Around the World Through a Photographer’s Lens is a weekly feature from Award Wiinning travel photographer and writer, Dave Stamboulis. Every Monday afternoon you can find Dave’s work here at Vagobond. See the world through a photographer’s lens.
1) The Long Haired Yao are an ethnic minority in China’s Guilin region. The Yao women never cut their hair and welcome visitors to their village with a hair braiding ceremony
2) Not only do the Yao women not cut their hair, they pick up any stray hair that falls out and weave them into their manes
3) The village elder, enjoying telling the history of his life in a sleepy Yao village
4) The Yao women spend much of their free time weaving their colorful clothing and blankets for the cold winters
5) The lush rice terraces of Ping An village, home to the Yao of Guilin
6) The Yao grow elaborate rice fields and terraces for their survival
7) Yao village elder doing a welcome ceremony to honor guests
8) Old traditions die hard in China, granny and her buffalo
If you want to start looking for another way to travel and work for the man, there are options available for you. And many of them involve working for a man (or woman) that might just be very cool and good to you.
With so many people out of work, looking for work, or between jobs there are plenty of folks right now that have the greatest opportunity they will ever have to really live their lives and do something.
Maybe now is the right time to spend a few months or even years living and working overseas. In fact, living and working in another country is the best way to really learn about different cultures. You end up working with and living among people instead of just seeing them from a tour bus.
Most of these jobs won’t make you wealthy, they won’t pay enough to pay back your student loans, but they just might make your life feel fulfilling, make your soul sing, and give you a bigger and better world view.
It’s not easy to find work overseas, but you can do it and now might be the best time you will ever have to see what it’s really like to live in a foreign culture. World travel is calling…will you answer the phone?
Do you have any idea how many people half a billion are? That’s 500 million and that is the number of Chinese who are studying English right now. Most of them don’t have native speaking teachers but they want them. The same goes for Indonesia, Spain, Morocco, Germany, and just about every other non-English speaking country in the world.
What do you need? Usually you need at least a bachelors degree. For many companies that is enough and they will pay for your housing, visa, and even your flight to and from their countries. To get an idea of the jobs available have a look at ESLcafe.com. I’ve been doing this in Morocco for nearly a year and you can do it too. In fact, I just might do it again somewhere else in the near future. Teaching is a total joy.Find out more by clicking on the i to i icon below.
Those wanting to find service jobs can. If you want to go about things the legal way with a work permit and visa you should look into companies such as BUNAC (British Universities North America Club) and CIEE (just google them) which will assist for you for around $300 to work in Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Canada or Ireland. You can work in restaurants, pick fruit, or do just about anything your heart desires.
Of course if you want to do it the good old fashioned way, just get a one way ticket and take a kick ass resume with you. It’s not hard to find employers that will hire you illegally. Of course you probably can’t expect a great salary this way either.
And then there are the guiding jobs, cruise ship jobs, sales jobs, and airline jobs which don’t usually pay as well as sedentary jobs in your home country, but pay off with the chance to spend significant amounts of time in foreign climes.
So, if you want a job or you want to leave your country, don’t wait. Start looking now.
4. Don’t Read
To me, reading is an essential part of travel. As far as I’m concerned, if you are one of those people who ‘doesn’t like to read’ than you are one of those people who should stay home and not travel.
Don’t read anything about the country of place you are going to. That way you won’t understand the culture, the traditions, the history, the climate, or anything else. You will be able to have a completely one dimensional experience. If you should read, for example, about how it is rude to point the bottoms of your feet at someone in Thailand, then you’ll miss out on the ass kicking that results when the kick-boxer tells you to stop pointing your feet at him and you continue to do it. You wouldn’t want to miss that.
Or if you read, you might feel compelled to go fifteen kilometers out of your way on the way between Seattle, Washingon and Vancouver, British Columbia and visit the remote and gorgeous Scenic Hot Springs. Wouldn’t that suck?
Don’t read on your trip. Don’t discover that Mark Twain stayed in the same hotel you are visiting in Honolulu (The Moana Surfrider) or that the lovely looking picnic spot in Cebu, Philippines is where Lapu Lapu ate a famous explorer. Who needs to know details like that?
Don’t read when you are stuck at the airport. It’s much better to just sit and get angry at the workers or eat overpriced food. Don’t read at the beach because it’s much better to sit there wondering what to do now that you are done swimming.
Yes, if you don’t want to enjoy world travel, it is essential that you not read.
5) Don’t talk to anyone unless you have to
If you want to have horrible and meaningless travels, don’t talk to anyone unless you have to. Don’t talk to the man next to you on the airplane or bus, he might be a Chinese businessman who would invite you to visit his home and stay with his family.
