Long-term travel planning: Preparing your friends & family

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ May 24th, 2012. Updated on November 12th, 2012. Published in: Travel blog » Long-term travel.
Nepalese men smiling

Some people will not understand why you are going, others will be happy for you

Long-term travel planning is about your friends & family too

A few weeks ago I wrote about long-term travel monotony & how to avoid it. It was only later on that I realized there was a large chunk of the puzzle I’d left out for many people reading it. I was writing about my end of things. I’d left out the beginning which might have excluded some people not familiar or curious about long-term travel.

With this in mind I’ve created a new category here on The Longest Way Home called “long-term travel“, it’s over there to the right on my sidebar under all the countries listed. Inside this category I’ll be placing articles over the next few months covering many topics of interest from preparation, finances, route mapping, visas, all the way to why people do this.

I’ll also be including some advice from other long-term travelers and experts in the field that should add in some other perspectives rather than just mine

For anyone thinking of long-term travel, extended travel or even shorter trips I think you’ll find many things coming up useful and interesting.

Meanwhile this particular article is about your friends & family who are key components in any journey you take. With long-term travel even more so.

Getting your friends and family to admit you really are leaving

When you first tell your friends about your plans for taking on a long-term travel plan many will be excited for you. There will be a few naysayers mentioning things like responsibility, feasibility and generally not being able to make sense of why you would want to do such a thing as travel long-term. Sometimes it’s going to be kind of hard to comprehend all this yourself let alone explain everything to them?

My advice is to subconsciously pretend you are looking after all your friends and family. The first step is to know why you are going long-term traveling yourself. Once you know that yourself then hopefully you’ll be able to explain it to your friends and family.

Just be aware of a few things. As exciting as all this is for you, remember that some of your friends & family may look at this as if you are leaving or abandoning them!

Plan time to reassure your friends & family that you are not leaving them by traveling

What happens when you suddenly realize you are telling your best friend that you planning on leaving for a year of travel or more? Reverse the roles and imaging if your best friend one day told you that.

Sure you might be so happy for them at first. But what then? Where’s your best buddy going to be when you want to go out at the weekend? Or who will listen to you about the bad day you had or your problems at work?

It usually takes a while for such an announcement to sink in.

Before it does sink in, make sure to tell your friends and family that although you’ll be away for a long time you’ve already thought about them and about how much you will miss them. And, how you’re planning to stay in touch via things like email, Skype, blogs etc.

No it won’t be the same, but you must make an effort to show that you’ve put a lot of thought into them as well as your own reasons for traveling.

Long-term travel planning means keeping in contact with friends & family when you are away

make sure you have all their contact details and have individual sit downs with all of them explaining why you are doing this. There’s no need to be all heavy about it. But you might be surprised at how many people will either think you will be back soon, or are abandoning them!

If they don’t know about Skype teach them. If you don’t know about Skype, learn about it, fast.

Like it or not Skype or any means of talking and seeing your friends and family will be one of your biggest tools in true long-term travel and keeping contact with people.

Trust me when I say that when you hit the 3 year mark and you’ve not been seen or rarely heard from; those emails will start to dry up.

Do read my article on the 5 stages of long-term travel for more on what to look out for.

Filipinos carrying bucket

Ask your friends and family to mind things for you when you are away … it will help

Ask your friends & family to help you with your journey

You’re not going to need much if you’ll be long-term traveling for over a year. One or two pieces of luggage and that’s all. Packing up some of your stuff back home is important for several reasons. Maybe you are selling your apartment/house. Or no longer going to be renting. In which case putting your things into storage is a good idea.

Having a friend or family member take somethings will be a great way to make them feel like they are contributing to your travels. It also creates an immediate physical bond between you and the journey you be taking.

They are essentially getting and minding a piece of you while you are away.

I’ll try to cover packing at a later stage. Put do consider that even if you live at home packing some essentials up for storage is important. Clothes for instance can get damp or attract mold if they are not kept well. Books too should be sealed away from forms of moisture to avoid mildew. Electronics also need to be cared for. And keep in mind that maybe hanging on to that four-year old computer may not be such a good idea.

Long-term travel planning can help with that huge clear out you’ve been meaning to do for years.

Creating cornerstone foundations with family members and best friends

You may want to consider getting a close family member to take power of attorney should anything happen to you while you are away. Having someone who can access your finances, possessions and deeds is important.

Be sure to have a circle of friends who know all your social networks and have contacts with your family members. If for some reason who can’t get to your email, or Skype due to censorship in a country you’re are traveling you could pass along messages through another network.

Dealing with family or friends deaths and sickness when traveling long-term

Yes it’s not something we like to think about. But if you really are going to be away for years then life’s rich pageant will surely act out the passing of someone close to you.

