I think it’s safe to say that the majority of travelers arrange every part of their vacation before they leave for the trip. They plan their hotels, they plan their transportation, they plan on visiting certain restaurants, they plan on visiting certain monuments, and they also have specific tours already preorganized. Is there anything wrong with this? Not necessarily. I think it’s a matter of personal preference.
Here’s a crazy question: Have you ever tried buying a plane ticket and simply landing in another country without any plan whatsoever? I have. In fact, that is generally how I have been traveling since 2016. It has been an interesting ordeal to say the least.
Today I will share some of the video highlights about my totally unplanned trip to Bangladesh. You will see that I was invited to do many things with many different local people. It is important to note that I never invited myself to their location. I was always invited by them. Had I chose to decline their offer, my trip would have been much different. I want to show you how awesome an unplanned trip can actually be, and maybe you will see that sometimes the best plans are no plans at all.
Journey In Bangladesh Without Any Travel Plans
My journey began crossing the border from India to Bangladesh. I had read online that it was not only significantly cheaper to cross the land border than it was to fly into the airport, but it would also be more of an adventure. So of course I chose to take the adventurous route.
The one and only mistake (kindof) that I made on this entire trip was not booking a hotel in advance. I was told that the bus ride from the border crossing to Dhaka was going to be about 6 hours, so this would give me plenty of time to find a hotel after arriving. I was told that I would be arriving at about 1:00 in the afternoon.
Well, the bus ended up taking about 11 hours! I arrived in Dhaka at about Midnight. After walking all over and trying to find a hotel, I ran into some police officers who told me to get into their car.
For the next 45 minutes, they drove me all over the city on a mission to find a hotel that would accommodate me. Every time we got out of the car and approached another hotel, the officers were guarding me with their sawed-off shotguns. This was definitely interesting and unexpected.
We went to so many hotels and it felt like we were driving for hours. We approached the final hotel and the police started to speak to the owner. After they were speaking for about a minute, both of them started to raise their voices. Great…an argument had started.
I soon learned that the police officer was negotiating a better price on my behalf. Definitely much appreciated as the hotel was going to be about $75 US per night. After the negotiation, I paid something like $20.
There were a lot of people who were nervous about me going to Bangladesh alone. And since I hadn’t had any internet since the moment that I crossed the border, I wasn’t able to let anybody know that I was safe. There wasn’t any Wi-Fi available at this hotel, either. I would need to find some internet in the morning.
At about 2:00 in the morning, I was finally able to lay down and rest.
The first morning in town, I spent searching for a SIM card or Wi-Fi, but wasn’t very lucky. I walked into countless breakfast shops and phone stores to ask if they had Wi-Fi available. After more than an hour of walking around town, I started to become frustrated because nobody had a simple Wi-Fi connection.
I stopped to sit at a bakery to grab some breakfast and relax for a moment. I asked the local man inside if he had Wi-Fi, to which he replied ‘no’. But without hesitation, he suddenly ran across the street for 2 minutes and then came back. He had recharged his personal SIM card and then started broadcasting a hotspot from his phone to mine.
After about an hour of catching up on all of my messages, I was finally finished. I thanked him 100 times and told him that I needed to leave. He took out his old SIM card and simply gave it to me as a kind gesture. He told me to keep it. He told me that he has a new SIM card and was not using the old SIM card anymore.
I tried to pay him for the breakfast that he provided, but he refused to accept my money. This man was so kind. I saved his phone number and then I left.
Later that afternoon he invited me to attend the Dhaka International Trade Fair that was happening in the area. As we entered the fair, one of the security officers approached me and gave me his personal contact number. He said if I had any troubles, to contact him immediately. I thought it was a very kind offer. We walked around for a while and I was able to get a glimpse of how business took place in Bangladesh. It was unique to say the least. I even got to try some rainbow tea. The taste was particularly gross, but fun to try.
Later that night, he also invited me to watch the massive shipments of fruits and vegetables arrive at a market near the heart of Dhaka. There were people standing on the top of large trucks and throwing vegetables one-by-one down to the men on the ground. Everyone was so perfectly coordinated. It was very rare to see someone drop a piece of fruit.
I was invited by another man to go try tons of local Bangladeshi street food. We had so much fun! He introduced me to all different kinds of unique foods, such as Halim, Pakora, Bhapa Pitha, Chot Poti, Fuchka, and more..
While walking in a local park, a man came up to me and started to speak to me in perfect English. He and his friend were the chief editors of a local English newspaper who wanted to inview me. They both found it was interesting that I was walking around the city as if I were a ‘common man’. They proceeded to ask many questions about my travels over the years.
Another man was also kind and took me to an ancient town on the outskirts of Dhaka. Panam Nagar is what they called it. He taught me a bit about what it was like hundreds of years ago in that town. He then took me on a horse carriage ride through Old Dhaka which took us to the Dhaka river port, Sadarghat. We walked around many of the absolutely massive passenger ships. We even toured one!