Don’t talk to the guy who works at the hotel unless you need towels or directions. If he thinks “Hey, this is a nice person” he might actually tell you someplace that he doesn’t recommend to every other rude tourist. You might end up going to a tiny temple in Penang, Malaysia instead of going to the big one that has eighteen tourist buses outside it.
Don’t talk to people in the street. They might try to sell you something. They might want to practice English with you. They might want to share a bit of their culture or learn something about yours. Wow, wouldn’t it be a bummer if that Indonesian guy learned that the USA is not just like Bay Watch and Jerry Springer? Don’t talk to him.
If you want to NOT enjoy your travels, do not talk unless you need something.
6) Don’t learn any of the local language
Finally, if you want to be absolutely certain that you don’t enjoy your world travel, pretend your a British Colonist and refuse to speak the local language.
Don’t say Tarima Kasih in Indonesia, don’t ask where to get the gonggongcheecha in China, don’t say Yvet in Turkey, don’t show the grocer in Barcelona you can understand the uno, dos, tres, don’t speak French in Paris (I found Parisians to be very gracious about my bad French), don’t say shukran in Morocco, kapcun kap in Thailand, daijobu in Japan, bollacks in England, dude in California, wienerschnitzel in Germany, or Mahalo in Hawaii.
Speaking the language encourages people to learn about you, to teach about their culture, to make friends, to have relationships, to even fall in love. There is nothing miserable about any of that. So if you want to Not enjoy the world of travel…don’t speak the local language.
Got more tips about how to NOT enjoy world travel, why not leave a comment below or send your tips to me using the contact form.
I wrote this back in October of 2010 – but it’s still true today. In fact, in 2019 – it’s even easier. They call us digital nomads now! Funny how the world changes – when I started this blog – there was no such thing and few of us doing it – today – the world is crowded with digital nomadism. To update this a little – I hit a really good stretch with Vagobond for a while – selling links – then Google changed the pagerank algo and it dropped to nearly nothing. Same goes for adwords – it was good and then it became not so good.
Earning money while you are traveling the world isn’t as hard as you might think it is. Of course, making a lot of money…that’s quite a bit harder! I can’t say that I’ve mastered the art of making a lot of money whether I am on the road or stationary, but I have learned that no matter how bad the economy is, no matter how depressed a place I might live in, no matter where I am- I can find a way to make a few bucks. Definitely enough to get to somewhere else, take care of my wife and me, and hopefully to have some fun along the way.
Lots of travelers today are having good luck with affiliate marketing and blogging. I’ve been pretty successful at blogging in terms of people liking my writing and coming again and again to my blog, but I can’t say I’ve really had much luck with making money at it (but thanks for the anonymous donations Mom!). Same goes for affiliate marketing. As you might guess, this post has some affiliate links in it (not any more). It won’t cost you anything to use them if the programs look interesting to you, and it will throw a little extra my way if you sign up for them. There it is – full disclosure! (Of course if I were sneaky, I would probably be rich but honesty is a profit killer.)
Of, course, one way that I make money is by teaching language. As a Native English speaker, the world is clamoring at my door to offer me money for teaching others to speak English. I happen to be a very good teacher, so that helps. To get my teaching credential, I went through an online TEFL course. That and being a native gets you through the door and into most countries.
You might want to get more than just the certificate though and start learning how to teach too!
The sad part is how many teachers I meet who don’t know how to teach at all or who are just plain terrible teachers. It just goes to show, that even if you aren’t a good teacher, you can make money in foreign countries as a teacher. You just need to get your TEFL certificate.
Of course, I think the best way to make money while I am on the road is by writing. It’s amazing how many people don’t think they can write, but in fact, if you can talk, you can write! It’s as easy as that (presuming you know things like letters and spelling). You don’t have to have a dictionary vocabulary. You just need to be able to say things in a conversational tone. That’s the tone that works the best on the internet.
There are millions of outlets for writers if you take the time to look.It might be exactly what you are looking for to make some money while you are on the road.
What do you do to make money while you are traveling?
After I had climbed the heavenly mountain in Shangxi, I left from Tai Shan a changed man. Looking back, I can see that there was something different about me – before I had been lost, but now I was simply wandering. My next destination was to be Xi’an – I wanted to see the famous Terra Cotta Army. It was a long trip and midway through – I saw a white guy getting on the train. He was quite obviously another backpacker and so we smiled and nodded at one another, sat near each other and struck up a conversation. Where I had just come from climbing Tai Shan, he had just come from climbing Tian Shan (I think). In any event we’d just both climbed up separate holy mountains and had come from different directions to the same crossroads heading to Xi’an to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. We were instant best mates.
