Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to travel the world on the cheap.

The joy of new experience is the most wonderful thing about travel – and new experiences are free.

Traveling the way most people do it isn’t enough. Saving all year long at a job for just two weeks a year won’t let you see the world the way you want to see it. So you find someone to take care of your stuff while you travel the world. You’re all set to see everything you ever wanted for as long as you want. Then you realize something: you don’t have enough money to do it. So what should you do? Here are some ways to travel the world long term on the cheap.

1. Decide to make it a priority.

If you are going to travel long term, sell your junk. No reason to have things like bills worrying you from home. You wont be needing you car payment, cell phone, appartment, and all those other toys that lighten the wallet. If you make traveling the world your number one priority, I promis you, you will make it happpen.

2. Live as cheaply as possible

That means staying with your parents, sleeping on your friends couch or sharing a place with several people. The point is, don’t spend any money… you’re in saving mode. If you just graduated, get your student loans defered an extra six months. Don't drink away your paychecks.. Tell yourself this. I can either go out tonight and spend $50 getting drunk with the buddies, or I can spend $50 on a weeks accomadation in Cambodia. It makes sense.

3. Get a job

 Any job will do. You’ll just be working for the summer, so it doesn't matter where you work. You might not want to work at Taco Bell normaly, but remember it's just a means to an ends. You are just doing what it takes to reach your goal.

4. Save about $1000

Most people can do this in one month, but obviously it depends on how much you drink away, where you live and whether you can land a well-paying gig. At the very most, this will take three months.

5. Get a cheap backpack.

Pack about three outfits, a swimsuit and whatever else you can’t live without. You’ll probably ditch 50% of your pack in the first month, because everyone over-packs (and when you have to physically carry it around everyday, it doesn’t seem quite so worth it). My pack lost 40 lbs in South Africa within a month.

6. Find a flight to somewhere… anywhere
 I highly suggest checking out Kayak, and for deals from your specific airport. If you can make it to a major city like LA or NYC, you can save a ton on airfare. Once you buy that flight, you will know for sure you are going, then work even harder to make it happen.

7. Relax.

Once you’re on the ground, in whatever country you start in, it’s much easier to figure things out. So relax. Don’t email me a bunch of questions about where to buy toothpaste in Guatemala, because it will all become clear once you’re there. People ask me so many questions like that. Just wing it, or you might psych yourself out and never leave.

8. Use couch surfing for places to stay.

You’re young, broke and out to see the world. This is probably the only time in your life when sleeping on a futon is a practical way to travel. Plus you’ll have a guide and new friends. If you’re uncomfortable with staying at stranger’s homes, or to book a dorm room (you’ll still be sleeping next to strangers?). Buy a Lonely Planet for the area, and read up on everything on the way there.

9. Get a job.

You can work under the table. If you have a degree you can teach English. If you don’t have a degree, you can teach English under the table. Check with the hostels in town. Talk to other travelers, especially those who have been there for a few months. My biggest asset was making connections and networking. I thought I would be a lone travelor in strange lands, all on my own. Was delighted to find tons of other backpackers doing the same thing. There are opportunities everywhere. You arent trying to get rich, just make enough to keep traveling.

10. Work, make friends, have fun, explore the local area.

When you get sick of it, move on to the next place. Rinse, wash and repeat. You’re traveling and all it took was a month or two to raise airfare and you’re off. Most people I talk to want to travel the world, but are scared to death of going alone or without tons of ''emergency'' money in bank, so much so that they are content to never leave home. I am not extraordinarily brave, never had much money in the bank, but I did know what I wanted to do, and made it happen.
 Last semester in my International Studies class, as part of a project where we were trying to get people to travel more, our proffesor suggested we ask people why they thought they couldn't travel, and come up with solutions. The list went something like this.
But I can’t get a job/save money/travel cheaply. I'm broke.

If you’re stuck in a small town with no jobs, move to a bigger city where you can get work. You’re young! Take a greyhound bus, find somewhere to stay and hit up every temp agency. If you can’t save money because you have all kinds of expenses, trim back your lifestyle. If you’re shaking your head no, "there’s no way I can give up my car" kind of thing, then that’s fine. Just realize you just picked having a certain lifestyle over travel. — travel isn’t just handed to most people, they have to make sacrifices and work for it.

