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Eccentripper

Ready to begin a life of adventuring? Here’s how you can do it!

By | Blog, Eccentripper | 2 Comments

This week we had the chance of interviewing Alex Simpson- an avid hitchhiker, couchsurfer and above all an adventurer! He has done the tough as hell Mongol rally, he has hiked on the ‘Death Road’ in Bolivia and aims to participate in the Rickshaw run. Read on to know how he managed to live the life of a travelling hobo and little tips and tricks on how you can do that too!

Hi Alex, thanks for taking time out to chat with us. Let’s dive right in! We know that you have been a nomad for a few years now. Tell us more about the becoming of a long term traveller.

Hey Sachin, so after finishing university back in 2015, I headed off on my first long term trip around the world. Call it a gap year, call it escaping the ‘real world’, all I knew was that I wanted to go, and I didn’t want to stop going.

I’d saved up all the money I could over the years and had undertaken a few shorter trips already during university. Still, nothing quite prepares you for that first step out the door and into the world. It’s a whole new life unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. I had a whirlwind of an adventure, travelling the world for over a year, following the seasons as they came and went. Long term travelling isn’t always easy, but for anyone who’s ever considered the possibility, just take that first step and make it happen. You won’t regret it.

Any particular incidents that somehow changed your perspective on life and convinced you to get on the road full time?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to explore the world. I was a very impressionable kid, always looking beyond the horizon and wondering what was out there. When I was 14, I cycled 80km on a cheap push bike from my parents’ house, just to get to the sea. I ended up bursting a tyre on the way back and having to get my dad to pick me up, but that urge to break the boundaries of my existence has always been there. I’ve never been too comfortable with being settled, and I’ve always wanted to get out there and experience the world, its people, and its landscape.

Growing up on the little island of Britain, the scale and grandeur on display throughout the rest of the world has always been an enticing prospect. Whether it was depicted on TV, in books or at the movies, the beauty and wonder of the world’s mountains have always captivated me, and it’s ultimately what drove me to pack my bag and head off to explore them.

So for you seeking out the best trekking destinations around the world is what it’s all about, what is life like on the trail?

Liberating. Long term travel presents you with such a kaleidoscope of people and cultures to explore. But sometimes, just being in the company of yourself and reconnecting with the world is the best medicine there is. It’s just so refreshing to discover places far off the beaten track, where you’re the only person around for miles. If you also happen to be in one of the world’s many beautiful places, well that’s a welcome bonus. Even in a country as busy and populated as India, there are spots in the Himalayas where no-one has stepped a foot. Travelling to areas like that, where you’re just a tiny dot humbled by the grand spectacle in front of you, that is what I thrive off, and I think everyone should experience that feeling at least once in their lives.

Trekking without a teahouse in sight in Himachal Pradesh, India

Of course, you have to be entirely self-sufficient and prepared for whatever nature can throw at you, so it’s not something everyone can just leap into without any experience. Luckily however, there is a plentiful supply of more well-known trekking trails around the world with a bit more infrastructure and support, and with views every bit as stunning. South America boasts some great examples, like the Torres del Paine trails in Chile and the various treks to Machu Picchu in Peru. These landscapes quite rightly draw massive appeal among the travelling community, and you’re likely to meet new people from all over the world every day on the trail.

Catching the first glimpse of Machu Picchu in the distance on the Salkantay trail, Peru

New Zealand has the best of both of these styles of trekking, with an energetic community of travellers buzzing about the country every summer. It’s a perfect place to hitchhike and you can easily live a very free lifestyle trekking and hitching rides in between.

Sounds like you love hitchhiking then, have you travelled across many other countries in this way? How has that experience been like?

Yeah I do love it. It’s such a great way to meet other travellers and locals, make friends, and have great conversations about places to visit or life in general. I also hitchhiked a lot through South America, especially through Patagonia as transport can be expensive there. I actually found it to be a great way to improve my Spanish, as I got talking to more locals with each ride I got.

In cheaper countries, it is a lot more worthwhile to use public transport, but just because a country is expensive doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go there and experience everything it has to offer. Hitchhiking allows you to have the freedom to explore where you want for free, and you might just have some of your best travel experiences from the chance meetings you have with people along the journey.

Obviously you must always be safe and do your research. Hitchwiki is a good forum for experienced knowledge on hitchhiking pretty much anywhere in the world. There will always be times where you might be waiting a while, but the next ride will come around the corner soon enough. Just have an open mind, stick your thumb out, and see where it takes you.

My first ever hitchhiking experience in 2014 with these awesome people at Geiranger, Norway

You’ve had some mad experiences like hiking the death road in Bolivia, if you had to pick your top 3 experiences what would they be?

1) When I first set out to travel the world, it was with my friends on the Mongol Rally, which still has to be one of the most epic things I’ve ever done. It’s organised by the same people who host the Rickshaw Run, and like that bonkers race, it’s all done for charity. It basically involves a bunch of crazy people trying to get from the UK to Mongolia in the cheapest and smallest cars you can find. My friends and I set off for the incredible journey in totally impractical cars for what lay ahead, painted to look like Woody and Buzz from Toy Story, just for a laugh! Central Asia is so full of possibilities but still relatively unexplored by travellers. Get there to experience it before more people catch on!

Our Mongol Rally convoy on the Pamir Highway – Photo credit: André Correia

2) One place that is already firmly in the minds of travellers is Everest Base Camp in Nepal. It’s where I first began my solo long term travel after the rally, and it ultimately became one of the highlights of my journey. As one of the best supported trekking regions in the world, it certainly draws a lot of people, but there are ways to get around this. I took the long and much less travelled route to get there, hiking in through the foothills from Jiri and then taking on the Three Passes Trail. Teahouse trekking in the Himalayas is such a great way to fully immerse yourself in the culture and people of the region, and provides convenient access to some of the world’s most extreme and awe-inspiring landscape. Trekking agencies can make the whole adventure a lot easier, but I was on a very tight budget so I went alone and ended up having one of the best experiences of my life.

Spectacular views on the Three Passes Trail to Everest Base Camp

3) A few months later I was in Patagonia, the wild and desolate tip of South America, where the Andes drop into the Southern Ocean. A few spots have become popular with travellers, but most of the region remains untouched, and you really get the sense that you’re in a different world. The area has seen several border disputes between Chile and Argentina, and when trekking it’s very easy to accidentally find yourself in the wrong country. Well that’s exactly what happened to me. Long story short, I ended up spending a few days climbing mountains in Chile, before trying to cross the border back into Argentina and hoping no-one noticed. Well I guess if anyone from their immigration departments is reading this I might be in trouble, but I had an absolutely fantastic time and made some great memories.

You mentioned that you did the Mongol Rally back in 2015 and are hoping to do the Rickshaw Run in India. What are the three tips you would like to give to enthusiastic newbie rally drivers?

1) Get the basics sorted and have a rough plan, but once you’re on the road anything could happen, so be open to change and go with the flow. There’s no point planning too much because the real adventure comes from the unknown and the fun you have trying to navigate it. So once you’ve got your vehicle, visas and all the necessary supplies, just go for it and see where you end up.

2) Spend some time learning a bit about the mechanics of the vehicle you will be using, and make sure you have all the tools you might need. We once had to hitchhike 200km to get to the nearest town in the middle of the Gobi desert, just because we didn’t have the right size spanner. When you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere without anyone around for miles, it will make your life a lot easier if you can get back on the move on your own.

3) Take your time. If there’s something you want to check out, don’t drive right past it. Get out and really experience what you’re passing through. Sometimes it’s too tempting to just push on because you’re in a hurry to get to the finish line, but what’s the point? For these events and many others like it, it has nothing to do with getting there first; it’s about having an awesome adventure on your way there.

So we know that you are an absolute sucker for road trips. What is your ultimate road trip destination?

For me that would have to be the American and Canadian West. I caught a flight up to Alaska, bought an old car there, and spent the last three months of my long term travel road-tripping around the continent before selling the car in San Francisco and flying home. The original plan had been to head East to New York, but the landscape and freedom of the West was just too good to leave. Along the way I picked up hitchhikers and had some great times with them, as well as visiting so many awesome national parks and stretching my legs every now and then to go climb some mountains. The classic US road trip has been travelled for decades, but the raw wilderness and freedom to be found up in Alaska and Northwest Canada was the real highlight.

