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The Life of a Permanent Nomad
November 4, 2012 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Back in 1999, Wandering Earl left home for a three month trip to Asia that still hasn't ended. As a permanent nomad, Earl's aim is to demonstrate that long-term travel is not a crazy fantasy, but a very real lifestyle option instead. Find out where Earl is now, and where he's been on his blog.

Past popular posts on Wandering Earl's blog include:

How I Can Afford My Life Of Constant Travel

The Day US Customs Found A Bullet In My Pocket

Living Abroad For Less Than $1000 Per Month

When Tourism Goes Terribly Wrong
posted by netbros (64 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very interesting! I am the complete opposite of a world traveler, so I always like reading these stories of people who are travelers; I feel like just reading about this broadens my mental horizons and sense of possibility a little.
posted by limeonaire at 8:04 AM on November 4, 2012


This is pretty cool, and the stories he has are pretty awesome, though it is important to keep in mind that a lot of what makes cheap travelling so easy for him is that he is a goofy presenting white dude. “I may be a solo traveler but I’m never really on my own.” yup, you and that invisible backpack of yours buddy.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:06 AM on November 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


Also, having more than a bit of a weakness for quirky dudes making their way in the world in unique ways, I really want to like this guy but this is a pretty thoroughly sleazy and fucked up way to describe what it is like to work on a cruise ship. He also seems to be something of a full time professional apologist for the cruise ship industry with the book he promotes.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:47 AM on November 4, 2012 [11 favorites]


I was surprised to see from the 'How I can afford my life of constant travel' link how much of that time he'd spent working on cruise ships, which is not quite the footloose and fancy-free lifestyle I was imagining from the header.
posted by Azara at 8:55 AM on November 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm also a bit dubious as to how many people really can get a "passive" income stream of $2500 per month online, but maybe I'm too pessimistic. Good for him that he made it work and is having fun, anyway.
posted by Forktine at 9:07 AM on November 4, 2012


If you're stuck on a boat for months at a time then it's easy to save up cash. The travel would be nice, but but he forgets that he's already got a privileged start.
posted by arcticseal at 9:12 AM on November 4, 2012


Hmmm. But I would like to travel the world without working. Does he have any tips on how to do that? That would be cool.

Come to think of it, if it helps, the "travel the world" part can be considered optional. Very, very optional.
posted by Flunkie at 9:19 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This sounds glamourous and fun and I used to dream of it. The reality is a pain in the ass. I am on a three week break between two trips, the first of which was 5 weeks long since mid Sept and the next starts just before Thanksgiving.

Blasdelb has a point

though it is important to keep in mind that a lot of what makes cheap travelling so easy for him is that he is a goofy presenting white dude.

posted by infini at 9:24 AM on November 4, 2012


Working on cruise ships all the time is hardly long term travel. Sometimes I think I should work on a cruise ship but then I re-read DF Wallace's essay A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. (Google cache link)
posted by yoHighness at 10:12 AM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Want to learn more? Continue reading below…
(Read at your own risk. May cause extreme excitement.)


WORKING ON BOARD A CRUISE SHIP IS NOT AN ORDINARY JOB

Once you walk up the gangway of your first ship, your life will never be the same.

Why? Your life will instantly be full of…

Travel, Money & Social Life
WORLD TRAVEL – Explore (yes, you will have free time to explore) every corner of the globe, from Alaska to the Caribbean, Europe to the Middle East, the South Pacific to Southeast Asia!
(Standard practice is for cruise ships to confiscate the passports of their crew, supposedly to ease hassels in customs.)
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY! – Earn up to $6000+ USD per month, depending on position. And with almost ZERO expenses (room and meals are provided!) you can save $10,000 – $20,000+ in a few short months!
(This is simply not the case for the vast majority of cruise personnel particularly those without highly specialized skill sets.)
AMAZING SOCIAL LIFE – Live the good life with access to crew bars, crew lounges, internet cafes, hot tubs, swimming pools, a crew gym, crew-only sunbathing decks and endless crew parties and other events!
(This is an awfully bizarre way to describe 70 hour work weeks)
SPECIAL PRIVILEGES – Spend your evenings socializing in passenger bars, night clubs, lounges and theaters when you’re not working. Get paid to attend exclusive parties and dine in five-star restaurants!
(In reality only the captain gets to do this)
HOW TO LAND A KICK ASS JOB ON A CRUISE SHIP

Applying for a cruise ship job is not the same as applying for a job on land. The rules are different, the process can be complicated and without any guidance, it’s nearly impossible to do on your own. Without knowing how to navigate the specific steps involved, cruise lines will never even notice your application. In fact, you’ll have trouble simply trying to get an application if the first place.

