Meditation

Ah, meditation. Legs crossed, hands placed ever so gently on the knees, back straight, baggy cotton clothes flowing perfectly and alas, the look of pure zen on the face.

Well, what if I told you that I meditate sitting down in a chair or lying on my bed, wearing jeans and a t-shirt at times, hands on my stomach or by my side or perhaps behind my head, legs laid out however they end up being laid out.

The look on my face? I can’t exactly see it myself, but I doubt it’s a look of pure zen. I’m sure it’s more like a peaceful, yet disorganized, protest against a never-ending onslaught of absurd thoughts such as ‘when is the last time I’ve had some hot apple cider?’ and ‘what if a q-tip got stuck in my ear while I was eating Oreo cookies?’ and ‘I like the word reciprocate, but not as much as the word yogurt’ that take a long time for me to remove from my mind.

Sure, I’ve attended two 10-day, silent Vipassana meditation retreats over the years, and I took them both very seriously, and they both brought tremendous benefit to my life, but I don’t practice that kind of dedicated meditation too often.

All I know is that I do feel the need to drift away from the noise of life from time to time, to close my eyes for just a few minutes, to try and force all thoughts out of my head and to concentrate only on the light breaths that pass through my nose. You could argue that this is or isn’t meditation but that’s not an argument for me. I could care less what it is. I enjoy doing it and it helps me move through life.

An Impossibly Long 48 Hours

Three days ago, in Bucharest, Romania, I woke up at 7:00am. I showered, ate some fruit, got organized, went for a haircut and then I…

  • drove three and a half hours from Bucharest to the town of Focsani to drop off the car I used for my recent Romania road trip
  • hung out in Focsani for a few hours
  • took a three hour train from Focsani back to Bucharest, arriving at 7:30pm
  • walked straight from the train station to a radio station where I was interviewed for Romanian radio
  • went back to the apartment where I stay, arriving at 10:30pm
  • worked for four hours
  • packed up some of my clothes
  • slept from 4:00am – 5:00am
  • woke up, showered and took a taxi to the airport in Bucharest
  • flew 17 hours to Vancouver, via Amsterdam and Seattle, landing at 2:30pm
  • arrived in Vancouver and went straight to a cafe to wait for my friend
  • met my friend and went to his place at 5:00pm
  • went for a 2-hour wander around Vancouver and ate some dinner

And by 10:30pm, I was finally tired, just like normal, and I went to sleep. I felt great when I did go to bed and I felt great when I woke up the next morning at 7:00am, despite those crazy long couple of days. No jet lag, no exhaustion, no bodily systems out of whack, no nothing.

I was full of positive energy and I was ready to experience Vancouver.

And while I have no actual proof – only previous experience – I tend to believe that it was the ten minutes on the train in Romania, the five minutes in the apartment in Bucharest and the fifteen minutes on two different flights that I spent with my eyes closed, focusing on my breathing and trying to keep my thoughts to a minimum, that made all the difference.

Any time I recognize a need to just slow down or quiet myself down for a moment, this is what I do. When things get hectic or overwhelming, this one simple exercise, even a mere five minutes of it, will eliminate any growing feeling of losing control and not being able to keep up with life in general.

It’s like the travel tip I once wrote about on the blog where I mention the benefits of going to a cafe and having a cup of coffee immediately upon arrival in a new destination. Taking a few minutes to just sit and relax before heading outside the airport and into the unknown allows your body and mind to calm down and ultimately, to make clearer and better decisions, thus reducing the risk of making bad, rushed decisions that you might regret later or that might lead to a variety of issues.

So why not take some time to relax and clear the mind more often, wherever we may be, whenever we are struggling to tackle our busy, up and down, often confusing lives? This applies when we are traveling and when we are not.

A few minutes of concentrated breathing in a quiet place and the decisions you need to make will become easier, your frustrations will become less intense and the obstacles you face less daunting. If you want to take it further and extend the activity for thirty or sixty minutes at a time, go for it. I’m sure it will be even more beneficial. If you don’t want to though, don’t worry at all.

Meditation, or whatever you want to call it, is personal. It’s like travel in the sense that there is no ‘right’ way to do it. Find out what works for you and that’s your ‘right’ way, even if it is just five minutes of eyes-closed breathing here and there, perhaps with a teddy bear on your lap and a party hat on your head.

What matters is that you take some time to focus on yourself and to stay on top of the challenges that life throws at you. It’s more important than you might think, especially if you want to venture out into the far corners of the world and put yourself way out of your comfort zone.

Traveling can be a scary and bumpy ride at times and meditation could very well prove to be your best friend.

Do you meditate in any form? Does it help you deal with challenges in life or while traveling?


For those in New York City, here’s an interesting event you might want to attend: “The Ringstrasse 150th Anniversary Celebration – Join us on a journey through time as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Vienna’s famous Ringstrasse, the gorgeous boulevard at the heart of this beautiful city that is home to its grandest buildings and magnificent palaces. Stop by for a live chat with your new friends at the legendary Café Central in Vienna. Learn about this fabulous city from the locals – we’ll have a live video connection at the Café so you can experience this popular Viennese tradition.

And as an added bonus, you’ll have a chance to win a fabulous trip to beautiful Vienna!

Location: NYC, Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall®
Dates: October 14, 12:00pm – 7:00pm / October 15, 7:00am – 7:00pm

Posted in Perspectives, Travel Tips & Advice | 31 Comments

Romania Road Trip
I’m a major road trip fan. The open road, the ability to go wherever I want, to stop in any city, town or village along the way, to slow down or speed up, to visit destinations that would be difficult to reach without your own transportation.

When I pass by a vendor on the side of the road selling freshly made goat cheese or homemade jams, I want to stop and have a taste. I want to stop for that sudden photo opportunity or, better yet, just to take a few minutes to observe my surroundings or walk into that valley that I would otherwise pass right by.

Other forms of transportation have their value too. But if I have a chance to take a road trip, I’ll sign up faster than I would shave my armpits upon arrival in an intensely warm tropical location.

Over the past two weeks, I was fortunate enough to embark on a Romania road trip with a couple of other people, a trip that took me all over this mighty fine land.

And this was by far one of my favorite road trips of all time and it went a little something like this…

Focsani

It all began with the wedding of some friends, more like acquaintances actually, and probably people who will never talk to me again after my horrendous dancing display when it came time to dance to traditional Romanian music at their wedding. As I was dancing as part of a circle of fifty people, moving this way and that, kicking my feet a little and trying to avoid looking as clumsy as I am, I think I almost caused serious injury to several other wedding attendees. My apologies to any aunt, uncle or cousin that I may have semi-trampled on!

