Join Me On My Round-the-World, Low-Budget Adventure

59 comments

Tikal, MexicoMy name is Wes Nations and this is my first blog. Having recently turned 39 for the ummm… mumble…mumble-th time, I decided to fulfill a life-long dream and travel the world. What started as a one-year around-the-world trip has turn into a lifestyle.

I’m starting my 4th year on the road and I’m loving every second of it.

I’d dreamed of traveling the world for twenty years or more.

In 1998 I was camping in the back country of Bryce Canyon and came up with the idea of creating a ‘traveling website’. Blogs and wifi didn’t exist then and once I looked into the cost of a satellite phone ($3 per minute at dial-up speeds) I had to shelve the idea.

Many years later, I finally had to admit that I’d never be truly happy unless I at least tried to ‘get out there’. I had no honest hope of making it a career — I just wanted to see what I could while I could. The world was (and is) changing fast, homogeneity settling into the most remote cultures, languages and traditions dying out daily.

I scrimped and saved for a year, bought the best travel gear I could afford, a camera, a used laptop and then quit my job as a graphic designer and marketing guy.

Three days later I was on a plane to Bangkok with a one-way ticket, scared out of my mind.

I had enough savings to last me about a year and I managed to stretch it by doing occasional graphics work for a freelance client. That allowed me to keep going until the site began to make some money via advertising. It’s now my main source of income (though very irregular).

About six months into my trip I realized that this was what I wanted to do with my life.

This was what I’d spent 40+ years looking for so I threw my itinerary out the window — when you decide you have your entire life to see the world, reaching Greece by June is no longer an issue.

vietnam motorcycle rideI spent the first year in South East Asia, wandering around Thailand and then Cambodia. I rode a motorcycle from Saigon to Hanoi (the scariest –and most satisfying– month of my life).

I then wandered around Laos for two months and arrived back in Bangkok in time for the Red Shirt protests to reach their climax and –literally– walked through blood in the streets while dodging snipers.

After three months in Northern India and another in Nepal (it was January and cold so I didn’t linger), I had intended to visit Egypt but decided instead to return to the warmth and convenience of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Two days later, the “Arab Spring” erupted in Cairo and I still can’t say whether I’m glad I missed it or not. It would have been amazing to experience but a blogger without a ‘net connection is a pretty useless creature.

I’ve spent the last year in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

Now I’m in Leon, Nicaragua and am about to settle into an apartment for a few months. After Nicaragua, I intend to make my way north along the coast of El Salvador and Guatemala and back into Mexico. After that, South East Asia calls again — the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia.

I’m a firm believer in independent travel. I think too many people sell themselves short and limit their experience by buying into the package tour mentality. If you are really traveling to get an understanding of what other peoples’ lives are like, you won’t find it while stumbling along with forty other foreigners and following a guide with a colored umbrella held high.

With just a little more work, I think it’s quite easy to arrange your own adventure, move at your own pace and interact with people as a fellow human being and not just as part of a mob.

Low and Slow?

To me, traveling low to the ground, taking ground transport where possible, and traveling as the locals do is the ideal way to experience a place.

So, what do I mean by “low and slow”? To me, traveling low to the ground, taking ground transport where possible, and traveling as the locals do is the ideal way to experience a place. Being poor, it’s also my only option. :)

Join Me on the Trip.

I’m keeping this blog along the way for several reasons:

1. I’m a geek, plain and simple. I love photography, traveling, tinkering, and telling tall tales so a blog seems like a natural choice. And it’s now my job (which still amazes me).

2. My parents can’t travel, so I’d like them to be able to experience as much of this adventure as possible.

3. I want to encourage others to get out and see the world and to realize that long-distance travel is more accessible than ever. We live at an interesting time, historically: modern air travel makes such journeys possible for even those of fairly limited means. At the same time, that easy access (and modern communication) is diluting and homogenizing cultures across the world. Languages are dying out and folk traditions are being forgotten (or converted into hollow entertainment for paying tourists).

I want to see as much of it as I can while it’s still here.

Along the way, I’ll share photos, reviews, tips and tricks, and try to answer any questions you have.

See ya on the road.

59 comments on “Join Me On My Round-the-World, Low-Budget Adventure

  1. Good Luck!! As a traveller myself, busy starting up my own business, I’m looking forward on reading your stories! Your style allready looks promissing…. Enjoy!!!

