Beyond Your Borders Experiencing the World

by Chris on April 14, 2009 · 37 comments

in Travel, Travel & Leisure

tourist

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”
-Mark Twain

Written 140 years ago, these words from the great American author Mark Twain still ring true today. Unfortunately, according to the U.S. State Department, only 27% of Americans owned passports as of 2007, with even fewer repeatedly using them. Regardless of the common perception that the world is getting smaller and smaller, it’s still a VERY big place, full of mystery and wonder. Isn’t it about time you get out there and explore it?

Before this goes any farther, clarification must be made. This is not an article advocating that you jet off to Cancun for a week and check into the local Marriott where you can enjoy margaritas and McDonalds. Not hardly. What we are talking about here is real travel, the kind where you have to acquaint yourself with a local language and culture completely different from your own, where you are not always guaranteed a continental breakfast and a heated pool. Travelling halfway around the world just to stay at somewhere with all the comforts of home just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. That’s a vacation. Vacations are great. They are a chance to get away from work and do some much needed relaxation, and we all need one once in a while. What vacations do not offer, however, is the critical element provided by real travelling, an authentic experience. You may brag at work for a couple weeks about how many mojitos you drank last spring break, but you’ll be talking about your experience meeting a real Maasai warrior in Kenya or the time you rode on the back of an elephant through the jungles of India for the rest of your life.

I can recount from personal experience the impact of my travels. During my undergraduate years I spent parts of several summers working at an orphanage in rural Brazil, hanging out with local children and living just as they did. Right now I live in northern Scotland, where I am finishing up a Master’s degree in the land of castles, kilts, and fine Scotch whisky. Since moving to the U.K. I’ve had several opportunities to visit various European countries as well. Later this year I will be traveling to eastern Africa, where I will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, as well as spending a couple days in the back of a Land Rover on photo safari. Now I know what you’re thinking…I could never afford to do all that, or find the time. The bottom line is, yes you could and yes you can, you just have to get a little more creative. Stand-up comics could use my bank statements for material, and a graduate student’s workload is significantly bigger than a breadbox, but I’ve still managed to see a good chunk of the world before I hit the quarter century mark.

Seeking Out Real Experiences

“I had just one more chance to be a boy, and I took it!”

-Theodore Roosevelt, in answer to a friend who asked why he had literally risked his life on an expedition into an explored river in Brazil.

As nice as cruises and vacation packages are, they fall short when it comes to providing authentic experiences. Instead of hitting the usual vacation spots, look in a different direction. For the cost of a week long cruise to the Bahamas you could fly to Brazil and do a riverboat cruise down the Amazon, or volunteer at an archaeological dig outside of Cairo. Try to break away from the stereotypical cookie-cutter holiday that we so often use those precious few vacation days on and instead seek out a real adventure, creating a story you will be retelling for the rest of your life.

Here’s a few unique travel ideas guaranteed to provide authentic experiences off the beaten path:

Getting There

Train – While this is a common means of transportation in many parts of the world, train travel is nowhere near as common as flying or driving for Americans. Consider utilizing rail networks in counties you visit, as train travel can often be a comfortable way to see a great amount of countryside while still getting where you need to go quickly.

Container Ship – Feeling really adventurous? Why not book a room on board a cargo ship for your voyage overseas instead of a flight. You’ll get a chance to experience life at sea, and you’ll be crossing the pond the way they did in the old days.

Sleeping There

Couchsurfing – Ideal for the college age traveler, this phenomenon has experienced unequaled growth since its conception in 2000. Basically, you register on www.couchsurfing.com, where you can find thousands of people around the world willing to let you come and sleep on their couch for free. The goal is to meet people of different cultures and live as they do, and it is guaranteed to be an interesting experience.

Hostels – Another option open to all ages but ideal for the college-aged among us, staying at a hostel allows you to meet and share experiences with other travelers from around the world. Hostels usually have barrack style rooms with bunk beds and shared bathrooms but are often much cheaper than hotels. You are always sure to meet quite a few interesting people in hostels, which only adds to the experience.

Bed and Breakfast – Good for travelers of all ages, a bed and breakfast is usually a large home that has been converted into a hotel of sorts. Breakfast is always included with a night’s stay, hence the name. B&B’s are good if you are not willing to forgo the comforts of a hotel, while still allowing for more intimate exposure to the culture of whatever area you are staying in.

