It's no secret I've decided to backpack around the world, heading west until I cover the approximately 24,900 miles which account for it's circumference. The idea of non-stop travel in one general direction for months, if not years, has an exciting draw to it I can't resist. That's not to say there aren't more accessible, though equally exciting, approaches to traveling the world.
1. One Country At A Time – With 194 countries in the world today, few people will reach them all in a single lifetime, yet visiting them one by one remains the most popular approach, at least in the United States. Pacing oneself at a trip, or two if you're lucky, per year can slowly build up one's experience abroad over the course of a lifetime.
2. Circuits – The world's geography can be broken up into circuits, or well worn backpacker trails, on each of the continents. Traveling by circuit usually requires more time and money, however the reward is a much greater sense of freedom. I experienced traveling my first circuit when I spent the Summer after college graduation backpacking around Europe (in a clockwise rotation from Paris). Currently, Central America and Southeast Asia are two very popular circuits due to beneficial exchange rates.
3. ‘Round the World by Circuit – If the idea of non-stop, boots to the ground, travel seems less appealing, then consider a more unique strategy. The idea is to stop back at home between circuits. The duration at home can be as little as a few weeks to rest, relax, and rebuild stamina or health, or longer to earn more money. Last year in Guatemala, I met a Brit who spent 6 months working, followed by 6 months traveling a different circuit, each year. He had taken this approach for 5 years in a row!
4. Non-stop ‘Round the World – The ultimate option in terms of freedom, traveling around the world non-stop is for those who truly have a passion for being on the road, and can effectively manage the added physical, mental and emotional stresses that go along with it. The world is your very large oyster!
5. Employment/Education/Volunteering – Possibly the smartest approach to seeing the world, if you can swing it, is to work, learn, or volunteer abroad. Such a strategy can allow you to use your new home base as a launching pad for exploration of the countries in that circuit. Not only are you closer to the countries, thus making them less costly to visit, you are immersed in a new culture when not traveling! My friend Charlie has been living in China for 2.5 years, earning his living as a DJ, which allows him to work his way around China, while taking side trips to Russia and Southeast Asia in his free time.