In the summer of 2011 I stepped off a plane in Brussels, Belgium. It was my first time in a foreign country (since apparently Puerto Rico doesn't count) and I was on my way to Liège for a semester abroad. I didn’t know anyone, except for the student who the school paired me with to pick me up from the train station. I still didn’t have an apartment to stay in. I was apprehensive, excited, and probably above all just wanted a beer.
The half year I stayed in Belgium was one of the best times of my life and it completely changed me. I became friends with people from all over the world. I was 23 years old and I had never left the country I was born in. All of a sudden I was hanging out with people from Brazil, Iran, Germany, Sweden, China, and many others. The first thing I noticed that surprised me was how we were all so similar. I expected us to have so many differences. Instead, I realized we were all college kids who enjoyed drinking with friends while playing Fuck The Dealer.
I had finite finances and my time in Belgium was drawing to a close. I had to make a decision: spend another six months in Belgium, or go backpacking around Europe. On the one hand, my French could’ve benefited from the extra time in Liège, but by this time I had already caught the travel bug. I decided to spend the rest of my time (and money) backpacking through Europe. I bought a plane ticket to Porto, Portugal to start my next adventure.
The rest of my stay in Europe was spent bouncing from hostel to hostel, from city to city. Every day I would wake up and ask myself what I wanted to do that day. Did I want to stay where I was? Did I want to go to a new place? If so, where? I asked other travelers where to go. Every day was an exercise of my complete freedom.
All good things must come to an end though, and after a handful of months my money was running short. Not liking the idea of being homeless with no money in Europe, I came back to the States. I got a job in Colorado and plotted a way to do it all again.
The Plan 2.0
I spent two and a half years in Colorado saving money with a single goal in mind: quit and travel the world. Now here I am, back in Missouri visiting family and friends, two weeks out from my next big trip.
The truth is that I don’t really know a whole lot about my next adventure. I know my start date (April 13th), and the first city I’m going to (Monterrey, Mexico). I know vaguely the direction I’m heading (south), but couldn’t tell you the specifics. In fact, I don’t know what the second city I visit will be. One of the most common questions I’ve been asked is:
“How long will you be gone?”
And my response is typically, “a long time.” I really don’t know! In Europe I went until my money ran out and I suppose I’ll do that again. The truth is that I have no intentions of (permanently) returning to the United States. I’m not saying that I won’t return–I’m just saying I currently have no plans of coming back.
The goal is to start in Mexico and go through every country in Central and South America. After South America, who knows! Maybe I’ll go to Asia, or maybe New Zealand or even Africa. Who knows, who cares? The world is my oyster.
Below are some frequently asked questions about my trip.
Are you going solo?
Yep! But I’ll meet a whole lot of people doing the same thing. The world is full of friendly folks.
Are you afraid?
Are you going to walk everywhere?
I’ll mainly use buses, but I’ve been kicking around the idea of buying a motorcycle in South America.
Will you be camping?
Not likely, or at least not very much. I’m not bringing camping gear. Plus, hostels are so cheap that it would be pointless. And lonely. As a solo traveler, I’ll need the community that hostels deliver to stay sane.
Are you going to X country? I heard it’s dangerous. What if you’re killed?
Man, that’d be a buzzkill. The world tends to be a safer place than the media makes it out to be though. Plus, people are killed all the time here in the United States. Murder rates in our big cities rival a lot of the countries that people are so afraid of. I don’t think anyone would bat an eye if I moved to St Louis, but it’s significantly more dangerous than Mexico. In fact, Mexico is really quite safe.
Are you going to be writing about your trip?
Why yes! And you’ve already stumbled upon the place I’ll be doing it. I hope to post regularly about my trip, where I’ve been, and any useful tips that can help out other aspiring travelers.
Penned on March 30, 2015 by Kevin Sweet.