April 24, 2015

Vagabonding Field Report: Getting Ready to Sail the Seas on the Oliver Hazard Perry

Currently, I am in Newport Rhode Island getting ready to sail on the Oliver Hazard Perry for the next five months. The ship is in the final stages of getting ready to sail. It is a massive 280 foot long tall ship named the Oliver Hazard Perry.

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Cost Per Day

Newport can be expensive if you are eating seafood every meal or shopping at the luxury stories that are in this area. However, right now I am spending next to nothing.

On average I am spending $20 a day.

Describe a typical day:

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Currently, I am in Newport Rhode Island getting ready to sail on the Oliver Hazard Perry for the next five months. The ship is in the final stages of getting ready to sail. A typical day for me is wandering around Newport, meandering inside the small shops, enjoying the smell of the ocean from the Harbor and walking admiring the small town feel and charm of Newport.

Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

A few days ago at a bus station, I struck up a conversation with a girl. She asked why I had a backpack on and where I was heading. I told her about my travels, and it turned out she was a traveler as well. We had both been to many of the same cities, sights, and even hostels around Europe and Asia.

For the next hour, we talked about foods all over the world, scuba diving, rock climbing, and cities that we loved. It goes to show just how small the world is and how people from complete different backgrounds share the same love of traveling.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

I really like the ocean and the small town feel of Newport. The whole city seems small and quaint, yet, because of the water it feels very open and alive. I love the small shops, the delicious seafood, and the friendly atmosphere. It is one of those towns where everyone feels and acts as if they have been friends for years.

Describe a challenge you faced:

Right now, a challenge has been balancing travel with family. My grandmother passed away a couple weeks ago. While I made it home before she passed a day after the funeral, I left again. While my family was urging me to get back on the road, I cannot help but feel a little guilty for taking off so soon during this time of grieving.

What new lesson did you learn?

I have realized more and more this last month that life is an adventure, and time does not stop. I gained a better understating that following my dreams to the fullest this moment is the most important thing I can do.

Where next? 

Next I will be sailing and working as a deck hand on the Oliver Hazard Perry. It will be an extreme, and exciting adventure.

Stephen Schreck run a travel blog, and is an adventure junkie. You can follow his story and tales on Facebook, Pinterest and Google +.

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Category: General

April 10, 2015

Pro’s and Con’s of Traveling Solo

Over the last decade, I have traveled with both, friends and tour groups; however, the majority of my travels have been solo.

Solo traveling is exciting. There is no greater buzz than standing in an airport preparing to board a plane to a far off country all by yourself. The thrill of adventure and the unknown is amplified when traveling solo.

However, like every mode of travel, it is a two-sided coin; it has its good and its bad. Here are some of the pro’s and con’s of traveling solo, and why I think everyone should try their hand at it at least once.

me backpacking

Pro – One of the biggest pro’s of traveling solo is the intense sense of freedom that is at your fingertips.

Do not like where you are at this very moment? If not, you simply book a ticket and leave.

Want to stay in a city longer? No, problem, you can!

Traveling solo means you call the shots.

You can go where you want, when you want. The thrill of the entire world being an open book ready to be explored is amazing.

Realizing, you get to navigate it as you see fit is indescribable. When you travel with tour groups or even with friends, you have to take into account what the entire group wants to do.

Sometimes it is frustrating to come so far to visit a country and still miss some of the sights and experiences on the top your list because the majority of your group wanted to move on.

Con – Traveling solo can sometimes be lonely. There is a lot of down time traveling such as waiting in airports, bus stations, trains.

When this happens it is easy to get lonely. You find yourself in a very busy but transit place and chances are there will be none one to talk to.

Sometimes while traveling you experience something that you wish you could share with someone.

For instance, there are times when you look at the sunset and wish someone was with you to enjoy it.

Pro – The sense of adventure of navigating the world is priceless. Traveling between and into foreign cities, wandering around a city where you can’t read the signs or speak the language, trying to find your bearings and locate the essentials can be extremely overwhelming.

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However, soon the unfamiliar become extremely comfortable and you feel a deep sense of accomplishment knowing that you are connected to this world on your own.

Con – The first couple weeks can be extremely difficult and some people who travel solo get homesick quick during this period.

