Jumping off into the unknown and exploring the world can be one of the most exhilarating and rewarding things you can do with your time and money. And if done right, it can be used as a vehicle to take your understanding of the world and yourself to a much deeper level.
A Little Goes A Long Way
In total I’ve spent over two years exploring the globe and adventuring with very little cash and resources. In that time I’ve managed to pack in a lifetimes worth of experiences. From deals with olive oil merchants on exotic islands, to being paid to snowboard, almost killing myself climbing dangerous routes, partying on the remote mountains of Eastern Europe, and living with punk-anarchists. By the way, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The real value however lies below the surface. It’s not what you do, but who you become in the process. It’s all the mistakes you make. All the times you let fear control your decisions…and the times you don’t, allowing the magic to unfold. It’s the slow but deliberate unwrapping of your most authentic self. The brief encounters that change the direction of your life. And the smallest of things that at the time seem like nothing, but years later still bring a smile to your face.
I promise to you that there is magic waiting, if you’ll just put one foot in front of the other and go. But the question is, how do you go from a sight-seeing holiday, that’s relaxing and generally fun, to an adrenaline fueled, cultural whirlpool that will chew you up and spit you out the other side?
If its worth doing, its worth doing right.
If you want to use travel as a tool for growth and adventure then you’ll need to enter the path of most resistance. You can’t just ‘go on holiday’ and expect to come back an enlightened zen warrior. No, to get the most out of it you have to follow some rules. These are some things I’ve picked up by actually going out there, and making a hell of a lot of mistakes. And please note, they’re just meant to point you in a direction. Following anything blindly isn’t smart. Unless its super shiny, in which case go for it.
Some Not So Conventional ‘Rules’
#1 Take it slow
Long term travel is the key. Spend at least 4 months away to really get the most out of your experience. Use local transport, or bikes. Integrate. Find the local spots and eateries. Watch what people do and join in on the customs. You want to try and melt into the background.
#2 The more you plan the less you see
This may sound controversial, and If I know there is somewhere with some interesting sub-cultures, breathtaking natural beauty or extreme sports, I’ll go there and see what happens. But in general the less you plan, the more you open yourself up to randomness. Which is where the best stuff happens. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a place for it, but you never know what’s around the corner. Plan for randomness by not planning.
#3 Be first
This one simple rule has given me months of free accommodation and travel while meeting some amazing people. It boils down to this: Don’t wait for others. Be the first to start communication and engage people wherever you go. You’ll be amazed who you meet, and where you end up.
#4 Travel light
The less you take, the more mobile you are. And mobility is the aim! How little can you take and still function? You’d be surprised. Treat it like a game.
#5 find work
There are a lot of opportunities to earn while on the road or get a free roof. From seasonal work, to volunteering at communes and farms. This is an incredible way to see a country and lets you settle into the lifestyle of a local. Search Google, local online message boards and talk to people.
Those three sites are incredible if you really want to understand the local culture without spending anything. Live with the locals, help them on their land, live with ‘retired’ marijuana farmers (yes, that happened)..what else could you ask for?
#6 find communities
Finding groups who are into the same things as you is a great way to integrate into the local culture, again use Google. Search “your activity” + “Where you are” to find local groups. Get creative! Use Facebook and also look for couchsurfing groups for other travelers.
I like doing this because you will instantly make friends and have stuff to share with each other. It’s a win-win.
Record your experiences using anything from video to writing. It will help to give you a birds-eye view of what you’re doing. Any lessons, or interesting experiences you don’t want to forget. Write it down!!
#8 Say yes
We regret the things we don’t do, so take every chance to say “yes!”. Even the smallest of things can turn into something glorious.
#9 Push your comfort zone
If you feel resistance, do it! You notice that little feeling in your stomach? Embrace it. This is where life is lived. Oh, and try not to kill yourself in the process.
#10 Practice frugality
Living on less not only extends your travel, but makes you more aware and less reliant on luxuries. It coaxes you into enjoying the little things, like fresh mountain air or a beautiful sunset.
What Are Your Excuses?
Its easy to make excuses, but in reality what’s stopping you from walking out the door tomorrow and exploring for half a year? Let me guess..money, commitments?
Sure, this makes sense. But if that is really stopping you, maybe its time to reflect. Maybe building something locally is more important to you than going off and exploring, which is fine. However, it’s worth thinking about what you’re giving up with your seemingly important commitments and goals. And if money is an excuse, in 4 months you could save enough to travel for 8 months.
There is a beautiful, crazy world outside, waiting for you to explore it. And only you can do that…so take the first steps. It may feel scary, but it’s easier than you think.