In 2007 I visited 26 countries, including 15 that were new to me. This year I hope to be on track for at least that many, although as the years go by it will become more and more difficult to get to the “new” places.
For the past two years, almost all of my overseas travel has been by myself. Once I get to a starting point, I sometimes travel with others that I meet along the way, but most of the time, it’s just me. One of the things I realized along the way, whether through my 100 Countries or an SUV experience, one of my many overnight flights from Africa, or somewhere else, is that the actual process of traveling is critical to appreciating travel itself.
I try to enjoy this process of travel as much as I do the arrival and departure. Most of the time I love flying, and I rarely sleep on planes. I arrive at most airports three or more hours early to watch the planes on the jetway, read the departure signs for places I’ve been, and write in my journal.
One of the things I enjoy most is finding ways to experience life from multiple angles when I go overseas. I’ve yet to meet another person who flies Virgin Atlantic Upper Class and then checks into a $15 a night hostel, which I have done twice now. I enjoy both kinds of experiences and wouldn’t want to give up either one.
I take only a small carry-on bag with me, regardless of where I’m going and how long I’ll be away. In most of the countries I visit, I stay in small guesthouses or hostels. I’ve also slept in airports, in a hut in Zimbabwe, in numerous African villages, in a family’s living room in Croatia, on the ground outside a church in Macedonia after arriving at 2:00 a.m., and lots of other places I wouldn’t necessarily want to repeat… but I remain grateful for the experience.
As much as possible, I try to fly into one country or city and out of another. I go between the two with public transport, usually traveling overland by bus or train in most places I go. I can’t say I love the experience of long bus rides, but I don’t usually mind it. Five to six hours a day is a good amount of time for riding a bus. After five hours, I feel tired but not totally exhausted. Beyond the six hour point, though, I struggle.
I eat breakfast and dinner while overseas. I skip lunch most of the time, but usually have coffee somewhere in the afternoon. I have been a vegetarian for over a year now, and when I first stopped eating meat I worried that it would be difficult for my travels. It may still get difficult in the future, but so far I’ve had surprisingly few issues finding something I like to eat. I do sometimes end up eating the same things over and over each day, but that’s usually because I don’t know how to order many things in whatever country I’m in. In some places my staple is falafel, which I ate for about 10 days in a row in Jordan last year. In other places I eat noodles, or mushroom pizza, or just fruits and nuts.
When I’m overseas for more than 10 days at a time, I usually stay in a hotel every third or fourth night so I can catch up on my work. When traveling to multiple locations as I usually do, I typically book the first and last night’s accommodation. That way, when I arrive after traveling 24 hours or more, I don’t have to worry about finding a place to stay. Since I don’t usually sleep on planes, having an initial destination in mind is important – and after a couple of weeks of travel, I usually have an early flight back to the U.S., so I stay in a hotel the night before going home. In between the first and last stop, I sometimes plan where I’m going to stay with the help of guidebooks and information on the internet, and other times I show up in cities without a ready-made plan.
Meeting and Traveling with Others
I use the same strategy when planning to meet up with people along the way that I use in planning where I’ll stay—sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. I’ve noticed that when I stay in hostels and guesthouses, I tend to meet up with a lot more people than when I stay in hotels. Naturally, this makes sense, but I don’t usually plan my adventures according to whether I’ll be with someone else.
I also like to meet with local NGO leaders, activists, and journalists when I travel. Meeting with men and women who are actively working to produce positive change in their countries is always inspiring, and I inevitably learn far more about a place through these meetings. However, I have become more careful in setting up these meetings in advance lately, because there can often be an unavoidable expectation that I will be able to help them somehow. Since I’m not always able to do that, I’m now finding it better to set up these meetings when I’m already in-country.
Why I Travel
As to why I like to go overseas by myself and wander from place to place where I obviously don’t fit in, that answer is a little more complicated. Probably the best way to put it is that I feel like I am supposed to. I’ll try to write more about this sometime, but for now I find it hard to put into words.
I do get tired and generally worn down after a while. At the end of a long trip, I look forward to going home as much as I looked forward to going overseas to begin with. At the same time, I also look forward to going away again… so it’s a comfortable cycle of coming and going.
There are many great travel writers in the world, and I’m not one of them. My goal with this site is to document my visit to every country in the world, and challenge others to develop and achieve their lifelong goals just as I am doing. This site will eventually contain a short essay or story about each place I’ve visited, but some stories will naturally have more depth than others.
I don’t claim to be an expert on most of the places I visit, although after traveling a great deal for much of my life, I do feel relatively qualified to write about new places in comparison to others I’ve been to. Because I feel that it’s important to enjoy the process of travel as well as the destination, I write about both.
I am even less of a photographer than a travel writer. For a long time I felt an aversion to taking photos of any kind, preferring to remember my trips through my own memories and through journaling. I now take a digital camera with me everywhere and try to get a few decent pictures of most places I visit. However, my photos are done in a deliberate point-and-shoot amateur fashion, and I’ll include some here just because it’s true that pictures do help communicate a place to people who have never been.
If you’re looking for amazing, in-depth travel writing and photography, you’ll likely be disappointed in this site. On the other hand, if you’ve interested in personal development, entrepreneurship, and nonconformist ideas viewed through the lens of international travel, you’re who I’m writing for.
Welcome, and enjoy.