Today, we have on Melissa Bitz from Traveling Bitz, and Melissa is just about to embark on a long-term trip, so she’s been preparing for that, and I’m SO excited to have a conversation with her today!
Melissa and I met at last years’ TravelCon which was a conference put on by Nomadic Matt. It was so much fun to meet Melissa there in person after following her for awhile on social media!
She has been doing some major preparations for this trip and we’re covering pretty much everything you’ll need to know about taking an extended holiday.
Melissa: I’ve been blogging for about 4 years now, but I actually started off with a different name. When I went through ACL surgery, I decided I would write about my recovery. A year after that I realized, ‘okay, I need to write about something I’m really into — something I could write about forever, so I chose traveling. That’s when Traveling Bitz was born.
Ever since then, I’ve been working full-time and traveling as much as possible, usually by myself because I don’t have a lot of other friends who travel, so I just have to go do it on my own! And I’ve grown to love it!
In my blog, I write a lot about budget travel tips, solo travel tips, how to maximize your vacation or holiday time when you have a full-time job, and I also really enjoy writing personal excerpts from traveling and personal stories. I think it’s really important to connect with your readers.
Listen to the full episode above for more about how Melissa likes to share ALL aspects of travel - from the mediocre stays in hostels to the stunning sights.
We talked about traveling tong-term a little bit, and Melissa has been sharing the whole process of preparing to take a trip of this scale on her IG. I know this process can be intimidating for many people, and there are SO many things you need to consider and take care of before you leave, which is part of why I wanted to have her on as a guest -- to share some of those preparation tips with you all!
Q: Let’s first talk about your motivation behind wanting to do long-term travel. Just the logistics alone are enough to induce some anxiety in people, so I think, obviously, you really have to want to do this pretty badly. Why this trip, why now and have you always wanted to do something like this?
Melissa: Honestly, I have always wanted to travel the world. Since I was a kid, I always said I wanted to be a famous author, which hasn’t happened yet…and also that I would travel the world.
Part of why that was my dream was because I thought dreams were kinda unattainable, which is a little bit sad! I thought it was impossible to become a famous author…and that no one can visit the world, it’s too big and it’s too expensive to do that.
I also grew up in a poorer family, we didn’t really travel at all, we couldn’t go on vacations. Which was fine, I had a great childhood, but I didn’t realize the amazingness of travel until my first international trip when I was about 27.
Listen for more on how Melissa changed careers and starting making more money, but had less time to do the things she wanted to do and about traveling now so she doesn’t have regrets later in life.
In between figuring out where you want to go, how to get around and all the other things you have probably researched, you also have to figure out the basic things, like….how to use your phone abroad, travel insurance, forwarding your mail, taking care of bills that may come up while you’re away and a hundred other little things.
Q: Of all the prep you have been doing, what has been the most challenging?
Melissa: …all of the logistics I have had to plan out have honestly, been pretty easy. I started early with the planning and I stayed pretty organized, so that part was not that difficult.
I ended up researching a lot of blogs about people who had done long-term travel and shared how they did it. I also joined Facebook groups and asked a lot of questions…Female Travel Bloggers (Facebook Group) is a great resource…[i would] just type in a question about a place, or a logistic question and I would have a bunch of people come back and share their answer or experiences, which was so helpful.
Another resource would be finding backpacking groups for a specific destination. [For example] Backpacking in Thailand, or Backpacking in South America or wherever you plan to go, there’s probably a group for it and they can answer your questions.
So, you asked what the hardest part was. I would say making the decision in the first place was the hardest part.
Listen to the full episode to find out what Melissa was initially not wanting to give up in order to take this trip of a lifetime.
You spoke in some detail on your Instagram Stories about how you were initially feeling pressure that this trip was putting on you… to become a Digital Nomad, or to make this a part of your career in some capacity.
Q: How did you work through this? And how do you feel about it now?
Melissa: I’ve always felt a pressure to do the successful thing — whatever the most successful thing in a particular field was. So whether that was…reaching a certain role in the company, or as a writer, you know, being published. That means that you are successful.
When I was working on my blog, and I really wanted to focus on it and have it take off, I was really feeling like I couldn’t write what I wanted because all the ‘successful people’ were writing destination guides and posting really pretty pictures of themselves like they were models, and that is something I’m not willing to do and it’s not something I really, neccessarily, enjoy doing. So I constantly felt like I wouldn’t be successful at this, because I’m not doing the same thing they are.
But, when I decided to go on this trip, I started to feel, again, like if I do this travel thing, I need to put all of my effort into the blog, and becoming a Digital Nomad and making money on the road. And if I come back six months later and I don’t have money and I need to get my old job back, then that is going to be a failure and I don’t know if I can handle that.
I really had to stop thinking that way and stop comparing myself to what’s ‘successful’ and what I ‘had to do’ in order to be happy.
Listen for more of Melissa’s tips on how she worked to eliminate this pressure.
You’re taking this time to explore South America, Eastern Europe, and SE Asia. Obviously you could spend an entire lifetime exploring this region.
