We’ve only experienced a dent in the globe (only 15% of the world thusfar) but are so blessed at the numerous opportunities to immerse in culture, professional experiences, and continued learning…then as a couple, and now as a family: parents of toddlers. We’ve had many positive experiences and many not-so-positive experiences, but that’s a part of growth: anything that challenges our comfort zone can really aid us in becoming more mature individuals. It’s definitely a journey and we feel a sense of freedom living abroad. We’ve done travel, work, and volunteer experiences to many different countries in Africa, as well as the countries of Guatemala, China, India, and Haiti. Below are the frequently asked questions we receive in regards to global travel and we hope our input is helpful. Feel free to contact us. Be blessed.
2018 Travel so far: Côte d’Ivoire ✓, Ghana ✓, Senegal ✓, Sierra Leone ✓
How do you vote in U.S. elections if you are abroad?
Voting is SO IMPORTANT! Especially for those who have ethical, public, civic, and tax-focused interests (i.e., own property, educational stakes, etc.). Thankfully, it’s easy! Go to the Federal Voting Assistance Program website and read the instructions for requesting an absentee ballot from your state (assuming you are already registered to vote back in the U.S.). You’ll then request your ballot via email, fax, or mail, and request that it be emailed to you! After following the instructions to complete your vote, you can drop your sealed envelope(s) off at the American Embassy in your country (with appropriate U.S. postal service postage…so hopefully you have some stamps with you abroad), or you can mail it in via a courier service like FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc. Be informed…especially at a time when injustices have continued to remain paramount and surface in ways that are detrimental to mankind. Exercise your right.
I really want to travel but I am not sure I can afford to. How much money do I really need to travel?
Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. But then again, it can be. It just depends on how much time and energy you’d like to spend on your trip meeting the visions you have, as well as knowing when to compromise. First things first – have your money ready. We don’t recommend putting travel on credit cards if you aren’t disciplined enough to immediately repay them. There are benefits of using a credit card (insurance purposes and easier fraud-prevention tracking usually), but we just save our cash to pay for travel and that works for us.
We personally use sites like Vayama and Trip.com which we’ve had great success with for comparing flights. Hotels.com is our go-to site for finding lodging and Airbnb is also a popular option that tends to be very affordable depending on what type of lodging you are seeking. Once you set a budget and have your funds, as Clark Howard always recommends, when you see a flight on the low, be ready to purchase…and also be flexible in location. Sometimes where you want to go may not have affordable options now, but your 2nd or 3rd choice may. We used to travel from September through early November because it was once summer break was over (so often no kids at the places we visited – adult fun!) and because it was right before the holiday rush. Being flexible in timing saved us hundreds and thousands of dollars on travel.
Don’t keep looking and looking hoping the flight cost will go down if patterns show that such a popular route (for example) is always between a certain dollar range. The price may decrease. Such may not. It’s often a gamble. Sites like Skyscanner is what we use to get alerts on routes we have interests in traveling to. Again, when (if) the flight cost goes down, be ready to purchase. This is a great site because it informs you of any changes in price, no matter how big or small.
While transport and lodging are the main factors, please do research on the costs of food, any necessary visas for entry, local transportation once on the ground, sightseeing, travel insurances, etc. We, personally do not buy travel insurance since our health insurance covers us globally. But for purposes of trip cancellations – as we figure that if something happens, it just means that God had other plans for us.
Hot much money you need depends on your lifestyle, what your plans are, and so many other variables. Just start your research and thanks to the world-wide web, we are now able to reach out to people who live in almost every location on earth. Definitely use social media to connect with people and ask questions as you plan your budget and itinerary.
Oh, considering international job opportunities (whether short-term assignments or even volunteer programs) often offer fantastic opportunities to travel with most costs being picked up by the host. See our Deals page for coupons and affiliate links to some great money-savers.
How do I get a passport? Do I need a visa?
Someone once said that even if you don’t plan on going anywhere, still get a passport…because if you don’t have one, you won’t be ready when the opportunity does arise…We recommend folks stay ready.
Getting a passport is done through your country’s passport and immigration services. If you are a U.S. citizen, you would utilize the Department of State’s U.S. Passport site to proceed in obtaining your passport or apply for a renewal. Definitely follow the instructions, watch the deadlines, and make sure to abide by the currency and payment types allowed. Make sure you have enough extra pages on your passport and also, most countries require that your passport not be expiring within six months of your trip to that country. If so, just go ahead and consider renewing early so that you’ll have minimal issues or concerns.
You would also need to check with the embassy of the country you are applying to to determine whether a visa is required. Depending on your nationality, some countries do not require a visa, some require an invitation letter and visa application be submitted in advance, some provide visas-on-arrival, some have online visa options, etc. It just depends. Just do your research.
Other Helpful tips:
- To save you a few dollars, there are many YouTube videos and tutorials on taking your own passport photos. We take our own and the site also provides a template for you to confirm that your photo meets requirements.
- Always have extra passport photos with you when traveling. They can be utilized for visa applications and any other weird requests that some countries may have. Extras are always great to save.
- If you will travel quite a bit, consider getting the 52-page passport booklet when applying for the first time or renewing (U.S. citizens). There’s no extra fee.
