The truth is when I set out months ago on my journey through Southeast Asia I did not expect to be tramping and hitchhiking Langkawi let alone Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. What started out as walking down the road ended up with a ride to the next city, new friends and maybe some food for my travels. I literally drop where I stop most nights and the freedom could not be any more real.
Freedom…exploring an abandoned complex on Ayar Hangat Road
Many people have this idea that homelessness is associated with the scum of the earth. Our ancestors all started out as nomads to form America. It’s in my blood to explore and the feeling of waking up in a field of rice, on the beach of an exotic island, or on top of a mountain is indescribable. I can do whatever I want. Maybe people help me or maybe they don’t. Either way it’s freedom in its purest form. Free of laws, losing your house, car or material possessions because you can not lose what you do not own.
Looking down from the highest point on Langkawi island, a radio tower!
I squatted in Langkawi for the past 9 days. (I actually wrote a detailed post but the WordPress plugin for android sucks). Sleeping in active construction sites, under a private beach dock, on a private dock, on a rock off the coastline, in a field next to cows, sneaking into a hostel with a German girl, and under an overpass on Mount Raya. The bright rays of the sun shining through the mosquito net of my bivy, beaming over my eyelids as I awake to the most beautiful scenery each and every day. Paradise really does exist and for a mere few bucks a day. I lived off “Nasi Lemak” and “Nasi Compur” along with peanuts, bread and tap water.
Squatting on a construction site. First day on the island!
Despite squatting the island for a mere 9 days I learned my way around Langkawi quite fast. The western side of the island was extremely easy to hitchhike. I could just walk with my pack on and pull rides. I never flew a sign or threw a thumb anyway, but tramping on the eastern side took longer to get rides.
Sleeping on the beach. The sunset…One of many…
I walked around most of the island exploring abandoned marble factories and old complexes, Black Sand Beach, Cenang Beach, the private beach at Westin Resort, Pantai Kok, Gunung Raya, the infamous Cable Car and many other random paths off the road.
Langkawi skycab. I hate tourist attractions, but it was worth the view. Hitchhiking Langkawi got me to the sky cab along with every other place on the island!
On average I walked about 15 kilometers a day. I saw everything from white eagles diving into the sunset to cows grazing on a pasture. One night I awakened to a silhouette shadow of horns feet from my face. It turned out it was a herd of cows eating next to me. Other mornings I awoke to vicious stray dogs nearly attacking me. But with much patience and standing my ground in a still fashion they ended up backing down. The road teaches you a lot about life and the freedoms it brings.
Squatting at Westin Resort. I slept on this dock and under it a few nights…where I woke up to a pair of stray dogs.
Squatting under a dock at Westin Resort. Free WiFi, bathroom and water!
The ups and downs of travel aren’t always pleasant, but at the end of each road is a new day and new beginning.
Black Sand Beach
One morning I walked down Gunung Raya after hitching a ride up it the previous day. I staked out under a bridge and eventually found an open window to climb a radio tower early in the morning. For 12 seconds on top of the tower I felt like king of the island standing at the tallest point in Langkawi.
Tallest point in Langkawi
Sleeping under a bridge on Mount Raya!
I met people from all over the world and lived off $5.00 a day. Now to hitchhike on a deadline to Kuala Lumpur. I took the ferry earlier today to Kuala Perlis. I have roughly ten days to hitch 500 kilometers to the airport where I will spend the remainder of my trip in Southeast Asia in the Philippines. Hopefully hitchhiking the Philippines is as easy as hitchhiking Langkawi, Malaysia!
Abandoned Langkawi, Malaysia
Cenang Beach – Langkawi, Malaysia
Urban Exploring in China
I nestled in bed under the sheets watching “Xingshi” known to people who speak English as “The Walking Dead.” Relapsing with mono took most of my energy, but not all of it. I used this time to relax and scope out the construction area next door to Zoe’s. At the moment I sleep when people are at school or work and I roam around at night time soaking up the tranquility of silence. This night I did so from the rooftop of a 30-story, skyscraper currently under construction and off-limits to the public. How did I get in to the site? I spent a few hours scoping out the perimeter of the 10-foot, barbed wire fence with razor wire spiraling across the top. Black speakers and light fixtures lined the wall like soldiers preparing for attack. At first I feared security armed the wall with motion sensors. Not the kind that light up from movement and body temperature while moving, but that sound an alarm.