Johnny was English and I was American – he came from a wealthy life of privilege and I was a homeless guy – it didn’t matter. We were fellow backpackers on a steam train in China drinking cheap Chinese whiskey. In Xi’an we checked into a hostel and met two lovely English girls who also wanted to go see the Terra Cotta Army. We all went to get a meal in the cafe next door ‘Genghis Kane’s Cafe’ and met up with another English backpacker, Keith (who had just sold his house and was traveling around the world) and a burned out German English teacher named Sasha. We all set off as a group and seeing the organized tour groups all wearing similar hats or armbands, we decided to make fun of them by all buying identical yellow Chinese hats – moving forward we were the yellow hat gang.
I was glad to have the company as Xi’an was a tourist zoo even back in 2001. After the clean air and natural beauty of Shandong, it was a totally different environment. At the time, I remember thinking ‘This place feels evil and grey’. Even so, the company was very good and the terracotta warriors were astounding to behold.
From Xi’an, Sasha was going back to work at a school in Northern China where he claimed to be a virtual slave and the girls and Johnny were heading to Tibet. Keith and I were more interested in seeing the pandas in Chengdu and eating true Szechuen hot pot. We discussed taking a boat trip down the 7-rivers gorge to see it before it was flooded and would disappear forever – but for some reason didn’t. It’s a decision I regret (as was not goint to Tibet) but which at the time made sense because I didn’t want to run out of money and was trying to be careful with my planning.
From Chengdu, Keith and I were going to meet up with Johnny again in Kunming, get visas that would allow us to enter Laos from the land crossing, and then move onward to new adventures in a new country. Our designated meeting spot was an astoundingly cool hostel called ‘The Hump Over the Himalayas” where I made friends with a wide variety of Chinese, Israeli, European, and Australian backpackers, punk rockers, rappers, and more. I’ll save that for another flashback.
And, as you can see in this photo sequence (above) …by the time I reached Chengdu, I was no longer a homeless guy wandering around China – I’d more or less turned into a 20-something backpacker from the Pacific Northwest. Looking at the transition now – nearly twenty years later – it’s an astonishing transformation and I can’t help wondering what might have happened if I would have stayed in the USA and never gone to see the world.
One of the young artists I met in Beijing had told me that there was a legend that anyone who climbed the Great Wall of China would be a hero. I’d been planning on climbing it anyway – but that just made it better. After that I spent three days exploring Beijing but then I actually had something that I had come to China wanting to do…
I don’t remember how I heard about Tai Shan (Mt. Tai) but back when I had been freezing in my VW Van in Seattle’s winter – I had somehow got it into my head that I was going to go to China and climb the Sacred Taoist mountain, Tai Shan. And so I found a train and set out.
Shandong Province, where Mt. Tai and the city of Taishan are is Southeast of Beijing. Traditionally, the province is known for being the place where the Yellow River empties into the sea and as the birth place of Confucius. It is also famous for Tai Shan which is one of the ‘Great Five’ mountains of China – the others being Heng Shan, Song Shan, Heng Shan, and Hua Shan. Each of them represent a direction – Tai Shan is East.
Tai Shan is also the holiest. It was climbed by every emporor, Mao, Confucius and famous writers. The legend I was told was that if you climb Tai Shan, then you will live to be 101 years old. Over 6 million people per year go to the peak of Tai Shan, but the majority of them take cable cars. There were no cable cars when I visited – and I wouldn’t have taken one anyway. Tai Shan is sacred to Buddhists and Taoists both.
Over thousands of years the 4,630 foot peak (1545 meters) has been scaled so many times that today there are 6660 steps which lead to the summit. At the bottom there are temples in the village of Tianwei, where one should pay respects to the gods before beginning. I prayed with many older people at the Dai Temple.
My fellow pilgrims included many older people, and amazing group of nurses, an army officer with a lame foot on crutches, and many others. We were all there to climb Tai Shan. There was a comaraderie among us – I felt it even as I wondered how some of them would possibly make it to the top.
I had take the train to Taishan from Beijing. On board I met a young student who offered to let me stay at his house. I declined because I wanted to get an early start and had already figured out that if I were a guest, it probably involved some obligatory drinking. Instead, I had taken a hotel room for two nights so I would have a safe place to leave my rucksack. There was lodging available at the top of Taishan in the monastary, which I wish I had taken advantage of – but my plan was to make it a day trip.
The path up the mountain is not a wild path. Huge characters had been carved into the mountain at every turn. Each natural feature had been sculpted for thousands of years. I moved up the mountain quickly, but not as quickly as the vendors who carried heavy burdens even balanced on the ends of poles that rested on their shoulders. At each resting point, vendors were selling water, snacks, trinkets, souvenirs. At the midpoint, the Midway Gate to the Temple of Heaven, there was a veritable bazaar.
