In his late 20s, Andre Watson left everything behind and traveled the world for seven months. When he finally came home, his friends and coworkers had a million questions: “How did he save up so much money? How did he decide where to go? How did he stay safe? Especially when he couldn’t speak the language?” So, he decided to write a book. A Weekend or The World, answers all the most common questions about traveling and many that aren’t so common.
From, how to pay for a year-long trip to how to use a squat toilet. Whether you want to stay in luxury resorts, backpack across Europe, or work in a foreign country for a year, you’ll find all the skills you need in this comprehensive guide. If your heart yearns to travel but you haven’t been sure where to begin? Start right here, with the weekend or the world.
This is the Author Hour Podcast, and I’m your host, Frank Garza. Today, I’m joined by Andre Watson, author of a brand-new book, A Weekend or The World: A Complete How-To Travel Guide.
Andre, welcome to the show.
Andre Watson: Hi Frank, happy to be here.
Frank Garza: To start, I just love to hear a little bit about your background and how that led to you writing this book.
Andre Watson: Yeah, you know, I get asked about background a lot when I get introduced like places like I’m working, like, new friends or even trying to pick up new hobbies and classes I’m in and stuff like that. I always have a very difficult time trying to explain my background because even from a very young age, I was just always very interested in everything and it was even a joke within the family.
It’s been a joke with my friends my whole life that I just get in everything I can dabble in and because of that, I ended up going to college and studying physics which is kind of the study of everything and ended up going into the video game industry after that, which also ends up kind of requiring knowing a little bit about everything because you’re trying to simulate typically walking through 3D environments of worlds and whatnot.
You can even see this in my hobbies too that I just do a little bit of everything. I’m surfing, I’m scuba diving, I am painting, I am riding a motorcycle, doing whatever. And kind of as I was doing a lot of these things, I kept thinking in myself in the back of my head, like, you know, I’ve always wanted to travel to all these different destinations and I just haven’t really done it and I’m not sure really what to do about that.
It was just about that time period where this is kind of running through my head that one of my roommates at the time was actually one of my college buddies just happened to come out in the living room and say, “Hey, you know, I’m going to move out, I‘m going to go travel around South America for a long time and you guys are going to, you know, need to find another roommate” or something and that really kind of jostled me loose in terms of what I was thinking in terms of my own travels.
I was like, “Wait a second, if somebody in my inner circle here just went out to go travel themselves like, why am I not doing this myself?” And so, finally ended up deciding to go out and go traveling on my own, traveled quite a bit over a couple of different longer trips where I left my job and came back. And what started to happen was, all these people started to come up to me that had been reading my blog, which I wasn’t trying to make my blog like worldwide known or anything, it was just for my friends and family and coworkers and stuff.
All these people started coming to me and asking, “Hey, I don’t understand. You’re in the same job that I am, I’ve known you forever, I know your situation, I know that you didn’t come from money or anything, like, I don’t get it. How did you do all this traveling and how have you been in all of these places? Am I doing something wrong? Am I missing out on something? I don’t understand how you knew where to go or how you got food in places where you don’t speak the language” and all these sorts of things.
All these details and it was so consistent that I kept getting these questions that I realized, I needed to start passing this knowledge back to other people. It wasn’t necessarily that they didn’t want to travel themselves, it was that they weren’t sure how to travel and that’s arguably kind of how I got started as well. I needed to see somebody else do it before I finally got the drive to figure out how to do the research and make it happen for my own purposes.
Once I started talking to people more about this, there is just a big knowledge gap, that’s all it really was, like, nothing about traveling is necessarily that hard or that difficult or that time-consuming. You just need to know the steps involved. So I started trying to mentor people, typically by having a few drinks and that was a terrible way of going about that process because typically as the night goes on, you start having more beers, the conversations starts wandering off into other areas and by the end of the night, you’re not even talking about the same thing anymore and the next day, the other person only remembers half of what you talked about.
So, that was when I really started to think like you know, I got to actually put this down on paper and I think I can help a lot more people than just my sort of friends and family and coworkers. I think everybody really wants to do this.
What Type of Explorer Are You?
