Last week I made a post entitled “How to Travel as a Young Man (Part one)”
You can check it out here if you missed it.
This is part two of that post. Whereas part one focused on a specific route to allow you the option of work and travel (ESL teaching), this post will be more general, and is aimed at preparing you for your trip.
Just like last week, older more experienced readers may find some of this common sense, but it is aimed at the first timers in the room, and includes what I wish I would have known before I set out travelling throughout my twenties.
So if you’re a young man who’s already got it in your head to get on a plane and embark to unknown shores for the first time, what should you be thinking about?
How can you not just travel, but travel well?
So you’ve got your ticket, you’ve got your passport, and now it is time to start getting ready for your big trip. What else do you need to prep?
Depending on where you are from, some countries you may visit may require that you do a bit of extra leg work, provide a bit more information, or pay a fee. For Americans, that means China, Vietnam, Myanmar, and a list of others.
Don’t worry, they are easy to get, but don’t be that guy who shows up and fucks up your whole experience because you didn’t google “Do American’s need a Visa for X country,” before getting on the plane.
Check https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel.html for details on the country you are going to.
Being smart with your money is one of the core tenets of becoming a good traveler. That means, YNAB (you need a budget). For me, this was as simple as a little moleskin pocket notebook where I logged my expenses. I planned ahead that I would need x amount of dollars per day, and then I stuck to that number religiously. If I went over because of a night of drinking, I spent the next day hiking and eating beans from a tin can. You get this picture. Knowing your budget allows you to know exactly how long you are going to be able to continue travelling, or if you are blowing a bunch of your money on pints rather than experiences (a perennial issue of mine).
As the saying goes: if it goes between you and the ground, don’t skimp on it. Shoes are a massive part of travelling, and you’ll want to spend around $100 on a good pair. Personally I like Ghost running shoes, unless I’m going off road. But the point here is to just make sure you are reflecting on the most comfortable option. Travelling as a young man means you are probably going to be walking some epic distances if done right. At the height of my travelling I probably walked 10 miles a day and put holes in my cheap sneakers, so I wish I would have thought about this sooner.
10 Phrases Repeated
I can’t stress this one enough, and so many guys miss out on a gold mine of opportunities and experiences because they are fucking this one up. Quite simply, if you are going somewhere, take the time to prepare in advance by memorizing 10 phrases in the local language. No you don’t need to learn the entire language. But spend thirty minutes a day with it for a week. With the internet this is pretty ridiculously easy to do.
The way I’ve always done it is to put an audio recording of the phrases on my podcast listening software (podcast addict) and then listening to the file multiple times a day, until the words become so stuck in my head that they become natural to say.
I don’t have the space here to go into all the myriad ways a basic grasp of the language can help you. In fact, I’d go so far to say that it isn’t really the grasp that is important, it’s the fact that you are making an effort at all. Most countries in the world know that English is the established lingua franca of the day. They know that their own languages are obscure (usually), and thus will be fucking thrilled that you give a shit enough to try. This helps with women, with friends, with getting where you need to go. People will help you out a lot more once they’ve seen you aren’t just another asshole American who has put zero time into actually making an effort to learn the local language.
Leave the basics of your itinerary with someone
Sometimes, if you travel long enough, you get lost. I nearly died alone in the Borneo jungle once, and went through plenty of bug-out missile scares while in south Korea. It is good to have someone back home who has some sense of where you are, just in case. When shit hits the fan in a foreign country, a bad situation can become much worse. Imagine contracting a disease in a place where you can’t speak the language, or getting accused of theft in a place where they sentence thieves to 40 lashes. Planning ahead and communicating with someone back home adds a small bit of security to the situation. This is mostly recommended for first time travelers or the very young.
When I’m hopping around from city to city, hostelworld.com is my best friend. No affiliation, but I swear by the site.
If you are sort of new to travel, a hostel generally consists of a big room with a bunch of bunk beds. There is generally a communal kitchen, a bathroom, and a bar (if you are lucky). Usually a bed can be had at these places for around 10USD a night.
The great thing about hostel life is that you are thrown in with a bunch of other young people who are in the midst of travelling, and are usually some of the most open people you will ever meet. There is something about being out in a strange place with a bunch of strange young people doing the same thing, that can be hard to explain if you have never experienced it. There is just such an energy to the whole experience. You’ll fall into a group of people from all over the world, all doing the same thing as you: wandering around, tasting food, drinking the booze and just looking to have a new and compelling experience. Some of the best times in my life have been spent in random hostels.
Book in advance, skip the private room, and read the reviews.
Just a little side tip, [I’ve always really liked this series of books/website more than “lonely planet” or any of the more common travel guides. The reason? I think going to visit obscure stuff is more fun, wherever you are. (I’m sure I’ll get called a hipster, but so be it) Sure, you’ll want to hit the big stuff wherever you go. Don’t go to Egypt and skip the pyramids, but waiting in endless lines to take the same Facebook selfie as a thousand other basic bitches is not really getting to the heart of travel. Experience lies instead down the dusty dirt road, at that little outdoor market where no one speaks English, at the centuries old prison that now lies crumbling behind a supermarket. You get the idea. I always plan a few jaunts based on the recommendations here, and they make me feel more at home in a new place.
A few other small notes on Prep:
Buy a universal converter before you go. Thank me later. It looks something like this
Buy a Kindle. They are like 50 bucks these days. There is a lot of downtime in travel, and you don’t want to waste it. Use the time to read great books , without lugging around a heavy library. Kindles are amazing for travel.
Bring a padlock with a key or a code. Moving around from place to place, it is often handy to be able to secure your shit. Most hostels offer lockers, but often don’t actually offer LOCKS (strangely). Be prepared and bring a padlock with you.
Iodine tablets are your friend. These little buggers can purify water and kill all the bad germs that will ruin your trip. Very handy to have these + Nalgene wherever you roam.
Less is more. Just in general, when you are packing, try to minimize the stuff you bring. Heavy suitcases full of bullshit are for women. I bought one of these backpacks and put my whole life in it, never looked back.
Talk to your Credit Card Company and bank. These days, banks and credit card companies are smarter than they used to be, so this tidbit might be outdated. But it helps to inform your financial institutions that you are going on a trip. Otherwise, sometimes making a charge from Vladivostok Russia will get your accounts frozen, for obvious reasons.
That’s the end of part Two. Part three, coming soon, will be all about the travel mindset, and how to get the most out of your experience. In the meantime you can check out my latest book on dating for young men.
Thanks again guys. Now get out there and see the world while you’re young.