A round the world trip is a daunting undertaking from first to last. If I'm honest I still have at least one moment a day where I think, 'What in the hell am I doing?' That said, I'm proof that you don't have to have to be 100% on top of everything the whole time to make it work. The most important thing is getting out your front door. Once you're on the road, the rest is a cinch!
The first step in planning a trip like this is to think big. Where would you go if you had all the money and time in the world? Write, draw, tell Siri, just lay it all out there.
If you need inspiration try the '1001 places to see/go/walk etc before you diiiiieeeee' series. Travel blogs are great for unusual and smaller experiences. What about the settings for your favourite novels or films? Or find a friend with a subscription to National Geographic.
This is the time to go big with no limitations. This is half he fun. Don't question or judge just yet, put it all down. All of it.
The next three points aren't really in order. They all overlap, so start wherever you feel most comfortable.
The world is a big place and it only seems to get bigger the more you look, so you likely can't see everywhere on your 'blue sky' list this one trip.
So, to narrow things down, I bought a laminate map (from WH Smiths, about 2 quid) and used whiteboard markers in different colours to get my thoughts in order. I marked on the map every person I knew who lived abroad and who I missed enough to want to see/liked me enough to lend me their couch.
Then in a different colour I marked every non-negotiable, the places I'd longed to see forever and ever, that I'd be gutted to return home without visiting.
Lastly I circled as many of the places from my daydream list as I wanted.
Then I sat back and analysed the map for any obvious patterns. I had a friend in NYC and one in Vancouver and I wanted to see San Francisco and sleep on a train = first two months' itinerary sorted in a cross country Amtrak journey.
Other key culling points included whether a war was currently being waged there, large scale political unrest was occurring, it was close enough to home for a weekend trip or it was too darn expensive.
For instance, I really want to see the Spirit Bears in Canada, but the cheapest package is $5000, so no Spirit Bears for me just yet. I'd also love to visit Budapest, but can do that easily as a normal holiday, while Australia in a week would be a jetlag nightmare.
Once these things are wiped off your map you can get a clearer idea of the shape of your trip.
Work out how long you have to travel. I think you want at least three months, I have six, some people are never planning on coming back - there's a lot of leeway in there.
The amount of time away will determine some of your plans. If you're away a shorter period then you can be a tourist throughout, but if you're staying away years then you'll likely need a job of some description. There's only so many art galleries one can appreciate after all.
Other aspects of timing can be worked out from there. How long is it polite to stay on your friend's couch? Survey says two weeks max. How long do you want to spend in each place? I was happy to spend only a couple of days in Washington D.C., but made sure I had near a month in San Francisco, because I've always wanted to go there.
Try to take it slower than you think you'll need to. I've found a fortnight to be the shortest period in which to feel you really know a place, but have deliberately chopped my trip into longer patches followed by 3-4 day stops so I don't feel like I'm stagnating.
I am not the person to give monetary advice, but these people are:
Travel is less expensive than most people think, but can easily eat your money if you're not paying attention. I budgeted for about 800-1000 pounds a month. I eat out one meal a day, don't drink that often and focus on each city's free stuff. This might change when I get out of the first world, but there really has been no need for crazy expensive tour packages or Michelin starred meals to experience a culture. Most hostels are pretty nice, airbnb is a godsend, food carts and sunny parks are a match from the heavens.
Book your flights
I used roundtheworldexperts, because I like the security of having a certain amount of the trip mapped out for me. They were incredibly helpful in getting the prices down and providing leads on activities in my destination countries and they have a free Travel Butler service for on the road changes.
You could do this all yourself, of course, I just like knowing this part is all bought and paid for so I don't have to think about it any more.
Boring important things
Now you know where exactly(ish) you'll be going, you need to visit your travel nurse for jabs, buy insurance and check what visas are necessary.
Jabs should be done as soon as possible, some courses need six months, most need 21-30 days. Some, eg. Rabies, are pricey, so factor that into your budget.
Insurance can be, and in my case was, booked the day before you leave. Do it online and read the small print. I went with World Nomads, because Lonely Planet likes them, they are reasonably priced and a niche backpacking insurer.
Google is your friend for visa info. Many can be done instantly online, but some take weeks, so check carefully.
Once you have destinations, flights, visas, jabs and money in your bank account, just go! Everything else you can sort out en route. Tweet as you arrive somewhere for tips on where to go. Pick up the local newspaper for what's on in town in the week. See what your favourite travel bloggers got up to when they were there.
You just need the bare bones before you leave, everything else will take care of itself as you go. Just get yourself on the plane; the rest is easy. Do I still feel dazed and disorganised? Hell yeah, but you know, after all the worrying, it really hasn't mattered a bit.
What about your planning? Any tips or tricks to share?