Do keep elderly relatives in mind when planning long-term travel. Mentally ask yourself if you will return if one of them gets sick or dies? Keep in mind that you might be on the other side of the world in an obscure place and not even hear about a death for days or even weeks.

Ask yourself will you return? And the hardest question who will your return for, and who will you not return for?

No, it’s not nice. But, it’s reality. Be prepared for it.

Some more advice for dealing with friends and family when being away a long time

Earl from Wandering Earl recommends:

When telling your family and friends, the more information you can provide, and the more you sound as if you’ve made a well-thought out decision, the more comfortable and understanding everyone will be. For example, explaining that you want to travel to a certain region of the world in order to achieve a specific goal you have in life is much better than just saying, “I’m leaving in a month to travel somewhere.” “

Peter Daams co-founder of Travellerspoint recommends:

“If you have a lot of stuff, one of the trickiest things is storing it all. I see a lot of people taking up family’s garages, attics, etc with all their plates, pans and general knick knacks. If you stay away a long time and have left all your stuff in your parent’s attic for example, at some point this can actually breed a bit of resentment. Not necessarily from your parents, but maybe from siblings who also want to store things there but can’t. So from this point of view, when it comes to preparing, my tip is to sell or give away as much of your stuff as possible! The less stuff you have lingering, the less hassle it is for your family and friends back home. And get rid of it well in advance too. You don’t want to have to burden your friends with your half-finished eBay negotiations after you have left.

I’d also recommend leaving photo copies of all your important documents with your closest family / friends back home.”

Long-term travel planning means keeping closer than ever with your friends and family

You might be about to embark on the most epic journey of your life, but so too are your friends and family. They’ll be there to follow you along, help and advise you just as they did when you were home with them. Only you’ll now be doing all this from the other side of the world.

It will be different, for both you and them. But so long as you keep close contact with them, make them feel like they are apart of the process and your journey then they’ll be there for you along the way.

Coming soon in this series about long-term travel:

Planning your long-term travel route

Read more of my articles on long-term travel

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16 Great responses to Long-term travel planning: Preparing your friends & family

  1. Such great and valuable tips!

  2. Very sound advice, I wish I had this when I left 6 months ago. Explaining yourself is the hardest part about leaving, I feel.

  3. Malcom says:

    The points about making friends and family feel as though they are a part of a journey by helping out is really important. I’ve not come across that before, but it makes sense.

  4. Victoria says:

    Great tips about long-term travelling. Quite similar to what you experience when you emigrate … keeping (and nurturing) those contacts is essential.

  5. Erica says:

    Practical advice like this is something many people need to read. Two friends I had left over the past 2 years. I wish they’d asked for help. I don’t care if they needed me to mind things. Gladly would have done it. We live in different worlds now.

  6. Jason says:

    I think I’ve touched on this in previous comments Dave, but traveling long term is definitely not for all. I suppose most will never know how they will deal with the stresses (and the pleasures) of long term travel until they actually take the plunge and do it.

    Looking back at my own circumstances, I think my father was in complete shock for many months after I left. My circumstances were a little bizarre as I had no long term plans to travel. I never even knew anyone who had travelled before.

    I just woke up one day and decided to leave. Within 4-5 weeks I had sold all my stuff and said goodbye to the people close to me and left on a one way ticket. It was something I just had to do, cant explain it, but I just needed to see the world.

    I think with modern technology that you can in a small way bring some of your close friends and family (or the whole world in the case of blogging) along for the ride with you. Looking forward to the rest of the series….

    • I think such a sudden get up and go would be a shock to many people. I guess is the shoe was on the other foot I’d be in shock too.

      True about modern technology keeping one closer. Not sure if older generations get it. Nor maybe should they. Live video feeds are one thing, but you still can’t put a laptop down on a family Christmas dinner.

      At the end of the day I think there needs to be a mutual respect thing going on. Other than that, I don’t know!

      Planning LT travel next up …

  7. Jen says:

    We don’t consider things like this. I mean family and staying in contact yes. But explaining why we are leaving is another thing. I’m not sure it’s considered enough. The damage leaving others behind unless we explain fully to them. Food for thought indeed.

  8. Tim says:

    One thing family can do is help mind your mail when away. Or read through the important stuff

  9. Chris says:

    I’ve been browsing through a few your blogs – the one on financial stuff, and the one on preparing yourself mentally, and this one – you’ve thought of so many things I’d never even think of, I guess because I’ve never travelled for more than a couple of months at a time! It’s great to get your tips from someone who’s ‘been there, done that’, I’ll definitely be keeping your blog in mind if I ever decide to plan a longer-term trip round the globe! ;) Keep up the good work!