“The world is a book; those who do not travel read only a page.”
There is a moment in every travel-addict’s life when you just know that you’re never going to lead a normal life.
For me, that moment came in the summer of 2008. With the US election season in full swing, and gas prices at a record high, I quit my mundane, routine, existence and embarked on what was to be the first of many journeys across Planet Earth.
My parents had gone away for two weeks, and there was a perfectly functional Honda Accord sitting in our driveway in the New York suburb where I had spent 99.99% of my life. I call this my quarter life crisis because as soon as they left for the airport, I impulsively got into the Honda and didn’t stop driving until I reached Texas. Over the next two weeks, I covered a distance of over 3,000 miles (almost 5,000 km). I did this without a smart phone or a laptop. I only had a deteriorating map to guide me. I might add that I had lifted this map from a Super 8 motel in some remote part of Virginia, and it only had the US interstate system and Super 8 motels as landmarks. I saw parts of the country that I had only heard about in history books. From Jamestown, Virginia (the first British settlement in North America), to post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, to Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion in rural Tennessee, to the sites of the Oklahoma City bombing and the JFK assassination, I wondered why this trip wasn’t a national requirement.
Two years later, I flew to California, rented the cheapest car I could find, and drove Route 66 to Albuquerque, up to Colorado, and back to San Francisco via Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and Lake Tahoe (over 5,000 miles/8,000 km). One of the highlights of this trip was sleeping in my rented Ford Fiesta at the foot of the Grand Canyon and waking up at 4 AM to see every single constellation winking down at me through the windshield. Watching the sunrise from the edge of the North Rim while sipping an espresso with some fellow travelers was an added bonus. There are a lot of beautiful areas in the American southwest but the Grand Canyon is in a class by itself and should be on everyone’s bucket list.
By the time I graduated from NYU (way behind schedule due to changing my major a record six times), it was 2011, the global economy was in free fall, and no one was hiring recent graduates. But unlike my more disciplined classmates, I had driven in 35 states, and ventured through 7 countries, did a study abroad stint at the United Nations in Geneva, and was on my way to London to obtain my Masters degree.
While living in London, I soon discovered the joys of hostels and EasyJet. A week before exams, I flew to the French Riviera and stayed in Nice for 4 nights, all for under $200 USD. The cheap bus system (1 euro to Cannes!) allowed me to make daily excursions to the more expensive areas. One day, I was craving pizza, so I hopped on a train to Italy for lunch. Studying for exams didn’t exactly materialize the way I thought it would but I had a blast and met some fascinating people. One of my travel buddies from this trip later found a job on a yacht and is now sailing through the Caribbean.
Two years and 13 countries later, I was ready to move on (or rather, the UK Border Agency was ready for me to move on). My student visa was expiring and the British job market was even worse than the American one. The combined total of my British savings and checking accounts contained £0.98. Europe was an even worse option in terms of finding work and going back to America was a big investment with low return (how boring would that be after Santorini?)
So I moved east…to Asia.
At the time of this post, I have been to 22 countries, I have not set foot on American soil since 2011, and I am about to embark on one of my biggest trips yet: Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
The point of this blog is to show you that you don’t need to be well off to travel, you just need to know how to budget and make difficult choices about where and how to spend you money. When you’re 79 and looking back on your youth, what do you think you’ll remember more: the fabulous outfit you wore to your 23rd birthday party or the time you went skydiving in New Zealand? It pays to live with your parents or share an apartment/flat with 2 or 3 other people if it means that you can spend more time traveling. Most of my traveling was accomplished through a series of low paying, grunt work jobs. If you’re certified to teach English, you can pretty much go anywhere (I taught English in England!) and if not, hostels are usually a good place to start. I take great pride in telling people that my first job out of the prestigious LSE was scrubbing toilets in a backpacker hostel in Scotland.
If we’re going to be the so-called ”Lost Generation,” we should at least do it Hemingway style.