The biggest mistake you can make is to tell yourself you have to do everything by the rules. Doing things by the rules is more expensive, time consuming, and just damn boring. So learn that rules are for breaking.
I am privileged. I am from the United States. Unlike most people in the world, I can travel pretty much anywhere I want. I can cross borders as easily as I can slice through a stick with a machete. I did not fully understand this until I came to Honduras, which is the size of some states in America. Hondurans need a visa most everywhere in the world, even to take a vacation in countries that are close to them. I understand why so many of them feel trapped within this small country. However, I still think that where there is a will there is a way. I have met several people, especially through Couchsurfing, people from places like China, who do not have a free access pass to the world. They have to apply; they have to pay; they have to beg to go to a different country, but they do it because it is important to them. If these people can travel the world so can you, and if you say otherwise, especially if you are American, then you have created your own doom.
There are many obstacles I overcame to get to the freedom I have now, but mostly they were obstacles I set up for myself. In following all the rules that were supposed to help me get to my end goal of traveling the world, I, in many ways, could not see the many different options available. I could only see the ones that fit within the system of socially acceptable pathways for travel such as set vacation times, study abroad programs, or working for oversees organizations. I could not see options like working for a year in your home country then taking a year off traveling, volunteering abroad so you can travel with free room and board, being a freelance writer online so you can go anywhere but still work, Couchsurfing for cheap travel and cultural exchange, or asking for a leave of absence so you still have a job to come back to.
I could not have broken away from the system of rules if not for the people who inspired me to do so by their own real life examples. I would say I first began to think outside the box when a friend, who was also a nurse, told the hospital she worked for that she wanted a leave of absence to travel for three months, and that they could either let her have it or she would quit. She was the first inspiration, but there were others. A Couchsurfer from the UK had also done something similar but in a different job and had been traveling for months in the USA.
Then I had a Couchsurfer live with me who totally turned my world upside down. I had broken up with my boyfriend, and I needed help with rent, so I put up an add in Couchsurfing for someone to pay to stay on my couch long term as a flat-mate. The girl who came broke every rule in the book. She had never been to college, but she was one of the most intelligent people I had met, choosing to learn through reading instead of paying for an education. She, unlike most people her age, was debt free. She would work and save for a year as a nanny then travel the world until her money ran out. She volunteered at a food shelter which often had too much food, so the shelter would give her the leftovers to take home to eat. She rarely had to pay for food herself. She loved to dance and would go out most nights, but she knew all the times when she could dance for free. If she went out with friends to a restaurant, she would not order anything, or if she did, it was tea or a small drink. When there was a free event in town, she would go. Her eyes were on the prize, traveling, and nothing was going to distract her, but she made sure to have affordable fun while waiting for the end reward. She was my biggest inspiration. Because of her I realized that any dream was possible. It was really only about how much you were willing to give up to fulfill it, and I discovered that I could give up a lot quite happily to find my freedom. Within a year of careful planning and positive thinking, I had my reward.
Written by Beth Ann Nyssen