From a normal trip to the perfect experience abroad

I have been thinking hard about: How can I afford to travel for a longer time?

A. Flights: When you are on a traditional vacation, you may spend a lot of money in a very short period of time. The flight is usually the biggest expense and you end up spending all your savings in just  one or two weeks. That is too much of an investment. I believe that you get a much better experience if you stay in the same place for a longer time so your flight money is well invested. If you just have few days, you can always do a road trip or a cheap trip so  a place nearby. Now, do not full yourself and end up spending half of the money that you needed for your dream trip in a trip that really does not let you experience what you wanted. You may need to save up for a longer time or take saving more seriously. Also, when you try to squish to many places to visit in one week or two, you end up wasting a lot of time at the airport and finding hotels. You are never there for the interesting cultural event because you are somewhere else already.

B. Lodging: Hotels are another big expense, which, at least for me, they mean nothing. I just want a place to sleep, I do not care how it is. On top of that, they isolate you. It is really hard to meet local people if you stay at hotels. www.CouchSurfing.com is a much better experience. The person that hosts you can tell you all about the best places, how life really is in that place, and most of the time, you end up meeting someone very interesting. I understand that sleeping at someone´s couch is not the ideal for everybody. You may want to pay some money and look for an AirBNBwww.airbnb.com experience, where you still may get some good advice and conversation from the owner. In same places, you can also stay with a family like a bed and breakfast. In some countries like England that is very expensive but in other countries you can save and make sure that your money goes to the local families and not to the International Hotels. 

C. Food: This is the other big expense if you keep going to restaurants. Again, in a restaurant you may not be able to interact with anybody but if you eat at an informal bar, coffee place or at the street, you will not find the menu in English and you will have to practice your new language and hopefully have a better chance of talking to the owner. Some thing here, I rather give my money to the street guy or the guy that has a small bar than to a fancy restaurant where just the rich go. 

D. Presents: Is it really written somewhere that you have to waste the precious time of your vacation from store to store trying to buy presents for every single member of your family? If it feels like a chorus and you are going to end up buying something meaningless just to fell that you completed your obligation, do not do it. You can buy all your presents from a local tribe or a local store in the same place and help this tribe make a living so they do not have to move to the city. This way, they can keep their culture, traditions and language.

E. Pictures: We all want to have pictures of beautiful cities and sceneries but do we really enjoy the place or are we just thinking about how to take the best picture and we just even look at that amazing place through the lens. Well, I am sure that you can not remember anyplace that you just see that way. I have many pictures of places that I do not even remember being there because I was going so fast to see an entire city in just one or two days. Well, cities do not move, maybe it is better to leave some places for the next trip and see that place in a different season, not during a weekend…

F. The real question: My real concern is: From the times that I have done regular tourism, How much have I learned? How often have I been out of my comfort zone? How many people from that area have I met? How often have I though, “Now I understand why they do this or think that” ? How much of their language have your learned?

In my experience, this just happens when you go off the path and you allow yourself to spend more time in each place. Do you really need to see every single church? Every single building? How many of them are they going to wow you? How many are you going to remember?  When you cross the same place few times and when you start running into the same people, then people will start to approach you and you will notice that flier for an amazing event for the following week.

G. Traveling with a purpose: I love to volunteer and you learn so much more about the people that you work with, the culture and the language. When you volunteer, you are gaining knowledge, skills, you contribute to a cause, you interact with the locals and you are not an outsider that is passing by. You travel with a goal, you will have many more connections in the country and you will be useful to someone else. Well, you do need to think well about your skills and where you could be useful and for how long they rather have you. For short periods of time you can go to www.workawayinfo.com and for 6 months or longer you can visit: Go Abroad www.goabroad.com. There are many several paces for volunteering. I would be suspicious of the ones that charge you a big amount of money. If they are organize, you should be useful to day from the first minute and they should feed you and give you a place to stay even though you need to bring your own hammock or tent and be one of the people cooking the food. If you are in the medical field, you can make a huge difference in just few weeks. You can provide medical assistance to people that had none.

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Veggie sushi at the Oasis project in Paraty, Brazil.

Roof at Oasis

Making the roof of a dry bathroom at the Oasis project in Paraty, Brazil.

Making Cement

Making concrete at Arawak Hostel, Iranbuda, close to Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil.

E. Your luggage: You could use your luggage in a smart way and instead of filling it up with tons of clothing, you could get in touch with a NGO that someone that you know has connections with and see if there is any school material or something that they may need that you can bring with you. Many times technology, clothes, school material… may be cheaper where you are from. Do not bring candy for kids because they may not have access to a dentist and you may be creating more of a problem. A notebook and a pencil can take them a way longer way.

F. Language classes: You may be traveling to take language classes. In that case, try to stay with a family so you can learn the language and the culture much quicker. You can get in touch with them before you travel and ask them about volunteering opportunities or things that you could bring with you.

 

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