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I was in the middle of Burma (Myanmar, if you prefer) when I told my travel partner that it had always been my dream to spend a year traveling around the world.
“Would you ever do that? Spend one whole year traveling?” I asked, making conversation, as one does several days into roaming around a foreign country.
“Sure,” he responded.
In that moment, unbeknownst to my travel partner, traveling around the world for a whole year had become more than just a conversation. I knew it would be my reality. We had been living in Seoul, working as English teachers—me for five years, he for eight. I did some freelance photography work on the side, collaborated on a travel-blog-turned-book project, and even acted in a few commercials. But I had an itch to be back in the States. I convinced my travel partner that a Round-the-World (RTW) trip was the perfect way to make our way back “home”—and the perfect way to build my travel photography portfolio. My justification for spending my life savings on this trip instead of a down payment on a house, aside from the obvious adventure in store, was a comprehensive blog project that was going to hold me accountable for all of the images and videos I planned on taking.
After 443 days of traveling, photographing, and blogging all about it, I learned a few lessons.
Lots of long-term travelers we met along the way started out with the intention of blogging about their trip. Those with a clearly thought-out (bonus points if practiced) plan of what they wanted to communicate were the most successful.
My own plan was overly ambitious. I wanted to do it all. I wanted to take pictures and record (and edit) “Day in a Minute” videos. I wanted to write about my thoughts as I experienced different cultures and report exactly how much money I was spending on a daily basis. At the end of our trip, I had a huge collection of work, a finished blog, but quite a few incomplete individual projects. Don’t overcomplicate your blog/photo/art project on top of the already complicated RTW trip.
While my blog was work I wanted to be doing, it was still… work, most of which was done after a day of navigating a foreign city for the first time, learning a new language, sightseeing, or possibly sitting on a bus for 12+ hours. For the sake of consistency, take advantage of a social media management dashboard and align your posting schedule with your travel plans. Looking back on my once-a-day posting schedule, less would have been so much more.
Yes, it’s 2016, but that doesn’t mean it will feel like it in every single country you’re visiting. This is why you’re traveling! If you know you will need to connect to the Internet every single day, alleviate some stress by investing in an international mobile plan. While I haven’t yet tried one out, I’ve heard good things about international mobile hotspots that can work across different countries. Comments and thoughts, below in our Comments section, are welcome! For those who are specifically visiting the United States, where you have access to the Sprint network, the FreedomPoP MiFi 500 Mobile LTE Hotspot could mitigate the search for a connection altogether.
Traveling with a MacBook Air was one of the easiest answers to the elusive “What do I pack?” question. Traveling with a Nikon D7000—yesterday’s D7100—was lighter than some of the other DSLR options available at the time. Today I would take the D750. However, traveling with the following items
was way too much—and way too heavy. My shoulders hurt just thinking about carrying all of this gear through 30+ countries, and I haven’t even mentioned my trusty travel Sirui Tripod, my Polaroid Z2300 Instant Digital Camera, or any of my photo and computer accessories, clothes, shoes, emergency medication... Regardless of what your preferred system is, do yourself a favor and pack it all in your bag and carry it around for a week before you head to the airport. While my zoom lens certainly came in handy on safari, carrying a [nearly] two pound lens around for the rest of the trip put an unnecessary dent in my luggage allowance.
Get a good bag. Like testing out your desired camera and computer gear, don’t forget to test your bag before you go. When lacking room for an insert, grab a couple of lens wraps instead. Stash some Ziplock bags in a pocket. They come in handy if your bag isn’t waterproof, for organization purposes, or for a wet swimsuit that didn’t completely dry before your next flight. Consider an OverBoard Waterproof Dry Tube Bag for your more adventurous days and while you’re at it…
You just might find yourself trying to gently nudge a giant sea turtle out of your way so you can dive to the bottom of a protected cove to fish out your waterlogged smartphone. I’ve had a LifeProof frē Case on my phone ever since.
LOTS of backup. Think you have enough memory cards? Get two more. Think you’ll be OK with one external hard drive? Get another. Think your phone will work just fine as a second camera? Go ahead and splurge on a pocket camera, just in case. They take up minimal room in your bag and will come in handy when you don’t want to advertise how much money you have to afford an interchangeable-lens system—not to mention nights out with your new, worldly friends. If I had to pick one today, the Fujifilm X70 Digital Camera would be at the top of my list.
You don’t have to carry your backup around the world with you! Know you’re visiting friends in England? Send them a box packed with extra memory cards, a hard drive, a water-proof disposable camera, extra clothes, and other travel essentials before you even leave the country. You’ll get to replenish your gear without making a dent in your budget.
At least take a break from your blog. You’re going to need one—or more—depending on how long your RTW trip lasts, whether you’re blogging to keep in touch with family back home, or working on a project, or simply because you love taking pictures, making videos, writing, and sharing it all online.
Blogging about traveling is like juggling a side job with the most unpredictable factors. Languages and cultures can be tough to negotiate. Days will be spent learning about the world. Nights will be spent traveling or trying to catch up on some much needed sleep. Long term travel is hard work—it just happens to include paragliding over the Annapurnas, sunbathing on the coast of Santorini, and attempting to sneak into Stonehenge, among other wildly exciting adventures.