Don't be fool enough to think you can know a person's character after a few moments of observation. You can't. You have no idea where his life began or how his saga has unfolded thus far. Only his present state can you witness. To judge him at a glance is like reading one page in an open book, believing it's enough to confidently recite the story from beginning to end. True, one page may tell you much, but not nearly enough to accurately critique a book or evaluate a life. So, either become his friend and learn his entire story, or refrain from commenting on a tale you know nothing about. – Richelle E. Goodrich
After nearly four-years of continuous budget travel, I feel that I can confidently say that I have moved into the category of a veteran long-term backpacker that has learned many tricks to budget travel and visit some of the most expensive places in the world to living comfortably and happy in Third World conditions. I know what it's like to live without running water for days, going without electricity for more than a week, and passing through the most notorious city, San Pedro Sula in Honduras that was dubbed 'The Murder Capital of the World' back in 2012 having more murders per capita than any other recorded city on the globe. I've lived in every country in Latin or Central America, where according to Business Insider, it has been listed as having more murders per than any other region in the world. I still doubt this fact with what has been going on throughout areas in Syria, Ukraine, and the continent of Africa where statistical data may be unavailable, however, this doesn't detour from the fact that Central America is one of my favorite regions, but it is and can be extremely dangerous.
The reason I chose to write about this particular travel topic is because throughout the past 1,401 days, I have had several friends ask me numerous questions about how I've been able to achieve this lifestyle when I'm not independently wealthy, living on a trust fund, or have had constant financial donations. I tell them, that I've learned to become more adaptable including regaining more of my entrepreneurial spirit starting a businesses in Nicaragua and another two in South Korea that has allowed me to continue to fund this incredible adventure.
I've also taken on jobs that many may consider would be beneath themselves, especially after leaving behind a 12-year career on an executive level in broadcast television as a Program Manager for HDNet, which is now AXStv. People are often surprised to hear that I worked for Mark Cuban—yes, that Mark Cuban the eccentric billionaire, NBA Dallas Mavericks owner, Shark Tank investor, etc and etc—but I've learned a great deal of humility and innovation to maintain a lifestyle that carries both an excess of freedoms and an excess of hard work from time to time. I've worked as several times as a hostel manager, volunteer guest house staff, commercial fisherman, freelance consultant, broadcast technical manager, translation coordinator, English teacher, and the less glorious times I've had to clean bathrooms, do fiberglass work, and various manual labor jobs. But, through all of this I've learned and gained a plethora of new skills and exponentially developed my previous or current skills.
I apologize for several blogs being *A WORK IN PROGRESS* but Weebly, the free website building tool I use often does not save my draft blogs correctly—for example today I spent almost an hour working on a blog and thought it published only to find out that not only did it NOT PUBLISH but it also deleted ALL of my work! So, until this issue is resolved there will be sparsely published blogs from time to time...
Just another reason back in 2011, I wish I would have gone with Wordpress over Weebly, but at that time both had advantages and disadvantages and I chose Weebly because I knew starting my travels in Central America Wifi would most likely be limited and I was also traveling with a small Dell netbook and wasn't sure how the coding aspect would work out on a small device that was hacked to run Mac OS instead of Windows.
