Traveling, and Why You Should (or couldn’t) Go.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine


So what kind of traveler are you?

There are two types of travelers in this world. One that is the rolling case variety, the other is the backpack variety. The rolling case variety is a group of people that want convenience, and they are willing to pay for it to get it. These are the kind of travelers that want to relax while they are on vacation, not struggle.

Beach resorts, cruises, and organized tours are the types of things rolling case people do and look for in a travel package. None of the hard stuff like finding a hotel at 3am, eating questionable food, or having to ‘find’ transportation to the next destination. Nope. Not this crowd. This is what luxury travel is all about.

Then there’s the backpack variety of traveler. These travelers look for (and easily find), struggle in their travels. They tend to go further, for longer periods, and with little (if any) comfort. They are on a budget because they (may have) quit their jobs, and/or are living off of their life savings, or they just live to travel (and travel to live).

These are the travelers that you see in the dirty lowdown hostels, guesthouses, and decrepit hotels all over the known world. They are also the types that find themselves covering great distances, and are not afraid to travel along with the locals, eating and drinking along side them, no matter the conditions.

Some of the rolling case types really are the backpack type, but have no choice but to be the rolling case tourist. For example, like being forced to take short vacations (which I will go into detail about this later) and becoming the rolling case type by default. Being a backpack type tourist requires not only money, but more importantly time. Time is usually what the rolling case tourist doesn’t have.

Now, are either a bad variety of traveler? I’d say both have their pluses and minuses. Both are good at an economical standpoint. They both help to boost the economies of countries, especially countries that depend on tourism as part of their GDP.  However, both are bad environmentally speaking, due to CO2 emissions, habitat destruction for hotels, roads, and other structures made for tourists.

Because of this, it is imperative to read about your impacts as a tourist and are sure to choose the best ways to get around, and to choose reputable tourist companies if possible. Tourists do have the ability to benefit people and the environment…such as providing a reason to preserve animal habitats for observation and bridging the gaps between cultures and beliefs. It’s really up to tourists to educate themselves before heading abroad…

So, as the title to this section of the blog suggests, what kind of traveler are you? Where do you fall into these two categories? What’s wrong with comfort for a couple weeks? Or what’s wrong with hiking for miles on end? After all, what is in fact, a ‘vacation’? That’s the real question here. What kind of vacation do you want to be on? Because in the end, we all must decide what we seek out mostly in our leisure time…relaxation versus adventure. It is possible for either to be interchangeable and it’s not wrong either way.

It is important to understand that as a tourist, no matter what, you make an impact on the world, it’s environment and it’s inhabitants.


 You work way too much (especially as an American).

Yes, that’s right. Americans work way too hard at their jobs and now more than ever, even though the economy is getting better, they are seeing more hours and less pay than ever before. There is now the biggest gap between rich and poor than even the early 1900’s in America. Sure you might have a job, but you are also being worked way too hard for less pay.

Thanks to this, we are seeing less of a middle class, with both men and women working to raise a family. Now, who’s to say that these people don’t get vacation time? They sometimes do, they just don’t take them. Most Americans don’t take their vacations when they do get time off. Most people stay at home, because they feel like they still have to work or because they are staying with their families, or because they need the vacation time to turn into money (as some companies offer) instead.

If one person has two weeks of vacation and they are exhausted from working 50 hours a week for weeks on end, then yes, a relaxing vacation is what they need. In fact, that sounds like an American vacation. And if you’re a typical American, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Most Americans get 2 weeks on average (if they’re lucky) per year. Most other people in the world I tell this to (who don’t know) have their jaws drop to the floor upon hearing this.

I’ve heard some Europeans getting at least 4 to 6 weeks a year off. England has the most statutory paid days off compared to most countries, with 28 days off. Did I mention, paid?

Is this a shame? As an American traveler, I’d say most definitely yes. But this is where the rolling case/backpack scenario comes back in. If you are handed 2 weeks of vacation, and you have tons of bills to pay (because you have all these neat gadgets that have bills attached to them) and you feel like 2 weeks isn’t enough time to immerse yourself in a cultural experience (you would be right about this one), then why travel with a backpack?

In other words, if you can’t go far, and you can’t spend the money, then why take the risk of traveling in the first place? If you are agreeing to any of these things, then you are most likely the person that has always said I would love to travel, but I just never could. If you did say this, then you are among thousands of others around the United States that did not take the risk or make the sacrifices necessary to travel.

This is why there are two types of travelers. One that takes risks or ones that refuse to take risks and/or make sacrifices.


 Why travel at all?

What exactly inspires someone to travel? Believe it or not, I personally get asked this question often, and I often ask it of myself. Traveling is what you make of it. It’s an activity on a long list of priorities in your life. Most people I know don’t travel, or if they do, it’s within the confines of their home state. So what inspires me to travel? The world around us is rich and diverse, and as a (so-called) free citizen, I have the ability to see most of it. It’s a right that I like to exercise.

