Wednesday, July 9, 2014

You Can Travel Too - And Seeing Leeches!

This is article is written for those of you who want to see the world but think it's too expensive.  I'm in Istanbul, Turkey now.  I had a talk with a young Turkish pharmacist yesterday, and he kept saying that he wanted to travel but had no money.  We talked about a strategy for him, and he said he never thought about that.  The conversation prompted me to write this article - You Can Travel Too.  And you should travel too.  The picture on the left is of a Turkish guy selling leeches to cure your ailments.

I touched the side of the jar because I know leeches can detect human warmth.  He then grabbed me, and I shook with a fright.  Haha, of course the leeches are in the bottle and wouldn't bite me.  But why are they such freaky creatures?  See; you need to travel too.  When in Los Angeles or Baldwin Park or Germany am I going to see something like this?

So far, I've been away for 30 days on holidays.  Most people would say they couldn't afford it.  But when I was 18, I told my parents I was going far, far away for awhile even without any money.  They laughed at me and said it wasn't going to happen.  I ended up in England that summer.  And since then, I've been traveling for over 14 years.  What's more important than money is that you have a desire and a want to see the world and the gall to tell the world that you can do it, no matter what people say.  So here are three rules to follow: 1) Don't be a tourist, 2) Don't get a hotel, and 3) Be Flexible.

Don't Be A Tourist

Let's start with a central tenet.  I want to dispel a myth here.  Traveling is only expensive for tourists. Conversely, traveling is cheap if you're not a tourist.  So - don't be a tourist!

Here's a good example.  Generally, speaking, in every country, going and leaving the airport is expensive.  Take for instance leaving LAX.  A shuttle from Baldwin Park to LAX can cost upward of a $50 or more.  It's the same all over the world.  When I was leaving Moscow airport, the taxi driver wanted a $100 to get me out of the airport.  This is the tourist rate.

But if you look at any airport, the workers are generally poor.  They don't live near the airport.  So - how do they afford the expensive airport rates?  They don't.  There's always the regular rate, which cuts on convenience.  So, going back to LAX - I take either the Baldwin Park metrolink or the fast bus to the LA train station.  Then, I transfer to the city bus for $8.  In total, it can cost $10 to $14.  You see the big difference in price?

My point isn't just getting in and out of airports.  You have to remember, every country has poor people, and even if they're poor, they're still doing a lot of touristy things.  For instance, yesterday, with my young pharmacy friend, I wanted to eat a few pieces of wonderful Turkish desserts, called Baklava (honey drenched pastries filled with nuts).  He said, "You don't buy them here.  This is where they screw the tourists.  We buy them somewhere else."  Somewhere else was half the price and the quality was probably even better. 

Skip the Hotel

I hardly ever use hotels.  Hotels are expensive and drain your money really, really fast.   I have enough miles to stay at one, but I'd rather travel for longer periods of time.

For instance, in one of the Turkish villages, I stayed at a wonderful cabin for $20 a night with breakfast.  Now, if I had picked a hotel, like I saw some Brits do, it would've cost $150 a night.  Do you see the huge difference?  They're one day costs me seven days.  And I want to be away for awhile.

Go back to the concept about not being a tourist.  Almost nobody in a country can afford the rates that a hotel charges.  So - don't stay at one.

Personally, I've chosen to stay with friends and locally owned places.  With the latter, you can negotiate the price.

Going back to the pharmacist, who said he couldn't travel, I told him to start hosting people on couchsurfing. (Couchsurfing is a website where you meet strangers and you're invited or get invited to open up your couch to a stranger.)  Here's why.

Did you know that Istanbul is the sixth most visited place in the world?  It has 8 million tourists in a year.  I told him, just invite guests from the countries you want to visit.  Develop a relationship.  Then, ask if you can visit them too.  He found the idea a workable and good one.  He wouldn't have to pay for lodging when he's away.

Be Flexible

At dinner, at the pharmacist's house, his parents asked me, "Why'd you chose Turkey?"  I said, "It was an accident."  People seem to laugh at the explanation, but it's true.  I was flexible and went where the winds pointed me.

Because I chose to, I purposely missed my flight to Morocco, my original destination.  I was stuck in Munich, Germany.  I had enough miles and there was availability to fly to Turkey.  I grabbed it.  I had no idea what was in Turkey.  I just went.  And that's how I went to Lebanon back in 2011 too.  Because I was flexible, I only spent $40 and miles for my flight from Munich to Turkey.

When you're flexible, an opportunity of some sort will pop up.  Actually, my travels to Cabo San Lucas was the same.  I asked the British Airway operator, "Where can I go in two days with miles for cheap?"  He said, "Cabo, Mexico."  I said, "Ok.  Book it."  That was nearly a free flight, and I had the most fantastic time there.

When you're on a tight time schedule, you spend more money attempting to make your destinations on schedule.  But when you have no set plans, it's easier to find deals.

Anyways, that's it.  I hope this article inspires my boxers in Baldwin Park to travel more.  God knows there's more to see than our corrupt, little, ghetto city.  You can see a good part of my adventures in Turkey here: The Journey To Butterfly Valley

There's a few of my travel secrets.  I guess the cat's out of the bag.  Uh oh.

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