I was then invited to Sylhet by another man. I stayed in his uncle’s hotel for a few nights. I decided to go for a walk near the Surma River to take an instagram photo. Some people came up to me and escorted me the rest of the way. We passed through a small village where a bunch of kids were all so excited to meet me while I was trying to take a photo of myself with a tripod. After I finished taking the photo, I needed to start walking home. The walk home would have been about an hour, but a local man motioned for me to get into his boat, along with a small group of people. This reduced my trip home to only 25 minutes. The boat 3-minute ride was $0.23 USD. And then I walked the rest of the way home.
While in Sylhet, college students invited me to stay at their house and they also gave me a tour of their university, Sylhet Agricultural University. I wanted to try to speak some of the local language, Sylheti, with the local people. The college students arranged this for me and it turned out to be absolutely hilarious!
One of the students invited me to his village home where his sister prepared a local dish for me. I stayed the night at his home. He needed to go to work for a day, so he told the local village kids to show me around the countryside. We walked for several kilometers and around the village while laughing and smiled at everything. The only English that the kids knew was ‘My name is __’. So, we communicated through Google Translate on my phone. So much fun.
Before saying goodbye to the university students. We went to a large restaurant where I tried all sorts of different foods for dinner. My favorite? Goat brains!
The man who assisted me with a SIM Card in Dhaka also invited me to his hometown village, which was far away from my current location. I traveled there to meet him for a 2nd time. We went on a bike ride throughout his entire village and also cruised down the ‘Robbery River’. We finished the evening with a stop at a small restaurant for some rather interesting dessert.
I was also invited to visit Barisal. A local man invited me to play Badminton with some of the local teens. They kicked my butt! The local college student brought me to see what it was like inside a local slum along a nearby river. He and his friend also introduced me to some interesting packaged snacks, which are often consumed by college kids.
I cruised along Bangladeshi backwaters, alone, on my way to meet a man in Chittagong. After arriving, he invited me to hike up a mountain to view a temple with an amazing vantage point, we went earthing in a shipyard that was featured in the Age of Ultron movie, he helped me organized a ‘language class’ to learn some Chittagonian, he taught me how wear a lungi, and he invited me to play Cricket with local village kids.
My trip in Bangladesh was absolutely amazing. I met some incredibly kind, friendly, helpful, generous, and hospitable people. And as mentioned before, what’s unique about this particular trip is that I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen, until it happened. The only thing that was planned was meeting the people at a specific time and location. I did not choose any location to visit, whatsoever. 100% of my trip was created by the local people. I just followed them to whatever destination they wanted to take me to.
Usually when I arrive and meet a person, I ask them to give me some interesting ideas that we could do in the area. I let them choose. I usually end up with pretty amazing results.
The Dangers Of Trusting Strangers
You might be thinking that the way that I traveled was rather risky and dangerous. Sure, I talk to random people on the internet and then meet them in person. And this probably sounds very sketchy to you. Well, there are always risks involved – but I think those risks are very minimal. I do indeed take extra precautions while traveling. But, I have been on the road since 2016 and I have met thousands and thousands of different people, but had very few negative interactions.
Even though people around the world have vastly different cultures, generally, we are all the same at the deepest level – we all want to feel safe. When I am traveling, people know that I am a foreigner and am vulnerable while in their country. And because of this, most people provide an extra level of kindness and courtesy towards me.
If you are serious about traveling in the way that I do, I recommend that you read more about how to meet local people while traveling the world. These methods have helped me meet local people, consistently, in multiple countries throughout the world.
I have found that the best time to introduce yourself to another person online is usually about 30 days prior to arrival. This will give them enough time to see your post and coordinate some type of activity.
Expectations Of Traveling Without A Plan
Just as a word of caution, do not expect everything to go according to plan. Almost nothing ever goes according to plan. It is better to simply change your mindset from “it wasn’t supposed to happen this way” to “I guess I am going to use plan B”, even though you may not know what plan B is. Think of plan B as a new and interesting experience.
Trains are delayed, taxis are late, people cancel plans, roads are blocked…there are endless possibilities that can (and probably will) because of a hiccup in your plans. Sometimes these hiccups are very big. But don’t stress over it. Always plan for the unexpected to happen because if it does, then you are already prepared for plan B, whatever that may be. And if it doesn’t happen, then great!
Should You Completely Stop Guided Tours?
Does this mean that you should always do your own planning and stop going on organized tours? Not necessarily. I recommend that you do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. However, I challenge you to consider this type of travel for your next trip – at least to some degree. Try to allocate more time for traveling on your own which will allow you to meet more local people, and experience more of the real culture that isn’t filtered by a tour guide.
In my opinion, the local people are what makes my trips so unbelievably amazing – and my guess is that it will be the same for you. It’s important to keep an open mind, as local people in each country have different customs, methods, ideologies, personalities, and opinions. Just let it all happen and go with the flow.