Why Traveling the World is Not as Unrealistic as it Seems

by Alexander Heyne · 12 comments

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”

-G.K. Chesterton

World Travel is Not as Far Away as You Think

Just about every time I hang out with someone my age (and often older),  I hear the statement: “I want to travel the world.”  That goes equally for people who have a career and a specific dream, as well as those who don’t have one particular aspiration.

I want to make you realize that travel, world travel, globe trotting, whatever you want to call it, is not as hard as people make it out to be.

First, One Note of Caution

If there’s a single lesson I’ve learned traveling, and I’ve traveled a good amount for someone my age, is that it’s really important to have a reason for traveling.

That may sound like heresy to some, but after a while of “just traveling” and seeing all the tourist sights and going to the beaches and drinking your coronas, and then going back to work waiting for it happen again, you’ll definitely be craving something more.

Adventure is that “more” part.  And that’s why I recommend one main, underlying purpose to your travels.

Keepin’ it Sweet and Simple

Let me give you some examples of specifics:

  • Going to canada for a survival camping expedition, tracking wolves in the snow, and listening to them howl in the evening (On my to do list! Any takers?)
  • A trip to New Zealand to bungee jump, sky dive, and enjoy any and all outdoor sports
  • Visiting China to visit a Taoist temple and learning kung-fu, old school
  • A motorcycle trip from Mexico to Brazil (on my to do list, also needs comrades)
  • Visting your family’s roots in Ireland and Scotland
  • A volcano tour of Iceland

Money Holding You Back? Read More

Most people my age cite money as the number one reason they can’t travel.  Let me show you why traveling is both cheaper and more expensive than you think, but is always feasible.

Airfare: That Evil Wench

Airfare is a real bitch sometimes.  For example, just recently I bought a one-way ticket from New York to Beijing, China.  $622.  I then bought another one way ticket from Beijing back to New York.  $1200.  I wasn’t thrilled about the extra $600 I planned to have in my pocket, but here are some big suggestions that can help you save hundreds (literally).

  1. Timing.  A family friend several years back recommended buying tickets between tuesday and thursday.  Avoiding the weekend is how you’ll find better air fares between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon.
  2. Timing #2. Booking flights way in advance is what your momma always told you.  That is one good suggestion to get flights cheaper.  However, booking flights last minute can also help you find good prices.
  3. Method.  Try flying from large hubs to other large hubs, and then if you are continuing on somewhere go the classic “Easyjet” route.  Easyjet and Ryanair are big in Europe and you can usually find a flight to major european cities for under 50 dollars (usually much less).  Within China, www.qunar.com and www.elong.com are great suggestions (the former you’ll need some Chinese skills for).  The English version of elong is at www.elong.net. In south east asia/the philippines, cebu pacific air  is what you want for local flights.

Lodging: Be Realistic

If you’ve never hosteled before, be warned: They’re nothing like the movie hostel, haha.

Hostels are extremely safe, extremely cheap, way better than hotels in a lot of ways, and the best way to meet people of your mind set.

Some examples all in USD:

  • Hostels in Sydney, Australia: $15-$35
  • Hostels in Paris, France: $25-$50 (for a private room)

    Santorini Sunset

  • Hostels in London, England: $25-$50 (shared room)
  • Hostels in Beijing, China: $6 – $15 for a shared room
  • Hostels in Tokyo, Japan: $25-$50 for a shared room
  • Hostels in Phuket, Thailand: Starting at $5
  • Hostels in Santorini, Greece: A villa guesthouse for 2 people? Something out of a hollywood movie? $46 USD (for two people)
www.hostelbookers.com. Use it, and be amazed.
Hostels provide you with: unlimited train, plane and bus booking.  Any and all excursions or tourist trips.  Usually have free internet, almost all have a bar and food area.  Most have laundry facilities, and they all have tons of young people (and increasingly, not so young people) who are interested in the exact same stuff as you.

Other Options

Couchsurfing.  www.couchsurfing.com

In a nutshell:

  • You make a profile
  • You provide information: where you want to go, and how long.  Whether or not you have a place available where someone can crash
  • You ask people in you target location if you can hang out for a few days
  • People ask you (however, you can disable the feature or just say “no couch available”) if they can come stay with you
  • You host visitors, visitors host you
  • It’s awesome – try it.
  • The Cost? Friendship.
Airbnb is similar but you rent a person’s apartment and can rent out your own.

