My humble travel beginnings

My study abroad year in Italy
My study abroad year in Italy

It’s important to consider the viability and some ins-and-outs of your impending travels.  I was first bitten by the traveling bug when I was 16 studying abroad in Italy. I was able to do this through the sponsorship of Rotary International. Never having spent more than a few months at a time away from home (2-3 months in the summers at my grandmother’s in Monterrey, MX), and no money to my name, I didn’t know where to begin. Although my mom didn’t appreciate my constant calling home for more money to fund my excursions in Europe from Auschwitz in Poland, to a 2-week family exchange in Denmark, Munich in Germany and so forth, she always made it happen. Rotary’s sponsorship also helped immensely with a monthly stipend, and free room and board in exchange to host an exchange student the following year. I found economically viable ways to travel, via packages offered at my local school for example. I went to speak to the administration, and asked if I could join the travels offered by the other classrooms and grade levels. Being so young at the time, I didn’t know how to travel alone. I also reached out to networks of people I knew in Europe. A cousin recently married and living in Madrid invited me to come and stay with her and her new family for Christmas and NYE. So I hopped on a plane, met up with a friend of hers in Valencia who put me on a bus to Malaga and went to meet the whole family. At the end of my school year in Cremona, Italy (a small town famous for violin making), I decided to do a 2-month excursion in Europe. Traveling budget airlines like Ryanair, Easyjet, and vueling (at the time), I spent the absolute least amount of money I could. I lived out of a rental car for two weeks doing a road trip on La Costa del Sol in Spain, slept on friends’ couches in several cities in Andalucia, flew to London where (not a proud moment) I took a couple farmer showers out of the always reliable McDonalds, then flew back to Italy to get ready to go home after running out of all my budgeted money.

Obviously, my travels today don’t necessarily parallel these stories of yore, but what I’m getting at is that in order to travel you must internalize a certain sense of flexibility. What I learned from my earliest voyages is that adaptability is key, and there are several ways to see the world, if you are intent on doing it. An old friend recently did a very similar SE Asia trip to one I did, but took the opportunity to do subsistence farming in Malaysia and volunteer work in Thailand, always finding a way to fund her travels through alternate routes. Yet another friend, who often travels for work, tends to take vacation days off on the front or backside of trips, taking advantage of the expensed airfare to explore a new place, or catch up with old friends. If you haven’t done much traveling yet, but want to start, then find a way to make it happen. It’s never to late to start! Some useful resources include seeking out budget airlines in whatever areas you want to see. In Asia there is Air Asia, Jetstar, and several smaller ones that aren’t all encompassing, but cover less developed areas like India (Spice Jet) for example. Previously mentioned, Europe holds Ryanair and Easy jet. Also, knowing as much about a place and its surroundings helps you develop a better sense of the people and culture while minding the temptation to draw over-arching conclusions and assumptions when you get there. Getting a vague sense of the landscape comes first, exploring its contours happens when you arrive, but extensive research in preparation always helps with the two former.

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