“Travel is about gaining the courage to loosen your grip on the so-called certainties of the world. It’s about refusing to exile the experience to some other, seemingly more appropriate time of your life.”
– Rolf Potts, Vagabnding
I looked over at my friend nestled in his cheap sleeping bag atop the hard asphalt of the parking lot. He was coughing loudly, but in a deep sleep that he’d entered nearly the second he lay down. In my freezing state, I wondered how many more minutes would pass until we’d both have to strip naked and share his sleeping bag to conserve heat.
We were at the base of Mt Teide in the Spanish Canary Islands. Unfortunately, the parking lot from which we’d departed 9 hours earlier was still high enough so as to be dangerously cold once the sun went down. We had just finished hiking the mountain and were utterly exhausted and unprepared. Hiking down the rest of the volcano just wasn’t feasible. I didn’t have a sleeping bag, just a tiny blue blanket with a heart pattern on it that I’d bought at a corner store earlier that week. I’d prepared for a tropical island adventure, not hiking one of the highest volcanoes on earth.
There was one car left in the parking lot, and I worried that they may have been camping out somewhere on the volcano. That car was our only hope of getting back down to civilization. I was beyond cold and the night was just beginning. If we’d died that night at least we were going to have a hell of a view–the stars were the best I’d ever seen.
An hour passed and finally the owners of the vehicle came waltzing into the parking lot. I ran over and begged them to drive us out of there and they reluctantly agreed. We ended up sleeping on a beautiful beach and we both knew how extraordinarily lucky we’d been.
It’s experiences like the one above that really make me realize how much traveling has changed my life. And I’m not talking about being a regular tourist, I’m talking about budget traveling. You know, spending as little money as possible and immersing yourself within new cultures to the best of your ability.
There’s something amazing about not having a solid plan when you embark on a new journey. The unpredictability of unplanned, budget traveling has rewired my brain in 7 Main ways:
- Learning To Go With The Flow: FOMO (fear of missing out) is rampant in todays society with the connectivity of the internet. It’s all too easy to want to be somewhere else, doing something else, with someone else. I found that traveling helped me focus more on my moment-by-momnt experience and enabled me to be happy with whatever was going on in the present. Travel really is a perfect analogy for life as it’s completely unpredictable and you must be adaptable if you want to have the best experience possible. Focusing on the quality of the journey is definitely more important than fixating on the destination.
- Confidence: Solo travel is the best way to skyrocket your confidence because you call all the shots and must take responsibility for everything that happens. I’ve found that as a result of solo travel I’m more sociable, less shy, more self-sufficient and way less self-conscious There is a misconception that you need to go far to have an adventure. This is false, especially when it comes to solo travel. You can make a local solo camping trip or a night on the town by yourself a crazy adventure.
- Forced Minimalism: You may have a lot of material stuff, daily comforts and deeply ingrained habits, but you simply cannot take it all with you on the road. You are very much restricted and that is not at all a bad thing. Travel shows you how little you actually need to be happy. I like to transfer this attitude to my daily life and use it as a tool to help me focus on what is truly essential to my well-being.
- Movement: Travel requires you to move more than you might in your daily life and this is a good thing. It showed me that I care more about functional fitness than pure aesthetics. I want to be able to hike, jump, run and go wherever I want. The realization that, to me, travel is one of the most important things in life, led me to completely restructure my exercise routine. I knew I needed find a way to stay fit that I could continue to do anywhere in the world, without needing a gym. I got into yoga, calisthenics and gymnastics rings training and this got me in the best shape of my life. The best part about this type of training is that you can do it anywhere, anytime….no excuses!
- Financial Awareness: Travel has made me better at business because it forced me to budget my money/time and focus on what really matters. I’m a fairly frugal guy and I credit this to spending months on the road with barely any money to spend. This kind of thing forces you to be creative and to seek out rich experiences that are inexpensive (and often the best).
- Down Time: I remember when I first realized my mind was out of control. I was on an exchange program in England smoking marijuana in my dorm room when I had a near panic attack for no apparent reason. I started listening to podcasts and reading books about meditation and self-improvement and this led me down a habit hole that I’m still enjoying to this day. Getting to know yourself and your interests is one of the benefits of having a lot of down time while traveling. It allows you to reevaluate your life and expand your mind through books, podcasts and movies. Embrace the freedom that travel can offer you and make the most of it!
- Friends & Stories: Some of my best friends and craziest stories have come from my amazing travel experiences. These friends have changed the trajectory of my life and given me a home away from home whenever I visit them in their hometowns.
If you’ve never budget travelled alone I would highly encourage you to try it. I can honestly say that I don’t know who I’d be if I didn’t have my travel experiences. I’d certainly be less entrepreneurial, more introverted, less confident and more reactive. You don’t need a ton of money to travel, you just need to prepare to take everything in stride and eliminate your expectations. Just go and the rest will fall into place.
“But the travellers world is not the ordinary one, for travel itself, even the most commonplace, is an implicit quest for anomaly.”
– Paul Fussell, ABROAD
Hit the road……HARD