Eating There

The Local Hot Spots – You can find a Big Mac pretty much anywhere in the world these days, but what’s the fun in that? Instead try asking a local where they go on Friday nights. Food is often one of the most notable differences in cultures, so you need to try out all the local delicacies. Privately owned restaurants always win out in the cultural experience category compared to the local TGI Fridays or other chain restaurant.

Street Vendors – For the real cultural experience, check out the street vendors serving local delights. Fried scorpions are on the menu on China’s Snack Street, for example, as well as many other unique indulgences. In the U.K., street vendors serve up traditional English breakfast in the mornings and offer kebabs in the evening (Indian food is all the rage in the U.K.). While you will have to give up the luxury of being waited on, you’ll save money eating from street vendors, and the picture of you working your way through a skewer of fried seahorses in Beijing will make a great conversation piece around the office.

Doing Things There

Avoid the Tourist Crowd – Shopping malls, theme parks, and other tourist traps can quickly deplete money and precious time that could be put to much better use. Try to avoid following the hordes of fanny pack toting tourists and instead seek out a unique experience. Visiting Italy for the first time? Why not rent a moped and explore at your own pace? In Cairo and you want a taste of desert life? Why not go on a guided camel-back tour? In the activities category, possibilities are endless, be creative!

Volunteer – Opportunities to volunteer abroad and create a unique experience are endless. Consider volunteering as an assistant at an archaeological dig, or as a helper at a national park. This allows for a more intimate experience with a given area, and is often very educational as well. Fills space on a resume too!

Ways to Pay For It

Let’s face it, times are tough and traveling isn’t cheap. That being said, if financial reasons are your only excuse for not getting out there, you’ll be kicking yourself later. Here are some ideas for funding a trip:

Get Philanthropic – Many charities offer fundraising packages as an optional way to volunteer. Essentially what you do is sign up for a certain event and then raise sponsorship money which covers the cost of the trip as well as a specified amount which goes directly to the charity. This is a great way to help make a difference in the world and do some traveling in the process. For example, my Mount Kilimanjaro climb this summer is a charity event which will benefit Childreach International, a London-based children’s charity that provides sustainable aid to children in East Africa, Southern Asia and Latin America.

Work Abroad – Have a lot of time to work with? Consider working abroad. There are many opportunities to work abroad, sometimes in exchange for room and board and sometimes for a paycheck.

School Abroad – I chose to leave the U.S. for my graduate studies, instead choosing a graduate program in the United Kingdom. The time spent in another culture and around other international students has been priceless. Many undergraduate programs offer semester abroad programs or shorter trips for credit. Graduate programs abroad often have no application fee, so apply to lots of them.  College loans, grants, scholarships, and Mom and Dad’s trust fund are all great ways to handle this financially.

Just Go

Just do it. Carpe diem. No time like the present. The future is not guaranteed. You get the point. You will never be as young as you are right now, so you need to stop wasting away in that cubicle or in front of that Xbox and get out there and see some of the world.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
-Attributed to Mark Twain

You can find out more about Hutch’s Kilimanjaro climb and the mission of Childreach International at www.justgiving.com/christopherhutcheson.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Steve April 14, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Great article, and I wholly agree with not falling for tourist traps or Americanized meals (although sometimes it’s neat to see just how different KFC can be in, say, Bahrain).

Here’s another way to travel, and this one’s FREE! Join the military! I’ve been in the Air Force for over 11 years, and I’ve seen Europe, Japan, the Middle East, Africa, and I’ve been to sea with the Navy for a bit. Even better, I got PAID to do it! We certainly need the help, and the benefits package is hard to beat. And in the grand scheme of things, four years is a drop in the bucket. You come out with a marketable skill, great experiences, a network of friends and co-workers (many of whom you will never, EVER forget), and even more benefits like the GI Bill and VA assistance.

That last quote by Twain about regretting things you didn’t do is exactly what motivated me to step into that recruiter’s office years ago. I figured that I’d kick myself for the rest of my life wondering what I’d missed out on by not joining. And I can honestly say that if I had to do it all over again, I definitely would! Look into it, you may be surprised by what you find.

2 That Guy April 14, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Not a bad article. I’ve been there outside the country and its a great experience. I particularly enjoyed going to the locals market vs. the malls or shopping marts. The best part is if you’re there long enough and aren’t the fool the locals take you for, you eventually earn their respect and they treat you like a local.
Oh, one more thing, if you get down to Central America (Where I was), you’ll lose all your excess weight and eat very healthy without even trying. I was in the best shape of my life when there.

