How to Prepare to Travel for a Year
From cars to apartments, pets to credit cards - here's how you really prepare to travel for a year.
The idea of picking up your life and committing to traveling for an entire year may make you feel a variety of different emotions: extreme excitement, paralyzing indecision, a sharp sense of fear - sometimes all in the same moment.
How do you even begin to tackle a project like preparing to travel for a year? There are so many things in your life that you need to tie up: your current lease, your agreement with your employer, that kind-of-sort-of relationship that you just started. They all fall under the category of “need-to-figure-out-asap”, but you just don’t know what steps you need to take to start.
To be fair, traveling for a year is not a decision that should be made lightly. After all, you’re committing to 365 days of travel, not just a week or two on the road. That kind of commitment takes some serious planning and organization, which will undoubtedly result in many Google searches for the answers to the questions that are running through your head.
What do I do with my car if I’m going to travel for a year?
While you’re traveling you’ll rely more on planes, trains, and buses to get around than you will your own car. However, if you currently live in a city that requires you have your own form of transportation (we’re looking at you, Los Angeles) you probably have a few questions about what you should do with that expensive investment.
The obvious first answer is to sell. Fully embrace a minimalist lifestyle while you’re on the road knowing that everything you own is in your luggage. On top of that feeling of freedom that comes when you let go of the things you don’t need, selling your car will line your pockets with some extra cash to take with you on your journey.
If you’re attached to your car, if you’ve given it a name, if you have years worth of memories stored between the seat cushions, or you just aren’t ready to part with it before your trip, consider a long term storage solution. Most cities have storage facilities with spaces large enough to house a car - you’ll just have to think about if you want to be footing a monthly storage bill in addition to your car payment.
What should I do about my apartment?
Maybe you were hit with an epiphany, a moment when a lightbulb went off in your head telling you that now is the exact right time to travel. The only problem? You’re in the middle of the year-long lease.
It’s never a good idea to break a lease without having a discussion with your landlord! First, try to see if your landlord will allow you to cut your lease a few months short, or sign a new lease that lets you go month-to-month.
If those avenues don’t work out, you can search for a subletter, or use a service like MetroButler or Airbnb. Tap into your network and see if there’s anyone that is searching for a short-term place to live in your city. There are Facebook groups and online communities created for just this purpose. It’s in your best interest to have a responsible subletter, so do your due diligence before signing on the dotted line. Some buildings require the sublessee to pay a fee every month in addition the subletter’s rent, so keep that in mind when you’re budgeting for your year of travel.
Would my partner be able to handle a long-distance relationship for a year?
Dating long-distance is tough, but it can be even tougher across international borders and timezones. Before you take the leap and book your plane ticket, think about whether you’ve done long-distance before as a couple, if you’re good at communicating, and if your relationship is stable enough to overcome the challenge of being apart. This isn’t an aspect of your decision that is black and white - there will be some downsides no matter what you choose to do.
Sit down and have a detailed discussion with your partner about what you’re interested in doing and gauge their feelings. They may want to join you! If you’re traveling with a work and travel program, you can often find a couples’ discount. Traveling together could be just the experience that you need to make your relationship stronger.
I can’t leave my pet behind. Can I?
One of the most common things that stops people from setting out on a long-term adventure is the fact that they would have to leave their beloved pet behind. We get that. Odie the dog or Loki the cat is your best friend - how could you possibly say goodbye to them for an entire year?
It’s definitely not easy - however, there are ways to make sure that you’re leaving your pet in the best hands possible.
The easiest thing to do is ask your parents, close friends, family members to help you out and take care your pet for a year. If a personal connection isn’t viable, consider asking your groomer if they have a boarding option, or if they know of any local boarding facilities or doggy daycares that could look after your fur baby. Whatever you do, make sure that you’re completely comfortable with your decision before you pack up. Remember - you can always Facetime your furry friend whenever you need a spark of happiness to jumpstart your day.
What about all of my… stuff?
Over the years, you’ve probably accumulated enough stuff that your head hurts just thinking about how you’re going to be able to store it all. Your mom’s basement just isn’t big enough.
Here’s one clean, simple idea: sell it, donate it, or toss it.
As humans in the 21st century, we’ve gotten used to wanting things and have put the concept of wanting experiences on the backburner. You’re about to flip that idea on its head and, in the process of doing so, you should remove a lot of those unnecessary things from your inventory.
If it’s an item that has no value to you or anyone else, toss it. Some social media sites offer marketplaces where you can sell any of your belongings to people in your area for a reasonable price. If you can’t find a willing buyer, think about giving your things away to people who could use them, but might not necessarily be able to afford them. We call this radical gifting. You’ll be leaving for your trip with a little less baggage - and a lot of good karma.
How do I file my taxes as a traveler?
Now you’re getting into the logistics! Taxes are an important thing to consider before you start traveling, as it’s good to have a game plan in place before you jump on a plane. You’re going to want to see how your country handles international residency and how you can file your income if you’re going to be working remotely.
Some U.S. tax residents participating in work and travel programs have been able to take advantage of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (the "FEIE"). Many factors determine whether the FEIE may be applicable in your case, and you should consult a tax professional to see if it’s a fit for your situation. If you do qualify, you could earn back tens of thousands of your tax dollars.
While we see ourselves as experts on all things “work and travel”, we are definitely not tax professionals. We’re unable to give tax advice and nothing that we say should be construed as tax advice or legal advice rendered by Remote Year or anyone employed by or associate with Remote Year.
When it comes to remaining tax compliant, it’s all up to you. Many of our participants have reached out to a trusted tax professional for advice, and we suggest that you do the same if you feel that your tax obligations are unclear.
Do I need a different bank account?
Most banks make it possible for you to make purchases around the world - for a fee. Before you start your year-long adventure, look into what financial services your bank offers without international fees. You may want to consider moving your assets to another location so that you’re not spending more than you need to while you travel.
In addition to your checking accounts, check out your current credit cards. Can you collect mileage points with your current cards? Are their foreign transaction fees? Do you get any travel-related rewards that can make your time on the road a bit easier? Don’t lose out on taking advantage of these perks just because you didn’t want to do the research!
One thing to note: We’re not financial experts. Though we’ve been through it all with the participants of our programs, we’re not in a position to give financial advice, and none of the information that we provide should be misconstrued as such.
Will my phone work when I’m in a different country?
If you head out on your journey with your phone as-is, it probably won’t work for you in a different country. While WiFi is as readily available as air these days, there will be some destinations on your itinerary that will require you to have access to data in order to use cellular services.
There are a few different routes you can go when it comes to your phone. One of the simplest is to purchase a new SIM card in the countries that you’re traveling in. SIM plans are pretty inexpensive and if you run out of data, you can just recharge them. If you’re working and traveling with Remote Year, we can take care of this step for you. We offer local SIM plans so that you can be connected wherever you go.
If you don’t want to have to seek out a local cellular service in every one of your destinations, you can sign a contract with a company like T Mobile that has great rates for international data plans, or use a service like Google Voice or Project Fi so that you can keep your current phone number when you travel.
As you consider whether you should travel for a year, there will certainly be a few obstacles in your way, but don’t let the barriers above stop you from following the path you want to take toward personal growth. There’s always a solution even if it isn’t a simple one. Every time you come up against something that might hold you back, take a deep breath and remember the reason that you want to go on this adventure. That it will all be worth it. Then get out there and make it happen.