Practical Travel Tips for the Nomad, Traveler and Living Abroad

If you’re getting ready for a trip around the world or planning to live abroad the list of things to do beforehand may seem immense. Just packing for a long time away is a project in of itself.

Here are some things that I figured out along the way as I was perparing for nomad life. Some are innovative and some are obvious but likely they will make your transition a little easier.

Street art Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

1. Cancel your memberships with your gym or car sharing.

No sense in paying for services if you are not going to be using them. Some gyms will let you put your membership on hold for a fee. Compare the monthly hold fee to new initiation rates–it may not be worth it to pay the monthly fee.

2. Check all your monthly automatic debits and make sure there are things that you want.

Netflix allows different amounts of users per plan so if you are going to be too busy to use it consider canceling your membership or maybe share with a family member or friend.

Netflix is available in other countries but the same selection of shows and movies will not be. I was fully into season two of my favorite show when I left for Mexico and now I have to wait til I return to the states to see the rest.

I’ve never paid for Pandora but if you pay for ad-free, fyi Pandora is not available outside the U.S.

Playa Blanca, Colombia

3. Phone: Buy an unlocked phone and consider getting a Google voice number.

Cell phones are our lifeline to the world and it becomes even more true when you are traveling abroad. Your phone will help you stay in touch with friends and family, check your bank charges and use apps like Google translate and Google maps.

Buying an unlocked phone will give you an option to buy a local sim card if necessary. Depending on where you are headed it may not be necessary to get a local sim card. Many hotels, hostels, airbnb’s, even cafes and restaurants have wi-fi so if you plan ahead you can look up information before you leave for the day. Put your phone on airplane mode so it will stop looking for a cell tower.

If you are staying in a town for a length of time–find out where the wi-fi is and stop on in if you need to check your messages or use Google maps. In San Miguel de Allende I had the wi-fi password to a hostel, two cafes, a Chinese buffet and the library so I could almost walk around like I had service!

San Miguel de Allende, México

Two things to know about Google Maps and Translate:

Even if you don’t have service you can still use the GPS in Google maps, sometimes. I say sometimes because there has been times where it hasn’t worked but much of the time you can still use the GPS signal to see where you are. You can not search for an address but you can use it to roughly get around. I could not get it on the street in Mexico city–perhaps it has to be in the your internet cache but I have used it many other places to find my way in a new city.

You can also download directions to your phone and use them when you are not online. Very helpful as a traveler!

Google translate allows you to download by language so you can use it when you are offline. It’s a nice little bit of confidence to have in your back pocket when you don’t know the language. There are also other dictionary apps that work offline.

On the ferry to Governors Island, NYC

4. Phone part two.

Go no contract–that way you can stop paying for service when you leave the country.

The tricky thing is keeping your phone number for when you come back. Some companies are better at holding your number than others. T-Mobile will give you 3-4 months before they will release your number. You can also pay  T-Mobile $3.00 a month to keep your number current without paying for service. Cricket was not so great at this–they only give you two months before they release your number.

There is another option and it is Google voice. It is the best long-term travel, live abroad thing ever!

You can call and text with the Hangouts Dialer or Google voice app for free over wi-fi. For free. Google voice also allows you receive an email transcription of voice mails and texts.

The apps are little bit confusing. As far as I know Hangouts dialer is different from the Hangouts app. Hangouts dialer will allow you to call U.S. numbers of any kind where as with Hangouts you must call other people who have the Hangouts app and connect via an email address. And then you need the third app, Google voice to receive texts.

You can get a brand new number from Google or you can port your existing number to Google voice. It is all free except when you port your number and that is a one time $20 fee.

You must do this while you have cell service. Google will ask you to confirm via by sending a confirmation to your phone. I have heard of people doing it through Skype but I can not vouch for that. If you want to port your existing number you must do it before you end service with your current carrier. I did it at the last-minute the night before I left the country and it was a little tricky. It can take 24 hours so I was really happy it worked before I got on the plane.

Then when you return to the United States sign up for cell service again and forward your Google voice number to your new cell number. Then you can make and send calls with your Google voice number through your cell plan and your phone number will always remain the same. More information on how to do that here.

5. Get a Charles Schwab checking account. Free checking and they reimburse all fees from ATM machines. All fees. It’s that simple. For a more in depth guide to nomad friendly checking accounts read: The World’s Best Bank Accounts for Nomad’s and Travelers By Thomas K. Running. 

I hope that you have found this helpful and if you have anything to add, please leave it in the comments.

If you want more inspiration to chuck it all and hit the road, read: Quit Your Job & Travel: Reality or Impossible Dream?

Join the journey–

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