Wedding in Focsani

But overall, this wedding was a major success. Just one of those genuinely brilliant nights full of good people and good fun, a long night (over 9 hours, finishing at 5:30am), but wonderful nonetheless. Great start to the road trip!

From Focsani, the town where the wedding took place, we headed to…

Bucovina

On my Wandering Earl Tour to Romania that I led last year, we visited the region of Bucovina, mostly for its well-known painted monasteries, but since this road trip took us in that general direction, I did not hesitate to head that way again. And I even decided to show up without warning at the beautiful guesthouse in Vatra Moldovitei where we stayed last year on the tour, something that proved to be a highlight of this adventure. The owners recognized me instantly and wouldn’t let us continue without spending a night at their place, enjoying a home-cooked dinner and drinking some of their own afinat, an often-delicious liquor made from blueberries. It was the kind of unexpected, yet perfect, experience that constantly reminds me why I’m traveling in the first place.

Vatra Moldovitiei 2

Yes, we also visited some of the painted monasteries – Voronet, Sucevita, Humor and Moldovita – and those were cool to see again as well. They’re interesting and remarkably peaceful with such few tourists up in the region at this time and the windy roads between some of them are the kind of roads that make you want to stop the car every ten meters for the view.

Sucevita Painted Monastery, Bucovina

Voronet Painted Monastery, Bucovina

(Vila Crizantemaif you’re ever in Bucovina, I can highly, highly recommend this guesthouse!)

Maramures

This was the heart of the road trip. Ever since I first stepped foot in Romania back in 2010, the region of Maramures, in the north of the country, was on my radar. However, given its location, well, way up in the far north of the country, I never seemed to find the time to travel there.

So when I actually saw the sign, along the remote mountain road leading from Campulung Moldovenesc to Borsa, welcoming me to Maramures county, I nearly drove right into that sign because I started clapping and cheering and doing some kind of weird (according to my passenger) thrusting motion in the driver’s seat. Luckily, I was yelled at in time to avoid hitting the sign in the end, or driving over the edge of the road and straight into the valley below.

Bucovina Countryside

Soon after, with the cool air of autumn descending upon the region on the day we entered Maramures, our first stop was the small town of Borsa. Here is where we prepared for the exciting days ahead, with a hot coffee at a cafe, a few minutes look at our map and a change into warmer clothes.

Then, with winter hat on the head and jacket all zippered up, we continued…

Maramures did not disappoint. The relaxed atmosphere and the traditional way of life, as well as the super-friendly people everywhere, matched exactly what I had heard, as did the wooden churches, merry cemetery and all the rest. And any area that offers endless, and usually empty, country roads to explore is ideal for a road trip. We drove all over the place, without much of a plan apart from choosing where to go based on the signs we passed or choosing random roads from our map.

House in Maramures

Bucovina Countryside near Vatra Moldovitiei

Here’s where we ended up while in Maramures…

WOODEN CHURCHES
From Ieud to Botiza to Rozavlea, from Budesti to Barsana to Calinesti and Surdesti, you would think that after visiting a couple of these wooden churches, one might be a little tired of the activity and prefer to do something else, maybe even hang out with the cows, for a change of pace. But surprisingly, it wasn’t so. I don’t think there was anyone else at any of the churches we visited and even though the signs in front of most of them said they were open from 9am – 4pm, there were so few visitors that we had to call the phone number on the sign and the villager with the key had to come up to the church to let us in. And when you have these unique, 200-400 year-old churches all to yourself, often surrounded by forest or located on a hill overlooking the countryside, religious or not, it’s hard not to enjoy the experience.

Ieud Wooden Church Maramures

Rozavlea Wooden Church, Maramures

Carrying on to the…

MERRY CEMETERY
Oh yeah, the Merry Cemetery. This was perhaps at the top of my list of places to visit on this Romania road trip and the two and a half hours I spent roaming around these graves certainly lived up to my expectations. In short, it’s a cemetery in the town of Sapanta where a local wood carver creates brightly colored wooden tombstones for the deceased. However, it’s not just the colors that make this cemetery stand out – it’s the carved images of the deceased and the short, often humorous, poetic and ironic, tale of the person’s life that is carved into the wood as well. It sometimes even goes into the details of how they passed away.

Here’s a few examples with the words translated (very loosely, as it’s almost impossible to maintain the meaning with they style in which they are written)…

Merry Cemetery, Maramures - Happy

While I was alive / I was liked by everybody / Just like a baby swallow / I lived 80 years / Here is where I rest/ Pirsoie is how I was addressed / While I lived in the world / I liked many things / To drink and to live well / With a handsome man by my side / May you live dear Darvai / You’ll keep crying after me / For as long as you will live / Because you won’t find anyone like me

———-

Merry Cemetery, Maramures - Horses

Ever since I was a child / I liked horses very much / With horses I worked hard / And I earned a lot of money / I helped my nephews / They didn’t show any gratitude / They didn’t sing nor cry after I died / Didn’t even come to my grave / But my niece Teodosae / May Holy God look after her / Because she put a cross above my head / Buried me next to my mother / And I left life at 82

———-

Merry Cemetery, Maramures - Tuica

Here is where I rest / Braicu Toader is how I was addressed / While I lived in the world / I liked way too many things / To drink and to live well / And with women by my side / Oh how dear was life to me / While I could still kiss / And as I grew older / Those things turned against me / Cause I left life at 73

———-

With over eight-hundred of these tombstones packed into this relatively small area, there are stories everywhere and by the end of your visit, it’s hard not to look at death, and even life, a little differently, a little less seriously.

Who would think that spending such an amount of time walking around a cemetery would actually put you in an overly good mood? I wasn’t sure who to thank…the deceased, the wood carver or the villagers for keeping this tradition going even today. Heck, I’ll thank them all.

Merry Cemetery, Marmures - Bicycle

Merry Cemetery, Maramures - Bartender

Merry Cemetery, Maramures

Onward we drove…

THE MEMORIAL OF THE VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM
This was the biggest surprise of this portion of the Romania road trip. Having planned to arrive at this museum in the town of Sighetu Marmatiei two hours before closing, we were stunned to discover how large and how well-laid out this place turned out to be. We were equally stunned to discover that the exhibits, full of such detail that made you want to read every single word (or in my case hear each word translated into English), would take far more than two or three or even four hours to cover without rushing through it all.

Memorial of the Victims of Communism

The Memorial of the Victims of Communism is located in an old communist prison and is dedicated to all those who were victims of communism, not just in Romania, but in other countries around Europe as well. It’s a moving experience to spend time here and one that is absolutely worthwhile if you’re in Maramures. Give yourself a few hours, take it slow and try to soak it all in.