Sunset while cooking dinner in the wilderness of Kluane National Park and Reserve, Canada

What kind of odd jobs did you do to make money on the road? Any advice for newbie long term travellers?

Despite saving up as much as I could, I realised halfway through that I wouldn’t have enough money to go the full year. So, like many travellers before me, I headed to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. Luckily, I have family in Tasmania who I stayed with for Christmas and for just over a month afterward while working at a local grocery store in Hobart. It wasn’t the most fulfilling job but it was great for short notice and Tasmania is just such a wonderful place to live. Wages are incredible in Australia, so even on minimum wage I was earning $20 AUS/1,000 INR an hour, and soon made the money I needed to see out the year.

Unfortunately not all passports are eligible on schemes like this, nor do all countries boast such great wages, but wherever you are, someone will always be willing to pay you money for a bit of hard work. Fruit picking or any other farm labour is very popular among travellers and easy to get anywhere in the world, though the pay is less guaranteed. An alternative to just doing it for the money, is doing it for the experience. Sites like workaway and wwoof offer some really cool opportunities all over the world in return for free accommodation and food. You won’t need a working visa for gigs like this, and you’ll meet plenty of other like-minded travellers to go explore the area you’re in on your days off.  

How did you overcome monetary limitations to travel long term when you had just started? Any tips that you might have for our readers?

There’s only so much money you can save before a trip or earn on the road. Ultimately, it’s about the spending choices you make when you’re out there. The three main costs of travel are transport, accommodation and food, so the less you spend on these, the longer your long term travel will be.

Transport:

  • In more affordable countries always use public transport, and whatever the cheapest option of it there is available. It might not be as comfortable but once you’re at your destination, your wallet’s not going to care how the journey was.
  • In more expensive countries, consider using a ridesharing site or give hitchhiking a go. You’ll end up having a great adventure before you even get to where you’re going.
  • If public transport is expensive and you don’t want to hitchhike, consider buying your own vehicle. This might sound like a lot of expense, but when you sell the vehicle once you’re done with it, you’ll get most of your money back. You might even make a profit!

Accommodation:

  • One advantage of having your own vehicle is that you can spend a minimal amount turning it into a portable bedroom. Be careful where you choose to do this and always be aware of the law.
  • Public transport can also remove the cost of sleeping if you catch an overnight option. If the journey is more than 8 hours, there’s no point wasting a day as well as money on two nights of accommodation.
  • If you’re hitchhiking, carrying a tent and camping supplies provides ultimate freedom and no expense required. Again, always be aware of the law.
  • Couchsurfing is a fantastic resource and really helps the budget traveller. It provides not only a free place to stay, but also limitless opportunities for making friends all around the world.

With my CouchSurfing host at Portage Glacier in Alaska, USA – Photo credit: Kevin De Michelis

Food:

  • Always cook for yourself whenever you can, wherever you’re staying and however you’re getting there. Carrying a small camping stove is really useful. You might get a few funny looks in the bus park waiting room, but a full stomach is a traveller’s best friend.
  • Preparing meals is also a great bonding exercise with couchsurfing hosts or fellow travellers in hostels.

Putting all of this advice into practice might just turn you into something of a travelling hobo, but if you’re living life to the full and having fun, that’s all that matters.

So what’s it like being a travelling hobo? Are people accepting of this lifestyle?

Haha yes, well I guess that depends on what kind of people you’re referring to. A lot of the places I’ve been to, people aren’t that used to seeing foreigners, so I’d say most people in the world are just really friendly, have an open mind, and are eager to talk with you. Of course in more developed countries you might get a few funny looks, but as long as you’re not causing a problem for anyone and not breaking any laws, why does their opinion matter anyway? Living that lifestyle is what enabled me to go to more places and experience more of the world, so if all I have to put up with is a few funny looks from people, I can take that.   

What are the three positives of leading a life of travel? Share some anecdotes if possible.

1) The people you meet and the stories you make together end up becoming some of the most profound moments of long term travel. I was climbing Mount Temple in the Canadian Rockies when three people working at a nearby teahouse caught up with me at the summit. My car had broken down and was in need of some serious repair, the whole situation had gotten me pretty annoyed. I went climbing to think my options through, and ended up having a great time with these guys from the teahouse. While I was stuck sorting my car out we went on several more hikes and days out together, and I ultimately left the area with a fixed car and one of the best weeks of the trip.

Such gorgeous sights!!

 

2) If you travel for long enough, you get to follow the seasons around the world, never having to endure anything too hot, cold or rainy, as you have complete freedom to choose where and when to go. I travelled from the summer in Europe and Central Asia, to the dry season in Nepal and India, to summer again in Australasia and Patagonia, to the dry season in Bolivia and Peru, before finally making the most of summer again in Canada and the US.

3) The intense freedom of making your way through the world is one of the best feelings there is in life. It’s so liberating to just carry everything you own on your back, going wherever and doing whatever the hell you want. The simplicity and beauty of this lifestyle is hard to replicate in your day-to-day life, but what is your home if not someone else’s travel destination? Capturing that freedom and indulging in it every now and then is one of the best lessons travel will teach you.

What are the downsides of long term travel?

While the highs of solo long term travel are some of the most euphoric moments of your life, the lows can often be some of the worst. When things go wrong and there’s only you to sort the situation out, it’s all too easy to get down and lonely. You have to remain level-headed and remember that whatever gets thrown at you, you’re more than capable of getting through it, and you will be a stronger person for it.

Would you recommend a long term trip to others? Why/why not?

YES!! Embarking upon your own personal journey in the world is one of the greatest adventures there is. But even if you have worries or you’re not confident in yourself, you can still take a long term trip organised through a travel agency or a work programme. The only question is how you do it, not whether you should. The whole world is out there, so what you are waiting for?

If you had to describe long term travel in one line.

Less comfort, more experience.

What’s next on the map?

Last time I went all the way around the world travelling East, next time my girlfriend and I are heading West.

Author’s Bio

Alex is a traveller, adventurer, and all round go-getter from the UK. Having navigated his way through 37 countries by the age of 23, he’s got a huge wealth of experience and loads of epic stories to share. Look out for more articles coming from him soon as he gets his blogging and travel writing under way.

 

 

You don’t need to quit your job to do long term travel! Here’s how…

By | Blog, Eccentripper | 2 Comments

Abhilash and I have never met but his adventures have interested me for a long time now. Right from the countries he has visited to the way he has explored them is pretty awe-inspiring. He has been to several off beat places like Brunei, Timor Leste, Vanuatu and Bhutan and has even backpacked the Maldives! It was an absolute delight to interview Abhi, an avid traveller and skilled biker, as an Eccentripper. In this interview he talks about how it is not absolutely necessary to leave your corporate job to travel, you can do both with a bit of a balancing act. His plan is to go into long term travelling full time end of the year. Find out how…

Abhi, we know that you have been a nomad for a few years now. Tell us more about the becoming of a long term traveller.

I was a late bloomer, as I did not have the means to travel when I was younger. I did visit some countries in my early and mid-20s, but that was only for studies/work. It was only at the age of 27 that I discovered I have a true passion for travel, photography and travel writing. I was working in the Philippines at that point, and my local Pinoy friends started introducing me to different islands every weekend (Philippines has 7107 islands). And I slowly realised that I was hooked with the travel bug.

Around this time, I also started hosting travellers on the platform called CouchSurfing. Haha, my mom might say that CouchSurfing spoiled me. Because through this platform, I was introduced to people who have been travelling for years, not months. I started learning from them the nuances of how to travel long-term, how to manage costs, how to interact with people of different cultures, how to handle visa hurdles and even how to earn during travelling. I started implementing these life hacks into my travels, but felt incomplete. Because these guys were travelling for years, while I was only taking vacations that ranged from 3 days to a week.

So, at the age of 30, I quit my decent office job in Singapore to become a long-term traveller. Many of my friends say that I gave in to the dark side, but this was the best decision that I have ever taken! J It lasted for 15 months, and I have never learnt so much or enjoyed more in my life. (Although due to some health/financial issues, I did have to pause the long-term travel life last year and get back to a job, but I am ready to get back to it again hopefully by the end of this year.)

I am like a little kid every time I see a new place. This is Halong bay in Vietnam.

You mention on your blog “I have to follow a very budget-oriented travel plan, by using resources like CouchSurfing, hitchhiking etc.” How has that experience been like?

