Today’s guest post comes from Ian over at Eager Existence. Ian is a 20-something Australian guy who gave up his career, packed his backpack, and headed to Europe for a couple of years of solo travel. He started out with no real plan, just 2 years of travel beginning in Turkey. That was a year ago, many adventures and friendships later, brings us to today where Ian is earning dive certifications and exploring everything Egypt has to offer.
I’ve been traveling fulltime for the past 11 months; mostly in Europe; mostly with no idea of what I was doing, and where I was going next. And for the most part, everything has turned out perfectly; I wouldn’t change it for the world.
You guessed it; I’m an advocate for carefree open itinerary travel. Where you book a one-way ticket to a destination of your dreams, make sure you get the visa, and let destiny handle the rest. Come on! It’s an adventure! You don’t have to know where you will be next month, or even next week. Just take a risk. But there are a few precautions you should take.
Have enough money. If you don’t have $2000+ in a bank account (my advice for starting on a long-term trip), or a couple of low-interest-rate credit cards, then maybe plan your finances a bit before you buy that ticket to somewhere you’ve always dreamed of. But seriously, you don’t need to be rich. Just a few thousand dollars to allow you to get a return ticket if things go pear-shaped. The next step, get yourself a visa (to work) if you don’t have the money. You will need to pay for things somehow. But budgeting for long-term, once-in-a-lifetime travel is for another post.
You don’t have a plan? Perfect. Well, if you’re starting out, you should have yourself a 3-day plan. It’s nice to have somewhere to go once your plane/ferry/bus touches down. Although, I’ve had one or two experiences where I’ve been in a new city late at night with nothing booked. It’s exhilarating, but I don’t recommend it. Be safe. Book your first night’s stay. Then if you need to, you can find something better bright and early the next morning after you’re rested.
When I started traveling in April 2011, I booked myself on a 15 day tour of Turkey. Beyond that I knew I wanted to travel for up to 2 years, but I didn’t know where. I thought I’d be able to talk to other travelers, and find out what they were doing — and I did — a few girls from tour were heading on to Greece, for the Greek Islands, but being April (before summer), I decided to head towards Bulgaria instead, until the sun came out. On a whim, I ended up traveling Greece for over a month before heading down to the Greek Islands where I ran into some of the girls in Ios.
Using the “3 day” rule, I looked up CouchSurfing hosts/hostels/and guest houses in nearby towns, cities, and villages; checked border/visa requirements, transport costs, and left the rest to opportunity. Even in high season, I could often be found without accommodation booked in Italy, Croatia, Greece, and the United Kingdom. It’s not that big a deal. So you don’t get your first pick for a hostel, or maybe your Couch Requests get declined. There are always more budget options further down the list.
If I had planned out the last 11 months of travel I would have missed out on meeting quite a few people, and surely would have missed the one or two travel romances I’ve had. I never planned to spend a week on Lake Balaton in Hungary, or several weeks traveling through Croatia with a girl I met on a canoe trip. I wouldn’t have traveled back-and-forth to Greece for another romance there, and all my travel plans would have gone up in smoke when I had my passport stolen in Florence. I wouldn’t have lived and studied Spanish in Madrid for 3 months, or taken last-minute trips to the coast of Spain, to Amsterdam, Berlin, or Morocco. Get the picture?
More recently I found myself in Dahab, at a budget hotel, where I decide to cross item #26 off my bucket list and get accredited to dive open water, and more advanced wreck and deep dives. That was completely unplanned. And thanks to the kind people working at my hotel, I now have an action-packed couple of days coming up in Cairo. To be honest, this part of the trip is kind of planned from now on, because I have a flight out of Egypt on the 20th.. so I’m not that open to new people I might meet, or changes to itinerary in the next few days. But you can’t have it all, right?
You never know who you will meet tomorrow, or what opportunity might come up. So don’t plan too far ahead; just a ticket there, maybe a guidebook, and an internet connection; and leave yourself open for adventure!