THIS GUIDE PROVIDES EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO GET HIRED BY ANY CRUISE LINE
(...and here it all makes sense)
posted by Blasdelb at 10:32 AM on November 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


Gotta say, my objection is him saying he's been traveling constantly since 1999, when in reality a better description is he's a permanently-temporary employee alternating with short stretches of travel, who saves money by sleeping on friends' couches for three months.

Sure, saving money that way funds his travel, but it means that his various temporary-residence friends can't be traveling: somebody has to pay the rent on this guy's couch-stays!
posted by easily confused at 10:37 AM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and about those wonderful cruise ship jobs: when the Titanic sank back in 1912? All crewmembers --- officers, coal stokers, stewards, whatever --- had their employment immediately terminated by the White Star Line the moment that distress message went out. Any crewmember who made it to a lifeboat was not only cold, wet and broke: most were sitting there in the freezing North Atlantic without clothes or the means to get home. The more things change, the more they stay the same --- cruise lines still treat employees like dirt.
posted by easily confused at 10:44 AM on November 4, 2012


Dudes, this guy is a douchebag. He's bigging up how awesome his cruise ship experiences have been to sell his e-book on working cruise ships mostly so he never has to work another cruise ship gig EVER AGAIN.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:01 AM on November 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


Yeah, he seems like a bum and a con-artist. His cruise-ship book page is set up in the exact same way those, 'Watch how this 53 year old mother covers her wrinkles. Doctors hate her," books are set up, which is really sketchy.
posted by cyml at 11:21 AM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I didn't look closely but maybe someone who did could tell us if he happens to have another e-book on HOW TO EARN PASSIVE INCOME! so he can earn passive income and.... never have to work another cruise ship job ever again.

If that page includes a cheque showing how much PASSIVE INCOME he earns from selling books about EARNING PASSIVE INCOME, that would be even more awesome.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:31 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


how is this guy claiming to have been on the road non-stop for so many years? his step by step timeline has him going on short trips to Asia in the early days, coming back to the States broke, working for a few months and going back. not exactly an innovative formula.

he's only 'on the road' permanently once he gets the cruise ship job.
posted by mannequito at 11:43 AM on November 4, 2012


A cruise ship job is only really meaningfully on the road in the sense that the scenery changes in repetitive ways.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:50 AM on November 4, 2012


A cruise ship job is only really meaningfully on the road

I bring you disappointing news, sahib...
posted by infini at 11:52 AM on November 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Probably the best way I've seen for a normal person to travel consistently throughout their life is to become a travelling nurse. It's a rare case of a job where you can move around and get jobs in different places, take a few months off here and there, and still be paid and treated as an educated professional. Of course, it isn't easy; you have to get an appropriate education (at least 2 years and 4 is better) and there are downsides (you get floated more, you'll have to be flexible about your specialty, and your agency takes a cut). However, if you have the right sort of potential to be a nurse, I can at least say it reliably seems to work for most people.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:58 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Earning passive income? In my travels, I encountered someone who described himself as a self made entrepreneur through online publishing. He boasted that he had become very rich and it enabled him to travel the world, live in many places and make a large profit from online publishing. A quick scan of the web determined that he was in fact a 'writer' and had published many books. Content topic? An alternative cure for cancer with a money back guarantee. Indeed, a large volume of $25 sales can enable travel, long and far. But when I see 'earn passive income', I instantly translate that into someone else's direct or indirect exploitation.
posted by banterboy at 12:00 PM on November 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


"You, too, can generate a passive income stream and be location independent! Buy my book!" is the 21st century hipster version of those infomercials for real estate speculation video series.
posted by Sara C. at 12:12 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


he is a goofy presenting white dude

He is a goofy presenting Jewish dude. Just saying. Or maybe that counts as white. Or maybe he is not goofy presenting. Took the hint from Wandering Jew.
posted by stbalbach at 12:12 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I bring you disappointing news, sahib...