CHESTNUT FESTIVAL – BAIA MARE
After visiting a couple of more wooden churches and driving the beautiful route from Bistra to Cavnic and then on to Baia Mare, we reached the final stop on this Maramures section of the road trip. Baia Mare is the capital of the region and I’ll be damned, there was a chestnut festival taking place when we arrived!

Right in the main square we found a stage and dozens of stalls and quite a celebratory atmosphere. But I’m not so sure what they were celebrating because it sure wasn’t chestnuts.

There were old-school Romanian singers performing, food vendors selling mici (grilled meat in sausage form made from beef, lamb and pork as well as spices) and chicken and shaorma, local artists offering their goods…there were apples for sale, freshly made jams, homemade wine and other delightful foodstuffs as well.

Chestnuts? Not so much. Despite being billed as the chestnut festival, there were only two chestnut vendors who were both very much overshadowed by the other stalls. But as I mentioned on my Facebook page at the time, who needs chestnuts anyway when there is hot wine available?

Chestnut Festival Baia Mare

So, a couple of servings of hot wine, a few hours hanging out at the festival, listening to music and sampling the local products, a superb dinner experience at the Butoiasu cu Bere restaurant a few blocks from the main square and a nice, long night-time wander around town – not a bad day at all before it was time to hit the bed for my final night’s sleep in Maramures.

The following morning, after one more quick walk and purchasing a large bag of apples, and with my jolly mood showing no signs of disappearing at all, I bid farewell to this town and turned my attention to the second half of this Romania road trip…

Romaina Road Trip – Part 1 Route [Bucharest, Focsani, Vatra Moldovitei, Vadu Izei, Sighetu Marmatiei, Baia Mare]

Romania Road Trip – Part 2 Route [Cluj-Napoca, Turda, Hunedoara, Bulzesti, Sibiu and Transfagarasan]: Post coming soon!

Now let’s hear it…tell me about your greatest road trip…where did you go, what did it involve?


On a side note, for those who are looking to get into travel blogging, my friends over at Travel Blog Success are running a big Fall Sale for one more day. You can have access to all of their useful material and know-how for 25% less than the normal price. Just enter discount code TBS25 and you’re good to go!

Posted in Romania | 33 Comments

Fluent in Any Language

Thank you, travel. For it is you who has turned me into a man who is fluent, not in two languages, nor three languages, and not even four languages. Alas, as a result of constantly bouncing around the world, far and wide, for over a decade, I can proudly declare that I am now fully fluent in…zero languages. That’s right, I’m not fluent in any language on the planet.

Yes, at one time I was indeed fluent in English, my mother tongue, but as the years passed by and I spent more and more time in lands where English was not the language of choice, my ability to speak it began to diminish.

There have been oh so many forgotten words and forgotten rules, so many stumbles and butchered grammar and an absurd amount of confused, nonsensical dribble to go along with it all. Just the other day I was talking with three Romanian friends about a wedding I had attended and suddenly, I could not think of a word in English. After struggling for a few seconds and thinking to myself, ‘Oh not again‘, it was my Romanian friend who chimed in with the word I was looking for – bridesmaid.

Yup, that’s it”, I said with my head hanging low. “Thanks Alex.

Rarely do I forget words such as “voluptuous”, “vociferous” or “insatiable”. It’s always easy words that slip my mind, like “sink”, “kitten” and “lightning”, and that’s extra frightening to me.

Fluent in any language - Tamga sign

Don’t get me wrong though. As a result of my travels, I can now get by quite well in Spanish, I can buy bread in Romanian and I can tell an Indian chai vendor, in Hindi, to prepare my tea without sugar. And I can also tell my Thai taxi driver whether to take a left or a right, I can point out a butterfly in Indonesian, order garlic soup in Czech and tell you I’m going swimming in German.

On one hand, it really is superb. All this traveling has given me a little knowledge of many languages, something that has opened me up to an infinite number of interactions and experiences that perhaps would have never occurred otherwise. Even a little knowledge of a local language can really make a major difference in terms of how rewarding your travels can be.

But on the other hand, knowing a little of a lot of languages has its downsides. All this traveling from place to place hasn’t allowed me to actually become fluent in or to gain a better understanding of any of these languages beyond being able to handle the basics or, in some cases, slightly more than that.

Also, when in non-English speaking countries, I tend to speak to those who know some English in a much simpler form of the English language than I would normally speak (back when I could actually speak English). It’s a form that removes many words and grammatical rules that might confuse a non-native English speaker, or at least that’s the idea. We go cafe now, yes? Me like. You honey? No, no, you no honey. Need honey spoon put tea.

And for some bizarre reason, much to the amusement of those who have seen this in action, when speaking this simpler English, I tend to talk with a heavy Indian accent. It just comes out that way, go figure.

When I’m back in the US for my visits to family and friends, they too notice that my English skills are failing rapidly. I’ll say “Thank you much gracias sir” when the guy working in the store shows me which aisle is home to the face moisturizer, um, I mean toothpaste, I’m looking for. I’ll naturally yell out “Skal!” instead of “Cheers” when having a beer with friends and I’ll say things such as “Water more please” that cause people like my mom to frequently remind me, “That’s not how we speak English here.”

I know it isn’t, I really do, but I can’t help it right now. I spoken Travglish – traveler’s English – for so long that I’ve lost my fluency in my own language, which makes me not fluent in any language at all.

Fluent in Any Language - Spanish graffiti

That’s probably why it takes me so long to write my posts on this blog too. I go over every draft at least a dozen times, editing all along the way, always finding errors that need to be corrected.

But hey, I’m smiling as I write this of course. Without a doubt I wouldn’t give up my travels at all for the ability to speak a language or two fluently. And over the years, I’ve realized that the number of languages a traveler speaks or how quickly you learn those languages really isn’t important at all. Go learn ten languages in a month if you want. That’s cool. But if you don’t, that’s cool too.

It’s all about effort, about doing your very best to learn what you can to communicate with those around you as much as possible. If it leads to little bits of various languages floating around your head instead of fluency, so be it. Besides, sometimes the INABILITY to fully and clearly communicate with someone standing before you leads to the most interesting and memorable travel experiences imaginable, or at least plenty of laughter.

Ciao. Sayonara. Flughafen.

Do you learn languages either while or before you travel? Or do you just pick up little bits of local languages here and there? Any others out there not fluent in any language at all? (I hope so!)


