A Week-In-The-Life of Brian: No Debt World Travel

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After spending years in corporate America and then being laid off, Brian took the opportunity to jet off to foreign lands instead of picking up the want ads. He traveled around the world, visiting 4 continents, seeing new cultures and making new friends. Below, please enjoy a week-in-the-life of Brian (no Monty Python jokes here, please!) of No Debt World Travel, while he travels through Asia during the Thai Bangkok airport demonstrations.

(This post was originally published in 2009; links and content have been updated over the years; No Debt World Travel has since been debunked). 


I’ve been touring the magnificent sites of Angkor Wat. I’m staying at a hotel in Siem Reap for $6 US per night. SIX dollars. $180 for a hotel room for a month. You realize you can live on the road for less than being at home.

The day begins with breakfast in the open air dining area that doubles as a parking lot. I go out for the day to the monuments. They are magnificent but honestly they start to look alike after a while.

When I get back to the hotel, what a surprise. One of the staff at the hotel wants me to come to his sister’s wedding reception!

I’m shocked and flattered. He says he really does not interact with the guests in the off hours, but he likes me. Great, I will be there.


I plan to meet up with a old friend from New York in Hong Kong so I buy my ticket to Hong Kong via Bangkok. I get a fantastic price, $215US Bangkok to Hong Kong round trip. It’s my last night in Cambodia and I’m excited about the party. I head back to the hotel room to relax before the wedding reception and I flip on the TV.

“Bangkok Airport Closed By Demonstrators”


In one of the famous Thailand “bloodless coups”, demonstrators close down the Bangkok airport. Since it is THE airline hub for Southeast Asia, it has political and financial repercussions throughout the region.

I spend the next few hours rushing to the center of Siem Reap trying to figure out what to do. I meet two British women, who booked with a travel agent to get back to England from Hong Kong via Vietnam. I find the travel agent they use and book a flight with the same route out.

Since the flight doesn’t leave until Thursday, I have an extra unplanned day in Cambodia.

I get back to the hotel tired, take a quick shower and then hop on the back of a motorcycle to head to the wedding reception.

Brian of No Debt World Travel at Cambodian wedding

What a great time! Cambodian tradition states that you must always be drinking and that your glass must always be full. Full of Coke and Jack Daniels.

dancing at a cambodian wedding

I got a few stares when I walked being the only non-Cambodian in a reception of 250 people in but by the time the food and drinks flowed, I was just another member of the family.

ladies at cambodian wedding

I’m not really worried about getting out of Cambodia. With a cheap room and food nearby I can be there indefinitely.


Today is a relax day before the flight to Hong Kong via Vietnam – and recovering from the wedding reception last night. I spend most of the day at the Internet cafe. It was about $1US per hour for pretty speedy service. I reply to email and update the blog. A lot of people contacted me, knowing that I was in the Thailand/Cambodia region and hearing about the airport closure.

Lesson learned: Selectively tell your mother what is going on when you travel. All she will hear is ‘airport closure’, ‘demonstrators’ and ‘military’ and she will freak.


Flight day. I get to the airport at Siem Reap early, knowing that it may be crowded with everyone trying to get away from the region and not being able to go through Bangkok. Siem Reap airport is pretty quiet despite all the hubbub in neighboring Thailand. I get on Vietnam Airlines on an aging twin-prop plane. A nun balks while walking to the plane and seeing its condition, until she it talked to getting on by her fellow nuns. It didn’t look completely unsafe, but you could tell it had been in service for many years. Fun.

The flight is 1 hour and 20 minutes and pretty uneventful. In Vietnam the ticket agent is about to give me a hard time about not having a ticket to LEAVE Hong Kong. She speaks to someone in Vietnamese and they let me board the plane. Always try to have a ticket leaving a destination. Governments and airlines are getting more strict about making sure you leave the country when you’re supposed to. From illegal immigrants to terrorism, there are a lot of reasons they enforce it, but it does takes away the spontaneity of having a one way ticket and then figuring your way after that.

I’m waiting in the lounge for the flight to Hong Kong and I realize: I have no idea if I need a visa for Hong Kong!

I am so used to getting up and going anywhere and everywhere I gave no thought to whether or not I needed a visa. After sweating it out for a few minutes, the gate agent told me that as an American, I did not need one. Whew!

