Warren's Thoughts on Six Months of Traveling

Why doesn't everyone travel more? It seems to us people talk about it a lot. And usually the two reasons people give for why they don't is time and money. If we can do a little reading between the lines, perhaps it is fair to add fear into the mix. There isn't much people can do to make more time, that is one of those "intangibles" you hear so much about. But money and fear, through the benefit of hindsight and experience, don't seem like the limitations we once thought they were.

Hi there everybody!

This is Warren speaking.

I know, I know. We usually don't go out of our way to let you know who is actually writing these articles. That is done on purpose and often gives Monica license to add/subtract from Warren's more rambling articles without needing to fully clarify which part was written by who (or whom... honestly don't care, so please don't tell me in the comments). Oh, and if you actually read our blog and really want to know who is who (again, don't care), Warren is the one who uses too many parenthesis (yes, I do), and puts punctuation outside of them (like this).

But in this instance I want you to know it's me.

Listen, you didn't hear it from me, but we just celebrated our six month anniversary of traveling. Yay!

We (re: mostly Monica) are probably going to be putting out a bunch of interesting articles about "top 5 things that help people do things!" and other such random subjects we think people want to read, but for those few (re: special) people who care about my ruminations I am going to spit some at you.

The most obvious thing first: Time freaking flies. It is kinda scary how fast it goes by. When you were a kid and some grandparent or other told you time seems to speed up the older you get they apparently knew what they were talking about.

And if your response to that was to think, "Of course it does! I go to work, take care of kids, cook meals, clean the house, and keep up with my favorite show! I hardly have time to stop and smell the roses!" Then I would like to let you know even if you did literally none of that, such as what we have done the last six months, it would still keep going faster.

This is true: Monica and I, one day last week, found ourselves covered in pollen from having stopped and smelled flowers too much. It's still too fast.

This speed scares me. I want to do things and meet people, which is mostly what we are doing, and that's great. But I also want to find a way to make money, a process which is not nearly as effortless as I think it should be. And maybe we'll want to have kids some day, otherwise known as nature's time-suck. If we do all this, I am scared that at the end, just when the kids are becoming normal little adults that can talk about human stuff and not cartoons (not knocking cartoons, btw) and we have enough money we don't have to work anymore (minus our current specter of limited resources), we'll both have just enough time to make a margarita, take a deep breath, and fall over dead.

Because you want to have no regrets, right? But if you do have regrets, you want the time in your day to realize that and correct it, and not just get caught up in routine and never even ask yourself the question, right?

This leads me to my point: Why don't more people do this? Travel, I mean.

A LOT of people tell people they want to travel more. Not everyone, but a lot. I worked with a guy at a butcher shop who retired, bought an RV (he called it a "caravan"), and went about traveling. After a year, he hated it. Then he moved back home, sold the RV, bought a hot tub (he called it a "spa"), and picked up an easy (for him) job just for fun. And I'll tell you what, if you asked him how his evening was, his response every single time was to tell you how great his spa was. He loved it. But he did try traveling first.

Back on point, a lot of people will wax poetic about France or Italy or Cuba or Kenya or Japan and how much they want to meet the people, see the sights, and eat the food but then somehow never end up going there.

And I get it; traveling is expensive!

Except, no. No it isn't. Not as expensive as you think. I don't want to sound conspiratorial or anything, but I suspect the fact there is a whole industry established around making you think you can and should do absolutely everything when you travel, including staying at luxury resorts and seeing a new city every day, helps to create the illusion it is so expensive.

-Quick aside-
If you are from the United States you probably have two weeks (if you're lucky!) of the whole year to do anything, including visiting family and having the vacation of a lifetime. It is understandable when you, as a people, have more money than time why you would want to spend literally (not literally) boatloads of money instead of doing what I am suggesting when you travel. Don't get me wrong, only having two weeks off a year is not okay and is super stupid. Really stupid. Horribly stupid. The kind of stupid that helps foster xenophobia by inhibiting people traveling.
-Back on point-

We have spent the last half year traveling, as so far we've spent less than nine grand. That's total. That includes the flight out here. That includes bills back home. That includes traveling to and fro, and splurges on birthdays, and too much beer.

Yes, that is a lot of money to save up. And yes, we were very lucky to be able to save up so much.

But it isn't that much! Besides, you probably don't want to travel for six months. Unless you are taking maternity leave, and then you totally do! Don't believe me? Here, read our friends blog, a happy couple from London who rented out their London flat, took their two daughters, and traveled Southeast Asia. Spoilers - they do sell diapers in other countries.

If you avoid the tourist traps, the organizations that "take away any effort and makes things easy," and are willing to interact with people who may not speak your language, then traveling doesn't cost that much. Things are expensive in the United State, Australia, England, Canada, Switzerland, and Singapore (other places too). If you are from there, things will be much cheaper in much of the rest of the world. Like much, much cheaper.

Last night, Monica and I ate the biggest bahn mi (sandwich) we've had since getting to Vietnam. Cost? 80 cents.

Earlier that day, we had delicious chicken and rice, seasoned to perfection. 80 cents.