Traveling is not about finding the best beach to party at (although some people would disagree) but rather a way to enrich your life and to expand your perspectives of the world around you. For me, it has made me a better person, and has helped me to understand my existence on earth and how ultimately fleeting it is.

I’ll be the first to admit, I am NOT an expert in traveling the world. I simply happened to have traveled in the past and I love sharing the info with you. (You can take whatever advice I have or leave it.) I am a near middle aged, Anglo-American male, that has no kids, no home (mortgage), no credit card debt, no school loans, no car (payments), and no health problems (yet). Not to mention, I have a very good travel companion to share in the expenses and experiences I have.

Do you happen to fit into a category of someone with no loose ends, no huge responsibilities, or no massive debt? Most likely you may have fallen into the category of what your parents and your teachers have been trying to get you to be for years, which is a responsible, hard-working, productive adult in modern society.

In other words, someone who has the house, the car, the college education, and the (possible) debt and responsibilities that goes along with all of that. My point is, traveling for you is a serious luxury (rolling case type), and if you do go on a trip, it’s as long as the business that you work for allows you to go on.

After having said that, if you are young and fresh out of high school or college, by all means, travel! It may be your only time to get out and see the world before you get tied down to a good job, family, and home mortgage. If you do have some (or even all) of the things mentioned, it’s not too late for you necessarily. It will just take some careful planning on your part to make it happen.


 Here are two questions people ask me the most about traveling…

Are you rich (or when did you hit the lottery)?

Nope, I’m not rich. No way. In fact, I’d say that I’m the exact opposite of rich. Money is the number one reason why people think it’s impossible for them to travel, besides not having the time to travel.

My girlfriend and I traveled around the world for 4 months, through 8 countries for roughly $4000 each. That’s including airfare, accommodations, food, museum tickets, etc.

Doing the math, that’s roughly $33 per day. Lots of people could spend $33 on a single meal a day for that much in the United States. It’s really all about your priorities and sacrifice. Staying in cheap places, eating cheap food, and drinking cheap beer will help your travels last longer on less money.

Can you save money? If you said yes, then you can travel the world. Once again, sacrifices in expenses can go a long way. Say if you do something like drink a latte everyday for $4.00 ($3.00 +tip?), that’s $28 a week, or $112 a month! Now, imagine if you brewed your own coffee and brought it with you to work instead? It would cost you way less per day, and yes, it would be a sacrifice from that yummy latte at the corner coffee shop.

What I’m saying is, if you’re willing to give up the luxury of having it everyday (you don’t have to give it up completely) then you will save money. Same goes for anything else you buy. If things break around your house, do you throw it away, or do you try to fix it?

For example, I buy almost all of my clothing second hand. I figure that I’m benefiting from people that don’t buy second hand that pay top dollar for their wardrobe (thanks big spenders!). I still end up wearing all the name brands and I get more variety when I shop. Because it’s all in the same place and not multiple department stores, this is also great environmentally speaking.

How do you find time to travel?

This is actually a little trickier than money, and for good reason. Most of us go straight out of high school into college or find themselves straight into their career, in which they cannot leave. This is a common way of doing things. Is it wrong? I would have to say yes, because of two main reasons.

One, is regret. My friends and family regret not traveling, especially when they are young. And regretting the things you have done, versus what you haven’t done are not one in the same. It’s worse to not do something, than to do it.

Second, is the betterment of society. I firmly believe that society (especially Americans) would benefit from travel. Why? Because travel helps to break down culture gaps, and for most of us to better appreciate its diversity and have a richer understanding of the world around us. Every person I know that has traveled has an overall better understanding of the world (for better or for worse) and the people that live in it, as a direct result of travel.


 So, should I travel or not?

Now, would you say that I’m one of the lucky ones? Absolutely! I enjoy traveling and photography very much and since I do consider myself lucky, I’m going to travel as much as possible and take advantage of it while I can and while I’m physically capable of doing it. But this did not come without some sacrifices along the way. For example, I chose not to buy a latte everyday (like I mentioned earlier), or buying the most expensive beer, owning a vehicle, or even having children.

In other words, I’m going to go do the things I want to do without putting myself in the red, and before I’m too old (or dead) to appreciate them. For some, giving up that latte, car, or child is completely out of the question.

Life is full of choices. If seeing the world is high on your list, then go travel. If it isn’t, don’t. It’s as simple as that. I personally chose to make it easier on myself and not have the laundry list of responsibilities that would make it hard to go exploring.

Ask yourself this, could you hold off buying that fancy car, that fancy house, or raising that family, all so you can go see this amazing world we live in before you die? And alongside traveling, expanding your mind at the same time?

With modern technology, travel is now easier than ever before, and it’s going to only get easier as technology progresses. (However, the world will be less diverse due to globalization.)

Since it is easier to travel now than say when Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the globe, (he would have traded a left testicle to have what we have to get where he was going), why not take advantage of it? If I say that I circumnavigated the globe (which I have once), it’s not really a huge deal these days comparatively. But, if you say you did that in the 14th or 15th Century, well then you’d be in the history books. In other words, travel now while it’s easy…we all want comfort and convenience, so why not do it now while you can?

