I am very lucky to have found a profession which allows me four months of freedom every year. This time is meant to be used for research, and our entrance into local culture is often facilitated through academic contacts. There are also international conferences and such which can serve as springboards for trip extensions into nearby areas. Last year I was invited to give a lecture in Mauritius; we had a week there all expenses paid, then continued on to Réunion, Madagascar, and South Africa on our own. The lecture invitation was a catalyst for us to see some places we hadn’t been to previously.
Of course when I was young I had no money and did most of my travel on a shoestring budget. During the early 1980s I hitchhiked to every country in Europe except Albania (plus Morocco and Turkey), staying with people I met on the road or even sleeping in public parks, the metro, whatever. The worst place I ever stayed was in a truck stop along the Karakorum highway in Pakistan in 1987; a sleepless night on a broken charpoy with zero privacy and people getting up at five am loudly clearing their sinuses. Most of my travels have been solo by necessity rather than preference, since I have always had more free time than anyone around me and a higher tolerance for discomfort. My wife is a traveller as well but she likes her comforts, so even now I sometimes travel alone if it is under conditions she wouldn’t enjoy.