Cruising on a ship of the desert.
posted by zippy at 12:17 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's standard internet marketing, which should be synonymous with "scam!". Sell an ebook about how to get free $$$ with no work and little effort. Usually it's "Earn money $$$ online to fund your travels!" or "How I travel for less than $1000 a month and so can you!" for a low low price of $19.99.

From his site:
December 2008
Sold my first eBook online
Continued working on promoting my eBook while creating a second eBook to sell
Began earning some income through affiliate marketing


eBooks + affiliate marketing = scamming the ignorant. I've yet to run into a reputable business with real, good services or products that enrich people's lives by using this combo. I mean, sure, it's not illegal and it's totally capitalism to sell knowledge to people willing to pay for it and if people stopped paying then he'd b out of business. But the way they - and he - goes about it is absolutely unethical and no different than "Unemployed single mother?! Earn up to $10k a month without ever leaving home!" Or the University of Phoenix.

There's so many travelers who do this or try to do this because, yes, they really love traveling and don't want to go home and it's so much cheaper to live and travel around India than return to their homeland. But money eventually runs out, and no one wants to just donate money to you so you can live like this. So they grasp at straws and many of them learn the internet marketing practices so that can live their dreams.

It's pretty shameful. It's selling wishful dreamers empty promises in exchange for robbing them blind.

Also, I wish people wouldn't advertise the whole "just left my homeland with $1500 in my pocket and have been traveling ever since!" Most of the time when that happens, you're lost and alone and trapped in a foreign country and need to call family or friends to help bail you out and pay for the flight back. Sometimes you end up in jail because you stayed at a hotel and could cover the bill, or get deported. Those stories are far more realistic.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 12:18 PM on November 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


I quit my job and left home with a few thousand to tour Central America just a few months ago. I planned on spending 6 months, I made it three. I could have easily stretched it out to 6 months, but it would have involved getting jobs in hostels, and skimping on food, etc, which I didn't really want to do. Working a shit job for no money in Nicaragua isn't any better than doing it at home. I'd much rather work for a few years in the us, then travel for a month in comfort.

I did almost no planning ahead of time, and went by myself, not knowing any Spanish. You can do pretty well with a copy of lonely planet and a little bit of cash.

I hung out with a guy who was staying at my hostel in Nicaragua who was making a living doing SEO bullshit-- he spent a few hours a day on it. You don't need that much money to travel. I was spending about $1000/mo in Central America, and that was with splurging a lot on food and staying in private rooms a lot instead if dorms, and going on tours. I knew another guy that spent two years down there spending just about 3500, but he worked in hostels.

If you are willing to live cheaply, it really is possible to throw away everything and travel indefinitely. Just forget about having a family and a retirement, etc. I ran into a lot of old travelers who got stuck in various towns and settled down, but they didn't seem very happy, just broke and lonely.
posted by empath at 12:51 PM on November 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Metatalk discussion
posted by zippy at 12:53 PM on November 4, 2012


Also, most people I know who travelled a long time didn't really set out to travel. They just started travelling, figured out a way to earn money while doing it and didn't stop.
posted by empath at 12:53 PM on November 4, 2012


Okay, and last thing - in Guatemala, you can easily rent houses for two or three hundred a month. In some places, you can get an apartment for $100/mo. Food is basically free, year around fresh fruits and vegetables are trivially easy to have in a garden. Keep in mind that most people in Guatemala earn less than $100/mo, though. You can get a house on the beach in Nicaragua for like $400/mo, too.

If you can earn a living making anything close to the us poverty level online, you can easily, easily live moderately well in a place like that. Keep in mind as well that health care is free. You don't even need a work visa. Americans get a visa automatically and you just need to run across the border every three months to reset it.
posted by empath at 1:01 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Working a shit job for no money in Nicaragua isn't any better than doing it at home.

See, I think this is the thing. There's this romantic notion that if you're traveling, it's somehow "not really work".

I've considered the long term travel supplemented with low-level work (whether in exchange for room and board in a hostel, or by WWOOFing, or doing odd jobs under the table). I don't think it's a bad thing to do, or that it's impossible. I've met enough people who do it in my own travels, and it seems to work for them.