The foreign seems too overwhelming and well…..foreign. I have met many people that couldn’t take it and headed home.

Pro- Traveling solo you meet many more people than what you normally do when traveling with people.

When traveling in groups, people tend to get clicklock. You meet a lot of people, but you tend to hang out with your group.

However, when you are alone other backpackers become like your family. I find myself much more outgoing and will talk to anyone for hours when traveling alone.

Con- When you are travel alone, you feel almost secluded. There is a lot of busi-ness surrounding you and sometimes you are even apart of it, but then everyone, including yourself goes a different way. Even returning home can make you feel almost secluded, as if no one understands the wonderful experiences you just had.

Pro - Traveling with friends strengthens your bond. You have a once in a lifetime experience together, figure out mistakes together, and immerse yourself in other cultures together.

You share a unique and precious memory and whenever you see one another again, you almost instantly pick up where you let off as if no time had past.

Traveling solo has it pros and cons, but I think it is a great experience as it opens up the world in unforgettable ways.

It has changed my life in many ways. I recommend solo travel for everyone at least once in a lifetime. Perhaps, it will lead to discovering a whole new world.

Stephen Schreck has an unquenchable wanderlust, and love of traveling. You can  read more on his travel blog or follow him on Facebook, or Instagram.

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Category: General, On The Road, Solo Travel

April 4, 2015

Le Musee du Fumeur: Paris

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Wander through the 11th arrondissement of Paris toward the dead celebrities of Pere Lachaise Cemetery, and there’s a decent chance you’ll stumble across a small gallery called “Le Musée du

Fumeur.” Unlike the hallowed halls of the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay, there is no tyranny of expectation in this tiny, smoking-themed museum. No smiling Mona Lisa or reclining Olympia dictates where the random tourist should focus his attention. Thus left to meander, the drop-in visitor may well overlook the more earnest exhibits here — such as Egyptian sheeshas or Chinese opium pipes — and note the small, red-circle-and-slash signs reminding guests that, in no uncertain terms, smoking is strictly forbidden in the Museum of Smoking.

In spite of this startling contradiction, there is a notable lack of irony in Le Musée du Fumeur, which crams an eclectic array of international smoking-culture relics into a 650-square-foot storefront near Rue de la Roquette. Inside the glass display cases, hemp-fiber clothing competes for space with 17th-century smoking paraphernalia and sepia photos of American Indian chiefs posing with peace pipes. Around the corner, a looped video about Cuba’s cigar industry flickers above 1920s-era etchings of cigarette-toting debutantes and scientific drawings of tobacco plants. Out front, the gift shop hawks highbrow cigar magazines alongside glass bongs and rolling papers; DVDs produced by High Times perch on the same shelf as pamphlets on how to quit smoking. A curious-looking machine, the “Vapormatic Deluxe,” which apparently allows one to inhale plant essences without creating secondhand smoke, retails for 299 euros.

In a more provincial part of the world — rural Moldavia, say, or a Nebraska interstate exit — such an unfocused array of smoking esoterica might well be relegated to some dank basement, advertised by fading billboards and listed in guidebooks alongside Stalinist monuments or concrete dinosaurs. But this is Paris, and the displays here are sleek, self-serious, tastefully illuminated and studiously clean; soft jazz mood-music alternates with piano and harpsichord compositions as you move from display to display. The closest thing to pure whimsy is a psychedelic mural painted in the back room — an oddly smoke-free scene, wherin cats strum guitars, flying robots clutch cans of beer, and busty women hitch rides from VW camper vans.

The ostensible purpose of Le Musée du Fumeur is to demonstrate how global attitudes toward smoking have developed and transformed over the years. Yet its cluttered formality can leave visitors with the impression that smoking is in fact an archaic practice, long-since vanished from mainstream society. And given current trends, it might not be long before cigarette smoking indeed does become extinct — at least in the public spaces of progressive, First World cities like Paris.

Not too long ago, public smoking bans were regarded as a uniquely American phenomenon — a puritanical gesture, held in ridicule by any self-respecting, Gauloise-puffing Frenchman. Over time, however, the public health burden of smoking-related illnesses has spurred a number of industrialized nations to follow the American example. When the initial steps of a public smoking ban took effect in Paris this February, French opinion polls reported that 70 percent of Parisians were in favor of the prohibition.