I casually climbed on top of a pile of stone tiles peaking over the barricaded wall. Lights shined from three different posts. Two near the elevators and one near the front gate where I saw multiple security guards walking back and forth past the crane. Gripping a flat, metal bar used to align the razor wire I propped both feet on the brick fence. I carefully placed my legs between the razor wire and steadily climbed over it crouching down on top of the 6-inch wide, brick, wall.
I waited for a sign. Any sign, that security realized a breach took place, but a few minutes passed and nothing happened. I sat on the wall, feet dangling on the other side, I practically made it inside. My depth perception and focus took a while to adjust due to the lack of lighting. When I looked down I realized the wall perched too high from the ground below. Even if I crimped the top of the fence with both hands and dangled there the drop might break my ankle. If not, the loud thud from slamming both feet into the concrete might draw unwanted attention from the guards. I didn’t feel like playing hide and seek so I hopped back over the razor wire and walked down the stone piles using them like steps to a stairwell.
The left corner of the wall adjacent to apartments directly behind the construction site bode well for entry. I stepped slowly, my shoes striding across the slate tiles until finally reaching the corner. A retaining wall rose a few feet off the ground. I pulled myself up and plopped my ass on the double-glass roof that budded up against the top of the brick wall where the barbed wire ended. It looked like a promising entry. No barbed wire, and a clear view of the crane. What stopped me from taking the plunge? Again the ground on the other side appeared recessed so it looked like a 7-foot drop. My concern involved finding a way out this time. All of this seemed to be a waste of time, but I learned three guards monitored the front gate and one secured each basement of the two skyscrapers. The motion sensors on the wall just sat there like trophies. They did not work and the scare tactic did not work on me.
I decided to call it a night and continue my urban exploring in China escapade tomorrow.
“Cockadoodledoooooooooo” screeched loud through the city of Xindu. The sound barely muffled through the thin glass windows on the 18th floor of my bedroom. I tried sleeping through it, but it sounded similar to the screeching noise of chalk against a blackboard. I awoke, feeling lethargic and unmotivated to do much of anything. The site stood a football field away so I decided to stake it out during the daytime hours. I walked to the far left hand corner of the site. The tall, brick fence made a tee with a black, Victorian gate. Both of which connected to a white pillar whose intricate design made it easy for climbing to the top. I made up my mind and decided to come back in the early hours of the morning.
Re-bar from the rooftop of a half-built skyscraper while urban exploring in China…right before I climbed the crane on the rooftop!
1 AM rolled around and I began to fidget around in my bed, antsy to climb the crane and do more urban exploring in China. The amount of abandoned buildings and construction sites in this country is a dreamland for urban explorers. Rolling out of bed, I threw on my jeans, a few long sleeve shirts, my GoPro chest mount and Carhartt jacket. I grabbed some paracord, cut into two pieces, each 10-feet in length, and my headlamp. I strolled out the door and walked in the shadows of darkness to avoid the cameras inside the complex.
The Victorian gate stood a few yards away and my heart began to beat faster and faster as the adrenaline rushed through my body. My fingers crimped onto the white pillar grabbing each protruding section every few feet. I planted one foot in the corner and one near the Victorian gate for a wide base. I reached the top and just needed to climb over the wire until all of a sudden I hear, “rrrrrrrrruffff, rufff, ruff, rufffffffffffff” coming from the skyscraper behind me. The barks echoed louder and louder and to avoid getting spotted I jumped off the wall back into the complex.
Maybe this was it? Maybe breaching the brick fence was not possible? Steam came out of my ears and frustration brewed. I decided to sit down on the stone piles overlooking the construction site to cool off and pondered a new approach. What about the far right corner of the site? Hmmm…why not?
