The “Before You Leave To-Do List”
Guest post written by Scott Dawe.
So… you’re going travelling huh? You’re not going anywhere just yet, not before you endure the inevitable barrage of scaremongering from your somewhat misguided friends and family, some of whom are genuinely concerned, some just gravely envious.
As tiresome and as ludicrous as some may sound, one friend told me: “You’ll have to learn to enjoy eating insects in Thailand, that’s all they eat”. Some of these people may have a point, although not that guy – he was just a bumbling idiot.
Now, when it comes to backpacking I’m all for the “winging it” approach, but in some instances it’s often quite foolish not having some sort of contingency plan in place. For example, while in Queenstown, New Zealand, a rather discourteous fellow stole a number of electrical items from my hostel bedroom (Another lesson for a different article, padlock your valuables away in your backpack.)
So there I was, already with very little money, and now even worse off than before. I suddenly remember something, something I’d read after filling out the application form for travel insurance – If you report your items stolen to the local police within 24 hours, you can claim them back on insurance.
I rushed to the police station. I already knew where it was as I had researched the town before arriving, I filled out the report, and long story short I received a nice cheque in the mail upon my return to merry old England.
This, folks, is a prime example of why you should plan ahead before you take the plunge and travel abroad for a long period of time. Below are a few more pearls of wisdom I’ve learnt along the way.
Vaccinations & Malaria Medication
This may seem an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people I’ve met along the way that “couldn’t be bothered” to go and get free (in the UK) vaccinations. When symptoms can include vomiting, fever, diarrhea, organ failure, and possible death, why take the chance? Pay your local GP a visit for more info.
Print and make extra copies of paperwork
I did this before I left England, and kept two versions for myself (In separate bags) and gave one of each document to my mother. This is because there’s a slim chance someone could’ve stolen my stuff, but mainly because I was very likely to misplace them. When I say documents I mean: passport, credit cards, tickets, itinerary, email confirmations, visas etc. I also emailed a hard copy of each to myself and stored them on a USB key ring.
There are many companies that you can buy travel insurance from, including World Nomads – who specialize in travel insurance. Reach To Teach has worked with World Nomads for years, and they offer insurance packages that are perfect for teachers moving abroad for the first time.
Stock up on medication & toiletries (COUGH, Condoms)
If you have prescriptions for existing conditions i.e. Asthma, Diabetes, be sure to stock up on a year’s supply of them, and carry any necessary paperwork in case suspicious border patrol stops you. Luckily, I didn’t have any such illness, but there was a rather awkward moment when my mother bashfully came into my room and threw down a bag of condoms, sexual health leaflets, and a Chlamydia test kit, and said, rather threateningly, “Be careful.”
Get your financial affairs in order
If you have any direct debits or standing orders make sure they are either paid off, or there are sufficient funds in your account to maintain them while you’re away. It’s sometimes a good idea to apply for a credit card too, in case of emergencies, but don’t get yourself in too much debt! Another good idea is to give someone that you trust “power of attorney” so they can communicate with banks for you.
Book at least some of your digs
As I mentioned, I love winging it, but sometimes it’s nice when you get off a plane, you’re sweaty, tired, and a child has been kicking you in the back for the last 12 hours, to know that you only have a simple cab ride to a shower and bed. I firmly believe you should experience a good variety of accommodation, but for the first couple of nights, a hotel, or backpackers hostel is usually the way forward.
Say goodbye to EVERYONE you love
Screw it! It’s a good excuse to throw a big party, and also a straightforward way of making sure you say goodbye to everyone you know and love before you embark on the biggest adventure of your life. My travel partner unfortunately lost his grandfather while we were away, but he took some comfort in the knowledge that before he had left he spent some time with him to say his goodbyes.
So there you have it. My “Before You Leave To-Do List”. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but I like to keep some element of unknowing when I travel. Remember: stay safe, but more importantly, have an awesome time!
My name is Scott .T. Dawe, I’m a Photographer and Filmmaker from Bristol, UK. I split my time between England and New Zealand, where I am planning to emigrate permanently in the near future. I’ve always been a keen traveler, visiting countries in Europe, Asia, Oceania, and America. Where ever I’ve gone I’ve always kept notes, taken a tonne of photographs, and kept random memorabilia in scrap books, so it’s a natural progression for me to begin to take travel writing more seriously, I have plans to write more and more articles regarding advice for backpackers and some personal essays about my experiences while seeing this amazing world. You can follow my blog here: http://nomadicduke.blogspot.