Travel Questions Answered

Travel Questions Answered: July 2011

Derek Travel Questions Answered 31 Comments

Travel Questions Answered
It’s time to try something new.

As I now receive an average of 10 – 15 emails per day from readers who have questions about a whole range of travel-related topics, I decided to begin a new series so that more people can benefit from the answers I provide.

I’ll still reply to every email I receive but instead of giving my usual thorough and detailed answers directly, I will post the questions and answers that I think others would be interested in reading about right here on the blog.

We’ll see how this first post goes and, depending on the response, I’ll continue with this “Travel Questions Answered” series every week, every two weeks or once a month.

So, let’s get this series started with some questions that have arrived in my inbox this week…

1. How are you able to go from place to place and work? Do you have to apply for a work visa at every single place? Or has your visa been getting sponsored by companies who hire you? Working visas in Europe are hard to come by so how do I do this?

In my situation, I don’t require work visas because I don’t actually work in the countries I visit. My work is all online and I am not working for or being paid by a foreign company or organization. So, in the eyes of every country I visit, I am merely a tourist.

When it comes to working specific jobs in different countries overseas, a proper work visa is generally required. Some countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and the UK, offer working holiday visas to young citizens (usually under 30 years of age) of certain other countries. These visas can be easy to obtain, either through the government’s website or through an agency, and they allow you to travel and work small jobs legally during your stay.

But there are only a handful of countries where this is actually possible, so if you want to obtain an official work visa somewhere else, you’d need to get hired by a company first. Once you’re hired, the company will often complete and submit all of the necessary paperwork to the government in order for you to obtain the visa. This goes for positions such as teaching English at a school or language institute, working for a tour operator and any other official job you may be hired for.

As for an American just showing up in a place such as Europe and trying to find work, that’s a bit more of a challenge. The only real way to get an official working visa in most of Europe would be to apply and be hired for a job with a company that is willing to sponsor you, but this is really only an option for those looking to work and live in the European Union long-term. For the traveler who is simply looking to earn some cash while on the road, you’ll have to look for ‘under the table’ jobs in places such as restaurants and bars. There is always a risk involved with this but it might be your only option.


2. What did you do about family while traveling or what do you do now? I’m very close with my family, although a computer and a webcam (or tablet) these days is just as good as being there, but I still want to know how you get through all this.

Being away from family is naturally one of the more challenging aspects of living a life that involves constant travel. At some point, many years ago, I had to make a decision. I could give up my goals of travel in order to be at home or I could continue living the life I dreamed of and find ways to deal with the challenges. Of course, I chose the latter option. So, apart from regular phone calls, Skype video calls and emails, I also spend about 1 month per year back in the US visiting everyone. Also, some of my family, and many of my friends, tend to visit me once or twice per year in different places around the world.

I really do believe that people can maintain strong bonds without seeing each other often, especially if they maintain communication in other ways. This is why I make sure that I am in regular contact with everyone – from my parents to my sister to my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – no matter where I happen to be in the world.


3. How do you travel and live off just $1500 in terms of housing, food, travel, etc?

Even though it may not seem like a great deal of money, $1500 USD per month is more than sufficient to travel through the majority of countries out there. Of course, you could easily spend much more than that amount but it’s all about how you prioritize your spending.

In general, accommodation in budget hotels or hostels will cost less than $25 per night (and as low as a few dollars) depending on where you are. As for food, unless you choose to eat at pricey restaurants every day, all you need is a combination of yummy street food, local eateries and even buying fruits and breads at a local market for breakfast, in order to help keep your costs way down.

And getting from one destination to another is only as expensive as you make it. Instead of a first-class train, there is always the bus. Instead of taking a taxi across town, you could always walk or use public transportation. Flights are of course more expensive but you can limit that expense by traveling overland between destinations. Sometimes, you do have to fly but as long as you are flexible with your dates, you can usually find cheap flights to Los Angeles, Bangkok, Melbourne, London or wherever it is you need to go.

In the end, travel can cost $10,000 per month or it can cost $500 per month. It all depends on your style of travel and your willingness to give up some of the comforts you may enjoy at home. But it is important to note that being a budget traveler does not involve sleeping in cockroach-infested, foul-smelling rooms every night and eating nothing but rice for every meal. The reality, as hard as it may be to believe, is that you can travel very well for very little in many parts of the world.