I was the only white person I saw that day. At that time, Americans were still a rarity in China and for many of the Chinese I encountered, I was the first white person they had ever seen. I heard the term ‘laowei’ many times and was greeted and smiled at by nearly everyone. When I reached the top, I rested before crossing under the Gate to Heaven. The Chinese who came after me all smiled, shook my hand, congratulated me, and I could tell they felt proud of me – I was their ‘laowei’ by virtue of the journey we had made together. Laowei means white ghost and was a term I heard used for me over and over again during my time in China.
On the top, I found what can only be described as a village. I ate noodles, I prayed in a Taoist temple, I drank a beer. After several hours, I was resting near the top of the stairs and watched with pride as the crippled Army soldier hobbled through the gate of the Temple of Heaven. We acknowledged our shared accomplishment with a smile and a salute.
The journey down was fast but more exhausting. I really wish I would have stayed on top – but there is no going backwards. At the bottom, I bought some trinkets as souvenirs from vendors selling old things – a belt of turtles carved of stone, a box made of bone, and three silver Chinese coins.
In the village, I ate a meal that I didn’t know the name of and drank a Tsingtao (also from the same province). I would live to be 101 and would become a hero. I was no longer feeling like a homeless guy from Seattle in China– I decided to cleam myself up a little. Something changed in me on that day and I’ve never been the same since. I am fully confident that I actually will live to be 101 years old. I have also carried a strange certainty that the crippled soldier and I will someday cross paths again.
Back in 2000, just when the dot-com crash was happening – I quit my job at a company called Tech Planet, bought a VW van for $150, moved out of my house, and decided to write a book about how to live without being a wage slave. Eventually, that book turned into Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagobond. The Portland Mercury wrote my favorite review of it in which they actually compared me to one of my literary heroes – Jack Keroac. All of that however, came later. By the end of 2000, I was growing increasingly tired of living in a van in Seattle rain and was looking at options of either driving south to Mexico or finding some other way to stay warm without being a wage slave. My brother, trying to explain why I should be grateful to live in the USA, said something like “You should see how people in China live…” which I took completely the wrong way. I decided to go to China. There was one problem – I was a homeless guy without any money…so I took my last $100 and went to one of the Native American casinos along I-5 – I knew I would win. I put my money in a slot machine and won closet to $1500. Next I bought a ticket to Beijing. Then I went back to the casino and won another $2000 on the same slot machine! That’s how my international travel started.
I parked my VW van in my mom’s backyard and then hitch hiked back to Seattle. My friends dropped me off. I went through customs and was on my way. There was a connecting flight in Vancouver, British Columbia. When we landed, I had to run through the Vancouver airport to make my flight – as I ran, I saw TV’s playing footage of the huge Nisqually earthquake that had hit Seattle Tacoma International Airport – the same airport I’d just left. These were early days in the internet – I didn’t have a smart phone (no one did) and I didn’t have a laptop or access to the web. It would be days before I found out the details of the quake because I would have to get to China, find an internet cafe or English language newspaper, and frankly, I had more pressing concerns. I hadn’t made any arrangements for where I would stay or what I would be doing in China.
I didn’t have any credit cards, hotel reservations, or anything else. I’d bought a Lonely Planet China Guidebook the day before in Seattle. Essentially, I was a scrungy 29-year-old homeless guy who arrived in the Beijing Airport without a clue. It was awesome. I had astounding culture shock. I had about $1500 in US currency – I changed $500 over to Chinese Yuan, figured out how to get on and pay for a bus and decided I would get off at the twelfth stop. No reason.
Very few Chinese seemed to speak English and I didn’t speak any Mandarin. I got off at the 12th stop and with the help of a friendly Chinese workman who spoke no English managed to figure out where I was using street signs and the Lonely Planet maps. There was a hotel nearby and I managed to find it, paid two nights rent, and locked myself in my room with the snacks I’d bought along the way. For two days I crammed Mandarin learning some basic phrases, directions, etc – I used the Lonely Planet to figure out what I wanted to do in China, and I slept off my jetlag.
When I emerged two days later, I was ready to climb the Great Wall of China, visit Tiannamen Square, and visit the Forbidden City. I had also located a fun sounding backpacker’s hostel and some internet cafes. I was ready for China. I had one month before my return flight to Seattle and my visa expiration date – but I already knew that I was going to burn that flight and stay in Asia for a while.
Tomorrow for Slideshow Saturday – I’ll share some of the pictures I took of those first days in China – climbing the wall at Badaling, the Forbidden City, and Tiannaman Square. These were film days – so I don’t have hundreds of shots – still, it’s fun to finally share them.