How To Step Out The Door
“It’s a question of time,” I corrected, and waved to the grill master for another round of spicy pork.
We were seated around a Burmese Barbecue stall in Nyaungshwe’s night market, nursing a few beers, picking through meat skewers, and pointlessly arguing over why Americans rarely leave the states.
“We’re lucky to get two or three weeks vacation time per year,” I explained, “If we had as much time to travel as Europeans, I think things would be different.”
“I think not,” she smirked, “Americans love working too much. They don’t even use the vacation time they’re already given.”
She had a point. I had recently read a CNN study that claimed only 57% of Americans use all the vacation days they’re allowed, as opposed to 89% of workers in France.
“But that’s not the point,” she added, “What I want to know is, where are the young people? Where are the college students? Where are the graduates who haven’t started their careers yet?”
“Well, some of them need to pay off loans,” I defended, “And I guess the others—“
“Go to Cancun and shake their titties for plastic beads,” she laughed, “I have seen MTV. And those are the ones who actually have Passports—a minority in your country, no?” Collette paused. “And why is that? It is not time or money, it is a question of desire.” And with that, she slammed back her beer, signaling an end to the debate.
In this modern day and age, it’s possible to transport yourself from Tallahassee to Timbuktu with only a credit card and a few easy clicks of a mouse. Why then does it seem like the only time Americans leave the country, is when they’re heading overseas to blow stuff up? The goal of this website, aside from entertaining you with my moronic, faraway anecdotes, is to hopefully inspire and teach you how to don a backpack for yourself and hit the open road, using whatever little time and money you possess.
So, for our inaugural weekly tutorial in ‘Backpackology 101’, I’m going to start by walking you through the first, basic step in starting your own adventure:
Deciding to go.
Lies! I know you haven’t moved an inch, you lazy asshole, go get a pen! I don’t care if you think you’re too old, busy, or broke to travel, go get it. This is tough love right here.
You can at least open Microsoft Word—having something tangible (even a computer file) is a major psychological step in getting your foot out the door.
Okay, I want you to make a list of the Top Ten Places in The World You Want to Go and/or Things You Want to Experience. Even if most of the items seem unattainable, write what you’ve always dreamed of doing. Go to the Taj Mahal in India. Learn to roll sushi in Japan. Make-out under the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Smoke a ton of mescaline and teabag a clown-stripper in Bangkok—whatever you want, I’m not here to judge.
Over the course of the next few months, I’m going to do everything in my power to help you get there. So save that piece of paper.
Step #2: Money
You don’t need a winning lotto ticket or a trust fund to see the world. On the contrary, a large budget typically insulates you from the culture you’re trying to experience. So how much do you need? If you’re not afraid to use a dirty squat toilet that resembles the mouth of hell, if you’re willing to forego burgers and fries for fermented tea leaf salad and I’ve-Never-Seen-That-Animal-Before on a stick, and if you don’t mind sharing your room with cockroaches the size of puppies, you can travel the world for as little as $465 per month (my current budget). For an accurate figure of how much you’ll want to save, you’ll need the help of my ~*~*~Budgetometer~*~*~*, which I shall gloriously bestow upon you next week…
Step #3: Time
With all the work, and bills, and kids to feed, how can you make time to travel the world? Well, obviously you can quit your job, cancel your bills, and put the kids up for adoption. But while that might seem tempting, sacrificing your financial security is risky, and the adoption agencies usually send you a ton of paperwork to fill out, which can be super boring.
You don’t need to take off months and months to explore the world. Just two or three weeks is sufficient, but try your hardest to free up as much time as possible.
When I got back from the Nyaungshwe night market, I conducted an experiment. I polled the other backpackers at my guesthouse, asking how long they were traveling, and how they were able to free up that time. Their ages ranged from 20 to 66, and they hailed from all different continents and walks of life. Interestingly, they each found their own way of making time to travel, which I’ve illustrated in the following fancy chart (click to enlarge):
Do you consider your job temporary? Are you contemplating changing companies in the near future? Do you spend most of your office hours fantasizing committing seppuku with a highlighter? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then maybe taking some time off would be a wise decision. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith and step out the door. Get out there and live life, have an adventure, and celebrate your golden youth. Enjoy the music of the world. Because if you don’t, maybe one day, many years from now, you’ll regret it when it’s too late…
For more information on taking that tentative first step off the grid, click the “Backpackology 101” tab at the top of this page.
For more information about adoption agencies, visit http://www.adoption.org/adopt/putting-your-child-up-for-adoption.php, which offers free PDF packets to help scrape those little runts off your plate.
To learn how I started my excessive, irresponsible adventure, click here: Stepping Off The Edge