With the rites of public smoking thus endangered, it’s tempting to conclude that a smoking-themed museum is a great way to preserve an increasingly marginalized social ritual. In truth, the opposite is probably more accurate: To paraphrase what sociologist Dean MacCannell said a generation ago about folk museums, the best indicator of smoking-culture’s demise is not its disappearance from public areas, but its artificial preservation in a place like Le Musée du Fumeur.

Moreover, it may well be that a museum is not the truest medium in which to commemorate something so habitual and prosaic. Social critic Lucy R. Lippard observed that museums are inherently alien to the artifacts they contain. Lippard noted that many people are “far more at home in curio shops, which slowly become populist museums,” home to relics and life-ways that are “displayed in a relaxed and random fashion…in ways far more attuned to how we experience life itself.”

As of now, the populist, curio-shop equivalent of musées du fumeur can be still found in the smoky confines of cafés, restaurants, and nightclubs in Paris — but only until January 1, when the smoking ban takes full effect, and anyone caught lighting up in such places is subject to a 75-euro fine. After that day, a million populist museum curators will be forced to puff their cigarettes on the street corners of Paris, and the Musée du Fumeur will become a slightly more potent curiosity.

 

Originally published by The Smart Set, August 6, 2007

Photo Credit: °]° via Compfight cc

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Category: General

April 3, 2015

Vagabonding Case Study: Nicole Brewer

 

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iluv2globetrot.com

Age: 33

Hometown: Detroit, MI

Quote: “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move”.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

April 1, 2015

Vagabonding Field Report: Hanoi, Vietnam

In northern Vietnam lies this gem of a city where French food and fashion meet Vietnamese culture and vermicelli. Sometimes overlooked as it’s not as big of a hub as Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi offers a taste of authentic street food and genuinely good prices.

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Cost per day:

Hanoi has a huge range of hotels on offer from $4 a night for a shared dorm to much, much more at some of the fancier establishments in the French quarter. We’re at a solid $14 USD a night which has a western bathroom/shower and includes breakfast. With only a few minutes walk to the old quarter, we’re at the heart of the city and don’t need to rent scooters or bicycles. For lunch we eat street food, sitting on tiny child-sized plastic stools along the sidewalk: maybe a bowl of phở or a sweet and savory bun cha, each costing somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 dong. A bowl of fruit salad mixed with coconut cream, tapioca balls, and jelly cubes with crushed ice will only run you about 20,000 dong as a sweet snack to tide you over until dinner. Dinner may set you back you a bit more but can still be done affordably. We often eat phở on the street for 50,000 dong, but there are many restaurants serving western fare as well as Vietnamese and French for a bit more. Household items can be bought from corner shops (we bought electrical tape for 5,000 dong, the equivalent of about $0.25 USD) and shopping for clothing and handicrafts is plentiful but requires a lot of hard bargaining. Beer is the cheapest I’ve ever seen at 20,000 dong or less.

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Category: Asia, General, Vagabonding Field Reports

March 19, 2015

Especially the disasters are worth it

When I’m in the States, sitting on my parents’ couch in the normalcy of the world in which I grew up and my mind begins to wander, it wanders to a moment when my shoes were caked in dust and the Kenyan heat beat on my shoulders. A young Masai boy hung by our side as we leaned against our RAV 4, which sat awkwardly off-kilter in the ditch at the imbalance of a busted tire. The sun worked its way toward the horizon as our only ticking deadline.

On paper, that travel-story was about failure. The Toyota RAV 4, our 4WD vehicle of choice for our self-drive safari in the Masai Mara National Reserve had been a struggle. The pot-holes on the return journey to Nairobi had gotten the best of us not once, but twice, first taking out our tire and then taking out the spare twenty minutes later. We were stranded in the middle of nowhere for 4 hours while half our group hitch-hiked to the nearest town large enough to sell tires.

And when I remember that moment I have to smile to myself. I remember the feeling of half-cynical amusement at the situation we’d found ourselves in and the feeling of adventure in realizing how rugged the Kenyan roads were. All the portions of my attention were awake in that moment, not just for problem-solving, but for soaking in my surroundings. We stood around for hours amusing the curious Masai boy who’d come to see us play with our Go-Pro and pretend to beat-box. The bells of his herd of goats rang softly in the distance.

