Planning a year abroad is not an easy task, especially post-college with an adult life including; a house, dog, bills, employment, friends, and family. Between my sophomore and junior year of college, I had an internship in Dubai for the summer. My parents paid for my flight, my things were already packed up from my dorm for the summer, and my part-time job allowed me to take the 2 months away. My mom took me shopping for a few business wardrobe essentials, I borrowed a suitcase and hopped on a plane. I stayed with a local family who had a live-in maid, personal driver, and a cleaning service. I was beyond spoiled. This time around will be a little different.
Now I’m 29 years old with a full-time job which, up until this point, has been 100% on-site in Minneapolis, Minnesota. So, step one, after being accepted to Remote Year, was to convince my boss at ThreeBridge Solutions, an IT consulting firm, that it was a good idea to let me travel the world for a year while working completely remote, with a program he had never heard of. I did this by putting together a presentation outlining what Remote Year was, how our core values factored into this adventure, and how I would accomplish my job as a digital nomad. Surprisingly he was almost immediately on board. Insert one cool concept, with a handy PowerPoint, and you get one terrified new RY recruit.
Step 2, research all things living aboard for an extended amount of time. This could take a lifetime as there are thousands, if not millions, of blogs on study aboard, digital nomads, and world travelers. I was easily sucked in. I found the best way to accomplish this giant task was to start making a checklist.
Credit / Debit Cards
Chase Sapphire Reserved and Charles Schwab came out to be the best travel cards. Both have “0” travel fees and are welcome in most countries. Also, both are Visa cards, which from what I have read, are accepted easily throughout the world.
• The Chase Sapphire card offers travel points to sign up, travel and dining bonus points, and a ton of other perks, if you use it enough, including money toward your TSA pre-check, a must, and entry to airport lounges.
• Charles Schwab has “0” international ATM fees and the ability to transfer money from your normal checking account onto your debit card for use while out of the country.
Most blogs I’ve read said you should have multiple cards in different bags in case of theft or your bank disabling a card due to irregular use while outside of the US. So in total, I will have my current debit card from Bremer Bank (local to MN), a Capital One Credit Card with 1% back on all purchases, a Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the Charles Schwab debit card.
Again this is based on research so I will follow up with a “Take 2” on lessons I’ve learned after a month or two.
• Suitcase: I purchased Samsonite stackable luggage from Costco; a trusted brand. Costco always has a good deal.
• Packing cubes: Basically organizes your things to fit neatly into your suitcase or carry on and doubles as toiletry bag and dirty clothes hamper.
• Compression Bags: These are handy little packing bags, that when rolled, suck the air out of your clothes and conserve space. When packing for a year, this extra room will be much appreciated.
• Luggage Locks: Can’t be too safe when traveling internationally and your whole life is in one bag.
• Travel Towel: A quick drying towel for the beach or side trips when I’m not at my apartment or hotel.
• Fanny Pack: Great for long hikes and festivals.
• Backpack: (Foldable) Side trips, hiking, and other activities like the gym.
• Computer Bag: Co-Working space is 5-30 minutes away from apartments so a durable and comfortable computer bag is needed.
Booking a Flight
With Remote Year, your first flight is not included. So I hit up the usual sites and searched Minneapolis to Croatia and cried at the numbers. So again, I did some research. A few other travelers mentioned a site called SkyScanner.com. Skyscanner compares millions of flights to find you the cheapest deal, fast. They also compare and find the cheapest hotels and car rentals. I don’t think they will be unknown for long. They found me the cheapest flight by more than a thousand dollars. The one catch is if you switch airlines, you need to pick up your checked luggage and recheck your bags. This can be costly and time-consuming so make sure you have the time, and add up the extra charges, before booking. Even with this, however, it was by far the best choice.
Yes, this is a thing. Call your local doctors office and they will direct you to a travel clinic. They will ask you for all the countries you will be visiting and put together a list of vaccines you will need. Make sure to bring the records along. Some countries will ask for a list of your vaccinations before letting you in.
Do this at least a month in advance. Some vaccines will take multiple doses and some clinics are booked out weeks in advance.
Also, book any doctor’s appointments and dental care needed prior to your trip. Take care of any issues before going aboard where your current insurance will most likely not cover any costs.
Tell your doctor you will be out of the country an extended amount of time and ask for a longer prescription.
Bring any medicine you might need from home (Benadryl, AZO, Aspirin)
Make sure your passport is up to date and more than a year before expiring, per your last destination. Some countries will not allow you in with a passport that is expiring in 6 months or less. Also if you plan to visit multiple countries, ask for the large passport with extra pages. Some visas can take up a whole passport page; you’ll need the extra space.
Make copies of your passport to carry for visas and other identification.
Now in my late 20’s, I own a home. Normal right… however not easy when you want to drop everything and move out of the country for a year. So I called around, and asked some friends, and stumbled across a business that markets and rents your home and then also acts as the landlord for any issues while the home is being rented. It’s not cheap, but it’s cheaper than paying your mortgage and also paying to live aboard. Next, move everything I own out of my home and get it ready for someone else to move in.
1. Stage House and take pictures for marketing
2. Box everything I own up and move it into a pod for storage
3. Have a cleaning crew come in and clean my house for new renter
4. Transfer mail to parents house
5. Pay all bills before leaving and cancel services like TV and internet
• Phone: SIM Cards (unlocked phone) / International Plans: Luckily my company pays for my phone and is paying for my international plan. This may be outrageously expensive and in that case, I will need to pay for a SIM Card that is provided through Remote Year. This is $30/month and provides a local plan with a new number and data plan. The downside of a SIM card for my type of work is that my number would change month to month, making it difficult for my consultants to get in touch with me. Also noted, bring an extra phone in case of theft or damage.
• Kindle: Paper white so I can take it anywhere inside or out without glare or the distractions of my phone or iPad.
• Portable Charger: To avoid battery interruptions while traveling
• Headphones: Nice for travel and also to block out noise in co-working spaces.
• Computer: I have a computer provided by my work. Our tech team is adding extra security for any sensitive information and upgrading my computer for warranty issues while I am away.
• Power cords and adapters: Be sure to have the right adapters for your electronics while you are aboard and also extra power cords for your phone and computer. Backup batteries as well if possible.
• GoPro: This is a once in a lifetime trip so I plan to document as much as possible and upload as many Instagram-worthy photos as I can for your viewing pleasure.
• Amazon Fire Stick: Great for traveling. The Amazon Fire Stick is a small device the size of a flash drive that plugs into a TVs HDMI port. The Fire Stick enables any TV to stream content over WiFi such as Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu.
Be sure to provide a copy for your itinerary to your friends and family. Safe for them to know where you are if you run into any trouble and also for them to visit!
Anything that will make you feel more at home including a pillow case and thin sheet to protect from scratch or unpleasant bedding already provided in apartments, hotels, and hostels.