How I Organize Long-Term Travel

When I first announced that I was moving to Berlin, one of the first things someone said to me was “Wow! I wish I can just pack my suitcase and go like that“.  Sounds familiar, right?  So many people think that this is the case, and while it is the case for some people who literally can pack a suitcase, it is not so for me.

This post covers some of the top things that I do to organize long-term travel.

Balance preparation with being able to live in the moment

Take my recent move to Germany as an example.  While I really only spent 1-2 months in active preparations of the move to Germany (and by active, I mean, approaching landlords for apartments and sorting out my government appointments), I have always wanted to live there since 2009 and I started my initial research into Germany 16 months before my move.

What I have learnt, and this continues to be a learning experience for me, is to strike the balance of being prepared and being able to live in the moment.   On one hand, I want to avoid as much mishaps and issues as possible that can come out of due to lack of preparation.  Believe me, once something is overlooked, dealing with it while overseas can turn into one massive headache that can easily spiral out of control.  On the other hand, I don’t like to spend too much time simmering in some plan or idea that I forget to live in the moment.  I’ve done both wrongs in the past, and I am always trying to avoid stepping into further issues.  This is especially the case living in Germany, where doing everything is just set to Challenge Mode because of the fact that I can’t speak German.

While I was preparing to live in Germany, I was living in two countries – Canada and Ireland.  It’s easy to get caught up in the future that you forget where you are, and why you are doing this in the first place.

Trade-offs will now be a part of your life

I am constantly making trade-offs between living in the present, and being able to prepare for the future.

For example, you may have friends who won’t stop going on about how you should have joined them on that expensive trip.  Or coworkers that gush about their latest expensive purchase.

Now that I accept that I have to make trade-offs to continue living how I want to live, I am a lot more comfortable in saying no. It’s been a long time since I last experienced FOMO.

These trade-offs can be triggered by your budget – be it your money or your time.

I am constantly creating a new spreadsheet, or a new document when I need to quickly hash out a budget or an action plan if I am indecisive.  At least then, it’s better to make decisions on your own terms rather than someone else’s.

Use project management software

Yes, I use project management software to organize pretty much everything.  From a checklist of documentation requirements that I need for a visa application process, to other articles and blog posts of my target country, to random comments that I have in mind.  It’s all there.

To give you an idea, my setup is divided into major topics – such as housing and education – and finally countries.

A section may look like a scrum board if the scrum style is appropriate, otherwise they are usually divided by interest area.  For example, I have a section that I use which combines a mix of research, planning and brainstorming of the countries that I want to live in and the possible dates (let’s call this ‘International’).  Each is then subdivided into topic points – such as the application process of one type of visa, the application process of another type of visa, any bookmarks or snippets to look at and so on.

Before I started actively planning my move to Germany, I had a section in the ‘International’ area before I created a new area (simply called ‘Germany’) that is dedicated to my research and planning for moving to and living in Germany.

All of this is on typical software / project management software.

I can’t recommend a platform or application to use since I think that you should use the one that you are most comfortable in using.

Don’t listen to the checklist nihilists

I am a fan of checklists.

And yes, there are some people that don’t see the importance of them.  I am the complete opposite – I am constantly making checklists.  Even if it ends up being a duplicate or it ends up not being used.  It’s easy to make a checklist and it’s a good idea to get into this habit as it allows meto filter out the unecessary or bloated information and focus on the important and essential items.

Always prioritize the facts when moving to a new country

Moving to a new country is a daunting experience, especially when you intend to live there far longer than a tourist.  It is easy to be swept up by all the resources out there that is more aimed at the tourist and travel readership.  It is easy to be paralyzed with indecision.  It is easy to pretty much go around in circles, hopelessly, while you try to deal with a barrage of information.  Should you trust that forum comment from five years ago about what you can and can’t do on your visa? Should you live in that suburb, or this suburb?  And what about tax and insurance?

For me, my preference is to focus on the facts and tackle it.  If I don’t understand the terms of my visa, I do not go to social media.  Instead, I will usually look up the official and legal information behind my visa terms and conditions.  If I am facing a subjective/personal type of decision (ie where to live), I focus on the factual information about the place first.

I have found that prioritizing only the factual information has made managing the information load a lot better to handle.