I decided to get a bicycle about 2 years ago for commuting/short rides. I figured I was going to be getting a mountain bike because that's all I ever had (crappy Wal-Mart ones) and didn't think I'd be comfortable on a road bike. The salesperson thought a hybrid would be something I would like considering what I would be using it for. I never knew anything like hybrids existed and it was perfect for me... since then I have been riding all the time and have slowly been learning more about bikes.
Recently I've started to want to take longer trips on my bike and was introduced to the world of touring. From what I have read and my (very) limited knowledge I think my bike could make a decent touring bike. It is a Specialized Crosstrail Sport and I haven't modded it at all since I got it.
This is pretty much what it looks like now:
I'm a somewhat poor college student so I plan on doing the upgrades bit by bit over the next year or so. I would rather save for better quality gear than skimp on inferior stuff that may not hold up, though.
Where should I start? I think changing the handlebars and adding front and back racks will be the first thing I do. What do y'all recommend? Would this bike work for long trips if maintained? Any major changes necessary for the bike besides picking out panniers, new seat, things like that? I have noticed it appears to have slots for adding a rack on the back, but haven't noticed anything on the front wheel. Is it possible/expensive/bad for the bike to put a front rack on this bike?
I'm sure y'all are flooded with questions like this... but, I couldn't find much on converting a hybrid... mainly just on bikes specifically built for touring. Thanks for the help!