How to Travel The World With Almost No Money by Tomislav Perko (Transcript)

Tomislav Perko on How to Travel The World With Almost No Money at TEDxTUHH – Full Transcript


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Tomislav Perko

Hey guys, I am Tom from Croatia. In the last couple of years, the world has been my home. I traveled, I hitchhiked, cars, trucks, horses, motorcycle, boats. I drove in buses, trains, rickshaws. I worked all jobs, spent time with locals. I volunteered. I became a monk. Just kidding, I sailed across the Indian Ocean. I tried things that I never tried before. I have seen things that I will remember as long as I live. And all that with almost no money.

That’s pretty much it. Thank you very much. No, most of the people when they see this video they react with, wow! I wish I could travel like that. And the thing is most of us actually can.

Before I started traveling, as Andrew said, I was a stockbroker, working 9 to 5, had a lot of money. And then the crash came, 2008. I lost my job. I lost the money and I lost the meaning. At that time I discovered one website CouchSurfing. I don’t know how many of you guys heard about CouchSurfing.

Okay. How many of you haven’t heard about CouchSurfing? Okay. For you guys, it’s an Internet website that allows you to host travelers in your own home. And at the same time it allows you to stay in other people’s homes while traveling yourself.

When I was hosting people in my apartment, over 150 of them, by listening to their stories and seeing the spark in their eyes, my thought was, wow! I wish I could travel like that. But I was afraid. The world is a very dangerous place, at least according to the media, our education, our family, church and so on. I was afraid of leaving my comfort zone and going by myself into the unknown world.

And I was also afraid of not having any money. And then the people that I hosted in my apartment told me two amazing things. First of all, you don’t have to be brave to travel. You just have to have a little bit of courage to start to lead. And the other thing they told me is that you don’t have to be rich to travel.

Actually all expenses while you’re traveling fall into three major categories. First is transportation to get from point A to point B. The other thing is accommodation. And the last is everything else: food, drinks and so on. And they told me if you minimize those three expenses to some minimum, it can be actually cheaper to travel than live in your own city.

I listened to them. And for the next five years I’ve been traveling around the world with almost no money. And this is how I did.

First thing, I hitchhiked. Apart from being free, apart from being really fast, it allowed me one amazing thing to have an adventure between point A and point B. And how many of you guys have ever a hitchhike? Okay. Quite a lot. Well, what are you doing?

Okay. I’m going to play you a short video called hitchhiking guide. Just to tell you a few unwritten rules about hitchhiking and some of my experiences.

[Video: When it comes to hitchhiking, everything is about using common sense. First, to start, you have to get out of the city, villages or wherever you live.

Lesson number two, stick up your thumb. Hitchhiking lesson number 36, look distance, like save stuff and try to wear some lean clothes or whatever or hike behind your backpack. Lesson number 54, do not hitchhike during night. Don’t be grumpy. Lesson number 58, eye contact with the drivers. Don’t hitchhike alone. I have a friend that I hitchhike with. Lesson number 21, talk with the drivers when you are in the car because that’s the only way you can repay them – they would like to hear some interesting stories, if you have one. It’s not just listen to their story, that’s sometimes enough. Lesson number 9, fasten your seatbelts if you have one. Hitchhike lesson number 62, be always happy. You’re hitchhiking, it’s your choice. Be patient – but no matter how long you wait, the right driver will come. There are no rules actually. Just go out there and enjoy your life and challenge yourself. – Video concludes.]

Thank you. There are other alternatives to transportation. One of them is walking. You guys know what that is. How many of you – so you just take your backpack and hit the road. Another way is cycling. It’s not maybe completely free because you have to buy the bicycle and eventually fix it. But it’s much more cheaper than the conventional method of transportation. And the last one is actually working in exchange for transportation. I did this when I was sailing across the Indian Ocean from Australia to Africa. And I didn’t have to pay for the ride, I just needed to do some work on the boat like do some night watches, cooking and stuff like that.

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When it comes to accommodation, most of the time I use CouchSurfing. Because I had a lot of experience, I had a lot of these positive. references on the website and so on. And what I like about CouchSurfing the most is not only because it’s free, it allows you to have a different perspective of the destination. You’re not destined to stay in your hotel room or take the tours. You just hang out with your host. He takes you in places that you would probably never visit by yourself.

But also there are some other alternatives. One of them is camping. You have your tents, you can sleep almost anywhere you want. In the big cities I usually slept in parks, just have my sleeping bag and my mattress. And the last one when it comes to accommodation is volunteering. There are a lot of opportunities all around the world that offer you to work in exchange for accommodation, sometimes even food. So you get to sleep in beautiful rooms like this.

When it comes to all the other expenses, one of them is food. In rich cities, in rich countries I usually buy food in supermarkets which is the cheapest way and just eat on the street. You can also cook with your host which can be pretty, pretty unique experience to say the least. These are Germans actually. Sorry. But it was pretty delicious to say the least and one of the cheapest.

Another thing is dumpster diving. Maybe over 40% to 50% of the food that is being produced is being thrown away and a lot of people have a problem with that, so they go to supermarket bins after the closing hours and just take all the food that is not going to be sold day after.

And when it comes to drinks, booze, the usual try to avoid bars and restaurants and drink in parks. This is how you can travel really really cheap.

