Travel 101: Seeing the World on a Budget

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Stephen F. Dennstedt

A lot of people would like to travel around the world like I do but think they can’t. That’s a shame because it’s really not that hard. I’m a full-time photographer, writer and world traveller (365-days a year) and I travel on the cheap. Perceived obstacles to world travel are typically mental constructs masking an underlying fear. The fear of the unknown. I get that—but stepping out of your comfort zone is liberating.

Whether you travel with a companion or solo world travel is exhilarating. And like I said in the paragraph above liberating. Liberating in the sense that you are opening your mind up to new experiences: sights, sounds and cultures. Once your mind escapes Pandora’s Box it will never willingly confine itself again. That’s the biggest reason people should travel and the younger the better. Start young to develop a global worldview of life.

What does it take to travel like that? The only ingredient is determination. Decide to do it and then do it. That sounds really simple doesn’t it? It is but the paradox is that the simple things in life are often the hardest. The first obstacle people usually throw up is: money. My adventure began six years ago (at age 64) when I was broke—long story and I’ve written about it many times on this blog. Trekking through Cuba, Mexico and Central America my average travel expense per month was $475 USD (lodging, food and transportation). South America was more expensive at $675 to $925 USD. What does it cost you to live at home for a month?

I’m not going to go into all the details (again) on this post, this is more of a motivational post to get you off your ass. Suffice it to say live and travel like the locals: hostels and cheap local hotels, street food and local cafés, local transportation (buses, tuk-tuks, taxis, bicycles and your own two feet). I carry everything with me: personal gear in a soft backpack and photography gear in hard Pelican case (just one). The Pelican will actually be a new addition because I’ve damaged some photo gear during my travels. Most world travellers don’t have the photo gear I have so their task is that much easier.

If you’re new to the idea of world travel start slow. First go to another country. If you book an all-inclusive resort type trip at least leave the hotel to see the local sights and meet the people. All-inclusive resorts don’t want you to do that because they want you to eat at their restaurants, drink at their bars and buy gifts at their stores. They want all of your money. Break convention and head to town to get a more authentic experience. As your confidence and travel skills grow book trips into hostels and local hotels. Start using local transportation and practice your language skills: please, thank you, bathroom, excuse me and beer.

Seek out and learn from fellow travellers: anyone travelling with just a backpack is a potential teacher. As you acquire knowledge and experience your confidence will automatically increase. If you can’t travel full-time like me at least maximize what time you have available—visit new places, meet new people and experience new things. Before you know it you’ll be a veteran. I started full-time at 64 and I will be 70 in May so age is no barrier. Just do what you can do within any physical limitations you might have. I can’t do now what I could do at 25 but I can still do a lot: I’ve been to Cuba, the Amazon, the Galapagos Islands, the jungles of Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua—and so much more.

Years ago Nike summed up the needed attitude in one simple phrase: JUST DO IT. Determination—decide to do it and then just do it. No excuses. Simple but not always easy. I am now location-independent which is an euphemism for being technically homeless (but the world is now my home and every person I meet a potential friend). I am also a slo-traveller—visiting fewer places for longer periods of time, seeing less but experiencing more. I will now spend weeks and even months in a single place to fully experience that place and its people. My Zen-like mantra is to: Live Simple, Live Cheap and to Live Free. It’s not a bad way to live life. Happy travels my friends.

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