Traveling Around the World

“There’s no substitute for just going there.”~Yvon Chouinard, an American rock climber, environmentalist, and outdoor industry billionaire businessman

A little over a month ago I wrote a blog post titled, If I Could Travel Around the World,” and I’d like to continue with that particular theme on this blog post. I just ran across an interesting article titled, 365 Days: 20 Things I Learned from Traveling Around the World,” by Clayton B. Cornell, who describes himself as a travel blogger, global citizen, Cleantechie. He also blogs on his blog at SpartanTraveler.com, which he has been doing since 2011.

In a brief description on his blog, SpartanTraveler.com, he states the following: “My name is Clayton. I’ve been traveling full-time since mid-2011 while building a business on my laptop. SpartanTraveler is my personal blog of uncommon travel adventures, logbook of travel hacks, and forum for thoughts on lifestyle design and working in the 21st century. Current Location: Canary Islands. (Quote source here.)

Canary Islands . . . well, I just had to read on!!! If I have to live in a hotel room why not do it globally, right? 🙂 And he has been able to do it on the cheap,” too. Now he really has my attention!

Cornell’s article titled, If I Could Travel Around the World,” was first published on August 5, 2012, after his first trip ended. His article opens with the following statement:

Over one year ago I quit my job and decided to travel around the world. This was both a dream 10 years in the making and one of  the best decisions I’ve ever made.

In the last 12 months I learned a lot about long-term travel, what I need to be happy, and how to survive outside of the US. Many of these things can’t be learned at home or in a book, and while reading about them on the internet can only get you so far, a lot of people have asked me to explain how I’ve done it.

Well, here’s part of the answer:

“There’s no substitute for just going there.” –Yvon Chouinard

My trip hasn’t been about sightseeing (although I’ve done that) as much as just being somewhere. The simple challenges of daily routine can be overwhelming: trying to eat, drink, and sleep in a place where nothing makes sense, you don’t speak the language, and where none of the basic comforts of home are available. It’s not easy, but if you want a fast-track to personal development, get on a plane.

When I was younger my dad often said ‘the hardest part is just getting out the door.’ And that may be the most important lesson of all:  it’s too easy to get complacent at home and if you aren’t at least a little uncomfortable, you probably aren’t learning anything.

If you’ve already traveled extensively, you may get a kick out of this. If you haven’t, here are some reflections, tips, and advice about long-term travel on my one-year anniversary of life on the road…. (Quote source here.)

At this point in Cornell’s article he lists 20 things that are important to know and goes into detail on each one. I’ll just list them here with a brief description of each one (the entire article is available at this link):

#1) Most of the world’s people are friendly and decent.

Most of the people I’ve met around the world are extremely polite, friendly, and helpful. They are generally interested why I chose to visit their home. They are eager to assist if it’s obvious I’m lost or in trouble. They’ll go out of their way to try to make sure I have a good stay in their country. And, contrary to what most Americans tend to think (see #3 below), they often don’t know much about the United States (or necessarily care)….

#2) Most places are as safe (or safer) than home.

The only place I’ve been violently mugged was in my home city of San Francisco. Many of the people I know there have been robbed at gunpoint, and on more than one occasion there were shootings in my neighborhood.

In one incident just a block away from my apartment (Dolores Park), a man was shot 5 times and somehow escaped, only to collapse about 10m from our front door. You can still see the blood stains on the sidewalk.

Turns out we actually live in a pretty dangerous country.

In over 365 days on the road, staying mostly in dormitory-style hostels and traveling through several countries considered ‘high-risk,’ the only incident I had was an iPhone stolen out of my pocket on the metro in Medellin, Colombia….

#3) Most people don’t know (or care) what America is doing.

I’ve met people that didn’t even know that San Francisco (or California even) had a coastline (now there’s a sobering conversation for you. So much for thinking that’s the center of the world eh?)….

#4) You can travel long-term for the price of rent and a round of drinks back home.

Before I left home, my original budget projection was $50/day, which I would consider lavish in many parts of the world. In some places, I spent as little as $20/day (including lodging, all meals, and booze) while living in relative luxury right on the beach. Generally, I shot for $30/day which gave me a buffer of $20 for travel and miscellaneous or one-time expenses.

Countries visited on this budget: Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Easter Island (Chile), Argentina, Uruguay, Santa Cruz (California), North Shore of Oahu, Belgium, France, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey….

You might be blown away by how cheap some ‘expensive’ places can be. The second cheapest hostel I stayed in (after Guatemala–@$4/night for a room) was in Berlin, Germany, at €6/night (~$7.43 USD). Beer in Prague was as cheap or cheaper than any other country I’ve been to (it was $1.43 for 0.5L in ultra-touristy downtown Prague). You can rent a decent downtown apartment in Budapest for $200/month.

#5) Saving for a big trip is not as hard as you think.

