10 travel excuses not to make in 2012

ghana, africa So, you’ve always wanted to travel, but you just haven’t done it yet. Why not? Do you think you can’t afford it? Or, that you don’t have the time? When it comes down to it, obstacles shouldn’t be getting in the way of you fulfilling your dreams. This year, stop making excuses and travel.

Excuse #1: I can’t afford it

This is one of the most common excuses people make for not traveling. Traveling doesn’t have to mean staying in 5-star hotels and eating at Michelin starred restaurants. In fact, using less-expensive accommodation options, like staying with locals for free through Couchsurfing, volunteering on organic farms in exchange for room and board with WWOOF, or doing a homestay can give you more insight into the local culture of the place you are visiting. Hostels, a simple yet social form of accommodation, can also help you meet fellow travelers while saving you money. And, eating at restaurants that don’t have a big “English Menu Available” sign are not only cheaper, but more authentic.

You can also help yourself before your trip begins by saving up some money. Stop spending money on little things that you don’t really need, like a $4 Starbucks coffee (make it at home) or a $10 sandwich from the eatery near your job (again, make it at home). Also, stop splurging on bigger things, like new clothes, makeup, sneakers, big nights out, etc… Obviously you don’t want to deprive yourself, but cut back a little and look for alternative and cheaper options that can also be satisfying.Excuse #2: I don’t have anyone to go with

You don’t need anyone to go with! I’ve gone on backpacking trips through Europe and South East Asia by myself and have never had a problem meeting people along the way. If you stay in hostels, you will easily meet other travelers. Money exchanges, airports, markets, and walking tours are other prime spots for making friends. If you’re more interested in meeting locals, try a homestay, volunteer, or just seek out the cafes and bars where locals hangout and strike up a conversation. The best thing about traveling alone is you never have to adhere to anyone else’s schedule. Instead, you can wake up when you want, see what you want, and do what you want without having to feel the need to coordinate with someone else.

Excuse #3: I’m too young/old

You are never too young or too old to travel. If you’re young, why not do something abroad to help build your resume, like volunteer, study, or intern abroad. If it’s a matter of your parents being worried and you want to appease them, join a tour group like Intrepid Travel or G Adventures so that you’ll be with an experienced guide as well as other young travelers.

If you think you’re too old, think again. There are plenty of older people out there, not just traveling, but backpacking and trekking their way around the world. In fact, just this past October, 84-year old Richard Byerley broke a new world record and became the oldest person to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. And before him, the oldest person to do this same feat was 82-year old George Solt in 2010. If you still feel skeptical, there are tour groups that cater to those in their retirement years, like Road Scholar and Grand Circle Foundation.

airplane Excuse #4: I’m afraid to fly

According to planecrashinfo.com, the chances of you being killed on a plane flown by one of the top 25 airlines is 1 in 9.2 million. And, even if you went with an airline that is deemed to have higher accident rates than the others, the chances are still slim at 1 in 843,744. If logic still doesn’t assuage your fears don’t get dismayed, you can still travel. Fill up your gas tank and take a road trip, pack a bag and travel by bus from city to city, or, for something a little more luxurious, opt for a relaxing cruise.

Excuse #5: My boyfriend/girlfriend/parents don’t want me to go

While it’s understandable that the people who love you will miss you, they should also try to be happy that you’re doing something that will make you feel fulfilled. There is so much technology available nowadays that keeping in touch is easy. Video chat on Skype, send e-mails, or keep a blog to let your loved ones follow your travels and know that you’re safe.

If it’s a significant other that’s keeping you from traveling, ask them to come along with you. And if they can’t, you still shouldn’t give up going on a trip that will enrich your life. As for your parents, it’s only because they are worried about you, so try to ease their minds as much as possible. Call regularly and send them photos, make it clear how responsible you plan on being, and show them blog posts and articles from other travelers who have been to the same cities. Despite the fact that I’ve backpacked myriad countries alone, my parents still worry, and that’s something that will never change. But, these trips have helped me have experiences I never would have otherwise and have helped shape me into the person I am now.

