The travel world is made up of hundreds of different types of people from everywhere. People travel. More than you probably think. And in more ways than you might have realized. Over the years I certainly have learned of creative ways people travel that I never even thought about!
This feature is a place for travelers of all types to share their story. How do you travel? What type of upbringing did you have? What led you to decide you’d like to have travel in your life? Do you come from a family of travelers or are you the first one to really break the mold? What drives you to get up and go to work so you can fund your travels?
Hearing people’s travel stories is one of my favorite things to do when I am on the road. No two people have the same background or the same travel style. And there are so many different ways people work and save for travel! If you would like to be featured and share YOUR STORY please send an email to: email@example.com. And with that, let’s meet this week featured traveler –
Hi, my name is: Lucas. I TRAVEL. This is my story.
Please introduce yourself. Where are you from and where did you grow up?
- I’m Lucas, 36, from Vienna, Austria. Vienna is where I was born and raised, and the place I’ve spent almost all my life so far save for a semester of foreign student exchange in the mid-western US as a teenager. Driven by a feeling of restlessness and the realization that the world simply is too big and interesting a place to spend all your life living immersed in your own culture and society, I recently decided to take a break from my career in air traffic control and moved to Singapore to pursue graduate studies and travel the wider region.
Do you come from a family of travelers? Summer vacations? No vacations?
- My dad has always been the traveler in the family. In his early 20ies, in the late 1950’s, he embarked on some hitchhiking trips across Europe which at the time were looked upon as a daring and almost unthinkable adventure by most of his peers. He also travelled with my mum after meeting her, but the travel bug never really caught on in her case. My mum is most content in the comfort of her home, reading a good book. We did go on frequent family vacations, but mostly to family-friendly destinations in the Greek islands or somewhere domestic.
When did you start traveling?
- I had taken a few short independent trips already at the time, but the first real traveling experience was had when I backpacked Australia for 5 weeks, aged 19. That’s when I got hooked and my thoughts started revolving around how and when I could go on my next trip. From there on out things just simply progressed along a certain trajectory, aided by my job as an air traffic controller which gave me unusually much freedom to travel for leisure as well as access to attractive airline ticket deals.
What is your travel style? Do you maximize all your vacation time from a job? Do you just quit jobs to travel? Are you able to work remotely? Are you a weekend warrior who maximizes their time?
- I almost always travel independently, with notable exceptions like the DPRK where independent traveling simply isn’t an option. I also almost always travel solo, sometimes linking up with one or the other of my friends from around the world along the way for a few days. Traveling alone gives me a sense of freedom which I usually enjoy and appreciate a lot. I also couchsurf a lot and have stayed with dozens of hosts in more than 50 countries. When at home I reciprocate for this kindness and have hosted already more than 100 travellers from 60+ nations.
- My traveling style is a mix of backpacking and flashpacking for the most part. It’s important to me being able to afford any activities I am interested in while on the road, without being limited by stringent budget constraints. I try to travel light, with a 45 liter backpack in cabin-size dimensions plus another 32l daypack if necessary. More often than not I also bring a camera bag with my Micro 4/3 Panasonic mirrorless camera + 1 zoom and 3 prime lenses. I sacrifice the marginally better image quality of cameras with larger image sensors for the convenience of more compact and lighter weight Micro 4/3 lenses, while still being able to take advantage of the artistic liberties a camera system with interchangeable lenses offers to a photographer.
- I have always maximized all the vacation time from my job. Wasting a single day not used for travelling amounts to sacrilege. I usually get 37 calendar days of vacation allowance annually but have often been able to get many more days than that, pooling work hours and/or trading in overtime. I can also do limited amounts of office work remotely.
- I have never quit my job to travel. Taking a one year break to live and study in Asia has been the closest I have done to quitting so far. My job will still be waiting for me after that year though, if I choose to go back to it.
How do you fund your travels?
- I am able to save a substantial amount of my income from my job which is more than enough to fund all my travels. I could afford to spend more than I actually spend on my travels, but the budget traveling lifestyle suits me and I find it delivers the best opportunities for meeting interesting and/or like-minded travelers. Spending lavishly on accommodation or comforts has never made sense to me. Rarely do I remember how comfortable or uncomfortable a place has been, whereas the people I have met and the experiences I have had along my way always edge themselves into my memory.
What has been one of your favorite travel experiences?
- It’s hard to pick any particular one. I generally love stumbling upon unexpected highlights, such as festivals I hadn’t expected to attend or random invitations from strangers. I’ve been spontaneously hosted by random people who approached me on the street and generously invited me in their homes to meet their families. Each and every time those experiences were more memorable and worthwhile to me than any of the typical sights the average tourists often goes after.
What is a next destination you are so excited to see?
- Being based in Singapore now presents me with many opportunities to explore Asia which I have always been most attracted to as a travel destination. Having arranged my studies in a way that I have 3-day weekends, I am planning to take advantage of Singapore’s excellent network of budget airlines and visit many new destinations as well as revisit some favorite old ones. On top of that I want to use the semester break and shorter holiday periods for longer trips. In the pipeline are specifically: South India, Papua and Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, several areas of Sumatra, southern Myanmar, Mongolia, and Western China.
What words of wisdom do you wish to share with other people who are wanting to include more travel in their lives?
- No wisdom, just the advice not to procrastinate and postpone. Traveling, like anything else in life, is a learning process. You can’t expect to get it right immediately. By getting it right I generally mean understanding your own preferences and having the confidence to follow your own path and interests, and not the ones of others who are mostly following the well beaten track. There is nothing wrong with that, but in my mind travelling should be more about your own interests and preferences than what guidebooks, trip advisor, or accounts of other travelers say. Learning, understanding, and finding one’s own path is ultimately the most satisfying experience. Give yourself the time to achieve that and you’ll likely find great satisfaction. Besides this, when on the road be approachable to people, as well as actively approach them. Just start a conversation. Usually it’s easy given the fact that you are sharing a certain moment at the time, even if it is a relatively mundane one perhaps. I’ve had some great experiences following random conversations with strangers. Some have become good friends.
Anything else you would like to add?
- Reading the above paragraphs and looking at the pictures I have shared about my journeys, you may assume I am an über-social extrovert, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am in fact an introvert (INTJ to be precise) who needs a healthy amount of alone time to be comfortable and recharge my personal batteries. Being a socially awkward teenager I sometimes daydreamed about how life would be like if I was the only living person in the world, so that’s telling you something. During the early years of my travels I mostly kept to myself while on the road, unconsciously acting in accordance with my personality type. Over the years it became more and more apparent to me that the most interesting and intriguing travel experiences were the result of people encounters. I have a lot of appreciation for beautiful scenery, nature, famous landmarks, and sometimes even run-of-the-mill tourist sights. In a nutshell, I like diversity. However, nothing out there is as inherently complex and multi-layered as human beings from diverse cultural and social backgrounds, conditioned by their living environments and personal histories. With this realization gradually dawning on me I started making a concerted effort of active interpersonal engagement, and the results of this growth process have been more rewarding, even life-changing, than most other activities I have engaged in. It has not only transformed my travels but reshaped my engagement with the world at large. Nowadays I often specifically seek out cultural festivals as well as places that have a “dark” history (e.g. sites of genocide, political imprisonment, battle grounds,…) as they showcase the brightest as well as the darkest aspects of human nature better than anything else.
You can see more of Lucas’s awesome and inspiring pictures on his flicker account: www.flickr.com/photos/lucaskt
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