Of course, the bottom line is that this sort of thing sounds a lot more fun than it is. I wouldn't mind checking in hostel guests for a month or two. But that's not "forever". That's not "take a few thousand dollars and your passport and never look back." That's a few months in a part of the world that interests you enough to make menial labor and continuous broke-ness worthwhile.

I've even considered the cruise ship thing, until I looked into what the work actually is and what the conditions are. I can make better money doing a job I mostly like here at home, and then travel in ways that are actually meaningful to me. I'm not that interested in stamps in my passport just for the sake of having them.

The SEO garbage, too. I find that sort of work boring, not to mention useless and ethically questionable. Yes, I could spend months learning how it all works, then do a few hours of work a day while traveling. Or I could just go to the job I'm actually trained for, in a field I think is worthwhile, and travel on my own terms.

(It also doesn't surprise me that a lot of corporate and finance folks take this approach to travel - if your career back home was dull, soul-sucking, and worthless to humanity, SEO from an expat bar in Thailand doesn't look too bad.)
posted by Sara C. at 1:05 PM on November 4, 2012


In addition to being an SEO scammer, this guy seems to be a complete idiot
posted by Blasdelb at 1:32 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


He is a goofy presenting Jewish dude. Just saying. Or maybe that counts as white.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau that makes him white.

When I travelled the world in 2004 my goal was to do everything on $75/day including travel costs. It's the actual travel that kills you, there are many countries where you can comfortably settle down for $30/day.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:07 PM on November 4, 2012


In addition to being an SEO scammer, this guy seems to be a complete idiot

That was the one piece of his I did like, if only for the photo of my favorite international border crossing.
posted by the fish at 2:41 PM on November 4, 2012


In addition to being an SEO scammer, this guy seems to be a complete idiot

But it would appear that every single traveller folk story has happened to him personally!

This makes him a valuable property. In that single entry fighting locals stopped to let him through, he innocently became involved with an arms smuggler, and he was locked up for two days by kidnappers who had apparently forgotten where the local bank was. (that last one was a nice touch, particularly how he went into a bank but didn't bother telling any of the staff that he was under duress.)

It's almost enough to make me want to read the rest of his fiction, just find out how he This guy is an international treasure and the sooner we can do formal interviews the better: the kidney thing is gonna be a problem soon.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:51 PM on November 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


It's the actual travel that kills you, there are many countries where you can comfortably settle down for $30/day.

Yeah, in Guatemala and El Salvador, $30 gets you a decent hostel and three meals, plus beers.
posted by empath at 2:53 PM on November 4, 2012


Re the "complete idiot" post -- not to mention, he's been doing this for 12 years and still hasn't figured out that when you fly into a developing country, you can't just get in any old taxi? He should get some kind of medal for being that stupid and not getting killed yet.
posted by Sara C. at 2:55 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


My cousin worked on a cruise ship. It was not a difficult job to apply for or get.

- Be more or less qualified for the position
- Apply on the cruise line's website


That'll be twenty-five dollars.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:10 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here are a few links to check out for folks who might be interested in the overall concept of neverending world travel, but which are a little less icky. Many of them do some variation on the SEO/monetized blogging/eBook travel guide "location independent" income stream, but are less hard-sell about it and tend to just stress that travel isn't as expensive as you think and that you can go a long way by being creative and thinking outside the vacation mindset.

Nomadic Matt
Rolf Potts
Indie Travel Podcast (They're ESL teachers, not SEO assholes.)
Lara Dunston and Terence Carter (a bit more luxury focused/"aspirational" than the others, though they are a travel writer and photographer team who have other specialized skills and are not doing the "you can live abroad for $30 a day!" beat)
posted by Sara C. at 3:15 PM on November 4, 2012


Yeah that's the thing. This guy's real income isn't from odd jobs he picks up along the way. It's from his book and site promoting it. Maybe he's even getting kickbacks from the cruise industry for his whitewashing job. I can definitely see him pitching that to the industry to see what he can get.

So if he's selling a book full of lies about how great it is to work on cruise ships, it's safe to assume he's also bullshitting about his actual lifestyle finances.
posted by clarknova at 3:28 PM on November 4, 2012


a lot of what makes cheap travelling so easy for him is that he is a goofy presenting white dude. “I may be a solo traveler but I’m never really on my own.” yup, you and that invisible backpack of yours buddy.