I crept through the brush and trees between the brick fence and 28-story skyscrapers in the apartment complex. I stood in complete darkness, no lights, no cameras, no people, nothing. I grabbed brick after brick from the ground and piled them on top of one another placing them against the corner of the brick fence. The barbed wire and razor wire stopped about a foot and a half from the corner of the wall making it an adequate entry to the site. I turned my infrared headlamp on and stepped up onto the bricks; my hands barely reaching over the wall. I pinned my one foot in the corner and crimped both hands on the other side walking myself up onto the ledge of the fence. I wedged myself between the barbed wire and motion sensors and waited for any sign of security to pop up. After a few minutes I walked along the ledge until reaching the scaffolding pipe that shot up for 30 stories. I swung around like a monkey until propping both feet on the floor of the building. This skyscraper stood 4-stories, but interconnected with the taller one. I tiptoed through the ground floor, hiding from security and avoided stepping on any lose pieces of re-bar. I climbed the first few flights of stairs without my headlamp because I did not want to attract any attention from the guards or workers. After gingerly walking up to the third story I turned on my headlamp and peaked around the corner looking into the vacant rooms. Trowels, bricks, wheel barrows and re-bar spread out across the floor of each room I entered. The other ones remained empty, 4-walls of concrete, with a small window looking out over the city below. I reached the rooftop of the smallest skyscraper after about five stories. From up here I looked down upon the other construction sites in the vicinity where night work took place. Small light fixtures hung from the cranes while the workers installed re-bar and poured concrete flooring. The rest of the city sat still. Everyone asleep in a peaceful slumber and the only people out in a dazed trance walking the streets. I soaked in the tranquility for a minute and looked out at all the architecture illuminating the dark sky before my eyes. Street lights, building logos, car headlights, and construction equipment all lit up the hazy, dark night. Me, well I just stood there for a moment feeling little, like a small piece of the beautiful world before me. But from up here I felt on top of the world. The greatest part of urban exploring in China or any place for that matter is the ability to see epic views without the abundance of people.
After taking a moment to appreciate the world around me I continued my trek up the next 20+ flights of stairs. I cautiously peaked around each corner as I plodded up the never-ending stairwell. Poking my head in on a few floors I realized the layout remained the same throughout the whole skyscraper so I didn’t bother wasting my time. Five minutes passed and I set foot on the rooftop, which overlooked the whole city of Xindu. I walked back and forth looking at the re-bar designs and my eyes shifted towards the city below. A plethora of buildings looked like specks from this high up in the sky. Everything felt so peaceful and beautiful I just wanted to fall asleep up there and enjoy the sunrise in a few hours, but I knew this would be problematic for getting out of the construction yard.
Rooftop photos of the skyscraper in Xindu!
So I scurried down the steps until hitting the 5th story where I walked across the connecting rooftops to the other stairwell. I turned off my headlamp and slowly tiptoed down each step as to not make a peep of noise. One of the stands stood only 20 feet from my location and I did not want to alarm security. After reaching the ground floor I made a run for the scaffolding pipe. Swinging my legs and arms around I felt like a pendulum as I neared closer to the top ledge of the brick fence. I pulled my body up onto the ledge and carefully walked across to the corner where I first entered making sure not to fall into the razor wire.
I bent my knees and jumped absorbing all the shock in my knees. I took off my headlamp, put away my GoPro and strolled back to the apartment like I went out for a quick smoke.
I did not get a chance to scale the crane because the guards all sit near the front gate right near it. However, I did enjoy some great urban exploring and look forward to more urban exploring in China as I travel to Kunming next week.
Crane Climbin’ Day II
I broke into the site again today at around 7 PM and made it to the fifth story to snag some pictures from the rooftop. Daylight faded away, but I used this opportunity to stake out the crane more efficiently since I really want to climb it. I walked up a few flights of stairs and headed towards the far side of the skyscraper that overlooked the front security gate. I looked down and appeared to be 50 feet from the ground. I tried gaining access to the crane from the skyscraper, but the scaffolding pipe is covered in a green, waterproof, tarp to protect the concrete when it’s curing. My best chance of accessing the crane is crawling out onto the anchors and hoisting myself up inside the crane where the ladder is located. I tried doing this, but my body is too weak at the moment. I need more rest and more balls to attempt this maneuver. Stayed tuned for updates!
Probably one of my cooler pictures since I snapped the shadow of the GoPro in the photo!
Crane Climbin’ Day III & Day IV
So I infiltrated the site once again and finally got the balls to climb this crane. I climbed up to about the 28th story when I realized the construction crew still worked on the roof and two floors below, which caused a problem for me. I could not climb to the very top since the light on the roof shined in my direction, but down climbing the ladder after the long climb up might be dangerous. My arms and legs felt exhausted and mono didn’t help the situation. A plank linked the crane to the 28th floor. I tiptoed across it holding on to the scaffolding pipe lining the perimeter of the skyscraper and made my way on to the 28th floor. The crew blocked the stairwell so I down climbed the outside of the scaffolding pipe three stories by sliding down the piping like a fireman and then hid in the shadows as I walked down the stairs and jumped back over the brick fence, hopping over the razor wire and making the night a success!