Bottom line; Go and live your life in the winds. You’ll always have time to be normal later on, get those stories under your belt for your kids first though.

3 Andrew Barbour April 14, 2009 at 7:02 pm

Can’t recommend world travel enough. I spent a semester in Israel, where I also worked on a kibbutz for several weeks, a semester in Moscow (during the 1998 ruble crash), a year teaching English in Abu Dhabi, another summer in Jerusalem (when the intifada broke out in 2000), and then several years in South Korea. Also had several trips to China and Japan, and once to Thailand. Wild stories abound from each destination.

Of course, we all benefit from the opening of our minds when we explore a foreign culture… but another wonderful aspect of world travel is learning more about your own country– how it’s perceived abroad, how it influences and is influenced by world events and cultures, and how people involve themselves in society. In lesser-developed countries, you begin to marvel at what a wonderful oddity the US (my home country) is.

4 David April 14, 2009 at 7:24 pm

I would enjoy traveling but I am VERY afraid of flying. I have flown before and I just can’t seem to do it without having an anxiety attack. My girlfriend wants to travel with me and while I would love to, I just can’t seem to do it. I don’t what to do really.

5 Chris April 14, 2009 at 7:36 pm

“I chose to leave the U.S. for my graduate studies, instead choosing a graduate program in the United Kingdom. The time spent in another culture and around other international students has been priceless. ”

If you want to be immersed in international students, try a computer science graduate program in America.

Joking aside, I recently had the opportunity to take a very cheap cruise to the Bahamas (My spring break started on the last day of February!), and I think that it’s entirely possible to have a unique experience, even in the most touristy of places. My fiancee and I went on a self-driven jeep tour of Freeport, and I have to say it was much more interesting than the following day at Nassau, which was the tourist center. While Nassau was the postcard location, at Freeport we were able to learn about the lifestyle, history, and political situation in the Bahamas firsthand, and not from some corporate-backed smiling face.

And yes, I swam in the freezing cold water at the blindingly-white sand beaches.

6 Bill April 14, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Good article. My only disagreement is with regards to staying away from all of the other tourists. Yeah, it’s always nice to feel like you’re not still in the US, but the fact of the matter is that the sites that all of the foreigners want to go to are popular for a reason (for the most part).

Also, you have to admit that traveling can be prohibitively expensive in many cases. Not so much the actual sight seeing/experiences, but getting there (i.e the plane ticket). Just getting to Europe can cost a grand, not to mention Africa or Asia. When I was in college I went overseas a few times when I could take a few weeks off. But it’s hard to justify spending that kind of money now when I can’t really take more than a week off from work.

7 Shoveling Ferret April 14, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Fabulous article for men and women. I’ve featured a link to it on my blog. Experiencing the lives of other people, even if only very briefly, is immensely important to understanding others. I wouldn’t trade my experiences in Sudan and Egypt for the world.

8 Andrew Barbour April 14, 2009 at 7:50 pm

David, regarding panic attacks, I know what you’re talking about. Last summer my family was flying to Seoul from New York, and I had a panic attack and passed out. We had our baby in the bassinet right in front of me, and it was meal time so the tray was over my lap. It was already claustrophobic enough without the turbulence (which WITHOUT FAIL must only occur during meal service), but once it started getting bumpy I freaked out and passed out. This despite being doped up on two tabs of Bonine.

I asked a doctor about this, and he prescribed Xanax for this specific situational anxiety. You wonder how this stuff can just set up a roadblock between your conscious fear and physical reactions, but wow…it actually helps. Last week, I took the NYC to Seoul route again…and even though it was even more bumpy than the time I passed out, I mostly kept cool.

Ask your doctor about anxiety meds. But if flying is still out, there are plenty of cool destinations you could reach by car or boat from the US. I’d hate for you to miss out on this great big world.

9 Ian McPhee April 14, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Absolutely, there’s nothing like traveling to broaden one’s mind. I’m currently trying to put together a trip back to Florence (basically because I miss it and didn’t have anywhere near enough time there), and I need to go to South Uist where my family came from before I die. Travel-wise, I’ve already had my fair share of adventures, but you know there’s nothing like going out to see more and more if you can be prudent about it.