Frank Garza: I read, as part of the book that you traveled to roughly 60 countries, across all seven continents and so before we get into the book, I’d love to just ask you about a few of your favorite memories. So could you pick out one place that really just blew you away and tell me about it?
Andre Watson: Yeah, you know, I love having this conversation with people, especially if they’ve traveled around a little bit more because you really see their personality come out in terms of the type of things that they’re trying to see while they travel and everybody’s a little bit different. Everybody has a different preference and some people really like seeing history, some people really like seeing ruins, some people are really into food.
So for me at least, my two favorite places have been Kyoto, Japan, and Antarctica and I guess sort of real brief for Antarctica, I just love the like, pristine, harsh, and unique environment down there. It’s just so interesting to see one area of the planet that’s still, for the most part, untouched by man but Kyoto was just this unbelievable destination to me and it still is.
Now that travel is finally starting to unlock again after pandemic here and everything, Kyoto’s actually on my list to go to for my fortieth birthday just because I’ve liked it so much being there in the past. And the reason why is because during World War II, we see a global worldwide conflict, we as the Americans specifically did not bomb Kyoto at all.
Because we knew it was so culturally important to the Japanese people that if we started bombing their cultural center, it was going to cause a unification on the Japanese side of the like, “We got to do something about the Americans, we cannot have this, they have destroyed our culture” and so, we left the city completely untouched.
You go through there now and the city is very interesting in the sense that it’s in a giant bowl, imagine like – I don’t want to say mountainous but like very tall hills that kind of have this huge depression between them and the whole city is kind of in this depression and so as you walk around the outskirts of the city, you’re up in these temples that are sort of like lodged into these hill and mountainsides, you can see over the entire city and it’s just crazy walking around.
On one block, you may have a brand-new modern tech office building and on the next block over, you have a thousand-year-old Buddhist temple. It just keeps alternating like that through the entire city and it just feels like every pocket of the city you walk into just has something new and something interesting and just doesn’t stop. I think I’ve spent almost three to four weeks there now and I still haven’t run out of things that I want to see and do there.
Frank Garza: Yeah, I’ve heard so many great things about that city. I’ve never been but on my list. So part one of your book, you talk about preplanning for a better trip and one thing I found interesting was you recommend determining your traveler archetype. Can you tell me why that’s important and give an example of one of the archetypes?
Andre Watson: Yeah, so I’ve noticed this almost everywhere I’ve traveled that there seem to be kind of this clumps of personalities that go traveling and sort of I – I guess the most obvious one when you hear it if you’ve seen these folks out and about are the gap year. I don’t want to say kids but the gap year travelers, they’re a little bit on the younger side, typically.
They’re either traveling right before or right after university and they’re trying to make the most of their time before they kind of go into the adult world as it is and as you can imagine, being either 18 or 22 or 23 or so, these folks love a good party, they love socializing, they love getting together and kind of doing the activities and the sights together. And that’s like a very distinct sort of behavior compared to let’s say, one of the other archetypes, which is like the pensioner.
Just somebody who has already worked their entire career, they’ve retired and they want to take that dream trip that they’ve been planning for almost their entire life and they just have a very different goal in mind, a kind of a different way of going about things because they’re probably typically traveling with a spouse or their family. Yeah, it’s just very different and so, one of the odd things or interesting things with the archetypes is they tend to be attracted to certain places around the world.
You find like really strong congregations of gap year travelers in Australia and New Zealand and South East Asia and certain parts of Central and South America and then like with your pensioners, you typically find a lot of them in Europe, so doing kind of more classical vacations from an American’s perspective.
At least for me, I guess, to point out like a specific type that’s maybe a little different, less obvious is actually my type, which is the explorer type, where I’m really trying to understand people and kind of how people evolve into where they’re at currently.
So it’s very interesting to me to go to places and see the different solutions that different cultures came up to do the same sorts of problems and that could be anything from even like which side of the road to drive on to how to till and plow a field or how to serve tea, there’s just so many different things that this kind of applies to you.
