If you follow any other travel blogs, you’ve probably noticed that the most popular blog posts usually have something to do with how to pay for full time travel or even how to get rich while travelling. The advice is usually the same from one site to another, often vague, and sometimes illegal.
Rather than repeat the same old advice that can already be found all over the internet, I thought why not look to the real experts? The most successful travellers? People who travelled in luxury and got rich by exploring new places? People who gained international renown by visiting foreign lands?
Many of these great travellers passed through Turkey, stopping in to see the sights of Turkey’s magnificent cities and stunning wilderness, tasting local delicacies, and meeting local VIPs.
As I sit here writing this I can look out my window and see a narrow strip of land between the sea and the steep slopes of Tünektepe mountain where one of history’s most renowned travellers passed by: Alexander the Great.
Alexander, setting out in his early twenties, managed to realize every college student’s dream of turning a gap-year trip into a lifetime of travel. When Alexander started his journey he was only a humble king of a small kingdom, but by the time he died at the age of 30, he had earned fame and fortune!
Alexander the Great arrived in Turkey in 334 BC, beginning his trip with a visit to modern day Gallipoli (if Istanbul had existed he probably would have started there) where he had a squabble with fellow expat Darius III of Persia. Alexander made his way south down the Aegean coast and on into the Mediterranean before heading inland to be named king of Asia in Gordion and see the fairy chimneys of Phrygia and Cappadocia. Alexander got so rich on his journey through Turkey that he was even able to pay for all the travel expenses of the thousands of friends that he made along the way!
Some tips from Alexander’s Travels:
-Alexander the Great knew how to live in the moment. In our age of social media where everyone lives for the Instagram or Facebook post, Alexander didn’t even keep a journal, choosing instead to enjoy the now. You can read the travels of Alexander from his friend’s point of view in the Anabasis of Alexander.
-Technically it’s illegal to enter Turkey as an invading army. If you want to fund your travels this way make sure to win so that you can change the laws and get away with it just like Alexander did.
-While Alexander did bring destruction when he arrived in new cities he often brought wealth and initiated building projects that made the cities greater than they were before. This really set the standard for ethical travel. Remember to leave your campsite cleaner than when you arrived, don’t litter, leave a place better than when you found it, and always look for ways to be an ethical tourist like Alexander.
Our second great traveller is arguably history’s greatest wayfarer. Ibn Battutah was born in Morocco to a family of Islamic scholars. At the age of twenty-one, following his formal education he set out across north Africa on Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage. While this journey would normally take sixteen months, Ibn Battutah would catch the travel bug and not return home for some twenty-four years covering 120,000 kilometers!
Like many travellers he began on his own and quickly felt the loneliness of solo travel, which he got over by marrying (a few times), finding like-minded travel companions, and buying slaves.
Ibn Battutah continued to study during his travels gaining prestige for himself and earning the honour of Sultans and kings who were glad to host him and give him rich rewards of clothes, camels, protection.
Ibn Battutah explored the whole spectrum of what Turkey has to offer. While he began with the seaside tourist town of Alanya, he quickly got off the beaten track stopping in at Eğirdir, and the newly conquered Iznik. Later he visited Byzantine Constantinople (Istanbul), travelling with the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor who was married to Öz Beg Khan, Sultan of the Golden Horde.
In one famous episode, Ibn Battuta leveraged his skill as a poet to butter up the Sultan of Delhi and convince him to pay off his debts. It worked and Ibn Battuta got out of paying off his loans.
Some tips from Ibn Battuta’s Travels:
-Many people view travel and study as opposites. Do I study or should I travel first? Maybe I’ll take a gap year or I’ll travel after I graduate before I start work? Ibn Battuta traveled so far and luxuriously BECAUSE he studied! Being a scholar opened doors all around the world and earned him gifts from Sultans and merchants.
-Being extremely bigoted towards people of other religions and buying slave girls is obviously not ok.
