The world, on $12 a day; My...


The world, on $12 a day; My favorite trip

In August 1987, my fiancee and I were at a point where we had enough money for a down payment on a house ... or an around-the-world journey.

At age 26, we figured we could always restart a career, buy a house or start a family. But, it gets mighty difficult to drop those things later in life to hike the Himalayas, bask on the beaches of Bali or ride camels with nomads through the Egyptian desert. So we simplified our lives to fit inside two backpacks, bought one-way tickets to Hong Kong and bid family and friends farewell.

Most vacations require that you travel as a tourist, spending lots of money to make sure everything goes just right during the precious two weeks you have before returning to the office. We, on the other hand, had all the time in the world and a determination to make our $10,000 last as long as possible.

We thought nothing of taking local bus transportation in search of a hotel - what better way to meet a local for a recommendation? We ate fabulous, healthful, home-cooked meals at sidewalk stalls on market day, rode on the rooftop of Nepali buses (what a view of the mountains!) and slept on the floor of a local tribal chief's house in northern Thailand (graciously turning down the offers of opium).

When the stock market crashed that October, IRAs were the furthest things from our minds. We heard the news while sipping an exotic cocktail as the sun set over Kuta Beach in Bali.

The best memories of all came from the people we were able to meet - both fellow travelers from around the globe and wonderful locals who showed a willingness to share their culture or offer assistance to those who could spend a bit more time than the typical bus tour allows. We still keep in touch with many of these people, and even arranged a 10-year reunion with some friends in Europe last year.

Our voyage lasted 15 months. We flew home from England, having made it around the world on less than $12 per day per person, including all travel expenses! Having learned the value of time, lived comfortably for so long with so few possessions and filled every day with rich experiences, we were jarred upon returning to the land where consumerism rules and many wake up on Monday already looking forward to the weekend.

Traveling around the world may not be for everyone. Yet, we have never met anyone who has done it and harbors a single regret. We have still managed to build successful careers, buy a house and raise two wonderful kids. Now we also have some tremendous stories to tell those children, hoping to fuel their interest in the world before settling down.

Richard Watts lives in Pasadena.

Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Bonnie Lowe, Catonsville

"When the invitation arrived, immediate plane reservations were made. A Lake Tahoe wedding in October was just what the doctor ordered. My husband and I set out for an outdoor, three-day celebration. ... The dry, chilly air, snow-capped mountains and beautiful, crystal- clear lake were a memorable setting ."

Galapagos Islands

Velva Grebe, Lutherville

"I've just returned from these enchanted isles. Spectacular scenery, fantastic birds and wildlife in profusion: sea lions, seals, iguanas, giant tortoises, undisturbed by and unafraid of tourists. Not a trip for the fainthearted - volcanic rock to climb and dinghies to board for each island visit. But wonderfully rewarding."

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Pub Date: 12/20/98

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