Close your eyes and picture it.
The Pyramids at Giza, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, sunrise at Angkor Wat, or sunset in Bora Bora. Mysterious Machu Picchu or a safari through the African bush.
All come to mind when thoughts drift to a trip around the world.
It’s the ultimate vacation, travel’s crowning glory. And for most, it’s simply a dream. Leaving it all behind. Setting adrift. Seeing the world.
Or is it?
If you haven’t yet started planning a trip around the world…why not? What’s holding you back?
Until the COVID-19 pandemic brought international travel to a screeching halt, the two most common answers to this question were:
So while we await the green light to travel safely again in 2021, I’ll stick to overcoming your other two obstacles.
A RTW trip means traveling for a year, right?
When you think of a trip around the world, you probably remember people you’ve seen on YouTube or Instagram who quit their jobs, sell everything they own, and embark on a year-long adventure or more.
While this is the more traditional Round-the-World (RTW) option, it’s not a practical choice for most of us.
Like those of us with careers we don’t hate. Or family obligations at home.
If you’ve spent your 20’s or 30’s building a successful career, how can you just chuck it all and set sail?
The professional price to pay for a year-long sabbatical could be disastrous.
But there’s another way to see the world…
You don’t have to put off globetrotting adventures until retirement simply because you don’t want to give up your career to travel the world
You can take that trip around the world and you can do it on your own terms.
Little known fact, round the world tickets are surprisingly affordable and allow you to visit multiple destinations, often for little more than a roundtrip ticket to Europe. This means even a RTW trip as short as two weeks can be the trip of a lifetime.
The bottom line: The only true requirement for a round the world trip is a circumnavigation of the globe. How long that takes is entirely up to you.
So stop dreaming and start planning!
Here, the Top 8 Reasons to start planning your trip now:
1 – World Travel Has Never Been Easier or More Affordable
Consider for a moment that when our grandparents were young and our parents were kids, international air travel was a luxury of the rich.
Comparatively speaking, air travel today has never been cheaper – airlines are one of the only major commercial industries whose prices haven’t adjusted for inflation. Until the 1970’s only one airline in the world had a flight longer than 9 hours.
Today, we are lucky enough to live in an age where thousands of flights cross the Atlantic and Pacific each day.
Flight schedules boast nonstop options between most major world cities any day you choose and with the addition of in-seat entertainment and flatbeds in business class you can arrive refreshed and ready to explore.
2 – It’s the Most Efficient Way to See the World
Say, for example, you’ve always wanted to see the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall. (I visited all 3 on my 1st round the world trip).
Consider the airfare costs and travel time (ugh!) involved in three separate holidays to each of these destinations.
Alternatively, one RTW ticket (likely similar in cost to a roundtrip flight to any of the above) would allow you to see all three world wonders with minimal travel time between. BONUS: You may even get a stop-over in an incredible connecting city like Paris or Tokyo included for the same price.
If that’s not winning, I don’t know what is.
Say you plan a trip to Bangkok, why not hop on a 2-hr flight and visit Malaysia? In another hour you can be in Singapore.
From there, jump on a flight to Sydney. You see where I’m going with this.
When you change your thinking and start looking at travel this way, RTW just makes sense.
Traveling around the world while making as many stops as your vacation time will allow is by far the most efficient way to see the world.
3 – You Can Get the Time Off
You may be thinking, “I could never take more than 2 weeks off.“
To this I say, “Have you ever asked to take more than 2 weeks off?“
If there’s one silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the work from home revolution. Employers who never would have considered offering remote work options have discovered that it works.
Even if you only have two weeks of actual vacation time, combining that time with unpaid leave or working remotely could be an option.
After all, my motto is: If you can work from home, you can work from Rome!
Don’t want to work while you travel?
Many companies also offer sabbatical leave. Schedule a time with your Human Resources manager to evaluate your options. Your company may surprise you.
The key here is to plan ahead. Way ahead.
In fact, I’d recommend starting the planning process a full year before your anticipated departure. This will give you plenty of time to introduce the idea at your office and plan for your time away. Choose a time of year that is most likely to reward you with as much time off as possible.
4 – You Can Afford It
This is by far the single most common reason people think a RTW trip is out of their reach – cost.
The truth is, you really can do a RTW trip on almost any budget. You can also travel around the world on just your airline miles and hotel points (if you’ve got them)…but that’s another post!
If you’re on a tight budget, the key is to stick to cheaper destinations (think South America and Southeast Asia). Round-the-world airline tickets are surprisingly affordable.
Don’t believe me? Check out the AirTreks website for a sample of their RTW fares.
The amount of money you decide to spend can vary greatly depending on which countries are on your wish list and, generally speaking, how fancy you are.