10 Robby G April 14, 2009 at 8:10 pm

No time like the present. Love it. Travelling is amazing, it makes you see things from the point of view of other cultures and is a great way to broaden your own perception on life. I’m happy to say I’m getting out of my homeland of Canada for a year to go and live abroad in Amsterdam, Holland as an exchange student. Really hoping to backpack across Europe during my break and see what life is really about. Great post. I found that this blog is not too much different from mine and I’m loving what I’m seeing so far. Keep it up. Added you to my RSS feed. Cheers!

11 Daniel Richardson April 15, 2009 at 1:41 am

Great article, inspiring!

12 Kevin April 15, 2009 at 2:19 am

I endorse this article wholeheartedly. I’ve been living in New Zealand now for eight months, and never have I felt so young and full of vigor. Every day brings a new experience. It’s mentally, physically and emotionally stimulating in ways I never expected. I appreciate my family and friends more with the separation. I get to observe my country from an outside perspective. I get to explore areas of the globe I never knew existed. And you will too. Get amongst it.

13 Julie April 15, 2009 at 3:14 am

Great article and I couldn’t agree more! I teach English in China and traveled on my salary ($700/month) for five weeks in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. I make very little money but I was able to travel for an extended period of time, memories from which I can’t put a price tag on. It’s invaluable to get outside the American bubble and realize that the American Dream might not be the best way.

Always follow the locals to eat and stay away from the big malls. And if you visit Beijing, stay away from the Wangfujing Snack Street where they sell the scorpions and seahorses… no Chinese person eats that stuff. The only people you’ll see eating weird food on a stick are foreigners and the Chinese will look on and laugh. :)

14 Liam April 15, 2009 at 3:26 am

Great article, I’m a Brit and spent the best two months of my life backpacking around the USA on the Greyhound bus. In fact that very Mark Twain quote adorned a Youth Hostel I stayed at in Sacramento, I have a photo of me or the girlfriend (I forget which!) sitting under it! It was pretty cheap because we stayed in youth hostels and did a few overnights on the bus, although you don’t get much sleep that way! We never stayed more than three days in any one city and managed to do a complete circuit of the country, it was amazing. And the hard, scary times were just as much a part of the experience as the great stuff.

Without being arrogant, it’s probably also worth noting that loads of people commented on how much me and my girlfriend had grown as people and as a couple during that two months. Definitely worth doing.

I love the idea of volunteering or charity working my way to more travelling, I’m looking into that right now!

15 Dan L April 15, 2009 at 4:17 am

Fantastic article. I couldn’t agree more…..that’s why I did a study abroad program as well.

16 Pat April 15, 2009 at 4:57 am

“I would enjoy traveling but I am VERY afraid of flying. I have flown before and I just can’t seem to do it without having an anxiety attack. My girlfriend wants to travel with me and while I would love to, I just can’t seem to do it. I don’t what to do really.”

Go by train! You can see the Americas by train very easily. Get down to El Paso and the gateway to Central and South America is there. I recommend picking up a copy of “The Old Patagonia Express” by Paul Theroux. His books on train travel were my inspiration for traveling the world. In fact I recommend ALL of his books to travelers.

17 Emil April 15, 2009 at 6:25 am

Beautiful post. I traveled with my parents almost every year during summer, and I saw most of Europe, Florida and some Canada ( I’m from europe). Traveling is something I would reccomend to anyone. Keep up the good work.

18 Bernie Franks April 15, 2009 at 6:55 am

One of my big regrets about my time spent in college is not doing a study abroad program. Of course, that would have put me even deeper in debt once I graduated, but I have to think it would have been more worth it than all that time spent among the cornfields of the Midwest.

I’d love to get out of the country, and I’ve been figuring out ways to save up enough cash for something like that. At this point, I’m one of the only people I know who hasn’t yet been out of the country. But as always, I’m at the mercy of my wallet and my parents would never have paid for an international vacation like the rest of my friends. I’d like to hear more about the fundraising packages you mentioned…

19 Spencer McKay April 15, 2009 at 7:09 am

If there are any young Canadians reading this (under the age of 25 I believe) you can register to do the Explore program. Applications are up for this year but for next year. Basically the government pays for you to spend 5 weeks somewhere in the country learning french by day and doing activities and stuff in french at night. It’s a great way to live in another city/culture (if you’re not from Quebec) even if it isn’t quite the same as travelling abroad.

http://www.myexplore.ca/

20 60 in 3 - Health and Fitness April 15, 2009 at 7:35 am

I was born outside the US and have spent as much time as possible traveling and experiencing the world around me. I wholeheartedly believe in travel (true travel, not spring break in Cancun) as a way of learning and growing. I wish more Americans did it.

