The pre-trip, round-the-world Dromomaniac Q & A mailbag

     It’s been an enjoyable winter being home, watching the Republican presidential candidates try to out-Neanderthal each other. It would be more enjoyable if I didn’t fear one of them winning in November, but it’s time to leave that behind, pack up, and go.
     Tomorrow I have a one-hour drive, a 4.5-hour train ride, 7 hours of waiting in rainy Los Angeles, then a 1:40am flight (ugh!), 11 hours of flying from Los Angeles to Beijing (double ugh!!), then 11 hours of layover in Beijing (triple ugh!!!) before another 6 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (semi-ugh.)
     I was going to make a rigorous examination of my pre-trip, around-the-world preparation, but it’s just this: being very lazy, staying indoors and eating bad food because I know when I am on the road, it will be the opposite. So! Let’s get on to some reader mail:

     Hitchhiking outside Tbilisi, Georgia


From Uliano Giovannetti in Italy:
     Hi, Kent!
     I know it could sound pretty lame but I’m writing this email just to say that your website is amazing, and since I discovered it, I’m always looking forward to new posts and stuff. It really blows my mind how easily you talk about cheap travelling and have to admit that everything is written actually pretty well, so never ever boring at all.
     Since me and my girlfriend are travelling through Europe, and we’ve been on the road for more than two months now, your tips are really, really precious, and most of all, when I’ve nothing to do in cold Dutch houses and outside it’s raining, I gladly find myself typing your dromomaniac blog. Aawwwww, now sounds very sweet, doesn’t it? Would you like to have a child with me?
     No, seriously, keep on with the great work and please—veryprettyplease—write a book. If you do so, you can consider my sister yours.

     I may or may not have spent 10 minutes on Google Images searching “Uliano Giovannetti’s sister”. Is it the highest compliment that someone is willing to pimp his sister out to you? Or, as a man, to want to conceive a baby with me?
     By the way, I asked Uliano if I could use his full name in this case. I normally keep everyone’s privacy intact.

From N. in Greece:
     Hello Kent,
     I want to ask you something. You will know, of course. It is dangerous to travel by bus on South America? I’ve listened that the borders are difficult with big research and the headmen try to fine you.
     Is Colombia to Ecuador enough dangerous?
     Give me your lights.

     Needless to say, “Give me your lights” is my new, go-to phrase. Sure, it’s no problem to travel by bus, but if there is any danger, avoid overnight buses. I did exactly that in Colombia and Ecuador, but mainly because I can’t sleep on overnight buses anyway, and the views are too spectacular to miss.

From: Jeff Chan
Subject: Sponsored Post or banner on your site
     I’d like to inquire about doing a sponsored blog post – about 150-300 words that talks a little bit about cosmetic surgery and ilinks back to our site. We provide costmetic surgery services and we might be a good fit for your readers/visitors on TheDromomaniac.com
     Here’s a list of some blog post titles we’ve done in the past:
- Why People Are Choosing Liposculpting over Liposuction
- Look Young Again With Laser Skin Resurfacing
- The Beauty Of Natural Breast Augmentation
     Our budget is around $15 for the post. Is this something you’d be open to?
Also we might be interested in a small banner ad if the price is right. Our budget is $40/year – something like this: http://s13.postimage.org/886zi6ix1/cosmeticsurgery.jpg.
     Let me know if you’d be open to either or both of these. Also if you have some other sites just send them over and we might be interested in doing a sponsored post on there as well!
     Regards, Phil
     Escobedo Esthetics

     I get this garbage all the time. $15! I wonder if there was a three-hour debate at Escobedo Esthetics about whether they would pay $14.50 or $15.50 before finally settled on $15, then celebrating with a $200 company dinner.
     Hmmmm, on the other hand, that is enough for several good meals in Indonesia. You know, friends, the beauty of natural breast augmentation can indeed improve the quality of your life. Feel better about yourself! Feel rejuvenated! Act now and we’ll throw in the Turbo Skin Exfoliant, guaranteed to make you slimmer as it will scrape away so much skin, you will feel like a peeled apple. But wait! There’s more! Call within the next 10 minutes and…

     Nicaragua. Not me.


From S. in USA:
     Inspirational, informative site Kent – thanks! I am a female solo traveler (27 countries so far, longest solo trip was 15 months) and I appreciate your encouraging words to women.
     However, I have to say that at the time that I was planning my first big trip, I didn’t feel or think that I embodied any of the attributes you listed. People commented that I must be very brave to be planning such a trip, but brave was the last thing I felt. I’d often wake up in the middle of the night in a blind panic thinking ‘I must be crazy, I can’t do this!’. Then, a wise woman paraphrased Aristotle and said, “We aren’t born with courage but we become brave by doing things that require us to be brave."
     So gals, listen to Kent and pack your bags. You may discover that the most meaningful souvenirs of your trip are not the kind that you can buy in a shop.

     15 months?! I can’t do that without my head exploding. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s one thing for me to talk about it and another for your validation as a woman.

