- Bank and ATM Fees for International Travel
- End of Perpetual Travel Conclusion
End of Perpetual Travel Conclusion
There is no way that people are going to stop traveling the world, I do no believe for a second that the perpetual travel will become an archaic apparition rearing its head only in history books: I know that the war against the backpacker cannot be won. World travel on slim budgets will continue regardless of whatever obstacles are thrown up in our way — no matter how many goons are blocking the road ahead we will find a way through.
Planet earth has never saw a day where there were not humans perpetually traveling its surface, and I am sure that, until the extinction of our species, it never will. Perpetual travel will live on, but travelers need to change their strategies for moving about the world in the 21st century.
In this series I previously wrote about drastic rises in visa fee prices, multi-country immigration zones and what this means for travel, high bank and ATM fees on international withdrawals, immigration exit fees, and hidden airline fees, and in this entry — the conclusion of this series — I will write about how I try to get around these ever encroaching obstacles.
I used the phrases “extermination of the backpacker” and “the end of perpetual travel” throughout this series as journalistic catchphrases to grab attention and shine light upon growing trends that are making the way of travel that has become widely known as backpacking more difficult and expensive. If these trends continue, then this form of travel may be pushed to the backburner as new ways of traveling rise to the top and new places open up to budget travelers.
By the term “backpacking” I mean a style of travel that consists of moving relatively quickly — most stops being for under a week — over long distances, through many countries, over a an extended period of time on very limited financial means. “Backpacking” also typically means staying in hostels, cheap hotels, riding public transport, and utilizing the existing tourism infrastructure of various countries.
It is my impression that this type of traveling will soon become less and less preeminent, and will become overly dominated by kids from wealthier families and young professionals on trips of increasingly shorter duration — tourism with backpacks. For the long term, scantly budgeted “backpacker” to continue traveling, a change of strategy is needed: to run through the world paying ever elevating visa costs, country exit fees, nightly rates for dorm beds or hotel rooms, and transportation expenses in rapid succession without a base from which to bring in income is to go broke real quick.
Travelers must change strategy to meet circumstances
The traveler must always be changing their strategy to meet changing circumstances. Any person who travels across large swaths of the globe knows this: you have to adapt your ways to meet local conditions, you don’t travel through Japan as you would Southeast Asia. The world is changing fast, and the circumstances that surround the traveler are now different than they were a decade ago. We need to tweak our methods, our travel strategies, to continue moving about the world cheaply and continuously.
“Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.” -Lao Zi
If I am always on the lookout for better ways to change my living strategies to meet changing circumstances then I know that I will have no problems with continuing my journey around the world. But if I hold strong to old strategies in the face of changing circumstance then I may as well pack it in and go home.
Examples of how to change travel strategies to meet changing travel circumstances
I have watched the prices of accommodation in Europe rise dramatically since my first incident of travel there in 2003 and my most recent run in 2008. In five years, the price of a dorm bed had sky rocketed — it is now not uncommon to find dorm beds going for $20 – $40+ throughout the continent. But even $20 per night for a dorm bed is far beyond my budget, so I had to change my travel strategy:
I hopped on a bicycle, slept in a tent in the countryside, bought food from supermarkets, and, in cities, I would work in hostels in exchange for a bed or trade webpages on Hobohideout.com for a free place to stay. In all, I found that traveling in even some expensive regions of Europe to cost just about the same (or even less) as traveling in South America, SE Asia, or just about anywhere in the world that I would travel with a more traditional strategy (i.e. taking buses, paying for rooms). By not being as much of a consumer in the tourism infrastructure of Europe I was able to keep the costs of travel low.
Rather than complaining about the costs of traveling in Europe, I changed my strategy and found that I could move about the continent cheaper than I could most other parts of the world.
Would this strategy work in other parts of the world? Perhaps. But many other regions of the world do not present the same financial pressures to the traveler as Europe, so other strategies can be followed. In point, unless on Skid Row, it is silly to risk personal safety sleeping outside in a country where a dorm bed can be had for under $5, the only reason to ride a bicycle when transport costs under one or two dollars per seat hour is for the enjoyment of doing so, and if a good meal can be had in a restaurant for $1.50 then why eat peanut butter and jelly and tuna fish sandwiches from supermarkets three times a day?
