I recently met Brian of No Debt World Travel through Twitter (@brianepeters). While he’s not a NuNomad in the sense of maintaining his income while on the road, I was intrigued by his experience of a round the world trip without incurring any credit card debt. In addition, as an African American traveler, he has written about some of his unique experiences while on the road. Brian’s sense of humor and positive outlook is amazing. Enjoy!
Brian, I\’m intrigued by your blog, No Debt World Travel. Obviously, you began your adventure attempting to prove that you could travel around the world without going into debt. How long were you on the road, what did you see, and did you stay out of debt?
I stayed on the road for four months and covered 4 continents. Australia, South America and Antarctica will have to wait for the next trip. I visited
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Hong Kong, China
Cape Town, South Africa
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
London, United Kingdom
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
When I arrived back home, there were NO travel charges from the trip on any credit cards. Completely debt free! Currently planning the next trip!
I saw that you started your trip with savings. Did you travel entirely on this savings or did you derive some income while on the road? If so, what did you do to create income?
This was all done on savings. I realize now that if I wanted to stay longer in places there were plenty of opportunities to work locally by teaching English, working in hostels, or like many nomads do now, freelance over the Internet.
I realized that teaching English is huge overseas. So many want to learn because it provides more opportunities for better paying jobs.
What type of airline ticket did you purchase? Round the world or did you buy as you went? What have been the pros and cons of your ticket choice?
I bought a round the world ticket from Airtreks. I could have chosen a round the world ticket from one of the airline alliances or gone with an agent like Airtreks.
Airtreks goes for the cheapest possible price regardless of the airline and pieces them together into one round the world itinerary. The problem is potentially the airlines connecting are not in sync so tickets are not carried over as easily for the next flight.
An airline alliance (Sky Team, OneWorld or Star Alliance) are groups of airlines that have codeshare agreements, use connecting terminal space, etc. So for example, American Airlines and Japan Airlines are part of OneWorld. American would take me from New York to Los Angeles and then I could connect to Japan Airlines from Los Angeles to Tokyo, Japan. With an alliance the connections and reservation setup should be seamless and should make the trip much easier.
When I got to Europe I bought the tickets as I went, usually departing from the smaller Gatwick Airport outside London. I also used the EuroStar train from London to Paris. That was a very enjoyable ride and I highly recommend it. Just book early to get the best prices.
What did you find were the best ways to save money while traveling? What mistakes did you see others making in terms of money spent while on the road?
I stayed in hostels which I am a big advocate of. I stayed in Hawaii for $25US a night. Tokyo was $30US. Those were the highest prices I experienced the entire trip, except when I splurged at the Venetian in Macau for my birthday. Thailand was $13US a night. In Cambodia I was in a hotel, but it was $6US a night! SIX DOLLARS!
Hostels are far beyond what the movies portray them to be. You can get clean, centrally located hostels with great roommates. In fact the only problem I had was a loud snorer in a few rooms. Otherwise, everyone is there to enjoy themselves. I also saw families and older travelers, so hostels are not just for the straight out of school 21 year old. (If You are Nervous About Staying in Hostels..)
The biggest cost would be food. For those of us who don\’t want to live on Ramen noodles and candy bars, it can be tricky. I tried to pick hostels that had kitchens with functioning stoves and refrigerators. One of first things I did after getting settled was to find the nearest grocery store and buy some pasta, meat, etc. Take it back to the hostel and cook up something there for cents on the dollars and will last for a few meals. I did a lot of that in Tokyo and Rome. Cheap food was most plentiful in Thailand. No need to do that there.
You are the first African American nomad that I have interviewed. Knowing that race relations vary greatly from country to country would you say you had any unique travel experiences by virtue of being African American? Were there any particular places that you have found to be especially welcoming or unwelcoming because of race?
My experience has been great. I did not have any issues. Needless to say I stand out in a crowd in certain places overseas, and my uniqueness usually makes me the center of ?good? attention.
When I was at the Venetian in Macau, a group of Asian tourists stopped to take pictures with me for a solid 5 minutes. Not like I\’m not famous already (ok, maybe in my own mind) but I don\’t think they ever met an African of ANY descent before. Too bad we could not understand each other or else I would have found out where they are from. (Instant Celebrity)
In Cambodia I was invited to a wedding reception. I was the only non-Cambodian at the event. I got a couple of looks when I walked in, but by the time the music started and the drinks started flowing, I was a member of the family. Had a blast! (Cambodian “Invited” Wedding Crasher)
Also in Cambodia, once we got away from the city and into the countryside, you could tell people had never/rarely seen a Black person. Kids would stop and wave. I swear one girl’s jaw dropped and she pointed when she saw me. I never took it personally because I never felt the comments or reactions were malicious. They were just surprised to see me.
In Ethiopia women wanted to marry me ? within 10 minutes of meeting me. Ethiopia is a lovely country, nothing like the images of ?We Are The World? from the 80s, but poverty is still prevalent. A little bit of crazy, funny and sad all at the same time. (Who Loves Ya Baby? Apparently…Everyone)
Anywhere on the continent of Africa I get mistaken for South African, Ghanaian, Moroccan, Senegalese, basically name any country there
. While in Marrakesh, vendors called me ?Barack Obama? to get me to buy their goods or sit at their food stalls.
When walking through Marrakesh on foot the people would say, Welcome Marrakesh! So nice to have you here!? And they would honestly mean it.
The point: No matter your race, gender or nationality, go into any new situation with an open heart and mind and everything will be OK. Smiles and laughter are universal and the tools of any good traveler. Use them early and often.
If you were to start your adventure over again would you do anything differently?
I would not have waited so long. Even when I booked the ticket I would say I had an even amount of excitement and nervousness. Once I touched down in Hilo, HI all the nervousness dissipated. Not for any particular reason, but I committed myself to my trip and all the anxiety was gone.
I would really use Couchsurfing next time around. I love hostels because of the low prices and the great people you meet, but Couchsurfing would have been a whole new experience. Meeting a local up close and personal would have added a whole new dimension to the trip. That is as close to living there as you can possibly be.
Lastly I would try to find a volunteer opportunity. I tried to do some work in Cambodia, but there was not enough time to get things setup. As a Westerner when you travel you realize what you have, even if you think it is a little bit, could be more than someone could ever imagine to have. If I can I’d like to give something besides money.
All the little things I’ve learned about the trip and round the world travel I am releasing in a book this summer. Once you get out there you see it is not that difficult and I want to get that message out to people. So please visit No Debt World Travel to find out about that.