Most people think I’m rich because I’ve been traveling for a year. What they don’t realize is that, although I didn’t leave at the time (this was 5 years ago), I was able to save enough money for this trip within a year and a half of graduating college…. I plan to write more about how to save money in the future….

#6) In most places, moving around is incredibly easy.

In most places you can get from anywhere to just about anywhere else, and most of the time it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to figure out. Generally (outside the middle of peak tourist season in popular places) I haven’t bothered with reservations or pre-planning transportation routes. I just show up at the bus or train station and go.

I’ve ridden buses for hours into the middle of the Costa Rican jungle as well as through BFE in the Northern Chilean Andes. There’s almost always a group of locals who needs to get to where you’re going too. And if there’s no bus you can always hitchhike (this only happened once or twice on my entire trip).

It’s an eye-opener to see how some of the poorest countries on earth can still provide better public transportation than San Francisco….

#7) Every pound over 20 makes life worse.

There is virtually no reason to carry more than 20lbs (~9kg) of gear unless you’re going on a major trek or you have some serious sporting event in mind (like multi-day backpacking or cold weather sports). If you’re traveling in the summer you can get by on even less….

#8) Long-term travel is not a vacation (it’s a full-time job).

Planning and logistics also take an incredible amount of time and effort. Most downtime spent in a place when not sight-seeing is typically sucked up in researching the next destination, making reservations, planning logistics, and going through the dreaded ‘time budgeting’ process where you decide what you can reasonably see in the time available (and what you have to cut out)….

#9) ‘Travelers’ and ‘Tourists’ are different.

Tourists exchange money for pre-packaged experiences. They consume experiences and move on without engaging with the local culture….

Travelers are there to see things, not buy them. Travelers tend to be more involved. They may stay with locals, hang out with locals, try to learn the language, or just plain move slowly enough to really live and be where they are….

#10) Don’t worry about traveling alone (it’s better).

Afraid to go it alone? Don’t be. Go the the first big city in your destination country and hang out in the hostel lobby for a few days. I promise you’ll make new friends. This is why you should also stay in hostels. Don’t be afraid of sharing a room. It’s a small trade-off for the amazing people you’ll meet….

#11) Movement can be addictive (and this is not necessarily a good thing).

Have a minimum stay: 3 nights in every destination. This is enough time to see the place, relax, and get sorted before the next stop. It also means you’ll have to cut out some places if you’re tight on time. While I’ve had great one-night stops before… it isn’t sustainable or desirable to do too much of this….

#12) Don’t bank on paradise.

Keep your expectations in check… (he goes into detail about this). 

#13) Traveling doesn’t get ‘traveling’ out of your system.

If you’ve got this bug it’s not going away (sorry), but the obvious question is: why are we trying to get traveling out of our system, anyway?…

#14) Eventually, you will need something real to do.

Despite popular belief, most people can’t just sit around doing nothing for an extended period of time. Especially Type-A American folks who I’ve been told are ‘goal-oriented’ and always trying to ‘get things done.’ It might be a cultural thing, but it’s more likely just human nature to want to be involved in something larger than yourself….

#15) Long-term happiness is a pretty complicated emergent property that has little to do with money.

A lot of people defer things they might otherwise pursue for the big payout dream. The ‘if I only win the lottery’ or ‘when I sell my company for $10 million’ routine. The problem with the fantasy, besides the obvious deferral of really having to come to terms with what you want to do in life, is that while a big payout would certainly increase the options available to you, but that is not necessarily a good thing….

Think $10 million in the bank is going to make you happy? Well, good luck with that….

#16) When you challenge a person’s assumptions it can really piss them off.

Read what Cornell has to say on this item. It’s hard to find a short quote from it to include here.

#17) Travel slowly: Save money, avoid burnout, do more.

The most expensive part of traveling for me has typically been moving from point A to point B. Traveling like a maniac can be a lot of fun, but you’ll save money and get to really know places if you take your time.

#18) You can’t work and travel at the same time.

Okay, you sort of can, you just won’t ever get nearly as much done as you want to…. (read more at his article).

#19) When everything gets irritating, it might be time to head home.

That pretty much sums it up….

#20) Long-term traveling can teach you more than almost anything else.

About yourself, about life, about what you need to be happy. It also really highlights just how different home is from everywhere else, especially when you start to get a large sample size to compare it to.

For some, this can mean going home with a heightened perspective. For others, it may mean never going home. For everyone though, long-term travel will change your life. (Quote source here.)

Now that I’ve read through his list, I feel better prepared regarding what to expect, and I was happy to read that rent in other countries is often much cheaper then right here in America. I think I’ll be taking a closer look at his website, SpartanTraveler.com. And if wanderlust has struck you, too, you might want to check it out.

I’ll end this post with a reminder from Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) when it comes to making our plans…

We can make our plans . . .

But the Lord . . .

Determines our steps . . . .

YouTube Video: “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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