You could try finding something at a flea market and start taking pictures? I don't want to seem antagonistic, but some of the best cameras I have ever bought cost me less than $20 with a few lenses to boot.
Amateur photography is absolutely no different than it was prior to the DSLR. You still need to understand things like aperture, shutter speed, depth of field, colors of light, filters, bracketing, frames per second, sealed, ass gaskets, light modifiers, burning and dodging (no matter if you use film or digital), ethics, viewfinder range and brightness and a plethora of other things. Additionally, metering (spot, matrix or a 'new invention') also apply. Taking vacation snaps or doing photojournalism, you still need to be able to argue with your camera. The point (in both cases is), you bring back great pictures.
Or you could buy a really expensive camera, set it to auto and get less quality than the camera maker did on their sample photos (hint, they use photographers). In that case, why not get a point and shoot?
If you buy a DSLR, the major difference is you have to deal with white balance and a bunch of other settings that you'll need to research, beyond filters that color any artificial light that you use. Seriously, that is it as far as exercising the shutter is concerned. Post processing is a different story for another question.
I highly recommend a Minolta SR series camera for any beginner. They are quite cheap, they offer great metering and they are very simple to use. I got my latest replacement for $50 at a garage sale, with a 50mm f/1.7 lens that takes perfect pictures.