- Getting a passport card (U.S. citizens) is a nice-to-have as well, especially if you are only going across an applicable border (U.S. to Canada or on a cruise from the U.S.). We used our passport cards when going to Canada and it was a breeze. It’s also a great, extra government ID card to just have. Our children have one too.
Happy Documentation Research!
Should I travel with a group or as an individual/couple?
In short, it depends. Individually or as a couple means that you will be able to be a bit more flexible and often take your time in ways that you may not be able to with a group. Traveling as a group means that you may feel more secure in sharing the experience and making memories with others. Going individually or as a couple could mean that you are able to make more spontaneous decisions on your itinerary or the affordability of splurging in ways that may not be possible with a group. Group travel may mean that you deal with different expectations and risk impeding upon accommodations because of there being more people (For example(s), if your transport does not arrive and there is one or two of you, getting another taxi is simple…yet, if making reservations at a restaurant, it may be more of a challenge to seat a large party after the rainy season flooded most of the restaurant…). We, personally, recommend traveling with the least amount of people as possible, especially if you are new to travel. There are so many emotions and observations that one would want to experience and sometimes that gets cluttered when also having opinions and discomforts of an entire group of people…or if one person wants to visit _____ and doesn’t realize that they are the only one in the group who cares about that excursion. It can really frustrate others. Just be true to yourself, always be considerate and realize that others are on the trip too, and you’ll figure it out.
Note: We have done volunteer projects abroad with large groups and it was awesome…mainly because everything was planned for us and it was a packaged experience. We often felt that we were less stressed because there was always someone around in our group. Now that we are more seasoned travelers, we prefer to be on our own, but that’s a great option for those who are just starting to travel more or who don’t like being alone.
Don’t I need tons of vaccines to travel? What medical options will I have?
We cannot advise on vaccines as we do not vaccinate. Medical options would depend on where you are going. We recommend reaching out to your embassy and ask where there are reputable providers in case of an emergency. We are American and everywhere we have been has had Western-trained medical providers, so we haven’t had any concerns about our health. It’s always nice to know where the closest emergency room is (if there is one), whether they take your health insurance (many are cash-paid…and many require payment up-front), etc. It just depends on where you are going. If you are on medication that may not last for the duration of your trip, bring a copy of your prescription or get an extra refill before departure. Take care of you and don’t wait until the last-minute. Simple things like that can make a difference. As with anywhere, sanitation and hygiene are the main reasons why our world has the health issues there are. Keep clean, be smart, but also live your life. We eat street food, have gotten stomach bugs, etc. but we didn’t overreact and we didn’t believe everything we read. Be at peace, pray that you have strength and good health, stay hydrated, eat something new, and embrace the experience. Most health concerns start with our how we perceive them to be. Clear your mind and have your medical options researched and readily available in your back pocket. For us personally, we just travel with Tylenol (adult & children’s), Benadryl (adult & children’s), and some Prednisone for my MS (in case I have any serious flare symptoms) and have been good-to-go.
Where do you book your travel deals?
Check out our Deals page. Hotels.com is not listed, but that’s definitely our go-to lodging site and we get points for booking through them (which means free nights). We also utilize hotel and flight points/miles for lodging and flights as well. Get creative to save money where you can. And feel free to contact corporate offices on social media to request a coupon or a free stay in-lieu of a positive review. Instead of spending time going through folks Instagram photos (often and/or sometimes of limited benefit to your ultimate goals), why not spend that time sending messages to hotels and attractions to ask for discounts? Just a thought (that we’ve done and it works). There are so many options for obtaining travel deals. The holidays are the most obvious low hanging fruit options…if you are American, while everyone else is out at Black Friday or 4th of July deals or Back to School shopping, etc. travel sales are usually underway too…as are between midnight-3pm on Tuesdays. Great deals can be found for those who seek.
Is it safe abroad? What emergency resources are available?
Safety is relative. It depends on who, what, where, when, etc. Where we are now is much safer than the U.S. However, many people fear safety abroad. Regardless of where you are, awareness and common sense will take you a long way. Before leaving, (if you are American) definitely research travel advisories from the Department of State’s website. This will help you to see the latest concerns in that country and whether it’s recommended to travel or not. There’s also a program called the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which allows you to register so that the U.S. embassy in that country will know when you will be there and you can be alerted in the event of an emergency (in-country, or an emergency where someone is trying to reach you if someone is trying to reach you from back home). Hopefully these resources are helpful. But, honestly, don’t believe everything you hear or read. Make sure your sources are reputable. We also recommend speaking to someone who is at the location you are traveling to. Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to network with people online and ask a few questions. You can also write your embassy in that country in-advance (if there is one for your nationality) and ask questions. Here is the Official List of Embassies, Consulates, & Diplomatic Missions as shared by the U.S. Department of State. Be safe, but also enjoy!
Why are you no longer on social media?
We were never really dedicated social media users, but really did enjoy meeting some amazing people. It’s great for networking and building new relationships for sure. But we are really the savor the moment type(s) and are working non-stop on growing our family’s vision. Thus, social media, and now blogging, are not really priorities for us. While our life-changing experiences are being documented, we decided that we don’t necessarily need for it to be shared publicly. We do our absolute best to stay in touch with folks regularly via WhatsApp and always respond when we are contacted for services or check-ins. We miss folks for sure! But we really are enjoying our lives abroad.