From W, unknown location:
     I’m 20, and traveling alone has been a huge dream of mine since a long time ago.The thrill of being able to go wherever I please, and take as much time as I like is just so…. GREAT. However, my parents are a big obstacle for me. Every time I bring up the idea, we just get into a huge argument that can turn out really ugly – especially for my dad because he’s one of those people who don’t get angry often, but when he does… it’s scary.
     While I understand their point of view, it’s always really disappointing when they say no. I don’t want to sneak off (although I have thought about it at times when I was really upset) because I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself if I knew I did not have their support. If anyone has any ideas on how I can convince them, that’d be great.

     It’s a tough situation. What country are you in? Will things change when you are 21 or when you move out? Maybe you can take a short trip to a “safe" place and see how it goes as a test.
     (That was my weak answer. These questions are hard sometimes! If I was an expert I would be writing an advice column. If anyone wants to take a stab at this, it’s on this page or maybe just commenting below would be better.)

From A. in Vietnam:
     Hiiiiiiii,
     I first found out such a thing as Couchsurfing existed while reading your blog and was wondering if you’d share your experiences! (pretty please)
     So this summer I DESPERATELY want to visit my dad in Ukraine. (I’m half Vietnamese, a quarter Lebanese, a quarter Syrian, although I was born in Ukraine.) Since I haven’t seen him in years, it would be a dream to stay there for at least a month or two. But for such a long period, staying in hotels is an unaffordable option. The problem is I don’t really know anyone there who’d let me invade their houses. I can’t stay with dad, even though I’m hoping he would find some place for me to stay, but that is also a little complicated and awkward because he’ll be there with his wife and 5 kids and I’m the secret illegitimate child no one knows exists and to avoid family drama…I need to stay “undercover”.
     So I was wondering if Couchsurfing would be a possible option. I’ve read a little about it, but is a little unsure how it works exactly, and I don’t know anyone who’s done anything similar so would reallllly appreciate some direct info. So what happens? What do you need to do to stay at their houses? What to pay for? What if they don’t like you? How long can you usually stay for? Is it safe?

     Wow, what a life you have! Well, normally Couchsurfing is an exchange for travelers and hosts for a few days (so anyone can tolerate each other for a few days!), but there are CS groups where people get together socially and I think it would be the best place to put up an ad. I would check out the local CS group and look at the listings or better yet, be proactive and place an ad saying you are looking for a room for a month or two.
     CS is safe, generally, but you get a better idea of that from someone’s profile and that is why I would suggest you take time and really fill out your CS profile or else people might not take you seriously. Also, you can deal only with women if you prefer.
     (That was my answer the first time, but when she later told me she was 17—”barely 17″, she said—now I’m not sure how to respond.)

     Abacuses (Abacusii? Abacii?) on the wall in Kiev, Ukraine


From M. in Germany:
     Hi Kent!
     First of all, thank you for showing me that a way of life like yours is really possible. Your adventures are really an inspiration for me.
     I moved to Europe about two years ago in search of new experiences. In these two years, I’ve done couchsurfing, hitchhiked, and slept on benches :) It has been a very interesting time for me, but I’ve encountered some travel-related problems and don’t have a seasoned traveller friend to consult with. Furthermore, I would like to completely switch to a lifestyle like yours, but have some nagging concerns that I can’t resolve. So, I’ve made a list of questions and I really hope you can give me some answer to them.
     1) How do deal with diminishing returns? For example, the first gothic church in Europe was really amazing for me, the second and third were still interesting, but all of the other ones were almost not worth seeing. And it’s the same with small medieval towns or castles or city centers… And the more I travel, the harder it is to find something really unusual, something really fascinating, something worth travelling for.
     2) Are you concerned about not having security when you become older? If you’re just working at temporary jobs, then you don’t have a pension. And if you spend all the money you earn on travel, then you don’t have money in case of unpredictable accidents (like breaking a leg while on a hike in the mountains). I mean, sure, everything is fine while you’re young and healthy, but what happens if your health deteriorates? Perhaps you won’t have the energy to travel anymore and perhaps the temporary jobs will become insufficient for paying the medical bills…
     3) If you’re always moving around, then it’s difficult to form meaningful friendships or to have a girlfriend. Simply put, these things require a certain investment of time. Instead, you meet people in hostels or whatever, introduce yourselves, and then never see each other again. Doesn’t this bother you?
     4) I’ve been getting better and better at travelling cheaply, but there are some things I’d like to do that require a big investment of money. Two examples that I can think of now are scubadiving and hanggliding. In order to really get into these things, you need a lot of money, which means you have to have a well-paying job and spend a lot of time at it. What about you? Have you just accepted that expensive hobbies are not for you?
     Keep on rockin’ in the free world :) If you find yourself flying into Germany, let me know.

     This mailbag is getting a little long, isn’t it? I answered M. We’ve written long emails back and forth. I think I respond to everyone not named Escobedo Esthetics.

For some balance,
From E. in Wales:
     I had the misfortune of meeting you in Malaysia, that’s how I found your blog.