Well, sure. But this is true of any affluent white person traveling abroad, especially in developing countries where travel in general is more difficult.

I spent two months backpacking around India, and it was amazing. Part of why it was amazing was that I'm a white Anglo-looking American woman who presents as your sorta spunky but vaguely desexualized older sister. (The female equivalent of "wacky", basically.) I was constantly getting "adopted" by locals, if even just for help with bus transfers and advice on how to mail a package.

I'm fully aware that I had access to that, not out of altruism, but because I'm a white lady in India, and your cousin is an NRI, and you love the New York Yankees, etc. It's a mutually rewarding situation -- I get help buying a train ticket, and you get to feel important on various levels based on your ability to make small talk with me in public.

Yes, people who aren't white, or who are from less locally-interesting countries, don't get that privilege. But that doesn't mean that people who benefit from it shouldn't travel.

(I do think the guy is a moron for assuming that YOU, TOO, CAN WANDER THE GLOBE FOREVER LEECHING OFF EVERYBODY ALL THE TIME, because obviously your ability to get away with this depends on your gender, ethnicity, nationality, and socio-economic class.)
posted by Sara C. at 3:37 PM on November 4, 2012


Here is Nomadic Matt's interview of Wandering Earl

There is a contrast between the ebook upsale:
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY! – Earn up to $6000+ USD per month, depending on position. And with almost ZERO expenses (room and meals are provided!) you can save $10,000 – $20,000+ in a few short months!
and what is told to nomadic matt
To bring home over $600 per month (which is more than the average salary in dozens upon dozens of countries) while having all of your expenses paid for is quite a good setup and any crew member is always free to leave if they feel the pay isn’t worth it. That guy from Haiti can work for 5 – 10 years on a cruise ship, go home and live quite well, and in many cases, retire. I can’t tell you how many times fellow crew members from developing countries would show me photos of the brand new 3-bedroom house, complete with a swimming pool and ocean views, that they just bought back home from their cruise ship salaries. As for my salary, it varied depending on bonuses, but was generally between $3000 – $4500 per month.
And nomadic matt doesn't really press the point
posted by Blasdelb at 3:48 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doesn't "earn up to $XXXX+" literally mean "earn some amount of money;" i.e. the quoted figure is arbitrary, as you could earn less -or- more?
posted by modernserf at 3:57 PM on November 4, 2012


Yeah, in my experience with the Travel community (I'm a sometimes travel writer, frequent backpacker, and blogger on "place" AKA a pretentious way of thinking about Travel - website is in my profile), people there are absolutely in no way hip to:

privilege

race/class/gender issues

scams/dishonesty in general which is kind of amazing for a group who pride themselves on being good at that stuff

work/labor, especially in the sense of is this a job worth doing/are these OK work conditions/what constitutes labor. Sooooo many people who insist that they "don't work" but who spend hours a day on SEO shit. Which is a job. Or who are career travel writers. Which is a job. Or who teach ESL and also have a monetized blog which earns them supplemental passive income.

Actually, the online Travel community aren't good at much of anything aside from visa runs and selling PDFs. I wish I wanted to be one of them, but my couple-or-three years on the outskirts of the community has me convinced that they are, at best, not a group of people who ask the hard questions, and at worst, fucking idiots.

A good antidote is Julie Schweitert Collazo, who is my fucking hero. She's a journalist/travel writer whose beat tends to be Latin America, and who is one of the few people who is clued into this stuff. She is not "location independent" or a long term traveler.
posted by Sara C. at 4:14 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Doesn't "earn up to $XXXX+" literally mean "earn some amount of money;" i.e. the quoted figure is arbitrary, as you could earn less -or- more?

It suggests that the quoted figure is the absolute maximum possible. You could earn less than or equal to that amount, but not more.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:15 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Doesn't "earn up to $XXXX+" literally mean "earn some amount of money;" i.e. the quoted figure is arbitrary, as you could earn less -or- more?"