Gal

“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as in caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography.” -Michael Ondaatje

21 VegasDad April 15, 2009 at 7:41 am

Great post. I’m a huge fan of travel and experiencing new and exciting places without staying at chain hotel. Unfortunately, with kids it becomes a little more difficult to both take them or go it alone. But we prepare ourselves to set off on adventure whenever the opportunity knocks. We’re a family with passports (even the five month old).

22 James April 15, 2009 at 7:41 am

I wish I heeded this advice a few years ago. I took advantage of a 2 week study abroad opportunity with my graduate school, thinking I could see some of the world and earn credit at the same time. But the trip was to Rome and each day we had to stay with a travel guide who showed us all the “must sees” in Rome. Of course, things like the Pantheon and Colosseum are must sees for a reason, but each site was absolutely packed with tourists. Going through the Vatican was hardly enjoyable, as people were packed shoulder to shoulder like sardines. How can you really enjoy the Sistine chapel when it’s just a hot, noisy zoo? There was never any “distance” to really take things in. It honestly felt like being in a theme park. Next time I go I want to be totally free to explore, to rent a moped, and do stuff at my own pace.

23 pyale April 15, 2009 at 7:59 am

I cannot agree more. Whether it was a spending the night in a farmhouse in Iceland or helping rebuild after a tsunami in Indonesia some of the greatest experiences I’ve had were outside the normal “American Experience”. I have a hard time understanding those who are so timid as to not want to leave their self-imposed comfort zones and explore. My first child had a passport when she was only 2 weeks old and she has been traveling the world ever since.

24 Nt4thBook April 15, 2009 at 8:00 am

Traveling abroad changes your perspective on life. When I was 20, I went into the remote salt flats of Northeast Colombia and spent my time working with an orphanage. Eating as they ate, rising when they arose, sleeping in a hammock strung between two trees, exposed to the elements and stars that sat on the horizon. I wrote my family once, cell phones were the size of bricks then and definately not available in Colombia. I was literally a century away from home. I traveled into the mountains to an ancient Kogi Indian settlement and ate fish over an open fire while trying to understand their perspective of the creation of the world. In the streets of Miacao, I was nearly run over by 5 SUV, whom which I turned to glare. But, before I could say anything to the driver of the last vechile, I was whisked away by friends, who told me they were “mafia”. I witnessed the aftermath of an assassination attempt on the Mayor of Ciengina, bodies strewn on the highway and continuance of gunfire, deep in the jungle. I slept on the terrance of million dollar condo and played soccer on the beach of a luxury resort. While planting shade trees in a school yard, I dug up a pre Colombian grave. The body was folded in a fetal potion and enclosed in an urn. But the thing that stood out most on this trip, was watching men, who had worked six days from sun up to sundown wearing the same clothes everyday, show up to worship their Savior on Sunday. Wearing the same shirt and the same pants, but washed clean of the weeks toil. Hearing these men, raise there voices in song to Thank God for what he has done for them… For what he has given them… Words fail me.
All this was twenty years ago…, yet I still remember the disdain that I felt when I returned to Miami International airport and was ask to pay $8 for a hamburger…
Last year, I took some friends for what I thought would be a similar adventure, deep into the mountains of Guatemala, we worked on a building project. I was amazed that cellular service was advertised on every rock and available 5 hours into the hills!!! I have been in less remote areas of the U.S. that have no cell towers… The world is getting smaller…. GET OUT and see it before it disappears!…
Hutch is right you will talk of the adventures for the rest of your life… look at me!

25 Scott April 15, 2009 at 8:07 am

I am having my first out-of-country trip this summer. My wife and I are doing community building in southern France… I am rather excited.

