Internet communication is reasonably reliable in most of the countries I’ve been (Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam) but it becomes a bit challenging to find in some of the more rural areas. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been any violation of my civil rights. I never paid it enough mind to thoroughly research, as I used the internet mostly for harmless ‘keeping in touch’ emails and such, but I honestly don’t believe I was ever monitored. I’m absolutely sure India is safe, and reasonably confident about the others, though I can’t say for sure without more research. To my knowledge, much of Asia is quite different from the Middle East in that respect, though I could be wrong.
Where do you live, if you don’t mind me asking? I live in Denver and a comfortable apartment in a safe area, plus food, utilities, internet, phone, transportation, and entertainment runs me well over $1200, twice what I was spending naturally in Asia. I could make a big effort and knock it down to about a grand, but then I suffer a bit. Out there, I don’t think I could spend $1200 a month if I tried (ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but it wouldn’t happen naturally. I’d have to make an effort to be extravagant). Sure you can budget very carefully and stay within a set monthly limit, but what do you really get for your money? Personally, I prefer 80 degree days in a bungalow on the sand with a hammock so close to the ocean I can feel the spray on my face over sharing a freezing apartment with my (sometimes annoying) roommate. I’d rather eat the interesting and incredibly tasty Asian cuisine to the nearly anything I can get out here (with a few, albeit expensive, restaurant exceptions). I never had to pay much for entertainment, as it was all right in front of me and (largely) for free. And after the first month or so, I honestly didn’t miss very many of the creature comforts I left behind.
In any case, the real value to me, even if you eliminate the monetary savings, is in the experience. In Sri Lanka I could go for a morning jog every day on a 30k stretch of beautiful, nearly empty beach as I watched the sun rise. If I was lucky, I’d see wild elephants bathing in the lagoons nearby. Some days I would just meditate all day up on a cliff overlooking the ocean and just soak it all in. It really all depends on you as a person and what your priorities are. If you are only doing it to save money and nothing more, then it might not be the best option. Personally, I still saved a bunch when compared to living in the States, but again, YMMV. But that wasn’t the intent of my traveling. I wanted to see the world, experience new cultures, meet different and interesting people, and learn how they live their daily lives. Some of the best experiences I had were nothing more than simple (if a bit linguistically-challenged) conversations with local fishermen or farmers. On the whole, I feel massively enriched and I’m tremendously grateful for the experience. And yeah, saving money in a tumultuous economic climate doesn’t hurt either.
And I realize that after a year or two it loses that new, exciting “wow” appeal, but IMO what you are left with still beats anything you can get out here for a similar price tag. Plus, as the cost of travel is so cheap, you always have the option and freedom to simply pack your stuff and relocate to somewhere new. The more places I went and the more people I met, the more I realized how little I’ve actually seen. I already have my next Asia trip planned out, not to mention places like South America, Africa and even parts of Europe (though I imagine the savings out there will be minimal, if at all). So yeah, even in a recession, there is still opportunity for a (relatively) comfortable life.
Ok, I know I’m rambling now and I apologize for the long posts but I literally just returned yesterday from my travels and I’m still a bit giddy from the experience. Also, I think the Lunesta I took to combat a nasty case of jet lag kicked in somewhere around the second paragraph. I do hope at least part of this was of some value to you