  2. Thanks! Best of luck with the new biz :)

  3. I started in Bangkok, good call it’s central and really cheap.

  4. Good Luck!!! Look forward to seeing what you are up to. Are you going to try and hook-up with Keeble?

  5. looking forward to ur travel stories & photos from ur first stop in South East Asia!

  6. Thanks, lechua! I’m really excited to get on the road — this waiting is killing me ;)

  7. Wes,

    How much time till lift off? You ABSOLUTELY need a countdown clock. Maybe just in the sidebar?

    What do you think about this WP plugin?
    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/countdown-timer/

    - Garrett

    • Hi Garrett,

      You’re totally right about the Countdown Timer — I’ve had one running in the sidebar since I started the site, but I think I need to move it up and draw some attention to it. Thanks for pointing that out.

  8. Stumbled upon your blog thanks to stumbleUpon. Really feeling your travel philosophy and loving the stories, pics, and travel tips. Good luck on the rest of the trip and looking forward to reading more of your adventures. Keep living the dream my dude.

  9. Hi Wes!

    Good on ya with your journey!

    Are you really going to travel until your money runs out, or are you being facetious?

    Cheers,

    Sam

    • No, that’s the plan. I’ll have to keep enough on hand to get settled, etc. but I intend to go as long as I can. I’m doing a little freelance along the way, so hopefully I can stretch it to a year and a half or more…

      • Gotcha. What about retirement savings and stuff though? Or, do you plan to never retire and live a freestyle lifestyle with freelance gigs indefinitely?

        I’m just wondering how to go about things myself, when I hang up my own boots. Currently, my plan is to work until 40-42 and then completely retire and live off my interest income and do some freelance stuff as well.

        Thnx,

        Sam

        • Heh, it sounds like you’ve got things figured out a lot better than I do. Retirement isn’t really in my future, alas.

  10. Hi Wes – Hope you’re well, amigo. I’m with Nik Software at met you at the last Journey Ed/Academic gathering, but just stumbled on to your blog recently. I knew you’d SAID you were going; I just missed the timing part. ;-)

    The trip sounds fantastical – I really like that concept about “threading”. Anyway, now I’ve subscribed so it will be fun to see how all this pans out – LOL. I also follow another blog you might be interested in checking out: http://www.2ridetheworld.com.

    Cheers, Kevin

    • Hey, Kevin! Great to hear from you! Thanks for the kudos. Hope you’re getting out and riding when ya can. Shiny side up!

      -w

  11. Wes, I stumbled onto your blog through Travelfish. Great stories! While guidebooks outline places to go and things to do, your stories tell of the ‘experience’ that brings life to the places I’m currently reading about. I was in Thailand last year for four weeks and my favorite experiences were watching daily life unfold…both with the Thai people and other tourists. My thoughts seemed much clearer and focused – both on what was going on around me and on the inside of me. It was an amazing time. This October I’m heading to Mekong Delta for two weeks with Habitat for Humanity then up north through Vietnam. Just wanted to thank you for your stories and information on your blog, they are fueling my enthusiasm as I prepare for my own trip. Wish I could take a year off but I’ve done that already and can’t really afford to do so again for awhile. Happy travels!

    • Wow, thank you so much for the kind words, Erica. It really helps keep me motivated and I appreciate it.

      You’re going to have a great time in Vietnam and kudos on doing good work while you’re there :)

  12. Wes, I love the “slow and low” slogan. Brilliant way to travel, and oh it rolls off the tongue! Flying isn’t my cuppa tea either. Good to see others living the land and sea travel dream :)

    Enjoy your travels!

    Peace,

    Lauren

  13. Great stories, I did the same thing in 2007 through 2008. Wish I would have a website like this to guilde me. Good luck wishing I was with you.

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  15. Hi Wes,
    I’ve just discovered your blog via a David Lebovitz post on Facebook (social media is amazing). I’m eager to vicariously follow your travels! It’s a passion of mine, though I’ve never left home for more than a month at a time. Enjoy!!
    Out of curiosity, are you able to work and post from internet cafes? Keeping a blog is hard work, I can’t imagine doing it on the road.

  16. Jannell on said:

    Came across your vaccinations post from last October. I really like the way you write and your philosophy on travel. Gonna find my way to your first post and continue reading until I catch up to your current adventures!