CouchSurfing has always been the best thing to happen to me for my travels. Before I became a long-term traveller, I hosted nearly 200 people in my home, and almost all of them became really good friends of mine. And when I started travelling, I was ready to become the guest. For one, often I did not even have to request a couch in most cities I went to, because I already HAD a friend there who I met through CouchSurfing.

CouchSurfing is a reference-based system. If you are a rank newcomer, you will find it difficult to get a couch, because people will not trust you easily. So, hosting helped me. By the time I started becoming a long-term traveller, I had over 200 positive references from people who I hosted before, and that made it easier for a new host to trust me.

Hitchhiking on the other hand, is funny in Europe. I’ve found that it is easier to hitchhike in countries like Turkey and Balkans, than the West. The west is more developed, but they also have a fear of the unknown. In the east, they don’t care! If you stand at the side for a little while, there will always be somebody who stops and invites you in.

Tips:

  1. Do not hitchhike in the winter. Been there, done that. Not fun waiting in the cold for a ride.
  2. Do not hitch on a highway. Try to find a gas-station and hitch there. 

Tried to hitchhike in Turkey during the winter. The cold made me give up in 30 minutes.

Any particular incidents that somehow changed your perspective on life and convinced you to get on the road full time?

One meeting that surely changed my life, was hosting a 65-year old CouchSurfer named Wendy. 5 years before I met her, Wendy and her husband had decided to leave their retired lives and travel the world on a boat. Yeah, they were sailing around on a boat! Every time they dock somewhere, Wendy takes some time off to explore the land. I wanted to find out more about her travels, and what she shared to me completely surprised me. At the age of 20, she had drove from London to India. This was before the age of social media, internet etc. If she had done that trip now, she would have been an internet celebrity. It was only very recently that she even had a Facebook account. I was inspired by her genuine love for long-term travel.

We see that you’re based out of Singapore now, at least till your next travel. Could you share some of your memorable experiences from the city maybe?

Singapore has a bad reputation for being a strict, boring and expensive place. I love meeting people to prove that this is not true. If you know enough about the local scene, you can have fun in Singapore without spending too much. And there are plenty of activities to do, if you know the right people. My favourite activity in Singapore would be visiting the Siloso beach in Sentosa island. This is almost a weekly ritual for me nowadays, and I keep taking my friends there too!

What are the three tips you would like to give to enthusiastic newbie bikers?

1) Start small. First do small trips, and then gather courage for long ones. Many people rush into long biking trips without enough experience, and that is a recipe for disaster.

2) Riding safer is riding longer. When I started biking, I used to ride super-fast and crazy. The odds of getting into an accident will always catch up with you in this case.

3) Pick up pillion passengers whenever you can. The biggest enemy of long-distance motorbike riding, is actually solitude. But meeting people along the way, even if you are giving them a lift for only a few kilometres, helps to break the monotony a little bit.

Gave a lift. Ended up getting a picture.

If you had three words to describe biking and your love for it?

No return dates.

You mention that its not the easiest travelling with an Indian passport. Any trip suggestions for Indian passport holders?

Yeah, travelling with an Indian passport is quite challenging. But that is what makes it more fun. I do have a few tips I can give in this regard.

  1. There are plenty of countries where we don’t require an advance visa. Start small and easy with these countries, and once your passport has a few country stamps, you will find that applying for the visa of any developed country, is not so difficult.
  2. Once you have exhausted the list above, you can also look at countries where we can get our visa through electronic system (E-visa). There are quite a few countries that do this too.
  3. Once your passport has a few entry stamps, a visa application for US or EU is quite easy. Fresh passports (with no travel stamps yet), do face a little hurdle. And once you are ready to apply for a visa, I recommend going to the US first. Why? Because US visa gives you the credibility to apply for any other visa in the world and can even be used as substitute visas in some countries.

Any destination that you’re dying to bike through?

Mongolia and the Patagonia region of Argentina. Actually, I am going on a 10-day bike tour through Mongolia in August, and should be riding through South America next year. Cant wait for both!

How did you overcome monetary limitations, societal pressure etc to travel long term when you had just started.

Oh boy, this is going to be hard! For the monetary limitations, I have always been single and my finances have been channelled towards one purpose: travelling. I don’t have any other possessions (except a motorbike), no debts/loans/credit cards etc. Even when I am working – like right now – I ensure that I save away some money every month. Luckily for us, most Indian banks (I bank with HDFC) lets you practice something called ‘term-laddering’. This is where you break your money in small chunks and convert to fixed deposits, which mature on different dates. That is very difficult when you decide to quit working and start travelling. You just need to time your expenses so that payments are due only when there is a fixed deposit getting mature.

About societal pressure, we know how tough it is to explain to our immediate society, i.e, our family about our lifestyle choices. At the beginning, my mother was simply not able to understand that I was just going to travel for ever. It took me a while to explain to her, and I hope she gets it now. The rest of the society has never bothered me anyways. I know people – including my childhood friends – who have different expectations and have tried to advise me multiple times, but I usually hear it in one ear and throw it out of the other.

What are the three positives of leading a life of travel? Share some anecdotes if possible.

a) Has to be the education. I have learnt more in the last few years of travelling, than I have learnt my entire life in school. Especially, life-skills. I am quite fitness-conscious and one of my initial challenges for travelling, was that I would miss the gym. Eventually, I learnt that I can make any place a gym, if I was willing to use my 20 KG backpack the right way!

b) Believe it or not, travelling actually helped me to get a job when I needed it. Most organisations nowadays need people who are well-aware of global business situations, and that is something no B-school can give you. I was able to use my travelling experience as a bonus for my last job interview!

c) When you lead a life travelling, I think you end up seeing the beautiful nature of people all over the world. I have been lucky to meet some amazing people during my travel; those who helped me in a place that was new to me, despite my thinking that it was dangerous for me to be there. Two examples that I can think of.

The making of Kava.

I was in Port villa, Vanuatu, and wanted to see the locals make a drink called Kava (it’s a narcotic drink). It’s legal there, so I asked around the locals, and they directed me to a place where they make Kava. My first impression when I reached there, was that this was a big mistake. The place was a little shady, and I was the only foreigner there. And these guys worked with huge blades. So, I sat through the process in a little bit of paranoia. Eventually, when the kava juice was all ready, they offered it to me. 2 cups later, we were all best friends!

The end result.

I met some Bedouins in Jordan, who invited me to stay in a cave. I was reluctant, but I gave it a go. It turns out, the cave was deep in the desert and if I wanted to come back to civilisation on my own, I would have definitely been lost in the desert. At first, the thought scared me, as I was completely at the mercy of people I had met just a while ago. But then, as the evening got on, the Bedouins turned out to be amazingly hospitable people! We cooked, had some drinks, and they even allowed me to sleep outside the cave (because I wanted to see the stars). It was, without a doubt, the best sleep I ever had!

With the bedouins of Jordan

What are the downsides of long term travel?

Definitely, it is the feeling of loneliness that hits you once every few months. When you are travelling for a year or more, there will be plenty of times that you are completely on your own. And sometimes that loneliness could last for weeks or months. And there will come a moment when you will feel super-lonely, and you want to give up everything and just go back to the comfort of your home and your family. I had such phases at least 2 or 3 times during my travels. Each time, I tell myself that it is just a phase and will pass soon.

Would you recommend a long term trip to others and why? If not, then why?

I would recommend a long-term trip to all Indians! Primarily, because we definitely need to come out of our comfort zone and experience the world, to understand cultures different from our own and appreciate them for what they are. One feedback that I often get from my friends in India is that my travels have made me too ‘international’. I don’t think so. I think my travels have made me an Indian who understands international cultures pretty well.

We are all lost children. We just need guidance. Street art in Mauritius.

If you had to describe long term travel in one line.

Do it once, and let it change your life.

Even with a job in Singapore you continue to travel to many places, regularly. How do you manage that, both financially and getting free time.

I was getting this question so much, I even had to write a blogpost about it once! But the key thing, is travel planning. If I decided to book last minute tickets to visit a place, I would definitely be broke. So, I plan things very early. Most of my trips are booked, and leaves are applied, at least 4 months in advance. Even on such vacation travels, I tend to travel very cheap, so that I can travel more in a year.

What’s next on the map?