So for me, I’m trying to understand the different cultures and the histories that led to where they are currently and so I’m going to a lot of museums, going to a lot of art museums, going to a lot of historical sites, trying to get involved with the locals as much as I possibly can. Because of that, I end up going almost everywhere. There is sort of no restriction on where I want to go and I’m not necessarily bound by other travelers in my family.
So my motivation again is yet very different. I think that’s a key part of the planning phase there, exactly to your point and why it’s in the preplanning part of the trip or the book is you got to kind of think about who you want to be as a traveler and that will help you narrow down on where you want to go, which will then improve your trip and you’ll like it even more.
Frank Garza: Another section in part one is avoiding excuses that will cancel your trip. What are some common excuses you see people make?
Andre Watson: You know, the biggest one by far is, “I can’t save up enough money” and that has been very interesting to me here because I’ve heard that come from people who are making six-figure incomes and it’s like, “I think you’re overestimating how much it costs to travel” let alone how quickly and how much you can save.
I think just about anybody, no matter what your income is, if you’re willing to put some work into it, you can find some parts of your life where you can cut out some costs and depending on how much you’re willing to cut out of your travels and when I say cut out, I don’t mean necessarily like, you can’t do things but if you’re willing to skip a few art museums, if you’re willing to cook your own food, especially if you’re willing to stay in a tent, you can drive your cost down dramatically low when it comes to travel.
So, if you’re willing to put that bit of work in to budget and stay focused on that, you can travel for a pretty good amount of time and potentially, indefinitely if you’re willing to work on the road and that’s a goal of yours. So it’s a common excuse and I understand why it’s an excuse but the reality is, it shouldn’t hold you back.
Frank Garza: In part two, you talk about planning your trip and there’s a section on day-to-day time management and logistics, how do you kind of figure out what’s the right amount of time to spend somewhere and kind of setup that day-to-day time management?
Andre Watson: Yeah, for me, that’s kind of a tough question because being the explorer archetype, I want to see everything. I want to go everywhere, I want to do all the things there are to do but that puts me in a tough bind because I still am very money limited. So it is in my interest to move quickly because if I spend less days in accommodation, spend less meals, having to pay money for food, then that’s more money than I can put into another activity or another site or another museum or maybe add another country onto my trip.
So I admittedly play a little bit of a balancing act of trying to move quickly to see everything there sort of is like tick off all the sites and everything while I am in a location but not be moving so quick that it starts to feel like work and that can be a little bit of a balancing act and a lot of travelers get stuck in this that when you’re at home, it is hard to kind of realize this because you are doing a lot of the same things and day-to-day.
But when you are traveling, if every single day you’re relearning a city, you’re relearning where your room is, potentially relearning a language, trying to relearn where food is and powers involved and ATMs, this starts putting a lot of psychological stress on you. So even though you’re having fun and it’s travel, it can start to feel like work after a while and that is obviously not what you want.
I think everybody would agree that travel should be a fun thing especially if you are doing it on your own dime and for your own purposes. So there is kind of a tough balancing act to play there of how can you move to, at least for me, how can you move fast enough to conserve money but slow enough that you are enjoying what is going on around you and still able to see everything and that pace is going to be a little bit different for everybody.
Frank Garza: In part three, you talk about preparing for your trip and there’s a section on preparing your mobile devices to connect to the Internet and I was really excited to talk with you about this one because this is something I have struggled with when I go to a new country is figuring out how can I still use my phone, data on my phone for things like Google maps and just research and things of that nature without having to pay really big international fees. What kind of tips do you have for that?
Andre Watson: Yeah, you know this is kind of interesting because it is a uniquely American problem. In almost every other major geographical region that I’ve been to, most mobile service providers allow you to buy an unlocked phone right off the bat. You don’t have to get a carrier lock device. For whatever reason, that doesn’t really seem to be a thing so much in the United States.
So I am trying to remember when this was. I think it was early mid-2000s maybe late 2000s, there was I believe Supreme Court case that went through finally that said that the mobile carriers were not allowed to permanently lock the devices to their service and so because of that, most of the services enacted this policy that as long as you had your phone paid off and you had been on the provider for at least six months, they were to provide you with the code that you could input onto your phone to unlock it.