You cannot expect to experience travel abroad when you are constantly connected to friends and family on a daily basis for hours at a time. Once again I'm going to continuously reference this previous individual that I will continue to keep anonymous as an example. This person would begin the morning talking via Skype or Facebook with family and/or friends typically until 12pm or 1pm in the afternoon and then finally be ready to go out and explore this new country, and then later complain about where the day went. Yes, this happened pretty much EVERY SINGLE MORNING! Part of travel on any level is living in the moment and experiencing where you are, NOT trying to keep tabs on meaningless things back at home. "So, what are you doing this weekend? What did you do yesterday?" Does that really have any bearing whatsoever to being halfway around the world? LIVE IN THE MOMENT! If its that necessary for you to follow everyone on social media as you would back at home, then my advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
If you think that quitting your job and selling your things to brag about all the cool places you are going to visit and then taking selfies and photos just to brag and make others envious is a large part of your long-term travel plan, if not the primary reason you are doing this, then you'll quickly learn that surprise, surprise people will stop caring because they have their own lives to lead and then eventually those strong friendships start becoming more distant and then you are all alone. Feeding on the acceptance and envy of others is a poor and honestly sad way to live life. Live life for the strengths that make you, YOU! If this seems to be an impossible task or you are unable to break free from time to time of social media trolling, then my advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
I understand that adapting at the beginning of any journey or adjusting to a new country or region is not always the easiest, but there is a big difference in taking time to adapt and flat out refusing to adapt. For example, if you're going to be a budget traveler–not even long-term–and you are going to have to use local transportation unless you want to pay premium costs for taxis, especially for long distances, you must realize that these methods of transportation can be uncomfortable, stuffy, smelly, etc. When this friend and I boarded a local bus and the windows didn't open and the AC was nonexistent even though it was advertised as having air-conditioning, she threw a fit complaining loudly and openly causing a great deal of embarrassment and just a high-level of disrespect because the other locals have no other choice but to use this local transportation because this is a Third World country! Not even 15-minutes into the seven-hour journey and she was begging to persuade me to ask the driver to stop and flag down a taxi. I told her that we wouldn't receive a refund for the $7 or $10 we paid for the bus, and since I've been to this country several times and knew the prices, I told her that a taxi would cost a minimum of $50. I told her to see about waiting it out until we at least reach the half-way point where we will stop for a break to get food and have a chance to use a archaic bathroom. She agreed and eventually stuck out the entire bus ride, but once again constant complaining throughout the bus ride, complaining about the lack of no doors or toilet paper or even Western toilets but holes in the ground aka squater toilets, and how the food options didn't seem to be very good or to her standard. So I began to tune her out and enjoyed my very nice local cuisine lunch for a few dollars knowing that we still had roughly four hours on this journey and that I was financially supporting a local families restaurant instead of complaining the entire time. If you can't adapt to these conditions whether they be transportation, food, accommodation, sanitary conditions, etc, then my advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
I feel that this is one of the most important aspects, if not THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of being a long-term budget traveler because if you are unable to stick to a budget or you make impulsive purchases when you have a job and a steady income, how on earth do you expect to do this when you have no income coming in only the constant depletion of your bank account as it dwindles down. You must master this aspect FIRST AND FOREMOST, otherwise you'll be returning home penniless much sooner than expected with a whole new set of struggles and concerns. Once again if you are incapable of strictly maintaining AND monitoring your own personal finances, then my advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
Not only is this the cheapest option generally for long-term budget travel, it is also the way that you are going to socially connect with others traveling on a budget whether long-term or not, and sacrifices need to be made. Once again this friend that I traveled with felt that it was an ABSOLUTE necessity to get good rest each night and refused to stay in dorms, which to me was quite funny because we met at a hostel where granted she shared a private room with a friend and then later were reunited staying in a four-bed mixed dorm with two other strangers and a good night's sleep never seemed to be an issue. Once again being a backpacker doesn't mean you ALWAYS have to stay at hostels because it's a well known fact that throughout South East Asia and other areas around the world it may be cheaper to share a private room than individually pay for a dorm at a hostel. This was the case as we traveled together, however, when I left her she was paying nearly double the price of a hostel being alone instead of choosing to save money and stay at a hostel in the dorms. If you can't adjust to communal living, then my advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
