In 2011, Lauren set off to spend a year travelling around the world. It only took her a few months to realise that going home wouldn’t be an option. She now works as a freelance travel writer and editor, and blogs about her travels at Never Ending Footsteps. She has now been travelling for three years, and had visited 45 countries across five continents.
Can you introduce yourself and your website to our readers and tell us a little bit more about travel ideas you are trying to convey through you website?
My name is Lauren and I’m a full-time traveller — I’ve been travelling the world for three years and counting. Never Ending Footsteps focuses on sharing how not to travel. I have terrible luck on the road and have had some pretty awful experiences — but I’m still travelling. I want to show that travel isn’t always incredible, and full of rainbows and waterfalls and meaningful experiences. Sometimes it can suck. And that’s what helps you to grow as a person. I want my readers to know that it’s okay to be frightened and it’s okay to freak out when bad things happen because it still happens to me, and I’ve been travelling for three years!
What are in your opinion the biggest myths and false beliefs that prevent people from letting themselves go to traveling?
That travel is unsafe and expensive. Neither are true. I’ve found travel to be extremely safe — I actually feel more safe on the road than I do in my hometown of London. Travel also doesn’t have to be expensive, either. One of my favourite places to visit is Chiang Mai, in Thailand. There, for $300 a month, I can rent a spacious apartment with air conditioning, fast Internet, a swimming pool and a gym, and a weekly cleaner, can rent a scooter for a month, and eat out for every single meal while taking a few day trips, too. For my first year of travel, I spent $12,000, which is far less then I used to spend living at home!
You define yourself also as a Student Travel Expert. We are sure you have lots to say on the subject of choosing budget destinations and having budget itineraries. What tips and tricks can you share with our readers, considering a great percentage of them are students/young travelers?
There are plenty of cheap destinations around the world you can visit, and deciding where to go can greatly affect your expenses. You can easily get by on $10 a day on Don Det, in Laos, but find yourself spending upwards of $150 in Oslo, Norway.
For cheap destinations, where you can expect to spend less than $25 a day, you’ll want to head for Southeast Asia, Southern Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East or parts of Central America. Slightly pricier destinations, of between $25 and $60 a day include Eastern Asia, and large amounts of Africa. Destinations to avoid include much of Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and the United States — you’ll pay more than $60 a day here.
To save money on accommodation, aim to stay in dorm rooms in hostels. Look into Couchsurfing, where you can stay with locals for free. WWOOFing provides you with free accommodation and food in exchange for working on organic farms, and Housesitting allows you to look after peoples’ homes and pets while they’re away for free.
Aim to eat street food as often as possible, rather than eating in restaurants, and cooking in a hostel will help save you money, too. Try to limit the amount of alcohol you drink as this will boost up your expenses. If you’re in a country where you can drink the tap water, reuse your water bottles rather than using new ones.
Try to travel overland as much as possible, rather than flying. Public transport is better than taking taxis, and hitchhiking will save you a lot of money.
As a student, take a look at picking up a International Student Identity Card that will give you access to lots of discounts on accommodation, transport, tours and much more. STA Travel offers student airfares, which are often cheaper than using budget airlines. There are also plenty of student travel discounts for companies like Greyhound or Interrail.
You traveled around Asia quite a bit and also lived there for a while, can you tell us a little bit more about biggest cultural misconceptions you had about Asia before exploring it better? And what are the cultural differences you found there that you wish we Europeans had?
I don’t think I really had any cultural misconceptions about Asia. I try not to do much research before arriving in a country, and try not to form an opinion until I’m actually there. When I first started travelling I know I felt a little disappointed when I arrived in a few places — I expected them to be a certain way and then when they weren’t it was a let down. Because of this, I try to arrive in a new country with an open mind and no preconceptions. I will say that I arrived in Asia worried that I wouldn’t like any of the food, and was very wrong about that!
There are so many cultural differences between Asian countries themselves, as well as European countries. For example, India is nothing like Japan, which is nothing like Cambodia, which is nothing like Iran — and the same goes for Europe. I’d feel like I was making huge generalisations if I were to try and summarise Asian culture and then compare it to European culture. The individual countries that make up the continents are so diverse!
You seem to aim to slowly but surely travel all seven continents. What is the continent you're most looking forward to visit and discover and why? In other words, share with us your travel bucket list for 2014?
I’m most excited about visiting Antarctica because it’s a place that few people ever get to visit. I want to go because it’s one of the most remote destinations on the planet, one that has been virtually untouched for many thousands of years. Also, penguins.
My bucket list for 2014 involves travelling to every single country in Central and South America. I’m most looking forward to visiting The Galapagos, Machu Picchu, the Bolivian Salt Flats, The Amazon Rainforest, Iguazu Falls, the Atacama Desert and, of course, Antarctica!