26 Brett C April 15, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Backpacking through Europe was the best thing I ever did. We did it two years ago and I still think about it everyday. My three buds and I traversed eastern and western Europe for 5 weeks after we graduated from college. Looking back this is really when I became a man. College wasn’t for me and I really couldn’t have taken part any less, I am just not a classroom person. But I decided to go backpacking on my own, without family help. I paid for it myself, we planned it ourselves; everything from plane tickets, hostels, museums, restaurants, bars, sights and trains. I had never taken so much responsibility for my own goals before this, and I haven’t looked back. Live in the winds and love the world. I want to help anyone who has the desire to travel the world from becoming discouraged, so here are some links to help you on your way.

http://www.thereareplaces.com/default.htm (brainstorm of places to go)
http://www.statravel.com/ (getting cheap airfare for students)
http://www.railsaver.com/railsaver.asp (getting a rail pass for Europe)
http://www.hostelworld.com/ (finding recognized hostels)
http://upl.codeq.info/ (packing calculator)
http://www.guideforeurope.com/ (excellent forum for Europe)

One last tip. As natural as it might seem to plan out every last detail, especially since you could be in a very foreign place – don’t. Do not book every hostel in advance. Flexibility in travel is so important. If the world is your playground, you wouldn’t want to be stuck on the swings all day.

27 Simon April 15, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Experiencing the world is a fantatic way to not only see what else is out there, but also to get to know yourself better. Understanding different cultures and appreciating that not everywhere is the same can have a tremendous impact on the way you see the world, and your place in it.

As Chris says though, don’t just go to a resort in Thailand, stay somewhere local, where you can appreciate what is going on around you. If you’re struggling for more inspiration, check out First Class Backpacker.

28 Kevin April 16, 2009 at 2:20 pm

America, get off your butts and go see the world! We will all be the better for it.

29 Mike M. April 17, 2009 at 4:08 pm

A couple of tidbits from an older traveler…

Learn the local language, if you can. Even a few phrases will earn you points. I spent two weeks in France armed with two years of high school French (dating back 30 years) and a phrasebook. Worked fine. I was able to rent a car en Francais, even hit the local McDonalds (it’s interesting to see the differences). The French were surprisingly hospitable. BTW, remember that the Romance languages are similar, enough so that a Frenchman in Italy can make himself understood. If you know one, you are equipped in all of them.

Get out of the big tourist cities. The UK does not equal London. France does not equal Paris. You’ll be surprised at what you find. BTW, the same counsel applies to foreign visitors to the United States.

30 Justin Ache April 22, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Watch how you do things though, in Cairo (or, specifically Giza, where the pyramids are), the camel rides aren’t worth what they sell them for. Do horseback instead, trust me on this one

31 Shannon @ Luxury Travel Company April 27, 2009 at 10:53 am

Great quote to start the article! Traveling is also one of the greatest forms of education a person can get. Perhaps if more people traveled and absorbed different cultures they will be more tolerant of other people, possibly making the world a more peaceful place. The more we understand how another person lives, the more we realize why he is how he is.

32 Desi Quintans May 11, 2009 at 11:41 pm

More and more I suspect that the idea of travel and ‘expanding your horizons’ is yet another way for people to justify how terribly they rank as a member of their community.

33 Rodney September 25, 2009 at 8:49 am

Another way to pay for a trip or to perhaps get it at a lesser price, is through Church organized mission trips.
My wife and I were able to travel to Romania a few years ago by doing this. We stayed in a house with a local family during our stay. We worked during the days in a small poverty stricken village doing house repairs. In the evenings and on free days We either explored or hung out with the family that was hosting us.

34 Bernt April 11, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Great article! I was lucky enough to be able to travel through Norway and part of Sweden a couple of years ago with my girlfriend at the time who was student teaching in Sweden. We would get to wherever we were going and then find a place to spend the night (usually a hostel or small bed and breakfast type place) and then just go from there. It was one of the best experiences of my life, I got to meet a lot of interesting people and have some very interesting conversations and learn a lot.

One thing I also want to add is that I agree with Mike M. completely! Make at least an attempt to learn some phrases of the local language. Even if its only how to say “thank you” or “do you speak English” etc. Mike M. is right, it WILL earn you bonus points in the minds of the locals and can help avoid being branded an “ugly american”.

35 Mikey International June 14, 2010 at 11:55 am

Wow…it is like someone reached into my brain and took my thoughts and put them into tangible form. Great article. I traveled a lot while I was in the Navy and I have stories that will last me a lifetime. I am also a part of couchsurfing.org. I have met so many cool people from all over the world and used it while I was in Tokyo…it was a great way to know the ins and outs of a culture while not doing the touristy stuff.

36 Riley February 6, 2013 at 2:27 am

I really like what you guys are up too. Such clever work and
coverage! Keep up the wonderful works guys
I’ve included you guys to blogroll.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter