How to ‘pack it all in’ and not freak out

‘Where do I begin?’ ‘Should I really quit my job?’ ‘Is travelling solo a good idea?’ Before you head off on any period of extended travel, whether it’s a gap year trip around the world, or a break from your career there are some pretty big questions to answer – booking flights is the easy part!

I can’t claim to have all any of the answers, but here are some of my planning experiences from the first time I decided to ‘pack it all in’ – that ultimate travel cliché. There are many details to consider – how do I keep in touch with people? What do I do with my stuff while I’m away? – so how do you not sweat the small stuff and ensure the start of your trip is relatively stress-free?

Get your priorities straight

What should you tick off your travel to-do list first? Obviously, there are big things to organise – flights, accommodation (that is if you want to arrange any before you head off) insurance etc. But once you’ve got these covered, it’s time to prioritise what’s going to make the biggest difference to you while you’re away, often with only yourself to rely on. Top of my list was making sure I could get in touch with home whenever I wanted. I bagged a Nokia that would’ve made a breeze block look slim-line but would survive being thrown into the Gran Canyon (which I managed to put to the test) and invested in a new laptop.  With any tech you’re travelling with it’s important to think about how much it weighs (you’re going to be carrying it everywhere) and what you’re going to use it for. I wanted something I could type on and send emails, that was it really, so I opted for a mid-range Acer Aspire. Organising how I would stay in touch was hugely re-assuring, to know that friends and family would only be a Skype call or a text away. It sounds like a small thing, but it gave me the confidence to tackle bigger logistical considerations. What will give you the same boost? Sort these things first – it could be making sure you’ve got a comfortable backpack, or loading up an external hard drive with music. Tackle one thing at a time and chip away at the small stuff – the bigger issues will suddenly become a lot more manageable.

Sell everything

If you can’t carry it and your mates don’t want it, sell it. You’ll thank yourself later when you need to re-book a missed flight or can’t stand one more night on the top bunk and the extra cash is required. Aside from the monetary gains, it’s quite therapeutic to clear out your wardrobe and rummage through your bookshelves. You might be surprised by the emotional connections you have to some things, but don’t let this stop you from being pragmatic – cash is what you need, not your My Little Pony collection.

I’m no petrol head, but when it came to selling my car I was deeply saddened. I’d had ‘Foxy’ my silver Nissan Micra for seven years and it was probably the most valuable thing I could get rid of in order to boost my travel budget. I’m indebted to this faithful stead for all those Edinburgh to London drives, for valiantly protecting me when an articulated lorry crashed into it and for trying its best to hit 50mph. But most of all, I was grateful for the extra money. Sentimentalism has no place on the travel balance sheet.

Move out as early as possible

Moving out of my flat a whole month early saved me a lot of cash. I was lucky to be able to move back home, but even if you can crash on a friend’s sofa, moving out of rented accommodation early is a great money saving idea – and you get to spend quality time with the ones you’re probably going to miss the most while you’re away. The downside was having to go through six years worth of stuff. Countless black bin bags later, with all decent items donated to local charity shops, my life was packed up and ready to ship out. Tip: if you de-clutter with packing in mind you’ll have a head start and uncover some of small items you’re likely to forget, like travel adapters and spare padlocks.

Oh, somewhere in here you should probably tell your employer that you’re going away for a while…

Obviously, these are just a few pointers about how to ‘pack it all in’. Sounds easy? What about organising visas and vaccinations? Don’t worry, I’ve got more tips here.


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