October 7, 2014

5 Ways to finance your travel dreams

Money

One of the most interesting aspects of traveling is meeting the fascinating array of people who manage to make their travel dreams a reality.

We’ve met young people and retirees, couples, single parents and families of every sort you can imagine. One of the things that always strikes us is the resourcefulness of this community and the many ways that people find to create income and finance their dreams.

The world economy is changing. The financial “security” that our parents generation enjoyed is not nearly as secure. The way people make money and work jobs is changing as fast as the technology that is pushing us forward. Whether you’re saving to take off on your dream trip or realizing that you want to make it last forever, these five strategies can help you fund it!

 

Less is More

Any good financial manager will tell you that the first thing you can do to find more funding is to cut fat.

Doing without your daily Starbucks coffee at $3.00 a pop saves $1000 a year; it doesn’t take a genius to do the math on that. A thousand dollars will buy a plane ticket, but it won’t keep you traveling for long. If you’re looking to build your nest egg faster, consider the following:

If your dream is to travel, learning to live with less and do things “the hard way” to save money will do two things: fund your travel and prepare you for the lifestyle that awaits!

Simplify, live like you’re on the road before you hit the road, and bank the difference!

 

Stretch your 1st World Money

The digital nomad’s ideal is to be able to make first world money and live outside of the first world.

While you’re barely scraping by in the USA on $35,000 a year, that same amount anywhere in Central America would let you live like a king. For some people travel is actually cheaper than staying home and living abroad allows them to get out of debt faster, save for a house or long term goals faster and at the same time they are living their dreams!

Guess what? Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too!

 

Diversify

Most of the people we know who are lifestyle travelers do not have one source of income, they have several.

For us, this means my husband’s day job (freelance in the tech industry) and my online and print freelance writing work. We have friends who have ebay businesses, others with multiple websites, some who consult, others who teach, some who own rental homes for income, many who have simply converted their “old careers” into more location independent versions.

The key is, not to put all of your eggs in one basket!

If you’ve got one goose laying all the golden eggs (whether you live a static life or one on the road) then you’re in a precarious position. What happens when that job, that contract, or that income stream dries up?

Develop new income streams, now, before you go, and as you travel as well!

 

Barter

There is more than one form of currency, and I’m not talking dollars versus euros!

Money is one way to get things done and the more you have the easier it is, to be sure, but it isn’t the only way! You can significantly reduce your reliance on green backs by entering into barter relationships that allow both parties to benefit and save you both a bucket of money.

Some examples:

Make an inventory of what you know how to do, the services you could provide and match that against what you need to keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to accept, or offer a barter!

 

Leverage Technology

The absolute truth is that if it were not for the advances of technology, we could not be doing what we are doing.

It’s the internet and the ubiquitous accessibility of it that allows us to live and work anywhere for years on end, pursuing our passions.

You can leverage that technology too:

Some of the most creative uses of technology for career transformation that we’ve seen include a psychologist we met in Antigua who does his counseling sessions online, Latin, Burmese and English lessons via Skype, Ebay empires that fund big families on the move, and the lady who teaches our kids art by Skype on Wednesday mornings, from wherever she happens to be traveling, to wherever we happen to be traveling!

Think outside the box. Even things that don’t seem related to technology can be reinvented using it. 

 

What can you do today to fund your dream? 

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Category: Money Management, Vagabonding Life

October 6, 2014

Off-the-beaten-track adventure is still possible

“Rather than lament the fact that trips would have been better in some golden age of travel, we might as well celebrate the fact that we are enjoying the tail-end of an era in which a certain kind of off-the-beaten-track adventure is still possible.”
–Nicholas Danforth, World travel can be all about timing, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/20/2012

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Category: Travel Quote of the Day

October 5, 2014

How to pick a good traveling jacket and jacket review on FlyLow Vixen

2014-08-30 13.59.05Next to shoes, choosing the right jacket for a trip is my hardest decision. It’s more difficult when you’re spanning several cities, leap-frogging continents, or criss-crossing the equator in both directions.

How can you choose a jacket lightweight enough for a cool fall night but warm enough for a snowy trek through the city? And let’s not forget the waterproofing aspect if you get caught in a Parisian rainstorm.

How can you pick the perfect jacket for all conditions? It boils down to three items:

  1. Waterproof/rain proofing
  2. Fabric
  3. Flexibility for changing conditions (venting)

1) Waterproofing or rain proofing

Nothing is worse than getting caught unexpectedly in a cold rainstorm. Usually, rain jackets are super lightweight and designed only as the outer shell.

But you can find a jacket that is waterproof and designed as a warmth-holding jacket. Where?