Pushkar India
4. How do you end up meeting new people and making friends when you travel?

As vague as it may sound, meeting people just happens. For example, all you really need to do in order to meet locals is to start chatting to the street vendors, to the hotel staff, to the waiters, to the people on the bus, etc and before you know it, you’ll be meeting local people with ease.

As for meeting other travelers, it is actually much easier to socialize while traveling than it is at home. If you see another traveler in the hostel, in a cafe or at the train station, there is that bond of travel that instantly connects you. Since every traveler you see is a stranger in a new land just like you, all that is often required to make friends is uttering that simple word, ‘hello‘.

In fact, some of my good friends are people I began talking to in random places during my adventures, such as while drinking a tea, walking down the street, sitting on a train and while watching a sunset.


5. I was thinking of using the backpack you use – Kelty Redwing 2900 – as a carry-on. Have you used it as a carry-on? Have there been any problems or times when you were forced to check it?

My Kelty Redwing backpack is a great backpack to be used as a carry-on as it fits the measurements of any airline, even when full of stuff. I’ve never had a problem with it not fitting or being refused at check-in, and it’s now been my travel companion for 12 years and across 70 different countries.


6. I want to explore the world but my problem is that I get homesick easily. Not necessarily for my family but for my comfortable and well-known surroundings. How do you deal with homesickness?

It is only natural to feel homesickness in the beginning of your travels. We grow up living one particular way of life and as we start to find ourselves in foreign lands, there are just so many things from home that we no longer have around us. But the good news is that the more you travel, the higher the chances that the equation will change. Before you know it, you’ll no longer miss those comforts from home and you’ll start to miss aspects of the different countries you visit. And this will keep you permanently excited about the new adventures that lie ahead.

Also, it is important to note that a life of travel can come in many forms. It does not mean that one must always be on the road 12 months of every year. You just need to find a travel style that is most comfortable for you. Perhaps it involves spending 6 months at home and 6 months abroad or maybe a 1 month trip every year or so. There are no rules and the only way you can go wrong is if you completely ignore your desire to travel!


7. Do you speak any other language apart from English? I am thinking about going to Italy and offering to teach English there, but how would I answer student questions if I don’t speak their language fluently?

The only other language I can speak is Spanish, although I would consider myself to be at the intermediate level. Apart from that, I basically try to learn the basics of every language I come across during my travels so that I at least have some understanding of what is happening around me.

With teaching English, you’ll generally find that most of your students, especially if they are university-age or older, will already have a basic understanding of the English language. Chances are that you won’t end up teaching young children or people who are learning English from square one. When I taught in Thailand, I focused on teaching conversational English only which helped guarantee that anyone interested in my classes would already be able to hold at least a simple conversation. And that’s really all that’s needed as the best way to teach a language is to ensure that the language being taught is used at all times. I rarely needed to use any Thai when teaching in Thailand and that is typically the case in regards to local languages no matter where one happens to be teaching.


And that concludes the first post in the new “Travel Questions Answered” series! If you have a question you’d like to ask, either leave a comment or send me an email and your question just might end up in the next installment…

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Comments 31

  1. Pingback: Your Travel Questions Answered – August 2011 | Wandering Earl

  2. Tyler Stokes

    Hey Earl, great question and answer series!

    I have a question regarding money. I’m planning on traveling this winter and just want to get an idea on how you pay all your bills.

    Do you just carry credit cards and make the payments online, or do you have a home bank account where you can use ATMs in various countries to withdraw money.

    I’m assuming you don’t open bank accounts when you enter new countries, but I know that transferring money between banks is not always that straight forward.

    So how do you get your money from your home bank in your hands while traveling Asian or South America?

    Thanks!