Posted in Personal Stuff, Perspectives | 76 Comments

Perfect Travel Guide - Kintamani Bali

Wouldn’t it be brilliant if there was one definitive, perfect travel guide full of specific instructions that, when followed step-by-step by anyone on the planet, magically guarantees that we will be out there traveling the world long-term in no time at all?

Oh, it would, it really would.

But, the reality is that no matter how much we want such a guide, it simply does not exist.

When we first discover that travel might be significantly more accessible than we once thought, it is natural for us to suddenly crave some set of concrete instructions from others and a pamphlet full of clearly laid-out rules from those who have already achieved such a goal. We want the do’s and the dont’s, we want someone to tell us exactly where to go, exactly what to pack, exactly what to expect, exactly how to earn money and so on. We want to find a holy tablet of travel (the stone or electronic kind) to guide us from our mere desire to experience the world directly to the real thing, actually experiencing it first-hand.

When I decided that I wanted to try and travel for as long as possible, believe me, I wanted a set of rules and instructions too. I wanted someone to tell me, “Hey Derek, all you need to do is this, this and that and you’ll be able to travel for as long as you want my friend.

Oh how much I wanted someone to tell me that! Well, nobody told me that. Nobody gave me any detailed plan to follow, nobody handed me that perfect travel guide and nobody provided me with a manual that guaranteed to lead me to all of my travel dreams.

Paris

Interestingly, I was actually floating in the South China Sea when I first started to realize that I might have to figure out my traveling life on my own. You see, the crew of the party boat/snorkeling trip that I had joined in Vietnam that day back in February of 2000 had been serving endless drinks to all of us passengers as we made our way from the pier towards the snorkeling location. After an hour of hanging out with other travelers and throwing back several of these ‘free’ drinks, it was time to snorkel and so I joined everyone else by jumping right into the water, thinking that was a perfectly sound idea. And then, after a couple of minutes of trying to snorkel, I quickly began to drift, farther and farther and farther away from the boat, with my semi-inebriated self unable to find the strength to stop it.

All of a sudden, with the vessel now very far off in the distance, I realized that I was all alone in the water and that none of those other tourists swimming around this sea were going to help me get back. If I wanted to get back, I would have to find the strength from within to do it on my own.

And I did. It was painfully difficult though and I wanted to stop swimming several times and give up as my body strength was nearly depleted. But I wanted to get back to that damn boat so badly that I somehow pushed onward, fighting the current, fighting the rough waters, fighting my exhaustion, until I got there.

Then, sitting by myself on the top deck of that boat for the ride back to the town of Nha Trang, I realized a couple of important lessons…

First, I had to take responsibility for my own actions and I had no choice but to deal with the consequences, especially when I make bad decisions.

Second, while there might be others around me that can help from time to time, when it comes down to it, it’s truly up to me to create the life I want to live. There is no lifeline to hold onto that will tug you straight to where you want to go. You can’t just yell out for help, close your eyes and wake up exactly where you want to be. It takes tremendous effort, fierce dedication and an unwavering focus to reach your destination, but if you want it badly enough, you’ll absolutely find a way to get there on your own.

Italy

What I’m trying to say is that I know you’re excited to travel, I know that you’re spending hours online searching for destinations far and wide, trying to figure out where you want to go in this world and how and, well, searching for that magical step-by-step plan to follow, the plan that will make your travel dreams so easy to achieve, in the snap of a finger.

And now you hear that no such plan, no such guide, exists.

However, this should not be viewed as disappointing news, far from it. If you really want travel to play a major role in your life, one day in the future you will indeed be hiking around the Romanian countryside or watching the sunset from a Fijian beach or attending a football match in South Africa or meeting new friends in Kyrgyzstan. You will be somewhere in this world when all of a sudden you will stop what you’re doing and look all around you, amazed at where you are and how you got there. And at that point, you’ll think to yourself, “I’ll be damned. I made it happen.

I’m not saying all of this just for the fun of it. I’m saying all of this because I have continuously met people out there in the world who have achieved their travel goals in incredible ways, people who have had to figure out how to make it happen for themselves, just like all of us, and, who did just that.

Yes, you can make it happen too. I have absolutely no doubt about that. Many experienced travelers are here to assist and to help you move forward as much as we can (that’s the whole reason I’ve created two travel resources myself after all) but ultimately, you have to make the real decisions.

Take a deep breath, think about the advice and suggestions that you’ve picked up from others, make sure you fully believe in yourself and then put your left foot forward. That’s how you start creating your own path, the kind of path that you’ll need to create if you want travel to become a reality.

Enjoy the adventure. I know you will.

Have you been hoping to find a perfect, step-by-step guide? Are you ready to make it happen yourself?


Posted in Perspectives, Travel Tips & Advice | 52 Comments

Dengue Fever

Hunched over, with my hands on my knees, I tried to breathe but found it difficult. My head was pounding, I was covered in sweat despite the air-conditioner blasting cold air throughout the room and the dizziness made it difficult for me to even remain standing. I remember mumbling some nonsense. I remember a tear or two or three dropping from my eye and down my cheek. I remember thinking, “I’m so damn tired” as I felt worse and worse with every passing second.

It had been my plan for the month of July to take a break from the blog. I had decided to take two weeks off from writing so that I could rest a little and spend some much needed time away from the laptop. Those two weeks passed and I actually managed to enjoy some rest, but as soon as I was ready to return to blogging, I found myself unable to do so.

As luck would have it, during my two week ‘holiday’, which I took with some friends in Bali, I contracted dengue fever. Yup, dengue fever. And I kid you not when I state that I have never been through anything in my fourteen years of travel that has knocked me down, destroyed me and completely obliterated my sanity, as much as this experience with dengue fever.

For three days straight I had an extremely high, uncontrollable fever, which all led to that very night early last week when I found myself hunched over in my hotel room at 3am, barely able to breath, dizzy and nauseous, feeling as if I wouldn’t even make it to see the morning.

On the fourth day, the fever began to subside, and I forced myself to leave my hotel and visit a hospital. Some blood tests confirmed the dengue and I then experienced a week of on again, off again fevers, a bad lung infection, painful coughing, constant congestion, frequent headaches, body aches and a level of exhaustion that had me in great need of a major rest after less than three hours of being awake.

The range of feelings that I went through during those initial stages of the dengue fever included a strong desire to get rid of the illness as quickly as possible and return to my normal routine all the way to a strong desire to throw my laptop into the ocean and hole up in a small beach bungalow for the rest of my life. I have never felt so up and down, with moods and levels of discomfort changing so rapidly and so often, and I have never spent so much time in bed either.