In the ski gear section. Many of these jackets are designed to be wind-resistant and waterproof to keep up with ever-changing elements on the mountains.

What to look for:

- Waterproof breathable material

- Durable Water Repellant (DWR)

- YKK waterproof zippers or “fully seam sealed” (means the zipper teeth are coated to prevent water from leaking through)

- A large hood to shield your head

2) Fabric

I’ve found my favorite jackets have a bit of stretch to them. They move with my body. They adapt to my circumstances. They like movement. If this is you, check the label for Lycra in your jacket.

If you want warmth, check the jacket description for the branded elements to hold in body heat, like:

- North Face: ThermoBall

- FlyLow: Intuitive

- Helly Hanson: PrimaLoft

These are simply different types of high performance fabric, designed to do the same thing: hold in heat in damp conditions.

Also, check out how many layers of fabric the jacket has. Some jackets have two layers. Some have three. The more layers, the warmer the jacket. Think back to that flimsy rain jacket you throw on over your blazer. It’s simply one layer of fabric designed to repel rain.

I like a jacket with three layers. It gives the right amount of warmth but still stays lightweight enough that I can cramp it into a tiny spot in my backpack.

3) Flexibility to changing conditions

Adaptability is very important while traveling — not just for your mental attitude, but also for your gear. Due to the demands of hauling your stuff and traveling like a turtle with your house on your back, you need to find clothing that is heavy multi-taskers. Your jacket should be no different.

So what are you looking for to gauge this type of flexibility?

1) Arm venting: so you can cool off and circulate air without ditching your jacket; perfect in cold wind but hot sun on your face.

2) Breathable material: to wick sweat away and cool you during long hikes or dashes for the subway; in the end, this also keeps you more comfortable so you’re not stewing in your sweat.

3) Plenty of interior pockets: stump the pickpockets and keep your valuables in interior zipped pockets next to your body. As a girl, I love a jacket with lots of pockets since that means I don’t always have to carry a purse.

4) Media player compatible: okay, this is a minor item on the list. But it could be a lifesaver when you need a moment to yourself and your personal space is limited to that jacket.

5) Color: a florescent jacket will make you stick out like a sore thumb. Perhaps black is the standard classy choice, but everyone has a black jacket in their closet. Pick a color that makes you feel happy but doesn’t target you as a potential victim.

So what does my favorite traveling jacket look like?

Review on FlyLow Vixen jacket

fly low vixenThis is the jacket I’ve been traveling with for the past six months.

It weathered a downpour in Boston while I watched the Red Sox and steel beams overhead dripped cold rain relentlessly on my legs. It has shielded my head from chilly winds off Seward, Alaska. It soldiered through an early fall snowstorm. I wish I had brought it with to Chicago during a nippy weekend.

I’m in love with it.

What do I like?

- Oversize hood: designed to fit over a snowboarding helmet, this hood is extra large. It prevents any wind from nipping down my neck, overhangs my eyes to guard against driving rain, and I can wear a hat with it.

- The color: a pretty berry color, this jacket was my first non-black one. It brings a pop of color to my cheeks in pictures. And it makes me happy just to see the color. Also, it doesn’t get lost in my bag, blending in with the bag’s dark depths.

- Lightweight but warm: The fabric blocks wind and water, but keeps my body heat in. I have a knack for getting cold in any weather condition. This jacket fights the cold. But it isn’t bulky or heavy-feeling on my body.

- Waterproof: I’m a girl who gets caught in rainstorms in every country. So I love that the seams are fully taped, the fabric is water-repellant, and no annoying little cold raindrops can find my warm center.

- Plenty of pockets: carry it on your body is my motto. So when I can slip my wallet, keys, phone and a book into my jacket pockets and just go, that’s heaven to me. With this jacket, I can do that — and have empty pockets to pick up things along the way.

- Durability: six months in, and the jacket still looks brand new despite being used a pillow multiple times, stuffed into my bag, shoved under plane seats, and exposed to Boston and Alaska’s notorious nasty weather.

What I don’t like:

- The price ($300): it’s a hefty cost for just a jacket. But if you think about it as a jacket that will last for years and look good doing it, it’s worth it. Like my husband says, “you get what you pay for.”

Laura blogs at Waiting to Be Read where she dishes about awesome books to read, what actors work best as main characters, and why thinking is a dying sport.

 

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Category: Travel Gear

October 4, 2014

Travel…What’s the take home?