I have Mongolia in August and Azerbaijan in October. And by early 2018, I am planning to get back on my bike to do 2 rides that I have been planning for ages – a K2K ride in India (Kanyakumari to Kibithoo), which is from the southernmost point of the country to the easternmost point of the country. And doing the Che Guevara trail (motorcycle diaries) in South America. And hopefully next year I will explore a little bit of Africa too, which is one continent that I haven’t visited properly yet.

AUTHOR’S BIO

Abhi is a traveller, photographer and blogger who dreams of completely abstaining from a corporate life, and has decided to immerse himself in travels, photography, occasional periods of bankruptcy, and copious amounts of insanity. Through his stints in long-term travels, he has been to 78 countries so far, and hopes to become the youngest Indian to visit every single country in the world. He loves motorbiking too, and so far has rode in nearly every country of south and South-East Asia, including a solo trip from Kerala to Nepal and Bhutan.

When he is not planning his next trip, he blogs about his travels at I am not home and is seen posting cat-photos on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

Teach Your Way Through Travel – Tips By Eccentripper Venkat Ganesh

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Venkat and I still haven’t met. Yes, that’s true and despite that I feel really connected with this fellow traveler. I think that must have to do with the fact that we have a few things in common. Like him I have lived most of my life in Navi Mumbai(or New Bombay). Secondly, much like him, I was born in a South Indian family. But most importantly, we both quit our corporate careers and completely embraced a life of travel close to our thirties.

Our friend Venkat started traveling when it was not quite a ‘thing’ in India. Also interestingly, he has chosen slow or expat travel like his teaching experience in Vietnam. This is where I felt that many of us could learn from Venkat. Because if you go by what you get to read on social media, it may seem that creating travel content(meaning being a BLOGGER) is the only way to travel long-term. Not everyone can be a great writer, or photographer or social media influencer. So, does that mean that you cannot earn while you travel or while exploring new lands? Definitely not.

Venkat taught English in Vietnam. Be like Venkat. Learn how.

1. Venkat, I know that you have been a nomad for more than a few years now. It all started with a bike trip, right? Tell us more about the becoming of a long term traveller.

It all started with a bike trip. Yes, in a way. But the beginnings of my travels lay in my graduation days. My friends and I used to bunk college and ride our bikes to somewhere in the Western Ghats, climb a hill and be back before the sunset and our parents had no idea about our adventures. Cut to a few years later when all of us were employed, we decided to ride along the Konkan coast all the way till Goa before turning back. That trip was a huge success and the next year – 2009, we decided to go to Leh, which was followed by one more group ride to Ladakh in 2010. In 2011, I wanted to ride to Leh again. By this time my friends were either tired of going to Leh or were beginning to have other commitments like girlfriends, engagements and what not. So I thought “To hell with them. I’ll go alone.” I went on a 3-week solo trip – spent 2 of those in remote villages of Zanskar valley and a week in Leh. I still wonder why people don’t spend much longer than a day or two in between or after their trips to Pangong Tso or Nubra Valley (On a separate note, Ladakh is so much more that the ‘3 Idiots-wala Lake” and “Highest (Questionable) Motorable Road” in the world.) A week after returning from the trip, I went to my boss and said “Hey! Can we talk?” He knew about my love for travel, treks and bike rides and smiled as he replied, “Let’s go have a cutting” I served my entire notice period and some more because I didn’t want to miss out on my yearly bonus by leaving a couple of weeks early and finally walked out of the cubicle life on 30th Dec 2011.

I think it was the right time to quit. I had worked in managerial positions for close to 7 years by then. So I knew I had enough experience to fall back on if things didn’t work out. I had enough money in the bank and the rest of my family was financial independent. I didn’t even have any loans or EMIs to take care of every month. So money or the lack of it, which is the biggest deterrent for people wanting to pursue long-term travel wasn’t an issue for me. And one thing led to another from there on and here I am.

When I felt like a celeb in remote villages of Zanskar

2. You also got a training certification and had a brief stint in Delhi. And from there you went to Thailand and later settled in Vietnam for a while. What was the motivation and tell us a little more about that time?

I have always been interested in teaching. Even when I was younger I always had this thing in mind, that a certain point of time in my life I want to be a teacher. Maybe when 35, maybe 45, maybe when 50. But I wanted to spend some time in the classroom on the other side of the desk.  So while wandering around India on a motorbike I learned that a lot of people each English in various places across the world and travel thus enabling themselves to be long-term travellers. I got myself certified for CELTA which a type of Teaching English as Foreign Language certification and then even moved to Delhi for a few months. But the freelance gigs that came my way were more of the corporate training, soft-skills development, report writing types. It didn’t excite me much and so I packed my stuff and moved back home before heading to Thailand where I had heard there were many vacancies for teaching English at schools. I spent two months trying to find that perfect job but if the school was right, the pay was crap. If the pay was good, the city was boring. So I didn’t take up any of the offers that came my way and went to Vietnam, It was the same story even in Vietnam until I landed in Ha Noi.

Hanoi stole my heart and I loved the city immensely and immediately and in 2-3 weeks, I also had an offer from a school there. The pay was great, the kids were adorable and work was around 12-15 hours a week leaving me enough time to try various things. At first, I thought I’d give myself 6 months. More than a year and a half later as I was leaving,  my heart broke as the immigration officer put the exit stamp on my passport.

3. There is an interview of yours on another blog about teaching English as a non-native in Vietnam. Can you briefly tell us how did you make it happen?

From my research, I found that the way to find a teaching assignment in Vietnam was to land up there and be in the country for a while. My first stop was in Ho Chi Minh city where I spent 3 weeks. On my third day in the city and the country, I printed set of cover letters and resumes, mapped all the schools/language centres in 5 km radius, walked to those schools, and asked to see the managers at those centres and handed out a copy my resume. Also, I kept an eye on the expat groups of HCMC on Facebook and sent my application wherever I could. Within a week to ten days I had a few offers, but somehow, I didn’t like Saigon as a city. From then on, I followed the same routine in Dalat, Hoi An, Hue and finally in Ha Noi. I would’ve loved to get a gig in Da Lat or Hoi An, but being small towns there were hardly any opportunities.

As I mentioned earlier it was in Ha Noi that everything fell into place. It was almost 6 months after I left India with a purpose to find work and live abroad. But then, hey persistence always pays, right?

With my university kids (students) in ‘Nam

4. What are the three tips you would give anyone who wants to teach English in south-east Asia?

First and the most important is do it for the love of teaching. If you’re just looking for adventure, travel, cheap drinks and parties, stay away from teaching. There are a lot of other ways to make those happen without taking up teaching English as a way to do that. Being a teacher is a huge responsibility and you need to understand that your actions are going to impact a lot of eager to learn minds. Don’t play with those.

The next would be to get your ass here. If you think you’ll apply for a job from the comfort of your home and people will be ready for you with a red carpet at the airport, it’s not going to happen. It’s a cultural thing I guess. Employers and recruiters, especially in Thailand & Vietnam, like to see you in person before they offer you a job. It is different for South Korea, Taiwan or Japan, but they follow a different recruitment policy altogether because most of the jobs there have strict governmental procedures to follow at the time of application itself.

And finally, be flexible. Things are not going to be as smooth as back home. Learn to adapt to the culture and situations. There may be days when you prepare a fantastic lesson with interactive computer-based content only to find that there is no computer in the classroom. Or 5 mins before your class begins you’re told that you have to teach a class other than what you were originally supposed to because your fellow teacher did not turn up. At times the classes might bomb for no fault of yours. Take it in your stride instead of blaming your workplace management or teachers and see how you can do better the next time

5. We have heard that Hanoi is a great city. Share some of your memorable experiences from the city maybe?

This question makes me terribly nostalgic. There are so many memories that it’s hard to choose a few. However, I’ll try.

First of all was this fantastic bunch of housemates that I had. They were from all over the planet but the way we gelled together and had so much fun is something I can’t describe. The friendships, the house parties, the meals we cooked and ate together, the talks we shared. I could just go on and on.

My kids (students) were another life-changing experience. I never liked little kids. But a month into my teaching, I ended up falling love with each and every cute little monster in my classroom. At the same time were my high school kids who addressed me as Mr G and made me laugh with their silly jokes and antics and watched Youtube videos with me! And my university kids who took me to so many little places in Ha Noi and downed so many glasses of Bia hoi.

