What you’ll need: backpack, passport
Songlist: I’ve Been Everywhere by Johnny Cash, Around the World by Daft Punk
Further reading: 1000 Places to See Before You Die
I have a new love. It’s a website called Jetsetter that has flash sales on luxury hotels around the world. Every day at 3 pm I get email from Jetsetter highlighting the new deals; yesterday the sales were for hotels in Bali, Fiji, the Cook Islands, and Kenya. I drooled over photos of waterfalls, plunge pools and nicely made beds. The only thing that stopped me from clicking the “Book” button is that the price tags are exorbitant even on sale. Oh, and plane tickets to Bali are not exactly in my budget.
I also have an old notebook. It’s filled with places I wanted to go and languages I wanted to learn. To date, there are still about 25 languages left on the list and about 50 countries that still need to be seen. At least I’ve checked off “Spanish.”
The only problem with passion for travel is a bank account that doesn’t support it. There’s the old I-know-English-so-I-can-probably-teach-it trick, which worked for me for my year in Spain. My parents were able to bank on their English skills in Morocco for two years, and I have friends in Madagascar, Samoa, Azerbaijan, and France using the same expert understanding of English grammar to fund their travel needs.
There’s also the travel-writer/travel-photographer method of paying for all that airfare, which seems to work for Rick Steves and Elizabeth Gilbert. Not everyone can create their own line of travel books–Steves is the only one I know of, in fact–and not everyone’s inner journey to find peace winds up as a perennial bestseller.
And there are those million other ways that help you legitimize your existence in another country–nannying, humanitarian work, study abroad programs, falling in love with a rich Italian prince, etc etc–but you know what the single best way to become a world traveler is? By becoming Australian. I met several Australians while I was backpacking around Spain last summer, and I am convinced that the entire race has an extreme case of wanderlust (of course, the caveat is that, having never been to Australia, I only meet Australians when they’re traveling). My theory–and this has been verified by the traveling Australians I’ve met–is that they are so far removed from the rest of the world that when they get out of the country, they stay out. They laughed at my fellow Americans’ plans to travel around Europe for two weeks; anything less than two months is a waste of a plane ticket in an Australian’s mind.
And travel is such an essential part of their life that work is only a means to travel more. The Australians I met worked as nurses, seasonal waitresses, and plumbers so that they could take off six months and pick up where they left off when they returned.
So, even though wanderlust runs deep in my family blood, I think I could learn a thing or two from the Australians. When I was talking to one Aussie about what we’d do if we only had a year left to live, I said I’d lie on a beach and drink margaritas with all the people I loved most. He said he’d buy a bike and ride around the world. I felt a little lazy. So, time to get moving. I’m gonna go see if Jetsetter has any deals on hotels in Australia…