Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Official Destination for Summer 2012

I know that I've changed my mind a few times about what destination I'll be headed to for my big trip. First it was Australia, then it was Europe, until I realized that not only was I leaving out the area of the world I want to see the most, I was leaving it out because I thought it was somewhere I couldn't go.

Once I started to seriously look into south east Asia as a viable option, it became clear that not only is it an amazing alternative, it's also VERY within my budget. My reasoning that it wasn't an option were as follows:

1: An airline ticket to south east asia is MUCH more expensive than to Europe:
FALSE -Airline tickets on the same day (May 21, 2012, my estimated departure date) from St Louis cost nearly the same! $700 to London and $850 to Bangkok. If you're looking for the cheapest airfare, you need to take into account which airports are most commonly flown to, or can handle the large airliner traffic. Flying into Vietnam or Italy directly can cost much more. The easiest way I found to pick somewhere was to take a look at what stopovers there are in the area. Set your flight to where you're wanting to go and look at the stopovers. From the US to EU the most common one I found was London. To SE Asia, it was Hong Kong and Bangkok. Since China isn't on my itinerary at the moment, though it may change since I can stop in Hong Kong and check out a little of China on my way back home, I chose to fly into Bangkok even though where I want to go is Cambodia, Vietnam, and possibly Bali.

2: SE Asia will be more expensive than Europe:
FALSE -This was a pretty ridiculous notion in the first place. SE Asia contains many nations that are considered third world and as such have MUCH lower costs of living as well as some VERY cheap options for housing. As I started looking at the options for budgeting I was given average statistics:

For Europe I was suggested a bare bones budget of €50 (or about $75 USD) per day. Thats staying at the cheapest hostels, eating two small meals a day either from the cheapest restaurants or going to a market and living off food I make myself. Not using any private transit unless its a bicycle and not taking taxi's pretty much at all. This includes paying for very cheap activities if any and limiting any kind of museum visits. Add into this that I'd be traveling during the peak tourist season and it can be more expensive since I've been told that the cheaper hostels can fill up quickly. Even more so, the 2012 summer olympics are in London so that will be something else that has the possibility to stretch my budget even thinner. Though my budget can make it at that level, its not the most ideal situation.

For SE Asia I was suggested a budget of around 1000 Thai Baht ($33-35 USD) per day. This includes staying at hostels, guest houses, though in some areas can include low end hotels (though still not your expensive rooms). Eating food from vendors and cheaper restaurants, taking public or some minor cheap private transportation. So with the budget I have in mind, This is a MUCH better alternative, I can leave open the option for the occasional treat or if I really need a good night a decent hotel, I can spring for it. Plus it leaves open options for cheap domestic flights around the area if needed or desired (some are around $70 or less). This all adds up to being able to do much more with the same budget, more flexibility, and all around ease of mind.

3: SE Asia is dangerous to travel through. Especially for Americans
FALSE: -The Vietnam war is over. Its cliché for me to go to that as my argument, but it is something that came to mind. I've been reading and getting information from people traveling in the same areas right now. They've been saying that its a pretty amazing locale that isn't nearly as dangerous as other areas they'd been to (ex: south africa, areas of south america, etc) and that I should “definitely make the trip.” Another person suggested “As an american traveling with some aussies, I've noticed that people can pick you out simply by the gear you wear. Avoid North Face like the plague, it tags you as an american.”

Now that I've fully decided on SE Asia as my official destination, I'm working out what to take, where to go, and what to do once I get there. Look out for upcoming posts on Gear, Itineraries, as well as Ideas on what I'm going to do. For now though, 300 more days until the big trip!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Travel 2

The second facebook note/post to be reposted here.

Alright, on monday I went to the post office and sent off for a passport. So step one for next summer's trip is in process. Currently my travel plans are up in the air, after running the numbers it came to light that a trip to europe would be more financially accessible as well as the fact that northern hemisphere summer is southern hemisphere winter. Traveling to australia in the middle of winter doesn’t seem like the most genius idea ever to me.

So once it was decided that the new destination would be europe, I wanted to look into what I'm going to need to take, where to go, what I want to see, etc. I was advised to sit and think about what it is that I'm looking for out of this trip. It's a good question to ask ones self when working out a potentially life changing event. I sat down to think after work the other day and what came to me was:
I want adventure.
I know people will see that and immediately think of every Indiana Jones movie or something of the sort. That's not what I mean though, I want adventure in the form of new experiences. I actually look forward to missing a bus or connection because it throws a wrench into the mix. It causes you to think on your feet and change your plans at a moments notice. That's the art of travel, realizing that you can always change your mind or change what you're doing. Up there with adventure, I want to see the world. I want spontaneity.

