I only use the teleport cheat, and only when I accidently click somewhere on the map (happens to me a LOT, just while using the overland menu...) and I bump into an undefeatable army that would never have caught up with me.
Beginning of the game
I solo some weak looters on horse (best in combination with "deal with looters quest", then get a few companions and tons of recruits near Praven (avoiding the Forest Bandits Region), until I have about 30-40 guys, then take on some more looters to promote some recruits, and tadaaaa forest bandits avoid me. (still dangerous, especially if they gang up, so --> pathfinding up)
Then I give my companions some horses, giving me a light unkillable cavalry for support of my crude militia. By this time I start making some easy trades - e.g. Iron from Curaw to Reyvadin.
Just be careful not to solo too much, else there won't be any looters for your recruits. Not sure, but I think I usually did until lvl 5, upped some training --> lvl up recruits.
For serious lvl up, I start doing some quests (escort merchant with safe roads; transport wine). If you're impatient, find an unhonorable lord with taste for war, kill some peasants and get good money + xp for a little honor loss...which won't matter in the long run.
When you feel you're in the safe areas levelwise (with companions), you can still dismiss your little army for more loot and xp encounters. Well, I never do...I always get attached to my guys...
Variation: Rhodok/Vaegir recruits...bow/crossbow companions...I remain on horse until my recruits all have reasonable ranged attacks.
PS: At low level, you can even free villages from bandits...there won't be too much of them, and the villagers can take them with a little help...even from a lvl 1 you (just don't die).
Combat Speed: Very Fast (normal?...don't remember)
Damage to Player & Allies: 100%
Lvl up: A little str, then int max 30...then I vary
Skills: Max Leadership (by starting charisma), Max Pathfinding...Wnd Treatment + Surgery...then I vary