I, for example, am somewhat fancy. I like nice hotels. I like soft sheets, fluffy robes, high-speed internet, and a decent wine list. I’m not ashamed to admit that and I’m pretty sure there’s not a 12-step program for it. I’m a girl. Take me as I am.
With that said, I’ve met plenty of other RTW travelers who operate under no such obligation of fanciness and are perfectly content to spend $20-$30 a night on a hostel (cut that in half in Southeast Asia).
It’s your trip; it’s your budget. No rules, no judgement. Do what makes you happy.
If you’re flexible with your flights and accommodations and stick to less expensive countries, there’s no reason you can’t travel for a month (or longer) on the same amount of money you would spend at home on a daily basis.
5 – It’s OK (in fact, it’s often better) to Travel Solo
I may be biased here but I honestly think doing a trip around the world solo is one of the most incredible gifts you can ever give to yourself. Nothing expands the mind and frees the spirit like solo travel.
You would be amazed at how many women are out there traveling the world solo. I know, I’ve met them. We are kindred spirits.
The beauty of flying solo is simple: you have total control of the itinerary.
The obvious downside is that there’s no one to split the hotel bill with. And you’ll need to get over any inhibitions you may have about eating alone in a restaurant in Hong Kong or being in a resort full of honeymooners in Fiji.
As a seasoned business traveler, I got over those things a long time ago. So will you, it’s no big deal. (Business travel also made me a pro at traveling light…you can do that, too!)
I also find that it’s easier to meet people when you’re traveling solo. when traveling with friends, it’s easy to slip into the comfort zone of spending all your time with those you already know.
This is especially true if you’re traveling with a spouse or significant other. Travel is a much richer experience when you get to know the locals.
So, be brave. Embrace your independence. Tackle the world on your own.
6 – You Don’t Have to Take a Month
While I’m a firm believer that one month is the perfect amount of time to feel truly adrift without completely losing touch with reality at home, some people need more and some might be happy with less.
If you can take more than a month, fantastic! If you work for one of those employers who will never allow you a full month off, you can still go around the world.
Even with just two weeks, a RTW trip is well worth the effort. How much can you really see in just two weeks? Well, here’s a two-week snippet from the middle of my first RTW trip:
Cape Town, South Africa – Cairo, Egypt – Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt – Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Agra, India – Bangkok, Thailand – Phuket, Thailand – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
During those two weeks, I hiked Table Mountain, took a safari, rode a camel around the Pyramids, snorkeled in the Red Sea, spent a night at the world’s only 7-star hotel in Dubai, basked in the glory of the Taj Mahal, explored the gleaming temples of Bangkok and the pristine beaches of Phuket and visited the Petronas Towers.
So what can you see in just two weeks?
More than some people see in their entire lives.
7 – It’s the Perfect Way to Celebrate a Life Milestone
Now that you’ve opened your mind to the idea that RTW travel really can be for everyone, how about using your trip to celebrate something truly special?
Perhaps 20 days around the world for a 20th wedding anniversary?
Or 30 days for a 30th birthday?
Maybe even a RTW Honeymoon? (yep, I did that!)
One ambitious RTWin30days reader is spending two years planning a 50-day trip around the world for her 50th birthday. I dare you to come up with a better way to ring in 50!
8 – You Won’t Ever Regret It
Few things compare to the experience of buying a great big fold-out map of the world and plotting out the trip you’ve always dreamed of.
I will never forget the day I bought mine and started planning the route for my first journey. It was a feeling of nervous excitement and boundless freedom.
Just me, one month ripped from the calendar, and the world.
Looking back, that first trip taught me a number of things. First, how lucky I am to carry an American passport. It’s an all-access pass to see the world and one I will never again take for granted.
Second, I learned that you don’t need a year to take the trip of a lifetime. I saw parts of the world I had only dreamed of, met incredible people, and got a glimpse into the lifestyle of a real world-traveler.
And finally, I realized that the time to travel is now. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that life offers no guarantees. So many times I have heard friends say, “Someday I’m going to travel.”
For so many that day never comes. Life – or fate – simply gets in the way.
My someday is now.
Because someday I’ll no longer be able to travel. And when that day comes, I’m comforted by the fact that I’ll always have my memories.
Of riding a camel around the pyramids on a blazing hot Egyptian day…of gritting my teeth in the back of a hurtling, Hindi-music-blaring Indian taxi…of the frigid winter morning I had the snow-covered Great Wall all to myself…of the grueling hike to the Monastery at Petra with new friends from three different countries…of the blinding, orange sun rising over Angkor Wat…of setting foot on my 7th continent, Antarctica.
Of a life lived with travel.
Life is short. Make your own memories. The world awaits.