Today’s guest blogger, Tim Goessling, gives us an expert look at finding adventure on a budget. When Tim is not writing, he is either tending his garden, listening to choice vinyl, or enjoying blockbuster movies. His work has appeared on Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and The Know. You can follow him on twitter at @thislalife.
You’ve probably read many a travel article telling you where to go and what to see. This is not an article like that. I’m here today to talk about the HOW. I’ve created a system for traveling that’s allowed me to soak up the world on a budget, and I’m here to share it with you. I’ve utilized it to zipline through jungles in Costa Rica, brave white-water rapids in Alaska, get weird with Rastas in Belize, and gallop on horses throughout the mountains of Colombia. I’m not saying these things to boast. I’m saying them so you realize it’s totally attainable. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get into it!
1. Tax Return Jumpoff – You know that form you fill out when you start a job? The one you probably just breeze through and maybe consult with your accountant buddy about? That form is called a W-4 and it’s the essential ingredient to the whole plan. If your travel dreams are nachos, then the W-4 is the sweet, melty cheese. Take that form and and make it so you’re claiming the least amount of exemptions. Claiming little to no exemptions does two things. 1) Decreases your regular paycheck 2) Increases the size of your tax return. While #1 may sound like a nightmare, think of it like a savings program you never even realized you had. Unlike most normal accounts that you can tap into when you need some Coachella tickets, with the government withholding your money, you won’t be able to access it until they give it back to you. By then, it will feel like free money. Use this money to book your plane ticket to the destination of your dreams!
2. Time It Right – Finding the perfect time to go can be hard, especially when big holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Independence Day often mean you’re expected to spend time with family. I have two words for you: LABOR DAY, a.k.a the September national holiday for working people (that’s what it is right?). Most companies give this day off and with no set “celebration” to attend, this is prime time to make your move. If you’re feeling crazy, then add two vacation days on there. Suddenly, you have a five day stretch to maximize. To people that say that’s not enough time for a trip, I say: “Do you usually make excuses when fun presents itself?” Adventures don’t come with rigid parameters.
3. Oh The Places You’ll Go – I told you at the start I’m not going to advise you where to go, but I can tell that wherever you go TAKE A RED-EYE flight. Even if it means a slightly higher price or layovers, you want to be touching down with the morning sun. This means your destination needs to be reasonably close, but hey if you want to go farther, totally do it, this is your adventure!
4. Lose Some (Packing) Weight- Don’t even think about checking a bag on your flight. Everything you need should fit into your carry-on, hopefully a backpack of some kind, the smaller the better. This may be shocking but the only thing you really need to bring is ample socks and underwear. As long as it’s relatively clean no one said it’s a crime to wear the same shirt twice on vacation. Believe me, the trade off a lighter and more mobile pack versus a full fashion wardrobe is always worth it.
5. Let People Know About Your Adventure– In addition to sharing your itinerary with family and friends, register your trip with your Federal Government. The US State Department has a program called Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (S.T.E.P.) which provides valuable information about your destination. Not only will alert you to potentially volatile current events (protests, strikes, etc.) they will also inform you where the embassy is in case you need to get there in an emergency. Speaking of emergencies, registering your trip will make it easier for your Government to get their “Taken” on and send elite operatives to come rescue you if something does happen. That last part might be hyperbole but you get the idea.
6. Copies Everywhere! – Make copies of these items: passport, health insurance card, and your credit/debit card. Keep these copies together and place one in your primary travel pack, day pack, and wallet/purse. The objective here is always make sure you have identification even if you lose any essential items. As for the originals, keep those locked up in the safe at your hotel/hostel.
7. Where to Post Up: Unless you’re looking to play volleyball with mid-life crisis jocks and sip mai-tais on a beach, where you stay does not need to be “nice,” it needs to be functional. I’m not advocating that you stay in some dingy hell-hole, but I’m saying that if your objective is fun and adventure look into cheap but acceptable hostels and hotels. You didn’t fly around the world to sit by the pool right?
8. Eat With Locals – This is one of my favorite parts of my travel system. Ditch the tourist spots and main drags and eat where the locals eat. If you can’t find the places, then ask any local you meet (shopkeepers, taxi-drivers, small children, etc.). When I was in Central America I was recommended a restaurant by a boat driver that gave you fried chicken, rice, beans, plantains, and a Coke for five dollars! It still is one of the best (and most delicious) deals I’ve ever encountered and sure beat the 15 dollar quesadillas being served on the main tourist strip. As an added bonus many of these restaurants are in more interesting and authentic parts of town.
9. Find The Fun – At any given time in the world something is being celebrated. Do a little research prior to getting to your destination and find that occasion. It doesn’t need to be some grand fiesta like the running of the bulls or Carnival. Sometimes the smaller events can be just as enlightening. I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun I’d have a national fairs everywhere from Alaska to Panama. Even if you had some in mind prior, a great way to find out about these events are check out the signs posted town. The language might be foreign but the time, date, and location shouldn’t be. Immerse yourself in the culture and rewards will be endless.
10. Leave The Computer, Take The Journal – The thrill of absorbing a new culture is an ancient one and if you’re on your computer the whole time, even in your room, you’re missing out on the magic. Instead of passing time on Facebook or even checking your email, keep a journal that chronicles your trip. You’ll see that all the new views, foods, and attitudes provide a great jumping off point for not just reflection on your new location but also into yourself.
People travel for different reasons. Some travel to explore, others travel to get away, and others travel to make new friends. Regardless of the WHY, I hope this list provides you with some insight to HOW you can get out started on your own adventure. All of these tips from the initial savings plan to suggestions for finding fun in your destination require you to believe in yourself and trust the world that you seek. While giving yourself to a new culture can be daunting, know that sometime in the past, someone in your family had to say yes and boldly head out into unknown as well. You wouldn’t be here if they didn’t. So purchase that ticket, plan that trip, and find the adventure that you know you deserve.