How to Go on Adventures Like Indiana Jones (Without Breaking The Bank)

Today, I head to Peru for 17 days of adventure.

I’ll be sand boarding in La Huacachina, camping on an island in the middle of Lake Titcaca, staying in an desert Oasis, and eventually hiking up a trail (still to be determined) to the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu.? If you’re curious, this is close to the itinerary we’ll be following.? I am NOT bringing my laptop, so I’ll be using my iPhone whenever in wifi range, hostel computers, and internet cafes for the occasional updates.

Things will be back to normal around here starting on November 15th.

Once I get home, it’s time to start planning my next adventure – In January, I plan on heading to Australia and New Zealand for an extended period of time, I’ll be visiting the Pacific Northwest in June for Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit, and then I’m off to Italy and Europe in late summer/early fall for who knows how long.

Since announcing my Epic Quest of Awesome, tons of fellow nerds have asked me how I’m able to afford all of these trips. After all, I just quit my job back in June and I’m certainly not rich.? Luckily, today is your lucky day, as I’ll show you exactly how I’m planning to travel the world without going broke.? In true nerd fitness fashion, I’ll be providing advice by drawing inspiration from one of the nerdiest action heroes ever:

Indiana Jones! Let’s do this.

Have a Goal

Indiana wanted to find the Holy Grail, or the Lost Ark of the Covenant, or alien heads (or whatever – I’ve chosen to block out Indy 4). He knew where he wanted to travel, and what he wanted to accomplish there.? I spent years saying “I’ve always wanted to travel” but never really planned out where, or what, or when.? That’s the reason I’ve never been outside of North America…until today!

Start by pick a place you’ve always wanted to go, and something you’ve always wanted to do. Set a date for when you want to go, and mark it down on a calendar, and then start planning!? It might be one year away, six months away, three months away, whatever…but pick SOMETHING and start working towards that.? Calculate the costs associated with the trip, and then start saving by putting aside a little bit each week.

To help keep your eyes on the prize, set your computer desktop background to a picture of the place you want to go.? If you can look past the obtrusive adds, Beach-Backgrounds.com is an amazing resource for free high-quality desktop photos if you’re looking to head someplace tropical or exotic.? If these don’t inspire you to go on adventures, nothing will!

Here are 50 photos that will inspire you to see the world as well (Thanks for the great post Corbett!)

Stop Buying Crap

This is the biggest thing I’ve changed about my life in the past six months.

I have hundreds of books and dvds that I never watch, I had an electric guitar and piano that went unused (until I sold them last month).? I used to eat out five times a week, and would rarely make my own lunch.? However, since quitting my job back in June, I’ve realized that I’d rather spend my hard earned money elsewhere, so I’ve stopped buying more stuff and started selling all of the useless stuff that I DO have.? When a staying an extra day in Peru will only cost me something like $30-40 (including food), it’s easier to say no to a night of bar hopping.

I’m taking this “have less stuff to worry about” to the extreme starting in December, as I’ll be moving out of my apartment, selling my car, and getting rid of pretty much anything else. Obviously this isn’t an option for many, but for a single 26 year-old with an online business, getting rid of my rent/internet/car payments will actually make it cheaper for me to travel for long periods of time than if I stayed here in the states and played it safe.? Even if you’re not moving or selling your car, you’ll be surprised what you can live without once you have a reason to save that money.

If you have a lot of crap to get rid of and don’t know where to begin, check out my buddy Baker’s e-book “Sell your Crap!” If you buy the deluxe version, you’ll get an exclusive video interview between Baker and me about minimalist workouts ??

Stop spending money on crap, and save it for experiences. I’m not rich, so I’ve stopped buying pretty much anything that’s unnecessary so I can spend it on things that will have a direct impact on my traveling happiness.

Use Credit Cards for EVERYTHING

This would have saved Indy a lot of money when flying all over the world.

Earlier this year, I picked up a copy of Chris Guillebeau’s Frequent Flyer Master ebook, and it opened my eyes to a world of travel hacking that I didn’t even know existed!? Since then, I’ve racked up about 325,000 airline miles.? How?? By signing up for the most lucrative credit card offers whenever they come around, paying off each card in full every month, spending enough by using my card for EVERYTHING to get the bonus, and then deciding to keep the card or cancel it after spending eleven months with it.

Here are my current totals:

  • American Airlines – 130,000 miles
  • British Airways – 105,000 miles
  • Delta Airlines – 30,000 miles
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Points – 43,000 points
  • American Express – 26,000 points

Here’s one of the BEST deals I’ve ever seen for a card (75,000 AA miles for only $1500 spent), but you have to act before October 31st (Sunday). I don’t get any sort of kickback for this by the way – this is just me passing on an amazing deal.? If? you sign up for any of these American Airlines Citi cards and spend $1,500 total in the next 6 months, you’ll get 75,000 American Airline miles – enough for a round-trip flight to Europe, three domestic round-trip flights, two round-trip flights to most of South America, and more.

