Why do you like to travel so much?
I could go on for hours about why I like traveling. For the sake of not exhausting you, I'll keep it short.
I grew up with parents that took our family on one big vacation a year when I was growing up. They took me to England, France (2x), Netherlands, Germany, Costa Rica and numerous places in the USA.
From a young age they ignited a fascination of the world inside of me. Even as I've gone off on my own, I've held on to that value and continued to expand on it. I will continue to do so. Without them and what they did for me when I was younger, I wouldn't be the man I am today.
To me, there is nothing more important than starting to understand other people and cultures. We share the same planet and we're more connected than we've ever been. We'll only get more connected as time continues to go on.
That being said, there are factions of us that continue to paint people as our enemies. Traveling and having a better understanding of others not like us does wonders to diminish those that try to divide us.
I think if the world were to embrace and understand our differences and use that to our advantage, instead of painting our differences as a bad thing, we could learn so much from each other and use what we learn to make our societies function more better.
My advice: Travel often, have a sense of wanderlust, keep an open mind and heart. You'll be amazed at what you'll see and learn. That, I can promise with the utmost certainty.
How do you afford it?
Hostels- The best way to budget travel is certainly hostels. Hostels are amazing if you're traveling alone. You'll meet people from all over the world and in turn, they might even invite you to their countries. Why should you spend more on a fancy hotel if you're going to be out exploring, anyways? All you need is a comfy bed and a clean place to shower.
Hostels help you make new friends, help you to stay out and about (what is the sense of just hanging out at a hostel all day?), and they're cheap. A dream for solo travelers.
Airbnb - Besides hostels, a less expensive way to travel other than using fancy hotels is Airbnb. You'll get a more local experience since you'll be staying at a locals place and even with a local. They can tell you where to go, what to see and where to eat. Some might even cook for you!
That being said, please do your due diligence in researching where you're booking your place. I've never had a bad experience but I've read about some horror stories.
Couchsurfing- Couchsurfing.com is a website where you can find locals who are willing to host you. Most will do it free of charge. Some will cook for you and even be your tour guide. It's another great way to meet locals and get the local experience. I've had great experiences using couchsurfing, but again, please do your due diligence in booking a place to stay.
Budget Airlines- Air travel can be expensive. Especially if you're going to far away destinations. That being said, the initial flights to those destinations and back are the only cringeworthy airline expenses you have to undertake. Most places offer budget airlines to get to destinations inside the continents in which you're traveling.
I know for a fact (and from experience), flying from country-to-country inside Europe can be extremely inexpensive. DO YOUR RESEARCH!
It's also similar when in Asia. Flying from one country to another in the continent can be surprisingly affordable.
These country-to-country budget airline options make traveling inside a continent affordable. They're by no means a comfortable way to fly but they get you there without having to dig deep in your pocketbooks.
Public Transportation- This is for my Americans reading this far into the post. When traveling to Europe and Asia you'll quickly understand just how bad and underfunded public transportation in the United States is.
In Korea, the express busses (they also have more luxurious bus options) are extremely inexpensive and they go to every vacation and exploring destination you could ever want to go to. Korea also has a high speed rail system that goes to every major city in the country. It's called the KTX and it travels at 190 miles per hour. An economy ticket costs about ₩45,000 (~$42) and a first class ticket costs ₩65,00 (~$60). The longest route of the KTX is from Seoul to Busan (the two biggest cities in Korea) and that only takes 2:50. All cities in Korea have a public bus system that have routes that cover every place you could imagine you'd want to go. All major cities have subway systems on top of their bus systems that are also very extensive. Public busses and subway systems around Korea are extremely cheap. The only down side is their often crowded (they're widely used) and can take a bit of time to get you where you're going.
Other Asian cities and countries are much like Korea.China even has high speed rail systems that go into neighboring countries like Laos, Thailand and Hong Kong.
Europe is much of the same as in Asia. They too, have extensive high speed rail systems and some of their metro systems are the best in the world. Paris and London for example have subway's that go everywhere in the city.
Australia and New Zealand also have great public transportation. Melbourne even has a tram system that has an inner city area that is FREE!
“You don’t have to be rich to travel well.”
- Eugene Fodor
What is your favorite place you've been?
I get this question A LOT. It's a fair question to ask but I usually dodge the question because everywhere is special. If you want more insight into some of my favorite places, check out my last article where I talk about just that. Read it here.
Where do you want to go the most?
This is my favorite question. Simply because the possibilities of where to go are endless. I've only been to 16 countries, which means that there are 177 more countries I can go to!
I'm definitely eyeing an opportunity to get to Japan (Osaka and or Tokyo) during a long weekend.
Some other places I've always wanted to get to: Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Iceland for starters. I've heard a lot of really cool things about Iran. While adventuring in Hong Kong I met two really awesome Egyptians and I definitely want to make it to Egypt in the near future as well.
We've heard a lot of your great experiences in Korea, but what was your worst experience so far?
I left my life essentials for my new home to be in Korea, in the school in which we spent a month training to become English language teachers, in Incheon, South Korea. I was vacationing in Hong Kong (My Hong Kong Tips) and getting my Visa for Korea in the craziest metropolis I've ever experienced.
When I returned from Hong Kong I had to return to Seoul to go through my final phase of my training before I was to go my new home in Suncheon and start teaching, for real.
The training was five days in Seoul and before it was over I needed to grab my five bags of all the stuff I moved here from the United States, before heading to my new home. So, one night I left my practice session early to head all the way to Incheon on the metro to grab my stuff. The metro ride there took over an hour.
Once I grabbed all of my bags, I quickly realized just how horrifying an experience this would be. It only got worse from there.
I initially planned to walk my stuff to the nearby Airport Express train back into the center of Seoul, but I had a hard enough time making it to the curb outside the school. Luckily over the month, we made friends with a local restaurant owner who saw me struggling and put my bags in his truck and drove me to the train station.
Once I got to the Airport Express train I struggled to get my bags on the train, but I did. I was stared at a lot and already was exhausted and sweaty in the summer heat.
Once I arrived at Seoul Station I made the decision there was no way I was going to hop on a local metro route to get back to my hotel in Gangnam. With these large bags, it was too much to bear for one 5'6", 26 year old American.
Problem is, once I got off the Airport Express I had to lug these bags through the long corridors and many levels of Seoul Station. These metro stations in Seoul are massive!
It took me over an hour just to get out of Seoul Station and to the taxi stand. In that hour my body and mind struggled to get through the ordeal. I struggled to carry my bags from one elevator to the next while being passed by onlookers who just watched me struggle and almost have a mental breakdown. It was there that I realized for the first time how alone I truly was going to be.
The only people that helped me after Mr. Lee were a Korean-American mother and daughter on the Airport Express train that wrote, "Please take me to ____ hotel in Gangnam," with the address on it for the taxi driver (they don't speak English) on a piece of paper. In Seoul Station another Korean lady asked a station employee to open the handicapped gate for me to get my bags through after she saw me struggling. Another Korean woman who spoke English spoke to a taxi driver to take me to my hotel in Gangnam.
Looking back on it, I understand now that Koreans are afraid to speak English to westerners. It's not that they ignored me or didn't see me struggling and on the verge of a mental breakdown, they were just afraid to communicate with me because we don't speak the same language. Koreans are also generally very timid to begin with. Adding a language difference on top of it keeps them from interacting with you much at all.
I made it back to my hotel around 10pm. The whole ordeal from leaving my practice session to returning back to my hotel lasted over six hours and god knows how much money. I was mentally broken and exhausted. I survived.
My training wasn't going well at that point anyways so I thought about quitting. I was thinking at the point was the struggle worth it?