The day before, for dinner, we had noodles with dumplings in awesome bone broth. 55 cents.

This list can keep going and going...

When we buy a beer, a can of 333 (our favorite)? 40 cents.

Stuff is cheaper.

You need new glasses? Turns out they have them here too! But you wear bifocals? They do here too! Designer frames? Here too! Transition lenses? Here too!

We haven't looked at the prices for all of that in Vietnam, but in Malaysia, where things are much more expensive than Vietnam but still cheaper than the U.S., that cost of all that would have been less than 200 bucks. We looked.

Dentistry? Cheaper.
Medicine? Cheaper.
Surgery? Cheaper.

And more normal stuff:

Movies? Cheaper.
Snacks? Cheaper.
Housing? Cheaper.

Sunscreen? That's actually more expensive... which is odd until you realize who tends to buy it the most (white people).

But! The thing to watch out for is that even here, if you are willing to pay a lot for something, someone somewhere will take your money. Let's call this the Starbucks effect (taking 5 dollars for a 1 dollar cup of coffee).

Please understand, we don't "slum" it. We don't share rooms (as a rule), only occasionally share bathrooms, and more often than not have entire places to ourselves. We also eat out for most or all meals, depending on the country, and never deny ourselves museums or galleries or experiences we've wanted since we were kids. We also join gyms, go to yoga, and even take language lessons. Again, we don't "slum" it.

We just make a habit of not paying too much when we can help it. A large part of figuring out how to make things more affordable naturally occurs simply by spending more than a few days in a location.

Many travelers spend just as much time traveling as they do vacationing. And perhaps you are the sort of person who loves airports and bus seats without enough leg room. We aren't. The quality of experience you can have when you choose to spend your vacation in one or two places instead of fourteen is much higher. You just have to be okay not "doing it all!"

Then you will be able to find out:

Where the best restaurants are.
Where the cheapest beer is.
What locals recommend you do with your trip.

You may have to be willing to speak to a local, though, and sometimes this comes with the difficulty of working through some language barriers. I'll get back this a bit more later, but in the meantime: Remember, the world has the internet. And using this internet, you can probably find someone in each country who wants to get together and show you around in exchange for a conversation in English. We do this via couchsurfing.com, but other sites exist as well.

That is a general overview of how we keep our costs down. If you want more in depth discussion of the same then please check out the rest of our blog... cause being on a budget is more or less our running theme :)

Now I've talked a bit about money, I want to get into the fear.

When you travel, you need to be willing to occasionally do something stupid. Don't worry, if you are white person everyone already thinks you are stupid so it isn't going to lower their estimation of you. The places that coddle westerners are the places most likely to Starbucks (take $5 for something worth $1) all over your face.

If you are willing to stand awkwardly in the entrance of a restaurant because you don't know if you should order first or sit down first, someone will eventually help you out. And if you can't figure out who to pay, just stand up and start to leave. You better believe someone will appear willing to take your money.

I'm not advocating you ignore social conventions, especially on the second and third visit to the same restaurant. But don't let looking dumb stop your from a good and cheap time.

A good rule of thumb: If you are in a country that is 99% non-western, and you look into a restaurant and see more than half the patrons are westerners, find a new restaurant.

This really brings us to languages. I think a lot of the fear comes from not knowing the language. Everyone has a horror story of a French waiter who embarrassed them.

Not to belittle the people who were embarrassed, because I've been that person before and probably will be again, but if not knowing a language embarrasses you then learn the language.

You don't have to learn all the language, just start with the most important words (and don't focus on making conversation first if you are learning it to travel... knowing how to say "three potatoes please," and understanding whatever number you hear back is really more important than, "What is your favorite color?"). Learn numbers, as high as their money commonly goes. Learn foods (rice, noodles, pork, chicken, shrimp, coffee, tea, etc.) And learn how to say, "How much?" and "Too much!" and "Thank you" and "No, thank you" and "Hello."

Boom. Instantly no more embarrassment. "Un cafe, merci!" French waiter finds someone else to belittle.

And that much usually doesn't take that long. Or just carry a cheat sheet you can refer to until you remember it. Or if you leave it behind and blank out, point at a dish that looks good on some else's table and point to your mouth. They'll get the idea.

Weird alphabets or whatever China uses makes it trickier, but you'll figure it out.

-Quick aside-
Google translate is... okay. Better than nothing, I suppose. However, you absolutely should not depend on it to convey complex information. It does best when translating only one word, and will get hilarious if you put an idiom into it.
-Aside over!-

So if you really just want to visit Ireland because of the lush grassland, then great. But don't only do it because you speak the language.

Now that you are no longer embarrassed by your linguistic limitations, let's quickly revisit your stupid face. Yes, your mother loves your face, and maybe your spouse does too. But to much of the world, you look ridiculous. Also, your clothes are dumb. Your shoes are gaudy (or not gaudy enough). Baseball, panama, wide brim, and driver hats are moronic (unless they're not). And even if you switched everything you own for something that is just like what locals wear, you're still going to have that unfortunate stupid face.