Sunset at St. Kilda Beach, Australia

“Can you bring me home a koala? How about a kangaroo? How many pairs of Uggs do you think you can carry?” These were just some of my former student’s comments the first time they heard I was traveling to Australia.” Of course, it’s easy enough to talk about travel’s take home in material things but what about the intangible? Does different travel ‘give’ you different things? Do you head off in search of something to bring home and find yourself pleasantly surprised of what you wind up with upon your return?

My friend, Jessica, collects postcard stamps. Every time I travel I send her a postcard knowing that’s her ‘take home’ from my trip. My parent’s friend, Alan, collects beer coasters so that’s what we look for on any adventure. Me, I collect refrigerator magnets and do my best to grab one prior to leaving a new destination. And of course, in the early years there were t-shirts for everyone or little trinkets to hang on keys or wrists, but is that really the take home we’re talking about?

With digital archiving of photos taking over paper scrapbooks and Facebook posts and tweets replacing postcards, is there ever really proof of the traveler’s take home? For many, the take home (aside from the magnets for me of course) is internalized. There are new memories made and more stories to retell, but somehow still, after all this time, there are changes that go on that can only be ‘seen’ on the inside.

After we got married, we traveled around the world for a year and spent some time living in Melbourne, Australia (my husband’s home). When we returned, I went straight back to summer camp as a swim director and then school as a teacher and club advisor. Trying to fit in the same boxes when I was no longer the same was suffocating. The take home was growing and forcing me to sit up and take notice. It was more than the new products on the inside of my refrigerator and the newfound comfort treats in my cupboard. It was more than the few new apparel purchases and the favourite shell that I often carried in my pocket. It was more in how my eyes saw the world and what I felt to be important, crucial and significant. And it was even more in how I saw myself.

Time away from the routine of the everyday is vital. Facing new situations and dealing with circumstances that may need problem solving forces you to see what you find important. Learning about what you really need and how you’d like to make a difference in the world or finding perspective-that’s a take home. For some, it takes seeing the difficulties that so many face on a daily basis to remind themselves how truly lucky they are and then there are those who see those difficulties and choose to do what they can to make life easier in some small way.

We are a product of our circumstances. If you’re born into a vagabonding family perhaps you’ll never know the joys or troubles of a stationary life. Born into a land that struggles to have clean water, equitable education and human safeties one might never know the ease of turning on the tap, sitting in class or the simple act walking down the street. Travel provides a birds eye view into a different world-one that in the blink of an eye could have been yours and the effects are often life affirming. If we’re lucky enough to travel and truly take in what we see, sometimes our life is forever changed. The little voice inside of you may now whisper ever more loudly to make a change. The way your mind takes that extra second to rethink a problem and how it would be seen in another location is front and center. The newfound joy you feel in your own skin and the reawakening of you is on your mind often. The intangibles, the sub-conscious and the ever-changing outlooks…these are the ‘take homes’ of travelers.

What’s your take home?

To read more of Stacey’s travel musings, visit her website.

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Category: General, Vagabonding Life

October 3, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Stephen Schreck

Stephen Schreck unnamed

abackpackerstale.com

Age: 30

Hometown: Chillicothe, Ohio

Quote:  “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist; that is all.” ― Oscar Wilde

I take this quote to heart. Someday when I look back at my life, I want say I lived, not existed. This is a major reason I chose the life of a vagabond.

(more…)

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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

October 2, 2014

Connecting spectacular travel moments with our day to day lives

About a decade ago, on a whim, I took a trip to Costa Rica and opened the door to a world I didn’t know existed. I still remember crowding around the computer with my friends and studying ticket prices. I remember feeling a little silly that I had never been out of the country except for one brief trip to Canada when I was 10. I twas confused but determined as I applied for my first passport. Beaches, monkeys, and learning to surf were all I thought about as the weeks ticked by. When I returned I couldn’t shake the feeling that everything I saw- the waterfalls, the monkeys, the flowers- might be different if I were to return. I felt incredibly grateful for having been able to experience what I had at the exact time that I had.

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Months later, already bitten by the travel bug (but not entirely aware of that fact), I was off to India. I touched the walls of the Taj Mahal and drank my weight in chai. I wrapped myself in a sari for a wedding and was genuinely surprised to learn that New Delhi in December is cold. One morning, at dawn, I found myself atop the Golden Temple in Amritsar. As the call to prayer went out, everyone around me dropped to their knees. The newness of the moment and my ignorance of cultural practices made me pause before I followed suit and for a brief moment, I was alone, standing atop the Golden Temple, the whole colorful world around me, on their knees, connected in an invisible way by their love, their need, and their devotion.

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Travel is full of these moments. The moments that take your breath away. Moments that suddenly illuminate a belief that had always lived inside of you but you never knew you had. Moments that happen in an instant that you will replay in your mind and retell to your friends for the rest of your life. Cliche as it may be, these moments feel nothing sort of magical, especially in those early days of travel.