The fevers are now gone, but there are still occasional headaches and I am absolutely exhausted most of the time. My white blood cell count hasn’t returned to normal yet and I certainly don’t feel even close to being my 100% normal self. Just the amount of effort it took for me to write this post up until this point has led to a guarantee that there will be a long nap in my near future.

The good news is that I can breathe and that I’m no longer awake in the middle of the night, dizzy and feeling hopeless. And if I’m able to complete this post, that will be a good indication that I can slowly – very, very slowly – start returning to my work.

So, my apologies for not being able to write for almost one whole month. It was weird not to, but it just wasn’t possible. I’ve also been quite slow at replying to emails naturally, but I will get to them all in the end, that I promise. For now, I just plan to continue resting and to continue drinking plenty of fluids, scattering some work in between, and making sure that I rid myself completely of this dengue fever sooner rather than later.

With that, I shall now leave you so that I can go and take my nap. Before I do though, I do want to sincerely thank you all for sticking around even though I haven’t been able to write. It certainly does mean a great deal to me, assuming that there are some of you who have stuck around!

Hope you’ve had a more positive July than me so far and for those of you who are out there traveling, I definitely wish you dengue-free adventures ahead…

If you wish to share any of your own tales of being sick on the road, please feel free to do so below!


Posted in Indonesia, Personal Stuff | 141 Comments

Trover - A Travel App Worth Traveling With
While walking around New York City yesterday, I stopped for a break in Washington Square Park and tried to figure out where I should eat lunch. I had no idea what I wanted to eat or where I wanted to go and so I just sat down on a bench right near a talented street performer who was playing his guitar.

And with this pleasant music in the background, I then pulled out my phone and opened Trover.

Trover is a travel app, and a website, that has quickly become my new travel companion, which I admit is weird since I normally travel alone.

Make New Discoveries Everywhere You Go

When I open the app on my phone, it automatically detects my location and immediately displays a long list of ‘discoveries’ for me to see. These discoveries have been uploaded, as photos, by other travelers who want to share great locations of all kinds that they’ve come across during their own adventures. And these discoveries are arranged in order of proximity to wherever I happen to be at any given moment.

So there I was in Washington Square Park looking at this long list of interesting monuments, art exhibitions, cool streets to wander down, shops, neighborhoods, buildings, and of course, restaurants, cafes, food stalls and more, right near by, that others have shared on the app exactly for travelers like us to discover.

Being hungry, I then chose to click on the “Food” category so that all I would see were nearby discoveries of restaurants and other eateries. And that was all it took.

Upon noticing a ‘discovery’ that was a ramen shop, which a Trover user had uploaded and labeled as “Authentic, delicious ramen. Small, unpretentious shop in the Village.”, complete with a photo of a tempting bowl of soup, I was on my way.

Soon enough, I was slurping up that very same soup and enjoying quite a spectacularly tasty ramen lunch at a great little restaurant that I otherwise would never have known about. And that’s very cool to me.

Trover - Ramen-ya

Not only that, but after my lunch I went to see a beautiful room of the New York Public Library near Bryant Park as well as Belvedere Castle in Central Park, two discoveries that I also found on Trover. And I’ll be using the app to find a place for my friend and I to eat in Brooklyn tonight and I’ll use it during my final day of wandering around NYC tomorrow.

Trover screenshots app

I’ll also most definitely be using the app over the next couple of weeks while I’m in Southeast Asia. (See below for how I’ve already started planning my Southeast Asia trip with Trover.)

Trover Doesn’t Waste Your Time

I don’t use many travel apps, very few in fact, usually because they are not too user-friendly or they don’t provide me with much real benefit. If I’m going to use a travel app, I want it to be something that I can open up on my phone and instantly benefit from so that I can put that phone back in my pocket and focus on the destination itself. And that’s what you get with Trover…it’s like an instant travel enhancer that doesn’t require much effort or waste any of your time.

Share Your Own Discoveries

Of course, as you travel around, you just might want to share some of your own discoveries so that others can find them too. I’d absolutely love to know about your favorite places that you’ve come across throughout your own travels, especially those places that are not written about in regular guidebooks or that don’t generally receive much attention. And as you might have guessed, it’s quite easy to share your discoveries on Trover.

- Take a photo with your iPhone or Android through the Trover app
– The photo will automatically be geo-tagged and its location will show up on a map
– Add a short blurb about your discovery (such as a useful tip or link to more information)

That’s it, you’re done!

Trover - Dzitnup Cenote

You can also add photos at any time through the website which is ideal. I’ve been uploading some of my own favorite locations from my earlier travels…if you’re interested you can check them out over at my Trover profile page.

Southeast Asia, I’m On My Way!

I mentioned above that I’ve also been using Trover to plan my upcoming trip to Southeast Asia and the way I’m doing that is by creating what is called a ‘List’. Lists allow me to take the most appealing discoveries I find from a certain destination and organize them in one place. It’s basically a way for me to create my own personal guide.

For example, I created a “Southeast Asia, I’m On My Way!” list. I then jumped on the Trover website and started typing in the countries I plan to visit on my trip, such as Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. Every time I searched for a new destination, a long list of discoveries appeared for me to look at and whenever I found a discovery that caught my attention and that I would love to experience myself, I just clicked one button and added it to my list. This way, once I’m on the ground in Asia, I can just open the app and actually start visiting the discoveries I’ve collected. Not bad at all.

Trover - Singapore

Trover - Southeast Asia List

And if you want some extra travel inspiration and perhaps some ideas for your future travels, you can follow other people’s lists as well so that you’ll see every new discovery that they add to their collection. Here’s two of my favorite lists and I challenge you to check them out and not find yourself fully inspired!

Oh, The Places You’ll Go
Favorite Places On Earth

So that’s my new travel companion, Trover. It’s simple and useful and that’s exactly how I like a travel app to be.

To try it all out for yourself, just sign up at Trover.com and download the free app on either your iPhone or Android. I’m definitely curious to see what you think so please let us know how it goes!

What do you think? Have you heard of Trover? Are you ready to try it out?


This post was written in partnership with Trover after trying out the app and finding it truly useful and worth spreading the word about. Of course, my opinions and thoughts above are, as always, 100% my own.

Posted in Everything Else, Travel Tips & Advice | 43 Comments

What Others Think About You
The day I started enjoying my travels the most was the day I stopped worrying about my hair. You see, an old girlfriend of mine used to tell me that I was much worse than her mother and grandmother combined, referring to the amount of time it would take me to get ready every time I was about to go outside. I could shower quickly and I could throw my clothes on in a flash, but for some reason, I would always get stuck in front of the mirror, carefully manipulating every single curl on my head, making sure each of those curls was in its proper place before I would dare head out into the public world.

