All we’ve got is a one-way ticket to Costa Rica, a house-sit lined up for the first few months, and a lot of ideas.
It’s our first time travelling indefinitely. By indefinite travel, I mean travel which is open-ended, which continues until something either goes wrong – whether that’s running out of money, being kicked out of a country because of an expired tourist VISA, or running out of ideas – or something comes up, like just deciding we want to go home to our families.
Can we maintain indefinite travel in Central America on our tiny, changeable freelance salaries? The only way to find out is to go and try… If it all goes wrong, then it does. If it doesn’t, then super! Of course indefinite travel is risky and mostly down to chance, but there are a few things we’ve done to prepare.
Read and Research
It’s the same for all travel, if you want to make the most of your time away then know where you’re going. Type “Central America travel tips” into Google and you’re pretty much set. After Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor, a go-to top hit for nearly everything travel related is the very reliable travel blogger Nomadic Matt. To effectively read and research:
1) Memorise the average price of a taxi ride, a hostel/hotel room, a meal out, and a beer. This way, you can not only plan your budget and decide how much money to take with you initially, but you’ll also know if someone tries to rip you off straight away when you get there.
2) Scribble a list of places you’d like to go and things you want to do there. Mark them all onto a map so that at a glance you can see which activities are near to each other and which ones are totally off in the middle of nowhere. A visual like this helps you create a basic outline of a route. Usually you can identify a loop or a straight line.
3) Don’t just do what everyone else is doing. Not everything on a “Top 10 Things to do in Blah Blah” is going to be something you want to do, so don’t think you have to. Pick and choose what interests you, and if what you want to do isn’t on a Top 10, it doesn’t mean it’s a lame thing to do, it probably just means you’re awesome and alternative.
Scour Some Central America Travel Blogs
There’s a travel blogger for every niche out there, but I always find the most useful bloggers to be ones who live in and blog on a specific country. My Tan Feet is an awesome one for Costa Rican travel. The Costa Rica Travel Blog has been really useful for general travel issues and De la Pura Vida has some good expat and English teaching advice.
Networking via the internet is a great way to find opportunities in another country, whether it’s volunteering, house-sitting, or a local hiking group. Join some expat forums and Facebook groups and start asking questions. Costa Rica has four or five really good groups for this and it can be a good way to find opportunities. First-hand advice can also be invaluable on the road.
I’m not fond of the whole social media thing and I also rarely want to tell everyone where I’m going or what I’m up to (ironically). However, as a traveller and travel blogger, it can be pretty essential. Last week, I told my Facebook world I was going to Costa Rica and likely heading to Nicaragua after.
I received a message from an old friend advising me not to get kidnapped in Nicaragua! I said not to worry, as I certainly didn’t intend on being kidnapped, but he did tell me a story about a friend of his who had all of her stuff stolen in Managua. He tipped me off on a few cool, exciting things too of course. It’s pretty likely that someone or other on your Facebook has been to wherever you’re going. Take the free information and ask for recommendations.
Have an Immediate Plan
A good way to lose all of your travel money is to not have an immediate plan for when you step off the plane. Being in a new country is daunting: taxi drivers are usually ready to scam any bewildered looking white face, accommodation can be crazy expensive if you don’t know where to look, and having a holiday attitude isn’t a good way to travel long-term. Try and have an address to get to for your first few nights.
What’s our plan? We have a house sit lined up for as soon as we arrive in Costa Rica, and this is, in fact, the sole reason that we chose to go straight to Costa Rica rather than anywhere else. Having a house sitting gig means accommodation isn’t a worry, you’ll likely have someone to introduce you to the local area, and you have time to explore at your own leisure without burning a hole in your pocket.
Practice your Spanish
Or, in our case, learn some Spanish. Before booking our one-way ticket, neither of us could speak any Spanish. Thanks to the amazing online world, we’ve both been learning Spanish for free. Getting a few key phrases down so that we can at least get by in the beginning, is a good start. Fortunately for me, Luke’s gotten pretty good.
Oh my gosh, I hate carrying stuff. It’s heavy and often useless. Packing light is an essential part of preparing for indefinite travel. If you know you’re going to be moving around (even if it’s in the distant future), then you can bet future you won’t want to be hauling around your kitchen sink. I know already that when we take a bus to Nicaragua after our house sit, there is absolutely no way I will want to be carrying excess weight.
But! Always take good shoes and a rain coat. It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re going, these two things are mandatory. Aching feet and wet clothes do not make for a happy Charlie, or a happy anybody. Don’t make your life miserable.
Tell Your Bank Man You Need Dollars
Is there anything worse than getting to a place with empty pockets, whacking your card into an ATM and it refusing to give you some cash? In that scenario, you’re royally screwed. Tell your bank before to make sure your card doesn’t get rejected abroad.
Ready for indefinite travel? Me neither.
Even though all of the things on the list are checked off, indefinite travel isn’t something you can fully prepare for. Is indefinite travel in Central America going to work for us? I really don’t know. Maybe we’ll be back home after a few months, but maybe indefinite travel will be a success for us. We won’t know until we try.
If you’ve got any tips for making long-term travel a success, do let me know!