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How traveling changed my life, and how it can change yours

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GUEST TRAVEL BLOG POST Nikole Souza

One of the most important things I’ve learned in my 21 short years of life is that travel enriches you. It changes your body, your mind, and your soul. I’m writing this piece while on an airplane ride from Venice, Italy to Paris, France, where I’ll be living for two months before returning to Venice to continue work until the beginning of December.

[pullquote]Traveling is way, way easier than everyone thinks it is.[/pullquote]

I’ve been to 20 countries, (21 if you count Hong Kong separately from China) with plans for at least six more before I return home in December. One thing that frustrates me about traveling is the way that it it perceived by people who do not often travel. I often hear “You’re so lucky, I’m jealous.” or “I wish I had that kind of money!” or “I could never afford to travel like you do”. Others assume that because I’m constantly on the go, I must have a ton of money or my parents must be paying for everything.

This is definitely not the case. Traveling is way, way easier than everyone thinks it is.

Let me tell my story: I went to England with two friends in October 2010 for one week and traveled around a bit, visiting friends we made by working at a summer camp together. Before that, I had not really traveled much, and I did not know I enjoyed it so much. Something about that week made me realize that traveling is what I am meant to do — learn, see, discover new places and new things.

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When I returned to San Francisco where I was pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Motion Pictures and Television (emphasis in Acting), I immediately changed my course to get an Associates Degree and starting researching ways I could travel. I did a quick Google search and found a program called “Semester at Sea”. It sounded pretty epic, so I looked into it. [pullquote]I was able to save up about $8,000 in just a few short months[/pullquote] The program allows you to take college courses while living on a reverted cruise ship and circumnavigating the globe, stopping in 12-14 countries along the way. It took me all of 30 minutes within discovering the site to apply and start thinking of ways to save money. At this point, I was already working two part-time jobs, one in sales and one in the service industry. I looked at the money I was making and the money I was spending and realized it would be really easy to save up money for the trip. I stopped going to see movies, instead getting Netflix and watching them for way cheaper. I stopped eating out and started cooking more. I cut back on my drinking and almost never actually went to a bar. I also got a third part time job and started really saving up.

Long story short, I was able to save up about $8,000 in just a few short months, and all it took was cutting back on unnecessary expenses and get an extra job. If you have interest in traveling, start saving now. If every day you buy a coffee, start brewing your own. That $2 a day becomes $14 a week, which is $728 per year. That’s about the cost of a roundtrip plane ticket to Europe.

Start writing down everything you purchase and it makes you aware of what you do not need, then the money starts really adding up! One expense I’ve almost completely done away with while traveling is hotels. No, I do not sleep in parks instead (although I have). I utilize couchsurfing.org, quite possibly the greatest social-interaction website to ever exist. The website is simple: You create an account and ask strangers if you can come stay with them in their country. Now, the immediate reaction to hearing this is that it’s not safe, you could wind up with a dangerous person! The website has ways to combat that, by way of references. When you stay with someone, you write a review of them and they write one of you, so when you’re checking out someone’s profile you can get a feel for what kind of person they are. I’ve surfed so far in Malta, England, South Africa, and Japan, but I will use the site every single time I travel.

[pullquote]The most common question: “So what are you going to do when you’re done traveling?”[/pullquote]

It’s not just about saving money either, it allows you to see a country from the point of view of a local, which I promise is much more rewarding than hopping on one of those tourist buses and then sleeping in a hotel. My host in London took me around the city by bicycle, and I saw places I wouldn’t have known about if I didn’t have a local showing me around. In Kobe, Japan my host took me to get Kobe beef burgers, to karaoke, and then to his university, where there was a massive fair and I got to participate in my first ever mosh pit. The alternative was to go visit temples. It’s not just an international website, either! You can use it next time you go almost anywhere in the States, the site is growing in number and there are hosts almost everywhere. I strongly urge you to at least give the website a fair chance, if anything it has helps restore my faith that people are inherently good… there’s just a few whackos.

Photo: Nikole Souza

I knew that after Semester at Sea I would want to keep traveling, so I thought about ways to travel while making money as well. Taking into account I have ample experience working with children, I started looking for a job as an au pair. Within about a month I had found an amazing family with an adorable child living in a town called Padova, Italy in the north, and shortly after that I had my flight booked. A lot of people thought I was kind of crazy and asked questions like “What if you don’t like the family?” and “How can you manage a whole year away from home!”. Well, simple. If I didn’t like them, I would find another family and go work for them. Life is too short to be miserable. And being away from home is way easier with the invention of Skype. I talk to my mom and dad in Dover a few times a week, I talk to my sister in San Francisco almost daily, and I keep in touch with friends from around the world (Including the guy I surfed with in Japan) a few times a month. After this nannying stint in Italy, I’ll be home for about one month before moving on to my next nannying job, which is in Canberra, Australia.

The most common question I think I get is “So what are you going to do when you’re done traveling?”. The truth is, I can’t even begin to imagine myself stopping traveling. There are literally thousands of opportunities all over the world to keep going, so why would I stop? There are so many new places to discover, new food to try, new people to meet… Sometimes the lifestyle can be a bit hectic, sometimes it gets frustrating, and sometimes I do get very homesick. But then I look out the window of the high-rise apartment I live in, or I look at the boy I watch over, or I go for a walk in my little town and discover something new, and I realize that my life is about as close to perfect and beautiful that it could possibly be, and I smile to myself because I have never been happier.

 

Nikole Souza
sikkinouza@gmail.com

My blog
sometimesIgoplaces.tumblr.com

 

 

 

 

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Nicole likes to travel and reports about her adventures on sometimesIgoplaces.tumblr.com.