-While Ibn Battuta didn’t write a blog while he travelled, he did write an autobiography after his travelling days were over which has gained critical acclaim. Even if blogging isn’t for you, keep good notes just in case you want to make some money off your past experiences. Ibn Battuta’s memory about Turkey seems to have been foggy as he recounts the places he visited all out of order. If only he had kept a journal or had a chronicler like Alexander the Great.
-While travelling through Turkey Ibn Battuta took advantage of the incredibly hospitable local culture, staying with locals in their homes, inns, and the free lodges built for travellers. You can still experience these customs today!
One of History’s best known travellers, Marco Polo, also travelled through what is now Turkey. Marco Polo was the child of world class traveller Nicollo Polo, who, with his brother Matteo had already traveled from Europe into the Mongol Empire. Marco started making his money as a travelling merchant. Later his travel expenses were covered by Kubilay Khan, ruler of the Mongol empire who had taken a liking to the Italian wayfarer. Marco Polo spent 24 years on the road, in which time he visited the Turkish cities of Istanbul (Constantinople at the time) and Trabzon. While Polo’s visit to Trabzon didn’t go particularly well (they were robbed) there’s a lot we can learn from them.
Some Tips from Marco Polo:
-Find a job where travelling is a part of the job description. As a merchant and a diplomat Marco Polo saw more of the world than any other European of his era.
-Like Ibn Battuta Marco Polo also used some of his spare time after his travels to write his memoir. If you find yourself in a Genoese prison like he did, take advantage of the quiet and maybe you’ll find yourself on the New York Times Bestseller list!
-Marco Polo wrote a whole lot of stuff that isn’t true, but it made for a much more exciting read. If your travels aren’t actually interesting you can just do as Marco Polo (as well as everyone else on Facebook and Instagram) did and be totally misleading about how great your life is.
Our fourth and final Wayfarer is possibly the greatest example of a person who figured out how to travel lavishly and cover your expenses at the same time. Evliya Çelebi explored Turkey, the wider Ottoman Empire, as well as some of the surrounding territories during the 17th century, at a time where the Ottomans were experiencing a golden age of wealth, learning, and military power. When Marco Polo travelled through the region a few centuries before, Turkey was the bridge between East and West, but by the time of Evliya Çelebi, Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire had become the center of the world.
Unlike your average gap-year backpacker, Çelebi’s journey was kickstarted by a vision of the Prophet Mohammed, to whom he accidentally said “Grant me Travel” instead of “Intercede on my behalf”. And so began forty years of travel. Çelebi was creative in his approach to travel, he researched in minute detail the customs and way of life of the places he visited, begining with his home city of Istanbul.
Through his father who had been a successful man in the court of the sultan, Evliya Çelebi had access to the royal court. Having already impressed the sultan with his intellect and religious training, Çelebi made himself useful to the Sultan by presenting his records of the places he visited for the use of the authorities. Çelebi’s creativity went beyond this though. He served as a soldier, brokered ransoms between the Ottomans and foreign powers, worked as a tax collector, and took up the job as a muezzim (the one who sings out the call to prayer from a mosques minaret).
Some Tips from Evliya Çelebi:
– Çelebi did not travel light. Everywhere he went he brought his entire wardrobe, his entire library, and no less than six slaves to manage it all. Instead consider buying a Kobo or Kindle for your books and not taking slaves.
– Çelebi took the opposite approach to travellers like Alexander the Great who continually pushed further and further into new areas. Çelebi picked a specific region and chose to dig deep instead of wide. He got into the details and subtleties of the cultures and places he saw.
-Don’t wait too long to sign your book deal. Unlike Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta, Çelebi began writing early on and even had a buyer for his work almost from the begining. By starting early Çelebi managed to write a massive work of ten volumes. A vast amount compared to Marco Polo’s puny single volume.
Well there you have it, four of the best examples of people who got paid to travel and won fame and fortune in the process. Hopefully the lives of these great travellers can inspire you to be creative and find ways to travel the world even when the budget runs tight.
Or you could just read our article all about how to save money while travelling in Turkey.
For legal reasons its important to note that I don’t actually recommend trying to invade a country with an army or becoming a mercenary or anything violent at all.