Urban Exploring in China and Crane Climbing
Urban Exploring in China: Day V
Ok, so I ventured back to the construction site again to reach the top of the crane. I estimate it to be between 100 – 115 meters up in the air. This was one of the tallest points in the city of Xindu. The lights shining throughout the city made me feel at peace despite all the fear and tingling in my fingers and toes from being up so high in the sky. I accessed the top part of the crane and just sat up there for about 15 minutes looking down on the city below. What a view! This made my trip in China worth while despite being sick for most of the first month with mono.
North Railway Station
I woke up late again today because I can’t fall asleep before 3 or 4 AM. I got dressed or I should say, I rolled out of bed and put a jacket on and strolled out of the apartment headed towards the Metro station. My original plans consisted of getting a bullet train ticket for Lidui Park to visit the Dujiangyan Irrigation System. After getting off at the North Railway Station and following Exit D towards the ticket office for the ChengDu Railway Station I realized everything was booked up for the next 3 hours. If I waited I would not be able to take the train back to ChengDu because it only runs until 8 PM. So I decided to roam around the city.
Just like last night I turned on Strava and recorded a route so I could get back to my original location. This method of exploring beats buying a handheld GPS for a few hundred USD. It’s worked twice now so I will continue to use it in the future.
I walked out of the station towards the main road and noticed a ton of motorbike’s and pedestrians. Since this is a huge hub a lot of traffic surrounds this part of ChengDu because all of the people taking the train from all different parts of China end up here. I squeezed by pedestrians and followed the skyscrapers under construction. They stand tall above the city while the Chinese construction workers weld beams together, and fabricate steel for the building columns.
All of the construction going on right outside of the North Railway Station
I continued to walk around the city, buying a hot dog and this spicy chicken on a stick, with my water jug dangling and hitting my leg ever so often. I walked for miles, getting further and further away from the pedestrian traffic until I entered a less crowded part of town. I passed a famous bridge and wandered further into the city walking along a waterway next to bright green blades of grass, and palm tree leaves, while yellow leaves fell from the trees above and blew past my feet and eyes. Chinese women picked up the fallen leaves to use for tinder and people stared at me as I walked past confused as to why I was there and what I was doing?
At this point I was a few miles into the city away from the most of the foot traffic. I walked down some random roads towards the poorer part of town and stumbled upon a series of abandoned buildings next a billboard that said “Future Mall.” I crossed the street walking between two buses and noticed an opening in the wall. I approached it cautiously and peeked my head in to see a makeshift house built from the rubble of a half torn down building. Sticks and cloth draped over the top to make a roof and a crooked door installed to make it look like a home. People sat and drank tea as I tiptoed by on the random step stones of brick, debris and slate. The brick buildings looked like apartments at one point, with windows every few feet for three stories. Garages appeared to be out front, which decayed to just walls of brick with no rooftops. As I walked closer to enter I noticed the a tall blue skyscraper in the background within proximity of the vacant lot. I almost poked my head in the entrance when a group of dogs barked ferociously at me, their barks echoing down the stairwell.
An abandoned lot with a makeshift shelter. I think I stumbled upon a Chinese squat near North Railway Station.
I either entered a squat where their owners lived or they just found a place for shelter. I didn’t stick around long to find out due to a fear of being bit again. I left the same way I entered and continued moseying on down the road.
I reached a desolate road next to a park where the plants and flowers flourished. Walking through the park I followed the stepping stones until I reached a barb wired fence and a murky waterway. I grabbed onto some of the brick wall and held myself on the steep slope as to not fall in the filthy water. After a few holds and foot plants I managed to get near a diamond shaped hole in the fence. I stood on a pile of trash next to a series of plastic, black piping that fed across the waterway on a rusty truss platform. I wanted to make a run for it through the fence, but I feared walking on the train tracks because all of them have cameras in China. I thought long and hard about the predicament in which I put myself. Should I trek back the way I came and go two miles out of the way or cross this rickety truss covered in rust fragments, and concrete dust? I decided to take the road less traveled.
After ten minutes of crawling and holding on for my life I crossed the rusty truss bridge.
