For those of you who have been sticking with me since the beginning, you may recall my little "Choose Your Own Adventure" series from when I was planning my trip to France...for those of you just tuning in, I recommend giving it a read because that is where you will find the basics in Beginner's Traveling Tips. The series has I, II, III parts...(obv. you should click on the numbers to read them).
Great! So, you understand the basics in planning an adventure. However, there is a big difference between planning a week in Paris while wining and dining in gorgeous hotels, and heading to Europe with a map, a backpack, and a plan- ready to get down and dirty (I mean really, chances of showering are slim). There are not many people who would consider the second option fun- most folks want their traveling to be a vacation...relaxing, simple, full of pampering. I certainly enjoy my fair share of pampering, but when I think about travel I think of the culture and the people and how much I would prefer to just live off of cart-crepes and delicious rape-van-pizza. In addition, while this sort of "wing-it" traveling is rather loosely planned- it also takes a different kind of planning. The "where will you stay," "what will you eat," and "what will you pack," parts will need to be approached in a different way, as will your entire state of mind.
This journey can take anywhere from a week until..well..pretty much until you decide you are through. I recommend going for at least a month in order to get the full experience. I will be using my trip as the example throughout this series which will be a six month endeavor covering a helluva lot of territory.
Where do you intend to sleep? If you intend to stay in hostels and hotels for most of your adventure, your time frame will heavily depend on your budget. You will need to be sure that you have enough money to get to where you need to go, sleep where you need to sleep, and eat enough so that you don't become a walking skeleton (or a super-crab. I don't know about any of you, but I become meeeean when I'm hungry. Whiny, violent, mean. No one likes a crabby camper). If you think that these are your only options for sleeping, think again mon frere! There are many options.
1) yes, yes, hostels. Check out hostelworld.com for a listing of hostels in pretty much every country.
2) yes, yes, hotels (LAAAAME!) you know, expedia, orbitz, yada yada yada..can you tell that I don't approve of hotels for adventures such as these? BLAHHCK.
3) CouchSurfing.org - okay. CouchSurfing is an amazing website that brings travelers together in the most magical of ways. It consists of "surfers," "hosts," and people that understand that you need to do a bit of both. Basically, if you have a couch or spare room, you post about it on your page, and travelers coming to your area will request to stay with you during their journey. Usually they are only 2 or 3 days, but it could be longer. These people will have their own page, complete with references from other people they have stayed with or hosted- this is basically the list of their credentials. Obviously it is not very wise to let a stranger into your home, but couchsurfing makes it safe. On the other side, and the more relevant one in this case, you may search for hosts in the countries you are visiting and request to stay with them. They too have references left by surfers who have stayed with them. It is a great opportunity to meet other travelers, make friends, share your culture, and get a first hand glance into life in that location. I have never surfed, only hosted, but it has been incredible!
4) Planes, trains, and boats. A less reliable way to sleep is to arrange your transportation to occur at night. This way you can snooze on the trip to your next destination. Of course, if you are hiking the whole way, this is inefficient.
5) Camping. You have to be careful about this one...there is a lot of private property in the world- and most people don't like people squatting on their land. While there are some camp sites, they can tend to be more expensive than a hostel. While wilderness camping is an option- please, please, please do your research first.
6) WWOOFing. Amazing concept. Incredible opportunity. However, I will get into this later because I feel like it belongs in a different topic. In the meantime, feel free to check out wwoof.org
As you can see, there are many other options on where to count your sheep. Once you figure out where you want to sleep, you will be ready for the next step.