I will be robbed, kidnapped and killed — my mom saw it on TV!

They actually keep statistics on this and the fact is that you’re more likely to encounter violence at home than you are abroad. If you’re worried about the safety of any particular destination, check out the website. Most places I went felt safer than big cities are around the U.S. I would rather hitch hike in Mexico than walk around in parts of L.A

What if I run out of money?

I have heard stories of people blowing all their money in Mui Ne, a town in Vietnam, then getting a DJing job the next day and loving life. I guess if you ran out of money, you’d have to call someone back home, beg them for airfare to the states and eat a little crow. If you’re running through your cash, with no job, then yes, that’s a problem. The thing is, it is much, much cheaper to live most places outside of the US. So if you haven’t traveled before, maybe you’re thinking about how much it costs to live here and worried about being able to pull in that kind of money abroad. If you were really, really broke — like robbed, no money, no family, no friends broke — what would you do in the US? You’d figure it out. You can do that abroad too.

What about when I get back, won’t I be way behind my peers?

In short, no. I would put your travel experience on your resume, maybe do a skills resume. In this way you can use those travel experiences to your benefit. The fact that you traveled around the world for a year, teaching English in South Korea or working at a vineyard in Australia, tells more about your personality and abilities than a year spent doing grunt work. When you are old and decrepid, what are you going to remember more; traveling the world for a year or so, or being broke and jobless when you got back? Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Favorite Places part III: Hue, Vietnam

My time in Hue was pretty great for a number of reasons. First of all, I met allot of fellow travelers from all over the world, and we partied like it was 1999. We frequented this bar in downtown Hue, next to some of our friend's hostel, because the beers were so cheap. One night about twelve of us where drinking there all night, beer after beer, and were very pleasantly surprised when we got our bill and it was about $14. I also went and checked out the former DMZ, which was a treat for a war history buff such as my self. At the DMZ signs can be seen everywhere warning of land mines left over from the war.

US tanks on display near the DMZ

From my hotel it was a few miles walk to get to the Purple Forbidden Palace of Hue. Situated on the Perfume river, I don't think I've ever seen such beautiful ruins in my life. Castles with motes, court yards with dragon statues, pagodas with monks; top all this off with very foggy, drizzly, almost mysterious weather and the mood is really set.

 The place is perfectly landscaped and taken care of, and around every corner I expected to find monks lined up practicing kung fu, karate kid style. The city is huge, I walked through it for an hour, but eventually I came to the areas the guide books warn you about; the parts bombarded during the war and never rebuilt.

Hue's central location positions it very near the North and South Vietnamese DMZ, Hue being just south of the border. On January 31, 1968, the first day of the new year on the traditional lunar calendar, also known as tet, year of the monkey and the most important Vietnamese holiday, Northern Vietnamese forces launched the largest military offensive of the Vietnam war. Though it was announced that both sides would take a two day break from the war in honor of the new year, communist forces sent waves of around 80,000 forces south of the border. The battle of Hue was fierce and savage fighting there lasted a month, during which time the communist executed thousands of residents resulting in what is now known as the Massacre of Hue. During all of this, much of the Forbidden City was destroyed by the US and it's allies. Despite all of this, and the failure to rebuild for the most part, Hue, in my book, is still one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lake Powell, Utah

 It's in the U.S, but for me is still traveling and an awesome place to go; Lake Powell. Besides Powell being the most beautiful lake I've been to, it is also the best fishing I've experienced. Certain times of the year people head to the lake to catch strippers when they are boiling. A striper boil is when a huge school of stripers are eating and messing around near the surface, creating a crazy looking frenzy that should be any fisherman's dream. On a normal day people can pull in between 40 to 50 big stripers, during a boil, more than 100.
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Besides the epic fishing, Powell has the best oportunity I've ever seen for exploring canyons. We would boat through narrow canyon after narrow canyon, just awwed by the scenery. Supposedly Lake Powell has more coast line the the whole United States. I spent six days on a 67 ft house boat in Bullfrog Bay, and I love the place. How about I just let the pictures do the talking.

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