Overcoming the Hesitation
If you’re reading this, it’s most likely because you’ve always wanted to travel but find yourself overwhelmed at the thought of how to even begin doing such a thing. “What should I pack”? “How much money do I need”? “Where do I start and what do I do once I get there”? On top of the logistical nightmares, you are bound to run into people who will question and belittle your dreams. They’ll tell you you’re being foolish or that you are running away from your problems. It’s scary, I know. I was there once too.
I always told myself I would leave to travel one day. I would make these grand plans in my mind, but without fail, I’d find a way to talk myself out of it. Maybe I didn’t have enough money. Maybe I should research it a little bit more to be prepared. Maybe everyone else is right and I should focus on starting my career.
“It’s ok,” I’d think, “I’ll travel someday”. But the problem with someday is that it’s never today. Someday is the proverbial carrot on a string that we dangle in front of our faces to keep going. Someday is a promise to ourselves that we know we don’t have to keep. It’s time to retire that word. So let’s tackle these doubts.
I Can’t Afford It
Traveling is expensive, right? Wrong. Vacations are expensive. Travel is whatever you make it. Personally, I like to stretch my budget as far as it will go. It’s not hard to do. This certainly warrants a travel guide of its own, but in a condensed form, follow these basic rules:
• Forget That Pricey Hotel – Accommodations are one of the biggest areas where inexperienced travelers waste their money. If your goal is to be pampered around the world, then feel free to disregard this advice. But if you want to see and genuinely experience as much as possible, there are far cheaper alternatives.
Look into booking a hostel or staying with a local through Couch Surfing. Both are inexpensive (or free!) places to stay and offer far more resources than you would otherwise get. When you stay in a hotel, you essentially create a secluded bubble around yourself. Though you may be stepping outside your comfort zone during your first hostel or couch surfing experience, you’ll meet likeminded travelers and learn about things in the area you would not have found on your own.
• Learn to Cook – …or at least how to throw a sandwich together. Buying groceries when you’ll be in an area for more than a couple nights is a great way to save money. The day I discovered Lidl while traveling through Europe, I was a changed man. If you’re a smart shopper, you can easily pick up 5 days of groceries for less than $10 USD.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t sample the local cuisine here and there; that’s a huge part of traveling after all, but knowing you spent 50 cents on lunch as opposed to 15 dollars will make that turkey sandwich taste that much better.
As an added bonus, if you’re staying in a hostel and know how to cook, it’s impossible to not make friends. I’ve met many people I still keep in touch with to this day just by offering them some of the pasta I was making.
• Be Flexible With How You Travel – Depending on where you are in the world, flights can either be dirt cheap or a real budget breaker. The trick is to to be easygoing when it comes to your mode of transportation. Personally, I like to use Rome2rio when researching how to get from place to place. It’s a great resource that will put together the cheapest travel options available to you; be it bus, plane or train.
If you’re in Europe, give BlaBlaCar a look as well. It’s a ride sharing network where people who are traveling from point A to point B will rent empty seats in their car. I traveled across Germany this way for less than what you’d pay for a venti latte at Starbucks.
How Do I Arrange Everything?
One of the best parts about longterm travel is the absolute freedom of it. You’re on your own schedule and can do what you want, when you want. That being said, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by this freedom. Some people don’t do well with lack of structure. Personally, I’m a big believer in the three day window.
For most of the places you will travel, three days in advance is a perfectly sufficient amount of time to plan out your next move. Any further out and you risk over-planning your trip. Any less and you run the risk of not being able to book a seat on that train you needed to catch.
That being said, that’s not the worst thing in the world. Some of my greatest travel memories have come from a last minute change of plans when the new friends I made at the hostel invite me along on a different adventure. So be smart, but keep an open mind.
But I Don’t Speak the Language!
Are you reading this blog? Then congratulations; you’ll do just fine abroad! We as English speakers are in a very fortunate place when it comes to traveling. Almost anywhere you can think to travel, you are practically guaranteed to find someone who can speak a reasonable degree of English.
Sure, you’ll find some places where the language gap is harder to bridge than others, but even then, you’d be amazed at how far hand gestures will take you. When in doubt, download the local language dictionary on Google Translate, and you’ll be good to go no matter where you end up.
Isn’t It Dangerous?
This is the question I run into most often when talking about the traveling I’ve done. I have been to many different countries in my life at this point and if there is one thing I can say about human beings in general, it would be this: the majority of them don’t want to hurt you. In fact, most of them are quite nice. This can be a tough idea to fully realize when you first find yourself in a strange new place so far from home. I certainly felt on edge for a while. I remember the moment it disappeared, however.
I had just arrived in Istanbul and was walking through Taksim Square with my gigantic hiking backpack and camera bag, looking every bit like the tourist I was. I had an idea of where my hostel was located, but was more or less just wandering in the general direction, hoping for the best. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw three guys point at me and nod to each other in agreement before they started making their way over. Obviously, I assumed I was about to experience my first mugging.
To my surprise, the guy in front walked up, hand extended to shake, and said, “Hey man! Where are you from”? At this point, I’m still convinced it’s an elaborate setup, so I’m keeping my distance and looking around but still manage to reply, “Boston”, to which he responds, “Oh cool! I’ve been there once! So how long are you in Istanbul? What do you have planned for while you’re here”?
By the time we parted ways, they had given me suggestions for things to do in the city, the best spots to visit for photography, and not only did they give me directions to my hostel; they had even offered to let me stay with them for the night if I didn’t have a place booked.
THAT, in my experience, is indicative of human nature as a whole. That’s not to say you shouldn’t keep your head on a swivel at times, but you should never let fear of the unknown keep you from meeting new people. It’s the best part of traveling, after all.
Everyone Says I’m Crazy Or That I’m Running Away From Real Life.
Prepare yourself. You are nowhere near to hearing the end of this. To these people, I would say, “define real life”. Most people will tell you that in order to be “successful”, you need to graduate college, start your career, get married and have kids. In my eyes, that’s not success; that’s settling.
That’s not to say that finding a career and starting a family is wrong. That’s not at all what I mean. What I DO mean is that for people like us; those that feel the constant tug of adventure pulling at us from just beyond the horizon, it will never be enough.
We’re wired differently. Wanderlust is fused into our DNA. Take it from me; never give in to the naysayers. You are standing on the precipice of an adventure greater than the imagination of any of your doubters. So travel forth boldly, because you were born to wander.
Still feeling nervous? Send me an email! I’m happy to answer any other questions you might have.