Anthony Bourdain said, “Travel changes you. As you move through this life, and this world, you change things slightly, you leave scars behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves scars on you. Most of the time, those scars – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
It’s these scars that help shape us, carving grooves through our mind and our metaphorical soul. They make us stronger by opening up pathways that others have not considered, and viewing the world with a much wider lens.
Even the Dalai Lama stated, “Once a year, go some place you’ve never been before.”
When I ran a BDSM education group called Fetish Noir, I believed that the strength of the BDSM community was through the overall success of its participants, as well-rounded human beings. That meant their emotional stability, economic stability, and overall quality of life. I still believe that to this day. Now, I wish to share a secret I’ve discovered only in recent years.
When I was younger, I was poor, and obsessively focused on my career. Being overworked and lacking resources (as most millenials are) led me into depression. I lost track of what experiences would make me happy and make me a better person. Stop and think about that and ask yourself three questions.
What would make me happy?
What would improve my quality of life?
What would make me a better person?
In my experience, the only answer to ALL 3 questions is travel.
I did not leave my home country until I was 29, but when I did, I made sure I journeyed in such a way that relished the exuberance of life and with a spirit worthy of my attention. I travelled to Paris, ate great food, woke up to a sunrise over French vineyards, travelled via rail, smoked cuban cigars while watching fireworks, attended lavish parties, and talked to everyone I met.
Since then I’ve travelled to exotic cities including Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Abu Dhabi, Atlanta, Montreal, Weimar Germany, and up and down the American West Coast, and I have been all the better for it.
The legendary filmmaker, Werner Herzog, said, “Filmmaking — like great literature — must have experience of life at its foundation… You would be allowed to submit an application [to my film school] only after having travelled, alone and on foot, let’s say from Madrid to Kiev, a distance of nearly two thousand miles. While walking, write about your experiences, then give me your notebooks. I would immediately be able to tell who had really walked and who had not. You would learn more about filmmaking during your journey than if you spent five years at film school. … All that counts is real life.”
Now, Herzog has also said some troubling things, but his words on travel are sage like. So for the poor and the anxious, I give you this advice on how to travel, and travel boldly.
1. Pack More Than You Need
As Greater and Grander recently published, keep an all purpose travel bag with a variety of items to last you at least 5 days. That way you’ll be prepared for a last minute trip, an emergency, or a spot of wanderlust.
2. Find Your Friends
Thanks to Facebook and several handy apps, you can find where your Facebook friends are living. This will allow you to plan your trips by finding colleagues, tour guides, and possible couches to crash on. You can use these handy apps to get started.
3. Subscribe to a Travel Magazine
Whenever I write an essay, I try to steal at least one item from author, Neil Strauss. So, subscribe to a travel magazine (the best periodical covering a travel topic you know nothing about), because:
Rather than choosing the most popular magazine, select one that offers the most in-depth and interesting coverage… Yes, you could read it all online, but it’s great to have a physical magazine to read when you’re on the subway or on an airplane or waiting in line somewhere.
4. Get a passport if you don’t have one.
Also from Neil Strauss, if your passport has expired, get it renewed now. You never know when that great travel opportunity is going to occur, and you don’t want to get stuck at home while your friends are at some great concert at the Acropolis in Greece. If you’re in America, you can simply go to most post offices with two acceptable photos of yourself, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a valid form of photo identification. You can find more information here: http://travel.state.gov/passport
And, for those of you who’ve read Emergency and QUALIFY for a passport to a second country (if, for example, you have a parent or grandparent who was born in Ireland), take advantage of that opportunity now, before the rules change.
5. SIGN UP
Sign up for US Airway’s E-Saver, Southwest’s Ding, or any other airline program that offers last-minute, low-cost travel options so you can take quick weekend getaways whenever you feel like it. Many tickets can be half price, and you can sign up for international airlines like Cathay Pacific or Air France.
6. FetLife Location
If you’re into kinky sex, as I am, you probably have a profile on FetLife.com, the number 1 social media site for BDSM. The Events page has an active calendar of kink-themed events around the world. What you may not be aware is that the display results are based on your profile’s location settings. So, if you’re traveling to Albania and want to find all the kink events in your vicinity, just change your profile location settings to the city you’re in. You can easily change it back when you return home.
7. Don’t use a travel agent, just use Expedia and airbnb
Some lessons you learn the hard way. My partner and I were planning a vacation to Europe for my sister’s wedding. Unfortunately, we were too tired and overwhelmed by the details of traveling to 3 different cities in one week. So, we went to AAA to book the details of our trip. It was only afterwards that we discovered if we had booked through AirBnB and Expedia, then our bookings would have been 60% cheaper. We paid a premium for convenience, and to top it all off, our travel agent was poorly organized and sick, so we didn’t even get our itinerary until 2 days before we were to leave. There are a variety of cheap booking tools. For flights, use Google Flights in order to find the cheapest airfare. For lodging, use AirBnB, and be a courteous guest. If your trip is just in a single city, you could use Expedia to book your hotel, airfare, and car all in 20 minutes. Use these digital tools and take the power of your journey into your own hands.
8. Use google flights to book trips, and book immediately
As I mentioned above, you can use Google Flights to book your trips. Google flights offers several unique tools, including a “cheapest rate” calendar, and a comparison of various airlines. The one trick, and piece of life advice I would give you is this: Don’t hesitate.
When you do a search for a flight, the travel websites register that search, so anytime you view an airline website, they register that in your cache folder and raise the rates the next time you come back. So, don’t hesitate, find the flight you want, and book immediately, so you get the best deal on airfares.
9. Use Free Opportunities To Travel
Believe it or not, there are free travel opportunities all over the world.
• If you’re Jewish, take advantage of Israel’s birthright program.
• Apply to the peace corps
• Work on a farm as part of WWOOF.
• Be part of the conservation movement.
There are many ways you could travel for free. Check out this CNN article for more details: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/vounteer-free-travel/index.html
10. Travel to a City During a Work Conference for a Tax Writeoff
Depending on the industry you are in (or pursuing) there are tons of international conferences going on around the world related to your business. For example, I work in the film industry, and was pursuing a career as a film producer. So, I applied for free producer passes to the Cannes film festival, and was accepted. That gave me the opportunity to travel, and I wrote off the entire trip as a tax write off on my tax form schedule C tax form.
Whatever industry you are in, or want to be in, google international conferences for that industry, and apply for free passes or student passes. Once accepted, look at the pros and cons of traveling to those cities, and the pros and cons of your business. Be sure to keep all your receipts, and records of what you did at the conference, so you can explain it as part of any tax claim.