What I am saying is that you stand out as different in much of the world. And that's okay! It is your excuse for why you are standing in people's way or not knowing how the bus system works. People will give you a lot of compassion when they know you don't belong. I've heard what actually upsets people is when they think you understand them and then they discover you are staring blankly. Maybe that is why the French waiter was in such a bad mood that day. Also, it does mean if you are Asian American (or Asian British or whatever), you may have a very different experience in many Asian countries if you don't speak the language, I can't say for sure.

Saving up money, even if it was less than you thought it was, and getting over deeply ingrained fears are no small things.

Dude, these are big deals. And they are much more difficult than parking your stupid face (I'm joking, you look great) on a sofa and watching whatever reality show is all the rage this year.

So, why should you ever do it in the first place?

Mostly, because you want to. But in case that isn't enough, let's get into three awesome reasons to travel more.


Even if you don't really like people much, the people of a country will pop up in most of your stories about your vacation. "He put his hand on my shoulder to indicate it was my turn to order!" and "She started hitting me cause apparently I wasn't supposed to be there!" and "I tried, in Spanish, to tell him his Brazilian daughter was adorable and he didn't understand. So we bought him a beer and became fast friends" are all examples of people in stories I've told (not necessarily good stories).

People are, more or less, all the same. Some are jerks, some are nice, some want to help/engage with you regardless of language barriers, and some just want you to go away. But that is the 95% of how people are, and what you'll probably focus on in a new country is the other 5%.

You know, the customs! Like not eating or drinking while walking (a lot of Asia). Or pointing with your middle finger. That sort of thing.

Unfortunately, if you are traveling without the aid of very expensive and unnecessary inclusive packages, you are probably going to see some extreme poverty too. It's sad, and sometimes hard to deal with, but these are people too! And maybe when your country declines sending assistance to one of the countries you've been to, it'll mean something to you enough to phone up a lawmaker. Besides, I am no economist, but part of the reason for things being so much cheaper in many countries in the world is because people there don't make as much money. Yeah, other factors there too, but it's gotta be connected.


If you are from the United States, you may be excused for thinking your country has it all. Beaches, mountains, hot, and cold. It's a big country.

And I'm not saying anything against American beaches, but have your ever googled Kata Beach? Or Mount Huashan?

The rest of the world has a lot to offer. For instance, Monica and I like cities, the crazy hustle and bustle of them. So, of course we enjoy Ho Chi Minh City! If you limit yourself to only one country, even if is a big country, you deprive yourself of so much!


Some countries do food better than others. We dig, really dig, Vietnam's food. Malaysian food was pretty good, but we generally found ourselves frequenting Chinese districts in Malaysian cities near meal times... but we didn't know that before we visited Malaysia.

You never know if your next meal is going to the be the best meal you've ever had when every meal is somewhere new. And that's pretty cool.


What am I on about, you ask?

I want you to come out here!

Visit us in Vietnam or Thailand or Japan or where ever you want if you need an excuse.

And maybe you'll hate it! You'll hate the flying, the packing, the stomach problems (new food takes getting used to), and other people. Maybe you actually are happier in a spa. I just want you to know that.

Cause if you are worried about money... it's not as expensive as you think.

If you are worried about being scared or embarrassed... it isn't that scary or embarrassing.

If it seems really hard... it isn't that hard (although you are going to have to check with Monica for confirmation on this, she does most of the planning and hard stuff).

There are a thousand excuses that are legit. Disability, a lack of time off,  and medical stuff (dialysis for instance) are pretty legit reasons for staying home. And so is, "I just don't wanna."

Just don't let money and fear stop you from doing the thing you tell everyone you'd like to do, you know?


  1. A enjoyable read Warren, I totally agree. Like most places in the world, a smile goes a long way. Even if you don't know much of the local language... being friendly and using gestures will open a lot of doors and opportunities.

    I think travel fear is linked to inexperience and some peoples inherent inflexibility. The more confidence you have in yourself and your capability to get by the less 'fear' you will have; and that ignores your knowledge of a language or culture. Andy

    1. Yep.
      I think a lot of inflexibility comes from a lack of experienced people within their inner circle. For example, if your parents, siblings, and friends have all visited Italy, then your trip to Italy probably won't be as intimidating as compared to someone who is the first person in their inner circle to leave their country. Uncharted territory, you know?
      That's why I wanted to make this a "come and visit if you need an excuse" sort of thing, cause maybe that could be a bit of a impetuous for someone who need that push over the edge of the cliff.
      Confidence via osmosis. That's what I'm suggesting.

      Oh, and "Hi Anby!"

  2. Periods definitely belong outside of parentheses (for those who don’t remember 6th grade).

    Over the years, I have been turning my parentheses into sentence fragments. Internet-speak. Makes it more acceptable.

    1. I swear I was taught to end parenthetical asides with the punctuation within! But I was definitely taught not to end sentences with prepositions, and I do that with abandon...

      Anyway, it is possible I don't accurately remember all my lessons about proper grammar (more than possible, quite likely in fact).

      Oh, and yeah, I more or less use a parentheses to switch to an informal voice (well... more informal), which is pretty much a fancy way of saying "internet-speak." So, same-same.


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