Excuse #6: Traveling is dangerous

While I hear this one a lot, it’s always amazing to me that people can put such a blanket statement on traveling. Isn’t life in general dangerous? I’ve also heard that driving, smoking cigarettes, playing contact sports, drinking alcohol, and eating fatty foods is dangerous, but I’d say majority of the people I know do most of those things. You need to take risks in order to live a full life. Of course, you should take precautions. Walking back to your accommodation alone and drunk at 3AM in a foreign city (or even your hometown) probably isn’t the best idea. But if you use your brain, you should be more than fine.

One thing I always find, too, is that people perceive other cities as being more dangerous than they often are. On a recent trip to Ghana, Africa, my friends were extremely worried for my safety. On a hike in the Volta Region I asked a local who I had befriended if he would ever come to New York to visit me. His reply? “Isn’t New York one of the most dangerous cities in the world?”

Excuse #7: It’ll ruin my career

Most jobs give you time off (and if they don’t, maybe you should try looking for a new job), so use it. If you get two weeks take two weeks vacation, and try to plan it around holidays and weekends so you can add extra days into your trip. If you’re looking to go for longer, don’t look at it as the end of your employability. Traveling can help build and enhance your skills and also shows how adaptable you are as a person. You may also discover things about yourself along the way that can lead you into a job you didn’t even know you wanted, like teaching abroad, travel journalism, being a tour guide, or working for a nonprofit or travel company.

Excuse #8: I have a family

Take them with you! Just ask Meg Nesterov who writes Gadling’s Knocked Up Abroad, chronicling her travels with a baby. There will be challenges to traveling with a family, but with the right attitude and some planning it isn’t impossible. If your kids are a little older, they will be introduced to unique cultural experiences at a young age, and you can seek out destinations that have opportunities for learning. There are also tons of hotels out there that cater to families, and many homestays and volunteer programs that will accept families with children, as well.

Excuse #9: I’m scared of being culture shocked

Even the most well-traveled individuals can experience culture shock, and it’s completely normal. However, you shouldn’t let the possibility of some discomfort abroad stop you from seeing a foreign land. If it’s your first time traveling, start with a country or countries that are more Westernized and speak English. Once you get more comfortable with being away from home, you can start to branch out little by little. If you get to a place where you really feel uncomfortable, don’t run away but instead face the obstacle head on. Realize the unique experience you’re having and try new things that you never imagined you would. You can always sneak back to your hotel room and write your thoughts in a journal when you need a break.

Excuse #10: I don’t know a foreign language

Obviously, you can solve this problem by traveling to destinations where they do speak your language. However, by only sticking to primarily English-speaking countries you can miss out on a lot of great cities. You’d actually be surprised how many people in non-English speaking countries can, in fact, speak at least some English. And when they can’t, using hand gestures, pointing, and carrying a pen and paper to write down the names of landmarks or draw pictures can be very helpful. And just to be safe, a pocket dictionary never hurts.

Barefoot Bandit has travel cred

Now that Colton Harris-Moore has been nabbed by the prim and humorless Bahamian police, it’s open season on psychologically dissecting the teen robber and analyzing his high-jinks artistry. Love him or hate him, hero or criminal, one thing is certain: this kid gets around. If “well-traveled”, “worldly” and “ingenious” are positive traits (oh, and they are), then Colton darling deserves a congratulatory pat on his orange-jumpsuit-covered back.

Let’s review, shall we? By the fresh age of 19, the Barefoot Bandit has:

  • Taught himself to fly with video games and stole at least five planes for private scenic flights across the country, including his final jump to the Bahamas.
  • Enjoys fast boats and has managed to steal several sleek and expensive craft for high-speed joy rides across the Pacific Northwest and Florida.
  • Traveled thousands of miles in three countries and at least six states by way of stolen cars and bikes.
  • Used computer fraud to purchase bear mace and night vision goggles, which is not only totally bad ass, but something that every American male wishes he had in his backpack.
  • Survived on uninhabited islets and in the woods at a time when the average American teenager can barely survive at school.
  • Checked himself into other peoples’ private vacation homes for relaxation, eating fine foods from their fridges and soaking in their unused jacuzzi tubs, revealing a penchant for spa living.
  • Crossed back and forth across international borders sans passport, which is also impressive.
  • Stole from Canadians, Americans, and Bahamaians, showing no favorites or displaying any discrimination.
  • Took pictures of himself with various digital cameras in wild places, mimicking millions of tourists who do the same.
  • Hates shoes and travels mostly barefoot, an unwitting observer of TSA security checkpoint regulations.