    1. Earl

      Hey Tyler – Those are good questions and the answers are quite simple. I have bank accounts back in the US and pay all of my bills online. Also, one of the accounts I have is with a bank that offers ATM, Debit and Credit cards that do not charge any fees for international transactions. So I can take out money from any ATM during my travels without paying any extra fees, and because almost every country these days has plenty of ATMs, this is definitely the best option. Long gone are the days when travelers had to carry around large sums of money…

      And that’s all there is to it 🙂

      1. LILIKOI67@YAHOO.COMPriscilla

        I love your answers and information.My son travels like this and teaches esl. I want to do this visit and move on. I have a 1000.00 a month but I plan to save anouther 12000 to have in reserve for un expected things. before I embark on a journey. I am 70 years old. Do you think I can do this?

        1. Earl

          Hey Priscilla – Thank you so much for commenting and I think that it’s definitely possible for you to take a journey on that kind of income. After all, $1000 per month is about what I spend myself and I know of plenty of others who are managing to travel and live well overseas for less money than that. The best thing to do is a little research so that you’ll know exactly where you can live for that amount. Start by choosing countries that you are interested in visiting and then narrow it down from there. I’ll think you’ll discover that you’ll have a good amount of options 🙂

  3. Julia

    Hi Earl,

    I like how you said that we can still maintain the bonds with our families even though we are not there to actually see them or be with them very often. When I decided to move to Costa Rica, I was told that my relationships with my family will suffer and I just dont believe that. We can skype and email and I get updates on everything that is happening. I am about to visit back ‘home’ for a month and am excited to see everyone and spend some real quality time together.
    The thing about family is that they will always be here for us. Whether we are next door or across the world. When I was thinking about my family before I made the decision to come here, I thought that I will always have them in my life, but I will not always have the opportunity to see more of the world. I would have really regretted not exploring in order to stay close to my family. They are majorly important to me, but I would have felt like I was missing out on something if I gave up this experience.
    Thanks for answering all of these questions, it was really interesting to read 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Julia – You summed it up perfectly! I actually think I am closer to my family than many of my friends are to theirs, even if they live in the same state as their family. When you’re away, you tend to look forward to those phone calls and skype calls and they become a part of your travels. And in the end, it does make the actual visits ‘home’ that much more special as we all know how important it is to make the most out of every day that we do spend together.

  4. Kris Koeller

    A great summary for newbies. Its the practical stuff like this that can trip you up, but its a good to review to ensure you’re up for it. This lifestyle is definitely not for everyone.

    1. Earl

      Hey Kris – That is absolutely true! It’s not for everyone but I hope the more information people have before they embark on such an adventure, the easier it will be for them to determine if a life of travel is what they really want..

  5. Nomadic Samuel

    Earl, this is a great series for your readers – especially those curious/contemplating a location independent lifestyle. I think question number 3 is likely the biggest surprise to most. Many assume travel or life abroad would be excessively expensive; however, as you pointed out $1500 is more than enough to get by in many locations around the world. I would go as far as to say it’s more than enough to consistently save money each month.

    1. Earl

      @Nomadic Samuel: You’re right about question #3 as most people would never believe that extensive traveling could be done for such an amount of money. And it is in fact enough money to travel and save a little a well. If a person can manage to accomplish that I’d say they’re doing quite well!

  6. Linda

    Hi Earl,
    I like your Website…..I am considered a wandering Gypsy/Nomad in Canada and my family and most people do not understand it….I feel I have learned so much though by moving around and meeting many new people/situations etc …I am trying to figure a way of moving abroad for myself and possibly my common-law partner…..who really wants to travel as well….
    My questions to you when you have a chance to answer and there is no hurry…
    #1- Is this website (online) the only business you have or do you have other online opportunities that you make an income from? or that you can recommend?
    #2- Presently I have a smaller Widow’s pension coming in (@$430 CDN per month and I would like to know is there anywhere in the world one could live on that comfortably?… OR how much more would be needed to really live comfortably and what should I consider doing online or?…Should I consider doing this abroad….Would anyone abroad be interested in this service : I did take a Certificate course in Astrology/Parapsychology (Astrology, Iching, Palmistry, Numerology, Parapsychology) recently and I also can read Tarot Cards (studied personally for 25 years) and Tea cup (tea leaf) readings etc….. #3 – I am also looking for a destination with a warmer climate, sandy beaches/clean beautiful water/clean/unpolluted environment, cheap food prices/entertainment/services etc, safe/low crime rates and where medical is cheap as well…..I also sang in various Karaoke contests and in my own small PUB over the years and have been told I have a pretty good voice. Thank you Earl for your help and advice….Any information would be helpful! Thanks Linda

    1. Earl

      Hey Linda – Thank you for your comment and I’d be more than happy to answer your questions. I’ll actually save a couple of the questions for the next post in this series and then email you answers to a couple of the other questions.

