A tragic guide to planning your next trip

With nary a week left until I head off on my next aimless adventure, I thought I’d put together some terrible advice to help you plan your next escape. Read, laugh, learn, and don’t sue me if any or all of the below advice gets you into trouble.

  1. Choose your destination based on how impressive it will seem to potential lovers

Basic psychology teaches us that deep-seated sexual motivations underpin almost all of our life decisions, and I’m not a-Freud to admit it. When applying this idea to travel – undoubtedly one of the most sex-driven pursuits known to humanity – it’s important to think long term. You need to cultivate an image that will make you seem interesting and attractive in the long run, even if you’re not getting any during your trip.

And that leads me to this earth-shatteringly profound mantra, which you should all memorise and thank me for later: “The destinations where you can get laid now won’t necessarily get you laid in the future.”

Think about it. You’re at a funky Melbourne laneway bar in the midst of some heavy flirting when the other person – a stranger whom you’d hitherto considered gorgeous and sophisticated – drops the line “Yeah nah I’ve just got back from Bali, it was grouse.” After a moment of shock, your face reflexively recoils into a horrified expression that translates quite accurately as “OMG STD!” Your sexual attraction to this person has instantly inverted, a state of affairs that can now only be cured by dangerous and expensive quantities of alcohol.

While it might be easy to get laid in Bali (and bring home a lifetime worth of chlamydia to remember it by), your cheap package holiday will, in the long run, only cheapen your package.

My approach (and yeah this totally works, of course, I get laid all the time, what of it? *cough*) is to play the long (LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG) game. Before I decide which destination to go to, I imagine myself back home, at a bar, saying to a girl: “That reminds me of the time I was wandering through the streets of [insert city here] during my trip to [insert country here]. It was magical.” If that destination is obscure enough make me seem interesting to the hypothetical girl without coming across as too much of a wanker, then it’s time to look for flights!

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Iran is a great destination for enjoying generous hospitality and coming up with travel stories to brag about later.
  1. Spend an unreasonable amount of time on SkyScanner

You didn’t come to the internet to book the first available flight. Oh no, you’re here to go all the way down the rabbit hole, burrowing through the fiery core of travel-induced anxiety and breaking out in the cool pastures of insanity on the other side.

Looking for a flight from Melbourne to Bangkok? Why not go via Vladivostok? You’ll save $32 for only 21 extra hours of transit time! Or you could buy a Vermin Airlines flight and pay with your Atrocity points – that’ll save you nearly $200, although you will have to forego all your food and luggage and clothing and you’ll have to donate a kidney to Richard Branson (he collects them).

The lesson here – and this is something I know but have steadfastly refused to apply to my own travels – is to fork out a bit more initially for decent flights with a decent airline. What you lose in airfares you’ll save in blood pressure pills and legal fees (for when you inevitably stab the Ryan Air flight attendant with one of those fake plastic knives).

If, like me, you still haven’t learnt your lesson when it comes to cheap flights, Google Maps can be your friend. Look at your cities near your destination on the map and check for bargain flights. For example, instead of flying direct to Almaty in Kazakhstan, why not head for nearby Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) and save yourself a few thousand tenge? From there it’s just a simple ride in a gypsy taxi, two hours in a minibus, a treacle-slow international border crossing, a substantial bribe and three more cramped minibus hours away. Budget travel has never been so convenient!

  1. Keep it infuriatingly vague

“So, what’s your plan? And when are you coming back?” These two questions are the bane of every long-term traveller’s existence, and you’re a terrible person for asking them. If you’ve had this conversation with your hippie backpacker friend, you’ll notice their eyes glazing over in an expression that says ‘lead me directly to a window so I can put my head through it’.

The correct answer to both these questions is “I DON’T KNOW, JUST FUCK OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE!” Unfortunately, screaming this in your great aunt’s face is considered inappropriate in polite society, so you’ll have to come up with a more tactful response. My advice in the lead-up to your next trip is to give such vague, meaningless answers to these questions that you’ll eventually annoy or confuse your interrogator into submission. Say something like:

“So at the moment I fly into x and will then head to y after z amount of days, or thereabouts. We’ll see. The plan is to play it by ear and see what happens. I’ll be coming back not before September 2017, but probably after the first blue moon of the 17-18 summer, give or take one or two 30-day months. Unless I get a job. Then we’ll see …”

The poor sod trying to politely inquire into your current state of mind will be so perplexed that they’ll abandon their line of questioning and change the topic to whatever horrendous thing interests them: tax legislation, throw rugs, their baby niece etc. Remember that as long as they are talking to you and not the other way round, you can drink, and that makes it all the more bearable …

  1. Embrace your inner tightarse

So, you might have spent more than you wanted to on your flights, but if you’re prepared to mooch off the generosity of those less fortunate than you while you’re away, you will save HEAPS of money.

Now, before you accuse me of being the worst person in the world on this evidence alone (and don’t worry, there’s plenty more where that came from), let me explain. In many non-Western cultures, hospitality is extremely important and the guest holds a revered position in the household. If you’re invited into a local’s home, not only are you not expected to pay for your accommodation or food, but it’s considered an insult to offer money to your host.

I experienced this most strongly during my recent trip to Iran (refer to Point 1). Once a local had taken me in as their guest, it was impossible to slip even the smallest note into a communal bill at a restaurant or café. At the time I was running low on cash, so was happy to let the generous Iranian people keep me sheltered and well-fed, returning the favour with whatever appropriate gifts I could find at local markets. IT WAS AMAZING.

On a serious note (potentially the only one I’ll strike in this post), we could all learn a lot from the attitude of people in Iran (and many other often-stigmatised countries in the region) toward their guests. Without the hospitality and support of strangers on the road, my years of travelling would’ve been harsher, darker and much lonelier.

It’s also important to realise that hospitality is a two-way exchange. As a foreign guest you might not be paying your way financially, but the joy you can bring to people’s lives simply by sharing stories and breaking bread is immeasurable. Many of the people I’ve encountered during my travels had never met an Australian before, and the chance to connect with someone from a completely different culture on a human level is enlightening for both parties. That might seem like a ridiculous and self-important justification of an itinerant hippie lifestyle, but I genuinely believe it to be true.

The moral of the story is that you don’t necessarily need to save a fortune to travel, and, as long as you’re not being deliberately exploitative, you shouldn’t feel guilty about occasionally relying on the goodness of others to get by.

So, these are my travel tips for you. Go forth, be free and don’t blame me if it all turns to shit!

Love, peace and joy

TT

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