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 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!
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!
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.
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.
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…
- Live frugal – see what or why you’re spending. Don’t be a miser, just cut out mindless spending.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
A 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.