But one other thing when it comes to traveling is that you can earn money while you’re traveling. How to do that? I did a couple of times. One of them is busking, playing the guitar on the street. I’m not a musician. I know like probably four or five chords and four songs. So it’s like repeat all, you know like, people are passing by, so they’re like they don’t really know. But the most important thing is to have a story. I always had my small cartoon board which I wrote — actually somebody else wrote in a local language, where I’m from and what I’m doing there, what’s my story. And I think that’s what people donate a little bit of money, some sandwiches, sodas and so on. You won’t earn a lot of money by doing this but it can get you through the day.

One other way is to write. You can write a blog. Open up a Facebook page. After a while you can maybe write a book and so on. But what brought me largest amount of money is actually going to Australia. This is a job I worked in Australia. I call it professional traffic diverter. It’s a very hard job. As you can see, you tell people please go this way, not this way. I mean, if they’re blind. So for this I was getting paid $20 an hour. I’m sorry, I know you hate me and all that. Oh, well, plus I had food and accommodation included.

And actually one information this was on my round the world trip. It took me 13 days of working at this job to pay off eight months of traveling from Croatia through the entire Asia reaching Australia, 13 days of work in exchange for eight months of traveling.

So what have I learned on all these trips? Have I found the meaning of life and so on? That’s what my mom asked me, like oh, you know, we were really scared for all these years. But was it worth it? And my answer is always definitely yes. I have learned a lot of things. Most of them are just like some personal nature things, so I won’t be talking about that. But I also learned some general truths so to speak.

I learned not to trust media and all their horror stories. I learned that we should preserve our earth like it’s the only one we have and the only one with chocolate right? I learned to tear down my prejudices. That was probably one of the most important things. I’ve learned that all the people around the world, no matter how much we try to point out the differences between the cultures, races, religions and so on, we’re all actually basically the same.

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I have a small story, short story, about these prejudices that I encountered while I was traveling. When I was leaving Croatia and heading on my round the world trip, everybody was telling me, be careful. It’s very dangerous, you need to hitchhike, going to sleep in other peoples’ homes and stuff like that. In Croatia, it’s still okay to travel you know but as soon as you cross the border, enter into Serbia. You know what Serbians are like and be very very careful, somebody might kill you.

And I’m like okay, thank you for the warning and I cross the border, enter into Serbia amazing adventures, amazing people I met, people picking me up, taking me out, sleeping in their homes, really really amazing experiences. And I was leaving Serbia, heading to Bulgaria, I was driving with one driver and telling him that story like how Christians were warning me about Serbians. And he is like brother and that’s complete nonsense. Croatians and Serbians, we’re all brothers. But Bulgarians, when you cross the border, enter into Bulgaria, you know what Bulgarians are like, lot of gypsies, man, you know. Be very careful, somebody might kill you.

And enter Bulgaria, the same story all over again. Amazing experiences, people were just extremely friendly. And then I was driving with one truck driver going towards Turkey and I was telling him the same story like Croatians warning me about Serbian, Serbians about Bulgarians, and he is like brother, you know, that’s completely non-sense. Croatians, Serbians, Bulgarians, we’re all Balkan brothers. But Turkish people are like — you know what Turkish people are like, very dangerous, somebody might kill you. Turkish people warned me about Kurdish people, Kurdish people about Iranians, Iranians about Pakistanis, Pakistanis about Indians, Indians didn’t warn me about anyone, it’s like the last frontier or something, beats me. But yeah it wasn’t only a travel lesson but maybe a life lesson like not to trust all these horror stories people were telling me.

And one also interesting thing when you come back home like people are kind of afraid of leaving, because they don’t know what’s going to wait for them once they come back. There’s a big probability you will be a star when you come back. Everybody will buy you beers. Girls will be like, he’s been traveling. But after a while kind of gets boring like you’re tired of telling your own story. People are tired of listening to it, like this post-travelling depression kicks in.

And then you actually have three options. One of them is just settle down to your old lifestyle. You get – if you have still your friends, they’re still talking about the same things going to the same places. Maybe you can get your old job back. And after a while it’s okay, you feel safe, you’re living there. But can you even miss that guy who’s been traveling, who’s been having this intensity wherever he goes.

The second option is to take your backpack, say, I cannot live here and just head back to the road. And you have that intensity, you would meet amazing people, have adventures every single day. But after a while you will miss something, you will miss belonging to the story. Your friendships will be intense but they will be short lasting. Your relationships will last as long as your visa for a certain country. You will miss having a home.

And the third option is actually the balance of these two, so stay in one place but still don’t lose that intensity. Walk in the street you never walked before. Start talking with random people on the street. Get a new hobby, find a new job. Maybe write a book. Give a TEDx conference talk, like all sorts of things.

So is it everyone this type of traveling? I don’t think so. With all the amazing things that this kind of traveling can bring to you, there are also downside. It’s a big chance that you will be lonely, that you will be hungry, that you will be sick, that you will be homesick. But it all comes down to your gut feeling. If after all these ideas and all these knowledges, you still have that wow! I wish I could travel like this, then you should definitely do it. Then you should forget about your fears. Disregard the fact that you’re broke and just leave, head to the road. Because like that famous quote says, “in 20 years from now on, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the things you did do”.

Thank you very much.


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