What really made me understand that this is what I want to do was thinking back to all those times a teacher asked me "in an ideal world, what would you do for a living?" the existential question that is supposed to help you find what career you should look into. Well, I generally answered either "I don't know" or "Travel. I would travel all the time and write about it"

of course one teacher said "well, pick something else" and another "I don't think thats a feasible goal." Hey, you're the ones that asked the question and said "in an ideal world" not me. But in all brutal honesty, My dream is to start traveling and never stop. If I could find a way to make it work and make some kind of living off of it, I would.

I realize that this is a dream of many a person. "what makes you any different?" I hear you cry. I don't think my ideal makes me any different than anyone else. I'm an optimist to a fault and I'm willing to work for what I want. If someone wanted me to travel to vietnam in the peak of the rainy season just to see if there’s a way to make a trip out of it. I'm there. Go through the middle east even when there’s a war on? You know I'd be there and write about it. "Oh, there’s a little possibility that you could be captured and killed" my response: when does my flight leave and what specifics do you want when I get there? Honestly there’s more of a chance of getting hit by lightning or any number of things. No matter the statistic, Its all chance. If it happens, it happens. It'll buff out one way or another. I don't necessarily think "everything happens for a reason" more so "everything happens."

Variety is the spice of life and I want to try as much of it as I can. I believe that there’s a certain element to people across the globe. I want to find it and experience it. I might not be the most fit, good looking, intelligent, street smart, or even dumbest guy ever, but I like to think that I can convey an idea through words on a page. So despite my possible delusions of grandeur, I'm an optimist. If there’s a possibility there, I'm going to take it.
next in my "Travel" series: gear and my minimalist packing goal. but that's another time.


Originally posted on my facebook account, Reposting here because this will be the new home of my pre-travel and travel writings
I've long said that I desire travel and new experience like most people desire stability and normalcy. I've recently been thinking more and more on travel, be it local, mid-range (within the US) and long range (abroad).
This desire to travel stems from a lifetime (thus far) of constant change and flux, moving from place to place and not staying anywhere more than a couple years at most. Additionally I realized that it also comes from my pre/post graduation present to myself where I travelled to Canada and back to see a good friend. Taking that trip is/was one of the greatest experiences of my life due to the vast amount of experiences involved. I spent a grand total of 100+ hours on greyhound buses and stations, met dozens of new people that I wish I had stayed in contact with, and gained a story that not many other people have to tell.
Thinking back to swapping music with a budding businessman on the StL-Chicago leg, to the girl that started giving birth 3 seats behind me in the middle of ohio. Sharing food with the other bus-goers at the US/Canada border and having them pool together and pay for a replacement for my lost connection ticket. Watching bootleg movies with a young woman in Buffalo to playing guitar at a hot-dog vendor's stall in Toronto during layovers. Talking to a Soldier on his way to Korea and another on his way home from Afghanistan. Being questioned by border patrol and having my bags searched at EVERY SINGLE BORDER (and most of the bus stations) to having the very weird (kidding) man sitting next to me be detained for being oddly radioactive (not kidding) and then only JUST making it home in time to make it to my graduation. Good or bad, ALL of these things are fond memories of what constituted a summer after high-school. That's only the time spent in transit too. I had even more experiences once I'd reached my destination.
Now, since that time I've been pretty stagnant in my travels. There haven't been any "life changing" trips or really any trips for that matter. I've lived in the same area of the country for the longest in my life. In that time though I've held various jobs, lived in a few houses, had various room-mates, relationships, etc. I started college and tried out a year at a university, gained new friends and lost others, learned what its like to have and have-not. Overall though, I still think back to that time spent traveling The new people, places, things, ideas, experiences. They've all made a difference in my life for better or worse. I miss it those experiences and options. I miss wondering what's going to happen in the next minute, hour, day, week, month, etc. or what the next bus change will bring. Who will be sitting next to me on the next flight, will they be sociable or will I have to find ways to occupy myself.
I desire travel like most people desire new gadgets or phones or pretty much anything desirable. I began questioning myself: "what's keeping me from doing it? why haven't I gone anywhere in a LONG time?" It isn't like the trip was horrifyingly expensive, I worked on a horse farm for a bit and made money to do things. As well as some amazing generosity of my hosts, which I am forever grateful for. When I actually got down to thinking about it, I realized what was holding me back: nothing.
So I've decided to see what there is to see, what I can do on my very very limited budget. The plan in no uncertain terms is to travel next summer. No exceptions. I'm giving up getting a car or finishing my motorcycle project for the time being. I have transportation as it is. I will be getting my passport as soon as possible and will begin planning through WWOOF, backpacking, and a few other things that were suggested to me by other travelers I've met along the way.
So for better or worse, I will travel with minimal amounts of junk, within my budget, and as far as I can go while still getting back for the following school year. Life is meant to be lived.
((EDIT: Apologies for the terrible formatting of the first two posts. They were constructed through the facebook notes app as well as in word. The formatting did not transfer well.))