An Interview With My Cousin Who Just Traveled Around The World
Note: My cousin, Tu Spatafore recently traveled around the world by himself, for 8 months. I was moved by his trip, his frequent updates to the family stateside and his overall experience, so I wanted to have him share it here. To preface, I understand quitting your job and traveling the world isn’t for everyone, but it can be for some people. Furthermore, his story may inspire you to do the same or something similar in nature. If not, don’t go for it. I’m simply recounting a beautiful story of risk, challenge and traveling in your 20′s.
1) Tell us what drove you to take this trip around the world?
In 2009 I had a great job as a Petroleum Engineer working for a smaller private Oil and Gas Company in Southern West Virginia. Two years in the workforce, I had done well for myself but at the same time I wasn’t ready for the 9-5 Corporate America lifestyle. I started to lose interest at work and my performance was slowly becoming apparent. I spent more time in the office researching the world and places of interest. I’ve always had this notion of traveling the world and seeing different cultures since my first worldly experience during my college years.
My dream quickly became reality after 2009 mid-year economic scare which cause many companies to revaluate and restructure in order to survive the crisis. Although I made it through the first cut in July, I couldn’t survive the second cut in September. Normally, losing your job would be terrifying but for me it was the best thing that could have happened at the time. I had no responsibility and with the money saved and a reasonable severance package I was ready to live out my dream. Within two weeks of losing my job, I had my Itinerary and plane ticket, I was ready to the dream.
2) Where did you go and how long were you gone?
Before I left the states, I had a set itinerary of mainly Australia and SE Asia. However, in between my travels I made a few changes. I left LA on the 15th of November to Fiji then followed by Australia. After Australia it was Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Hong Kong, and back to LA. In 8 months I visited 10 countries.
3) What are some tips you have for others about traveling solo and backpacking?
I was a little hesitant at first traveling alone but it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. If you’re out-going and sociable then you’ll never be alone. I was able to meet many life-long friends from all parts of the world and even had a travel mate through parts of my journey.
As for tips, I have many. First and foremost, buy a lonely planet (the bible for travelers) and it’s not a bad idea to look over your place of interest. It’s ironic I did neither, no lonely planet and no research. I more or less had an open itinerary and wanted to be spontaneous, and base my travels from other people’s experiences. Another useful tip is research VISA requirements. Some countries allow 30 day tourist visa at the border while others require you to apply in advance. If it seems too good to be true then most likely it is. Don’t be a sucker and prepare yourself for the unexpected scams. Be aware of anything low cost or free, e.g. cheap tours, tuk tuk taxis, temple entry, border entry, and prepare yourself to bargain. Best way to shop is to watch a local shop and see what they pay. Have a price in your head and don’t be afraid to walk away, eventually they will give in.
4) What surprised you about the trip? Anything unexpected happen?
I was surprise by the number of young adventurous backpackers who all have the same mind set of traveling the world. It’s almost a way of life for young European, Canadian, and Australian who before committing to universities save up money to travel. Be prepared for unexpected fees. Something you have no control but there are steps you can take. For instance, the more information you can gather from other travelers about your next destination, e.g. airport transfer, bus station transfer, visa requirements, etc.. And review luggage allowance before flying.
5) How did you save money and what are some frugal tips for traveling light and not spending a lot of money?
Luckily I had a good job that paid well and with no bills it was easy to save. Since graduating from college, I was fortunate to have company housing with my first employer and with my second job I lived with relatives. Your budget depends on the country, for example, it’s much easier to travel and live well in 3rd world countries. South East Asia and India are your best bet for budget traveling, Australia is more expensive then the states.
If money is holding you back from living the dream then don’t worry. Most popular destinations offer work and free stay. There’s a program call woofit where you can work in organic farms, they pay well and some offer free stay. Another program call couch surfing where friendly locals allow you to stay at their couch for no cost. For more information, check out the websites below:
- http://www.airbrokers.com/ (around the world ticket)
6) Would you recommend this trip to others in their 20′s? If so, on what accord (e.g. if they hate their job, etc.)
I would highly recommend it for all those who are looking for an adventure or for those who aren’t ready for the world like myself. It will be a trip of life time, you can buy a nice car or put a down payment on a house but those are things you can have any time in your life. Traveling the world will not only open your eyes but will make you a better individual when you do decide to settle down. You’ll have those memories for a life-time. It’s never too late to pack up and leave.
One of my favorite quote is by Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
EXPLORE. DREAM. DISCOVER!”
7) What was your favorite experience from traveling abroad?
The best part of traveling was meeting other backpackers and sharing travel stories. One of my most memorable experiences was on the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne to Adelaide, Australia. It was a three day and two night adventure along the most scenic and exciting routes in the world. What made the experience was the small group of 14 who mostly were Europeans with the exception of one American, myself. It was a unique group and we had a lot of wild and fun moments. Each country was different in it’s own way; it’s hard to find a favorite. I love them all and look forward to my next worldly adventure.