So, you want to travel? The obvious answer for most of us is a resounding yes, with other questions like; where should I go first, what should I pack, how much money should I save, what if I run out of money? These are questions I tried to find answers for while I was dreaming of all the places I wanted to go and things I wanted to see.
Kind of hard to make a list when everywhere seems to be my destination. To answer what most people may be thinking: the answer is a big fat no. No, I didn’t save thousands of dollars to start (just a few hundred), no I don’t have a trust fund, no I didn’t plan a trip itinerary, and no I’m not begging for money on the streets. My friend and I talked about traveling for years and one day he said, “Let’s go!” So with my backpack packed, off we went to the airport for the next flight out.
I was fortunate enough to have a friend to give the initial push, that push was a plane ticket, but buying a one-way ticket was just the first step. Was I scared, worried, wondering what will happen? Of course, I’d be considered insane if I wasn’t. I just agreed to a commitment of getting on a plane with literally no plan at all! Sometimes we need that push, life might just take you exactly where you’re meant to be. With that in mind, all you need is a sense of adventure and the willingness to take that first step (even if it takes a friendly push to get you there). Believe it or not, things will fall into place. You just need to have a little faith: having a workaway account doesn’t hurt either.
For those of you who don’t know what workaway is exactly, it’s a website that allows you to find hosts all over the world. You can search by region, country, or keywords such as; farming, teaching, babysitting, and tons of other things. I know for most Americans we tend to always focus on negative things and worst case scenarios. To help and try to put it into perspective think of it this way, someone is opening their home, their life, and culture to you for help with something because they either A. can’t afford to hire someone or B. they want to share in a cultural exchange. I use it and have had some great experiences and stories worth bragging about. I worked on a sheep farm in Estonia, taught horseback riding in Romania, and taught English is Ukraine, with much more to come. When you find a host you like, you have the initial meet and greet, they show you some areas and discuss points of interest. You get to know each other and the tasks you will have. While at your new hosts’ place you “work”, and I use that term loosely, for a maximum of five hours a day five days a week in exchange for meals and accommodations seven days a week. Think of how much you just saved now that you aren’t having to pay for food and lodging every day! If you don’t feel confident enough to make such a huge leap right away, why not take a trip to the next state over (for Americans).
If you’re still worried about what you’ll do if you run out of money you’ll be surprised at how many opportunities are out there for anyone who is a native English speaker. Have a talent for singing, dancing, playing an instrument, or art? It seems rare to find a street performer or busker in some places in America, but it’s part of everyday life in some areas of the world. You’ll wander around cities and wonder why these people aren’t famous for their hard work and talent.
Can you spot spelling errors or improperly written phrases? There’s a girl who replenishes her bank account while traveling by charging for haircuts in hostels and goes around restaurants correcting the English menus so they make sense. How easy is that?!
When it comes to traveling from point A to B, if you aren’t dead set on a destination and you want to see it all—hitchhike. Before I get everyone telling me how dangerous it is and how I must feel safe because I’m a guy……bullshit. Are there times when I won’t get in a vehicle because it seems suspicious, sure, (personally it’s only happened once) but sometimes you gotta just roll the dice. Everyone that I’ve encountered while hitchhiking has been interesting. Albeit, some a bit weird but I wouldn’t say dangerous. With an open mind, you never know where the road may take you. I was once on my way to Turkey and while I was in Bulgaria I changed my mind and ended up in Ukraine (you’ll get the story later).
If I could try to convince you to travel, what would I say? I’d probably just tell you what I’ve learned and continue to learn. I’ve learned that when I was younger I was so sure of myself. I knew who I was and where I wanted to be, I had “the plan”. That’s not to say I doubt myself, but that I have a better understanding of how much I really don’t know about other cultures. It’s one thing to read about a culture from a book and another to try to fit in with the culture. You could travel and be a typical tourist have photos, souvenirs, and stories to tell your family and friends about how you partied in Germany or Mexico, but to say you were invited to a small village to meet locals still farming like they did hundreds of years ago or to a secluded beach only the locals know is a humbling experience that will stick with you. I promise you won’t find something like that on TripAdvisor. I say, to hell with the cookie cutter style of what a backpacker or traveler is supposed to be in today’s modern age of plans and itineraries.
Set a course, blaze your own trail, make friends, and come back with memories to last a lifetime. It doesn’t matter if you stumble and fall what matters is if you have the courage to keep going.