Of course "earn up to $XXXX+" means exactly nothing but superficially reads as generous and optimistic while not making promises. My impression is that the formal ambiguity inherent in it is presented for the same reason that email scammers claim they're from Nigeria, to select against folks inadequate levels of gullibility for whatever purpose he has in mind for them. Maybe thats just getting a finders fee from his old cruise line on top of the book sale? Maybe its something worse? I have a bridge to sell anyone smart enough to think its honest, but who knows.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:18 PM on November 4, 2012


I'm fully aware that I had access to that, not out of altruism, but because I'm a white lady in India

I don't think you need to be that cynical actually. I haven't been to India yet but I have travelled quite a bit elsewhere and I have always found people who will go out of their way to help someone on the road. A lot depends on attitude of course -- humility goes a long way -- but all of my friends who travel report the same experience regardless of sex and color combination.

You likely did receive some extra perks by way of being white and female, but a basic willingness to help people get oriented seems universal.

(if you think about it our expectations of a friendly welcome are exactly why so many tourist scams work. 95% of the time people trying to help us out are just doing what we would do if our positions were reversed; The 5% make things suck for everybody)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:54 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


modernserf: Doesn't "earn up to $XXXX+" literally mean "earn some amount of money;" i.e. the quoted figure is arbitrary, as you could earn less -or- more?

"Earn up to $XXXX+" means "Depending on whether we are honest or dishonest, there is either 1 or 0 people in our organization making that much money. Either way, it won't be you."
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:25 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tell Me No Lies - of course, people anywhere are going to be friendly and helpful because of shared values about hospitality. And a lot of people everywhere I've traveled in the world (not just India but in Western Europe, Turkey, South America, etc) have been wonderful.

But I'll admit that in certain places, there is a sense of something more. Some mutually beneficial moment where I get what I need as a foreigner in exchange for validating someone's ideas about what America is or who they are/what their status is vis a vis being able to interact with me.

And, to be frank, I remember being on the opposite end of that meeting European exchange students when I was a kid in Podunk USA. OMG, you're FRENCH????? WE NEED TO TALK/BE BEST FRIENDS/WATCH EVERY NEW WAVE MOVIE, etc. I remember massacring some stock French phrase in front of the Parisian exchange student in High School and feeling like I might actually die.

So, yeah, travel is complicated. Cultural exchange is complicated. Doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. Just means we should be aware that not everyone has the same kinds of access.
posted by Sara C. at 6:44 PM on November 4, 2012


I spent two months backpacking around India, and it was amazing. Part of why it was amazing was that I'm a white Anglo-looking American woman who presents as your sorta spunky but vaguely desexualized older sister. (The female equivalent of "wacky", basically.) I was constantly getting "adopted" by locals, if even just for help with bus transfers and advice on how to mail a package.

I'm fully aware that I had access to that, not out of altruism, but because I'm a white lady in India, and your cousin is an NRI, and you love the New York Yankees, etc. It's a mutually rewarding situation -- I get help buying a train ticket, and you get to feel important on various levels based on your ability to make small talk with me in public.

Yes, people who aren't white, or who are from less locally-interesting countries, don't get that privilege. But that doesn't mean that people who benefit from it shouldn't travel
.

I was often stunned by how far out if the way locals would go to help me. One lady in Honduras walked with me off the bus to the grocery store to get money from the ATM then bought ME a soda while we were waiting for the bus, then she told the bus driver where I was going so I wouldn't get lost (i had to transfer a bunch of times between buses to get where I was going).

When I got stuck at a bus station overnight with a bunch of Nicaraguans during a protest that was blocking the road, one lady who spoke no English said I could stay at her place if I couldn't find a hostel when I got into town, though I didn't take her up on it.

I missed my bus stop at a run down beach town with dirt roads in El Salvador and an old man insisted I hop on the back of his bike and he'd ride me to the hostel... I paid him money for that, even though he insisted that I didn't have to.

And, even aside from locals being friendly, if you're doing the lonely planet hostel circuit and are even remotely outgoing, you'll find tons of people from all over the world to travel with. I'm not particularly outgoing, and I was only on my own for two or three days at most at a time, before I found someone to hang out with.