Once you’re unlocked from your carrier, then you could put whatever sim card you want into your phone and you can go to whatever country and plug that phone through their sim cards into whatever network they have there. You are at the airport or walking around or whatever, you can buy data only sims or just a regular sim card with data on it, you can plug that into your phone.
As of the last, I want to say about a year or two, there had been e-sims now, which is basically a QR code that you can scan into your phone to do the same thing and a lot of times you can leave your existing sim card in there so that when somebody sends you a text or whatever you will still get the message but yeah, you get around that problem real quick there and then yeah, you’ve got mobile data on the go.
Managing Trip Burnout
Frank Garza: Travel psychology, you talk about this in part four of your book, which is during your trip and you spend some time talking about taking time for yourself and burnout and moving at a normal pace, how do you recommend managing burnout on a trip?
Andre Watson: Yeah, for me at least I know I am moving pretty quickly and I have gotten a pretty good understanding of myself and kind of how I react at this point to starting to get to that burnout point. What I try to do because I am moving quickly is every couple of weeks, I will take a full day where I don’t do anything and I mean like I will literally just lay in my bed either watch TV or read or watch shows on my tablet or whatever.
I basically just won’t do anything. I may wash some clothes, I may repack a little bit just to kind of clean things up but I won’t do anything significant. And I think that sort of goes back to the psychological stress of the day-to-day again that when you are constantly switching everything up every day and having to do new places and new locations and figure this out and figure that out, it just really starts wearing you down.
So having that day to mentally recover where you are not doing anything and if you are inclined to go sit on the beach and there is one around, this could be a really good day to go do that. Just hang out, just do anything. Let your brain catch up with what’s going on and the longer you travel especially if you start getting past a couple of months, the more these days are going to need to be more frequent and potentially even longer.
So instead of just taking a day, you may need to take a couple of days. If you are gone for six months, you may need to take a whole week off and sort of what I found and I kind of elude to this sort of a next section like the coming back home part of the book, like you have done so much during your travels even if it is only a week or two long trip, it may take you months to mentally unpack what you just experienced and all the smells and flavors and people and things that you saw and experiences you have, we don’t live like that on a normal day to day basis.
So I don’t think it should be too surprising that when you pack in just 24 hours a day of stuff you did, it can take a little while to kind of process that and so yeah, at least even if you add in these days, even if you are gone for a year and you take a couple of weeks off or even take a month off during your travels to kind of move slower and let yourself kind of readjust, it may take you a year or two after you come back before you kind of fully process everything and fully realize like all the stuff you did and how it changed you.
How it changed your desires and how you grew as a person, it can take a while. So try to listen to yourself and how you’re reacting to things and if at any point you feel like you are slogging along a little bit, take a break. Just schedule a day in there to not do much and don’t worry about it. It’s normal.
Frank Garza: Yeah, I really like that you included an entire part about what to do after the trip and you have that section on reintegration but what are some other common struggles people have reintegrating after a trip like this?
Andre Watson: Yeah, you know it’s funny, when I was writing this book, I intentionally did not do any market research before I sat down to start writing it because I was so passionate about this and so many people have been asking me about it that I didn’t want to talk myself out of writing the book if I went onto Amazon and it turned out there is already a hit seller for this exact topic and so I wrote the book.
I got everything out and then I finally did my market research and much to my surprise, I ended up discovering that there basically are no books in this genre. Arguably, the only book that really did kind of the same thing as Rick Steves, Through the Back Door, just targeted a year up and the first edition came out in 1982 I believe. So it is obviously targeted a very different generation, targeted a very different time period when people weren’t walking around with mobile phones and Internet like they are now.
It is just a very different time period, even different geopolitical situation during that time period as well. Now, that being said, he’s updated it every year. But there just isn’t any information on this and what I was also surprised to find with the couple of resources there were was a lot of people didn’t talk about how to conduct yourself on the road. They didn’t talk about how to think about your trip in advance and what was most shocking to me was that they didn’t talk about coming home.