  17. Thank you so much for sharing this blog! I have travelled extensively in the past, but am now grounded in my home country for what could possibly be an indefinite number of years. Seeing your pictures, and reading your stories has lifted my spirits and helped ease some of the constant longing for travel. Keep having adventures and thank you again!

  18. Greetings Wes,

    I was admiring your website and was surprised that you use wordpress. I was curious on how you posted your “10 best pictures”, especially how you can hit “next” which scrolls you to the next pic. I am quite the novice so I’m trying to learn from square one. If you could explain or point me in the right direction I would appreciate the effort. Thanks a million,

    Ken B

  19. Rochelle de Leon on said:

    awesome! i was just in Thailand, my second time and am always amazed with the culture, people and food. I love your traveling principle, I share the same. Good luck and please keep sharing!

    R

  20. Your blog is GREAT! Your pictures are really amazing, and what you’re doing inspires me and lets me know anyone who wants to can do what you’re doing. I’m 15 and my goal in life is to be a photojournalist. I love your the vibrant colours of your pictures and how they each have a unique story. Your traveling concept is great. Good luck and thank you for sharing! : )

  21. Wow! I loved your blog, especially about India, my incredible country. As a traveler I could identify with many of your observations. I think travelling is the best way to explore the world outside and the world within.

  22. Matthew on said:

    Love your blog, very funny…just one thing I thought I’d mention, the fancy blue booties you talk about in this page, are actually given to everyone freely in the Taj Mahal (well free after you’ve paid the 1200 rs entry fee or whatever it costs now)…so no tour group would have provided them.

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  25. Wow this is very similar to a friend of mine who is on a road trip within India and coincidentally he was in my hometown in Nagaland for my wedding. I am really enjoying your stories. keep loading and hai take care of yourself

  26. So, you wrote this in August of 2009 and it seems you’re still on the road—so much for the “year off” thing. Good for you. Have you managed to make travel your “day job”? I think I’ve taken too many forks in the road to be able to become a full time traveler, but I’m trying to be “outta here” as much as possible—and writing about it.

    • Thanks for the comment, Suzanne, and for the reminder that I desperately need to update this page ;) But, yes, I have managed (so far) to make a living doing it. The pay isn’t great and Europe is off my itinerary, but I’m getting by.

  27. You started in 2010 and seem to be still going strong so that is a huge success, congrats. On to read your stories, have heard of you through the travel writer grapevine but is my first visit! Best, Molly

  28. Hey,

    I landed on your site through ‘almost fearless’, which I also just discovered, and I’ve had some trouble leaving… You’re very inspiring. I just recently graduated college. I’m currently working on a tech startup, but if it doesn’t pan out within the next few months, I’m planning to sell my stuff and travel for a year or so. I’m just curious what your overall budget was before you left, how you calculated expenses, etc. I figure I should have about 14-15k for my journey, and I’m open to working for more in certain places.

    Thanks for writing, posting, sharing your life with us.

    • Hey Nick, thanks for the kind words. I think your budget is about right for the developing world — I left with just 17k if I remember right. I also supplemented it along the way with some freelance so I was able to stretch that to about a year and a half. If you stay in places for a month at a time you can stretch it further due to savings on housing… Best of luck with the start-up but your backup plan sounds pretty fun too :)

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  30. Wes, your blog is hilarious and inspiring. I wish I could muster the courage to travel full time – maybe one day I will. Keep up the awesome adventures while the rest of us live vicariously through you at home as slaves, haha. Stay safe out there!

  31. Have you been to London yet?

  32. Hey Wes! back home in Austin, no rest for the weary, Nicaraguan happy. Thanks for the great last day in Nicaville, 81 cents per beer, great chilidog (???) life becomes great sometimes whether you wish it or not. It was cool hookin up with you IN Granada, maybe can do it sometime again in some vagabondish land in some 4th dimension. nIce meeting ya, take care and keep in touch. Jimmy, dba Blarneyman.

  33. Matthias on said:

    Wes, your blog is very inspiring.
    You are actually living my dream and i wonder how it feels like. It seems to be just as amazing as I imagine, maybe better.
    I will follow your footsteps. Develop my dream into a plan. Not too much planning though, as that is something I want to leave behind.
    Do you have health insurace? I’m german, and beeing not properly insured is by far most concerning for nearly all germans. Do you handle that by just not getting sick?
    Thank you, Matthias

    • Insurance is a big worry — no I don’t have health insurance. I tend to carry travel insurance (though it has currently lapsed and I’m too broke to renew) but all that really does is get you back to your home country if something happens. Then you’re on your own. Depending on where you are, just paying cash can be the way to go.

