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Anatomy of Adventure

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Perhaps quality of life is not measured by how much money you can make, but by how little money you can spend.

I wrote this a week ago at the beginning of another travelogue entry. I thought it sounded pretty good . . .

So I wrote it again, to start off in a new direction:

In point, the less money  I spend, the more I need to live by my wits, trust my intuition, and BE in my life. To live on very little money requires a living strategy that is perpetually in the face of itself: spending little money takes a certain degree of wit.

I pity the man with an infinite amount of money, for I cannot see his life as being anything other than boring. To be able to buy everything that you need or want, is to live a life without struggle.

Without struggle, trials, and tests a man becomes pouched and fat in the mind.

Without conflict, there can be no story. I am sure that rich people have conflicts and struggles too, but who wants to hear about them?

I fear the day that I may become wealthy. What would I write about then?

I think of the times in my travels when I have come closest to being disspassioned, unaffected . . . bored, and I realize that each time this has happened I have had a good wad of  money in places that required very little.

Places where your livelihood consists of little more than walking into a store, passing cash over a table, taking away a bag of goods, and tossing your receipt in the trash on the way out often carries the threat of becoming under stimulating — no matter how interesting the surroundings are.

Months and months of traveling on end — buying my way around the planet — always tends to leave me feeling slightly useless, like a bike sprocket without a chain: I just keep spinning on without any effect or consequence.

For some odd reason, of which provenience I have not yet been able to ascertain, travel becomes all the more worthwhile if it is a challenge. The root word of travel is travail, and to travail is one of the most enjoyable parts of the Open Road.

Motorcycle Bob likes to travel by riding like 10 thousand frigging miles on his bike in only a few day’s time. They call these rides Iron Butt competitions for a reason: you don’t sleep, you ride all day long for days on end, you never really get off your motorcycle. Why does Motorcycle Bob choose to ride a full thousand miles each day rather than traveling across countries at a more leisurely, common sense pace?

I have no idea. Perhaps it is because these Iron Butt rides are challenging: they require thought, deliberate living, attention to detail, endurance — they are exciting.

Read about Motorcyle Bob and the IBR to find out why

Give me rocky roads, flight delays, missed trains, hotels that are so expensive that I have to sleep outside, buses whose tickets break my bank to the point that I ride a bicycle, places that are off the map, no public transport, and times when I realize that if I want to travel, I need to work a little every day to supplement my survival.

Perhaps challenges, set backs, and road blocks should be welcomed, rather than averted?

Give me an easy road, and I will of course take it. Who wouldn’t. But the times in travel where I have been tested, pushed to the limits of my endurance, hungry, wet, annoyed, scared, attacked, too poor buy food, and worried are the ones that I remember the best.

When people ask me for a travel tale, very seldom do I recite a story about the beautiful vistas, the relaxing days on the beaches, the wild wine nights with new friends, and the places that I would recommend someone to travel to, rather, I tell them about being in a hard spot with a knife up to my throat in Santiago, attacked by undercover police officers in Uruguay, chased around a grocery store by not so undercover police officers in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, stood up at the border of Vietnam, standing on a Chinese highway for 5 hours trying in vain to hitch a ride, walking through the sewers of Calcutta, fighting a wind and rain storm in Hungry while trying to set up my tarp to sleep under.

When I talk of my travel memories — when I sit alone dreaming of the road I had already traveled — it is usually of the times when I travailed, rather than walked a smooth Path. At the end of the road, memories will be the only things a traveler has. And I know that at this point, these memories will be worth more than the largest bank statements, the most expensive houses, and the most precious jewels combined.

It is my impression that I am one of the richest men on earth, and as long as I continue making the same sorts of investments that I have for the past 10 years, I am sure the returns will keep coming.

When someone talks of making money, I talk of not spending money: you will become vastly richer that way.

Wealth and adventure are inversely proportional. The more money you spend the less likely you are to have any semblance of an adventure.

It is very difficult to have an adventure when your pockets are full of cash. I suppose a man in this state could afford to drink himself into adventure, but this is a trial that I have long grown weary of facing.

Even the blase act of scouring a town dry in search of the cheapest possible room is to add a degree of challenge — passion — into a day of traveling. I cannot imagine ever wanting to buy my way out of this modest adventure: when you stick your head into every old rotting nook of a city looking for a cheap place to crash, you live the place that much more.

Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand

I know the reason why I despise Khao San Road, or any other modern backpacker centrifuge. I hate these places because I cannot stand the looks on everyone’s faces in the streets. Young people from far away lands trying so hard to have fun that they just wear themselves out. And few people seem to be successful in their quest.

I hate Khao San road because of the desperation. Not a desperation for lack of money, but because of an excess of it. Kids from all over the world go to Thailand looking for adventure, but their pockets are too thick to allow for such. So adventure is forced through drinking excessively, spending lots of money in bars, and coming away with adventure stories that sound more like a drunken rabble than traveler’s tales.

Where is the adventure?

You cannot buy the exotic. Adventure comes at a price, and that price is not measured in dollars and cents, but in the lack there of.

Adventure and wealth are inversely proportional.

In any land, in any country, if you are striving day to day to earn your bread, if you are taking measures to conserve every last dime that you have, you will have an interesting time, meet people you would never dream of meeting, and come out with a story that is worth telling.

The Anatomy of Adventure.

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Filed under: Adventure, Economics, Save Money for Travel, Travel Economics

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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