My Vietnamese teachers, my Ukulele club, the staff at the numerous cafes I visited, the vegetable and fruit ladies in the market, throughout the day there was always someone great to meet or fun to do.

Utter gluttony!!

6. What are the three words in which you would describe Vietnam?

It’s hard for me to describe a country as incredible as Vietnam in 3 words, but personally, I’d say “Life-changing experience”

7. Is motorbiking still a passion or have you left your two-wheeler days behind?

Oh yes, I still love going on motorbiking trips. Even it’s a day trip. In fact in Vietnam, I made a number of short trips from Hanoi almost every other weekend. Motorbiking in the north of Vietnam is one of the best travel experiences of my time there.

Besides Vietnam, every country that I go I see of there’s an opportunity to rent and ride motorbikes around and more often than not I’ve been able to do so. Like riding around north Thailand for a couple of days. Or on my recent trip to Cambodia as well, I rented a bike in Kampot and went all around the countryside.

8. Which other countries have you been to and which one is your favourite?

Although it’s been quite a while since I started travelling full time, there haven’t been as many countries or places in my last. I think that’s because I mostly focus on staying put in one place for a long time and before moving on to the next. For example I spent two months in Thailand but hardly spent a day in Bangkok in my time there, leave alone visiting the islands in the south. Similarly it took me 3 months for me to get from Saigon to Hanoi in Vietnam.

Besides the above, I recently went to Cambodia for a month, was in Myanmar for a month in Dec 2015 and spent 3 weeks in Malaysia in 2014.

9. Has being a long term traveller changed you? If yes, how?

Oh yes, certainly. And a lot. If I have to sum it all up. I have to say that I’m more relaxed. I’ve become a calmer person and I’ve stopped thinking too much about the future which I used to do a lot. My family and friends will also tell you that, I’m no longer the guy who’d get angry for no reason at all and throw a big tantrum like a 5-year-old child.

I’ve also come to value each day as it comes. Since the time I started travelling full time, I don’t remember a single day where I woke and wasn’t excited about the day to come. And most importantly I’ve come to enjoy little pleasures in life like reading a book by the beach or sitting in a cafe and just watching people and the world go by.

Cliche as it may sound, but I’m almost a totally new person as compared to what I was, say 6-8 years ago.

10. What are the three positives of leading a life of travel? Share some anecdotes if possible.

Firstly, it changes your way of looking at things. You begin to think or realize what is important to you and what is not. You stop focussing on things that don’t matter and thus eliminating stress from your day to day life. You keep yourself away from the daily rat race that is being played back home and learn to relax and just do things that make you happy. You begin to realise that your happines is your responsibility and therefore you should work towards it.

Also, you learn so many new things and experience such wide range of emotions on a daily basis. That makes you a sensitive person. You’re now more empathic towards situations, people and experiences and instead of judging you become more understanding. You have enough time to spend building relationships with people, experiencing a culture at a deeper level, check out off the beaten places. I booked at guest house in Hoi An for a night and ended up staying two weeks at the same guest house. I made great friends with the owner and his wife. And after a few days they started inviting me for lunch or dinner with them, teach me how to cook some Vietnamese dishes and in exchange I showed them how to make a decent curry.

And finally, long term travel is cheaper and less stressful than a short vacation. When you average out, over a long term, you end up spending less money and having more fun when travelling for an extended period of time. For instance, let’s say you’re going on a trip to Sri Lanka. Let’s assume a return ticket is Rs 20000. Now if you’re going there just for 5 days you’re spending 4K a day just on flight tickets. But if you go for a month, it’s about Rs 700 a day. Similarly when you travel longer at a place you have enough time to check out different places where things might be cheaper. Be it food, accommodation or something else. For e.g. in 2014, I spent 3 months in Vietnam spending a total of Rs 90000 including flights, visa, food, accommodation and everything in between.

11. What are the downsides of long-term travel?

Having to say goodbye every now and then is the worst part. In a period of the 18 months that I was in the house in Hanoi, I said goodbye to 13 of my housemates. And all of them were very close friends of mine. And that was just the housemates. There were innumerable people that I met not just in Ha Noi but also in all my travels in the last 5 years. It’s actually exhausting the process of meeting so many great individuals, sharing meals, memories and dreams and having to say goodbye. In fact, at times, you don’t even have a chance to say goodbye. You meet someone at your guesthouse or hostel and have a great chat with them and the next morning they’re gone. At times you don’t even know their name,

Besides that, there are people back home that you end up missing. Especially on important occasions like festivals, birthdays and anniversaries.  I’ve lost a count of how many engagements, weddings, child births that I’ve missed and it was incredibly painful.

 Early travel somewhere in the Western Ghats

12. Would you recommend a long term trip to others and why? If not, then why?

Without any doubt yes! Going on a sabbatical, gap year or whatever you may want to call it does help you develop in a way no training or reading self-help books can. You learn to take each day as it comes and if there are some challenges you have no other way but to face them. And once you’ve faced them you don’t have time to dwell on them too much because you’re already on to the next thing.

For e.g. when I first went to Thailand and as happens, there were times I was rejected at interviews. As I walked out of one such interview, one of the staff at the school came running after me and told me there were vacancies at another school in the neighbourhood. I went there handed my resume and was told to do a demo lessen then and there itself with 10 mins to prepare. The class was a bunch of 5-year-old kids. It went well and I was accepted. I didn’t take up the offer for some other reasons though. But still, you never know what door is going to be banged shut on your face and from where an opportunity will knock.

Also is the fact that you get to meet so many people and you don’t know how they’ll end up becoming a part of your life in the future. Case in point, a friend I met in a dorm in Thailand, is today the most inspirational person in my life. Just because one of us said hi to the other and spent the next couple of hours talking about everything and nothing. Another friend I met there ended up being my housemate a year later and another year down the line, we worked at the same place.

And finally, it makes you humble as a person. When you see all these places, meet so many people, share so many stories and experiences you start realising that how much of the stuff going on in your life or mind is so pointless. How your education, titles, status, or problems don’t matter at all. There was this Vietnamese guy sitting next to me on a bus and he started speaking to me in broken English. After a while when the bus stopped he bought me a coffee. We continued talking after we got on the bus again and he started telling me about his family. His father who was in the US for a short trip had passed away the previous night and he was on his way to ancestral home to prepare for the last rites, he explained. I was speechless. Before getting off at his stop, he gave me his number and asked me to call him after a couple of weeks, if I was still in town and that he’d take me around for dinner and beer. What do you say to a a thing like that???

13. Share some of your future plans – travel wise 🙂

I don’t have any dates set but I’m planning to go to Europe this year to meet my friends and hopefully do a roadtrip there. Bhutan is another place that I’ve been wanting to go for a very long time. So hopefully there. And I wanna go trekking in Nepal. So keeping my fingers crossed.

For now, I’m actually looking at ways to manage my finances to make those happen.

When I looked like a Mexican drug lord!

14. Last question – what does long term travel mean to you in one line?

I think long term travel has now became a way of life for me. Hopefully, it will be that way in the future as well.

Long term traveller

Kickass Tips from Long Term Traveller and Yogi – Namita Kulkarni

By | Blog, Eccentripper | 2 Comments

It was Eccentrips’ second ‘Travel Longer For Lesser’ workshop, and it was to be in Bangalore. After a relative easy run in Mumbai, Bangalore was presenting a few challenges, especially to get a girl who had traveled long term and was in the city around the Christmas weekend. That is when someone suggested Namita Kulkarni’s name, it started with a phone call and we actually ended up speaking together at two venues about long term travel.

Attendees made a beeline to talk to Namita after both events, just reiterating how much value she provided as a speaker. But more than her excellent speaking skills, that could be attributed to her choices and commitment to making a travel & yoga lifestyle a reality. From overcoming the challenges as a solo woman traveler to sharing her Yoga knowledge in various countries, Namita’s story is that of a road less traveled. She has a degree in Law and was a gold medalist in college; not many like her choose to break free from a predictable though successful life.
It was but obvious that she would be featured as the ‘Long Term Traveler Of The Month’ at some point, and I am happy that she made time for this so soon. Her journey can inspire many women(and men) to make the right choices to lead a life of their dreams. And unlike many dreamers, Namita is quite vocal about the challenges of such a lifestyle too.
So if you have ever wondered how some people manage to build a sustainable life around their passions, you are reading the right thing today on the internet.