I think one of the biggest annoyances TRUE budget travelers have is when we meet other so-called backpackers or budget travelers that complain about their budget when later it comes out that they have parents or benefactors continually funding their travels. SERIOUSLY, stop pretending that you are a poor budget traveler when you are constantly receiving money from your parents and/or a benefactor. Sorry you are NOT in the same boat as the rest of us, but in fact I feel you are taking advantage of the kindness of others that truly are living on a budget and willing to share their money by paying for things for you. It reminds me of those girls that purposely go to bars and later brag about how many free drinks they got from guys. If you are going to act this way, eventually you're going to get chewed out, ostracized, or both and this certainly warrants for you to just STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY, or at the very least shut your yapper about crying about money, especially when you are making senseless purchases. Once again, an example of this individual, she arrived in East Asia and had perfectly fine tennis shoes (sneakers or runners for those non-American readers haha) and she felt that is was absolutely necessary to purchase boots, which in realty where high-top stylish shoes for nearly $55 while at the same time treating the local store merchants horribly by constantly being THAT demanding rude American tourist! Let me say it again, if you are going to act like a complete d-bag, then my advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
As backpackers we rely on communicating with others to get the latest prices, advice, and other pertinent information, however, the big difference is when people expect YOU, veteran long-term budget travelers, to do all of their research for them and when it doesn't meet THEIR standard they want to blame you instead of pointing that sassy little finger back in the opposite direction where it belongs. This is one of the most important aspects of both saving money and learning life skills. If you can't even do basic research, then my advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
This goes right up there with complaining, communal living, failing to adapt, etc. If you think that hygiene and sanitation conditions are high on your list due to fears or concerns, that's completely understandable. Travel to more First World countries or regions. But, if you are going to explore more of the remote areas where your money will go much farther then expect that the conditions will be of a much lower standard then you may be used to. As the old saying goes, you can't have your cake and eat it too! UNLESS you have started to learn the various loop holes in the system. For example, I'm living in a First World country at the moment that is in the top 15 of GDP's in the World and the 13th most expensive city to live in the world, yet I am able to do so because I live in a guest house and keep my monthly living expenses to roughly $450 a month including accommodation, transportation, eating and going out on occasion, and entertainment budget, all while running two of my own businesses and saving nearly 88% of my income. So once again, there are uncanny exceptions, you just have to learn these over time. If you come down with hygiene issues that begin to affect your health that's understandable, but when you have issues due to smells or communal showers in hostels, then my advice..STAY AT A HOTEL AND WATCH YOUR BUDGET DWINDLE OR STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
Once again if infinity pools, four or five-star accommodations, luxurious modes of transportation, or you have a perpetual YOLO attitude and cannot say, "no," to things because you just have to do them since you are there even though your budget doesn't allow for it or you haven't done your proper research to realize, hey I can get my PADI certification if I just go to the neighboring country and get it for a fraction at the price, then my advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY. I am not saying that we all can't use a time to splurge, even for long-term budget travelers, but one again there are these amazing loopholes that can be utilized. For example, when I went from Thailand to Bali I made sure to arrive just a few days after high season in January after all of the Aussies rang in the new year and were heading back down under, and while I was recovering from food poisoning and needing to run to the toilet often throughout the night I wanted to be respectful of other guests in the dorms so I purposely asked hostels about private room costs and once I realized they were unwilling to negotiate on the price I took some time and wandered around Bali inquiring at hotels and eventually I negotiated a three-star hotel from $40 a night down to $20 a night! You can read about this blog entry HERE.
We all understand and realize sleep, eating regularly, and other aspects make up an overall healthy lifestyle, however, when you take on the lifestyle of long-term traveler you must realize that feeling as though you NEED to continue to maintain a specific type of schedule, this will NEVER work. Your body and yourself will adjust to your new surroundings and environments. For example, when I got to Cusco, Peru people didn't go out until at the earliest 1am! And throughout Asia, it is such a night life culture that most great restaurants don't even open until 5pm or 6pm and some of the most interesting shopping areas begin around 11pm or midnight! This is also true about the mornings, where many coffee shops in Seoul don't open until 11am! You will be surprised at how well your body adjusts and forcing it to do so will only cause you and others around you more stress and you will eventually find yourself alone because no one wants to be around a negative Nancy that is always complaining about everything including situations that they CAN and CANNOT control! If this is too difficult for you because you expect EVERYONE else, both locals and other travelers alike to adjust to meet your needs princess then my advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
If your mentality going in to long-term travel is that this is going to be an awesome long-term extended vacation then you are WAYYYY wrong friend! Stop treating this as an extended vacation because it's NOT! There are plenty of hardships and difficulties. You will experience loneliness like you have never imagined. You may find out what it's like to live without running water or electricity for a few days. You will know hunger because even though you may have money to purchase food, you will find that there aren't 24-hour places to eat all the time. You will experience complete exhaustion from snoring monsters, noise parades, party hostels that you didn't expect to be blaring music all night long, and many other interruptions that you may or may not be prepared to handle. You will also be forced to deal with limited technology issues and MANY other situations. I've learned that you can either get really pissed and be angry at people or circumstances that you cannot control or you can learn to roll with the punches, because that's what life in general often is and if you think you can't deal with this then my advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