I grabbed onto the truss firmly with my left hand and slid my knee foot by foot until grabbing each diagonal overhang with my right hand and planting my right on a sturdy section of piping. After five minutes of doing this I reached the middle and my hair entangled in some overgrown brush. Most of my clothes covered in concrete dust, particles of rock fell in the waterway, and the Chinese fishing off into the distance looked at me with a confused expression on their faces. I finally reached the end after a few more minutes of awkward movements cutting off two miles of my trip. I walked around the waterway watching people fish, garden and relax in the grass while construction workers worked on the skyscrapers across the waterway.
In the other direction there are half built skyscrapers and hotels.
After a few minutes of walking I realized where I was at and hopped the fence walking back in the direction I came. The next few miles I just looked up at the same skyscrapers I saw at the beginning of my journey for the day. After six miles I made it back to the North Railway Station ending my wandering for the day on a great note.
Walking along the waterway. This direction people are fishing…
The past few days I slept in rather late because my sleep schedule is off. Going to bed at 3 to 5 AM and waking up at noon and 1 PM is really taking a huge chunk out of the day. At this point I am almost a month into the trip. I know very basic Chinese, but because it’s a tonal language I can’t say a lot of the words. I don’t want to live here for an extended period despite really enjoying the new culture and exploring all around the city of ChengDu. I love the abandoned buildings, the bright city lights, most of the spicy foods, drinking tea, playing landlord and Mahjong, but once January hits I am really looking forward to traveling to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to backpack with Chris. We plan on hitch hiking from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore and all the way up through Bangkok. I’m hoping I have budgeted my money appropriately to afford this part of the trip. That is when the real adventure starts.
Now I am just familiarizing myself with the city of ChengDu. Yes, I explored much of the city using taxi’s, metro and buses, but most of the time I generally did not know where we were going or how to get back there because Chris and Sarah did all the coordinating. From cycling ChengDu for the past few days I am finally figuring out where I am and how to get around the city. I am becoming more local as I ride around and explore. Cycling in China is great. They dedicate lanes for scooters, motorbikes, and cyclists to help separate you from the crazy ChengDu traffic.
Cycling ChengDu at night-time is even more thrilling. Aside from the adrenaline rush that comes along with cycling in China the city is so lit up that all the LED illuminate the night sky and you take in a rainbow of colors. Each building has its own light pattern almost like you’re inside a club listening to music. The lights come on at a certain time of night and go off when most people aren’t roaming around the streets.
For anyone staying in ChengDu for a long period I would recommend looking into buying a used bicycle or new bicycle. You can get them fairly cheap at any local bicycle shop and cycling ChengDu is the best route to go to explore the city. You won’t be spending money on taxi’s, buses or metro fares. You’ll be getting great exercise and familiarize yourself with the roads. Not to mention you can use Strava to record your routes so you know how to get back to your origin. Cycling ChengDu is where it’s at guys! I’ll be posting some video footage soon of me cycling ChengDu. You’ll get to see how crazy the traffic is during the day and night-time. Please be careful and make sure you pay attention to all kinds of traffic when cycling the roads in China. Watch for any motorized vehicles. People do not stop for you and will hit you if you aren’t paying attention. This is not America. In China, bigger means get the fuck out-of-the-way because they don’t slow down, they just beep at you and expect you to stop or move. Good luck cycling ChengDu and have fun!
Below are some pictures from cycling around the city of ChengDu. The GoPro really captures great footage even at night because the city lights are so bright it’s able to them up despite not being the Hero 4.
Culture Park – Martyr Grave Site
We roamed around in all directions day and night. I want to say I cycled around 20 miles or so in the past few days since we rode for about two hours. We stopped at Culture Park and checked out the Martyr Grave Site, which appeared to be a memorial for soldiers who all died in 1949. They did not have an English translation of the significance of 1949, but I’m assuming the memorial reflected the lives of soldiers who were lost fighting for the Republic of China in the Chinese Civil War.
All the parks in China are hubs for tourists of all kinds, Chinese, foreigners, etc. I felt jam-packed in there. We roamed around for a brief 20 minutes. A Chinese mother asked Chris to take a picture with her daughter. That’s the third or fourth time people have snapped photos with him just because he’s German. I laughed.
