Here’s How This Aussie Uni Graduate Spent 6 Months Travelling The Americas On A Shoestring
The post-graduation overseas adventure has become a rite of passage for young Aussies before they enter the workforce (or while they're figure out what they want to do!)
So MTV Travel decided to zone in on a particular adventure that is #trending in 2017: The solo sojourn to the Americas.
Lloyd Wood is a 24-year-old Law and Business graduate from UTS who took off one week after his cap-and-gown photo op to experience everything North, Central and South America could offer in six months with a budget of AUD$15,000…for everything (flights, buses, insurance, vaccinations, etc.)
Uni students are often limited to travelling for six to eight weeks depending on study breaks so Lloyd took his newfound freedom and flew straight to LA, travel up the West Coast of the U.S. before jetting to Mexico City, Cancun, Cuba, continuing onto Panama in Central America, Colombia, stopping all the way through South America until finishing up in Buenos Aires six months later.
Luckily he filmed the whole thing, watch below:
During our interview the biggest thing that struck us would be the myth that travel is unaffordable. In fact, travel can actually be more cost effective than staying in Sydney.
"Splashing big on a night out in Sydney can probably last you a week or two overseas," Lloyd explained. “I genuinely believe I [spent] less money travelling than I would have if I stayed in Sydney and caught up with friends for brunch or after work beers each day. You could say it's a cost saving measure.”
Read our Q&A with Lloyd below...
How did you start planning your trip?
First step is to just get a map and look at the countries you want to visit. Once you see what they look like, how big they are, which countries they are neighbouring, etc. the scary unknowns begin to make sense. Put that map aside and start to research a handful of 'must do’s’ in each country. Plot these on the map, find a route (or general direction) that makes sense to you, and simply fill in the rest of the detail later on the road.
Two [highlights] were a trek over the Salkantay mountain pass in Peru en route to Machu Picchu, and a trip through the Bolivian salt flats in a Jeep, which passed many other amazing multi-coloured lagoons, mountains and geysers.
Why did you choose a solo adventure? Do you have any advice for others?
Travelling with others is very comfortable - you can look after each other, take a back seat on decisions and share stressful situations. But there can also be a lot of compromise. Travelling alone allows you to be more independent and forces you to put yourself out there, learn things the hard way and meet people you wouldn't otherwise meet.
Every solo traveller is in the same boat as you are and is looking to connect to share travel tips and stories on the road. You may learn of awesome places that weren't even on your radar. You may make lifelong friends. There's nothing to lose but everything to gain. I travelled with an American guy I met in Panama up to Peru and a French girl I met on the boat to Colombia all the way through to Argentina. I also met some Argentinians on a hike in Peru who hosted me for a few days when I visited them in Córdoba.
How did you cut costs?
You can cut costs everywhere - cheaper hostels, cheaper buses, cheaper tours, cheap local food, and haggling for every single thing you see (where appropriate). Ultimately you get what you pay for and sometimes a lower financial cost will come at a higher personal cost (comfort, safety, social opportunity).
There were days I spent less than $5 catching local buses, eating rice and meat from the local market and staying in a local hospedaje. Other times the travel fatigue could set in and I would spend the same on a single burger from the hostel restaurant. It's about finding the right balance so you can last the distance.
What surprised you?
The kindness of complete strangers everywhere. A lot of locals simply want to hear your story, and I had a few local bus fares paid for by villagers much worse off because I had mixed my currencies or run out of change. Whilst it's always important to keep your guard up for scams, it's also useful to be open-minded - a lot of locals love helping foreigners.
The language barrier is naturally the biggest challenge. Before arriving in Mexico I didn't speak a word of Spanish. However after a few chapters of an audiobook, some time on ‘Duolingo’ and a week of lessons in Guatemala, it was enough to get by for the rest of the trip.
What was the craziest moment?
There were a few crazy nights (after all, South America), but one particular night we were taken to a 'mountain' DJ trance event by some Argentinians living in Baños (Ecuador) and stayed there all night. However we needed to rush back to town with no sleep in the morning to start a full day of white water rafting we had already booked, which definitely kept us awake!
No, not really! Though I would note that from the outset I knew my travel pace would be quick, as I had an end location and a set time. This was a blessing and a curse. It meant I was committed to moving and seeing more countries but less in depth. For example, people I met in Mexico had the same plan as me but without a ticket home, though when I left Argentina in December they had only made it to Colombia. It depends what kind of trip you want.
I'm currently in a minivan between the Cambodian border town of Poipet and Bangkok as part of a quick trip through South East Asia. After arriving home I realised I had some extra time until my job in February so figured why not see some more of the world.