My best advice is to travel as much and as often as you can. Here’s why:
Travel exploit is a belief that you should maximize your time and money while traveling abroad. Since time immemorial, travel has been valued by all civilizations as a way to learn about one’s self as well as the vast globe around us. Travel was once only accomplished by the rich, royalty, soldiers and merchants but today is available to virtually everyone. The only thing keeping you from this amazing experience are uncertainties about traveling abroad, not knowing the native languages and the high costs associated with airfare, lodging, and exchange rates.
Let’s face it, everyone wants to travel but very few do. The reason you are even reading this web page is that you have a taste for the unknown. You want to eat fresh pad, Thai while lying on a picturesque beach on the Andaman coast of Thailand. You want your spine to tingle as you listen to a piano concerto in the Sydney Opera House. You want to feel the vastness of the Great Pyramids, the surrealism of the shimmering Taj Mahal, or the enormity of the Grand Canyon. So why not do all of these things?
It is challenging. Here are some questions all would-be travelers encounter and challenge themselves with. People languish over them and use them as excuses to delay what they want to do: experience the world. Believe me, these questions are not showstoppers, but instead are mere speed bumps that you must get over to leave your neighborhood before setting off to the amazing world around you. I can answer all of them for you and then some. In fact, not only will I answer each question, but I will also give you a significant benefit (or two or three) for why these things are a positive.
The #1 question I get asked is “how can you afford to travel?” Without sounding clichéd, my response is “how can you afford not to?” Seriously. Traveling is one of the few things that change your life, opens your mind, teaches independence, makes new friends, and provides an opportunity to grow as a person. You can’t put a price on all these things, but I will tell you that traveling is absolutely an investment. People like talking to well-traveled people. Employers like the experience, open-mindedness, and patience of a well-traveled applicant. The next time you sit next to someone at a doctor’s office or make conversation with an interviewer, imagine telling them about how you went surfing in Australia, climbed the highest mountain in South America, or helped push a school bus full of children out of the mud in Ghana. What you’ll see is real interest in their faces and not just glazed deference as you ramble on about your position at XYZ Corporation and your spot on the company softball team.
I’m not saying that your working and personal lives are unimportant. They are critical. But I am saying that they are most likely not rare or all that exciting. The fact is that most Americans do the same things. We eat at the same restaurants, shop at the same stores, drive the same cars, live in similar houses and work similar jobs. Therefore what we all do is shared and abundant. On the other hand, you have travel, which few do and is rare. Tell me, which is more valuable: something common or something rare?
That’s an easy question. I can promise you that learning the answer is also just as easy. Stop pestering yourself with issues and make the simple answer. Do you want to travel? The answer is a resounding YES. So let’s do it!
Where do I want to go?
This is one of the toughest questions you will encounter when planning your trip. Luckily it’s a fun question and virtually impossible to get wrong. The fact is while we all have different reasons for traveling, you can have a good time in almost any country that you visit. One of my favorite countries and the place where I had some of the best experiences of my life was a third-world, landlocked, socialist country in the Southern Hemisphere. This country was not on my “Top 10” list of countries to visit, or probably anyone else’s. The fact is I went, it was beautiful, the food was fantastic, the people were friendly, and I ended up staying for a year.
You’ve probably seen movies where people close their eyes, spin the globe, and point their finger at a random dot on the map. I have never done this myself, but I believe it would not be a bad way of deciding. Since this idea is a little reckless for most people, I have developed a way to help people decide what countries might be a good fit, which you can learn about on this website. But remember, the inspiration to travel often comes from movies you’ve seen, books you’ve read or stories you’ve heard. Just clear your mind, pick up a pencil and complete this sentence without stopping your hand: “I want to go __________.” Do it now; it won’t take long.
While growing up, I listened to my grandfather, a naval officer, marvel at the beauty of Sydney, Australia. However, when I was 23 and graduating from college, I did not initially desire to go to Australia. Not only was it far away and not all that exotic (after all, they do speak English), I wanted to go backpacking in Europe. Fate intervened, however, and my friends I was traveling with became set on going to Australia; they had found a significant amount on airfare and saw this as their chance to see the Land Down Under. At first, I was opposed, not wanting to let go of the idea of visiting Europe, getting several stamps in my passport, and trying to talk to girls in several languages. Then, I remembered Grandpa Edwin’s words about the shimmering harbor, the Misty Blue mountains, and the enchanting people of this island-continent in the far-off southern hemisphere. I decided to go, and it was a great decision. I thank my friends for the idea to this day.
Several principles were learned here:
1) If you have a friend that wants to travel, and you have the time, GO!
2) Traveling during low tourist season is never a bad idea. Our Summer (May-August) is Winter in the southern hemisphere, so prices were much lower in Australia. Had I decided to go to Europe, I would have paid top dollar and waited in long lines with hot and sweaty Europeans and tourists. How is fun that?
3) Winter in the southern hemisphere (and most places of the world) is not as cold as winter in North America, Europe or Russia. It does not snow in Australia or Costa Rica, so there is no wrong time to go there. In fact, their winters can be more pleasant than their oppressively hot summers.
4) Just because a country speaks your native language doesn’t mean they’re not exotic. Australia had some of the rarest and most exotic animals and plants I’ve seen in the entire world. The food was great, the art fantastic. The people, their traditions, accents, and ways of enjoying life were all entirely new and fresh to me. Without a doubt, Australia is exotic.
5) The costs were low, and sites were uncrowded. This goes back to the earlier relationship I pointed out between standard and rare. In this case, as there were few tourists, I was limited to the Aussie’s and therefore more impressive. Had I gone in tourist high-season, I would have been just one of many travelers visiting the country.
People were genuinely interested in talking to me. Also, because there were fewer people, there was more time for chatting up a bartender or tour guide or buying the last minute ticket to the Sydney Opera House or an Australian Football game.
6) I had a great time. Honestly, unless the country is in the midst of all out war, you are going to have a very good time. Unless of course, war is your thing, you might enjoy those countries too!
In summation, there are many ways to decide where to visit. And if you couldn’t bring yourself to do the writing exercise or spin a globe, feel free to drop me a note and I will gladly help you to decide. Also, be sure to keep checking back because I am developing a Travel Decision engine that will soon be available for free on this website.