Letting Go: Project Plan – Financial/Legal/Medical
[singlepic=1235,250,,,right]FINANCIAL – The first thing to do is to move EVERYTHING you can to online banking. However, I quickly found that you can’t do anything online without a mailing address. So, the prerequisite to changing everything to online banking and bill pay is to have sorted out what your mailing address will be and do a change of address with your post office.
When faced with choosing a new mailing address, I first had to choose a reliable, close friend whom I knew would stay put for a year. He was my ‘go-to’ person in the States if I needed anything done – you really need one of these. It’s inevitable that you will need this person to mail something, cash something, or meet with someone in your absence.
Once you have a new address, now you can start to go through the long process of updating all of your credit cards, banking, investments, and bills to be online if possible. In order to not miss anything, I actually went through my physical file cabinet and ensured that I had everything covered.
This is also a great time to contact all of your credit card companies and let them know that you will be traveling long term internationally. Many credit card companies will ‘hold’ international charges and not approve them as they think they are fraudulent. In order to not be stuck in Africa with a motel clerk telling you that your card has been denied make sure you plan ahead.
Another simple tip to do before you travel is to take digital images of your important documents, such as passport front page, passport picture, drivers license, and visas. This way if you encounter a problem such as theft of loss of these items, you can get to an internet café and print off copies of these things easily. I took a simple picture of these items, and saved them on my online email account by attaching them to an email document. This way I could access it in case I lost everything else.
With the idea of possible theft or loss in mind, I also took other important information that I might need and put it online in my email account. This included:
- All of the international customer service numbers for my credit cards as well as my credit card information
- My frequent flyer numbers
- Bank account numbers as well as my bank international customer service number
- Important website url’s and log in information (in case I wasn’t using my computer and didn’t have access to my ‘favorites links’)
- Apartment storage numbers
- Camera/laptop warranty
Once again – I put these in a ‘notes’ file associated with my email account that I could access from any internet café while on the road.
LEGAL – Since you will be away for a while, consider putting in place a Power of Attorney while you are out of the country. A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to handle your affairs while you’re unavailable or unable to do so. A general power of attorney is very broad and provides extensive powers to the person or organization you appoint as your agent. These powers usually include things like handling banking transactions, entering safety deposit boxes, buying/selling property, filing tax returns, and entering into contracts. Obviously, if you decide to do this, pick your person wisely as this is not a decision to be taken lightly. It’s easy to have the form filled out and notarized. You can find more information and form online or simply speak to your attorney about it.
As soon as your itinerary starts to get set, I strongly recommend registering with U.S. Department of State website.
[singlepic=1234,250,,,left]Travel registration is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. Registration allows you to record information about your upcoming trip abroad that the Department of State can use to assist you in case of an emergency. In addition, travelers can also get routine country information from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. You simply put in some personal information about yourself, and the countries you will be traveling to. You should have the time frames when you plan to be in the countries and it helps to also have the addresses of the hotels/hostels/accommodations that you will be staying at. By filling in this information, the US government has an idea of how many Americans are in a particular country at a given time in case of emergency.
As a solo traveler, this step was really important to me. I had planned to travel to some ‘undeveloped countries’ and it was comforting to know that if some unrest happened in those countries that my government knew where I was in case I needed help. Heck, I was even invited to an American Embassy event in Kenya once while I was traveling through the country!
Finally, the State Department website has an immense amount of country information and travel warnings that is useful to read through before you take off. Overall, it’s a simple step to help you feel more secure – or in my case, help your loved ones feel that you are safe.
MEDICAL – As soon as you know that you are going to do international travel, make an appointment with a travel doctor. Some vaccinations require multiple visits to a doctor and multiple shots, so start this process early – at least 6 months in advance. I also recommend getting a print out of your medical history and vaccination history to take with you. Better yet – get it digitally and save it in your email account (see above). You never know when you may need this information while on the road.
[singlepic=1233,250,,,right]Visit the Centers for Disease Control website to get an idea of what vaccinations you may need.
While visiting the travel doctor, get his/her input on what you should have with you in your first aid kit. He/she will also recommend prescriptions that you should fill and take with you. Finally, if you have regular prescriptions that you take, consider getting these filled early and for multiple-months supplies. You may need to contact your insurance company to get special permission to get more than a month’s supply at a time, but if you let them know that you are doing long-term travel, they will normally grant this.
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