Seth Barham Design
Minimal and effective design, inspired by culture.

Spartan Wanderer

Ramblings from the road, gear reviews, design trends, and whatever else happens to be on my mind.

A Beginner's Guide to Extended Travel

If some of you happen to be readers from my Sweden days, first of all you guys are the best and I can't believe you've stuck it out this long to hear me ramble and rant. Secondly, you might remember me talking about a new ebook that I was definitely going to release in 201x. Then the next year came, and I was still definitely going to finish it. You get the point. I learned that writing a book was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be and missed the minimalist blogger ebook fad. Well, fad or not, the book is finally finished after the title, goals, and content went through many different iterations. I'm happy it took this long. I don't need to write a 100-page book to tell you how to become a minimalist. Too many people have already done that. This book addresses the question I've gotten the most in my 6 years of world travel: How did you start?

This book is a compendium of what I have learned from traveling through 11 countries and living long-term in 4 of them. My main goal is to motivate and help anyone who has ever considered living abroad. A lot of the content is based on my experiences in China because I spent more than half of my time abroad there, so it could be especially helpful if you're considering moving there. However, most of the information is applicable to any destination. The book is out now on Amazon, so I thought I would do a post outlining what you can expect to find in each chapter. You can see for yourself if this is something that you'll get some use out of. Whether you decide to pick it up or not, I always appreciate you, my awesome readers!

Chapter 1: Everyone should travel...once


Whether you're a crunchy hippy seeking enlightenment in the mountains of Nepal or an adventurer ready to stick an ice axe into the mountains of Nepal, just about anyone can find a good reason to travel. In this chapter I discuss some of the many reasons that people decide to uproot themselves and get a taste of another culture. Because I am a cheese fiend at heart, I amalgamated these goals into the lovely little acronym of PEACE: personal growth, escapism, adventure, cultural exchange, and enlightenment. I believe that if everyone at least attempted to live abroad for a year, the world would be a better (and more peaceful) place. 

Chapter 2: Dipping your feet in


There are several possible inroads to your first adventure, and we discuss these options in the second chapter. It's a good idea to have some scaffolding around your first trip, as such a big change can be a little daunting. Some of these options include study abroad, volunteering, teaching English, work stays, and the Peace Corps. We'll talk about the nature and benefits of each. There are other options out there, but these are going to be the easiest for a first-timer to attempt. My personal ultimate goal was to become a digital nomad - living and working from anywhere I please. I'm finally in the process of achieving that goal, so I thought it was an appropriate way to close out the chapter.

Chapter 3: Dropping some weight


I said this isn't a minimalist book, but I've found this lifestyle choice to be so beneficial in my travels that I had to at least dedicate a chapter to it. It's also a topic that most of my readers identify strongly with, so you gotta toss out some red meat every now and then, right? Getting rid of material possessions that you don't use anymore is simply going to make traveling easier. If you don't believe me now, you will after moving through a series of international airports and lugging all of that stuff to your first hotel and beyond. But minimalism isn't just about stuff. It's about streamlining every aspect of your life, including your personal obligations and relationships. 

Chapter 4: Prepare yourself


"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." Lincoln's philosophy on preparedness can also be applied to travel. You can't be the next Anthony Bourdain drinking your way through the city and eating 2am street noodles without getting your visa and plane ticket first. Visas are not the most exciting thing to read about, but you're not going anywhere without one. I've used three different types so far and explain the process in detail. Next, we'll talk about something for which everyone's constantly searching for hacks in order to get the best deal: flights. In addition to these fundamentals, I also have some tips on the best method for changing currency and how to stay connected with SIMs.

Chapter 5: Being there


There's a lot of cognitive dissonance and fairy dust between the way we envisage a place we've never been to before in our minds and the reality of actually being there. Stepping out my apartment door for my first day in China was similar to that wall of heat that smacks you in the face when you open an oven door. We'll cover culture shock in detail, of course, but also how to see the authenticity of a country beyond the safe confines of capital cities, museums, and McDonalds. Travel is an adventure until one day, it's not. Learn how to keep yourself motivated when the inevitable stagnation starts to rear its ugly head. Never forget your travel goals even on your off days. 

Chapter 6: The problem of returning home


In my opinion, it's easier to prepare for visiting a completely new country than it is to prepare for returning home for the first time after a long period abroad. If culture shock is a slap across the face, then reverse culture shock is a merciless gut punch. It's a very strange feeling to return home completely changed and realize that your hometown didn't keep pace. For a while, it's like you've got restless leg syndrome, but in your brain. Some of the people that were there for you when you return might not be anymore, and the one's who are might not be able to comprehend your experience. Learn how to deal with readjustment, or make the decision to hop back on a plane for your next destination!

The best decision you've ever made...

No one travel experience is going to be the same, and everyone has different goals when they set out on the road. My intention is not to create a set of guidelines that I think everyone should follow, but to provide some advice for every step of the journey that I wish someone had given me. In reality, nothing can really prepare you for setting foot into a foreign land for the first time, unable to understand or read anything. To uproot yourself from everything you've every known is to purposefully make yourself uncomfortable, and through that you learn, grow, and begin to see things in a completely different way. Some years down the road, you'll realize it was the best decision you ever made.