Once again, if you can't roll with what life throws at you and you have the constant need to try and control every situation and blame others when things don't fit YOUR mold, then stay within the confines of your small part of the world that makes you feel safe and comfortable by taking the advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
Refusing to listen and take the advice from other travelers, especially those that have been successful long-term budget travelers by blatantly ignoring their advice is a sure-fire way for you to fail from the beginning. Once again this friend that I tried to help with numerous levels of advice, including having a surprise long layover in their city where we had a chance to meet up in person before she set out on her travels and I even walked her through REI to show her the items that she would need to purchase at a premium cost for higher quality and items that she could go cheap on or completely discard, later, I realized that she took about 10% of my advice and when we met up halfway around the world she complained to me that I didn't tell her about certain items, when I most certainly did. Later, it came out that she was more concerned with throwing herself nearly five different going away parties and bragged constantly to me and other travelers we met about how many people came to her parties and how many great connections she has back in the States. Surprise, backpackers DON'T CARE about your superficial ego! When she should have been planning and preparing to leave behind one area of her life to take on an entirely new and different lifestyle, it was more of a priority to feel loved and missed. I know that as I use this person as an example, I am NEVER trying to imply that I am better by any means, I'm just trying to give the cold hard facts about what long-term budget travel is truly like, and this person just happens to encompass many aspects of the negative side and abilities of why she was and is not ready for long-term budget travel even though she has a so-called boyfriend that sadly she just uses for his great big generous heart and open-wallet to feed her lack of planning and preparation. Even as she has left and been on her own, she blindly and ignorantly took advice from talking to OTHER travelers that told her false information such as, "oh, you can get a certain type of visa and pay for an extension, which is cheap and easy." Well, she later realized that the tourist visa for Cambodia is $30 while she paid $35 for this other type of visa both for 30-days and later found out that the visa extension would be an additional $55. I told her the best way to save money, because again she was complaining to me about receiving false information instead of doing her own research or listening to myself by blaming anyone else other than herself about this large disparity in costs, and I told her that since she's going to be in Siem Reap that her best decision to save money would be to just cross the border-overland to Thailand and re-enter paying the $30 tourist visa. Her response was that she was too afraid to do this border crossing alone and later met a guy that offered to pay for a round trip flight to Bangkok from Siem Reap where he had booked a hotel and would also pay for her re-entry visa to Cambodia since her flight was leaving from there to go to East Asia. She still denies that she was "too afraid" to cross the border overland even though she told several people this fact. One thing I know for certain is the tangled-web of lies WILL eventually catch up to those, and one quote I think speaks volumes is, "if you tell the truth, it becomes a part of your past. If you life, it becomes a part of your future." Therefore, even though I've been living this lifestyle for nearly four-years, I still continually stop and listening to those that have been traveling long-term and those that haven't because advice can come in all forms, but refusing to accept it because you are arrogant will just land you in a world of hurt, so if you want to continue to do so or you feel you are 'set in your ways' then my advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
Pretty simple right? Once again this friend met another American traveler and complained to me that he was the epitome of the stereotypical 'annoying arrogant American tourist,' yet she never once saw herself as the same as she constantly complained, made very loud insults about food, smells, customs, etc by disrespecting entire cultures and not becoming BUT BEING that very annoying arrogant loud rude American tourist without realizing it, because several of us came to the conclusion that her tattooed motto should read 'BLAH KNOWS BEST AND EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG.' Great attitude there, because you are just helping to perpetuate the stereotype of an ignorant American tourist that doesn't understand respect as she would make comments, like this is gross and why can't they speak English better! Sorry, you're a visitor in a foreign country and once again international travel is a privilege NOT a right and my advice...STAY BACK IN THE UNITED STATES OR YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
When you have realized you've burned bridges and that you cannot stick to a budget even when you have a benefactor and all you do is complain and blame others. Seriously, it's time to go home and your fear of doing so because you bragged too much, threw too many self-pride parties in successful attempts to create envy from others, and now you are too humiliated to return home. You have to suck up your pride and head back, because eventually all those generous people that were willing to help you out that you took advantage of and eventually woke up to this realization and are no longer there to give you that helping hand, humbleness will take on an entirely new meaning for you! JUST GO HOME ALREADY!
