It’s natural to be curious about things you’re not acquainted with in life. I’ve often wondered, “What is it like to be a billionaire?” “What’s it like having seven children?” “I’m curious to know how life is for the most famous celebrities.” Traveling is a bit of a different ballgame, however, because it’s much more attainable than a billion dollars or world fame. It takes a relatively small monetary investment and you’re doing it! Still, it makes sense to have people questioning travel and I’m sure other travelers can relate to this typical line of questioning:
1. Why (insert any country or destination here)? “Why not? Why stay here?” All joking aside, when I studied abroad in Costa Rica I was asked this. When I taught English in China (my third time there) I was asked this. When I traveled to Honduras, Mexico, Thailand, and Australia I was asked this. I think there’s a misconception that there is always some primary motive for visiting a certain place. Sometimes we come up with reasons: “Costa Rica was cheaper than Spain,” “I was offered a teaching job in China. Plus, the Great Wall?! The Forbidden City?! The culture, history, and food,” “My partner/friend/family member is from (insert place here),” etc. But I think that most travelers would agree that, more often than not, there isn’t really any specific objective for visiting a certain place – we just want to go. When I chose Honduras, it was when I closed my eyes and put my finger on a map. No kidding. And it proved to be one of the most rewarding travel experiences to date. Flight prices help narrow my options sometimes, along with thinking, “Where should I visit while I’m nearby?” If you’re thinking of embarking on a journey and feel pressured by this question – don’t. Just go. In the end, there is no real single reason for travel. You will find a million when you get there.
2. How can you afford to travel? This is a great question. I think there is this idea that travel is difficult because, “Where do you find the money?” I’m not rich. I don’t have a trust fund. To put it simply, I work and I save. It really is that straightforward. I sold my car, got rid of furniture, and donated lots of clothes and random objects. It was hard. But as you might have found from a post on my other blog, freeing yourself from possessions is actually quite wonderful. At the end of the day, you’ll need to implement three principles to afford travel: 1 – SAVE. Stock some cash up. You don’t even need that much. I’ve met people who came to Australia with less than a thousand USD to their name. One guy only had $300. I wouldn’t recommend it, but you can always make it work. I would suggest saving $3 – 8,000 depending on your destination. (You can get away with saving much less when traveling Southeast Asia, for example.) 2 – DOWNSIZE. Get rid of shit. You don’t need everything you own. It also helps you feel less tied down when leaving. Bonus points if you can sell things and contribute to your savings! 3 – BUDGET. Set yourself a strict budget. Figure out how much you’ll expend daily on food, accommodation, and getting around. Then, factor in the big costs (A.K.A. adventures)! After you have your budget, you can figure out if and when you’ll need to work and save again.
3. What are you running from / What are you trying to find? I will never understand why some people assume that, because you travel, you are running to or from something. Traveling isn’t running away. It’s seeing new things and experiencing life in a different fashion. Must we be fleeing “real life” working for a corporation to experience an African safari? Must there be some rare enlightenment we are seeking when sipping a watery beer on a beachside hammock? Travel has never been so accessible as it is now – why shouldn’t we take advantage of that and explore our world while we’re here? People will develop negative insinuations about what they don’t understand or feel incapable of doing. “They’re just jealous” is a gross oversimplification. I will chalk this question up to, “They just don’t understand, and they don’t want to.” End of story. Don’t waste your breath on people who take your adventurous spirit for truancy. There are plenty of supporters out there who will welcome your voyaging lust as a breath of fresh air.
4. Are you scared to travel alone? If you haven’t yet noticed, I am a female human. With this in mind, people think that – and I quote – I am “crazy” for traveling solo. The world is such a big, hairy, scary place! What if I get abducted or raped or used as a drug mule? The United States in particular does a great job of portraying international travel as dangerous, when in fact it is much more likely to be subjected to crime there than in most other countries! Without boring you with a bunch of lame statistics, I’ll just cut to the chase: Traveling alone is not that dangerous, daunting, or scary – even if you’re equipped with a vagina. If anything it’s liberating, fun, and at times admittedly confusing and frustrating. I’ve actually felt much safer in most countries I’ve visited outside of the U.S. The best thing about traveling alone is this classic example: “I’ve finally saved up enough money to hit up South America for our big backpacking adventure, Best Friend!! Let’s do this!” “Eh, nah. I don’t want to anymore. I can’t quit my job, I have a cat now, (insert any other manner of excuses here.)” You don’t need anyone to jet off to foreign lands. Don’t throw your plans away because of someone being a wet tomato, staying in the garden. GO! The backpacking and traveling world is extremely welcoming for the solo traveler. I’ve made more friends and connections than I ever would have if I were with someone. I mean, now I’m traveling with my partner (who I met while traveling) but who knows if we ever would have become so close if either of us had been traveling with others? Having the freedom to wake up when you want, do tours as you please, take random walks without any stick-in-the-mud making decisions difficult is quite lovely. Going it alone is nothing short of amazing. I highly encourage it.
5. Which is your favorite country? Ooooooh… I’m sorry, I actually can’t answer this one. The only thing I’ve been able to come up with over the years to answer this question is, “There are things I like and dislike about everywhere I’ve been.” As frustrating as that answer is, I can’t pick a favorite because it’s like comparing a goat to a pickle. I like both, but they’re not even in the same category. And while you might argue that destinations fall into the same category, I must disagree. I can’t possibly compare Shanghai to Puerto Vallarta, or San Francisco to Bangkok. They’re too incredibly different. While some people may have found a way to put places side by side, I refuse to attempt it. Instead, I will bask in the good experiences and glean from the lessons of every single place I visit. In doing this, I appreciate every part of this world in its own way – and that’s the way I like it.