Kenya flat

Honestly, it’s the disasters that stick in my mind when I’m back in the safe and predictable life of “home”. And those memories don’t bring me exasperation or anxiety or relief. They make me smile. They remind me I’ve had the sorts of adventures that become good stories.

Museums and national monuments and even elephants standing on the roadside don’t quite make me feel that same way.

Why is that?

I’m only sifting through my own travel-stories, but here’s why I think the travel disasters are especially worth it and especially valuable.

1. Stories give us confidence in the value of our journey.

When you can come home and make everyone around the table gasp or snicker or shutter at the things you’ve seen, it validates the fact that you did indeed experience something memorable. “Wow, that is really something.” It doesn’t seem to matter what that “something” is. If you’ve experienced something, you’ve learned that much more about the world and yourself. Which leads me to the next point…

2. Unfamiliar, imperfect situations teach us something about ourselves.

Every time I make it through a new stress or imperfection, I’ve learned a bit more about what my limitations AREN’T. And it can be quite addicting learning how many things DON’T limit you that you thought might.

For example when we visited Easter Island we decided to camp. Wind howled and rain whipped the sides of our tent almost every night. (They were excellent tents so we were never cold nor wet.)  Even though the conditions weren’t ideal for camping, it was wonderful to teach myself that I do not need ideal conditions to sleep in a tent. (Not to mention I learned what a difference a quality tent makes!)

The disasters often teach us what we can endure, and that is an empowering thing to learn.

3. Unfamiliar, imperfect situations teach us about our destination.

It is amazing how insulated travel can be if you aren’t careful. If you book a tour that shows you all the highlights of a place, you may never know what the real heart and life of that place is. Take for example the alternative route to Machu Picchu. The popular train ride from Cusco to Machu Picchu is, no doubt, a fabulous way to see some beautiful scenery.

And it is less havoc and headache, no doubt, than taking a series of collectivos for two days until you reach the waste water treatment plant behind Machu Picchu where you either luck out on hitching a train or trek along the train tracks for two hours before reaching Aguas Calientes.

Drew Machu Picchu

Both options will show you some part of Peru. But the messier option will show you, in my opinion, a slightly more authentic spectrum. You’ll see the beautiful views from a spot squished between locals in the back-seat of a 25-year old van that smokes when you stop. You’ll see the bus driver hop off the bus at a little shack deep in the Andes, to bring his mother some clothes before taking off again up the winding mountainside.

 

All of the experiences I’ve referenced in this (rather personal) post were in some way uncomfortable.

And I love it that way. I learned something. I felt something. I saw something.

 

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Category: General, On The Road, Vagabonding Life

March 14, 2015

A day spent wandering a city never gets old

gallavanting through Huntsville, Alabama

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

–Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Travel and time are two topics bantered around by those in the world of travel, those who want to travel and those who don’t understand how it can possibly happen. ‘How do you afford to travel?’ ‘How can you take so much time off of work?’ ‘Don’t you just want to settle down and stop moving around so much?’ Whether it is a conversation amongst those choosing to live a travel-focused lifestyle or those wishing to have one, a day spent wandering a city never gets old!

Too often when traveling, days are filled with things on a ‘to-do list’. Don’t get me wrong, this list is far more inviting than the one including ‘pay bills, do laundry, clean the bathroom or even go to work’, but positive or otherwise it can lead to exhaustion. Those who retire from a lifetime of work talk about how ‘everyday is a Saturday’ and many tell a story that includes how they’re much busier now than they ever were when working. Whether traveling, being a tourist in your own city or just taking a twenty-four hour period to exist, a day spent wandering a city never gets old!

If it’s your home city, you might just take the opportunity to experience a part you’ve never before explored providing your very own ‘travel day’. Perhaps there’s that special restaurant you’ve always wanted to try but never before took the time to do so. Maybe you’re just looking for a chance to meander by the water, through the park or down the busy streets to truly see the city with open eyes. It’s not often you can take the time to stop and look around or stop at the market you’ve just upon stumbled. Is there a museum you’ve wanted to check out or an event about which you’ve been excited? Take the time to just go. It’s not often you can sit or be or enjoy and taking that time to do so is revitalizing, reinvigorating and reaffirming.

