Meet Jason Shooster. He’s a curious, 24 year old musician with big dreams and a passion for exploring the unknown.
In December 2012 he packed his bags and waved goodbye to the US as he set off with a dream to travel and experience the world. It’s now been 17 months and in that time Jason has ventured through Israel, Jordan, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal with future plans to visit India, Dubai, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Turkey and South Africa before he heads home in September this year.
I suppose many of you are wondering how he has managed to travel to 14 countries consecutively without being stuck for $ or needing to go home in between. We were curious too, so we had a little chat with Jason to hear his story and gain some insight into the life of a young nomad.
“My parents named me Jason after the famed greek hero who explored far off lands in search of a golden fleece. My middle name, Ericson, was after Leif Ericson, the viking explorer who supposedly landed in Newfoundland, America, hundreds of years before Columbus. So, I guess I have always been keen on exploration. One of my heros is a man by the name of Heinrich Schliemann. He was a German Historian, Linguist, and Archaeologist who spoke upwards of 12 languages fluently. Through research and following his instinct, he found the ‘fabled’ city of Troy. Now, I know the probability of me accomplishing something as he did is next to nothing but there is a lot that I have learned from him. First, to follow my dreams. Second, languages are useful tools, especially from several different language trees. Lastly, diversity is important in a person. It’s better to have a general understanding of many different subjects than to be a master in only one.
Now I’m in Nepal.
Traveling on a Budget
It’s incredibly easy to travel on the cheap. In Asia, budget $8 a day and you’ll get by, $25 a day and you’ll live like royalty. In Nepal, one could easily get by on $6 a day. Also, picking up paid or volunteer work along the way is easier than you think.
My teaching experience
Teaching has always been a passion of mine. I majored in History and German and always dreamt of getting my phd and being a university professor. Hence, the reason I obtained a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate before I began traveling. With this certificate I was able to obtain a paid job as an English teacher. I taught in a private school in South Korea, where I stayed for 9 months. In this time I was able to experience a whole new country whilst saving money for future travels. Throughout my life I have also taught private music lessons which is really easy to do while traveling as you meet so many people. I recommend you give it a go.
My gigging experience
In Korea the live music scene is small but the people appreciate hearing western songs. I had a band called the Sojus named after the most popular rice liquor. We focused mainly on classic rocks tunes as well as Disney songs. Thailand was really a treat for music. Pai, in the northern mountains, was a melting hot pot of different talented musicians and I was so lucky to share my music with the people around me. In Laos, we were lucky enough to be booked at a beautiful little French inspired bar in downtown Luang Prabang. It was magical and because there was very little live entertainment elsewhere in the city it was always packed. Now I am in Nepal and within a small handful of days a friend and I got a gig twice a week at a place called Silk Road. Easy!
My volunteering experience
When I first visited Cambodia in September 2013 I was blown away by the amount of kids living on the streets. A friend at the hostel I was staying at said he heard about an orphanage nearby called Sok’s Orphanage. We decided to buy a few dozen books, candy, pencils, etc and hire a tuk tuk over. It was magical. We arrived and the kids ran up to us straight away and hugged us. There were other foreigners there too who explained to us that there was an orphanage and a school and we could volunteer for any amount of time. So, I pledged to come back. In March, I did exactly that and stayed at the orphanage for 11 days teaching, entertaining and just being there for the children. The Khmer staff were all so friendly and made me feel like I was part of the family. In return for my help they offered a bedroom in a nearby house and 3 great meals every day. It is a truly amazing volunteering program. Just google it (Sok’s Orphanage, Cambodia), email them and show up. No contract. 1 day – infinity.
As far as flights go, I have flown on 22 flights and have a remaining 10 or so. The best way to search cheap flights is to use Skyscanner and Airasia simultaneously, the latter rarely showing up on the Skyscanner app. All together I have spent around $1600 in flights (not including the free flights Birthright provides to and from Israel and the flight to Korea which the school paid for) and that brings me full circle back to the US. To give you an example of how cheap flights are with Airasia I flew direct one way from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur for $65. Using Skyscanner I bought a flight from Johannesburg to JFK New York for a mere $220.
What to Bring
As far as what to bring, I’ve seen all sorts of suggestions but the truth is you can quite literally show up to your flight with just a passport and buy EVERYTHING you need when you arrive.
I am using a North Face 36liter Casimir pack and this is what’s inside:
1 Tank Top
1 Bathing Suit
2 Pairs of Socks
1 Long Sleeve Shirt
2 Button up Shirts
1 Button up long sleeve
5 Pairs of Briefs
1 Pair of Waterproof North Face Hiking Boots (only necessary for Nepal)
1 Pair of Ecco Yucatan Sandals
1 Iphone 5 with charger (Apple chargers are universal so no need for converters)
1 Toothbrush w/a bottle of Toothpaste
Various Medicine- Charcoal pills, Diazepam, Tiger Balm, etc…
Along with my bag which weighs in at 10 pounds, I have a Baby Taylor Guitar and Soft Case. In the front pocket I leave my tuner, notebook, a mini portable speaker, and some picks.
I sent home a 20 pound package of suits and business attire for my job in Korea via sea cargo for only $13.
Inevitably you will run into some problems along the way. The most common are:
- Illness: Though common, I have yet to suffer from a stomach virus but I feel an impending Delhi Belly when I arrive in India.
- Language barriers: You may find yourself getting frustrated at the local English proficiency but the best thing to do is be patient with the people and don’t appear visibly upset because aggression does not get you anywhere.
- Visas/Stolen Passports/Run out of Passport pages: The only visa I got before I left was a South Korean work permit. I did run out of passport pages and had to visit the US Embassy in Bangkok to add more pages. It took only one hour and at the cost of $82 you get 48 more visa pages.
- Quit your job and just go! Flights can be found for next to nothing and staying long term in a place is the best way to save.
- Don’t rush anything. If you have 30 days in a country, pick 3-4 places to visit. You won’t experience the culture if you are constantly on the move.
- Moving around costs the most and even though bus/boat/train/plane tickets are cheap relative to the US, it all adds up.
- Nearly all prices are negotiable. Bargaining is fun and prices often end up at 1/4 the original quote. Be firm but pleasant and know how much you want to pay before hand.
- Eat all the time! And don’t be afraid to try local delicacies. They are tastier than they may look.
For more of Jason’s travel tips and to follow his journey around the world go to his blog: jasonshooster.com