We continued on out of the park and took our bicycle and scooter to People’s Plaza to meet up with Sarah. Yet another crowded park, but this time we sat down and drank some tea. I met Sarah’s Chinese friend and we alternated what three people played landlord. Despite sucking at Mahjong, I actually picked up the Landlord game quite easily and did not play too bad considering my newbie status. I won two hands and a few other hands when against the Di Zhu. Dou Di Zhu is fun and takes strategy. I am unable to explain the rules without showing you in person since I need a deck of cards, but just trust my word.
Beautiful ChengDu architecture.
After People’s Plaza we hit up a restaurant and ate a ton of food for 50 kwai (RMB). Once again I don’t know what we ate, but I enjoyed most of it aside from pig’s feet, which is just a bunch of fat in a soup.
Despite being tired as all hell I followed Chris and Sarah on my bicycle to find a bar downtown and meet up with more of her friends for drinks and shisha. Sarah tried taking a shortcut, but got us completely lost. Being tired my grumpiness kicked in, I don’t know what it is, I guess women in general just have no sense of direction regardless of what country they are born 😛
After countless u-turns, and backtracking we found the narrow road to the bar. I parked the bicycle next to Chris’ scooter and we walked in to the coolest Shu Shu in town. He brought out a huge pitcher of screw drivers, the strongest Long Island Iced Tea’s I ever drank and the fruitiest shisha of any hookah bar I ever smoked. After spending much money, I decided not to drink and just smoke. I sat around observing and listening to about nine Chinese people talk and laugh. I did not know at all what they were saying and felt out-of-place, but when we started speaking English, they felt out-of-place. So it teeter tottered back and forth.
The one girl, Sophie, arrived late and complained about getting married. In China, much traditional ways still exist, even today. Being 28, her family felt she needed to marry a man, due to her losing youth. So a man she knew for over 20 years asked her hand in marriage. The guy loved her since the age of 13 or maybe just became infatuated with her. I don’t know them well enough to be sure. She did not love him. He was not rich. He did not have a great paying job. None of it really made much sense to me. Her beauty engulfed the room. She did not look a day over 20. Her long slender legs, skinny frame, and cute face made her adorable for any man. So I could not grasp why she’d settle for anything less than being happy, but it’s just different in China. Her friends made fun of him saying he was a “Mama’s Boy.” I felt awkward and sorry for her, but it’s not my life, nor my choice.
This brought me back to reality and I realized the differences between China and America. We stayed at the bar late, until everyone finished their drinks and hit the road. Another night cycling ChengDu streets felt peaceful and I fell fast asleep once we opened the door to Eric’s apartment.
Travel the World
So you want to travel the world, but you don’t know how? You came to the right place. My blog focuses much on my life and my adventures as I wander around the world, but I want to give back to those out there that need a push to change their lifestyles, but don’t know how.
It’s quite simple actually. Set a goal on a piece of paper and abide by it. You might hate your job, maybe you’re tired of going out each weekend and splurging your money on alcohol, fancy meals and impressing people you don’t care about. Maybe you’re just bored being around the same people. Everything starts with writing down a plan and executing it. I know it sounds stupid, but if you write steps and work towards it, you will eventually change your lifestyle. People are creatures of habit. It takes a while to break habits, so it’s going to take a while to change your lifestyle.
For me, I am spontaneous, but I always have multiple plans for when the worst happens to me. So how did I change my lifestyle from a career-oriented Geotechnical Engineer to a vagabond who chooses to travel the world? I wrote down a list of steps I wanted to complete before jumping into the lifestyle change.
I never enjoyed materialistic gadgets as much as my peers and I did not want materials holding me back from my travels. So to avoid any of the stresses that came along with worrying about my material possessions I sold everything I owned, but the necessities I needed for survival.
What does this mean? It means I sold my car, furniture, and almost everything other than camping gear, a smart phone, laptop and GoPro. Although these aren’t all necessities, when living on the road to travel the world, one must entertain themselves after long days of exploring, backpacking and adventuring. Sometimes a nice relaxing movie comes in handy, maybe writing a blog entry to ease the mind or editing video footage from the GoPro to show friends and family of your travels. The list goes on, but if you want to travel, it’s best to cut ties from your material possessions.
For me I use Goodwill to “rent” clothes. Clothes add weight to your pack. You should only pack the essentials when backpacking and keep your pack to about 30 pounds. I have condensed a list below of the essential items to pack for backpacking while you travel the world and live on the road.
