As I’m going through some old photos tonight and posting them on Flickr, I see the evolution of my travels and recall my first adventures when I started discovering the world. If someone had told me when I was 20 years old that I would be gallivanting around the globe, I would probably not believed them. When I was 12, I collected stamps.I looked at each little square as I put it in my book and wondered what places like Deutch Bundepost and Malagasy might be like. I never dreamed years later when I first left America that I would be doing it a LOT.
Lately I’ve been talking to a lot of people about my “religion” or lifestyle or whatever you want to call it. What I’ve discovered is that most people that I talk to, don’t really get it. The strange thing is everyone says they want to travel but most people don’t. When I say travel, I’m not talking about going to Cancun for a week, I’m not talking about a balcony suite on a Caribbean cruise, I’m not talking about going to New Orleans for a weekend. Yes, these can be traveling experiences, but most people I know that plan trips, do it the same way they pay a bill. They figure out a place that they can go cheap or a place where they have friends or family. It’s almost a mechanical ritual. Everyone has the same idea in their heads: white sand, blue water, endless tropical drinks, zip-lining, blah blah blah……Don’t get me wrong, I like white sandy beaches as much as the next guy, but I say there’s a time and place for everything. I propose that you get rid of those stereotypical vacations. Get away from the tourist stampede. Don’t travel for one week a year. Go see the world.
The difference between tourism and traveling is not obvious until you’ve traveled. Once you’ve got your wings, you soon realize that tourism is the lazy and less fun stepbrother of going somewhere. Traveling is immersing yourself in the adventure. Traveling is a lifestyle. Tourism is an industry.
So, how do you join this cult? You have to change your point of view first. It’s not gonna be easy if you’re an American. You grow up in our culture and are led to believe that America is the best, smartest, most wonderful place in the world.I’ll admit it’s nice to have a US Passport, but there are better or equally amazing places to live. The media would have you believe that everyone wants to kill you because they’re jealous of your wonderfulness. FALSE. Many people don’t travel because they don’t understand the money, the customs or the language. What they’re missing out on is the fact that NOT knowing everything is what traveling is about. Learning those things can be a little difficult, but at the same time immensely rewarding.
The next thing you should do is pick an interesting place. Ask yourself if money was not an issue, where would you go? What foreign land has been calling your name? Far too many people book travel based on other options that have nothing to do with where they want to go. Pick a place. I’ve got my next 8 destinations loosely planned. If you don’t know where to go, ask a few of your friends where they would go or a place they’ve been that they loved. Political events and natural disasters can make some destinations better or worse. You don’t want to visit a country in the middle of a civil war, but as governments and economies change, being aware of places that have had good changes can yield some very interesting options. Subscribing to travelzoo.com or Sherman’s travel can help you find some good deals that you wouldn’t have thought about.
A true traveler wants to discover all of the world. For those who have adopted this lifestyle, the places on the planet might be viewed as jigsaw puzzle pieces that one can put in their place after “discovering” them. Traveling is like putting these pieces together one section at a time. Some parts are easier. Some spots are more challenging. What you soon discover is that you soon become less fearless as the travel drug gets into your system. The more new things you try, the more exciting this world becomes.
So, here’s your homework assignment. Pull out a map of the world. Pick a few places that interest you that you’ve never been. Type the name of them in your search engine for images. When you find some things that look uber-cool, write down the names of them. Look online for airline tickets there. Look for other interesting places that you want to go that are near your destination. As you look at flights, see where the flights have stopovers. Experienced travelers use the stopovers as a way of breaking up a long flight or seeing another destination (often times for the same price!) Use a supersearch such as the one on Travelzoo.com to compare different travel websites. Resist the temptation to book a hotel for a week at the same place. Don’t do it. You’ll have a much more interesting time if you move around. I book the first night hotel so that I have someplace to stay when I arrive. Then I book the other nights as I go along. You may hate a place and be stuck there for a whole week because you didn’t want to take a chance booking once you arrive.
I almost forgot to tell you the most important thing. Don’t listen to people who know nothing about traveling. They will tell you all kinds of information that is sometimes bordering on ridiculous. Everyone who’s never been anywhere is happy to dissuade you from going someplace fun. I get the silliest travel advice from people who have no idea what they’re talking about. Once a friend couldn’t wait to tell me all kinds of travel news that he’d heard about Australia. It turned out that he got confused with Austria. Even worse, I see legitimate news sources posting travel articles that have obviously been written by someone who has never been anywhere.
Make a promise to yourself that you will take off from work, or figure out a way of traveling with work. Traveling is an education, a stress reliever, a way to understand our world better. You live in a time where it’s easier to get around the world than it has ever been. Lately as I’ve gotten busier running my entertainment business from Houston, I’ve found it refreshing to take a 4-5 day trip every month. As long as a destination doesn’t take 2 days to get to, you’d be surprised how many activities you can squeeze into a few days. Get an early flight there, take a late flight out. Book your first night someplace cool. Rent a car so you can get around.
Yes, rent a car. Having to depend on taxis and buses can be expensive or time consuming. Get some wheels. If you’re not good at driving in other countries, it’s just because you haven’t practiced. If you’re really that uncomfortable, get insurance. That’s what insurance is for. I have driven all over the world. The only problems I’ve ever had is bumpers falling off my car, accidentally putting diesel in a regular gas tank and having an accident with a bus in Rio. I don’t speak Portuguese so I just took the car back and said “sorry” in English. The only people who were angry were the ones that had to get another bus.
I suppose that if you make travel an extension of what you already do then it won’t be a big hurdle in your mind. Everything takes practice, including travel. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Take the excuses that you have for not going anywhere and figure out how you can solve those problems before they occur. If you really,really, really want to travel, do it. Everyone can come up with a little time and a little money to go someplace they’ve never been. It’s the fear of the unknown that keeps people from going. I recently bought a trip for some very good friends of mine. I wanted them to experience what I’ve seen and I bought them a vacation package to China. All they had to do was show up. They were excited at first…. they told everyone. Then, they started doubting themselves. They told me that they wouldn’t be able to get around with their physical condition. They were afraid there would be too much walking. I told them about the cheap taxis and metro system in Beijing. Then they looked up the temperature and decided that it would be too cold. I told them we’d change the date. The final excuse was that the pollution in China was too intense for their health and that they were just too old to go to China. Too old to go to China? I explained that there’s lots of “alive” old people in China. The truth of the matter is they were just afraid of the unknown. I canceled the trip. In my opinion it would have transformed their lives. They thought they’d be happy doing things the way they always do. They’ll never know what they missed out on.
So, I’ll put my travel soapbox away in a moment. If you don’t want to travel, don’t. If you do, then do. Quit making excuses. Stop being afraid of places you don’t understand. Make up your mind today you want to go somewhere, pick it and then brag to all your friends that you’re booking a trip there tomorrow. This way you’ll look like an idiot if you don’t come through. Join a travel club. Subscribe to travel deals. Block off time on your calendar. Break up your vacation so you can go more than one place. One trip a year is not living. Plan at least 3. There you go. If you follow my advice, I guarantee your life will change. You’ll be smarter, faster,cooler and more amazing then you ever thought possible. Live your life now. You never know how long you’ll be around or healthy enough to climb a pyramid.