Namita, how and when were you bitten by the travel bug? Did Yoga have to play a role in it in anyway?

Yes, my first solo trip was for a month-long Yoga teacher training course in Rishikesh and Netala, a Himalayan village in 2013, with the Sivananda Ashram. That trip showed me that travel is well worth all the trouble, even with 5 a.m. alarms and just two meals a day for an entire month. But as someone who went to 8 different schools in almost as many cities/towns growing up, travel was never not a part of my life. It was always a ‘when’, never an ‘if’. Even in law college, I threw myself into tedious inter-college competitions with the ulterior motive of free travel to various cities, using stopovers as an excuse to explore more places. Always curious about new places and how I might adapt in each. Like a spinning top, the momentum just kept me going well into adulthood.

Always looking for the next adventure 

You’ve been to quite a few places…Bali, Italy, Mauritius, Bolivia…are there any I am missing out? Could you tell us three of your most memorable experiences from these trips? Good, bad, ugly whatever they may be…

Yes I’ve been to about 10 other countries, but the numbers are far less important than the memories. Slovenia in June last year was absolute heaven, no exaggeration. I remember getting off the bus, walking to Lake Bohinj and going into beyond-all-expletives shock at the sheer beauty of the place.

And in 2015 hiking up a rocky trail to a waterfall in upper Bir (a town in Himachal) with six girls I’d met a few days ago, all younger than me. Many slippery rocks, steep turns, boulders and tangled trees later we found a lovely waterfall. And had it all to ourselves for a good few hours. Between all the \excited shrieking, screaming and jumping in those chilling waters, I marvelled at how unreal and life-affirming it felt – that a group of women could enjoy this level of freedom in a public space in a deeply patriarchal country like ours. Not a soul around to diminish/control/impede us while we seized the day. No wonder it’s a favourite memory.

In Italy’s Lake District last year I loved exploring the small towns where Google Maps tells you ‘no routes found’ and the ginseng coffee is next level. And so are the Italian men who don’t let a language barrier come in the way of striking up a funny conversation. More on Italy here.

Long term travellerAt Lake Bohinj, ‘blaming it on my gypsy soul’

You have also been to Dubai for work. How was that different from just traveling and is an expat experience equally valuable?

Experiences are as valuable as the lessons we take from them, so in that sense it was a valuable experience for me. And I’m sure Dubai has a lot to offer the interested traveller, but it wasn’t fun for me. The work culture at the Yoga company I was working at was highly exploitative and felt more like a cult than a company. With an alleged ‘guru’ selling ‘weight loss’ while himself being overweight. I quit after about 6 months of hoping things would improve, and almost went into a depression at 25 because of the experience. While I was there I did try to make the best of a bad situation. Such as taking a test dive at a scuba-dive center there, and visiting the Atlantis on my last day. Teaching a 9-year-old boy who had recovered from Leukemia is another memory I look back on fondly. He was one bright spark, smarter than most people I met there. I did make a couple of great friends in my 6 months there, and I learned a lot about the kind of life/people/work I don’t want, so that’s the bright side. So yes, it was highly unlike all my other travel experiences. Teaching about 7 Yoga classes a day from 6 a.m. most days and dealing with frustrated co-workers is hardly a fun travel experience J That said, I’m sure there are great expat experiences to be had in most parts of the world, as long as you’re working with people you can trust and doing work that you believe in.

I remember you talking about the experience at the Bolivian immigration. Can you revisit that and share as to what keeps you motivated to continue to have this lifestyle despite its challenges?

Yes that was in 2014. I’d landed at La Paz in the world’s highest international airport around 7 p.m. and I knew no one in the country. And the elderly man whose job it was to stamp my visa-on-arrival at the airport was simply in no mood to acknowledge me. The second he opened my passport and read out my nationality, he went ‘Indian?! No visa!’, slamming shut my passport and shoving it aside. Looking at me like I was way too unexpected a visitor who had no business being there. The way one might look at a zoo animal on the loose. I had all the necessary paperwork and documents, a US visa stamp, a yellow-fever vaccination, even an email from the Bolivian Embassy in India confirming that I would get my visa on arrival in Bolivia. Summoning all the basic Spanish I knew back then, I asked him to help me. The broken Spanish made him consider the idea that he could actually care about this fellow human here, so he assigned someone to help me. A long line and 50 USD later I was back at the counter with this guy. Twenty questions followed and I seemed to still not be making the cut. Then came the clincher – ‘What is your occupation?’ ‘Yoga teacher’ I said. Somehow this caused in him such an explosion of pure joy, he even busted out some karate chops from inside his cubicle. ‘JOGAA!’ he shouted as he held his hands in a chop mid-air for me to appreciate. ‘Exacto!!’ I agreed vehemently, assuring him that was exactly what I do for a living back home. The next second came the much-awaited stamp on my passport, and I walked out thanking Yoga for its far-reaching unexpected benefits!

Getting some Yoga at one of those ‘no-routes-found’ corners of Italy. As one of my teachers loves to say: When you stretch your body, don’t contract your brain!

Everyone’s idea and learnings from long term travel are different. What is your perfect/time tested idea of a long term trip (that you like)?

Getting under the skin of the place is what I like to go for. Places scoring high on nature and low on urbanization. I’m glad to plan my life and travels in a way that I can take my time with such places. With a lot of walking, getting lost, snacking and conversations thrown in, and a lot of plans and presumptions thrown out. Making new friends and socializing is great, but I need a little getting lost in nature to shake off my urban trappings. In a hilly Italian town called Cittiglio I walked more in one day than I might have walked all month back home, but all the insane greenery and water bursting from above and below had me recharged enough to do it all over again in another town the very same day. I love the way nature takes us from smartphone-dependent life forms to intensely alive wilderness-loving human beings in the span of one hike.

Long term travellerAt Chiang Dao caves, Thailand. Not missing the Wi-fi!

Has long term travel changed you in any way? If yes, how? And is it something that you recommend to others?

My longer trips have made me way more grounded, introspective and a lot less impatient. It has definitely given my gratitude muscle a workout, because long term travel makes you appreciate the little things you take for granted back home and the big things you wouldn’t even have imagined in your wildest dreams had you stayed home.

Longer travel is something I completely recommend to others, especially in a world as divided as ours. Travel has shown me that people within the same race/gender/nationality can be vastly more different from each other than people from different races/genders/nationalities. So boxing people into these broad categories no longer makes sense to me.

And getting steeped in a culture alien to you makes you look at life from a whole new vantage point. Where your name is a funny sound, your appearance outlandish and your food habits downright weird (I’m a vegetarian who gets a lot of unsolicited sympathy), you are less likely to presume things and more willing to learn. And to feel like a whole new version of you that you wouldn’t have imagined otherwise. To me, it’s not travel unless I step outside my own understood boundaries of who I am. Because if I was going to remain the exact same person, I might as well have stayed home and saved myself all the trouble.

Long term traveller          There’s a lot to get high on in nature, more so at Thailand’s highest spot!

Now coming to Yoga. Is Yoga and travel inter-linked for you? Was it a conscious decision to sort of bring these two lifestyles together or did it just evolve over a period of time..tell us more about this

For me they are definitely interlinked. My Yoga practice makes me a better traveller and my travels make me a better Yoga student and teacher. Whenever I’ve hit a wall in my Yoga practice, travel has helped me climb it and vice versa. I can’t help but notice the many commonalities between Yoga and travel – both expand your sense of possibilities and your idea of who you are. Both teach you to be present and not miss the moment, both encourage you to get the hell out of your comfort zone. And what I love most is that both necessitate a willingness to fall flat on one’s face at some point.

In fact, I’m hosting a Yoga for travel workshop in Bangalore on 25th March where I’ll be delving into more on this. Details here.

My Yoga journey began at 16, on a trip to Kanyakumari with some relatives. We happened to visit the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. I chanced upon a simple Yoga book there and picked it up for 30 Rs. That began a daily home practice for me, which then later led me to regular Yoga classes in my vicinity. So it was travel that led me to Yoga and now it’s only fair that I travel to teach, learn and celebrate Yoga.

Do you think more people can bring together their passion for one skill and travel together? If yes, what would be your tips on making that happen?