      I have a friend who was in Guatemala recently and spent 3 days in a hospital in Guatemala City. He had to get a full MRI and treatment and said that he’d never been felt so well-taken-care-of in his life. Nurses checked in all the time and he actually got to talk to his doctor several times a day. In the end, his bill was around $1,500. The MRI alone would have cost more than that in the US.

      So, yes, it’s a risk. There’s not much of a safety net for me at the moment.

      • Matthias on said:

        Hi Wes!

        I did some research and found something that is called “Langzeit-Auslandskrankenversicherung” which I would translate to longterm-foreign-country-health-insurance. You can have it up to five years and it costs around $100 per month. That is not nothing, as I want to travel really low butget, so it is hard to decide wether I should take it.

        This safety net you are talking about is actually something very german and my opinion is that it can make you sick and sluggish in longterm, when you are not careful, because “I have this insurance, so I don’t have to care” or “My job is making me sick, but I have this Insurance” is not healthy mentality.

        Thanks for your input!

  34. MyLifeTraveling on said:

    Hi Johnny,
    good to meet you as such and read your stories… for l too have been 3 years on the road and about to celebrate my 50th birthday in my 4 year following the F1 Grand prix around Europe in a motorhome.
    I too travel slowly and take way toooo many photos along the way.

    looking forward to reading more of your stories

    have fun,
    Anthea

  35. mekong vietnam on said:

    I like it whenever people come together and share views. Great site, stick
    with it!

  36. Sarah Glashagel on said:

    Hi Wes,
    I just came across your blog as my fiance and I have started the process-of-thinking-about-possibly-maybe-someday-in-the-future-hopefully-when-the-kids-finally-turn-18… Well you get the idea- we’d like to live the vagabond life in a few years! So excited to dream and plan, then do! We’ll be reading your posts and absorbing your wisdom!
    Thanks,
    Sarah

  37. cool! im thrilled and kinda inspired by the cofidence and freedom u enjoy.
    rock it. i hope u have the best travel life ever:)

  38. Hi there Johnny :)
    I discovered your blog from someone else’s blog yang thought that this is the one I’ve been looking for. I love your life story, it’s the way I imagine what mine will be, well, you know, make a saving, quit my job and go traveling for a year but luck came and it became a life long job!!! It didn’t happened yet, but reading that someone has done it makes me feel it’s possible!!!! I was a former graphic and web designer with an interest of photography too :)
    Well, I shall read more of your blog… wish you the best in traveling, and if you ever stop by in my town Yogyakarta, Indonesia, just let me know, because you are so welcome!
    Liesha Bear recently posted..Crazy day at the officeMy Profile

  39. My partner and I stumbled over here coming from a different web
    page and thought I might as well check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you.
    Look forward to looking at your web page again.
    Camping Oven recently posted..Camping OvenMy Profile

  40. I’m wondering what year you ended up in Nicaragua… I lived in Leon for all of 2001. I was there when 9/11 happened in the Twin Towers and, as an American gringa, that was an interesting experience. I had friends in outlying villages who walked for hours to come see me and tell me how sad they felt and to see if any of my family was affected. I ended up called to attend a meeting at the US Embassy in Managua following 9/11. I made the mistake of going clothes shopping at the mall there first and got rushed on time. I ended up walking into the meeting with my shirt inside out. Lovely. :-)
    Laura Gorman “Nica Chick” recently posted..Traveling Tips for TechiesMy Profile

  41. Hi Wes, I’m currently in the developing phase and after reading your article, I look forward to taking the plunge. My question is (like the chicken and egg)… Which comes first: The blog or the travels? Some blogs show alot of travel history in the “about” page; mine is a wee bit on the “light side”.

  42. Hey Wes! Been reading a few of your posts, I’m hooked! Love your “travelling low to the ground” ethos – My girlfriend and I travelled from the UK to Thailand over land through Russia so fully agree on that front :)

    Cheers!
    Rob recently posted..Comment on Best Places for Kids in Bangkok by rockderkMy Profile

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