Don’t become a traveling cliché
There are several travel blogs (see here for example) out there that enumerate a dozen travel cliché quotes you might find on pic captions on social media today and then ironically give you an alternative of less used but equally cheesy lines that you can use instead. This post is not really about the cliché quotes but rather about travel advice based on these cliché quotes, or simply put travel myths.
While I think such quotes are over-used I don’t really find them harmful. Yes, they might sound cheesy but well placed in context they might just make someone’s day..or a really good joke.
However, what bugs me the most are the clichés some travelers use as advice for other less traveled or completely new to travelling. These are not just harmless quotes but rather advice that deceives and paints a false picture of reality. I will list here the most common travel myths I have encountered in my travels and provide you with my brief view on them. The following phrases might have not been said word by word but they do encompass pretty much the essence of what was said:
In order to live extraordinarily you need to live simple, hence you don’t need to worry about money when traveling
This is probably the most annoying phrase about traveling I have ever heard since it’s both false and misleading. To outline the reason I dislike this so much I will use my encounters with two fellow very different worldlings, Rose and Jose.
Rose -Living extraordinarily, not simple
I met Rose on a travel forum. She presented herself as a full time traveler who had traveled to 40 countries over the past 12 months. As her lifestyle intrigued me I asked her how she managed to afford traveling so often and to so many countries in such a short span of time. The answer was not really what I had expected: I do live an exotic life, [she replied] but I live simply. I think in order to live extraordinarily you have to live simple so I don’t spend a lot of money on travelling. From here some more questions followed: So how do you book flights then? Where do you stay when you travel? How do you live so simply?
Her answer left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I never really stay in hotels, I always stay with friends when I travel. Also I don’t book in advance, I just buy my flights the exact same day I want to travel. I had to stop the conversation there as I had already heard enough. It seemed to me that she had no idea what living simple means and takes her money and privilege for granted.
Having the luxury of staying anywhere in the world for free with “friends” and buying your flight the exact same day is not simple. It is a privilege only a tiny majority of this world has.
Jose – living simple, not extraordinarily
I met Jose in Centro-Habana, Cuba, in a local quarter where tourists hardly venture. (since there is literally nothing to do or see and all building seem to be on the brink of collapsing). He was curious about who I was and what I was doing there by myself so he asked a few questions about myself. I told him I was there because I wanted to learn more about the Cuban culture and how the locals live and experience their daily lives, outside the tourist trap.
How many countries have you been to, boy? he asked me on a slightly aggressive tone. I told him that about 15. How old are you? he continued. 26 I answered. He looked at me with a sad smile and then replied: I have just turned 58 and guess to how many other countries I have traveled to in my life? None. Even if I had the money it would have still been difficult to leave. That’s how we live here. No freedom, no choice. Stuck. This is real Cuba.
Travelling is a luxury most of us take for granted along with the money we have. In order to live extraordinarily, no, simple is not enough, we need the right opportunities.
Sell everything and travel the world, that’s the best way
Again, as amazing as this sounds it equally sounds as an absolutely terrible advice. Selling everything to travel is way more than just meets the eye and definitely not for everyone. In fact most people can not actually do it. Only a small privileged section have the possibility of either
a) Having enough stuff to sell that it could actually make their round the world trip worthwhile. (and then plenty left for when they come back to reality)
b) Relying on family or friends to support them with money in case anything goes wrong during the trip
c) Not having enough personal commitments to leave behind home and forget about for a couple of months or years
Everyone should take these three points into consideration before making such a huge decision. Otherwise it might turn out into a disaster later on. You might have the time of your life for a few months or years but think about what will happen when reality hits you when you get back home.
The number of countries you visit define you as a traveler
People who define one’s traveling skill based on the number of countries they have been into have a very shallow understanding of the world. Traveling is not about scratching off countries on your Scratch-off World Map. Seeing new places is indeed an aspect of it but there is so much more to it. Experiencing and learning to appreciate different cultures and ways of living not only challenges us but also helps us better ourselves. Simply traveling to another country does not make you an avid traveler. I share a flat with a couple that travel for work every single weekend to various countries around the world. Would I consider them avid travelers? Not even close. Because all they do when they travel is stay in their hotel or conference venues. They hardly learn anything outside of their job’s spectrum.
I have met far more avid travelers than myself that had only traveled to a few countries. But properly traveled had they indeed. Someone who travels in his own country to learn more about the different aspects the culture is a far more avid traveler than someone that travels to a different country and spends all their time in a hotel or resort. The same goes for someone that visits more than just one city or region in a country before ticking it off as seen . However, I shall deal with traveler types more in depth in the next post.
You don’t need money to travel, only a one way ticket and an open road
I’ve already touched on this during the first point of this post but this needs to be reiterated. Simply put, YOU NEED A MINIMUM AMOUNT OF MONEY TO TRAVEL, if you want it to be worthwhile. (yes, that one way ticket costs money too)
This phrase is mostly used by students or wealthy persons that take everything for granted. Students forget that even when they travel they still use either their loans, savings, or parents’ money. Passing on such advice onward is not a good idea if the receptor does not have the same possibilities.
As I said, travelling is a privilege not many of us that requires money. Depending on what our goals and expectations are, it might require more or less money but it’s still money. Some travelers can only afford hostels, some only stay in hotels. Others couch-surf or sleep outdoors as they can’t afford none. Some only eat out while others who can’t afford cook, and the list can go on, you get my point. But still they needed money in order to travel (transportation) and get by with basic necessities. So it all comes down to ensuring that you can afford doing what you set to do. Otherwise you will end up without money and your travels might end up in a disaster. Being realistic when traveling is a necessity.
The only way one can travel and not worry about money would by managing to illegally cross borders and not paying for transportation or food and not shower for months at a time, as I shall explain below.
The exception to the rule
Now, there is an exception to this and I know it so well not because I’ve done it, but because some of my best childhood friends did it.
Long story short, a group of six boys decided one day to go on a impromptu Euro-Trip with absolutely no money on them. And no luggage either. At only 15 they made their way via train across 8 countries in Europe and got away without paying for tickets. Yes, they were caught several times and thrown out but that didn’t stop them, they just got back on the next ones. They slept in railway stations or in parks, stole food from supermarkets so they can eat and only showered in police stations when they got arrested for stealing.
They were away for about half a year and traveled in Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Albania, Croatia and Hungary without any phones or internet access. (bear in mind this was about 10 years ago) At the time, I and the boys from block did not think they would make it back.
However, to our surprise, they were back six months later. And they stunk like hell, having not showered for months. I didn’t really care at the time since I was excited to see them back and hear about their travels. However, after I heard all details I didn’t feel like going through what they did. They came back with a few rucksack, each packed with stuff they had stolen: jeans, watches, sneakers, stuff they would eventually sell for a bit of cash.
Be a realistic traveler
So yes, it is possible to travel without absolutely no money but is that kind of travelling the kind that defines you? Or the kind of travel that appeals to you?
Bottom-line is that before taking any advice on travel and getting inspired by inspirational travel quotes you should really think about your reasons for traveling, what defines you and what possibilities you have. Simpler put, the kind of traveler you are. That will be the focus of my next post.