An adventure is very different than a vacation. Where a vacation recharges you, an adventure exhausts you. It can be uncomfortable, raw, and definitely dangerous. That said, it may also be the most rewarding experience of your life. So with that in mind, here are some quick and dirty tips to help you sniff out adventure while traveling abroad.
1) Travel alone.
Baby or boyfriend, it’s all the same. They need to be napped, fed, or have their boo-boos kissed. I spent the last year traveling around the world collecting stories of the crazy and wild adventures I’ve been on, and the only gaping hole in my collection coincides with when I met up with three friends in Thailand. It was a month spent herding cats and completely uneventful, unless you count that time that Stephanie wanted to get double-teamed by a ladyboy. (Bankers, am I right?) The takeaway from this is that if you want spontaneity and all the opportunities that come with it, you need to be on your own schedule, and that means traveling alone. (Another lesson is that ladyboys are total divas. Just remember that when someone wants to bring two of them back to the hotel.)
2) Always book one-way tickets.
You never know what’s going to happen. Let’s say you wake up in a sleepy town in the Yucatan and meet a mysterious man that you are convinced is the real-life Tyler Durden. He even sells soap. Maybe he tells you about a mock execution that took place there a few years ago and you, being naive as fuck, forget which country you’re in and start asking around. Maybe the Lina drug cartel hears about a single male gringo poking around with questions about drugs and violence and decides to send you a message. Maybe you should run for your life. The point is, you never know when you’re going to want to leave, and change fees are expensive.
3) Travel Cheap.
Hotels should be a last resort. If you couch surf (couchsurfing.org), you’ll have an excellent landing pad with locals who will surprise you with their generosity and the introductions they make. Say you go to Beijing and your host can only offer you a blanket on the floor? That’s kind of rough, but maybe she takes you to a karaoke club where you sing Ariana Grande at a cute German girl, and the next day you and German girl both take a bus to a small town and scale a mountain for three hours. You make love, in the rain, on top of the Great Wall of China. Three days later in Shanghai, she teaches you the words “Ich liebe de.”
Or maybe you pay $150 a night for maid service and a mint on your pillow. If it’s a choice between the two, I suggest the former.
4) Say yes.
Traveling alone, traveling light, and have an open-ended itinerary, you’re going to start giving off a serious vibe for spontaneity and invitations will start rolling in. It could be as benign as spending Christmas with a British family out in the country, or as harebrained as a Marilyn-Monroe-impersonator-turned-music-executive who offers to fly you to Mexico for a rave on the beach, as long as you are willing to drive the Beamer and translate. Next thing you know,a year after fleeing the country, a photographer is publicly tagging photos of you in Quintana-Roo, smoking cigars and doing blow in Pablo Escobar’s underground swimming pool. The point is, nothing interesting is going to happen if you stick to what you think you “should” do.
Those are the four basic rules. If seems a little too risky for your taste, just remember that you signed up for adventure! So summon whatever testicular or ovarian fortitude you have squirreled away, and go for it.