How to Take a Year Off

One of the questions we get asked the most is "how did you take a year off?"

Like most things, it's not as hard as you think.

Here's a step by step guide:

1. Believe it is possible. The first time I talked with a friend who had taken a six month sabbatical I thought he had lost his mind. I remember thinking "how can anyone not work for six months?" The concept of not working, when you've spent your life strapped to the treadmill of work was both inconceivable and deeply troubling. What was there, if not work? What was there to achieve if not achievement? Once I opened my mind to the possibility that there was life beyond work, and that it was physically possible to take six to twelve months off and gain from the experience, my life gained a new dimension of possibility. Read books such as "Six Months Off" to understand the fundamentals of how to manage the career aspects of your decision.

First, you must believe it is possible for you. Then all else follows.

2. Become debt free. Change your lifestyle as required to become debt free. Pay off all bills, including your bike loan. You'll need a clear title for what lies ahead. Sell what you don't need, which is just about everything. Rent your house if you think you will probably return to your old neighborhood. A rental property management company will take care of it for 8-10% of the rent. Put what you have left into a small storage space with sprinklers and prepay the rent for 150% of the time you expect to be gone. Set up the renewal payment for automatic electronic payment.

3. Build a war chest. Save up enough money to pay for 150% of your anticipated travel costs. Next save up enough to cover your current living expenses for three to six months. Chances are you will spend less per month when you return, but be conservative here in case it takes you a while to crank up your life again.

4. Take care of the paperwork. Arrange for electronic payment of all recurring expenses (medical insurance, life insurance, vehicle insurance, storage space, mortgage, etc.). Set up a living trust, or at minimum, a valid will. Clearly document the location of all important papers and prepare detailed instructions for executors to follow in the event you don't return. Obtain K&R (Kidnap & Ransom) insurance if you are traveling in areas known to be hostile. Obtain visas for all of your planned destinations. We had excellent results with Travisa. Get you inoculations for all relevant diseases in your destination regions. Obtain an international driver's license. Obtain worldwide Inland Marine insurance for all of your cameras and electronics. Have the U.S. Customs service certify all of your cameras and electronics to eliminate re-importation duties. Get prescriptions for Cipro and other useful travel pharmaceuticals. Make copies of your bike title, registration, drivers licenses, passports, visas, airline tickets, carnet and credit cards. Leave one set of copies at home with a trusted friend or relative. Obtain travel medical and evacuation insurance.

5. Buy quality clothing and equipment. You will be all alone out there. Buy new, excellent quality clothing and equipment with outstanding reputations for survival in tough conditions. Unlike the movie stars on "Long Way Round" you won't have factory mechanics flying in to repair your bike. It will be up to you, your gear and your wits. Don't shorten your odds by taking cheap gear.

6. Test everything. Take some test trips. Test every system. Work out the kinks. Fix what breaks. Practice tire repair and tire changes. Read your owners manuals and bring them along. Know your equipment backwards and forwards.

7. Prepare emotionally. Read books by people who have done long solo or couple travel. There are good selections in the sailboat cruising world, as well as a few good motorcycle selections. This can really help with step one, believing it is possible. When you read that someone else has done it, it is easier to believe you can too. Talk about your plans with your friends and family. Most will think you are nuts. Tell them anyway. A few will be supportive. Thank them. Communicate relentlessly with all of them, especially while you are out there, for you are living their dreams.

8. Prepare physically. Do some exercise and get your health in order. Your body will be under the stress of travel, strange beds, stranger food and unspeakable bathrooms. If you eat a strict diet, start breaking it and getting used to a wide variety of foods and drinks. Practice brushing your teeth out of your water supply or bottled water.

9. Prepare your riding skills. If you have never ridden off-road, sign up for some off-road rider training. BMW, Honda and third parties such as Harden Offroad, Motoventures, and others offer training for novice to intermediate riders. Do not attempt a year exploring the world if you are a beginning rider. You need to be able to handle incredibly challenging street situations as well as the mud, sand, silt, gravel and dirt typical of developing countries so-called roads.

10. Prepare your attitude. You will be visiting other countries as a guest. Act like one. You will witness customs and practices that will make your stomach churn. Face them with a tolerant smile. You will be relentlessly badgered by beggars and merchants. Be tolerant and patient. Begin every day as a quest. Welcome the opportunity to learn about other people and their cultures. You will not soon pass that way again.