I love social networking sites. A person that I have not talked to in two solid years was able to speak to, and sum up, my current living situation with a single post today. The post is below and you can definitely just skip down to that and watch. But here is my back story on it:
I know my life is not that tough, but I have lived under some pretty heavy expectations. Expectations from parents (I was in charge of waking my mother up for work every morning after I got myself up and ready for elementary school). Expectations from friends (I’m still not sure if people realize psychology was not my major and that I don’t know how to solve their problems). And expectations from myself (being somewhat smart and growing up poor, you are supposed to go to college and lift the whole family out of the gutter, right?). These are all expectations everyone can relate to. The natural desire or need to please family and friends, to live a life that is ‘acceptable’ to society. The burden can get heavy for any one of us.
But after graduation – or rather, after I was unable to make another person happy – I ran away to Arizona. For forty days I wondered the desert searching for an identity. I asked questions we all ask ourselves at some point: Who did I want to be? Where did I want to live? What did I want to do? What will make me happy? A few ideas kept running through my head: I was supposed to go back to Hillsborough County, get a job in Tampa and eventually run for some kind of political office. That was always The Plan. But as I thought of that idea, it was often chased off by the idea of staying in the desert, starting over and living a low-key life on my own. I would guess most people opt for the first option: live the life you are supposed to live, maybe tweaking a thing or two. The other option isn’t the best idea either though – just running away from life altogether.
So here I am. I am choosing another option. I am currently sleeping in Brandon, Florida. But I am also booked for a trip to New York City and Israel in January. I have resolved to live a life of a minimalist (my goal is one tote and one suitcase). I am going to spend New Years with friends in Melbourne and refuse to work somewhere that will chain me down. I have slowly started the process (and trust, it is a process) of understanding where my priorities lie. I am starting to live my life. So now the question remains for you: Whose life are you living?
I am by no means a rich man (queue If I Were A Rich Man a la Fiddler on the Roof). In fact, I am very proud that I was raised in a lower-middle class family (aka poor but hey we all need to feel better about ourselves). Being that I do not have a trust fund and have never been very good at saving my money when I am working, travel becomes tricky. I mean let’s think about it: you have to find transportation to the place you want to visit, a place to stay when you do get there, food to keep you moving, drinks to stay hydrated, pay the costs for those tourist traps you just simply can not get enough of. It can really add up! But this isn’t how I think about travel when I am deciding to go somewhere.
Think of a place. Somewhere you want to go. Maybe you have been there before, maybe you haven’t. Maybe it is only an hour’s drive away or maybe it is on the other side of the world! Do you want to know what the hardest part of getting there is? Telling yourself that you WILL go and WHEN you will do it. That is what holds people back. Most people will talk about that trip to Hawaii with a phrase like, “It would be so nice to go there someday.” But if you start the conversation with yourself about that trip in a positive attitude – letting yourself know what WILL happen – you will work towards that goal. You give yourself an incentive – we naturally try to achieve our goals. You just have to set it.
Now comes the part that I should give you all the ins-and-outs of traveling on a dime. I am sorry to disappoint but I’m really not that well versed just yet, but I’ll give it a try.
* If you plan on going international more than once or twice – choose an airline with a miles rewards program and stick with it. The miles will add up and you can’t say no to a free ticket.
* When you get to where you are going, try couchsurfing.com. There is nothing better than a local taking you to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant for the best Doner you have ever had or that bar that is down three back alleys past the two very questionable looking men with amazingly cheap drinks. If you can’t find a local, look for a hostel. You can meet some pretty interesting fellow travelers and besides, do you really care what the building you sleep in looks like?
* The next biggest bill you might have is for food. If you can’t afford to eat out much when you are home, why bother eating out when traveling? Go to a local market or grocery store and buy something that looks interesting and fresh. My go-to food is a huge loaf of uncut bread and a stick of salami or other meat that can stay good in a book bag without refrigeration. If you are couch surfing, offer to cook a meal from your culture (southern food, Philly cheese steaks or whatever is special to you) and your host will probably in turn cook a traditional meal for you the next night.
So, I’m going to ask you again. Think of a place you want to experience. Can you hear the waves crashing over a beach or the wind blowing through a canyon? Maybe you are thinking of an Italian market or the Great Wall of China. Do you want to go to this place in your mind? I mean do you REALLY want to go? Then Nike that shit – just do it!