Planning a long trip (5 months or more) abroad is fun. The slow boat rides down the Mekong, the sidewalks cafes in Hanoi, the tropical waters and fish in Thailand. Everything new and exciting is still ahead of you. It may take some time putting an itinerary together but at least this colourful digital journey ends with you taking flight. Slightly less fun is what I call the “home affairs” part – organising people to step into/ take care of your life while you are away, ie: house sitters, dog walkers, car starters. It takes time and energy (especially if you do actually have to queue at Home Affairs proper), but at least is still ends in you taking flight and never looking back. So you have the incentive and motivation to see yourself through annoying bank managers and aggravating electricity bills.
Pic: Aah the places you will go, the people you will see, but don’t neglect to plan for return from A to B.
But what no-one wants to think about, or plan, is the home coming part. And it’s probably the most important because, chances are you will be returning broke, possibly unemployed and feeling a bit disconnected with your once-natural surroundings. And you’ll probably be in need of a serious wax, facial and massage (that backpack doesn’t carry itself). So here are my top tips for making sure your re-entry into “civilised” society is as smooth as the silk scarves you are about to start start selling at your local market:
Don’t eat yourself out of house and home
In the months and weeks leading up to a big trip, most people cut back on those little luxuries, like eating out, and make a pact to only use what they have at home. And they do, right down to last tin of bake beans and drop of olive oil. It seems like a good idea, but it’s actually not. You don’t want to return broke and have to spend extra money on all your household basics. This is especially true of those expensive items, like expensive face creams, foundations, shampoos, et al. Believe me, you will appreciate the fact that you didn’t deplete these necessities when you have spent months being exposed to every kind of climate and terrain.
Think before selling your car
A lot of people sell their cars for the extra cash, only to feel stuck and dependent on people when they return. This is the worst gift you can give yourself after months of being footloose and independent. Being stuck makes you want to get on the next plane and go back to the place where you felt free. It’s not the place it’s you. It’s hard getting back into your daily routine so don’t make it harder on yourself by getting rid of the one thing that just might make you feel in control of your own destiny (or at least your day).
Pic: it pays to have your own transport, even on holiday.
Bring back items to sell
If you have been travelling on the rough side, you’ll probably come back with a short list of (expensive) specialists to visit to fix that tooth you chipped on the peanut brittle snacks in India, the stomach that never really came right after all those cross cultural curries, the adult acne /gout/STDs you may have picked up after months partying in Thailand and Bali. If only you had of drank more coconut juice and less beer, right? The one bonus about travelling rough is that it usually takes you to places that have unusual and exotic items that are cheap to buy, light to transport and easy to sell back home. It might not be a new career option, but it could at least cover those unwanted expenses and maybe even your rent /food/petrol for the next month. And you don’t have to do it illegally. Every country has a certain value of goods that you are allowed to bring back in your suitcase, tax-free. South Africa is R5 000, which can actually by you a lot of goods in Asia. Just be sure to set aside some of your luggage allowance, because paying for the extra weight is sure to negate the whole venture.
Pic: lots of cheap shiny bright things to buy and sell
Plan your re-employment creatively
On the income front, there are a few things you can do to boost your bank balance again. If you are planning to get back into the workforce, make sure you return when people are more likely to be hiring (so not over the summer holidays and preferably just before the start of the new financial year.) Start sending out your CV a month before you return so you can hit the tarmac and interview circuit at the same time. If you are a creative type and kept a good diary/blog, use your free time to write up a few travel articles. There are plenty of blogs and websites to help you craft these into a more marketable item, so do your research so you don’t waste time (which is still money) writing articles that are too long and generic. And don’t limit yourself to just selling articles. There are many travel competitions that award decent prize money for your inspiring photographs and even stories. In the world of over-committed urban consumers, extra effort is often your most lucrative skill. So Google them. They are out there.
Musing on my next exit/reentry/exit plan