Oh yes, I think that’s probably the best way to plan your travels. Following your own unmarked trail instead of the beaten paths. The world is more than big enough to accommodate and even celebrate all kinds of skills and creativity. So a skill you’re excited about can be a great North star, otherwise one look at the world map can pull you in so many opposite directions and have you feeling lost before you even set out. I would say start small and start wherever you are at with whatever little resources you have. Explore all the opportunities around you for using your particular skill set. If you have quality, sincerity and diligence on your side, you will create opportunities instead of waiting for them. Whether it’s a mainstream skill or something off-beat, if it excites you on a deep level then there’s something worth exploring there. It will lead you to your tribe if nothing else.

My entire family was against my decision to pursue Yoga as a career after a law degree and a gold medal, but I rebelled, moved out and became a Yoga teacher as best as I knew how. Back in 2010, it was the Siberia of career options and not the ‘cool’ globally popular profession it is now. I’m beginning to teach online classes this month and if all goes well I can work and travel from anywhere with an internet connection. So you never know where your skills might take you unless you follow their lead.

Long term travellerAt Monkey Forest, Ubud. He got aggressive pretty soon and landed my name in the Monkey Bite Register, where I entered my name and nationality right below Ukraine and New Zealand. I knew I would do my country proud someday!

Travel isn’t exactly cheap, right? What kind of discipline or lifestyle have you adopted to ensure that travel remains an important part of your life? Are there any specific tips you’d like to share with us?

I wish I could claim a minimalist grow-my-own-food daughter-of-the-soil type of lifestyle but I have miles to go before I get there. Right now, I can just credit my basic financial intelligence and not being another mindless consumer. Respecting money is important. As a freelancing Yoga teacher and writer I don’t have a fixed pay cheque so I’m glad to be conscious about my spending. Valuing experiences over things already simplifies so much of your financial decisions. I have a regular studio gig and enough personal training clients so I don’t need to pinch pennies thankfully but I do make sure there is value-for-money before I spend. I value my intelligence way too much to spend hard-earned money on labels/appearances. The big fancy handbags/clothes/shoes shops just make me feel like a mindless consumer so I look for simpler stores when I need something. My handbag cost me all of Rs 300, made by physically challenged kids at Umang, an NGO I keep recommending people buy from. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who spend massively on appearances (status symbols, big labels, weddings, jewellery, etc.) and then ask me how on earth I afford to travel. I talk more about this in my blogpost here.

I keep an eye out for great travel deals and book flights many months in advance to get better deals, and I look for the kind of accommodation where I can make myself a meal every now and then instead of eating out every single time. Otherwise food is often my biggest expense on long trips. I use a handheld filter so I never have to spend on water. My Achilles heel when it comes to spending is books, but that’s a vice I wouldn’t change for anything. Books are their own kind of travel, aren’t they?

We all understand that traveling solo can be a more challenging for women than for men. Have you had any unpleasant experiences on the road? If yes, would you still suggest that more Indian women travel solo?

Long term travellerAt Bolivia’s Salt Flats: Yay! I got my Bolivian visa after only 2 hours, 20 questions, lots of drama and 50 USD!

Yes to both. For sure I’ve had unpleasant experiences from men on the road, but that’s equally true when I’m not travelling. Unfortunately we live in a patriarchy that so often rewards men for being the attackers and punishes women for being the victims. So one is more than likely to run into low lives whether or not one ‘travels’. But that doesn’t stop me from living my life, so why should I let it stop me from travelling? I was 12 and getting home from a coaching class the first time I was sexually harassed and I couldn’t comprehend why this man was following me in his car and calling me weird things. All in broad daylight in a residential area. In Bali a couple years ago a guy on a bike tried to snatch my handbag late one night as I was walking back to my guesthouse. But I’m enough of an Indian woman to be hyper-alert in public spaces and I’d heard of these bag-snatching incidents a few days ago. So I shifted my bag to the non-street-facing shoulder seconds before he tried to snatch it. He caught the shoulder strap of my top but I yelled and he zoomed off. He stopped his bike further down the street and turned his helmeted head back to look at me. I kept yelling at him so I guess he decided I was too high-maintenance a victim and rode off. That was a close call, so I took extra precautions after that.

So as wonderful as the world may be to explore, it has its dangers laid out for us. A couple years ago I took a few Krav Maga lessons to be prepared for worst-case scenarios. As a martial art designed to help the physically smaller person take down a bigger opponent, a few moves in your skill set will make you so much more confident. Also, it helps you give off that ‘I’m-a-badass-bitch-so-don’t-even-think-about-it’ vibe wherever you go. And God knows that’s a vibe women could use more of J

Also, I strongly feel that the world being way more unsafe for women than it is for men is not a ‘women’s issue’ that only women need to find a way around. It is everybody’s problem because we don’t live in separate watertight compartments. Men who care will do their bit to clean up the mess instead of adding to it, and not just run away from their responsibility by saying ‘not all men’. At the very least, don’t sit back and enjoy female objectification while claiming to ‘respect’ women and wanting their safety. If you’re entertained instead of appalled by female objectification, your mindset is a huge part of the problem. I’ve known many men who happily consume/share female objectification in various forms and then wish me ‘safe travels’. I hope that changes someday and we have more men waking up and doing their bit instead of being mute spectators.

Long term travellerYellow pants for the win! Keeping an eye on the road proved quite a challenge here, with the wide open views all around, and I had possibly my most picturesque fall ever somewhere in these hilly roads of Old Leh

As a female solo traveler, are there any tips you would like to share with others who have aspirations similar to yours?

  1. Know that ‘Solo female traveller’ is not a new specimen by any stretch. Women have been exploring the world on their own for centuries, as this TED video points out in all of 4 minutes, and we have it so much simpler than these women back then.

The world is a dangerous place yes, but that’s as true in your own neighbourhood as anywhere else. There isn’t a guarantee of ‘safety’ anywhere. But as I see it, the dangers/hurdles I face and fight through as an Indian woman everyday (street sexual harassment, attacks on women for being women, female objectification, deep-seated and normalized misogyny, sexism, patriarchy, you get the drift) aren’t any smaller than the dangers that travel exposes me to. I felt safer on an Indonesian party island full of variously (even ingeniously) intoxicated strangers from everywhere (Gili Trawangan, you have my heart) than I do in broad daylight in our biggest cities. So yes, if you do want to travel, not having company better not be the reason holding you back. I talk more about this here.

  1. Don’t wait for external validation, society’s permission slip or a honeymoon package to chase your travel dreams. Take a few steps everyday towards your travel dreams by saving money (every bit counts), getting to your best health, finding what truly inspires you and keeping that alive.
  1. Financial Intelligence: I’m no expert but even being a beginner on this has been hugely empowering. Read the best books you can get your hands on to empower yourself with financial intelligence and talk to people who know more than you on the subject.
  1. Also, never look lost and always look like you have a destination right ahead whenever you’re out and about. Have an exit/emergency strategy wherever you go and have at least one friend know your whereabouts.

Okay, lets end on a fun note. Tell us 2-3 funny/weird experiences from your travels.

Being mistaken for a cycle thief in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. A miscommunication led to a cycle chase on the puddled mud paths of that vehicle-free island. I thoroughly enjoyed it. In my defence, I was just taking the cycle for a test-ride before renting it. If I’d known enough Bahasa, I would’ve loved to ask him if we could do that again sometime.

A serious cake-fight that broke out in our common volunteer kitchen in Mauritius, between a Chinese and a Brazilian volunteer which ended with cake on every possible surface, even the ceiling. We had a tough time cleaning up later. The lone Indian had wanted to play peacemaker, but this was too good a fight to break. Some things are better than world peace.

On a walk through Netala (a Himalayan village), the villagers suggested that my firang friends marry their sons, within minutes of meeting them. One minute we were asking for directions, the next they were warmly inviting us over for lunch, and before we could decide on lunch they suggested a few marriages. Further proof that getting strangers married off to each other is a cherished national hobby reaching even the remotest corners of the country.

Last question – in one line what does long term travel mean to you?

Following your excitement and curiosity while learning to trust life and oneself more and more along the way.

Traveller’s Bio

Long term travellerNamita Kulkarni is a Yoga teacher and traveller who loves the challenges and thrills of solo travel on small budgets to distant lands. Having taught Yoga in 4 countries over 7 years, she runs the popular travel & Yoga blog Radically Ever After, ranked as one of the top 50 Yoga blogs to follow in 2017 and one of the top 5 solo women travel blogs.