When moving to a new place whether for a few weeks, months or years, I find it incredibly helpful to spend a day wandering. Really able to get to know a city through its pathways, its people, its sights, sounds and smells provides information that no online search ever could. Sure, you can Google map your way to the nearest whatever, but standing on the street utilizing all of your senses is much more authentic. The Internet search of the public transport map can tell you where the trolley goes, but not what it feels like to actually ride on it. The specific app search can give you the ‘best’ or ‘most visited’ hole in the wall café, but how do you really know until you get to taste the delights on your own palette?

A day spent wandering a city never gets old! Regardless of its size or location, a walk through an entire city, or a specific area is an eye-opening experience. You get a chance to see real life happening before your eyes. You get an opportunity to breathe in and experience and let wonder and curiosity lead your journey. This is a rare chance to let your choices carve your path and spend as much or as little time in one spot before moving on to the next adventurous avenue. It’s not often in life (traditional or travel-focused) when you can enjoy a prospect of no plans and a find as you go sort of day. This is a memory-making day.

Time is a gift. Time is talked about regularly in any arena as it feels as if there’s never enough. Travel embraces this view and breaks the mold. Travel forces its followers to take time to do, be, choose, embrace and explore. Travel flings your eyes upward away from the virtual world and plops you smack dam in the center of the real one. If you let it, travel shows the best and worst of people, the true character of cities and authentic everything. If you’re willing to let it-travel can teach, share, welcome, surprise, enrage, encourage, change perceptions and create anew. Who knows what can come from time, but what I do know is that a day spent wandering a city never gets old!

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So…get on your way!”

–Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go

For more of Stacey’s musings check out her writings here.

 

 

 

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Category: General

March 13, 2015

Vagabonding Field Report: Exploring the vastness of Rome

Rome with ancient ruins, delicious pastas, and red wine never fails to disappoint. The eternal city, once the center of the world, still captivates and amazes people from all over the globe. From the gorgeous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to the cobblestone alleyways in the old city, travelers can not get enough of Rome.

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Cost per day

Compared to the overall prices in Europe, Italy is midrange. In big cities like Rome, Florence, and Milian prices are much higher than in the small medieval towns and quiant countryside villages.

Every time I visit Italy, I budget around $2,000 a month or $65 a day. This covers staying in a hostel, eating out a couple times a week, and going out for drinks with friends.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

I have come to terms that there is no shortage of strange events when living in hostels. Recently, I saw a traveler with a backpack that was bulging, almost ripping at the seams. The pack also had an odd square shape to it.

Curiosity got the best of me, so I approached him and asked why his backpack looked so strange.

He smiled as he unzipped it showing me a massive speaker. Seriously, he packed limited clothes and accessories to carry a giant speaker with him around Europe.

Of course, I asked him why. He smiled as he said, “I can’t travel without being able to play loud music.”

[More.. Break]

Describe a typical day

Rome is a city made for walking, and I have a basic routine I follow every day. I wake up late in my hostel dorm, head to a nearby bakery to get some crumbly Italian bread and fresh mozzarella that is so soft it almost melts in your mouth.

I throw it all into my daypack and start walking to whatever site I feel like seeing first. A usual favorite of mine is the Colosseum where I sit on a nearby wall while enjoying the weather and eating breakfast. I spend the rest of the day hopping between shops, cafes, and sites.

Rome is a very personal city for me. It is the first place I traveled solo almost ten years ago, and my experiences in the city have turned me into the traveler I am today. You could say Rome completely changed my life, and I love to reflect on that when I am here.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

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The locals, history, and culture are things I like very much about Italy. One day I was eating a meal of bread and cheese when a woman and man approached me.

They started asking my opinion on Rome. After chatting awhile, they noticed what I was eating.

“Come on,” they said as they grabbed me and led me to their favorite restaurant. They bought this poor backpacker a meal and gave me a tour around the city for the rest of the day.

Another thing I sincerely love about Rome is the sites. I am a history buff, and so Rome is a mecca to me.

One thing that makes Rome precious is that they built the city around the ruins. Often just walking around a corner, you will stumble upon ancient remains from another age.