I'm not even sure how much of it has to do with being white and American, and how much it has to do with being foreign. I had the same kind of experiences with random backpackers from other countries being super helpful as I did with locals.
posted by empath at 7:36 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Empath, that's just our common humanity. We tend to forget about it in our "terrorized/paranoid/remote/internet/etc" world. I'm not a white or American and can share similar stories of kind strangers in Paris who help me find my way on trains, friendly Swedish ladies to drink with in Barcelona or whatever suitable opposite on the continuum of developed visits developing.
posted by infini at 7:59 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like this travel blog that was posted here on the blue a month or two ago, cool woman following her feet to find her heart; seems to me she has integrity, wouldn't run a tacky game, seems to me she's living it well and having a blast doing so.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:47 PM on November 4, 2012


Empath, that's just our common humanity. We tend to forget about it in our "terrorized/paranoid/remote/internet/etc" world.

Amen.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:54 PM on November 4, 2012


From the FPP: "I also had to deal with ... nearly killing a small boy by accidentally running over him while riding a bike. To state the obvious, it was a challenge."

Yeah, I'm not impressed by this guy.
posted by eviemath at 7:41 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I gotta say... he's got to be one of the most absolute clueless hippy/hipster I've ever heard of. He went through US customs accidentally carrying a book on Muhammed, a bullet, a birka, and "Osama bin Laden"-brand candy. (Per "Customs found a bullet" link.)

Seriously. Short of a toy airplane alongside a toy replica of the Twin Towers, I don't know how he could have gamed that customs agent any better. Not saying he shouldn't do that, but there's take-a-chance-on-red-seven dumb and there's take-a-chance-on-taunting-a-bear dumb.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:35 PM on November 5, 2012


He went through US customs accidentally carrying a book on Muhammed, a bullet, a birka, and "Osama bin Laden"-brand candy. (Per "Customs found a bullet" link.)

These are all perfectly legal things to carry through customs. I'd probably try to not carry all of them on the same trip, but I came home to the US from Turkey with a Qur'an and nobody gave me grief about it. I know people who own burqas (as souvenirs), and there are plenty of Muslim women in the US who wear abayas, chadors, niqaab, etc. just going about their everyday lives. If I were in a country that sold Osama bin Laden candy, I would definitely buy some to bring home as souvenirs without thinking twice about it.

US Customs folks see people returning from travels in all sorts of countries, and they see piles of these sorts of souvenirs coming from the Muslim world every day.

The bullet is kind of stupid to try to carry onto a plane, though. Of course. But you still would have no problem checking a bullet, or getting one into the country. I can see a souvenir bullet (or anything weapon-like or weapon-related) getting you tagged for inspection, because customs is looking for arms smugglers and the like. But, well, if you want to bring bullets into the US, you usually are going to have your stuff inspected. No matter whether you also have a burqa or a book about Islam.

If I got inspected by customs after packing a bullet in checked luggage, I'd probably write a quirky little blog post about it, too. I think the offensive thing is this guy's tone. He makes himself out to be a fucking moron, when he most likely isn't if he's still alive after all these travels.
posted by Sara C. at 12:47 PM on November 5, 2012


Addendum after reading his actual post -- I'm pretty sure there is a little more to the story that we're not hearing. Like maybe the visas and stamps in his passport didn't correspond to the customs paperwork he handed in. Which is especially likely since you basically can't visit Afghanistan as a tourist nowadays.

Either that or the entire thing is made up and none of this ever happened to him at all.
posted by Sara C. at 12:59 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


He went through US customs accidentally carrying a book on Muhammed, a bullet, a birka, and "Osama bin Laden"-brand candy.

No he didn't. I've run into people with the same type of bullshit stories he tells quite a number of times. The fact that he put it on-line rather than boring people in a pub doesn't affect it's veracity one bit.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:12 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I somewhat hate myself for feeling this way, but no small amount of my trepidation on taking up this/some sort of vagrant lifestyle is the fact that I am a woman, and would not feel at all safe in travelling alone.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 2:26 PM on November 5, 2012


six-or-six-thirty, I've traveled solo on four continents and have felt unsafe approximately twice. Both times were messes that I got myself into, and neither was actually dangerous, just situations where I momentarily lost control of what was going on and had to get my guard back up very quickly.

Granted, you have to be careful. You do have to keep your guard up in ways that men don't. I've had to say no to things that could have become unbelievable adventures, party less, and choose my clothes carefully.

You're right that the way this guy travels, women cannot do that. But then very few people can get away with this kind of behavior traveling internationally, and if anything he's writing about is true, he's lucky to be alive.

