Will, You adhere to a rather meager budget of $100/wk. That certainly puts to rest the excuse to not travel because you don’t have the money. What sacrifices does this entail, and how does it impact(positive or negative) your ability to really enjoy traveling? What advice do you have for sticking to this budget, especially in India?
$100 a week is actually more than most people think it is. When your hitchhiking, couchsurfing and eating for free regularly your costs totally plummet so you can spend your money on things that matter; like white water rafting! India is probably one of the easiest countries in the world to travel on the cheap; the best tip I can give you is do as the locals do – eat street food, travel by train or bus (which you have booked yourself, not through an agent!) and simply enjoy yourself by wandering around; India is so diverse and colourful that, in my opinion, you don’t really need to pay to get into things. Simply exploring a winding alley and finding yourself in someone’s garden, where you will be instantly invited for a glass of chai, is one of the best things you can do, and it’s free!
I picked India off a list of cheapest places to travel. It was #2 and Nepal was #1, maybe my next destination. My plan includes walking off the plane in Bombay and wandering the country until my Visa expires in August. You view yourself as a bit of an expert on India, having spent 14 months there, what advice do you have for me and anyone else traveling to India?
India is the most reflective country in the world; you will get out of your trip exactly what you put in. If you are friendly, curious, excitable and fun then these are the types of people who will flock to you. If you are scared, suspicious or angry then the only people who will deal with you will be touts and scammers. Be wary by all means but be friendly, soak in everything India has to throw at you! Crucially, realise that this country is bloody huge, I reckon I saw perhaps half of it in over a year, bite off small chunks… explore one region at a time, don’t go for a mad zig-zagging route across the country to see the ‘highlights’.
There are the obvious sites to visit that you can find in any guide to India such as: Taj Mahal, Golden Temple, etc. What are your must see destinations that are off the tourist beaten path? Are there any places you would suggest avoiding?
Hampi used to be a wonderful off-the-beaten path destination but I fear that will have changed my now. Bundi in Rajasthan is still a great place to get away from it all. If you really want to get off the beaten path, head inland… the further you get to the centre of India, the more rural and diverse it shall become. The Ajanta caves are a great place to start if you fancy losing some of the backpacker hordes…
What were your best and worst Indian experiences?
I had so many amazing experiences it’s hard to say; I thoroughly enjoyed riding on top of buses, chatting with local chai sellers, building a vegetable patch over a month with an old man, rock-climbing in Hampi, trekking in the Himalayas, staying for free in the dorms of the Golden Temple… My bad experiences, well – I got really sick once, that wasn’t great. I also did a 32 hour train journey on my own, which point blank sucked as I had to take my entire rucksack with me every time I wanted to use the truly horrible toilet. I got robbed at one point as well but hey; I was there for over a year, I didn’t let it tarnish my experience.
Many people express concerns about my safety while wandering aimlessly. Have you ever been robbed or at risk of any other dangers?
Yes. I’ve been robbed three times now. I’ve also had a knife pulled on me which was pretty hairy. I’ve crashed two motorbikes, once badly. I had a gun pointed in my face in Israel and was held for several hours without charge. All in all though, it kind of comes with the territory and I’ve spent most of my adult life on the road; it’s not surprising I’ve had some bad experiences..
Between Nepal, Cambodia, and Thailand (the top contenders in my next destination), which would you pick? I would like to make it to all of them, and keep in mind I will be leaving India in August. Or would you suggest a different nearby country?
Sorry to do this to you, but, none of them. I would choose Myanmar in a heartbeat, it’s my favourite country in South East Asia. Out of the countries you have listed; Nepal was my favourite and it is indeed only reachable on the cheap from India so it would make sense to go there next; the prime trekking season is March-April and September-October so that’s when you want to be there… Thailand is surprisingly expensive so I tend to avoid it.
You have been traveling for quite some time, totaling 5 years, what is your biggest take-away from this experience?
I guess that I don’t have to fall into the role which was expected of me in England. Some people think I’m mental and that I’m going to end up giving up on the whole ‘travelling thing’ in a few years, try to get a job and end up totally screwed due to my lack of an employment history… I am now surer than ever that I can work for myself, pulling in enough to sustain me, and eventually become a full-time digital nomad. I have several top secret expeditions planned over the next couple of years which I am hoping will catapult me to fame and glory! :p
You have a rather successful travel blog, from my perspective, what advice do you have for someone just starting a travel blog?
Network! It’s all about making friends and helping each other out; join Facebook groups that connect bloggers and start there. Build your social media presence using tools such as Triberr and Tweepi and always appear to be professional; even if your not!
Is there anything I left out that you would like to add about India, or travel in general?
For India; always have the right change, breaking a 500 is impossible. Try not to get too stressed at the constant attention (you will feel a bit like a movie star) – you are a curiosity, a travelling foreigner, representing a way of life that many Indians simply cannot comprehend.
When travelling in general, always take two things – a pen, and a good knife.
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