The list goes on and on but the point is clear: Young Colton loved his freedom and suffers from interminable wanderlust. The guy has broken some serious state and federal laws and caused around $1.5 million worth of damage but he hasn’t harmed any humans. So the kid is a complete punk? So are most of the Israeli backpackers you meet in Bolivia and the Eurotrash in Thailand. Maybe all that Colton needed was an all-expenses paid gap year in which he got to choose his own itinerary and fly his own planes.

Good luck Colton. Not sure about Wi-Fi reception in prison, but if you keep reading Gadling you’ll soon discover that your insatiable travel itch is fairly universal. We, too love to fly across borders and hike into remote places and soak in hot tubs with a view. There is a legal way to do all these things, but if our brand of travel ever did become illegal, then my guess is that we’d all choose to be outlaws, just like you.

(Photo: Colton Harris-Moore, self-portrait)

Urban Dictionary’s 12 funniest travel entries

We can’t guarantee that you’ll ever use (or hear) many of these travel terms from Urban Dictionary, but we can guarantee that this list is a lot funnier than the real dictionary’s 12 funniest travel entries. (Sample Merriam-Webster definition for tourist: “One that makes a tour for pleasure or culture.” See? It’s really missing a punch line.)

Anyway, here are some of our favorite travel-related entries from Urban Dictionary, the most useful of all websites besides the one you’re reading right now…

12. Travelanche n. When a considerable amount of bags and/or suitcases get packed into the back of a vehicle to the point that they are about to fall out.

11. Hotel n. 1. A place you never want to work; 2. A chill place to work if you can shake off the sh*t cranky bastards throw your way for easily remedied inconveniences.

10. Backpackistan n. The country that exists in the minds of twenty-something-year-old travellers throughout the entire world. Its citizens are identifiable by their dreadlocks, faux-tribal tattoos and strict, tiresome adherence to Bob Marley tunes. They eat falafel and juggle fire torches. Their economy is based around mooching, and the sale of Tibetan prayer flags and Che Guevarra marijuana pipes. Backpackistanis are united by a common language: broken English.

Example: “Even though I spent a year travelling through Paris, Madrid, Morocco, Bangkok, Bali, Sidney, Sao Paulo, Machu Picchu, Guatemala, and Southern Utah, I feel like the only country I really visited was Backpackistan.”

9. Road Trip n. When a bunch of kids get in a car (most likely a VW Bus, most likely with tons of drugs) and drive to an exotic destination (like Vegas or New Jersey). It happened more in the ’70s.

Lookin' good.8. Travel ‘Stache n. A moustache grown and maintained for the sole purpose of a special vacation. This particular mustache is a head-turner in airports, train and bus stations, and cruise ships in particular. May be more noticeable to women, especially women with children ages 5-12.

7. Gap Year Tragedy n. A student who is enlightened by the insight afforded by global travel to the extent of cringeworthy personality renovation.

Example: “Man, I saw John after he got back after his 12 months in South America- bobble hat, dreadlocks and all.” “I heard it was Jean-Pierre these days. What a Gap Year Tragedy.”

6. Travel Wanker n. When someone has travelled overseas and, upon returning, can speak of nothing else. They are at their worst when in the company of fellow travel wankers. The conversation quickly deteriorates into an excruciating game of one-upmanship.

5. Hostel n. The place in Europe where your girlfriend stayed while on that college backpacking trip and slept with a bunch of European men who promised to call her and told her they’d come to America to visit her so they could get in her panties.

Example: “I don’t think you really wanna touch her. She stayed at a hostel this summer.”

4. Travel Nazi n. A person who transforms into a completely serious and un-fun mood when the time of travel has come. They always appear to be in haste as they are always 10 to 15 feet in front of the family. They must arrive 2 hours early to an airport gate and you may not leave your seat no matter how much you need to urinate or else “you might miss the flight.”

Example: “Where’d the Travel Nazi run to?” “He’s like 50 feet ahead, scouting out the quickest path to the gate so we can arrive before the flight leaves tomorrow.”

3. Tourist n. Stupid a**holes from outta town that take pictures of anything and everything and annoy the crap out of all the locals and will stand in the middle of the road, block traffic and almost get hit by a car to take a fu*king picture of a church. [Guilty!]

2. Laviator n. A person or people who take photos of themselves in the lavatories (restrooms) of airplanes. [This word was coined by our own Heather Poole.]

1. Passport Constipation n. When you have applied for a passport with the US Government 6 months ago and you are leaving tomorrow and still can’t squeeze out a passport for your spring break trip.

Example: “Hey Tracy, have you received your passport yet for our trip to Punta Cana on Friday?” “H*ll no, the US government has passport constipation! They can’t seem to squeeze out the passport I applied for 6 months ago!”

How to Travel the World: website with the nuts and bolts

Although the focus of the website How to Travel the World is to help folks plan for long term travel, also known as a gap year trip, the information is useful for anyone. Whether you’re a person who is going to travel for a few days or months–years even, browsing the site is a place to start planning.

Various links provide info on everything you need to consider from how much money to budget to tips on what to pack.

Before you buy a plane ticket, the budget page can help you decide where to go on a trip in order to match your cash flow. Thailand is cheap. Australia is expensive.

Buying a plane ticket and packing are obvious details. The site also includes those items that you might forget to consider before leaving home, particularly if you’re going to be gone for a long time. The page “Pre-Trip Planning” offers a handy list that ranges from bank accounts to wills.

Anyone who has traveled for an extended period of time knows about the almost certain let down that happens once a trip is over. Reading the section “Coming Home” is one way to ease the transition. Personally, I think it’s helpful to know these details before heading out on a trip in order to be prepared ahead of time.

Another helpful page is the F.A.Q where readers submit questions and receive answers. Any travel jitters you might be having could be calmed by browsing through this one.

The How to Travel the World is written by folks who are long term travelers and edited by Matthew Kepnes who also writes the Nomadic Matt Travel Site.

Gap year resources

If the new year has come around and hit you in the gut with the reality of facing another 12 months chained to a cubicle, you might want to explore your gap year options.

A “gap year” is nothing more than a gap in your career where you bugger off and travel the world, live abroad, or otherwise engage yourself in experiences far more worthwhile and rewarding than simply working for the man.

Gap years, which have become quite popular in England, are slowly gaining ground in America where I live–although most professionals I know would still consider taking a year off as nothing short of career suicide.

There are others, however, (and you know who you are) that sit around and daydream of the possibilities, mulling over what they’d do and where they’d go if they were to ever summon up the courage to take that first step out the door.

As a public service to those of our readers trapped in this purgatory of travel lust, we’d like to provide you with some motivation in the form of a very detailed Telegraph article, A comprehensive A-Z of gap year options from Arizona to Africa.
This great resource provides purpose and meaning to the Gap Year so that your wanderings are not aimless and hollow. In other words, you won’t be a bum. Instead, you can travel the world while bettering yourself or the community at large through a variety of programs such as teaching in Ghana, conservation projects in Africa, language classes in Guatemala, volunteer work projects in Cambodia, science fieldwork in Greenland, and a ton of other options as various as the world is large.

In addition, the Telegraph directs would-be travelers to a handful of helpful, sites designed to aid those seeking that elusive gap in their professional careers. Just make sure you don’t surf them at work; GapYearForGrownups.co.uk is not the site your boss wants to see on your computer screen when he barges into your cubicle.