In fact, if you can afford it, you can sign up for all three cards they offer (as long as you haven’t had them before and your credit is great) and you’ll earn 75,000 points per card.? That means if you can spend $4,500 in the next six months, you’ll can earn 225,000 points.

Now, credit cards can be an issue for LOTS of people, as they don’t know how to spend on them wisely. I don’t carry ANY credit card debt, and I make sure I pay off each card in full every month.? To hit my bonuses, I use my cards for EVERYTHING (pre-pay my car insurance to hit a bonus, buy all gas, groceries, etc. on cards, and more).

To answer your first question: look for cards that offer a free first year – after the year is up, you can decide if you want to keep it, cancel it, or ask the company to change it to a card without a yearly fee.? I keep a spreadsheet with all of my card’s info so I know what to cancel and when.

Yes your credit score might take a small hit if you keep canceling cards – it’s generally only a few points and will go back up after a few months, and it depends on how long you’ve had a credit history, how much total debt you carry, your reliability of payment, etc.? I’d recommend signing up for one of those free “credit score check” services for a few weeks to check your score, and then cancel it before they start to charge you.

My advice – keep a card for at least eleven months, contact them before you get charged the steep yearly fee, and let them know that you’d like to either cancel the card or be switched to a card with no yearly fee.? If you insist that you’d like to cancel, they might even try to keep you by offering more airline miles, another free year, or some other deal.? That decision will be up to you.

If the thought of canceling credit cards gives you anxiety, look into the Starwood Preferred Guest Card it has a low yearly fee, gives you a decent amount of points up front, and gives you a 25% bonus when transferring points to airlines!? So, instead of having to accrue 25,000 Delta points for a domestic flight, you can transfer 20,000 SPG points to Delta and they give you a free 5000 miles for making the transfer!? I have both a personal and business SPG card, and I’ll be keeping them.

I’m still not an travel hacking expert, so here are four resources that have proven incredibly valuable to me for finding deals. I check some of these daily to stay up to date on new cards, promotions, deals, cheap flights, etc.

  • Chris Guillebeau’s Frequent Flyer Master – more of an overview than step-by-step guide, this book opened my eyes and got me started down this path to travel hacking.? That’s an affiliate link so yes I’d get a kickback if you bought it….but I have no problem endorsing it as it’s shown me all kinds of cool stuff and paid for itself in about 5 minutes, including a tip that will get you $50 off any hotel reserved on Expedia, every time.
  • Frugal Travel Guy – where I get all of my info – which cards have new deals, what the best deals are, etc.? GREAT resource.
  • Flyer Talk – this community is ridiculous – loads of information, tons of people who all travel hack, and it’s free.? WARNING – you will spend hours and hours and hours here.? Just be sure to search for your question before asking it, as somebody probably already has.
  • View from the Wing – another great blog by a frequent flyer expert.

Redeem your miles wisely

My flight to Peru was only 32,500 miles round trip. If I had gone in November or December, it would have been something like 70,000 miles because it’s peak season down there in the Southern Hemisphere.

In order to get the best deals, you either need to be flexible with your travel (traveling on Tuesdays or Wednesdays tend to have the most luck), or you need to look for award tickets WAY in advance.? From what I’ve read and been told, award seats open up on flights around 330 days out.? From ninety to thirty days out, most of the award seats have been taken, so it’s tough to grab flights to certain places.? Then, about one month out, they open up more seats for award travel.

This is how I was able to book my trip to Peru only last week – it cost me an extra $30 fee for booking last minute, but it was worth the wait for me.? Obviously if you have a job that you can’t just up and leave for a few weeks, it’ll probably be best to book your award travel WAY in advance so you can get your ducks in a row at work as well.

Here’s how it works: you earn your award points with one airline, and then use those points to book with another airline.? Most of my miles are with American Airlines and British Airways (thank you 100,000 point Visa card offer!), but I’ll be using those points to fly on airlines like QANTAS and LAN.? How?? Each airline is part of an alliance, and will allow you to book on other airlines using your airline’s points!

Be smart, travel during non-peak seasons or days of the week, and travel internationally on better airlines using your local airline’s points.? Start by going to different websites and starting the booking process for specific flights to see how many points are required.

Travel frugally

I’m on a budget, so I won’t be living it up in 4-star hotels while in Peru. I’d rather spend my money on some decent meals, fun tours, and off-the-path adventures.? I’m sure I’ll end up in my share of bad hostels, on a crappy bus for a few hours, or in a place that isn’t amazing, and I’m okay with that.? I’ve made the decision to spend my money on experiences rather than luxury.? The way I see it, I can spend 100 bucks on a hotel one night, or 20 bucks on a hostel, $65 on a dune buggy and sand-boarding tour, and $15 on my meals for that day.

I imagine I’ll run into an insane number of hipsters on my cheap path, but I think I’ll survive ??

