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Flying vs Other Means
Flying vs. Other Means
Okay, I'll admit the title of this subject is a little cryptic, but that's because the subject itself is a little cryptic. There are a million ways to get from point A to point B and most of them aren't nearly as expensive as flying. Of course they aren't are comfortable, safe or fast as flying either, but if you are a true traveler you should be broke as hell to really get the most out of it.
Sure you can always be part of what I like to call the Easy Jet Set and get a home base going in some country then take weekend trips on easy jet for, like 50$ a flight, but those trips are often short and there are very limited destination that these low cost airlines service. So basically you'll be seeing the same things as everyone else and you won't really get off the beaten path.
Those businesses that prey on tourists will see you coming a mile away and they'll put themselves in your path at every chance they get. This ensures that you'll get their version of wherever you are going, instead of your own version. Plus, if you take the Easy path you'll only meet other people who are also taking the easy path. Not too much fun. Sure it's fun to meet Australians, but seriously they're like locust, they travel in huge swarms devouring the scenery at every chance. Don't get me wrong though, Australians are probably the best travelers in the world.
Anyway, here are some other transportation options that will sure make your trip all that most rich and varied and will guarantee that you meet the locals and that all of your pictures aren't of airports.
Traveling by train is probably the next most convenient option compared to taking a plane. Sure a train cannot go under water (unless of course we are talking about the Eurostar).
Most countries in the world have some form of train system, but naturally trains in some countries are far more developed than others. For instance, the train system in Romania is in many ways better than the one in America. Sure the United States has really fast shinny trains that look great, but in terms of the price and the amount of the population that they actually serve America has a terrible trains system. Let's face it…America is a country that loves it's cars.
If you were traveling in Europe you will have little to no trouble getting anywhere you'd like to go on a trains. They depart all the time and the population uses them extensively. The cost of a train ticket will vary depending on where you are and where you are going. For instance, the trains in France are very expensive but they are also very nice and very fast. So if you are traveling in France you should be sure of where you are going because it is going to cost you a lot to get there.
The same can be said for England, but the country is much smaller with fewer high-speed trains so the risk is less.
Now, if you look at a country like India. You can get just about anywhere in the country almost for free, but your trip could take forever and it will not be comfortable…even the luxury cars are not quite up to the luxurious standard of the pampered American traveler.
Beside price and flexibility, trans are also a great way to travel if you are looking for a comprehensive social experience. When you sit down in a train the chances are there are going to be four or five strangers sitting opposite you. This is your captive audience for exchanging stories and cultural idiosyncrasies that that will ultimately enrich your entire trip. While many will ask you for an impromptu English lesson, it is small price to pay to learn more about where these folks are from. Plus you might even be able to wrangle a free place to stay for a couple nights. Hooray for trains!
This bus is kind of like the trains ugly little brother. Not nearly as fast or as comfortable or as social as a train, a bus can get you exactly where you want to go and it can do it very cheaply. Of course you cannot sleep on a bus (if you can you are very lucky) but the money you will save will be well worth it.
Of course buses can have their dangers. For instance, if you have ever taken a bus in South America you know the true meaning of fear. Narrow roads, bumpy rides and perilous mountain passes are just par for the course in South America's rugged terrain. You'll know you're in trouble when the folks on the bus make the hail signs of the cross when they arrive at a certain patch of road. This can be the case in many parts of the world. The worst, is when you look down the mountain slope and you see the mashed shell of a buss that had not made the turn successfully.
But, at the same time, many countries see their bus transportation system as something to celebrate. Turkey for instance, was a little late in the modernization process. It wasn't until Attaturk in the early 20th century that Turks embraced modernization to its fullest. By this time, trains were falling out of vogue and cars were picking up the steam.
The result is a Turkish bus system that believes it is a national airline service. The typical Turkish bus ride has several bus attendants (like flight attendants) who distribute fresh towels and bags of pistachio nuts to the passengers. They also calm down drunken passengers much like flight attendants.
In many ways renting or buying a car for your voyage is the absolute best way to see the country. You can get a car cheaper in most countries then you can in America and these vehicles will allow you to go anywhere whenever you want.
The major problem with cars is that in many dangerous countries you run the very real risk of having your car jacked by very dangerous people. This could leave you stranded and in a lot of trouble. Traveling in a car also leaves you vulnerable to getting lost and this could be just as dangerous and mat lead to the aforementioned car jacking.
Another security problem with a car involves crossing boarders. If you are a tourist trying to cross the boarder in a car you will very heavily scrutinized by boarder guards. The chances are they will toss your car looking for illegal substances and other smuggleables. While the chances of you actually being thrown in jail are very low, the chances of them exacting a bribe are very likely, so you should factor these costs into your projections.
Another big problem with traveling by car is that you will have to pay for gas. While gas is relatively cheap here in America, it can be as much as three times as much in other countries…especially in Western Europe where they have to import most of their fuel.
But this is not meant to scare you; if I had the chance I would travel by car every change I got.
I'm not talking cruise ships here. Those are for very sad people who have lost touch with reality so long ago they remind me of animals in a zoo. What I'm talking about are ships that can take you halfway around the world providing you do a little work along the way.
If you are really poor and you are really brave you can get a job on an ocean freighter and travel the seas and work at the same time. Usually these voyages take months and you should be aware that you'll be out to see for a long time. This can be fun as well as back breaking.
Then, when you get to your destination all you have to do is grab your bags, head out for some shore leave and just never come back. Sure you'll shiver the timbers of your bosses but I'm sure they're used to it. It's not like you are an indentured servant or anything.
Another way to travel by ship is the ubiquitous ferry. No matter where you go, ferries are almost always brutal. But brutal can be very fun. If you think that you can grab a cheap overnight ferry and not end up sleeping outside you're sadly mistaken. Most ferries do have indoor cabins but these are often too expensive for the average budget traveler.
In all likelihood you'll end up spending the night out on the deck with a bunch of your fellow poor people. Most people try to deal with this discomfort by getting hammered then passing out. This would be my suggestion.
Hitching is actually a lot safer than people think (depending on where you are of course) if you are in a place that tends to be rural you should have no problems flagging someone down and grabbing a lift from them. Usually they just want some company and a chance to learn English.
However, the major problem with hitching is that if something goes bad, it can go really bad. Also, if you are hoping to chip in for gas, be sure to press the issue if the person refuses. Most folks will see you as their guest and will be insulted if you make a big deal out of it.