One thing I do not appreciate is that Italy does not like my debit cards. Most ATM’s refuse to give me cash which is extremely irritating. While I have credit cards, which work fine, I prefer to have a safety net of cash on me at all times.

If my credit cards ever got stolen, I would be in a world of hurt while in Italy.

Describe a challenge you faced:

Recently, a challenge I have been dealing with is being alone. Rome is a romantic hotspot and everywhere you look, couples are holding hands and softly kissing. It is also the off-season for backpackers, so there are fewer people to meet at hostels.

What new lesson did you learn?

While I believe Italy still has a lot to teach me, this visit was more about reflection.

I thought a lot about this path of long-term travel, and how happy I am with the choice I made. I also thought a lot about where I want to steer my life in the future. Italy is a rock for me and helps me sort my thoughts and make future plans.

Where next?

In a few weeks, I am setting sail on a tall ship that will be journeying down the east coast of America and through the Caribbean. I am thrilled and excited as this new adventure is on the horizon.

Stephen Schreck is a long-term traveler, and lover of all things Italian. You can  read his Italy Travel Tips or follow his travels around the world on A Backpackers Tale.

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports

March 8, 2015

Giving free travel talks—A great way to share the knowledge and ignite others’ travel dreams

As travelers, we often find ourselves talking to friends and strangers alike at parties, at work, wherever, about travel and how to do it right. We evangelize for travel, extolling its opportunities and benefits. We often go on at length about the magic of our favorite places, the addictive high that comes from filling up a passport book, and the thrill of crossing a new border and making new connections. We also find ourselves giving out advice on all matters travel, from where to find the cheapest airline tickets to where to stay and when to go. You know you do this.

But normally it’s one-on-one counseling, spreading the gospel of good travel one conversation at a time. In almost any social situation I would meet many would-be travelers are looking for a better option than shelling out a fortune to join a big-bus corporate tour with an itinerary geared toward hitting the owner’s favorite tourist traps. I was always stuck by people’s desire for useful tips for shaping their own experience and, more importantly, the need for an infusion of “Hey, I can do this!” confidence.

After thousands of private conversations, I also realized that the most efficient way to share what I knew with those who were interested was to teach.

Next week at a local Seattle-area library I’ll be giving the first of several ninety-minute “Travel Talks” I plan to give this year. The seminar-style presentations, which I call “Traveling The Best of Europe Independently & On A Budget” will be free, presented at assorted libraries in the Seattle metro area.

This marks the tenth year I’ve been doing them, having originally started in my hometown of Chicago. I tackle the question about how to travel independently in Europe (since that happens to be my specialty), how to plan it, and what to do when you’re there.

I wish more experienced travelers, wherever in the world they happen to hang their rucksack, would occasionally give up a Saturday afternoon to teach these sorts of classes. Not only is there a deep need for the info but there’s plenty of reward in it for the speaker. Some have asked why I bother doing these talks when it’s basically giving me time and advice for free. My answer: Sharing my hard-won tips on budgeting, itinerary-crafting, and other how-to essentials is a joy. Many of the people who attend these classes have an ideal trip in their minds and have had it for most of their life, but have lacked the skills or confidence to go on their own. And seeing their eyes light up when they realize they can take control of their own travel dreams and plan their own adventure is profoundly rewarding.

Moreover, it’s a public service. More than just the mere nuts-and-bolts information of planning a trip on a tight budget, arming curious people with the info and inspiration to broaden their horizons is a good thing for them and for their country. They will likely return from their adventure with not only experiences they will cherish, but a better perspective on their world as well.

So, if you’re inclined to spread your knowledge and love of whatever destination you adore, please consider offering a ninety-minute “how to travel independently & on a budget to…” presentation at a local library or school. Any guidebook will have a chapter on the basics, but it’s a presenter’s confidence and palpable love for the subject that can inspire someone to finally book that plane ticket. Let them learn from your trial-and-error. Impart your wisdom and fill the room with your enthusiasm for the amazing places you’re talking about. You might just motivate a wannabe adventurer to take the trip of their dreams and change their life, and that is time well spent. Go forth and spread the gospel.

 

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Category: Adventure Travel, Expat Life, General, Notes from the collective travel mind, Solo Travel, Vagabonding Advice, Youth Travel

March 5, 2015

Rent vs hotel life

Have you ever taken a look at your utility bills and just wondered if you should ditch your lease, pick up some travel expenses and call it a wash?

