When I meet people and talk about traveling, I notice that many of the same questions keep coming up. Here are some frequently asked questions and my responses:
What travel advice can you share based on your experiences?
Avoid tour groups, don’t stick to a rigid itinerary, try to use local transportation as often as possible, and visit fewer places for longer periods of time. You’ll come back with lots of interesting memories and feel a closer connection to the places you visited.
Is it difficult or scary to travel alone?
It’s not difficult at all. I definitely get lonely sometimes, but I like doing a lot of things alone anyway. It’s hard to organize groups of people – especially if everyone has their own interests, personal philosophies, and ideas of what an ideal trip should look like. When it’s just me, I can have my own adventures without having to compromise my plans for someone else. If I want to spend an entire day searching for the perfect restaurant, visit the same museum three days in a row, take endless amounts of pictures of the same bug or flower, or wander around aimlessly for 10 hours, no one will be around to tell me I should be doing something else instead.
Obviously traveling with a partner can certainly be rewarding as well (and generally cheaper since you’ll have someone to share rooms, rides, and meals with), but there’s no question that traveling alone gives you more freedom. You can make new friends, hang out with them for a few days, then not feel bad about leaving to do your own thing when you don’t want to be with them anymore.
Besides, you’re never really alone when you travel alone. If you travel with friends, you’re less apt to put yourself out there and make new ones. But if you’re alone, you’ll be forced to be more sociable, talk to strangers, and you’ll make many new friends as a result. It works the other way as well – as people tend to gravitate towards you when you’re by yourself. It’s funny how that works, but it’s true. Try it out!
Anyway, traveling alone is amazing and I certainly recommend it!
What are some of your favorite places?
I’ve loved every place I visited for different reasons (the scenery, the people, the food, the pace of life, etc). Every destination has something new and exciting to offer. But when it comes down to it, I think the most interesting places have been all those little towns in between the obvious tourist destinations – the ones that aren’t traveler hubs and don’t get any hype from the guide books. I’ve also happened across many wonderful places by accident.
How can you afford to take off and travel?
I generally work for a while to save up some money, take off for a little bit, then come back and work again. Freelance jobs are helpful too, as they allow me to earn money while on the road.
Entering contests is another fun way to manifest money for travel expenses. I’ve entered and won several contests, such as a Lonely Planet photo contest that provided me with a free Round the World ticket from Star Alliance (39,000 miles, 15 flights, and 1 year of travel). I also won a $1,000 travel scholarship from the Austin chapter of Hosteling International.
But really…if you’re relatively low maintenance, travel as the locals do, eat local food or cook your own, and stay in cheap hotels, go camping, or couchsurf…a dollar can stretch a long way. And obviously some countries are cheaper than others. If you add up all your monthly expenses back home (rent, bills, etc), you’ll find that your travel expenses average out to be significantly lower (only about $10-$15/day in many countries). Also, since plane tickets and transportation costs are generally the largest trip expenses, that’s another reason you can benefit by staying in one place for a longer period of time.
For more ideas about traveling on a budget, visit my budget travel page.
What kinds of things should someone pack when going on a long trip?
Well, that depends a lot on where you’re going and what type of trip you’re going on. But after considering the climate, your goals for your trip, and your timeframe, the most important thing is to pack as light as possible! And if you forget something, it’s not a huge deal – as most things can be easily purchased while on the road.
One thing I would recommend based on past experience is that (with the exception of good shoes that are well broken in, some underwear and socks, and a few functional clothing items) bring clothes you don’t care about. You’ll likely want to buy things while on the road and if you don’t feel bad about ditching the clothes you brought, you’ll save yourself from lugging around a heavy backpack or having to send a package home.
You can check out my travel packing page for some ideas of things you may want to pack.
What type of camera do you use?
Most of these photos were taken with a basic point and shoot camera (a Canon SD870IS). I just purchased my first digital SLR camera though (a Pentax K-7), so will soon be taking lots of photos with that as well.
How do you adjust when coming back home?
