Wanna Travel but Don’t Know How to Start?

Monterrico, Guatemala

Monterrico, Guatemala

You’ve read this blog for maybe four or five years, and now you wanna travel but don’t know how to start. Compared to the rest of the world Americans don’t travel much, and when they do it’s usually domestically in the United States. International travel will broaden your perspective, enrich your life, and charge you with renewed optimism and faith in mankind. United States media propaganda is rife with horror stories about international travel, but after almost five years I can tell you most of it is bunk.

The world is full of terrorists looking to kill me

I don’t speak the language

The food will make me sick

Crime against tourists is everywhere

I will get hurt

I will die 

Does any of that sound familiar? Terrorism, though well publicized, is statistically rare. Everywhere you travel, especially tourist destinations, you will find English speakers (and Google translate is your friend when travelling abroad). In five years I’ve NEVER gotten sick eating street food (fancy restaurants yes, street food no). In five years I’ve never been a victim of street crime (and I’ve been in some pretty sketchy places). I have been hurt (and almost died once), totally my fault, and received excellent medical care.

Samara, Costa Rica

Samara, Costa Rica

You’ve never travelled abroad before and want to give it a try. You can jump in with both feet, or you can ease into it (your choice). I’ve eased into it and now consider myself a rather seasoned (independent) traveller. I find that travellers can be grouped into three distinct categories, and of course there are variations on the different themes. There is the All-inclusive Traveller, The Eco-Adventure Traveller, and the Independent Traveller:

  1. The All-inclusive Traveller. This is the most expensive form of travel, and the most limiting (experience wise). You’ve been working 10, 12, or even 14 hours a day all year. You’re tired, you’re burned out, and you’re fed up. You want to be pampered, spoiled, and taken care of. Days on the beach, tropical drinks, good food, and no effort. You want to go to one place, stay there, and vegetate. Don’t feel guilty, you’ve earned it. Go to a reputable travel agent and let them arrange EVERYTHING.
  2. The Eco-Adventure Traveller. You’re bored with the all-inclusive vacation, and want to try something a little more exciting. A unique destination. Some physical activity like Zip-lining, river rafting, horseback riding, cycling, or hiking. You don’t want to stay in one place, you want to visit multiple locations and see and do stuff. You want to meet the locals, try the local food & drink, and combine physical activity with cultural immersion. If you feel like you need help planning such an adventure, checkout Overseas Adventure Travel for some ideas.
  3. The Independent Traveller. This is the least expensive form of travel, and possibly the most rewarding. Americans have a predilection for planning—they want to plan every single minute of their travel itinerary. They want to squeeze every ounce of experience from their vacation time. See everything, do everything, run-run-run. It’s exhausting. This is a natural inclination, but maybe you should consider Slō-travel: visiting fewer places for longer periods of time, seeing less but experiencing more.

I’ve evolved, over the years, to the point of Independent Slō-travel. I travel very light (one small rucksack and duffel) and cheap. How cheap is cheap? I often spend as little as $10 to $15 usd per day ($300 to $450 usd per month). This includes lodging, food & drink, and transportation (except airfare to and from). Can’t be done you say! Oh contraire I respond. I’ve done this successfully for almost five years. What’s your secret? Live like the locals. If you live like the locals you can live simple, live cheap, and live free.

Stay in hostels and local hotels ($5 to $10 usd per night)

Eat local food (free breakfast at the hostel & $3 to $5 usd for lunch/dinner)

Walk  or cycle everywhere (free)

Use local transportation (buses, taxis & tuk-tuks usually $1 to $3 usd)

Street food is good and cheap (it won’t kill you)

Drink bottled water (tap water can make you sick)

It’s as easy as 1-2-3 to travel internationally. Start with an All-inclusive vacation somewhere different (get out of the United States). Graduate to an Eco-Adventure when you’re ready (more experience with less cost). Finally, make the leap to Independent Slō-travel and experience the real world around you. Do you think you might be too old? I left the United States (and its materialistic consumerism) when I was sixty-four, and in two days I will turn sixty-nine. Everything I own I carry on my back, and I’ve done it for five years. No excuses, the world awaits—JUST DO IT!

Northern Amazon River Basin - Cuyabeno, Ecuador

Northern Amazon River Basin – Cuyabeno, Ecuador

If you haven’t already subscribed to this blog now is the time (righthand toolbar). I write about my photography, my freelance writing, my travels, and my lifestyle (and periodic rants on various topics of interest). I invite you to visit my website Indochine Photography at www.IndochinePhotography.me and to subscribe to my free monthly e-Newsletter. Follow my adventures as I travel the globe and, who knows, you might catch the travel bug. It’s addictive, rewarding, and never too late.

Antigua Steve WEB

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Photographer, Writer, World Traveller

Puno (Lake Titicaca) Peru


3 responses to “Wanna Travel but Don’t Know How to Start?

  1. Dear Mr. Dennstedt,

    Great article! As usual. Fyi, last year I went to Europe and I didn’t use any travel agencies. My wife and I spent around 3,000 USD for 13 days (excluding plane ticket to and from Europe). I stayed mostly in hotels (Italy, Switzerland, Czech). But I also stayed in hostels (in Slovenia and Hungary), and I stayed 3 days in my sister’s apartment (Slovakia). I used my sister’s car for transport, so I didn’t spend money for car rent. I just paid for gas. We ate street food and gourmet food in restaurants. The point is our travel was a bit of a mixture.

    I wanted to save money but I also wanted to be comfortable. It ended up to be way from cheap (based on your definition) but we could set our own pace, we didn’t have to follow a tight schedule set by a travel agency and we can choose to go to unfamiliar places using public transportations. I think I’m in the second step (The Eco-Adventure Traveller). I know I could travel much more frequently using the same amount of money if I graduate to the 3rd step (the independent traveller) but I’m not sure if I want to. At least not in the near future.

    Anyways, I know why you didn’t get mugged, hurt or even killed. It’s because you’ve lived long enough (I don’t want to say that you’re old. It would be rude. Oops I just did, didn’t I? Hahaha… Sorry). Jokes aside, I think how you look will also reduce the chances to be mugged. Don’t wear expensive clothes, watches or other accessories.

    Looking forward to your next article. 🙂

    • Thank you Azwar. Travelling is different for everyone isn’t it? I’m gratified to hear that you and your wife have made it a point to visit other countries. I think it’s important to develop a world perspective. There is no right or wrong way to travel, it’s just important to do it. I will be crossing into Bolivia later today, after spending six GREAT months in Peru. Looking forward to my new adventure. I will probably take the opportunity to go into the Amazon again, I really enjoyed my last expedition there when I was in Cuyabeno, Ecuador. Unfortunately, Northrup Photography has discontinued their blog format, so I won’t be contributing any more articles to their site, but I will continue with this blog. Take care and enjoy life my friend. Steve

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