  7. Dina

    How many liters approximately your backpack is? Mine is about 60-70 and always full. I’m thinking of cutting back a bit to let me walk longer with it.

    1. Earl

      Hey Dina – My backpack is 47 liters, which I find to be a perfect size. Mine is usually 75% full but it’s taken me a few years to get to that point 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Scott – I’m really hoping this series will take off and become a great resource for anyone trying to figure out how they too can get started traveling. I already have plenty of new questions to answer for the next post!

  8. Janet

    I have a question not on here 🙂
    As a nomad, does it mean you don’t have a permanent address, essentially homeless? Or do you rent apartments where you currently stay? The reason I ask if I’m currently hosting a nomad and I’m starting to feel negatively towards them.. which is probably unfair over just ONE experience, especially since I’ve definitely been the nomad too.. But I feel he’s overextending the hospitality.. bringing in a pseudo “girlfriend” who just invites herself over and crashes here for example.. ugh.

    1. Janet

      I guess my greater question there would be how do you keep ‘normal’ society at bay with your unconventional lifestyle? Keeping everyone happy rather than be viewed as something negative.. like a lazy hippy/freeloader etc.

      1. Earl

        Hey Janet – Those are some excellent questions and if you don’t mind, I’m going to save the answers to a couple of them for the next post in this series 🙂 However, I will say that I personally don’t expect anything for free and apart from crashing on my best friend’s couch whenever I’m in NYC, I don’t stay with anyone else long-term. Rarely will I stay with anyone for more than 2 or 3 days. If I am traveling around, I usually just stay in hotels or hostels and if I decide to stay in one place long-term, I always rent an apartment.

        In making the decision to live this nomadic lifestyle, my goal was never to be a freeloader at all. My advice would be to tell the nomad who is staying with you that it is time for them to move on. There’s no reason why your life should be altered and affected because someone else wants a free place to stay.

        1. Janet

          thanks, Earl! I guess discussing etiquette etc for a nomad would be a great topic too for the next series.. I’m sure you can rework the wording of my questions because I personally think I did a poor job 😛 I’m really excited to read your answers in the next series!!

          As for my personal sit., it’s been a little over a week already and it’s kind of tricky because he DID offer to pay part of the rent, water, etc. and he’s contributing a lot on food.. But my life is still altered and affected for the negative 🙁

          1. Earl

            Hey Janet – At the end of the day, if you’re not happy with the situation, you have a right to speak up and even if he offered to pay rent, it’s still perfectly reasonable for you to set the rules. I know it can be difficult (and I’d find it a tough situation as well) but you’ll probably feel much better if you bring up the issue with him.

  9. Terry

    I also think this is a great series,since i plan on living in playa del carmen for 6 months a yr i appriceate the insite of how to rent long term and pay local rates for it .maybe i will see u on 5th ave .

  10. Pingback: Weekend Reading: Credit Cards, Travel, and Airlines. - The Wealth Artisan

  11. Untemplater

    This is going to be an awesome series Earl! That is a great point about working online and not needing a work visa. Having an online business offers so much flexibility. A topic I’d love to hear your expertise on is “What type of plan do you suggest for health and dental insurance while living abroad and can you get good coverage without paying a fortune?”

    1. Earl

      @Untemplater: That’s a great question and I will add it to the next post in the series! I’m looking forward to these posts as I really think they are going to be useful for many people. The next post will be in two weeks from now…

  12. Dyanne@TravelnLass

    Brilliant new “TQA” series! No doubt it will save you loads of pecking time answering repeated questions, plus now your thoughtful answers will be open for all to see. Definitely a win-win solution!

    Indeed, I suspect the series will become very popular, so you might want to implement some sort of category/tagging search system for the TQA from the getgo, no?

    1. Earl

      Thanks Dyanne! I’m excited about this new series and I am working on a way to keep it all organized. By the time the next post comes out, I’ll have a system in place 🙂

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