The “No Comrades” to Travel With Excuse

One sad thing about traveling: you may not always have friends to travel with at the start.  For a while, I waited for people to travel with and realized that because of conflicting schedules or money, traveling alone is sometimes the better option.

The upside?  Even if you’re a hermit you can meet friends to go out with on Day 1; hosteling just has that vibe about it.

A Brief Lesson in Relativity: Money Goes Further, Elsewhere

Oh and one last thing, again on money.

In the US, my car (2003 Nissan Xterra) as of 2011 costs at least $75  a week to fill up.  Rent at university for my apartment was $300 / month (cheap). Food I was buying was $60 a week.

Get rid of those three expenses, and re-arrange them. (Say you decide to travel 3 months instead of staying in your college apartment over summer).

Gas for a month? Two weeks lodging in Paris. If you went to Asia that’d be two months lodging.

Rent? Sweet airfare to Iceland and back.

Food?  Gourmet meals at five-star restaurants.

Just be aware of the obvious – money gets you way further in other parts of the world.  Your daily expenses that can be trimmed down or put on “hold” can get you far elsewhere.

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniela August 5, 2011 at 6:51 am

So you’re on couchsurfing as well, sweet!
Even if none of this was new to me I think you’re doing a really good job with this blog, i would have wanted someone to give me tips back when I started travelling so keep up the good work :)
Also for hostels, Hostelworld.com is another valid option!


afheyne August 5, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Thanks! Yeah couchsurfing was great. I used it in Germany, Switzerland and other countries in that area. Always had positive experiences.

Hostelworld.com also works — I just got in the habit of hostelbookers.com :)

And yes, I too wish people gave me realistic information about traveling when I wanted to travel. It’s all a pipe dream until you meet someone who can explain it to you in plain terms. It’s that beginner learning curve.. there’s a lot to learn at the beginning.


afheyne August 24, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Hi —
If it’s not a generic “common sense” tip I have after traveling awhile, it’s cited in the post :)
Alex H.


afheyne August 25, 2011 at 11:03 am

Absolutely, there will be plenty more in the travel section to come out soon – stay posted.



Abe November 30, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Thanks for the tips, Alex – all entirely to true. Another good one that I’ve heard of here in Germany is http://www.mitfahrgelegenheit.de/ . It’s along the lines of couchsurfing, but bumming rides in cars instead of sleeping on a couch. I haven’t used it yet (still milking my Eurail pass), but it seems like a great way to meet people while traveling between cities.


TheRewardsTraveler March 14, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Hey Alex,
What about Rewards Travel? That can be an extremely cheap way to fly. However, it is getting more expensive year after year as airlines keep charging ridiculous fees for using miles.
One great website you missed is airbnb.com The idea is kind of like couchsurfing except your accommodations will usually be nicer as actually pay something but you certainly make a lot of friends doing it from my experience.


afheyne March 15, 2012 at 4:54 pm

To be honest, I traveled to 30+ countries and I never heard of rewards traveling! Funny thing, right? I met tons of globetrotters and I never heard of it once until I got into the blogosphere and it appeared to be common knowledge.

And yeah airlines are enticing people with their rewards (credit cards too) but they are making them ridiculous hard to use them sometimes. Stupidity, or just money.

Airbnb? I’ll definitely have to check it out!


TheRewardsTraveler March 17, 2012 at 9:59 pm

I discovered pretty much the same thing. Most people just assume frequent flyer programs programs are just for business people.

You’re right it can get pretty complicated to actually use these “great” rewards miles. For some people it might be too much of a head ache. But it can be done. I recently booked two first class tickets to Peru which should have been around $6000. My price: $200 in taxes and fees and 160,000 BA miles.

We’ll actually be staying in an airbnb in Peru. Should be fun!

Deon August 5, 2014 at 10:12 am

“I recommend one main, underlying purpose to your travels.”

For years I wanted to travel (didn’t have a source of income) and I recently got to attend a conference at an upscale resort for free. Before leaving I Yelped the best local restaurants and made sure to list and attend each of them.

It wasn’t anything glamorous, but the amount of satisfaction I received from setting small, specific goals and achieving them gave me a tremendous confidence boost.


afheyne March 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Wow that’s freaking amazing. I’ve gotten lucky by asking for business class upgrades that they gave me, but I’d like to really get some more extensive rewards (even a ‘non-travel’ year I fly about 4 times a year minimum).

I’m really interested in Airbnb now, pretty amazing site.


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