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But here’s the thing about moments- if we don’t take them out of the memory box they don’t do us much good. If we romanticize the moments and forget to employ the lessons those moments taught us, the growth it encourages within us, then those moments become great stories and not much more. Travel is gift but if we forget to actively employ the breathtaking moments and incorporate them into our everyday thoughts and actions, we miss the opportunity to “connect the dots”. Travel cannot fix all things. It cannot replace the day to day work of being a thoughtful human being, connected in a meaningful way to one’s core beliefs and values.

If we do not do the work in our day to day lives; If we let the lessons we have learned slip by the wayside when we return; If we write blog posts about our experiences but forget to turn our philosophical ponderings into action, then those moments never get to work their real, transformative magic.

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Having that brief moment of realization at the Golden Temple was amazing. It is a moment I replay over and over and it still takes my breath away a little, each time I think of it. The real gift, however, has been the constant development and deepening of my belief that we are all connected by our shared humanity. That moment has touched my life far beyond the 60 seconds it took me to take it all in, take a breath, and drop to my knees. It is a moment that reminds me to never forget connect the dots between the other wondrous moments and my day to day life.

Moments like these do not have to happen atop the Golden Temple. Where have you experienced wondrous moments?

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Category: Ethical Travel, Ethics

October 1, 2014

Slowing down in Ubud, Bali

Cost/day:

$28 per day per person

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

There are many interesting and strange things to see on Bali, but if I had to pick just one it would be the statues you come across in seemingly random places.

DSC03577

Describe a typical day:

Our morning routine stays the same wherever we are. We wake up, make breakfast and do work and homeschool.

After that we typically would go explore an area, temple, mountain, beach, etc. via motorbike. The countryside in Bali is so bright green and beautiful that we would often take longer routes to our intended destination just to see more of it.

Evenings we would relax, make dinner and simply enjoy the tranquility of being surrounded by rice fields.

DSC03389

Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

I went to a birthday party for an eighteen-year-old local, Wayan. I talked with his friends and teenage family members for a while and had few shots of whatever local drink they were consuming. Unlike the other times when I’d been with Wayan, where we talked about an array of things, I barely spoke with him.

When I arrived, he sat me down with his cousin, gave me food and a drink and explained that he now would be attending to the others at the party. For the rest of the two hours I was there he spent that time making sure everyone, including me, had enough to eat and drink. He served people at his own birthday party. I have no idea if this is normal in Balinese culture, but I found it incredibly endearing. Certainly a drastic difference to how I, ahem, behaved on my eighteenth birthday.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

There is so much to like about Ubud. I liked the people. We met so many kind and smiling people. I liked the amazingly beautiful temples and natural environment. I liked the traditions that were on display with so many aspects of life, from daily offerings (see picture below), to decorating temples, parades and ceremonies, one of which  happened in the middle of the rice field where we stayed. After being in southeast Asia for several months, I really liked the ability to get clean, organic food.

I disliked the traffic in Ubud. It is horrendous on some days. Too many buses on tiny streets causing massive traffic jams. It is not fun inhaling diesel exhaust on a motorbike. I disliked how touristy Ubud is. It is touristy in a different way than is the south of Bali, which is a beach destination, but it is touristy nonetheless.

DSC03373

Describe a challenge you faced:

We planned to spend a month in Ubud. It actually took about a week of settling down to enjoy the slower pace of life. After having moved every 3-5 days for so many months, being able to relax and not plan our next destination took some adjustment. I guess it was just a feeling of being restless. But in the second week I settled in and had no problem whatsoever enjoying my time there.

What new lesson did you learn?

That I need a break from traveling sometimes. It is so easy to try to see everything in a country. I just had to except that I cannot see it all and to attempt to do so will only lead to burn out, which I was until we recuperated in Bali.

DSC02963

Where next?

Penang, Malaysia

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Category: Asia, Vagabonding Field Reports

September 30, 2014

Living “greener” on the road

bike

One of the things we worry about a lot as we travel is our carbon footprint; our environmental impact.

Living in the west where most people are mindful of the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) and most communities have “green initiatives” it’s easy to be lulled into complacency and think that we’re “doing it.”

Then, you enter the third world. Much of Asia, Africa and Central America are strewn, as far as the eye can see, with plastic bags, foam food containers, mylar packaging from juice containers and a sea of broken glass. Trash is a huge problem, worldwide.

