Are you curious to know how to be a world traveler? It’s not easy, but maybe for reasons different than you imagine.
Money is the first thing that comes to mind. So, lets get it out of the way from the outset.
People think you’ll need a lot of money to travel around the world constantly. But this is not necessarily true. In fact, I’d claim that a couple, earning what an office job would generally pay in a developed country, or even in some developing countries like Brazil, might be enough. I’m talking about a double income here, but not necessarily a big income for each person.
This means that, theoretically, it’s much more affordable than most people would imagine, right? But how is that so? Well, actually, the trick is not so much the paycheck. Having sort of an average salary will probably do. What’s really critical is what you stop paying.
It takes a lot of money to live in developed countries and certain cities of developing countries, like Rio and São Paulo, just to mention two that I’m very familiar with. Housing consumes a big share of the salaries, along with car, other kinds of transport, utilities and other monthly bills.
That’s why traveling tends to be so expensive. When you travel, you keep paying your regular bills and, on top of that, the travel expenses. But what if you don’t have to pay the regular bills back home anymore? That’s precisely where the magic happens.
Since Patricia and I don’t have a house anymore, nor in Brazil, nor anywhere else, we don’t have to pay for these fixed bills that everybody else is paying. Whatever we earn can be used to support our trips.
It turns out that very often we’re spending less on a daily basis being away from Brazil. I remember vividly the last time we spent a few months in Brazil, by the end of 2012. I had to use my credit card every day, several times a day, for things like food, groceries and stuff. These purchases felt kind of expensive to me most of the time. But, since we were there, there was little I could do about it.
Here in Istanbul, my credit card is having vacations. It’s rarely used. Why? Because our daily expenses are so much lower that I don’t even bother to use the card. I just pay cash, since it takes a long time to use all the cash I take from the ATM every time I have to visit it.
So, yes, we had to pay to fly here. But, once we’re here, everything is less expensive. And I should mention that Istanbul isn’t necessarily a cheap city. Maybe it was in the past. But it’s not so much the case anymore. Still, it’s much more affordable than Rio.
Again, we’re paying less here, but we paid for the air ticket. If we sum everything up and average it, we spend about the same that we used to pay monthly in Brazil or less. So, strangely enough, traveling didn’t necessarily make us spend more. And in other parts of the world that we’ve visited before, we used to spend even less.
All of this explanation serves just one purpose: showing that the amount of money you make isn’t really the differentiator here. It doesn’t take that much money to do what we do. But, if you only have a kind of average salary it will probably be essential to stop paying bills at your home country. I realize this can be tricky, since many people have mortgages. Fortunately, we don’t. And by the way, we don’t have kids, either. But I know people who have and travel the world too.
Now we can begin to address the things that are way harder than money. And time might be exactly one of the most difficult ones. Or, should I say more accurately, freedom to use your time as you wish.
Patricia and I work regularly, but we work from “home” on our own businesses, back in Brazil. Because of that, we have complete freedom to use our time however we like. This doesn’t mean we choose to spend our days by the beach sipping caipirinhas. Actually we rarely do that. But we can do that whenever we want. And that’s the big difference!
Most importantly we can move to anywhere, anytime, because we’re not constrained by an office work. It took us years to earn this kind of freedom, but eventually we achieved it.
We have our businesses, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Fortunately, more and more companies are hiring remote workers. So, maybe what you need to do is finding a remote job, so that you can have more control over the use of your own time. By the way, since it’s your own time, isn’t it more natural that you control it, instead of other people? ;-)
To me, the most fundamental skill is the ability to communicate in English. Some people are lucky enough to be raised in a mostly English speaking country. That wasn’t our case, since we’re Brazilians and speak Portuguese natively.
We had to learn English well enough to at least make ourselves understood. Not necessarily to chat with Americans, nor Brits, but with people all over the world. It doesn’t matter if you like English or not, for better or worse, that’s the language that you can almost always count on.
Wherever you are in the world you will almost always find someone who can speak at least a bit of English to help you out. But even if that were not the case, there’s a ton of things that you can do with the help of the internet if you can at least read English.
Sadly, most Brazilians have very poor English skills, if any. I guess they know that. But I don’t believe they realize how tragic the situation is, compared to the rest of the world. It’s really, really bad. I have to laugh in Turkey when I see people complaining that many Turks don’t speak any English at all. They should pay a visit to Brazil.
Speaking of that, here in Istanbul I met only two people that have visited Brasil. One Turk and one Algerian. Both reported the same thing: while in Rio, a touristic city, they couldn’t find a single soul they could have a conversation with in English. Both spent at least a week in the most touristic part of Rio, and yet, no luck for them. I wonder how they survived and I’m particularly curious about the World Cup next year.
Planning comes next. And this one was really hard for me. You see, I’m a Brazilian. Two important things about this lovely people from South America: most of them don’t speak English, but you already know that, and they don’t plan. It’s all about spontaneity. :-)
Now, seriously, planning isn’t the most developed skill among Brazilians, but on the other hand, we’re super flexible and we adapt fast.
I used to have such a hard time when I began to travel like that. Because I really needed to plan and it was a torture to me. But, fortunately this time is over and now I plan like a pro, simply because I desperately need to. Which means, by the way, that being organized is quite essential to live this kind of life.
And since we’re at it, let’s talk about focus. Do you realize how much surrounded by distractions we are? This very article is probably a distraction for you now, since you should be working, right? :-)
The most difficult thing is really to keep focus on what we have to do. Specially if you consider that we’re often in such amazing places, that we want to go around all of the time to explore it. Istanbul, just to mention one, is completely mind blowing in every possible way. I can’t tell you how much I love this place and will suffer when we move somewhere else. So how to keep the focus on the work?
I don’t have an answer for that. Maybe we’ve trained enough and traveled enough to be at peace now, even when we’re at home, working voluntarily, while this fantastic city is out of the door waiting for us.
Anyway, I think now the planning helps me a lot to keep the focus. I plan the week, I prioritize tasks and I execute them as well as focuses as I can during the week. But even this is something that I only began to do recently, after struggling with planning for so long.
Out of our country “strange” things happen. People are different, the culture is different, the food is different and we don’t know exactly how things work. Although everybody around us looks like ETs, it’s actually the other way around. We are the ETs. We are the strangers. So, we can’t be too demanding, right?
Keeping a positive attitude in the face of the uncommon situations that may arise is quite important. But, don’t worry, most of the time everything is just fine. And as long as we remind ourselves that we are the actual ETs, it all goes well.
Permanent training on change management
The first time I backpacked around Europe, it was overwhelming. I’d change countries every night, traveling by train.
In the morning, I’d arrive in a new city, in a new country, with a language I didn’t speak, a currency that I didn’t understand yet, a people that seemed strange and streets that I didn’t know how to navigate. In the beginning, it was a lot of stress and worries.
Eventually I realized that every morning was weird because of so many changes, but by noon I was already acclimatized to the new place and by sunset I felt like a local, proud of my knowledge of a few streets and places. Only to change everything again on the next morning.
The good news is that whichever stress I had in the morning was latter replaced by an amazing feeling of joy and gratitude for all of the cool places I was having the chance to visit and the nice people I eventually met.
We don’t travel so frantically these days. But it doesn’t matter. We became used to changes and I think this is wonderful. Cause, as cliché as this might be, truth is that change is the only constant in life. So learning to live with it and actually welcoming it, is like a blessing for us. It’s a sort of permanent training that help us to improve everyday and keep us well alive.
Author: Vinícius Teles