Travel the World by Backpacking
-35 Liter GoLite JAM Backpack
-Clothing: (2) Underwear, (3) Pairs of Smart Wool Socks, (1) Waterproof Ski Pants, (1) Tight Thermals, (1) Base Layer, (1) T-Shirt and (1) Long Sleeve Under Armour Layer, (1) Waterproof Gloves
-Flint and Steel
-Water Cover for 35 Liter Backpack
-Synthetic Lightweight 35 Degree Sleeping Bag
-2 Liter Water Jug
-Plastic Fork and Knife
-Peanut Butter/ Sardines
This video on my YouTube channel goes over what I packed for my recent trip to ChengDu, China. The only other item I want to add to my setup is a jungle hammock:
Travel the World by Bicycle Tour
Bicycle Touring Gear List for Travelers
Guide to Living on the Road out of a Backpack
All of this should fit in your pack. You should carry the water with you since that is the most important necessity you’ll need on the road other than food and you want easy access to it to prevent dehydration. Especially when you are in different countries since you won’t always be around accessible water sources like in the USA.
So now that you have sold all of your possessions, bought the essentials and got your backpack in order what do you do next? Well that’s part of the adventure. For me, I did a bicycle tour from DE to CO. I always wanted to travel across the country by bicycle in college so I bought the TransAmerica Trail maps, got panniers and a rear rack installed on my bicycle and set out for a two-month trip that changed my life.
You can do anything you want though! You sold all of your possessions, and have a stash of cash handy now in case your plans don’t go as expected. In my mind, I don’t like to have expectations so I just go with the flow. If you have a picture painted in your mind and it doesn’t turn out the way you expected than any trip you take will always be a failure because nothing ever goes as planned. It’s best to learn on the go from my experience. Research a bit beforehand, but don’t be afraid to do something because of a language barrier or being unfamiliar with the area. Don’t plan every little detail of your trip from a guide and use resources like Lonely Planet’s travel guides as guidelines for your adventure. Never base your whole trip off of them. They’ll take you to all the tourist attractions where food is more expensive, people try to rip you off and you won’t experience the culture nearly as much as if you just took the path less traveled.
So how can you cut down on transportation costs? Taxi’s, metro, and buses begin to add up even if they are cheap and you’re splitting the costs with other travelers. The best way to get around is hitchhiking if you have a really tight budget. Draw pictures, buy picture books specific to the area you’re traveling in or find a native speaker to write your destination on paper to hand to driver’s. Be creative and you’ll not only meet great people, but travel the world at the same time on the cheap. Use sites like Hitch Wiki to see how easy it is to hitchhike in a given country. Use the resources on this site to figure out how to spell your travel destinations in the native language of that particular country. Hitch Wiki also has two mobile applications that you can download for your smart phone, which you can grab on the Google Playstore.
Another great site to check out and read before you set out on your adventures is StP – Squat the Planet. They have great information on hitchhiking, freight train hopping, backpacking, etc. If you haven’t checked them out sign up at Squat the Planet. You will see me posting there a lot under the alias JungleGreenCleeds. I love StP. It’s a great environment for any kind of traveler. Whether you busk, panhandle, leather tramp, bicycle tour, sailboat around the world, canoe, hitchhike, train hop, vagabond, they don’t care and accept you no matter what. It’s a great place to learn about traveling, the hardships of living on the road and the inspirational stories of the lives of fellow travelers. The places they’ve traveled, and lived and the stories that came along with it. StP gave me the final push to change my lifestyle after much reading back in 2013.
For me, before I set out on my bicycle tour, I saved up much money over the three years of working as both an accountant and engineer. So for you, I would suggest do the same. Whatever your career or job, just save your money. If you know you want to travel, but don’t have the funds, then start saving your money little by little. Don’t spend your money lavishly. Live a frivolous lifestyle and be a minimalist. In order to travel the world you must make sacrifices. Don’t spend all your money at the bar on the weekend. Don’t buy a new big screen television, game system, or other materials for your bachelor pad. Try to put the money you’d normally spend each month on these items into a savings account. When you reach your goal for your budget try to save a little more in case of an emergency. It’s always a great idea to prepare for the worst.
Start looking for cheap flights to places you want to travel and book a ticket at least two to three months in advance. Look for deals going on with international airlines and if you travel abroad look for deals with Air Asia or other airlines. Normally, if you stick with the same airline while traveling abroad you get better deals on tickets.
