Traveling has been a passion for me for almost a decade. Although I was quite outdoorsy as a child, the circumstances of life led me away from that path for a while, before it brought me back again when I was 26. When I did start traveling again, I got absolutely hooked, owing to how relaxing and simple it was. My worries, duties and responsibilities simply vanish, and instead my only true goal is to relax and have some fun.
When I was a kid, Israeli schools gave great import to what they called "knowledge of the country", and we traveled quite a lot. The basic skills of finding my way around, hiking and enjoying nature probably go back to those days at school. I'm not sure kids today get the same experience.
In 2012 I went on my first solo trip to the United States. As part of that trip, I took a two-week road trip through western US, in which I visited several national parks and other protected areas. It was such an incredible experience to me that since then, the road has basically been my second home. Along with many other countries, I have been going back to the US once a year, as I have decided to at least try visiting all the national parks in the lower 48 states.
Although I do travel with friends and find it quite enjoyable, when traveling for an extended period of time, I prefer to travel alone. You can live your entire life and hardly even know yourself, until you land yourself in some distant spot and see what happens.
On a usual solo trip, I make no concrete plans whatsoever. I have a general list of places I'd like to see, but apart from plane tickets and a car rental, I make no reservations ahead of time. That way, I am free to change course as I see fit (for example due to bad weather), and I "put myself out there", letting whatever happens happen. It's the best, weirdest, most impressive experiences that happen when you don't plan them.
On a normal travel day, when evening comes I still don't know where I'm going to spend the night. Sometimes I don't find a place to sleep, but more often than not I find not just a bed for the night, but also a cool place I never heard of before where I get to experience life as the locals do.
As for the practical details behind my travels, they are based on my own personal preferences, but are heavily influenced by Doug Dyment's website about light traveling. To sum it up:
- I do not check luggage. I carry only one bag that is small enough to be considered a carry-on by airlines. The bag will always be with me and will never be handled by airline workers or anything like that. Since 2010, this bag has been the MEI Voyageur. This is the bag I take with me no matter how long my trip is, be it three days or one month.
- I have a packing list that has all the possible items (including clothing, tools, toiletries, etc.) I can/should take with me when traveling, including quantities. These quantities will usually not change with trip duration. Three days or three months, the packing list is the same. Whenever I am about to travel, I will take this list, remove items that are not relevant for that particular trip (e.g. winter clothing if traveling in summer), and pack my bag, an activity that should not take more than a few minutes.
- I never pack anything that I can buy cheap when I arrive at my destination. For that reason, I almost never take any toiletries with me. I do laundry while traveling. Frequently. Usually at coin-operated laundromats, and if not available then by hand in the sink. That allows me to take a minimal amount of clothing. On my 2013 trip to the US, my bag had only two pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, two short sleeve shirts, one long sleeve shirt and one pair of travel pants, along with what I was wearing on myself when departing. Together with the tools, paperwork, books and tablet that I carried with me, and the bag itself, I was carrying only 6 kg on my back, quite less than the airline limit for carry-on bags, and much less than the limit for checked luggage.
- I do not carry a camera, I only take pictures with my smartphone. The pictures aren't as good, but I prefer not to take a camera for the simple reason that I do not travel for picture taking and I don't want to waste luggage weight/volume on a camera. I think people are so focused on picture taking while traveling that they forget to actually look, feel and enjoy the places they're in. Have you ever taken a look at pictures you had photographed while on vacation and couldn't even remember how it felt to be there? I blame that incessant picture taking.
Recommended Travel Websites
- OneBag.com - Doug Dyment's excellent travel website probably made me the traveler I am today. On the surface, this is a practical guide on how to travel with just one (relatively) small bag, but it is much more comprehensive than that, and I learned a lot from this amazing work.
- The Man In Seat 61 - I hate flying. It is easily one of the worst modes of transportation for a human being (not considering time of course). Mark Smith's content-loaded website goes to prove that one can travel around the world with a minimal (if any) dependency on flights, using large-distance trains and ferries instead. This is an extremely comprehensive and impressive work.
- Kayak - My favorite website for searching flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. They also have a great app for smartphones. In 2012 a flight I booked from Chicago to Las Vegas was cancelled right at the gate. By the time the airline representative at the check-in counter managed to grant me a refund, I was able to book a new flight with a different airline using the Kayak app in just a few minutes. I do, however, encourage comparing with other websites (as does Kayak, it'll actually automatically open competing websites for you with the same searches so you can easily compare).
- How to See the World: Art of Travel - This wonderful work by John Gregory is meant to be a practical guide on budget traveling, but it is even more so inspiring.