It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for–and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool–for love–for your dreams–for the adventure of being alive.
– Oriah Mountain Dreamer
While the idea of long-term travel may not appeal to everyone, because it’s not necessarily for everyone, but don’t think for a second that you aren’t capable of achieving extended travel on a budget yourself. It’s all about what you feel are priorities in your life. It’s a simple way of life. You have everything on your back, and, material goods don’t mean as much as they used to. This is something you take with you for the rest of your life.
The idea of long term travel goes against everything that the American mindset of what is considered to be “social acceptable.” But, tell me, is spending 50 weeks a year in a cubicle in order to enjoy one, maybe two weeks of vacation in a year really living? Why is it that the best part of life (retirement) is often when you are too old to experience it? Believe it or not, extended travel on a budget is possible. In two years of backpacking and globetrotting I’ve spent less than $20,000. I know that number may sound very high, but that also includes several intercontinental flights and I feel that I could have done this for even $5,000 or more below this mark from the things that I have learned along the way and small amounts of petty theft. Also let me just say, ABSOLUTELY FORGET the Round the World (RTW) airline tickets. For starters the flight vouchers expire after 12 months, typically you must travel in one direction without crossing hemispheres, and after diligent research on a ticket that may be around $9,000 you could spend the same amount of money on this and actually take an additional, count ‘em, 52 flights! But the whole point is not to be under so much of an itinerary, because some of the most incredible people you meet and experiences you share will be when you least expect it. Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia Clothing, put it, “the word adventure has gotten overused. For me, adventure is when everything goes wrong. That’s when the adventure starts.”
The photo to the left is my good friend Kevin from California that has recently decided to quit his career in pharmaceutical sales and begin his travels in Guatemala.
10 WAYS TO ACHIEVE LONG TERM TRAVEL ON A BUDGET
2. SAVE MONEY & MINIMIZE YOUR EXPENSES: Even saving a few thousand dollars can afford you to stay in areas for two or three months, maybe even longer. The expensive countries such as; Japan, Australia, or England will certainly stretch your budget. Cut out all of your excess expenses; cable/satellite television, adjust your cell phone plan, reduce small expenses like that daily cup of Starbucks coffee, even pick up a roommate if you can. Every small bit of money will stretch much farther for you on your travels.
3. SELECT A SOLID BANK: I cannot emphasize this enough! I know I’ve mentioned it quite a few times in past blogs, but FIND A SOLID BANK. Do this early, while you still have a job if possible, because if you do switch banks, as I did after more than 15 years, you want to do two things: establish yourself with a new bank with direct deposit and make all necessary adjustments to familiarize yourself with your new bank (online, emails, notifications, etc). Don’t just research online, but physically go in and schedule meetings with personal bankers and lay out for them exactly what you are going to need. For example, I posed the questions my bank, “pick the hardest place on the planet, now how long will it take for you to get me a new debit card?” Come up with a list of possible scenarios and questions and grill your bank or one you are considering until you are satisfied. Also inquire about additional bankcards that can remain inactive, but have a different 16-digit card number than your active card. I always say that when traveling or living abroad one of the worst things is having money in an account, yet not having any way of accessing these funds because your bank card was stolen, lost, or the number compromised.
4. GET YOUR PASSPORT: If you haven’t done this do it early, and even if you have yours check on the expiration date or how many blank visa pages you have. If you are planning long term travel renew it now and have a fresh passport full of empty visa pages.
5. TRAVEL GEAR: From a veteran backpacker and somewhat of a mentor, Jeff, has given me advice that I continue to share with others, which is, “when all of the material possessions you own fit on your back you want good high quality materials since you will be using these daily if not weekly.” Moisture-wicking fabrics or anything that can be hand-washed and dry quickly has been very helpful.
6. GET VACCINATED: Depending upon how you feel, vaccinations can be done MUCH cheaper outside of the States, but if you have concerns then get all of your vaccinations up-to-date and talk with your doctor about what you are doing. Start this process 3-6 months prior to leaving to give your body adequate time to adjust.
7. SELECT YOUR DESTINATION: Keep in mind several things to consider when selecting your destination: What is the weather like (rainy season or monsoon season)? Is it high or low season for tourism? Are there any national or regional holidays that should be considered because this can easily double or triple your budget if you show up during Semana Santa in Latin America, Lunar New Years in Asia, music festivals in Europe, etc.
8. CLOSE LOOSE ENDS: Verify with the DMV that your record is spotless, set an end date for insurance, utilities, and any other monthly expenses. If you can attain a zero balance on your credit cards or student loans will be a huge victory as well.
9. QUIT YOUR JOB: Yes, this can be extremely nerve racking, especially since I gave up a great career in broadcast television after almost 12 continuous years with the same company, BUT I cannot express how much more I feel that I have lived in the past two years. I have pushed myself harder. I have grown more. I have learned not to just be strong, but to live strong.
10. OPEN YOUR MIND: Realize that you are a guest in other countries and be mindful and aware of a high regard for respect to that culture. All too often I hear the ignorant comments or questions by travelers because they want where they are to conform to accommodate them, instead of the other way around. Again this goes back to having the right mindset even prior to departing on your own travels.
WARNING SOME OF THE IMAGES ARE VERY GRAPHIC
Arriving in Cambodia from Singapore is a night and day difference; the conveniences and luxuries of a First World country that vary from tap water that is clean and safe to drink, hot showers, and consistent electricity (even if WiFi connection speeds are still very slow), yet, returning to the environment of a Third World country has a simple appeal. Sometimes it amazes me that in the course of a few hours on a flight, your surroundings can change dramatically. Today, I find myself in my 33rd country where I am finally back to having visitied more countries than the number of years I’ve accumulated in age. Founded in 1434, Phnom Penh is both the capital and largest city of Cambodia and in the 1920s was known as the “Pearl of Asia,” since it was considered one of the most beautiful French-built cities in Indochina.
THE SECURITY REGLATIONS OF TUOL SLENG (S-21):
2. Don’t try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that you are strictly prohibited to contest me.
3. Don’t be a fool for you are a chap who dare to thwart the revolution.
4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.
5. Don’t tell me either about your immoralities or the essence of the revolution.
6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.
7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.
8. Don’t make pretext about Kampuchea Kromin order to hide your secret or traitor.
9. If you don’t follow all the above rules, you shall get many lashes of electric wire.
10. If you disobey any of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.