basic training

How to Prepare Mentally for Long-Term Travel
Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Choosing where to go and what to pack are important steps in preparing for your career break. And adding destinations to your list and picking out travel gear is certainly the fun part of the process. But have you ever thought about preparing mentally for your extended travel?

Traveling around world and living out of a backpack can sound so ‘amazing’ when you are sitting behind a desk stressed out with your buzzing blackberry and bad fluorescent lighting. However, when you really get down to the nitty-gritty, and start to consider long-term travel, you have to figure out if it’s right for you. To determine if you can hack long term travel to remote countries, Sherry Ott has put together a little four week ‘travel boot camp’ to ready your mind and body for your career break. Follow these exercises and if you survive, then you can hack long-term travel!


For one month start drinking and using ONLY bottled water. This includes brushing your teeth with only bottled water; don’t you dare use that tap water! I became so accustomed to brushing my teeth with bottled water that it seemed strange for me to use the tap any longer. In addition, when you cook, wash all of your fruits or vegetables in bottled water. Or if you don’t want to go to the hassle of washing with bottled water – then simply stop eating raw fruits and vegetables for a month!


Even though English is the one true international language, you will still have to get used to not ever really knowing what is being said around you in a foreign country. Sure, you can always find someone who speaks English if you have a question, however they will answer your question and then go back to speaking to their friends in their native language.

In order to prepare yourself for never really understanding what is being said around you, do the following:

– For two weeks, go spend a few hours a day in Chinatown in your city (if you don’t have one, then go to a Chinese restaurant and try to sit close to the kitchen!). Make sure that you seek out establishments that are filled with Chinese people; then just sit there and drink tea for a few hours.

– In addition, for two weeks only watch the Spanish and Italian channels on cable. Sit through the news, soap operas and games shows – this will certainly make or break you! After two weeks, you will be prepped for the constant chatter of other languages around you that you may not understand.


For 3 weeks, wear the same 8 clothing items from your closet. Yes, you can mix and match them, so pick colors that go together! Do the same for shoes; pick 2 pairs of shoes and wear them for the same 3 weeks. This should prepare you for living out of a suitcase and losing the variety of items that you can choose out of your closet.


For 2 weeks, sleep in a different room and a different piece of furniture in your home or apartment every night. Choose your bed one night, your couch the next night, an air mattress the following night, then the second bedroom…you get the drift. You need to train your body and mind to understand that the concept of ‘your bed’ is going to disappear. I slept in a different place most nights for 16 months – some good, some bad; but rarely the same place.

Special Unit Training for India or Asia Itineraries

Make a one time outing to your local zoo…yes, the zoo. Go to the zoo and stare at the animals. Not a quick look…but a good long stare. Now put yourself in the animals’ position and see if you can hack it; someone staring at you for 5 minutes straight. Also consider what it might feel like when someone reaches out and strokes your arm because they want to touch your skin. The staring can be a real challenge to get used to, but with some practice you can learn to ignore the people staring at you; plus as an alternative, it’s acceptable to stare back!

Basic Training

These are just a few of the “training exercises” we cover in Career Break Basic Training. Once you have successfully completed this training regimen, then you are ready to be a long-term traveler. By preparing your self early, you will enjoy yourself even more when you get on the road!

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

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