Jumped on the flight and arrived in Hong Kong. Took a cab to Nathan Road, the main shopping and cheap room drag in Hong Kong. People see my backpack as soon as I step out the taxi and begin soliciting me for food and rooms. I made a reservation online before I left Cambodia and find my place for the night.


First full day in Hong Kong. I like to walk around a new location and get lost. Get more invites from shopkeepers to get fitted for suits. They must have a special sense of who is a newcomer and who is local. Hong Kong reminds me a lot of New York City. Very busy, pretty crowded. The Chinese have a different idea of personal space. Translation there is none. So you have to get used to that quickly.

I also try to figure out mass transit as soon as I get to a new location. Like most major train/subway/Tube systems, signs and directions are in the native language and English. Hong Kong’s subway will be the best way for me to get around.

Every night at 8PM the skyscrapers around Hong Kong Harbor have a coordinated light show along the waterfront. The waterfront also has restaurants and attractions. There is a huge statue of Hong Kong’s most famous son, Bruce Lee.


Same as Friday. Hong Kong is full of malls. They say that there are malls on Hong Kong because there isn’t that much else for people to do but shop. I make plans with a fellow college alum Debbie to go hiking on Lantau Island. I connected with her through LinkedIn and made other contact on Facebook while traveling. Debbie and I never knew each other before my trip. We graduated from the same university, but years apart. Social networking really enhances the travel experience by making it easier to meet new people.

hong kong ferry

I hop on the famous Star Ferry, which connects to Hong Kong Island to Hong Kong on the mainland of China. They are both considered part of Hong Kong. The Star Ferry is a pleasant 10 minute ride with great views of Hong Kong Harbor and skyline in all directions.

I consider getting a visa for mainland China, but they want over $200US for a visa if you’re already in Hong Kong. Too rich for my blood, I’ll pass.


I take the Hong Kong Metro to the hiking meeting location. Debbie has been in Hong Kong for about 5 months on a year contract teaching grade schoolers English. There is a vibrant ex-pat community in Hong Kong, with many people from India, England, and Australia working there.

So many interesting reasons why the ex-pats are here in Hong Kong. Some are native to Hong Kong. English teachers from America and Australia. Sent to Hong Kong by their corporate jobs. Or just bored with where they are and hopped the next flight to Hong Kong. It is much more difficult to do that on mainland China, but Hong Kong goes by a different set of rules on many things. This is the result of its British legacy after being given back to China.

The group of 20 or so talk and hike the trails of Lantau Island. We eventually get to Tian Tan Buddha – the Great Buddha on Lantau, as well as the Wisdom Path.

Debbie invites me to Quiz Night at a bar called Bulldog’s in Lan Kwai Fong, the hangout area on Hong Kong Island for Tuesday night.


I meet up with a former co-worker, Ilma, who had moved to Hong Kong a few weeks before I got there. She got married back in New York and her husband’s new job took him here. It was great to see her and just shows how small the world is. We had lunch and then caught a movie in the IFC Mall. IFC would become my second home while I’m in Hong Kong. The location is central to everything, has clean bathrooms and places to eat.

I also find out it is where they filmed some scenes from ‘Batman Returns’. Interesting piece of trivia.


Spent the day walking around then met up with Debbie and her friends for the English tradition of quiz games in a pub. Had a great time meeting other ex-pats. My team didn’t win, but I did make plans to go to Macau for my birthday. Annie, one of the other ex-pats, has her birthday next Sunday. My birthday is Friday. A group of 15 is going to Macau to hang out, eat and gamble for the weekend. I’m joining in.

The more you get around the more you find things to do. I never would have expected to be so active in Hong Kong, but reaching out to people I know and didn’t know turned out to be the best possible thing I could have done.

Brian is currently in New York and working on a book to help others reach their goals of long term travel (which even features an interview with yours truly). Keep up with his latest news at No Debt World Travel.

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12 thoughts on “A Week-In-The-Life of Brian: No Debt World Travel”

  1. @Aaron – Thanks! I’m fascinated with the “daily grind” of other long-term and full-time travelers; it’s so different for everybody – which is what I love about travel in general!

  2. This is an awsome blog, I am glad I have found it. Abit more images would be nice. Cheers

  3. Found your site through google search. I have enjoyed reading your posts. Looking forward to more. Thanks!

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