HONESTLY, NOT AN UNEXPECTED MESSAGE FROM THE UNNAMED TRAVELER AND MY REBUTTAL
Let's set the record straight! First of all, I took the time to meet this person in SE Asia where I purposely arrived a day before just so that they would feel more comfortable flying from the US halfway around the world and I slept on a table outside the airport since this person was arriving in the morning. Second, this person has clearly forgotten that they had three separate nervous breakdowns in the month I tried assisting them in adjusting to long-term budget travel. And finally, I suggested that coming to Korea, because it could be an opportunity to be in a first world country and possibly substitute English tutoring from an American friend that was going back to the US for Thanksgiving and Christmas, HOWEVER, I clearly told this person that there is ABSOLUTELY ZERO GUARANTEE that she would be able to fill in tutoring the children that my friend had been working with, because the final decision was up to the parents if they wanted to bring in, basically a complete stranger into their homes and into their children's lives. I told this person that they should not bank on the fact that these paying gigs would be guaranteed and that she should begin posting for English teaching, but this was IGNORED! Then of course when she arrived in Seoul, mainly because she wanted to be here for Halloween to party! Once the parents started to state that they did not want to have a substitute tutor, this made her lash out at me by blaming me saying that I had, "coerced and tricked her into coming to Korea with promise of paid work!" Really?
I am not so proud to admit a possible mistake, as I did call her so-called boyfriend that was her financier benefactor and wanted to talk to him as a man and as her friend with concern that I was unsure she was ready to handle the long-term travel aspects from what I had personally witnessed and that she may be needing more financial help staying in one of the world's more expensive cities without much of an income. I did this NOT to be malicious by any means and I told both her and her so-called boyfriend the same, but I did it out of concern as a friend. I even talked with a few friends that had met her before making this call, because I was torn between what to do, and I genuinely felt that because she could not stick to a budget she was just spending her so-called boyfriend's money with no regard for budgeting and to me this was taking advantage of the kindness of someone that seems to have a very wonderful and generous heart!
Later, she began harassing my friend with messages that escalated to the point of bullying her to get HER WAY! This I would not stand for and told her we needed to talk. The last conversation we had was in front of my guest house on the street. I arrived as she was waiting for me and I was calm and collected in what I wanted to discuss with her, but this was not the case. From the second I walked up it was entirely a one-sided screaming session! She stood on the street screaming in my face that I lied and promised her all this work to come to Korea and after a few minutes realizing that there was no point in trying to talk rationally with this person, I told her that I'm not going to stand here on the street and be screamed at! The last thing she yelled at me walking away was, "I NEVER want to see you or talk to you again and don't ever contact **** [so-called boyfriend's name] EVER!" Abiding by her wishes I left her to be. And, I knew at some point I would receive a message in the future, and not to much surprise I received two. The above message is the most vivid, and I would imagine that for those that know me to those that don't you can gather from the insults at the beginning of the message to feeling lost and wanting to talk is a clear example of this person's character.
Once again, I do not hold any anger against this person whatsoever, but I felt that this is a very strong example of how long-term budget travel is not for everyone, and when you scream in someone's face as they stand their calmly that you, "NEVER want to see them again," only to poorly attempt to try and ask them to talk to you, because they have no one else that understands what they've been through I find it hard to reach out to someone, but would prefer to honor their wishes from the beginning by removing all contact. I'll tell you that after this confrontation on a busy public sidewalk in Seoul, I had a completely clear conscience going to bed that night and the only thing that I was relatively sad about was the fact that I was hoping to attempt to talk to this person in a mature and reasonable manner, but you tell me who looked like the foolish one in this situation? I do not say this to try and convince people that I was in the right, but more to just list the ACTUAL facts of what happened, especially after this person left South Korea I learned that she was slandering me around to other individuals that was completely uncalled for, as I didn't once talk negatively to other people that were not involved in this absolute mess!