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.
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…