Well, my husband and I are recording every single expense as we travel, just so that we can do an experiment of that nature.

I’ve picked a pretty average month to demonstrate what our costs have been with travel so that we can compare them to average monthly costs for our old stationary life. But first, here are some of the questions and anticipations we had going into the (now almost 2-year) experiment.

Are hotel points and frequent flier miles enough to buffer the cost of full-time accommodations?

Going into this experiment, we had a pretty advanced knowledge of frequent flier miles, and some familiarity with hotel points. But over the months of nomadic life, we’ve been able to refine our strategies for earning hotel points more and more.

Arguably the easiest way to earn hotel points is simply to sign up for a hotel’s credit card and receive the sign-up bonus. But one unexpected thing we’re learning is that hotel promotions are extremely valuable for nomads. Consider this: an ordinary traveler may or may not have stays coming up during a hotel’s promotion. If they do have a trip that happens to overlap with a hotel’s promotion, then they’ve lucked out and they can earn lots of points with their paid stays. But they’d have to ask themselves if those points outweighed the savings from simply picking a cheaper hotel.

With our nomadic lifestyle however, we ALWAYS are traveling. So we can always assume two things: firstly that we will need a place to stay during that promotion and secondly, that we will have a use for the points we earn later. We need to cover 365 nights and inevitably we’ll have to pay full price for some of those nights. So we might as well pay full price for hotels during promotions.

Can food be affordable without a kitchen around for cooking groceries?

Food is definitely expensive when you can’t lean on grocery-shopping and cooking at home. Even with certain strategies for keeping it as low as possible, like taking advantage of hotels that include meals or free breakfast, it’s very difficult to keep it as low as a stationary person’s food budget.

This puts even more pressure on keeping other expenses low.

 

So let’s see what the numbers were for April 2014 where we traveled in Indonesia, Singapore and mostly India. I will say, these are fairly low-cost destinations and this was one of our lesser expensive months, but it does indeed represent what anyone (with a good credit score) would be capable of replicating.

April Total $1,785
Tourist Attraction Total $32.58
Food & Beverage Total $407.26
Land Transit Total $272.91
Air Transit Total $675.79
Accommodation total $377.92 27,000 Club Carlson points
10,000 Hyatt points
11,000 SPG points
80,000 IHG points
1 Category 5 Marriott cert

Most of these points were acquired through credit-card bonuses.

How does this compare to a month living a stationary life?

Unfortunately when I was living a stationary life, we didn’t keep records of all of our expenses, so we’re going to need to do a little research and estimation for this part.

Tourist attraction total: $0 though perhaps a stationary life would have an “entertainment budget” instead. My husband and I mostly went out to eat with friends as our entertainment, so I’ll leave this calculation at $0.

Food & beverage total: According to information released by the USDA, the average expenses for a couple’s groceries (considering they eat “moderately”) in 2010 was as low as $347.50 and as high as $688.60 depending on how thrifty or unthrifty a couple is, but they set the moderate-leveled average at $550.60. Because we treated food and beverage as our main source of entertainment (instead of paying for movies or sports events,) let’s go with the more expensive amount as that seems closer to our normal tendency during stationary life.

Land transit total: Drew and I were fairly unique in that we have not owned a car throughout our marriage. We did spend maybe around $30 a month on public transit however, so that’s where we’ll set this number.

Air transit total: I guess this doesn’t really apply to the stationary-life budget.

Accommodation total: We shared our rent with a housemate but our portion of the rent alone came out to $900. But once you add all the utilities and internet, we’ll bring that up to $1150.

Total stationary budget (estimate): $1868.60

 

Conclusion

So there you have it. According to my best estimates, we spent $1868.60 on a stationary-life month. (This is considering that we are probably more frugal than the average person in that we didn’t own a car or television.) Then consider that it is possible to spend $1785 on a month spent in Indonesia, Singapore and India. That is $83.60 less.

Of course, not every month is as low as $1785. The truth is, we are still working hard to refine our strategies for nomadic travel using miles and points. Over all, I hope a look at these numbers can show that with some strategy, it really is possible to travel on a stationary budget.

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