Once you saved up enough money to travel and booked a ticket to your dream country what should you do? I would try to avoid the tourist attractions. This is where countries sucker in the tourists and raise the prices of food and gifts to get more money than you will want to spend. Some attractions are worth seeing, but research a bit in advance for a few places you definitely want to visit. See if there are entrance fees or if it is free to walk around inside these attractions. If they are free then check them out and learn about the culture and history. Just buy food after visiting the tourist attractions or bring food with you. You will save much money by buying foods from the grocery store, but sometimes this isn’t always plausible and you can still get cheap food from vendors on the streets.
Now that you’re backpacking and traveling how can you find work to extend your travels? Well, this is always a tough predicament that I met on many of my travels. If you are traveling in the USA and you are a citizen it is relatively easy to find any kind of work if you have a college degree. If you live minimally you don’t need to make much money to save money. Eat a lot of foods from the grocery store; limit going out to the bar; post an ad on Craigslist to rent someone’s couch month to month for cheap; work overtime when you can; work seasonal jobs.
For me I lived in Colorado at the end of my bicycle tour and worked as a ski technician. The pay sucked, but I got a lot of overtime, lived in cheap housing with three other guys and skied over 60 days that winter for free. If you travel at times when the economy needs workers then you will always find work. Alaska is always hiring people to work in their canneries. Any state with mountains is always hiring around October or November for the upcoming ski and snowboard season. Drop Zones are always looking for parachute packers and will teach you how to pack if you are willing to live on-site.
All of these opportunities are yours if you’re willing to do any type of work to fund your travels. I worked at a drop zone last summer and got to skydive while I saved up a lot of money for my recent trip to ChengDu, China. The list of possibilities is endless. Seasonal jobs are always available to travelers and so are bar and restaurant jobs.
If you want to use your degree and travel abroad you can always teach English to non-native speakers. I know in ChengDu it is relatively easy to get a teaching job. I walked down to Meten and Hampson Learning Centers and they pretty much begged me to work for them. Full time work for teaching is about 20 hours a week. Normally they have year-long contracts and you work every week. It gives you time to travel around and explore the city you live in, but it does not give you much room to travel outside of the area you are living. This is why I have not accepted any English teaching positions. I budgeted my money to travel ChengDu and Thailand and I don’t want a teaching job to interfere with my travels since that is why I am here. You might want this though. A lot of teaching jobs pay better overseas and you get to experience a new culture and explore a new country.
Check out Dave’s ESL Cafe to learn more about teaching English in foreign countries like Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, China, etc. If you are interested in finding work in ChengDu, China, you can check out Go ChengDoo for job postings. Most of them are looking for a bachelor’s degree and prior experience teaching English to ESL students, but you can always supplement this with online certifications such as, TESOL, TEFL, ESL, ELL, EFL, etc. The courses are fairly cheap and show you how to teach ESL students who don’t know your language. I’d recommend them and wish I took one before I went abroad as it would have helped me get a part time job.
People have asked me is it better to get a tourist visa and switch over to a work visa once you’re in the country or get a work visa before leaving the states? It depends on your goals. For me I got a tourist visa to travel to China. I wanted to teach English in the back of my mind, but my main driving force for being here is to travel the world. Getting a work visa is harder unless you already have an agency interested in you working for them. So because I did not have an agency interested in me I applied for a tourist visa. I figured once I was here I could get the agency to cover the costs of changing me over to a work visa. The problem is most of the agency’s will only pay to transfer your visa from tourist to work if you work full-time and for at least a year contract, which is not what I wanted. Keep this in mind. However, you can find part-time work if you are willing to pay to change your visa from tourist to work. It’s all a matter of what you are willing to do.
I would rather work my ass off for five months packing parachutes at a drop zone, which pays for my living expenses and then travel the rest of the year, then work the year and be confined to one city in one country. The only expense I must pay are my student loans and food bill each month. You can also work abroad and teach English and save enough money over the year to backpack for a few months. It all depends on what you want as a person. What your goals are and what you are willing to do to travel the world? I cannot figure this out for you. You must figure it out for yourself, but that is part of the adventure, so don’t be afraid of what lies ahead, embrace it! I hope this post helped you all out with your future endeavors and you too will travel the world one day like I am doing now.