As travelers, there’s another level though. How we move around the planet matters. There are “better” and “worse” ways to make a move. Airplanes are the absolute worst when it comes to carbon footprints. Every time I step onto a plane I hear the earth wheeze and I hate it. Sometimes we do it, but I hate it. It’s a hard balance to strike, between time, money and ecology, and I’m the first to admit that we could do better. We’re always striving to do better. Here are a few things to think about as you travel, either locally, or abroad:

The hierarchy of “bad travel”

Any vehicle burning a fossil fuel is “bad” on some level for the environment. Boats with little outboard motors, to big 737s all have an impact, but their impact is not equal.

The hierarchy of “good travel”

Obviously this includes anything not burning a fossil fuel:

You get the idea. The thing to consider in this category is just what went into making what you’re using to get around. A brand new carbon fiber bike has a bigger footprint than upgrading an old used one that can be repurposed. Living car free and intentionally living within walking distance of everything that matters is better than riding a moped every day.

Baby steps.

Dealing With Trash As We Travel

Trash is the bane of my existence. I absolutely HATE to throw stuff out. It drives me crazy not to have a recycling program. Not having a compost bin seems just ridiculous on every level. It would be so simple. And yet, some places, these things just don’t exist.

What’s a traveler to do?

Ask Locals

Often there are options available that aren’t “advertised” when you arrive.

Example: There is no “recycling” program where we lived in Thailand, however, if you clean and separate your glass and metal and put it out next to your trashcan, there are folks who come around, pick it up and sell it for money. This helps the environment and the local economy, everyone wins!

Buy Local

The fastest way to reduce your carbon footprint, regardless of where you live is to buy local. For travelers, this should be a no brainer. The whole point of travel is to experience new places, new flavours, new ways of living.

Resist the urge to visit that big chain store and buy your Western comfort food. Eat local instead.

Don’t insist on brand name clothing that’s been shipped around the world twice, buy a locally made shirt or shoes.

The benefit is two-fold, the earth thanks you, and so does your neighbour who you purchase from!

 

What are your best tips for living green at home or on the road?

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Category: Ethics, Vagabonding Life

September 29, 2014

Tourism has a way of spoiling the unspoiledness you are there to experience

“I confess that I have never understood why so many people’s idea of a fun vacation is to don flip-flops and sunglasses and crawl through maddening traffic to loud hot crowded tourist venues in order to sample a ‘local flavor’ that is by definition ruined by the presence of tourists. This may (as my Festival companions keep pointing out) all be a matter of personality and hardwired taste: The fact that I just do not like tourist venues means that I’ll never understand their appeal and so am probably not the one to talk about it (the supposed appeal). But, since this note will almost surely not survive magazine-editing anyway, here goes: As I see it, it probably really is good for the soul to be a tourist, even if it’s only once in a while. Not good for the soul in a refreshing or enlivening way, though, but rather in a grim, steely-eyed, let’s-look-honestly-at-the-facts-and-find-some-way-to-deal-with-them way. My personal experience has not been that traveling around the country is broadening or relaxing, or that radical changes in place and context have a salutary effect, but rather that intranational tourism is radically constricting, and humbling in the hardest way — hostile to my fantasy of being a real individual, of living somehow outside and above it all. (Coming up is the part that my companions find especially unhappy and repellent, a sure way to spoil the fun of vacation travel:) To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all noneconomic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing.”
–David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster, Gourmet, August 2004

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Category: Travel Quote of the Day

September 28, 2014

Book Review VANISHING TALES FROM ANCIENT TRAILS by James Dorsey

VANISHING TALES FROM ANCIENT TRAILS by James Dorsey, 2014, Vagabundo Magazine Publishing. Buy on Amazon.

DorseyVanishingTrailsWhen I first found his writing on celebrated travel webzine Perceptive Travel, there was one thing that made me an instant James Dorsey’s fan. It was the amount of literary adrenaline he was able to inject straight into readers’ eyes with the opening three lines of each and every story. Indeed, James would pull out his wordy meathook, and catch you right under the chin, pulling you into the action. You would feel the smells, sounds and fear he was trying to tell you all about. I don’t know why, but one of his simplest descriptions, “Akira tells me to follow him closely and I am practically in his back pocket” stayed with me until today: now, whenever I tell people to stay very close to my back, I tell them to “stick to my back pocket”, and I think of Dorsey’s time in Cambodia.

This is the best quality I admire in Dorsey’s writing: his simple, dry, straight forward and damn catchy list of words that one after another “dance on the page”, as Bukowsky put it. But in this case, they dance at the sound of tribal drums during a secret and ancient ritual consumed under a moonlit forest thicket. (more…)

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Category: Africa, Asia, South America, Travel Writing
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