     Thanks for all the questions and comments! Keep them coming! The best thing about having a blog is that it can draw attention to my website which compels a few kindred souls to contact me. Writing is like being in solitary confinement in a dark dungeon and then a little light shines in when someone responds, asks for advice or gives me hell—whatever the reaction is, it is nice affirmation of the power of the word.

     Just to show that The Dromomaniac is all things to all people, a little something for you foot fetishists out there, a Colombian friend's foot in Egypt. This is not the work of the good people at Escobedo Esthetics.

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Comments

The pre-trip, round-the-world Dromomaniac Q & A mailbag — 8 Comments

  1. Nice post!! You are already a guru… So what about Italy?
    Lu :)
    PS: from my quite smaller experience, I totally agree with the solo female traveller

  2. I understand W’s situation from the unknown location.
    As I am young as well and have very over-caring parents I know it can be difficult.
    They love travelling and hate the fact I do it on my own.

    As I moved out without permition at the age of 14 they know I am doing whatever I feel like anyway.
    To solve the problem wanting them to accept what I do, I made shorter trips more often and told them where I went – sometimes afterwards, so they saw I came back, healthy and not as an addicted, forced to prositution blond girl.
    They appreciate that I am telling them about my trips (of course not all) and are more and more “relaxed about the next one.
    Do short trips, post daily to a blog with a picture of you at the beginning so they can follow you and know “you are warm and safe”.
    It could be annoying for you, as not everybody likes it.
    Variate the locations, the way of travelling and the duration of your trips.
    You will gain more experiences and on the other hand they might get used to what you are doing.

    If it’s so important for you accustom them to your travelling.

    You need to be sure about what you want and stay positive about it – action/ reaction is a pretty simple thing (I know, doesn’t sound like a damn good advice, but that’s my experience).

    Consider your baby would tell you about crazy plans going places but remember to start freeing yourself from depending on your parents.

    Ah hell, what do I know
    Good luck anyway

    Natalie

  3. I have a memorable story about crossing from Ecuador to Colombia. We hired a driver — a father and son team, actually — who, as it turns out, had never left Ecuador before and had no idea what they were getting themselves into. It wasn’t long after we entered Colombia (we started out in Otavalo) that men on the streets dressed in military fatigues and holding machine guns flagged our car over. After 10 minutes or so of questions and answers in Spanish (our driver was scared out of his mind), they demanded $10 USD for us to keep driving. I was relieved they wanted so little, although when we got back in the car I felt “had”. We then discovered that these extortionists were planted every few miles or so. I assumed when they saw a couple of gringos in the back seat, it was a good enough reason to pull the car over. I decided we best duck when we saw them, and we weren’t stopped again.

  4. Dear W from unknown location
    I am probably from a similar culture, i dunno how old are you, but in my side of the world, it does not matter, because parents will always say no, be you 30, 40 or 50 (that is if they are still alive).
    Well, my parents have a headache with me because I am quite a stubborn kid. When i wanted to do my long traveling (first time overseas), i was 22 and they almost got crazy with the idea. Then I insisted, found some information to support my travel. (I was applying for a working holidaymaker visa in UK in order to be able to work to support my travel, as it would take ages to earn from my country to travel to the Europe). So i found the visa information, the requirement, found a friend’s friend’s friend (haha) who was then living in the UK and got in contact with her, collected the information from her. and then presented to my mum with all of them. Well, she kind of got to admit that I am resourceful.
    Of course, I did sit down with them, and talk to them, why do i want to do this? mum dad, I never been out of the country, i always hear of them, i want to see the world! I really want to do so!
    My dad’s problem is not so much of worrying about me, he just thought that traveling for a year or two is kind of procrastinating, well, i was supposed to be on the way to complete my phd. Then after the first few arguments, I was really upset because I thought I would never have the support from my dad. But guess what, he just changed his mind. He said, if you still want to go despite all we said, go then and come back soon! and he helped me with all the visa stuff etc!

    Well, I guess my point is, maybe let your parents know you are:
    1. determined and passionate
    2. you are really resourceful and you can really take care of yourself?
    3. you love them and you really hope they support you?

    Hope it works:)

    good luck!

  5. I am “W” from the unknown location (lol), and I’d really like to thank everybody who took their time to answer my question. Your advice was very useful. Actually, my parents have finally said “yes” to me traveling alone since I posted that question, although they still wish I wouldn’t. Like many of you have said, they want to know every single detail of my trip, which is fair enough. I am now planning for my summer vacation, and super excited. Thanks everyone!

    By the way, I should probably say, I’m from Hong Kong.

    -W

  6. Oh no! I was eagerly expecting to see the answers for questions from M. in Germany – this would be exactly my questions too :)
    I’m just in between of living the life of traveler and the life of “normal” people. To find the balance is an art.
    Would be glad to see the answers M. got – you can even send them to my email.
    Take care, love reading your blog! (found it when I went traveling to Philippines)

  7. Hi Gregor,
    I was just in the Philippines!
    You want to know what I wrote to the guy? I will have to check my emails to him. It was a little personal so that is probably why I didn’t include it there. Let me look for it, but don’t expect anything insightful or helpful!

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