Planning operation GTFO
This is something our fellow bikepackers/tourers don’t write about: how to leave your country and everything you have & know behind. Because it’s super boring. This post isn’t of course, please read on.
We like our shit to be in order & we are known as happy preppers (read: are you still planning that trip?). Some of our tips are Belgium-specific and obvious, but can still help remind you to take care of it. We spend a lot of time making lists, calling, emailing & annoying people, maybe you will be spared of the ordeal now.
We couldn’t find an insurance in Belgium that would cover what we needed. Our country only focuses on expats, who have different needs. No, I don’t need a car insurance…
Luckily, our neighbours in the Netherlands are more adventurous folks who have many options when it comes to insuring a more risky trip over a longer period of time. We ended up choosing the Joho Allianz Globetrotter insurance as it covers health, sos help and material goods.
In Belgium, if you want to remain a citizen, you have to have a home address. We put our domicile address at our parents’ places. Once that was taken care of, we reported our “temporary absence”. This way we can stay away for max. 2 years and remain a Belgian citizen.
Don’t forget to tell your bank and health insurance your address changed.
3 SOCIAL SECURITY
In Belgium, when you stop paying social security contributions, you need to catch up when you’re back and pay a fine (which is very reasonable). In the meantime, you’re covered for the next two years.
When you’re only travelling in Europe, make sure to get your European health Insurance card. This will extend your health insurance fund in all countries belonging to the EEA.
For all them dangerous bugs out there, go to your doctor and ask which vaccinations you need for the regions you will visit. Think of this in time, as some vaccinations need to be administered multiple times within a long time frame. We missed a couple because of this. Fingers crossed for rubella, mumps and measels, oops. A very important and obvious vaccination for cyclists is rabies. Not all dogs are nice?! If you need to be vaccinated for yellow fever (eg. Latin America), you need to prove this when entering the country as it is obligated. Don’t forget your vaccinations passport.
5 FIRST AID & RESCUE
Take a first aid class. We did a 12h crash course of the Red Cross here in Belgium. Make sure to download their app too. If anything eventually happens, you will probably pannick and forget everything you have learned, so a reminder can come in handy.
Dive nose first into the SAS survival handbook and sharpen your bushcraft skills. If you don’t like to eat raw macaroni when you run out of fuel or gas, make damn sure you know how to build a fire stat.
Get a spotter device when you travel beyond mobile service. If you’re lost and in a gnarly situation, you want people to be able to find & rescue you. We brought a spot Gen3 along with us (https://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=100). You just need a subscription and you’re good to go. You may never need it, but we also use it to let our families know we are okay every night before we go to sleep. Just by a push on a button.
6 IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
Make sure you digitalise everything in the cloud so you can reach it at anytime. Share this with someone who can help you out from a distance. We are talking ID documents, visas, international drivers license, prep for taxes to be paid and other boring stuff you don’t want to be bothered with on the road.
Paying abroad is expensive. Cash withdrawals are expensive. How to avoid extra costs as best as you can? Look for a bank with a low exchange rate and possibly no extra costs for cash withdrawals (we found Argenta in Belgium was the best one). Try to get a credit card: you may need one for deposits. For all your payments: get a Mastercard debit card from the German bank N26. You can choose between different plans (there is a free one too). Included in all plans is paying for free anywhere in the world where they accept the card. And they have a kickass app too.
Depending on where you’re going, you’ll need to figure this out in time. Yannick went to Iran, so we feared not getting a visa for USA. It all turned out okay, but you need these documents before you book a flight for example. If you’re refused a visa, you’re ticket is not getting you anywhere.
Flights are cheapest when you book them 5 to 6 months in advance.
We were looking to take a boat from Bergen to Iceland, but unfortunately, there were no options, so we had to book a flight.
10 SELL IT ALL
You don’t want to store everything until you get back, because storage is, you guessed it, expensive. When you don’t have relatives or friends where you can dump all your crap, sell it! That can mean an extra month of travelling or so. We sold most of our things online or to the next person living in our apartment. If you own a house, rent it out.
11 CANCEL EVERYTHING
Direct debits, internet, gas, water, electricity, rent, magazine subscriptions, ...you don’t have to pay for that anymore woohoo!
12 OTHER STUFF
Bikepacking.com, your new Bible
Make a fake wallet and cry when you hand this one over.
Create a warmshowers account. You might not want to sleep in a tent every night…
Set up your logo, instagram, email, website, whatever before you leave.
Contact other bloggers via email/insta or meet them at travel fairs for all your detailed questions.
Plan your goodbye parties, we had (what feels) like 18 of them...
We hope this helps!