What if you never ever traveled before in your life? And you always wanted to go, but just never did it. Well, it’s not too late. The world is huge and scary and also full of mystery, adventure, relaxation or anything you want it to have.

The real question is this. What kind of person are you? Never ever forget, that you only have this one life to live. So why not go out and enjoy what we all are born to do in this world. And that is to live. Which leads to the next question…


 Is it dangerous to travel?

Yes, the world can be a large and very dangerous place…and believe me, it’s completely normal to be nervous leaving your comfort zone. One of the most dangerous places in the world is in fact, the United States of America. You are way more likely to get shot or mugged in the US than you would in the dark alleys of Myanmar for example. However, it’s a different story if you’re traveling through the heart of Libya or parts of Honduras (not impossible, just risky).

There are also the threats of terrorism in all parts of the world. But, let us not forget that we should never give in to fear, for fear in itself could destroy our well-being, not the actual acts of violence in itself. In other words, don’t let fear destroy your passions for travel, or fear will have won the battle before the battle even begins.

The main point here is that there are risks you take in your own backyard, let alone the outside world. So, if there are risks in your daily life and surroundings, why not take a risk in a place that has the same risks or even less of a risk?

If you keep your wits about you, and learn to pay attention to your surroundings, then you’ll be just fine. A great book to check out is Robert Young Pelton’s The World’s Most Dangerous Places if you are feeling extra adventurous and risk taking. Not for the faint of heart.

If you do manage to get out of your comfort zone, there are travel insurance policies out there that will help ease your mind. One that I recommend, and one that Lonely Planet does as well, is World Nomads Insurance. They offer really good packages that you can update while you are on your trip. Say if you wanted to extend your trip, you can just send them a few more dollars to cover the amount of time you plan to be gone. We had to do this on a couple of our trips and it was nice knowing we were covered just in case.

No matter how far away you are or for however long, it’s always a good idea to be insured if things do go awry. Life happens, so do as they say, and be prepared!


 Where to now?

Okay, so you do really want to travel…so where to go? If you are from the United States you may feel that you are limited to only going to Mexico, Canada, Central America, or possibly even the ever so popular, Europe. But there are plenty of other places to go that may not cost as much as you would think. Yes, the airfare is more, but there are tricks to this and if you’re willing to set aside the time to go places, some of the cheaper places are further away and most certainly worth getting to.

For example, Southeast Asia. I personally enjoy South Asia immensely, not only for its cultures and natural beauty, but also because it was cheap! It is a bit far away (other side of the world from New York City) but once you’re there, you can travel for very little per day. In fact, about $15 per day or even less in some places.

There is a plethora of places to visit in the world (obviously) and the northern hemisphere should not be the only place you decide to go to. Even though I have traveled more than most people I know, there are still tons of places I would love to go to, and tons that I don’t even know about! My point is, do some research, look at places outside of the ‘comfort zone’ and start packing!

Here is a list of countries I have visited (so far) and have a little insight on…

Europe – Spain, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, England, and Iceland.

Central America – Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize.

Southeast Asia – Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Malaysian Borneo, and Indonesia.

Asia – India and Japan

Africa – Morocco

North America – United States (26 states), Canada (British Columbia), and Mexico (Chiapas and Yucatan).


 Okay, you got me…I’ll travel, but what now?

This is where this blog may come in handy for you. I am happy to share my stories and experiences with anyone that has the time to read my blog. So, a little about the blog itself. I was told that I should start one, so I took up the task and viola! Here it is. I wanted a blog that would help people figure out the who, what, when, where, and how’s of travel.

As you read my blog, you will notice a word that is underlined such as the following….Lonely Planet. These will have links to other sites giving you additional information that I myself did not provide in detail. Also, any maps that you see in the blog are clickable and will show you where in the world the blog is about.

Some images, especially the ones that I mention that are shot by my Rolleiflex TLR or 3D Sputnik cameras, will lead you back to my website for your enjoyment. Any other info will be provided in the blog posts themselves. Also, look for attached links to hotels, museums, ancient sites, etc. that may have attachments on their respective photographs as well.

I want to take this opportunity to thank those that get a chance to read this blog and I hope it helps to inspire you to go see this wonderful world that you live in. Life is short, so get going before it’s too late! I am happy to share any info I can and to help you on your way! Happy and safe travels!


 

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

2 Comments

  1. Diane Masi
    February 22

    Most people only just dream about what you are doing… But you are doing it. Made up Your mind early in Your life to start out with that thought, and sticking with it to see it through for as long as you can. Good for U !
    Keep it up as long as you can, so if nothing else, we can see it through your eyes; what we are missing. You were always a cool kid.

    • March 2

      Thanks Diane! I hope to do more travels in the future, but as easy as I make it sound it’s not always possible all the time! Wish it was though…thanks for reading!

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