You've already taken the first step: you've booked your trip. You've made the big decision to chuck it all in and head overseas for an epic adventure, the kind that will take you far from home, and probably for a long time.
That's a pretty big deal. The rest is mere detail, things to take care of at home before you head off on the journey. They're the little things you never thought of, and the big things you're not looking forward to tackling.
But they're all completely necessary. Here's what you have to do.
Lists are your friend. Big long lists of all the things that need to be taken care of before you can get on that plane and not worry about anything back home ever again. Any time you think of something to do, add it to the list. You can even write down things you've already done, and then cross them off straight away. It'll make you feel good.
Maybe you're going somewhere dangerous. Or maybe you're not. But the only way to know for sure is to do your research and get a good idea of what it's going to be like once you land. Check smartraveller.gov.au, but also check out forums like Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, and even TripAdvisor to get advice from fellow travellers who might not be turned off by government warnings.
The last thing you want on an extended journey to the middle of nowhere is to need to see a doctor. Before you leave it's worth going to your local GP for a general check-up and working on your fitness and tailoring it to your holiday. Going skiing? Climb some stairs. Going hiking? Get out and about on foot. And if you're a smoker, there's never been a better time to quit.
After you've been to the GP, head over to a specialist travel doctor and get yourself vaccinated for the specific destinations you'll be visiting. Because nothing ruins your holiday quite like a bout of cholera.
Pack for your destination
Don't just throw everything you own into a bag. And don't feel you need to stock up on expensive, travel-specific clothes either. Just take the things you're comfortable wearing, and that will be suitable for your destination. Going to the Middle East? Take light clothes that will cover you up. Going to south-east Asia? Maybe leave the jumpers behind. Going to northern Europe? Get ready to layer up my friend. And bear in mind that if you've forgotten something important, you can probably buy it overseas. They have shops over there too, you know.
Don't pack too much
It's tempting to take absolutely everything you'll need for an entire year, but you really don't want to be carting that much around. Take enough underwear for about 10 days. Take shirts for the same amount of time. When you run out, do a load of washing. Plan to buy location-specific clothes like jackets once you've arrived. It'll save you from carrying around bulky things that you don't need for months on end.
Plan to break up your trip with homestays
When you're going on an extended trip – say, anything over a few months – the constant grind of hostels and dorm rooms is going to get to you after a while. On an epic journey you need to plan for some epic rest stops. Think you'll really like a certain city or destination? Book a week there in an apartment, say through Airbnb. You'll be able to relax as if you were at home, cook your own food, and finally wash those disgusting clothes.
Tidy up the loose ends
Before you leave, there are plenty of annoying little things to take care of. You're probably giving up your house or apartment, which means you're going to have to sell your furniture, or organise somewhere to store it. You'll need to forward your mail on to someone as well – hopefully someone responsible. You'll also need to sort out paying any ongoing bills. Best thing to do is have them sent to you electronically so you can view and pay them on the go. Or even better, cancel them all. You're going travelling – you don't need an Australian mobile phone.
Do the boring stuff
Urgh. This isn't fun. But before you leave you really need to take care of the travelling fine print: photocopy your passport and travel documents and give a few copies to family and friends; organise your access to money overseas, including a travel card account and a way to get hold of emergency funds if you're robbed; give details, however vague, of your planned itinerary to parents or friends so someone always has a rough idea of where you are; and finally, get travel insurance. You'd be crazy to leave home without it.
This article brought to you in association with Nicabate.