Many people dream of grand adventures around the world. Whether it be a trip to visit every continent, a backpacking trip through South America, or a swim in every ocean in the world, it is easy to imagine of a carefree life of travel. Many of us let these dreams die, dismissing them simply as idle thoughts. However, this kind of trip is possible, and isn't as expensive as you think! Pretty soon you could be drinking tea in a rural village in Nepal, or exploring centuries old stone castles in the French Alps! In this article I hope to convince you to change the way you think about traveling and free your mind to dream big and get on the road without breaking the bank!
Most people believe that the biggest obstacle to taking an adventure like this is money. Particularly when the economy gets bad, people hold on to the belief that they do not have enough money to travel the world. If you can label that particular myth as a false one, you have taken a big step towards your travels (with/or without money)! The biggest thing that stops people from changing their lives and taking a few months to travel the world is that they don't really want to. It can be scary to leave your life of routine to travel the world, where your surroundings are constantly changing and you are in new situations. The majority of people in the United States (and around the world) never leave their home country! We tell ourselves stories about how there will be so many expensive costs involved in such a trip and that we can’t afford it. Taking a few months to pursue your travel dream is only for the rich and lucky, we say.
The Myth of the “Package Deal”
This is only reinforced by seeing vacation "deals" for a few nights in Paris that cost $500 or $1000 dollars. We then start to think, "if a week in Paris costs $1000 dollars, then how can I possible spend three months traveling Europe? Won't that cost tens of thousands of dollars?" Nope! The mainstream travel industry relies on you not doing your research and preferring everything to be sorted out ahead of time. Buck the trend. With a little effort on your part you can travel in Europe (the most expensive region of the world!) on around $20 a day. That $1000 week in Paris just turned into a seven week backpacking tour! If you venture out of Europe into places like South America or Southeast Asia, you can probably get by on $5 a day, and certainly on $10! Now you are talking about several months of travel (with careful planning, of course!) Unlearn what you think you know about the expenses of travel and the world will be your oyster!
Traveling cheaply not only allows save money and travel longer, but pushes you into new ways of transportation, lodging and eating that will result in a more authentic local experience. In short, you will start experiencing a foreign culture as a local, as opposed to as a tourist. The night you can’t afford a hotel and end up being taken in by a local family or miss your bus and hitchhike across the Alps will inevitably end up being the story you tell your friends most often. Tourists who can afford to jet into a country, see the “Top Ten Must See” spots, stay in a Hilton or Marriott that is exactly the same as the one in their own city, and come back home with the same stories as everyone else. The joy of travel is in the gritty details of life in a new place. It is in the kindness of strangers and the unexpected resourcefulness you will find in yourself. Learn to CouchSurf and you will always have friends! Traveling without much money allows us to discover what makes us happy, who we are, and how much we don’t know about the world around us.
There are many ways to cut down your expenses, which I have started to write about in 5 Musts for Cheap World Travel: See the World for Free (Almost!), but the major challenge is simply overcoming years of being told that travel is for the rich and lucky. Travel is for anyone who wants it and unlearns what they are told about expensive travel. If you are able to believe travel is possible, you will quickly find yourself in an adventure of a lifetime. Go get packed for your travels and head out into the world!
This is a topic which I am likely to write a lot more about, something that I get excited by and I hope to help other people discover. I would love to hear your experiences, tips, and feedback!