Last Updated: 03/17/20 | March 17th, 2020
“You’re not that cutting edge on your advice. It’s pretty run of the mill. You also are very obviously biased toward thirtyish, white, upper-middle-class Americans who want to pretend to be bohemians.”
This quote is from last month’s reader survey. I’ll be honest: it cut deep. I stared at it for a while. Cried a bit. I looked for an email address to follow up with the person who wrote it but they opted to be anonymous.
Yet, after over ten years of traveling the world, I have admit, in part, that I agree with this critique (except the bohemian part — perish the thought!).
My website probably isn’t that cutting edge and revolutionary to you if, like me, you have to keep getting your passport stuffed with new pages every few months. To the experienced traveler, you’ll know much of the advice I give.
I bring this comment up because it’s actually something I’ve been thinking about for a while so to see it in the survey was mind-blowing.
I’ve covered travel in-depth over the last decade. After a while, you begin to rehash the same old stuff. How many times can you write about packing light or stress the fundamentals of budgeting, eating local, and staying in hostels?
If you’re a new traveler, you’re going to read a TON of tips and advice that are going to blow your mind and change how you think about travel. They’re going to open up a world you never thought possible and have you running out the door before you know it.
But, for old hats like me, while we may pick up a few new tips here and there, rarely is there anything that makes us go “HOLY F***! THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING!!”
Unlike other industries, where giant shifts in technology or thinking fundamentally change the industry, travel is basically travel. There’s no major discovery that makes us rethink life, the universe, or how nature behaves like there are in medicine, history, technology, or science.
Travel simply has micro-shifts.
For example, cruise ships may be bigger, have more features, serve better food, and recycle more, but cruising is still essentially the same as it was 100 years ago: for one all-inclusive price, you get on a boat, sail around, make a few stops, get back on the boat, and head home.
The ships may have changed, but their general purpose hasn’t.
The biggest shift in travel over the last few years has been the rise of the sharing economy.
Websites like Airbnb, EatWith, and Couchsurfing allow us to break out of mass-market, commercial travel by helping us connect directly with locals — all while saving us money in the process.
But, while a lot of sharing economy websites make the “how” easier, they don’t change the why or fundamentals of budget travel.
Google Maps may have made getting anywhere easier but it doesn’t change why you are looking to go somewhere.
It’s much the same today as it was when I first started traveling in 2006 or when my father did so in the 1970s.
That is because the why of travel never changes.
If you read Walden, The Innocents Abroad, On the Road, Travels with Charley, or any of a dozen other travel books set decades or more ago, you’ll see the same wanderlust and desire to connect and understand the world as we have now.
It’s why we still read these old travel books — their themes are timeless. These old stories express humanity’s innate desire to explore and search for deeper meaning. That desire to learn, explore, and see the world is timeless.
Improved tools to make that happen doesn’t fundamentally change the meaning.
Horses and caravans turn into trains, planes, and automobiles. Trains get more efficient, planes become safer, and cars can go further. Wooden ships that became giant steamers are now massive cruise ships and fiberglass yachts. Star charts became maps, which turn into GPS-based Google Maps.
We don’t need the Pony Express; we have instant messenger. We can book a room with an app on our phone.
(The argument about being too connected is one for another day.)
And, even with a new technology, the essential way we travel on budget is still the same.
Yes, travel has never been easier and technology forever changed how we plan and take trips, but we still go for the same reasons. Our why has not changed even if the hows have made it easier.
We can see that whenever we pick up a historic book or talk to travelers of any age about their trips — what motivates us is primal and universal whether you’re spending a year backpacking or a week at the spa!
Yet there’s always something new to share.
The information I (and that thousands of others) have shared about travel was always there but hidden away among travelers and locals, or buried in guidebooks and forums. It wasn’t easily found, but it was there.
When I started traveling in 2006, there wasn’t that much information available on travel. I read countless guidebooks and spent hours looking at forums searching for tips that I would only discover through experience.
But the growth of blogs made all that “hidden” information much more accessible. They pulled out of the shadows all the stuff most people (like myself) don’t inherently know without traveling.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing new to learn. I read countless blogs to stay abreast of the latest industry trends, unearth some new tips, apps, services, and discover interesting places I never would have known about.
Travel does change all the time: new attractions, hostels, and restaurants open; hip places become uncool; and new blogs, services, and companies are created to make our lives easier. There is always something new to learn about the latest travel trends and tricks.
But, most importantly, there are the stories about people, places, and hidden activities you might not have known otherwise.
That’s what keeps travel so interesting — not learning some revolutionary how but finding a story that reminds of us the why. A story takes us to a new place, teaches us something new, reminds us to dream big, and inspires us to finally take that trip we’ve always dreamed about.
And that’s more powerful than any new cutting edge travel tip.
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
My New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A to Z planning guide that the BBC called the “bible for budget travelers.”
Click here to learn more and start reading it today!
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.