By Tim Notier
1) Learn the Language
Marisa is on the other side of the coin. Every day she practices French and Turkish, and is already fluent in Arabic and Spanish. I will just wander behind her like an ignorant tourist as she gets to know the people and culture in a finer detail because I lack the drive or effort to comprehend what is being said. But I understand that learning the language, at least a bit, is a real asset to traveling, and even the little Spanish I have learned has given me greater insight into the Latin American culture.
By knowing the local language, we have been able to stay with families and really get to know what life is like in the country we are visiting. It has also helped us avoid some visa and permit problems that may have turned out disastrously if we could not have conversed, and it has allowed us to have a greater appreciation for the people and culture of the place we are guests in.
Communication with others has multiple benefits, conversations about each party’s experience so far, to “must see" hidden treasures, as well as where to avoid. We have met countless people who have shared advice, friendship, and knowledge. We are currently semi-traveling with a couple, Phil and Sapna, who do a little more research than Marisa and me, and we bleed them for information constantly. Another couple, James and Imogen, are about two months ahead of us, and make perfect recon missions into what is to be our future. And yet another couple, Brendon and Kira, who are currently one country behind us, have provided us with info on how they travel on a budget: wild camping and proper networking online to let communities know when and where they will be in the area. They also strongly suggested using iOverlander, an app I had downloaded on my phone, but had never used properly. And they were right, it is very useful.
Building a network can give you immediate access to what is currently happening at different places from the advice of fellow travelers, and you might just find a group that will feel like your family on the road.
Everyone reading this is part of our network, and we thank each and every one of you for your support!
3) Stay with locals / families on AirBnb
We have met so many wonderful people along the way, and love to see the family's daily functions while immersed in their lives (even if sometimes Marisa and I have to share a single bed). This is also where learning their language is a great benefit. Marisa gets to know people on a very personal level, and I do a lot of nodding my head and smiling.
4) Be prepared to be delayed
5) Don't plan every mile
Half of the gems we have “discovered" were suggestions from local people, or travelers riding ahead of us. We try to (and often fail) to avoid the “must see" attractions that 90% of tourists go to, and instead we search out local treasures that are more secluded.
Without having a concrete plan, we are more flexible and can detour without regret of missing out on what each individual country has to offer. Of course, we cannot see it all, but we try!
6) Accept hospitality / kindness of others
What I did not realize is that the people we have met are excited and happy to offer meals and hospitalities. The same feeling that we get when staying with locals is mutual with our new friends. Hospitality and free meals should never be expected, nor should they be asked for, but when offered, it comes from their heart, not out of pity. Many of the people we have met are excited to hear of our tales, and want to be part of the story.
We hosted a German world traveler when he made his way through Chicago. I think I was more excited to have him at our house than he was for being able to stay for free. So much information was learned, and a friendship for life was created.
After some time on the road, we realized that this was one of the great pleasures of traveling. It is amazing the feeling you get (we try to do it often) when you are able to assist someone with a small gesture, and it is wonderful to meet people when our paths cross. A small token of kindness doesn’t cost much, but it will forever be burned into our memory, always proving to us how wonderful people truly are.
7) Invest in the right gear
We are still adjusting our gear, and we may one day perfect it, but for now we have comfortable, budget-friendly (sorta), warm and durable gear. There is not a single correct answer, and there are a lot of variables about weather that are hard to cover in a single coat, shirt, or pants. You may have to adapt along the way, but good gear from the beginning is a real benefit.
8) Start the day early
We like to be sure we have time to stop, take pictures, have breaks, and eat without feeling the pressure of the sun's light disappearing. Sometimes we roam around looking for the cheapest place to stay (or any place to stay!) and we like to be fully unloaded and settled down long before the sun has set.
9) Know everything will turn out just fine
I get frustrated in the moment, and I have to stop and tell myself everything will turn out just fine. Minor inconveniences seem like huge barriers in the present, but through teamwork, your network of friends, knowing a little bit of the language, being prepared to be delayed, along with the other tips presented here, I guarantee that you will pull through. Some of the toughest times create the best memories, and I wouldn't change any misleading signs or forks in the road that has led Marisa and I to the very spot we are now.
Life is good!
10) Have fun
Be sure to smile, and to make others smile while you travel along the journey and throughout life.
* Get to know a pilot: They can fly anywhere in the world for free, and will bring you supplies if they like you enough.
* Promote your book :) Maiden Voyage on Amazon