I like to give myself time to ease back into life at home. And while it’s sometimes difficult, I try to keep the same wide eyed enthusiasm I have when I’m in a new place. I enjoy riding my bike to get places, bringing my camera along to document, and pretending like I’m a tourist in my own hometown. This helps to break up the routine, to keep the travel bug at bay, and to teach me to appreciate the new and interesting things about my own city.
Why do you have all that vegan stuff on your site?
Veganism is something I feel really strongly about, and there isn’t a lot of information out there about vegan travel. I know there are people out there who are nervous about visiting certain countries because they’re afraid they’ll have a hard time finding suitable things to eat. I’m collecting vegan travel resources and posting them to this site so I can help myself (and others) be vegan while on the road.
Do you make exceptions to your vegan diet while traveling?
It is worth saying that many of the horrific conditions present in the US meat and dairy industry don’t apply to rural areas outside wealthy western countries. And it is important to learn about what food means to other people in other parts of the world. With that said, I think it’s always best to stick to ones beliefs no matter where you are. And while I can respect other people’s eating habits within their particular context, I still don’t feel it’s necessary for me to compromise my own values and partake in it as well.
I know I won’t become deathly ill if I accidentally eat soup with fish sauce. And I know I won’t be destroying the world if I eat some curry with a small amount of gee. But I still try to avoid these products as best I can. I do make mistakes and exceptions (some even without my knowledge), so I don’t beat myself up over it when these instances happen occasionally. But with proper planning, patience, and a little extra effort, avoiding animal products is pretty easy in most instances.
Aren’t you worried about offending your hosts if you refuse their food?
It’s true that in many parts of the world, vegetarianism (and especially veganism) is not a well-understood concept. However, I do think it’s possible to stick to my ethical beliefs without coming across as fanatical, arrogant, or disrespectful. People are usually pretty understanding and accommodating if I’m nice. And I’ve managed to avoid most awkward eating situations by remembering to politely explain my eating habits before a meal is prepared.
As long as I’m a polite, gracious guest, my hosts are never annoyed or angered by my desire to eat only vegetables. They may be curious, weirded out, confused, intrigued, or even inspired…but never upset. If someone has agreed to invite me into their home, I would assume they’re probably already pretty open to new people with their “strange” new ideas. And honestly, while eating only plants shouldn’t really be a controversial or threatening idea, I seem to encounter much less hostility about my vegan diet on the road than I do at home.
Do you get upset when people eat meat around you?
While I wish it wasn’t the case, most people eat meat (including my family and most of my good friends). I don’t judge them for it – I just choose not to do it myself.
As long as people don’t make rude or annoying comments about my eating habits, I don’t bother them about theirs. And honestly, most people who hang around me long enough usually end up eating less meat. It isn’t because I make them feel weird about it – it’s because I open their eyes to all the other delicious things they were missing out on.
So why are you vegan anyway?
I’m vegan because I think it’s cruel and unnecessary to raise animals for food. And there is always such a large variety of delicious things to eat that I’ve never been bored or felt that I needed meat to be healthy.
Animal issues aside, there are many other reasons why a plant-based diet is beneficial to everyone involved. According to Treehugger.com, a leading media outlet dedicated to sustainability, “Meat is the most resource-intensive food on the table and eating less of it can be the single most green move a person makes.”
If you want more information about reasons to become vegan, here’s a good overview:
If you want more information about why meat production is bad for the environment, here are some additional links and bullet points:
- Livestock production generates 18 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.
- Nearly half of the water and 80 percent of the agricultural land in the United States are used to raise animals for food
- We feed more than 70 percent of the grains and cereals we grow to farmed animals, and almost all of those calories go into simply keeping the animals alive, not making them grow.
- Meat-based diets use about twice as many environmental resources as soy-based diets.
- Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) create one of the nation’s most dangerous water pollution problems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, hog, chicken and cattle waste has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.
So enough of that vegan stuff. What do you do while you’re traveling?
That’s a good question. I enjoy meeting interesting people, eating a lot of good food, and staying open to whatever comes my way. I try my best to take good notes so I can share my experiences with others.
What do you miss most about home when you’re away?
Family, friends, cat, gardening, Barton Springs, breakfast tacos!