Ridiculous, I know. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time, or maybe I did, but I still couldn’t help myself.

The bottom line is that I truly believed that people cared, that people would stare, that people would judge, that they would point and laugh at me if one of my curls was sticking out in an imperfect position. And that led to even more problems as I would walk around wondering if I was going to trip on a rock or if I had some schmutz on my face or if I would say something so dumb that everyone within a 1 km radius would laugh uncontrollably at my stupidity.

To say I was self-conscious is an understatement. I remember my brain spending much more time wondering what everyone around me was thinking when they walked past me than focusing on what I was experiencing during my travels. I knew what was happening but, again, I couldn’t change.

Breaking News – Nobody Cares!
Shocking, I know, but it actually turns out that nobody gives a damn. Nobody cares what I look like, nobody is paying me any attention, nobody is pointing or staring or laughing, and if they are pointing or staring or laughing, who cares? I probably do have some shaving cream or pancake batter (I love my pancakes!) on my face on occasion and I most certainly walk into walls from time to time as well. But hey, everyone has stuff on their face at some point, everyone trips in the middle of the street, everyone gets lost and does something silly, everyone has those moments that provide others with an opportunity to point and stare.

And if you’re afraid to have all of that happen to you, which is, basically, to be human, it’s going to be very difficult to travel among all of those strangers out there, navigating places you are not familiar with, putting yourself in so many situations where you might feel as if you will do something wrong or look absurd.

On the other hand, if you can shrug it all off and realize that what others think about you really isn’t important and that, in the end, nobody is even observing you as much as you might think (apart from that one guy I came across in Beirut), suddenly you’ll be able to enjoy your travels on a level that you simply can’t imagine otherwise.

A Mirror

What If There’s No Mirror?
I remember the day clearly. I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand and I had just checked into my budget guesthouse room after an overnight bus ride. Before long I had taken a shower and put on some clean clothes and because I was hungry, I wanted to go out and get some food at the local food market. Before I could go outside though, I naturally needed to spend some time in front of the mirror.

But wait, where was the mirror? There was no mirror in the bathroom, no mirror on the back of the room door or on the wall or in the closet. No mirror anywhere at all.

And just like that, due to something so simple as a lack of a mirror, my life changed. For some reason, on this very day, without any way to check on the status of all the curls on my head, no way to make sure that my face was free of schmutz, I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Screw it, I’m going out anyway”.

Will you believe it when I tell you that nothing terrible happened that day? Nobody came up to me and said, “Your hair is a mess, you look ridiculous, how could you possibly walk around in public looking like that?” Nobody even noticed me or seemed to pay attention to me for more than half a second and even then, only when we practically bumped into each other in the crowded streets.

After walking for about thirty minutes, I eventually sat down at a food stall and ordered some khao pad sai kai jaew, fried rice with a fried egg on top. And soon enough, as I ate that meal, I felt the sensation of having been liberated.

I just didn’t care what I looked like. I didn’t care what others thought of me. I no longer cared if people did stare and laugh or if I did make silly mistakes and look foolish. That nagging feeling that I was constantly under inspection from all those I encountered was gone and I felt superb. My confidence grew immediately, and I found myself interacting with more people, observing so much more around me and just feeling so much better overall, yes, starting that very day.

It hasn’t let up since.

Do I still stop in front of the mirror every now and then? I most certainly do. There are a few curls that can be so unruly that I just like to pop them back into place on occasion but that’s about it. I’m ready to venture outside no matter what, excited to see where my travels will take me, excited that my ex-girlfriend’s mother and grandmother are back on top of the list, taking far longer than I to get their hair ready before heading out the door.

Actually, I can only assume that last statement to be true. Maybe they’ve changed as well. I haven’t talked to that girlfriend in years.

Do you worry what others think about you or become self-conscious when you travel around? If you haven’t started traveling yet, do you think this would be a concern?


Posted in Personal Stuff, Perspectives, Travel Tips & Advice | 59 Comments

Plansify - Travel Advice

About 8 months ago, a friend and I had an idea for a new website. We worked hard on the project for a couple of months, we experimented, we tested and then, one day while in a cafe in Istanbul, we made the decision to trash the idea altogether.

However, the reason we trashed the idea is that, during the course of our discussion that day, we came up with what we believed to be an even better, more useful project. The goal remained the same – to help all kinds of people receive reliable travel advice directly from experienced travelers. It was just the platform and the method that changed.

Well, we got back to work, brainstorming, experimenting and testing once again, spending long hours for months on end figuring out every detail and turning our ideas into reality. And suddenly, just last week, my friend and I realized that our new project – PLANSIFY – was actually ready to be launched, in its beta form.

So, what’s this project all about exactly?

Plansify Travel Advice

PLANSIFY – Reliable Travel Advice

Purpose: To connect anyone who needs travel advice with experienced travelers who can provide the most reliable and direct advice possible. And the idea is to make it all happen through an easy-to-use, affordable platform.

How it Works: If you have a travel-related question, or questions, you can search our database of Travel Advisors in order to find an experienced traveler to help you out. Using the search tool, you can sort through our database by country, region and/or certain travel-related keywords such as long-term travel, adventure, work and travel, volunteering, couples travel, expat life, language learning and many more so that you see only the Travel Advisors who are experts in exactly what you want to know about. Simply read each Travel Advisor’s profile and then choose the Travel Advisor you wish to contact.

Every Travel Advisor sets their own rates for either a Skype call (up to 1 hour) or to answer up to 3 questions through our user-friendly online form. It takes just a minute or two to either send off your questions or schedule that call. And just like that, you’re on your way to receiving direct, personal and expert travel assistance!

For more information on how Plansify works, you can check out our How it Works & Help FAQ pages.

Plansify Travel Advisors

Who Can Benefit From Plansify?

Well, anyone with any kind of travel question and anyone who has the travel knowledge to become a travel advisor!

Travelers: If you’re thinking about traveling and you need some answers or you simply have a few questions about anything at all related to travel, this site will ensure you find the right people who can help you out. Who better to answer your questions than those who have already experienced exactly what you want to experience yourself?

You’ll find our current list of available Travel Advisors here: Travel Advisors

Advisors: Anyone can be a Travel Advisor as well, as long as you have some extensive knowledge about a particular country, region and/or aspect of travel. You don’t need a blog or any social media presence to be an Advisor. You just need that knowledge and a willingness to help others achieve their own travel goals.

You can check out the advisor sign up page here: Sign-Up

Try It Out!

