When many people – be they teens about to jump into Real Life, twenty-somethings stagnating in the rat race or a mid-lifer yearning for an overdue sabbatical to finish off that book they never got around to writing – are asked what their dream life would be, you often hear ‘world travel’ involved. As that has been my recent calling, from the rough-and-tumble of west Africa to the sun-soaked beaches of the Caribbean, from the sweltering heat of the Middle East to the lush scenery of the south Pacific, I have got a few tips to help make it a reality:
1. Use social networks to make contacts before making the plunge
Before travelling to India couple of years ago, I kick-started a conversation on LinkedIn with professionals who worked in similar industries or inspired me. I used Twitter and Facebook, too, and concretised the relationships I developed. A few months’ later, it was now or never. With enough confidence that I had done sufficient research to make the trip worthwhile, I booked a return ticket to Mumbai. A day or two after landing, I called a LinkedIn contact and jumped on a local train, to the bafflement of onlookers, unaccustomed to seeing an expat use public transport. Navigating my way through the suburban streets of Mumbai was some experience. The chaos liberated me!
I soon sat down with my contact in his third-storey office, overlooking the din of Mumbai, still pinching myself I had put the plan into action. We bandied around ideas about India as a potential destination for work and discussed its huge potential. Some weeks later, I was offered a job…
Get a contingency plan in place. If you want to travel the world and see amazing places, then you will need at least some savings to fall back on because living out your dreams on the road will mean your funds will soon start to dwindle. But by carving out temporary opportunities as you travel – be it freelance journalism or bar and restaurant work – you will more than likely perpetuate the eye-opening experiences you will have.
3. Meet locals
This is invaluable. Once you’re on the ground, you must immerse yourself in the local culture. This will not only endear you to locals for taking an interest in their way of living, but will help you to settle in, make business and social contacts – and may lead to that all important job offer to ensure the world remains your playground.
Use Twitter as a search tool to uncover potential new business and social connections; for example, typing ‘British Business Forum meetup in Dubai’ should elicit like-minded people who will be attending the event and thus fuel a conversation. They could become great friends or be the social butterfly you need to create your new life.
Sites such as Inter Nations, which boasts communities in some 390 cities worldwide, will pave the way to learn about how expats have succeeded in-country. And Meetup.com is also another useful resource, where you can find weekly activities from sport to connecting with start-up entrepreneurs; its strapline is ‘find your people’.
Local journalists are also great contacts to have, as they are often well-connected, both socially and professionally. Plus journalists love to talk, so pick up a local newspaper and invite a columnist out for a drink and tap into their infinite wisdom.
4. Never stop learning
I have predominantly worked in English-speaking global markets, but have teamed up with bilingual specialists who have inspired me to start learning new languages. Just as reading up on local history will benefit you, so becoming skilled in even the basics of a language – or dialect – will help open doors.
Trinidad & Tobago was a great case in point. Because of its proximity to the Americas, I found a wealth of Spanish speakers which fuelled my desire to later take a Spanish immersion. Sign up to an evening course at the Venezuelan embassy, for example, or use sites such as Conversation Exchange to meet an endless queue of eager people interested in brushing up on their English.
5. Start branding yourself – NOW!
Not everyone gets to do what you’re about to embark on, so let people know. Again, start using your social networks to make connections; reach out to inspirational digital marketeers, podcasters who have beaten the odds and are inspiring the world around them, bloggers, authors et al. Set up a blog to document what you are doing, give speeches at local schools, as I have done, which in itself will start to trigger new opportunities for yourself.
Lifestyle entrepreneur Tim Ferriss is a great case in point. He wrote a hugely popular book called the 4-Hour Work Week, centred around leaving the 9-5 work cycle and travelling the world to realise your dreams (if this is what you want, of course). His book is packed with anecdotes of established professionals and self-starters who took it upon themselves to live out their dreams whilst travelling. He turned his 15-month, action-packed adventure into a New York Times bestseller.
*Having just read Tim’s book, there’s a wealth of practical advice in there that doesn’t relate to globetrotting; much of it will help to transform your current life, from eradicating spam mail to hiring virtual assistants.