You shouldn't let stories like this discourage you from traveling. Because from what I can tell, 90% of it is big talk.
posted by Sara C. at 3:14 PM on November 5, 2012


Since we're telling good 'kindness of strangers' travel stories, this one's my favorite:

Three friends of mine, Americans who I knew while living in Berlin a few years back, were hitchiking down to Munich for a concert. They were picked up by a German guy in his 50s who insisted they stay with him rather than pay for a hostel. They wound up staying for a week, apparently every time they tried to leave he'd insist they stay longer, and he kept feeding them and buying crates of beer every night. I guess he was lonely. When they eventually did leave, he mentioned the sorry state of their footwear, and gave them a garbage bag of his old designer dress shoes.

Months later one of these guys was off on another hitchhiking mission, this time to Denmark to chase a girl he'd met. He wound up being picked up by the police, and by this point he'd overstayed his tourist visa. He managed to talk his way out of deportation, saying he'd finally got a job and was waiting for his resident visa to clear (I don't know how he managed to do t his, but he was quite charismatic). But he was still stranded in West Germany during a January blizzard. So he remembered this old guy insisting they call if they ever needed anything, and he called the guy out of the blue. The guy drove all the way across Germany, picked him up and brought him back to Berlin, stayed on the couch for three nights, and then went home to Munich. I met him while he was there and he was every bit the character as advertised.
posted by mannequito at 4:28 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Either that or the entire thing is made up and none of this ever happened to him at all.

This is my vote. I think the stories are just long-form SEO spam, all of it meant to drive traffic to his "passive income streams."
posted by Forktine at 5:25 PM on November 5, 2012


I somewhat hate myself for feeling this way, but no small amount of my trepidation on taking up this/some sort of vagrant lifestyle is the fact that I am a woman, and would not feel at all safe in travelling alone.

I have the upmost respect for women who travel solo, although its more about their ability to put up with bullshit than the safety and security issues. I'm a fairly conservative traveller myself and my security routines are the same as my female friends, if not stricter.

But it's too easy to get bogged down by all this! For lunch today I had Alpaca Cordon Bleu and tomorrow morning I will greet the sun from Machu Picchu. How cool is that?

The risks can be managed and the rewards are so so worth it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:30 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


One interesting/infuriating/whattodosuchislife thing about being a solo female non caucasian traveler in Europe is having to be careful how I present myself, when standing around (I'm a smoker so often have to step outside of hotels) or even, how I dress, talk, walk and carry myself in order not to be mistaken for a practicing member of the world's oldest profession.

I made two cops do a double take one evening after darkness had fallen and I was trying to find my way back to the hotel after touring Barcelona by stopping to ask them if the dimly lit narrow street ahead (a short cut on the map to my destination afaict) was safe enough for me to walk and was I going in the right direction.

Worst is waiting for public transit at twilight...
posted by infini at 5:50 PM on November 5, 2012


Huh, I had never considered that. I'm ashamed to say that if I were in Europe and saw a woman standing near a hotel entrance with a cigarette in her hand, race would guide my assumptions a lot more than it should.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:18 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joo, hence tending towards extremely conservative clothing and/or professional officewear. Right now, the cold weather helps as I can bundle up in a big down jacket, woolly hat and scarf ;p

I also try to make friends with the hotel staff (who then know I'm not only a guest but the hotel bill is usually being taken care of by a reputable institution or organization) and spread the coins around a bit.

Though looking back at the most recent jaunt through three very different locations (NL, ES, EE) I only had one incident, and that too I'm not 100% sure he wasn't just looking for directions because it was at a bus stop in a Dutch village at 7.15am on my way to work - like, wtf you old dude on a scooter?

FI was/is the worst, I won't forget a very dirty look from an extremely respectable matron who saw me with two male colleagues smoking on a door stoop - that was 3 years ago and the first time I realized the race=profession association. I've received extremely obscene comments from French immigration officers once, I don't think he realized I understood him.

It makes me sad/mad/uglyblue sometimes but the other side of this coin is the undeniable harassment a blonde might face in some place like India. Overall, this is a very small thing though in context of the sum total of my experiences.
posted by infini at 8:54 PM on November 5, 2012


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