I think that is arguably one of the hardest parts of the trip especially if you are out for a very long time and potentially if you live in another country for a while because when you come back, you feel very lonely and I wonder to some extent if this is also a little bit of an American problem because a lot of Americans don’t travel internationally very much. I think with the millennials and gen Z, I am on the old end of the millennials, I think our passport numbers have gone up to 50%.
I remember hearing a lot when I was growing up that only 30% of Americans had a passport and because only 30% only have a passport, you can imagine even fewer have actually used their passport before and even fewer have really gone out to go travel before and so at least for me, I go out, I have this crazy amazing trip. I am doing all the stuff, I am gone for seven months. I visit 25 countries on four different continents.
I’m all over the place doing all the stuff and then I come back and it’s like I have no one to talk to about anything I just did and on top of that, I am now just back in my day-to-day grind again. And it’s a very disconcerting feeling to be completely on your own and up to your own devices and then all of a sudden, get thrown back into a situation where you are not the one sort of directing your own fate anymore.
That’s just really tough and I have seen it happen to a bunch of other travelers now who have finally gone out for the first time. They come back and it is just like, “I don’t know what to do.” I feel like I can’t have a conversation that I want to have with people and I have all these cool stories but I feel like a jerk if I’m just going off about like, “Oh, I was here and did this. I was here and did that.” It sounds like I am being super braggy and I don’t know what to do with that.
Unfortunately, this is sort of the harsh reality of the nature of this and maybe because it is an American thing, you just kind of accept that I guess and you got to look for other travelers is really the big tip there and I mean it’s been interesting even the course of writing this book like the people who have come across it and getting new people into the fold. The people who are travelers almost always immediately say like, “Hey, I’m a travel too” and we start talking about stuff and it’s great and I love it.
I love that this brings out the best in people and sort of overcomes these barriers and like people want to share the cool things that happen to them and hear the cool things that happened to you but that can be very tough that you don’t have those people in your life and you come back and you’re just bottling it all up and it’s like, “Okay babe, go back to working nine to five and keep your mouth shut.”
That could be very, very challenging but if you go through that, if that happens to you, know that you are not alone. Go find the other travelers, go find a meet-up group, they are out there, you just got to look for them.
Frank Garza: Well, writing a book is such a feat so congratulations on putting this out into the world. Before we wrap up, is there anything else about you or the book that you want to make sure our listeners know?
Andre Watson: Yeah, you know if there is sort of one main key takeaway and I talk about this a bunch in the book but a lot of people have a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt with traveling and that prevents them from taking that first step to actually making that happen. And there is sort of an unfortunate consequence of a lot of the general media at least in my lifetime as I’ve seen it that a lot of the news, a lot of the things you hear about parts of the world, it is very much highlighting our differences.
But the truth and this is what you’ll see when you are traveling is that for the most part, people are the same just about everywhere. We all want the same things, we want freedom, we want the ability to get educated and get a job. We want to be able to raise a family. We want to be around our friends and be able to move about unrestricted and those things are just universal human qualities.
So the scariness with the fear, uncertainty and doubt, it is arguably undeserved. It shouldn’t be there. Now, that is not to say that there aren’t places where you need to keep an eye out because you have a lot of money compared to some people and the places you might be going. So you become a target for scams but it is not really that bad and I have never once felt like I have been in danger.
I met a ton of single female travelers like traveling by themselves that have had no problems going all around the world and these are people of all income levels, of all education levels. If you think you can’t travel but you’ve had the inclination to do it, just pick up my book and start reading. There is nothing in there that is super complicated, there is nothing in there you can’t do.
My whole goal is just to take out all that fear, uncertainty and doubt before you even start traveling and just get you going and once you do it, you’ll realize you should have been doing it sooner and you’ll get everybody around you into doing it, which is even better. I hope everybody starts traveling. I know everybody does. I hope everybody does it because of this book.
Frank Garza: Well said. Andre, this has been such a pleasure. The book is called, A Weekend or The World: A Complete How-To Travel Guide. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you?
Andre Watson: You can find me at andrewatson.com, that’s where I keep my travel blog and I’ll be adding actually some more travel blogs that I haven’t put up yet to that, also extra travel information and just to reach out to me and say hi.
Frank Garza: Thank you, Andre.
Andre Watson: Thank you.