You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

Long term travel

Long term travel tips from the travel boss himself!

By | Blog, Eccentripper | One Comment

For many long term travel is an elusive concept dreamt up by those that have all the time in the world. What they don’t understand is that it is a choice, much as most things in life are. Eccentrips has decided to bring to all you good people a bunch of long term travellers that have made that choice and had an absolute ball!! Or as Kaushal Karkhanis, our first ever featured traveller or “Eccentripper”, would say – long term travel is like living several lives rolled into one! Kaushal made his way to Latin America, long before many of the new generation of travel bloggers started making their presence felt and visited Brazil and Colombia, two of my top favourite countries! It was an absolute pleasure talking to him as a traveller and a dear friend.

So here goes…

Long term travel tips

Long term travel sure looks interesting…Ahem.

Sachin: How did your first long trip start, Kaushal? How long did you plan it for? And why Latin America?

Kaushal: Hey Sachin, nice to talk to you, man. So my first long term travel trip was in 2008, to the farthest and most exotic continent I could get to – South America! The original ‘plan’ was to spend 40 days in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.

But to get there I would have had to enter through another country, and Brazil seemed like the perfect choice. And like they say, plans seldom work, but in long term travel that is mostly a good thing.

I had decided to stay in Brazil for only a week. But everything started going crazy (in a good way), the moment I reached Brazil. I fell in love with the country, met some awesome locals & travellers (my first friend was a great guy from Syria!), there were some crazy parties and overall a fabulous vibe. I ended up staying in Brazil for three months – 100 days to be precise!

Technically I overstayed my visa by 10 days – and though I tried to extend it by going to the Policia Federal, my local friends suggested the easier option would be to just pay up overstay charges. But given how cool Brazilians are, when I explained to the immigration officer that I had stuck around for the opening of a friend’s hostel, he decided to let me go without a fine and just a thumbs up!

Long term travel tips

Guess this guy was as cool as the immigration officer.

S: That’s so cool! So how long had you actually planned this trip for?

K: Like I mentioned earlier, I had planned the entire trip to be all of 40 days including Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. But I ended up traveling for some 5 months. And I also travelled through Colombia… and man, do I love that country!

But coming back, it was a friend who motivated me to do this. She suggested that I travel with her to these countries because she spoke fluent Spanish, while I did not – that made sense to me. After she left, I continued traveling solo, making tons of friends and picking up local languages along the way!

S: So, tell us about some of your interesting memories of this trip…

K: Oh there are so many of them, Sachin. But yes if you would like me to be brief, then it has to be spending the New Year’s Eve in Rio De Janeiro. It was magnificent to say the least, the fireworks on the beach, and how all the Cariocas (residents of Rio) come down to Copacabana beach dressed in white. It is such a different experience than anything we have back home – Brazilians really know how to throw a party, mate!

Oh, and the friends I made in Brazil…like I said, the friend I made in Sao Paulo was starting his hostel and he insisted that I stayed back for the opening (the reason i overstayed my visa!) – it felt like we were all part of one big family. And that is what travel makes me feel. You know with so much negative news going around, we actually forget that there is more good in this world than bad!

Of course, Colombia was a big highlight of my trip too. It was a country I knew very little about. It’s just that I was in Quito, capital of Ecuador, and fellow travellers (and my crush) were raving about Colombia. It was then that I decided to go to Colombia since it was just a few hours bus ride from Quito. And it’s a decision that I always congratulate myself on!

Long term travel

Latin America has the prettiest streets!

S: Wow, it seems that you and I share the same passion for Colombia. I know that with all the guerrilla wars, mafia and assassinations, Colombia gets a bad rap. But you may have a different story to tell about the country. Can you tell us things you loved about the country?

K: Of course, of course, I could go on and on about Colombia. That country is just incredible! And that is why travel is still relevant even in this age of excessive information. Because, unless you visit a place you cannot really make an informed opinion about it.

As you know, there is relative peace in Colombia now. It’s no longer the strife torn, narcotics den that it was once infamous for. But still people know very little about the brighter side of Colombia.

For me, the people of Colombia are some of the best in the world. They are polite, courteous and helping. That itself is a good enough reason to keep going back.

Secondly, the food there – Oh man! I just love the food, the arepas (thick corn and rice pancakes), juices and the best coffee in the whole wide world. I used to love the arepa de chocolo and also passion fruit juice, they call the fruit ‘maracuya’ there.

Also, it is such a diverse country, not only from a cultural and people stand point. It’s got a big chunk of the world’s bio-diversity for a country that size. From deserts to tropical forests, from waterfalls to pristine beaches, there is very little that a traveler may not find in this Latin paradise. A fantastic country to start your long term travel journey from.

Long term travel tips

Colombia – Truly the best vibe country!

S: Dude, you make me want to go back to Colombia right now!

But share with us may be three things how long term travel, or slow travel as you refer to it has helped you and can help others.

K: You would agree there are so many things that you learn while doing a long term travel. To me, some of the important things are that it changes the fabric of who you are.

You come back as a very different person than when you started. Some of the decisions I have taken while travelling may seem crazy, but that is how the trip changed me!

Also, wholesome experiences like these instantly make you a ‘global citizen’ with the simple act of immersing, partaking and experiencing diverse cultures. Your perspectives broaden within no time, and you understand people and are more accepting + empathetic towards them and their world.

Another important thing is that when you travel like this, you learn to conquer your fears. And that is something that helps you in the long term even after you have stopped traveling.

So yeah, if I had to stick to three, then these would be it. But yes, there are many more.

Long term travel tips

Failed attempt at making ‘serious face’.

S: But yes, another really important question? How did you financially manage to do long term travel? Travelling abroad, and for such a long duration isn’t exactly cheap, right?

K: Sachin, you know this. It’s all about priorities and responsibilities. I had worked for 7-8 years, saved up money. Some of the responsibilities had been taken care of, and it seemed like the perfect time to plunge into something like this.

I ended up liquidating almost all of my savings. Initially, I had only budgeted about 1.2 Lacs INR for the trip excluding tickets. But when I went there I realised there was so much to experience. It only made sense to extend the duration because going back to that continent would have been twice or thrice as expensive as doing so (simple math!).

Plus, it’s really difficult to put a value to such trips. Those were some of the best days of my life and I will always cherish them.

S: Kaushal, even after that trip you have continued to travel. It is now your lifestyle. How do you continue to manage that? Are there financial tips you’d like to give us?

K: You would know that travel is an addictive lifestyle, but this is one addiction I do not mind 😉 Again it has been all about priorities, I have prioritised travel over buying a car. In fact, the money that fuelled my first trip to Latin America was what I was saving up for a car. And now, I am so happy that I do not have one! It’s so much easier to share things now in this age of shared economy rather than owning things.

So I do maintain a frugal lifestyle. Even the motto of my blog, Exotic Gringo is ‘Travel exotic, live simple’. Many more can do long term travel if they prioritise and make some choices.

What I do is this…

  1. Live frugal – see what or why you’re spending. Don’t be a miser, just cut out mindless spending.
  2. Give yourself a target – calculate and come up with a weekday and weekend budget you must not exceed. This goes a long way in saving money. Whenever I overspend I feel that I am spending from my travel budget and that brings me back on track.
  3. Investing over plain saving – the sooner you start investing the better it is. And I don’t like keeping money in the bank, it’s better to get your money to work to make more money.

Long term travel tips

Views like this sure inspire frugality!

S: Alright, those sound like workable tips. It was so much fun talking to you, Kaushal. But you didn’t tell people why Colombia is really beautiful, right?

K: You cheeky bugger! You are referring to the beautiful Colombian women, right? Let that stay between us. I don’t want many more tourists thronging to Colombia just for this reason.

Why don’t we plan a trip back to Colombia for the carnival next year?

S: That sounds like a master plan, Kaushal! Done deal, let’s do this!

 

 Traveller’s Bio:

Long term travelA digital strategist + travel blogger from Mumbai, India. To him, travel is about people first and places later. To that effect, he enjoys blending in and living like a local, meeting fun people along his journey and soaking in cultures. He picked up Brazilian Portuguese and Latin American Spanish on his travels and also get around with French and German – although he’d love to practice and improve. Check out his kickass blog – Exotic Gringo.

Follow him on Twitter / Facebook.

 

 

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