans. I also printed a list with their names and contact and kept it in my bag. It was once again, one of those “security” things.
- Enjoy myself and the company of my friends and family. Looking back, my journey really began before it even started. I wrapped up my last professional duty three-months before my departure. I noticed as I prepared for the trip the spirit of a traveler took over as I spent more time enjoying the company of my friends and family. I organized parties and get togethers. I visited people. Met people at coffee shops to discuss my trip. Visited places I enjoyed hanging out at and actually started making new friends in my city. Really what being a travelers is all about – being open to the world.
Travel is good for us. It opens up our world. It gives us opportunities and knowledge we never knew existed. Travel inspires us and makes us humble. It helps us discover ourselves and learn skills necessary to participate in our global village. Traveling looks good on your resume – it shows you have life experience and people skills. I can go on and on – believe me I have traveled to more than 35 countries across 4 continents, I think I know a thing or two about travel. Today I celebrate my first full year of living as a world traveler, as a real global citizen.
Happy travels everyone!