Okay, here’s the part where I invite you to check out the site and give it a try. Of course, I only encourage you to check it out if you think that Plansify might be something useful for you or anyone you may know.

Keep in mind that Plansify is still in its beta form, meaning that it has yet to be tested with the general public and is therefore still a bit unpolished. With your feedback, which we hope you’ll provide, we can continue improving the project in order to turn Plansify into one of the most trusted, useful travel tools on the internet!

And if you do find the concept to be useful, we would be most appreciative and honored if you would help spread the word to your own audience, to your family and friends, those you work with, strangers in the street, your neighbors and the people in the car next to you at the red light. We are always looking for more Travel Advisors to sign up as well as more Travelers who need their questions answered!

There you go. That’s Plansify.

Thank you so much for reading and again, all feedback is welcome :)

Earl

Posted in Everything Else, Travel Tips & Advice | 51 Comments

The Uselessness of Getting Upset While Traveling

About a year and a half ago, I was sitting at an outdoor table in front of a tiny food stall in the small town of Izamal, Mexico. There was a large group of us and we had all ordered some lunch. After fifteen minutes of waiting, the woman working at the food stall began brining out our food, one plate at a time. The only thing is that what she was bringing us, wasn’t exactly what we had ordered.

And before we knew it, our table was full of more chicken salbutes than we could have possibly wanted to eat, yet there wasn’t a taco or panucho or beef salbute in sight, all of which had been asked for. Some drinks were missing and some drinks were incorrect as well.

Of course, as this was all playing out, it was only natural that there started to be some grumbling as we wondered how this woman had managed to screw up our simple order so much. There was even some talk that maybe she had brought out extra food just to try and get more money from us and the conversation then turned to cheating and ripping foreigners off and how we needed to be careful. The mood around the table had clearly shifted, from happy and jovial to a bit annoyed and upset.

But, why?

After we finished eating whatever was brought to us, all of which was quite tasty I might add, I went over to the counter and paid the bill. Looking at the piece of paper where she had written our order, I noticed that she had brought us exactly what she had written on that paper. Was it what we had actually ordered? I don’t think so. But given our lack of Spanish fluency and the fact that Spanish was this woman’s second language (Mayan was her first), she did the best she could to decipher what we had said.

Also, in this tiny town of Izamal, large groups is not a common sight at a local food stall, not to mention a group consisting of several foreigners who, once again, for the most part, speak no Spanish and if they do, speak a hacked up version of it. Second, in Mexico, it’s not common to ask a ton of questions when ordering food. You just read the menu, choose something and that’s about it. For many of us, we are used to customizing our orders back home, asking for clarification, asking for more specific descriptions of each dish and so forth, so I can only imagine the confusion we caused by bombarding this woman with our questions, again, in our hacked up Spanish which wasn’t even her first language!

If you look at the situation this way, from an entirely different perspective, you can understand how we might have overwhelmed this food stall in this tiny, laid-back town where life is quite basic and moves at an extremely slow pace.

So, why did we immediately start thinking that we were being cheated and ripped off? Why were we getting upset that our order was not 100% correct?

The thing is that we tend to interpret everything we do/see/experience based on our specific knowledge of how we think the world works, or how it has worked for us throughout our lives. And this knowledge comes from our education, culture, upbringing, social circles and other experiences that we go through. It is not easy for us to first recognize, and then accept, that every situation has an endless number of perspectives depending on the people involved. Everyone brings their own background and culture to the table, something that makes it nearly impossible for two people to interpret the exact same situation in the exact same way.

With the example above at the food stall in Izamal, we wondered why our order was incorrect, something that seems like a perfectly normal reaction in our culture. But as for the woman running the food stall, she tried her very best to do something that she almost never has to do – cater to a large group of foreigners who are asking lots of questions, making adjustments to their orders, speaking terrible Spanish and probably confusing her beyond belief! She didn’t ‘screw up’ our order on purpose. She wasn’t after our money and didn’t try to cheat us at all.

In fact, she always had a smile on her face as she ran around trying to provide good food and good service to us random visitors to her home town. Suddenly the extra salbutes and the lack of tacos and the absence of the agua de tamarindo on the table doesn’t really matter. Whatever this sweet woman brought would be fine with me and I truly appreciated the effort she put into serving us!

Avoiding Unnecessary Negativity
When we travel, we are going to face endless situations, where we interpret things one way and we then react accordingly. And sometimes, this is going to lead us to anger, frustration and a strong feeling of annoyance based on how we think things should work. But if we can somehow force ourselves to take a moment before we react, before we reach a conclusion as to why something has happened, why someone has behaved a certain way, why we are in the situation we are in, and remind ourselves that every situation can be viewed from many different perspectives, we might be able to avoid unnecessary reactions that could impact our travels negatively.

When something happens and you start to get upset or annoyed, look around you. Look at everyone involved and try to think of the reasons they might have for their actions. Think of their culture, their background and influences, their possible life experiences and what may or may not be normal for that person. And remember that we are only seeing the world through our own experiences and that our world view is not the same world view as everyone we come across.

I try to remind myself of this constantly.

And this is how I’ve avoided what I believe to be unnecessary negativity for a long time now. Rarely do I get upset or annoyed or frustrated these days.

Getting Upset in Bishkek

Those Rude Locals!
If you’re walking around Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and you get lost, and you walk up to a random taxi driver, asking for directions in English and a few mispronounced Russian words, don’t get upset if you are met with a serious look and a raised hand from the man in the driver seat, as if he was brushing you away. There is a good chance that this man was just shy and not at all used to interacting with foreigners, and he didn’t understand your attempt at Russian, and he didn’t speak a word of English, and maybe that raised hand gesture was his way of saying “I’m sorry, but I just don’t know how to help you”.

It’s the very same situation but, as I’ve pointed out above, it’s a completely different perspective. And while we’ll always tend to believe that our way of interpreting the world is right, believe me when I say that it’s worth the effort to push through that stubbornness and accept the fact that others may see the world and every single experience differently than we do.

What a shame it would be to walk around Bishkek all day unable to enjoy the city because you are annoyed that the Kyrgyz people are unfriendly and not very welcoming based on one misinterpreted interaction!

It happens more often than you may think. Every day we react to hundreds of different experiences, ranging from tiny to major, yet we seldom take into account anyone’s perspective on those situations except for our own. It’s unavoidable to an extent, but we can try to remember, as often as possible, that there is no absolute perspective for any situation we face.