Change travel strategies to meet circumstances
To lower the drain that high visa costs and immigration exit fees have on your budget, all you need to do is travel slower and spend as much time in each country as possible. For countries with extremely high immigration costs: AVOID THEM. Plan your travels to find routes across the globe that will demand the least amount of money paid towards immigration fees. For example: I will not go to Bolivia because they charge me $135 to enter (X 3 for my family), but there are ways to easily avoid this country while traveling overland through South America. As far as Brazil goes, a tourist visa will cost me $160 for each member of my family, but these visas are good for ten years (though only for 90 days at a time). So when I decide to cough up the nearly $500 to enter Brazil I will do so at a time when I project that I will be in South America for a number of years, so as to maximize the amount of times I can take advantage of this visa and make it worth the expense.
To lower the costs of international ATM withdrawal fees, I would first recommend putting your money in a bank that absorbs and/ or refunds these charges (like I am told Charles Schwab does) and well as taking out as much money from each withdrawal as you can to lower the amount of times you pay these fees.
To make the most of multi-country immigration zones, my advice is to plan clever routes of travel through these regions that take in consideration exit strategies for visa runs. The Schengen Zone of Europe allows visitors with class A passports up to 90 days within any 180 day period — which means that you can still be in this region for six months a year. So if you put together a clever long term travel plan, it is still possible to travel Europe fully: just plan for spending 90 days in North Africa, 90 days in Turkey and the Middle East, 90 days in Ukraine and other non-Schengen Eastern European countries, 90 days in England and Ireland, in between three month bouts of travel in the Schengen Zone. To travel Europe, you just need to bounce in and out of the Schengen Zone every three months. As for the CA-4, well, visa runs are the rule: go to Belize, Mexico, or Costa Rica, stay for at least three days and then you can return freely and be awarded 90 fresh days for travel in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
To avoid being scammed and tricked with airline hidden fees and excessive baggage charges, I would say make sure to inquire about ALL fees and charges before buying a ticket — though this method is never fool proof. Ultimately, I am trying to fly less, travel slower, and to avoid the feeling of being a buggered hamster — the default position of an airline passenger who got railroaded with tricky fees. The bright side is that more and more air passengers are getting fed up with hidden airline fees and movements have begun to get legislation passed which demand that airlines present ALL charges up front before a passenger pays. Oversight of the airline industry is perhaps long overdue, as the trickery has grown out of control: buying airline tickets and flying in general has become a laughable experience:
You now even need to pay a fee to buy a ticket for some airlines.
End of perpetual travel conclusion
Changing travel strategy to meet changing circumstances is not always convenient, it is not always fun, and it can really piss you off sometimes. I know that it can be a real drag to have to leave Europe for 90 days twice a year if you really just want to make a home in Spain, I can tell you for a fact that you feel like a real self-deprived schmuck when you are sleeping outside, freezing in a storm just because you feel that $20 is far too much money to pay for a dorm bed, I know that it is often not fun working in hostels tending to spoilt rich kids when you really just want to be in the streets checking out the city you are staying in, and I surely know the feeling of just wanting to make a bee line across the globe but deciding that it is best to travel slow in order to conserve travel funds, but these sacrifices have become necessary in this age of travel.
In point, Europe is no longer full of $5 dorm beds, immigration fees have sky rocketed, visa runs are no longer as easy and quick to accomplish, ATMs and banks are taking the biggest cut they can get, and air travel is full of trickery and underhanded ways to take your money, but traveling the world continuously and cheaply is still possible: the backpacker cannot be exterminated. If evolutionary biology has taught us anything it is that species that cannot adapt to environmental changes are the ones most likely to go extinct — the cockroach has been around for 350 million years because it is able to change its living strategy to meet changing environmental circumstances. Modern travelers must be like the cockroach, they must look at the road ahead and come up with strategies — compromises — to pass through the gauntlet of money hounds and immigration restrictions as best as possible.
The traveler must always change their travel strategy to meet changing circumstances. This rule of travel is no different today that it ever was: travelers are like cockroaches, they will adapt and survive.