I am absolutely amazed by the pictures I've seen so far on this website, I’m a new member and overwhelmed with it, there is so much here! But how do you do it? I think I have it stuck in my mind that all the members here take these amazing trips all the time, but even if it's one experience how did you manage it? Was it faithful saving? Knowing saving tips? Having a well enough paying job to support it? I’m pretty young to the world of business and leisure and I want to do things right so I can travel. So share your building up to the trip experiences, how'd you know about the places you were going? What made you want to go? How’d you find the means to go?
Heh, that's a pretty wide-ranging question. Money-wise, I think the trick is in not spending it on other things. Some people spend a lot on an expensive car (and gas). Some go partying every weekend. We travel.
I know it definitely started that way for me; I went through university without any major expenses other than study books. I worked one day a week and studied for four. Because of this, university took me a year longer than it should've, but it did leave me with enough money at the end of it to travel for six months (travelling very cheaply; money effectively only went to transport, dorm rooms, bread, jam and tea). After that time I lucked out in finding webdevelopment work (which I'd been doing as a part time job) which in three months replenished my funds to a level where I could travel for another six months. Then I worked six more months (freelancing now), and travelled for another three before finally returning home. And the experience of all that meant that I had the self-confidence to start my own business and now earn enough to keep travelling (nearly) as much as I want. Though the money still nearly exclusively goes to travelling, and not to a car or parties.
I do have to say that when I set out on my first backpacking trip, I was utterly clueless about what travelling would mean, effectively. I had to develop a whole new set of habits and expectations. I originally picked Australia as my destination because everyone went there, I knew a few people, and it was easy to get a working holiday visa and I knew I had to work to support myself at some point. And then I did some reading online and discovered that New Zealand had the same kind of visa, and the Lord of the Rings movies had shown me how gorgeous a country that was, so I went wild and decided I'd go there for a year, too. And then, destinations picked, I bought lonely planets and basically devoured them cover-to-cover, noting which places I really wanted to see (based in large part on photos of landscapes which looked pretty) and stringing them together in some kind of logical order.
Nowadays, I still pick places I want to visit based on photos. There's landscapes I dream about, and slowly the bubble to the top of "must see" destinations. And I talk with other travellers, and read stories, and leaf through random lonely planets at bookstores, looking at the photo pages, and that all gets mixed together. Once a country has been picked, I find out when the best time of the year is to visit (always mentioned right at the start of each lonely planet), and see how that fits in with the projects I'm working on, and any other countries in the region that I also want to visit (or places which I visited before, but where I missed seeing certain things), or friends living nearby, and so on.
You never know in advance about the best experiences you'll have. But you do know what kind of environments create the right conditions for those experiences to be likely to come about. For example, I travel for those moments when the world overwhelms me with its beauty, and so I go to National Parks where I can take long hikes, and thus to countries with many National Parks or other areas of unspoiled nature. The more remote, the better. I give myself time to linger in places and slowly learn them, watching the light, seeing how the weather affects things. And then, invariably, magic happens.
Finding those National Parks and remote areas is still a matter of leafing through my lonely planet, although I do it in much less detail nowadays than I used to; having the experience to not need to plan in detail until the last moment. I go to a country where I know a certain type of landscape to exist, and I arrive with little more than the knowledge "there's mountains in the north". On the journey north I read my lonely planet's chapter on the north, and see which cities make good bases of operation; which allow easy access to the hiking trails, which have the hostels offering transport and so on. And I'll ask here at travellerspoint: "I'm going to this and that location - I love beautiful nature and a friendly atmosphere and remote and barren places: what things must I absolutely not miss, and what else is worthwhile around there?" And again it all gets mixed together, and I'll heed advice from travellers who just came back from a place, and I just see what comes my way.
In the end, the most important thing for having amazing experiences is just to be open to the world. Being away from the familiar environment of home makes this easier; there's no expectations you need to meet, just your own desires to follow. And when you do that, an amazing trip is the inevitable end result.
Thank you for replying, when I read your post I day dreamed about the places you got to see and how you did it, I wondered how on earth you supported yourself for so long in these different places? Did you have the money already? Did you work while you traveled? Did you meet up with other people? travel seems like a whole new world to me that I know almost nothing about accept for some of the beautiful places people get to see and how badly I want to be able to go there. But I’m so scared of it just like I’m scared of college. I’m terrified of the possibility of making horrible mistakes, finding out too late that I did one thing when I should have done another. I guess what I want most is a mentor, someone experienced who would come with me, let me plan a trip with them, let me learn but not have all the responsibility on my shoulders alone. I’m not a self starter like yourself and I think you are so blessed to be. I can't really relate to your post because you went out and discovered this on your own. I can't imagine doing that myself. I have bravery in the fact that I am willing to do almost anything, but starting anything is a huge problem for me. Thank you again for your reply.
I think probably the best thing you can do will be to just go to college. I don't know for certain what that's like in the USA, but the most important thing university in the Netherlands taught me (and I've heard the same from enough other people that I believe it's universal) is how to think. That is, you pick up an attitude of logically deconstructing any problem into small manageable parts that you tackle one by one. You learn your own capabilities and gain confidence that even the largest and hardest tasks will in due time give way. (Additionally, college will give you a solid foundation of skills and knowledge that you can always fall back upon to find a job with and thus start over.)
From the way you write about travel, you see it as this one huge block that is just too overwhelmingly large to ever really deal with. But it isn't. Travel is easy. You go some place (looking up if you need a visa, what the best time of year is, buying transport, getting to the airport on time, booking some accommodation ahead), and then you see things (reading your guidebook to discover where you want to go, looking up options for local transport, booking local accommodation, taking local transport, seeing the things you want to see). And that's all there is to it.
Before I went travelling, there's no way anyone would ever have described me as a "self starter". But I just said "okay, I'm going to do this crazy thing". All I had for assurance was enough money in a bank account to buy a ticket home if it ever became too much. And then I just set off, learning as I went along.
There's very few irrevocable "horrible mistakes". At 20 you're still pretty young, you have endless opportunities in front of you. Decide to go left. If it doesn't work out, you can always backtrack and go right instead. Worst case it'll have cost you a year or two learning what not to do, which is experience which will remain useful for the rest of your life.
I believe a "mentor" would teach you very little. It's doing things yourself which will teach you. And yeah, you'll almost certainly not take the most optimal course to get where you want to go. So you learn and improve. That's what life is all about.