1. Register and get your passport. Getting everything together and taken to the post office takes no more than a day. You should have your passport back in eh maybe 2 months. It can be expedited for a little extra.
2. Sign up for Couchsurfing.com. Even if you decide you never want to stay at someone's house or vice versa, Couchsurfing is the best tool for traveling and will become your best friend.
3. Decide where you want to go. Do extensive research: weather, currency exchange, cost of living, surrounding areas of interest, jobs you could do (usually teaching English). Use couchsurfing by joining the group for chosen city, write a post asking about the city in the group, message people that may have the same interests as you and ask them certain questions on a more personal level: nightlife, jobs, how the people are and just generally what they think of the place. Couchsurfing people are more than happy to help travelers and future expats and are usually more than willing to show you around the city upon your arrival.
4. Find out if you need a visa for chosen place and begin working on the requirements for the visa.
5. Save money!!! Really really cut back on partying and spending. Be super frugal and everytime you want to buy something at Starbucks, think about your trip. Trust me, this is the hardest thing for me but so important.
6. Sell your car. Not a necessity, but recommended! Especially if you're intending to stay abroad for a year or more. The extra money is great while you're trying to get settled into a new country, ie finding a place, a job, cell phone, all the start up costs. Plus, what are you going to do with it for a year besides think about it depreciating? Buy a new one when you get home.
7. Buy your plane ticket. Do this as soon as possible, but research all possibilities to find the cheapest route. So what if you're traveling for three days to save an extra 100$, trust me, it's not so bad. Even if you're alone: journal, read, meet new people, it's great. If leaving from Orlando, then layover in Dallas, then LAX, then PEK then you arrive 36 hours later? It will make you appreciate a hot shower and the land that much more! Generally, leaving on a Tuesday or Wednesday is the cheapest.
8. Save money!! Keep doing it.
9. Start to pack for your trip, even if it's 2 months away. Start shopping and think about things you can't live without: tampons (never find them abroad!) medicines (tylenol, benadryl, PEPTO! imodium AD, any scripts you need, get the max you can get from your doc), hand sanitizer, garlic salt, lemon pepper.
I think that's all the prep stuff. If I think of anything else, I'll add an addendum. If anyone has any questions, please email me...Laurafuhrmann305@yahoo.com. And by no means am I an expert on traveling or living abroad but there are a few things I can offer as far as advice! I always wanted to travel and never thought I could and one day, I said "I'm going to do this." Then I left 2 months later for Turkey and haven't stopped for three years (well, brief breaks at home). I love traveling and I want everyone to have the opportunity and not just dream and never do it and regret it forever ! That would just suck