“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
So there’s something that keeps cropping up in my conversations…
I’ve talked to a lot of students and adults alike. I constantly hear “It costs too much money.” “I don’t have a passport.” “What if I don’t speak the language?” as a cover on why they can’t go.
Look. I get it. Traveling can be a scary experience. You’re in a different country, continent, culture… It’s not what you’re use to and lord what are they eating? Is that snake?
But back to my point: don’t hide behind excuses. An adult US passport costs about $150 give or take (processing fees included) and a little bit of your time. But even better, you can grab a US passport card which allows you to travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda all for the low price of about $60-$70. I especially recommend this to first-time travelers who are just looking to try something safe but new.
There’s not much I can do about it if you’re really strapped for cash, but (excluding air fair) you can travel around almost anywhere outside of Europe (and other places with a strong dollar) for relatively cheap. I suggest Asia. Take it from someone who lived there for a decade, as long as you stay out of big cities food, clothing, attractions, hotels, etc. are pretty damn cheap. You just have to be smart about it. For example, $20USD translates to about 900 Philippine pesos which could buy meals for around 18 people (though it really depends on where you’re eating).
And as for airplane costs… There’s always a way to get great deals. Here’s my advice:
1) Get tickets way in advance.
I learned from the best: my mom and dad. Getting tickets 8-12 months in advance gets you the cheapest tickets possible.
2) Get credit cards that are partnered with airlines.
Some cards offer 40,000 to 60,000+ miles. Just wait until the opportune moment and open accounts when they are offering these mileage point deals. In some cases, this can get you a nearly free flight if it’s to a place that’s close.
3) Look for alternatives.
Flights with layovers are almost always cheaper than flights without them. Redeyes are sometimes worth the 3 am boarding time. If there are two airports close to each other (like JFK airport in New York and EWR airport in New Jersey or the Macau airport and Hong Kong airport) sometimes the prices are vastly different. And all it takes is a cheap taxi or boat ride to make up the distance.
As far as language goes… Go with someone who you know can speak the language. Or, you can always hire a local for translation. I’ve been to all 6 of the inhabited continents (though Antarctica is still on my list of places to go). I didn’t do that by speaking English alone. I’m lucky, my mom happens to speak not only English fluently, but Mandarin and Spanish as well. These languages probably cover over 40% of the world (though don’t hold me to that). However, when we went to places like Morocco we’d hire people… It’s worked like a charm.
But I know what you’re thinking. “But what about everything else? What about robbers and pickpockets and my safety? What happens if something goes wrong? What about… What if… What when… What then…”
Look, I can’t answer every question, it’s just not possible. The fun part about traveling is that you actually get to go out and have crazy adventures and experiences. Sometimes disasters spawn the best disasters and stories you could imagine. And the great part about being an American citizen is that we probably have more US consulates than anywhere else. That means if you do get into trouble, or get sick, or lost, or robbed, or something to that degree… There’s a sanctuary that you will have access too. They will help you get a new passport, or medical care, or a place to stay until you work things out.
So stop hiding behind your excuses as reasons to not travel.
As a student who attends a college that requires a semester abroad I’m absolutely ecstatic to get going. I know not everyone shares my excitement however. All I can say is this: if you ever take the time to talk to the elderly, one of the things they regret the most is not taking the chance to travel. It’s an experience of a lifetime. As a student, a semester abroad isn’t just so you can pad your resume. It’s a way to help you get a fuller education, become a well rounded person, and it will let you learn things you can’t learn in a classroom.
It’s worth it.