Guest Post: Shanti Free Bird’s Travel Tips
I was really excited when Marta found my blog and expressed interest in doing a guest post for me. She has tons of experience with travel, and I know most of you, like me, have wanderlust. I think you’re really going to enjoy what she has to say.
Meet Marta: I have an enormous need of exploring because I love to learn and experience different things. What I miss most when traveling are my parent’s dog named Ricky and cat named Ruca. I live a minimalist life but I adore to have a messy room full of stuff, especially vintage items I love dearly and collect. I’m the only girl in the family (among 7 boy cousins). I’m a Social Worker and my dream is to live and work in a Favela of Rio de Janeiro. I don’t watch TV, don’t use microwave and don’t own a smartphone, but I’m into technology (really). Nature is my religion. Music is pretty important in my life and besides heavy metal and hardcore I can listen anything. You can find me in a underground drum and bass party, watching a jazz concert or dancing samba. Depends on the spirit state of the moment. I avoid using youtube because I know I’m gonna spend 8 hours watching videos. But also wanna thank you youtube to teach me how to sew in the machine. I consider myself a strong person but I cry often. I cry when I watch a sad movie, when I see old couples holding hands in the street, when I watch Ricky and Ruca playing together.
Traveling is something that many people long to do. Bucket lists are full of places to visit and things to see and experience. As an experienced traveler, what’s something you would say to people who want to travel but feel they can’t because of either financial reasons or fear?
Usually those are the main reasons people prefer not to travel. When the reason has to do with money, people can find their daily budget but it all depends in the country you are visiting. If you have a low budget I’d tell you to forget Australia, Switzerland or New Zealand. There’re beautiful countries like Thailand, Mexico or Guatemala that you can spend only 10-15€ daily. Now, if you really want to go to Australia, for example, all you have to do is to set it as a priority in your year and save for that. When I went backpacking solo I thought about staying 2 months in India and ended up staying 7 months in Asia because it’s a cheap life! But also you gotta stay in hostels, cook your own food sometimes, stay with friends/relatives or use the couchsurfing community. If you want to know more about traveling on a budget read this and this.
When the reason is fear it’s harder because is all in your mind and only you can get over it. Usually people are afraid of getting out of their comfort zone, when is the best thing to do time to time, to appreciate more what you have, to exchange experiences, life stories, skills, information with people you meet along the way. Fear blocks you to do what you want, to be who you are. Just think: I hitch hiked from Portugal to Istanbul and back (go see in the map the distance), slept in gas stations and I’m still here, happy, answering these questions =) Also I believe in the law of attraction: if you have positive thoughts and a positive attitude towards life nothing bad can happen to you.
I think it’s great that you don’t have a standard 9-5 kind of job. From what I gather, you work as needed to support your love and passion for traveling. Do you recommend that everyone should experience this kind of lifestyle at some point?
Oh yes please! I don’t ask people to set it as a lifestyle like I did, or to hitch hike, it’s nice to travel a week just to come back full of energy and ready to carry your life in a happy way. Sometimes all we need is some fresh air and to see something new and different. Also I really like the idea of taking a Gap Year, asking for a year without salary at work and you can come back, working at the same place, one year later. This is a great way to travel the World: experience cultures and visit beautiful corners of our planet. Planet Earth is so huge, why stay in the same place?
In your travels, what are your favorite things you’ve experienced? Think: most beautiful accents, exceptional architecture, kindest people, delicious food, and strangest customs.
Wait just a minute I’m going to see my travel pictures to feel inspired. Ok, ok I’m back. I usually don’t read Travel Guides where they tell you best places to go, eat, sleep. I prefer to explore myself so I ended up many times in awkward, fun, beautiful situations. India is my favorite country, where you smell pee on the streets or incense and delicious curry meals, where you see much poverty and many millionaires, where everywhere you go there’s a party or a festival going on. It’s also very spiritual and beautiful. It was so much fun when I was in a Vietnamese karaoke, couldn’t sing a word. Not so fun was when we got in Prague and there wasn’t English directions in the train station, we felt so lost. Berlim, Istanbul, Lyon, Melbourne, Porto, Amesterdam, Marselle are cities I’d live for a year (I’m not a city person) because they are alternative, have historical buildings, many interesting events going on. Greece was the first country I’ve been that I didn’t miss Portuguese food (it’s also Mediterranean food though). I love the triangle hats in Laos and their greeting Sabadee is so cute. Also Laos old people and children are the most lovely creatures I’ve ever seen. In India there are arrangement weddings, in Morocco they pray everywhere, once the driver we were hitch hiking pulled over in the middle of nowhere, took his carpet and started praying. In Nepal they eat Dhal Bat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In India and Morocco they eat with their hands, sharing the food. In Laos and Vietname they eat with chop sticks just like China. We need a part 2, 3, 4 and 5 for this question!
What advice do you have to people who are interested in backpacking? Is there anything you wish you knew before you started?
I never wished such thing. I prefer to experiment myself but I do my homework before leaving. The best way to learn is to do it wrong. It’s extremely important to make research about the culture and especially of the religion of the countries you are visiting. In Muslim countries (besides Morocco, but still) females should cover their shoulders, legs and any skin since woman in these countries are all covered and men will stare at you and talk with you all the time. It’s also to show respect, don’t forget you are the one visiting so you have to adapt to their reality. (This advice goes to anyone who travels actually, not only backpackers.) Don’t bring too much weight, your back will thank you and you can always buy all you need in the way. It’s nice to have some gadgets like a lantern if you go to third world countries since electricity doesn’t work very well. Tourist areas are pretty expensive, sometimes you just have to walk 5 minutes and you will find some local restaurant half of the price. Have a photocopy of your passport and visa with you all the time so you can leave your passport in the hostel/hotel, this way less chances to lose it. A money belt is a safe way to carry all your very important belongings all the time (money, passport and debit/credit cards). If you lose your backpack at least you have your passport and money to go on. It’s a mess when you lose your passport!! It’s handy to have a map of the city you’re visiting; you can get it for free in bus/train stations or Tourism Offices. Try not to make any expectations so you fully enjoy your trip, instead of getting frustrated and disappointed.
I find it really interesting that you also have a love for social work. Would you elaborate on your experience(s) with homelessness?
When you work with society issues like a Social Worker does, it’s important to understand them and their real needs. Sleeping in gas stations and asking people for a ride made me feel like a homeless, the way people looked at me, some with pity faces. Once a guy opened his car window and gave me money when I was hitch hiking!! I felt miserable in Milan when I was asking people face to face for a ride for 2 hours or more and they were scared of me, looked at me like a dirty hippie. All of these situations made me a stronger person, to deal with deep situations and now I understand how is it to be on the homeless side, even for a short period of time. Now I feel more sensible and more conscious about homelessness, every time an homeless person ask for money I always offer food. I just can’t fake they aren’t there! Can you imagine how painful is it to not have a home, a job, family, friends? Can you imagine your life like that? We don’t know the reasons behind, but I guess no one deserves such unhappy life.
Do you think that traveling can be a creative endeavor?
No doubt! When I’m traveling I daydream about many ways to improve my life and also others lives. I have many many many ideas, so many that if I don’t write them right the way I will forget about them. I get different stimulus I see at people’s daily life and their culture; they are so inspiring! The way they dress, the way they talk, the way and what they eat, their smile, their handicraft items…
Thanks a lot Mary for this interview, it meant a lot for me! I was able to (re)think about my lifestyle and how happy I am for doing exactly what I like. Hope to inspire some other people to travel as well!
Don’t forget to check out Marta’s blog, Shanti Free Bird, and let her know that Mary sent you!