Drop Everything and Travel
The experiences of someone who left everything behind to see the world
Hey! My name is James and I’m a travel addict. It’s been 6 months so far of continuous travel and I’m hooked.
In the beginning of 2016, my job was feeling particularly unfulfilling and while sitting at my desk one day my fingers (seemingly without asking them to) typed “What does it take to drop everything and travel?” into the search bar.
The rest is history. It turns out, almost anyone can travel long-term. It takes hard work to save money, a serious commitment to stick to your vows, and a leap of faith into the world, but let me tell you: it’s worth it.
For six months, I stopped going out to bars. I quit eating at restaurants. I started cooking all of my meals and even quit buying meat. I made a vow that I would spend 6 months of my life doing everything that I could to pinch pennies, and it worked.
Since then, I have visited (in order) Mexico, Iceland, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba, Argentina, and Chile. On top of that, countries still to come in 2017 include Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Ireland, Scotland, England, and Spain (but really I don’t have a specific plan).
I am a photographer by trade and use my love for it to create partnerships around the globe with different companies in the tourism industry including restaurants, hotels, hostels, tour companies, etc. to cover my accommodations, food, excursions, and whatever else exists in this wonderful world of travel. This enables me to travel very cheaply and in fulfilling fashion. You might be thinking, “Oh yeah, well of course this works for you then, Mr. Photographer. Geez I regret reading this.” But hang on a second!
Look, you have skills. You are REALLY useful to the global travel market! If you are reading this, then you clearly have internet. Want to find a way to travel on the cheap (or even for free)? Find yourself a volunteer travel website like Worldpackers or Workaway and start doing research. You’ll be amazed at how many companies just need a friendly face who speaks English and can just not be a murderer. Those are the only two requirements! And the first one is a given!
I truly want to inspire those of you that are even slightly considering stepping up your travel game to start looking more towards your dreams and less at the challenges. There are so many of us travelers out here and we would love you to join us! It’s an inspiring journey and you’ll learn more about you own strength than you know what to do with.
I’m currently working with a designer on a photography-based travel blog that will have travel tips, fun stories from the road, and awesome photos from my journey at www.DropEverythingAndTravel.com — Until then, you can follow my journey on Instagram @dropeverythingandtravel
My reasons for leaving everything behind
It’s funny, really. My story doesn’t seem out of the ordinary to me now that I’ve spent 6 months out on the road, because I’ve met SO many other people that have done exactly what I have.
However, that’s the beauty of it; there’s a pivotal point in your life where you’ll have the opportunity to travel (if it’s what you want to do) and you can take it or leave it.
I don’t really know what was pulling me to make this move. My parents took my sister and me out of the country a few times when we were younger and we usually took a big trip to national parks in the summers. I think this definitely got the idea into my head at a young age.
Really though, it was curiosity. I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to see if I could do it. I was TERRIFIED at times with some of the bridges I had to pass over to drop everything and travel. I had to quit a job I loved, sell my car and my belongings, say goodbye to my wonderful parents and loving friends. It wasn’t easy, but I was being pushed by a force far stronger than doubt — curiosity.
The challenges I have encountered
Oh man, the road will kick you down again and again. As I type this, I just had a bit of an airport mishap (not even, I missed my flight because I did something stupid) that cost me $200. I try and keep my daily average to around $10, so $200 really hurts my soul. Travel forces you to make a lot of decisions, which can lead to a lot of problems. It’s a simple matter of probability.
More than anything, I find that there is an overhanging difficulty with long term travel that comes and goes, often in waves. It’s a conflict between the yearning for movement and the seemingly human tendency to want to be comfortable. I think that it’s just part of the nomad life.
My daily self-reflection used to go something like this: How are you going to get your sales numbers up? You need to make more money because gas prices are through the roof and rent is going up and your boss might be mad at you and Black Friday is coming up and…phew. Just remembering it stresses me out.
I definitely haven’t found a way to completely remove stress from my life, but I have been able to remove the stresses of 9 to 5 life. More than that, I no longer equate my success to numbers on a check.
For example, today I woke up and did some photo work for a hostel, made some lunch, went on an incredible hike through the Calafate mountain region that nearly killed me, made dinner, and edited photos with a glass of wine. That’s a normal day. Tomorrow? I’m taking a bus to Perito Moreno Glacier to hike through the park and watch glacial ice break off into the ocean. And that will be a normal day.
What my experiences have taught me
Hands down the number one thing that traveling has taught me is that I am capable. I can go on that hike. I can climb to that peak. I can put one foot in front of the other and even if I don’t make it to the summit, I will at least give it a go, because if I don’t, I leave myself in a far more painful situation than failure — complacency.
If I can get one message across, it’s this: Don’t let complacency be the author to your story. Please escape the dullness of constant repetition. Every part of you will be able to thrive once you escape. Let yourself thrive.
How knowing Spanish has helped me
El hecho que yo puedo hablar (un poco) español es increíblemente importante.
That sentence probably has more grammar discrepancies than you have fingers, but that doesn’t matter. And that’s the best part about knowing (part of) a language while you’re traveling. All you really need is the ability to get your point across. This can be done with anything from words to hand gestures. As long as that person knows you’re saying “Help I need a ticket” and not “Help my sandwich is upset”, you’re golden.
Being able to practice Spanish every day is incredible for my mind. It keeps me sharp. Some days I don’t use it much. Some days it’s my crutch. Sometimes it even gets me into trouble (turns out that saying “si” when you should have said “no comprendo” can get you into trouble).
I would HIGHLY recommend that everyone learn a second language, and for U.S citizens, the Spanish language is an incredible gift to give yourself.
My advice for other travelers
Keep your pack weight down and stop using so many plastic water bottles.
I see so many travelers overpack and hate their lives when they have to lug around a 40-pound pack everywhere. You don’t need to bring your entire closet with you. Get some good lightweight gear and don’t be afraid to wear a shirt a few days in a row. Your knees will thank you.
Too much plastic is wasted everyday. I know that you’re in Central America and you think you’re going to die if you drink water from a tap, but buy a good water filter and you’ll save yourself a ton of money and the environment will thank you.
I know this story was supposed to end on an important piece of advice, but really just keep your pack weight down and stop using so much plastic and you’ll be fine. The rest of the story is for you to write :)