While the concept of taking a gap year is pretty amazing, PREPARING for it really really REEEAAALLLY sucks!!!
How could it not??? There is just SO. FREAKING. MUCH. TO. THINK. ABOUT!!! Putting your house on sale or apartment for rent, thinking where to forward your mail, telling everybody…
Then there is the job thing. Just how much time ahead do you actually give??? The list is endless!!!
So as I go through this process, here is a list of things I have needed (or still need) to take care of before setting off.
Disclaimer: This is by no means an extensive list, as every person’s situation is different, but still a good starting point of things to consider for anyone in the planning stages their gap year.
- Put house on sale / apartment for rent: Unless you want to be stuck paying for a place collecting dust or for squatters to crash in, put that on the market AND DO IT EARLY!!! Finding someone to take over your lease or buy your house takes time, and I cannot emphasize how important to start this early is.
- Visas: This is key unless you want to miss out on an opportunity to visit that dream destination you always wanted to go. Many countries now provide a tourist visa at point of entry, some with very minimal requirements. However, other countries still require for visas to be obtained before entering the country, with some countries even asking that these be obtained from your country of residence. Get informed, visit your government’s website for the list of countries you need a visa for, and the website of the countries you plan to visit for their own visa requirements.
- Sell/Donate your stuff: By now you have hopefully realized that you own way too much stuff anyways, most of which you rarely use (if ever). Have a yard sale, put some on Craigslist, donate to charity…whatever you decide, get rid of some stuff. You do not need that 11th pair of pants or that 27th pair of shoes (no, really, you don’t). Although it might hurt…it’s gotta be done. I use a simple rule: if I haven’t used it in the last 6 months, it’s gone. This not only cleanses your soul but could also give you some extra $$$ for your trip 🙂
- Change of Address/Mail Forward: This one’s important, unless you want to be victim of unwanted identity theft. Credit card bills, tax statements, that inappropriate magazine subscription which you probably shouldn’t be subscribed for anyways… Many postal services offer mail forwarding for various months, and this could be a lifesaver when it comes to identity theft.
- Plan for a place to stay at before your departure: With a day or two to go before your departure, your house has been sold or apartment rented, all of your belongings are gone, and all you have under your name are what’s in a storage and what you have in your backpack. At this time you need a place to stay before your departure. Talk to family, friends, look for a local (and cheap) airbnb…what’s important here is to have options. If that person can also take you to the airport, 2-birds w/ 1 stone 🙂
The Not So Obvious:
- Vaccines: Even if you only have a slight idea of which countries you want to visit, get informed. Some countries may not require a particular vaccine for residents of your country, but may still refuse you entry if you passed through certain countries or areas before entering. Some immunizations also require numerous shots (e.g. rabies), so the more time in advance you do these the better.
- Travel Insurance: This one’s important, and unfortunately one which I could have used both times I had my camera stolen (yep…twice). The choice is vast when it comes to selecting the right insurance, and there are many companies out there offering very similar (but oh so painfully different) types of coverage. Shop around, spend time on the phone with them, know what you are already covered for (some credit card companies already offer some type of travel insurance), and most importantly, START EARLY!
- Taxes: I still have to pay taxes???? The answer is “maybe”….it all depends where you’re from and your government tax laws. In Canada, “you are a factual resident […] if you keep significant residential ties in Canada while […] outside of the country”, which means that you do have to declare taxes (go to https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/living-abroad/taxation for more information). From outside of Canada? Visit your country’s revenue agency website for information that applies to you. The point? Get informed!!! You DO NOT want to come back home to charges of tax evasion!
- Print and e-mail yourself a copy of your travel ID: Losing your passport or any other travel document sucks. Finding yourself undocumented in a totally foreign country REALLY SUCKS! Although I should be following my own advice on this one, having a copy of your documents with you at all times and in your e-mail can prove to be a lifesaver should you happen to lose your real documents.
- Buy a pair of comfortable shoes: There is no point in sacrificing comfort for style on this one. Whether it is one week, one month, or one year on the road, the truth is that you will be walking, hiking, trekking, more than you probably have ever done, and you want to be as comfortable as you can while doing it. Take it from someone who spent a month in Brazil walking and jumping around in stadiums in the most uncomfortable pair of shoes ever (but hey…I was stylish :s).
- A Place to Crash: Even if you don’t know when or if you will come back from your long-term adventure, plan ahead. You don’t want to start asking around for a place to stay with only a few weeks before your arrival home. Family, friends, anyone close who can open their doors. Here as well, the important thing is to have options.
Was this helpful to you? Did I forget anything important? Leave your thoughts and comments below and start a discussion!