I decided to do something different this time. What about a WordPress travel blog that has some sort of generic, lets-all-hold-hands “Top xx” list? OK, so it’s not quite original…but then again it’s not exactly easy to work creative miracles when I’ve been stuck inside all day and can hear the 16-degrees-Fahrenheit air whistling by outside.
In fact, it’s not easy to do much at all. I’m still in last night’s smokey clothes which have au de pub clinging onto them stubbornly. The scent is an exotic mix of spilled Guinness, pheromones, and sweaty excitement but only pleasant to someone who shared the craic with you at the time.
As travel writer J. Martin Troost says, “that’s the good thing about sacrificing a decent living to become a writer, I can get up, walk three meters to “work” still in my boxers, and stew in my own filth for a few hours.”
So admist my stewing, I decided to defunct the bologna reasons why I hear that people who really want to travel say they cannot do so. Some are from my backpacking travel website and some come from reader’s emails, etc.
Let the sparks fly…!
Excuse #1: It’s too expensive
“My greatest skill has been to want little.” – Henry David Thoreau
According to National Geographic, half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. My average costs in Southeast Asia were US $20 – $25 a day. It could have been done much cheaper, had I cut out some roving and partying. How much do you spend to be at home? I am willing to bet it is more than $600 a month.
Once you get over the initial hit of purchasing a ticket, it’s quite possible to live cheaper than you ever have before. It’s not really the big purchases that prevent you from saving money…it is all the little things done on a daily basis. All those $2.50 restaurant Cokes add up over the months. Same with ATM fees, movies, bar tabs, etc. Sure, you have to live a little while at home, but that’s part of the sweet satisfaction of arriving to a new place and knowing that you earned the right to be there through sacrifice.
Excuse #2: I don’t speak the language
“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling
If you have never left your home country, then you may not realize: English is the world’s language. English is not the most spoken language by a long shot, but it is the most widely spoken. The locals in developing countries that have anything to do with travelers will all speak English to some maniacal degree.
This does not mean that you shouldn’t attempt to learn the local language; believe me, your trip will be greatly enhanced if you can learn a few words or phrases. There is very little point in studying before you go; you will learn exponentially faster (and the correct pronunciation) once you get somewhere. It is almost unfortunate, but learning the local language has become optional for travelers. Only in China outside of the main tourist areas did I once ask for a spoon in a restaurant and was brought a cigarette.
Excuse #3: Travel is dangerous
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure” – Helen Keller
No, I can assure you that growing old and unhappy is far more dangerous.
Just pick up a paper and look through your local obituaries. Which killed more people this week — car accidents near home or poisonous snakes? For every one traveler you hear of being abducted overseas, ten thousand more had the trips of their lives and came home in the best shape of their lives with good stories to tell. Unfortunately, the sensationalist crackheads at 60 minutes and CNN have their priorities wrong.
I have pushed my luck. In the last two years I have stepped over a poisonous viper, stood eye to eye with a grizzly bear, swam with sharks, free-solo climbed deadly rocks, explored flooded caves in Laos, listened to mortars fired into Myanmar…the list goes on. When its your big day, it won’t matter if you are grocery shopping or cave diving. That’s your day to exit stage left.
Excuse #4: I have no time with school
“There is more to life than just increasing its speed” – Ghandi
Jumping from school directly into a career seems to be some twisted, unwelcomed fine print in the American Dream. Nearly every other culture encourages a “gap year” or time away before coming home to settle down. I hate to break the bad news, but it will only get harder and harder to get away as life goes on. The longer you stay here the more little roots you thrust into the ground which will have to be pulled up later.
If you were looking through a monotonous stack of resumes one day, who would you be more likely to hire — the guy or girl who did the highschool–>university–>desk job route or the person who had the initiative, passion, and guts to step outside of their comfort zone and get some world experience?
Excuse #5: I could never do it
“A journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu
A natural response to the fear that gets programmed into us from an early age. When you leave the house, do your loved ones say “have a great time” or are they more likely to say “be careful”?
Trust me, I was petrified when I first walked down the street in Bangkok after arriving. The ladyboys and madness on Khao San Road didn’t help matters much. It took me a few days to get over the jetlag and realize that I probably wasn’t going to be robbed or die every time I left the guesthouse. Once you get there, you will feel the same and ask yourself, “why didn’t I do this earlier?”
As Lao Tzu said, you just have to take that first step.