You can also check out resources like Couch Surfing if you’re looking to do it REALLY cheaply. I’ve never used the service myself, but my friends have and said it’s quite the adventure (both good and bad).

Use Connections

Generally speaking, people are nice and want to help out other people.? Indiana always knew somebody wherever he went to visit – somebody to help him out, show him around, fight alongside him in a crowded marketplace, etc.

When I announced my list of adventures I wanted to experience, I received a dozen emails from readers who wanted to help me out, either with finding me a place to stay or offering me up a couch.? I have places to crash all over New Zealand and Australia now!

What if you don’t have a blog? That’s fine, but it doesn’t mean you can’t start making some friends.? Hop on the Nerd Fitness message boards and let people know what you’re up to and where you want to go.? I bet somebody knows somebody who has a cousin that runs a shop/bar/house there.? Yes, there are risks involved with trusting people on the internet, but you’re smart (you’re reading this site, after all) so just be cautious and you’ll be fine.

Don’t buy all new stuff – borrow from others. This will be my first time out of North America, and my first time hiking in a while as well – did I go out and buy all new gear and an expensive backpack?? Hell no!? I asked my hiking friends if I could borrow a bag for two weeks, my videographer friend to borrow his HD Flip cam, and will be probably borrowing other things here and there along the way.? This way, I still get the experience, save a BUNCH of money, and don’t have to deal with more crap after I get home.

Save money wherever possible, and use it for your adventures instead.

Win-win-win.

Do your research

Indiana Jones always had books, and diaries, and knew exactly what he was chasing before traveling.? How many times did you hear him say “it’s just like it said in dad’s diary!” or something similar in The Last Crusade?? Once you decide where you’re going, start doing the research.? For me, I realized that we can hike to Machu Picchu for half the price if we wait until getting to Cusco before booking our guide.? Yeah, it’s certainly riskier if all of the slots fill up, but it could end up saving us a few hundred bucks as well – as a frugal traveler on a tight budget I’m willing to take a less-famous trail and still have a wonderful time.

There are guides and books for everything – you don’t have to go to a library like Indy or decipher codes in a library, you can just search on Google.? Find somebody that’s been there before you, did what you wanted to do, and ask them about it.? Find message boards of frequent travelers and find out how they traveled to that country, if they ran into issues with theft or whatever.? These are the people who will tell you about the best deals in town, the ones that aren’t advertised.

Start with Lonely Planet, World Nomads, and Rough Guides, and then go from there.? The aforementioned FlyerTalk boards will be a valuable resource as well.

Adjust accordingly, travel light

Indy traveled with his shoulder leather bag, a whip, and his hat. That’s about it.? He wasn’t lugging around tons of luggage, which allowed him to make random stops…like that stop in Pankot Palace with the chilled monkey brains, open heart surgeries, and awesome mine-cart roller coaster rides.? None of that would have been possible if he was lugging around three pieces of Samsonite luggage.? Okay, so maybe he had to jump out of a plane and he ended up at Pankot Palace, but you know what I mean.

Travel light – a few changes of clothes, a jacket, a book for reading, and maybe an iPod for when you’re bored.? I’ve consulted my buddy Karol Gajda’s packing guide for advice.? Because you’re traveling lightly, you can quickly adjust your travel plans on the fly without too much issue.? If you’re in one town and all the cheap rooms are booked, throw on your backpack and head to the next one!? Decisions can be made quickly, last minute changes and running to new train stops won’t be an issue because you won’t be carrying 75 pounds of luggage.

Here is what I’ve packed for Peru: 3 t-shirts, four pairs of underwear, a long sleeve shirt, jeans, shorts, a fleece, rain jacket, sneakers, flip flops, and my Vibram Five Fingers.? Obviously I’ll be gone for 17 days, 4 pairs of unwashed undies aren’t gonna cut it, so I’ll be doing laundry probably in each city to stay unsmelly.? Here’s another resource on how to clean clothes while traveling.

Have fun

You don’t have Nazi’s chasing you, you won’t get your heart ripped out (maybe by a girl, but that’s waaaaay different), and you don’t have to worry about falling into the mist because you couldn’t give up the Holy Grail. All you have to worry about is having fun.

The world is out there, adventure is waiting, and thanks to the internet and some credit card deals you can see it pretty damn cheaply.? If you can get rid of your financial ties before you leave, it will actually probably be cheaper for you to spend a few months traveling than it would for you to stay in the states!

We only get one shot at this thing called life, so make the most of it. Nerd Fitness is about leveling up your life. If there’s some place you’ve always wanted to go, or something you’ve always wanted to do, I want to help you get there. If you’re having trouble finding connections, or you have questions on travel hacking, shoot me an email (which I can answer once I get back from Peru) and I’ll help in any way possible.

The world is yours. Grab it.

So, where do you want to go?? And how can I help you get there?

-Steve

PS – as I said at the beginning, updates around here over the next 17 days are going to be pretty infrequent.? Make sure you’re following me on Twitter as small updates there will be much easier than full blog posts.?

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