Q: Why these areas, and do you have an idea of where you’ll be going?
Melissa: The main reason I choose those areas is because they are budget locations. I was really excited about South America because I went to Peru a couple of years ago and loved it so much, I thought I would probably like the rest of the continent.
And Eastern Europe is cheaper [than Western Europe]…and I was planning on going to some less tourist-heavy places like Bulgaria, Latvia, Estonia, or Romania. I don’t know a lot about them, so I would really enjoy exploring all of those places.
And Southeast Asia is probably the cheapest place in the world you can travel. To be honest, for whatever reason, I’ve never had an interest in visiting Asia, but I think this will be a great opportunity for me to learn about it, and I’m sure I will actually love it, I just haven’t looked into it enough.
But I am excited just to try all these different places!
Q: Are you planning everything out, or are you opting to figure things out when you get there?
Melissa: I definitely have a general outline, so I know I’m going to South America and then to Europe and then to Southeast Asia. But, I want to do all the major, you know, deciding all the cities [I want to visit] on the way.
I have a friend who did a big backpacking trip a 7-8 years ago, and we’ve talked a lot his experience. He said that him and his buddy spent about $1000 in re-booking fees for their flights because they kept deciding that they loved the place they were at and they wanted to stay longer. He would always tell me, ‘don’t buy your flights ahead of time’ because you never know when you’re going to fall in love with a place or want to leave a place early, or if you meet some friends who are going to [another city] and say, ‘do you want to join?!’ and…you can’t because you have a flight.
So, I am going to take that advice and give myself the flexibility.
Be sure to listen to the full episode to hear more about Melissa’s travel plans!
We talked a bit about the logistics and preparations you’re doing before you take off. And I know you’ve spent a lot of time researching and finding the right solutions to your circumstances and you’ve come across some really helpful tips.
Q: In regards to phone use, vaccinations, etc, would you mind sharing some of those tips?
Use Microsoft OneNote. I have a section for my timeline, packing list, to do list, and copies of any flights or tickets I buy. I then have sub-sections for each country with visa requirements, places to see, and links to best modes of transportation. This way, all my resources for each country are in one place.
I let friend’s borrow big items, like my TV and large kitchen appliances. And I found a 5x6 storage unit for 60/month, with first two months at a discount. If you plan on using a storage facility, always ask for a discount if you can pay months in advance because you know you’ll be gone.
I took my own photo and I will use makephotopassport.com to always have visa-sized photos for visa-on-arrival.
I may also use ivisa.com to work on obtaining e-visa in advance. This website is a great resource to find out which countries require a visa, but always double check with the embassy website.
Switched to Google-Fi, which is $20/month for unlimited talk and text. For data, you’ll pay $10/GB and free after 6GB.
Prices stay exactly the same when you travel abroad and you get to keep your current phone number.
I opened Charles Schwab high yield investor checking account. You can use your ATM card at any ATM and Charles Schwab reimburses any and all fees.
They will do a hard credit check and it takes couple weeks to get your ATM card.
I got my Hep A and TB booster from my doctor and used GoodRX.com coupon for my oral Typhoid vaccination (called Vivotif). The oral vaccination is good for 5ish years, while the shot is good for 3 years. And since I am traveling to some countries which require Yellow Fever, I will get my Yellow Fever vaccine for free in Ecuador or Peru — if I were to get it at home in the US, it costs close to $300!
For the two medication I take, I got a 6 month supply with GoodRX.com.
And it is also apparently possible to get refills in many countries by just showing your Prescription bottle.
I will be using my parents, but there is also a virtual mail option where they’ll scan your mail and send it to you. If you receive packages, they can forward them to where ever you’ll be in certain amount of days.
I read other blogs that broke down daily budget and made sure I had that much money saved based on what I wanted to do and how frugal I planned to be.
Q: How much are you planning to pack and what are some important items you’re bringing?
Medium - large backpack, with detachable day pack. This way you can take off the day pack and store it under your seat and put the main part of the backpack in the overhead storage when flying.
A friend of mine who travels recommended this, because it is a fix-all and you never know when you’re going to need it.
Water purifier which uses UV light to purify water. This way, I don’t have to keep buying bottled water everywhere I go.
Portable clothes washer. Essentially just a small bag with a ribbed inside that you put your clothes into with soap and scrub clean.
Lighter than a DSLR camera
To do some writing and photo editing on the road
External hard drive
For photo storage and to make sure all my stuff is backed up, just in case
Handheld luggage scale
As I’ll be traveling on some smaller airlines, I can weigh my own luggage to make sure I am hitting the weight requirements. This way, I can get rid of some stuff so I don’t have to pay for my bag if it’s over that airlines weight requirement.
You are just days away from taking off on this adventure...you’ve prepared, researched, and probably have all, or most, of your affairs in order for while you’re away.
Q: Are you excited for anything in particular, or nervous?
Catch the full episode above to hear about what Melissa is most nervous for and how she is doing just days away from taking off on this adventure!
DO you have any other tips or tricks you’ve used to prepare for long-term travel?
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