Taking this approach quickly leads to a realization that getting upset or annoyed isn’t really something that makes sense most of the time. It’s usually just a waste of energy that can drain all involved of any happiness they might have been experiencing at the time. And besides, with less anger and frustration in our lives, especially the unnecessary kind, comes a calmer, healthier lifestyle, something that will ensure we enjoy an infinitely more rewarding set of travel adventures as well!

Are you able to view situations from different perspectives and avoid getting upset? Or do you find it challenging to do so? Any other thoughts?


Posted in Mexico, Perspectives | 99 Comments

Travel the World

Wait. Is this really possible?

No. Well, yes. Well, maybe.

If you look at travel as most of us do, an activity that involves the standard transportation, accommodation, sampling of the local cuisine and visiting sights and attractions, then it’ll be somewhat of a challenge to even imagine how your daily spending budget could be as low as $1.94 per day.

However, if you’re able to approach travel from an entirely different perspective, you may suddenly find it difficult to understand how you could possibly spend MORE than $1.94 per day during your adventure.

As for me, I have months where I spend well over $1000 USD and I have months where I spend well under that amount. While I don’t maintain a strict travel budget and I don’t watch every dollar I spend, I would estimate that during some months, I may only spend $300 USD or so.

How is this possible? How can I spend so little while paying for accommodation, food, activities and more?

I can’t.

The months where I spend so little are months where I’m not paying for a room or activities or transportation. They are months when I have managed to eliminate some of those expenses.

Again, how is this possible?

Here’s a few ways:

Make New Friends
Some people think that staying with friends while you travel the world, or staying with friends of friends or friends of friends of friends, is cheating and that it’s not honest to say that traveling can be so inexpensive if I stay with friends for free, some of the time. My response to that is that there is nothing stopping anyone from making friends all over the world. Get online, join forums, go on couchsurfing.org and communicate with locals, find blogs in the countries you are about to visit and email the writers. Connect with people, start building bonds and before you know it, you’ll have friends all over the world before you ever start traveling. You could also ask your current friends if they have any contacts in any of the countries you will visit, even the most distant of contacts, as that tiny little connection can lead to great benefits.

Make New Friends

Of course, don’t interpret this the wrong way. I’m not saying that you should make friends all over the world so that you can crash on their couch and not have to pay for accommodation. Make friends in order to connect with new people. Make friends in order to learn from their way of life. Make friends so that you can dive a little deeper into the destination.

And then, yes, you may also benefit from being able to stay at your friends’ places while traveling, of course with the understanding that they can crash with you as well when they happen to end up in a place you’re living or hanging out at for a while.

Do What You Love
The other day I heard about an Argentinian couple currently staying in Mexico that has been traveling the world for one and half years, drastically reducing their expenses by offering to paint the interiors of hostels, cafes, restaurants, etc, in exchange for a place to stay or meals. They love painting and so this kind of exchange works out quite well for them, saving them a great deal of money each month in the process.

Can you cook? Maybe you are staying at a hostel, so why not organize a group dinner where everyone contributes some money, you buy the ingredients and cook a great meal. You eliminate your food costs by being the chef and everyone gains from the experience.

Can you teach yoga or dance? Can you teach web design or an instrument? Offer classes for a few bucks so that you earn back your accommodation expenses. Teach a hostel owner how to improve his or her website in exchange for a place to stay. Offer what you can, offer what you love, offer anything at all and create a mutually beneficial situation.

Carry a Tent & Stick Out Your Thumb
Camp and hitchhike. Sleep in hammocks in the backyard of hostels or on the rooftop for less money than a dorm bed. Try to catch a ride with a passerby instead of using the bus or train. Sleep on the beach for a night or two each week. Find the most local transportation possible instead of the nicer, more direct, and more expensive, option. Hard core travelers can really cut down on expenses and I’ve met many people over the years who do just that. And they certainly have no shortage of interesting stories to share as a result of their ultra-budget style of travel! It’s not for everyone of course, but for those who truly want to experience the world on a tight budget, it’s another option to consider.

Carry a Tent

Research & Ask Around
There are promotions, deals, coupons and discounts everywhere. You just need to find them. During South Korea’s “Visit Korea Year” campaign in 2012, many of the country’s sights and transportation options were offered at heavy discounts for foreign tourists. In Playa del Carmen, Mexico, simply stating that you are a local (as in living there instead of just visiting for a few days), will get you discounts on meals at restaurants, at car rental agencies, on entrance fees and more. If you take the airport shuttle bus from Cancun, you’ll find a coupon on the bottom of your ticket for 14 pesos off your next airport shuttle ride. And while 14 pesos ($1.16 USD) might not seem like too much, that will get you a huge, tasty taco at Playa del Carmen’s most famous taco stand.

Many businesses offer discounts if you like their Facebook page or interact with them in other ways on social media and there are always 2×1 specials, or something similar, to be found on meals, activities, drinks and plenty more, all over the world. It’s all about being aware, not being afraid to ask for a discount everywhere you go and talking to both locals and other foreigners to see what kind of ways they might have found to save some money in a particular destination.

Travel the World - Riga Card

Like anything, this all takes some effort and it’s not for everyone as we’re not all comfortable with the same things. That’s why the purpose of this post is just to, once again, show that you can travel the world for much less money than you might imagine if you simply change the way you approach your trip.

You really could spend one month in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, for example, visiting destinations such as Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Valladolid, Merida and Izamal, for around $250 USD, or $8.33 per day. This would involve hitchhiking around, using Couchsurfing for accommodation and eating at local food stalls. Yes, you also have to pay for your flight to/from Mexico (which can be as low as $250 USD from certain cities in the USA), but if you stayed for two months, including that flight, you could still manage to spend a mere $750 USD in total, or $375 per month. Not bad for two months of exploring a foreign country.

Again, that may sound extreme to many of us and you probably won’t go and incorporate every money-saving tip that you hear about on your next trip and you probably won’t travel for $1.94 per day either. But you can take the ideas that suit you, the ideas you are comfortable with, and create your own travel style that allows you to save as much money as you possibly can.

And when it comes to travel, any amount you do save can make a major difference.

Also, before I end, I will state that, yes, $1.94 USD per day is an exaggeration. I’m sure it’s possible somehow and I’m sure there are people traveling for that amount or even less, but for the majority, that’s definitely on the extreme low side, a level that won’t be possible to achieve.

So take some time to create your own budget and to determine how much you can spend each month while wandering the world. Then, examine each individual potential expense and try to figure out how you can reduce or even eliminate it, knowing full well that, when it comes to travel, there are always ways out there to save some money.

Do you have any other simple tips to share that can help us save money while traveling? If you’re planning a trip, any questions on how to lower your expenses?


Posted in Travel Costs, Travel Tips & Advice | 45 Comments