The travel-hacking hobby is all about getting miles and points by signing up for credit cards that have good bonuses. Usually these are travel rewards cards put out by airlines or banks who allow transfers to airlines and hotels. For instance the Citi AAdvantage card which helps you earn American Airline miles or the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which helps you transfer to a number of travel programs.
While many are satisfied to spend on cash-back cards, 9 times out of 10 we travel-hackers will opt for the travel rewards cards mentioned above, confident that we can actually get more value out of miles than cash-back. But every now and again a cash-back card comes along that’s great for travelers and travel-hackers alike.
One such cash-back card is the Barclay Arrival Plus card. (Not to be confused with the other Barclay Arrival card.)
A bit about the card
Currently the Barclay Arrival Plus card is offering a 40,000 point bonus which you can receive after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. This 40,000 bonus points will transfer into $400 worth of travel reimbursement. This includes hotel charges, airline charges, and rental car charges that exceed the minimum of $25.
You can also earn as you spend at a rate of 2 points per dollar spent.
Also note that after the first year, (which comes without a fee), the annual fee will be $89.
Why we recommend this card
While we definitely rely on frequent flyer miles and hotel points, there are some expenses we can’t cover with these currencies. Rental cars are a great example. But also many reward flights will come with a few residual charges, even if you’re choosing a low-surcharge mileage program like American Airlines and United Airlines. For instance airport taxes and the like. These are charges you can cover with the Barclay Arrival Plus points.
We just experimented with an entirely free trip to South America; a trip whose travel costs would equal zero. Now, keep in mind that for this trip we considered meal expenses to be unavoidable expenses that we would have whether we were at home buying groceries our out on the road buying food from food stands, so those expenses were not included in the $0 calculation.
This experiment would have been impossible without the opportunity to use the Barclay Arrival Plus points for expenses not covered by frequent flyer miles and hotel points. While we did still have a few expenses we hadn’t predicted, we quite nearly made it.
Being smart about your credit card strategies
I must make a disclaimer that is quite crucial in making any credit-card-related strategies successful. Perhaps it goes without saying, but these credit-card strategies are not worth it if you let the credit card get the best of you. the idea is to get the credit cards for their perks and make certain you can make on-time payments, and keep minimal balances on the card, ideally paying off the card before interest kicks in. If you already have a habit of treating your credit cards more like debit cards that you pay off in full on a regular basis, then the travel-hacking strategies are right for you. But if this will be a challenge for you, then it’s not worth the risk. Debt is a serious issue and should not be a part of the travel-hacking strategy.
Next 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:
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.
- 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
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.
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?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
VANISHING TALES FROM ANCIENT TRAILS by James Dorsey, 2014, Vagabundo Magazine Publishing. Buy on Amazon.
When 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…)
Eating healthy is important to us.
I’m a relentless “do it myself” sort of girl. I was raised freezing and canning a lot of our own food. I make most things from scratch. It’s really important to me to feed my family healthy things so that the children grow properly and so that healthy eating patterns are established for life.
Lots of people ask us what we do about that while we’re traveling, since traveling is a lifestyle, not a two week event. There’s not one answer to that and there’s no easy answer. We’re in continual renegotiation of nutritional terms in this family. The most basic answer is that we do the best we can with what we have on any given day, on any given continent. The following are five of our strategies:
Most nutritionists will agree that fresh food and raw food are the most healthful choice. We eat as much fresh food as we can. Of course in many of the places we choose to live this also means adhering to the bleach-boil-peel rule. We’ve replaced “bleach” with Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) as a more natural fruit and veggie wash and we carry a knife in our backpack for a quick fruit peel while walking in a market.
With GSE we’re even able to make salads (often cited as a no-no in third world places because of the water used to wash the lettuce) daily.
For us, the best way to stay healthy is to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and enjoy the fabulous diversity of the planet. One of the best parts of travel is the food!
Eating Local means eating things grown or produced within the region we are living in. We don’t often buy pineapple when we’re living in Canada. We don’t often get apples when we’re living near the equator.
Eating local foods means that you’re also getting slow doses of the local bacteria, which will help build immunity as well as tolerance for the differences in diet and “gut bugs” as we travel. Moving slowly helps too, dropping in by plane is always an intestinal shock!
Lots of the guidebooks will tell you not to eat street food. We actually take exactly the opposite position. I would much rather eat a meal that I see cooked right in front of me than one cooked in a kitchen facility that I can’t see from the table where I’m seated. That way we know the food is hot and fresh and reasonable sanitation standards have been adhered to. There is nothing quite so local as food off of a street cart! Yum!
This is where you decide I’m crazy. In my backpack I carry cheese and yogurt cultures as well as water kefir grains. Yep. We make soft cheeses and yogurt out of dried milk and the first thing I do when we set up a new base is get my kefir grains going.
Travel naturally exposes us to a wider range of intestinal risks than living in New Hampshire did, and one of the ways we stack the deck in our favour is by making sure our guts are populated with the right kinds of bacteria!
Believe it or not, it can sometimes be hard to come by fresh vegetables. We hit this wall immediately when we landed in Bangkok. There was a ton of street food available, but most of it was meat, wheat or rice based. We could get fruit, no problem, but we were quickly feeling the lack of veggies.
It sounds completely nuts, but I carry sprouting seeds in my backpack. It only takes a couple of days to get a batch ready and we love them. They can be added to salad, or made into the salad themselves. We love having almost instant access to high quality veggie sprouts and they make a big difference in our diet on the road!
We take vitamins. Not religiously, but when we feel like our diet is not up to par, we add them in. We also carry essential oil and herbal concoctions to combat basic illness (oregano oil & rosemary oil) add vigor (spirulina), and sort out basic gut bugs (GSE).
What are your secrets for staying healthy and improving your nurtrition on the road, or at home?
I am often asked why I travel. What is the benefit? Is all the work, preparation, and planning worth it? So, I set out to identify what it is I really feel I have gained through travel. While this list may not be the same for everyone (and I expect it wouldn’t be), I bet most travelers can identify with each item on this list. So, here it is…. the top five gifts travel has given me.
5. Patience. Anyone who travels long term will tell you that patience is a major key to making it all work. Waiting for a train in New Delhi, cooking a meal for 4 on a single burner in San Marcos, dodging touts in ChiChi market, crossing the border into Panama, getting pushed around on a NYC subway at rush hour, avoiding eye contact with leering men in Egypt, or trying to coordinate travel plans in a foreign language in Nepal- the longer you travel, the more you value your own ability to call on your patience like a super power. Cultural differences and language barriers make time, space, and dimension very subjective terms. Patience is a virtue that gets practiced and (almost but not really) perfected the longer you travel.
4. Connection. True human connection, that which transcends cultural barriers, is something I value on a very deep level. Traveling allows me to see, smell, touch, taste, feel, and experience what visitors and immigrants to my home country hold in their memories and consciousness. Travel presents the opportunity for me to recognize the common human experience between myself, a circus performer in El Salvador, a business woman headed to work in Switzerland, a genocide survivor in Guatemala, and everyone in between. I get to connect with people all over the world, all the time and experience our shared humanity on a regular basis.
When I attended my friend’s wedding in India, I didn’t need a transistor to explain the side ways smile on her groom’s face as she walked towards him or the joy she radiated when she finally got to see him after a full week of ceremonies and preparations. When her parents visit and I am offered a cup of chai I am reminded of hot, humid, monsoon mornings in Mumbai and I can almost hear the chai wallahs, just like they can. When I beg her to make me mattar paneer and she chides that it’s “not really healthy, you know”, I know that she is smirking because she is (not so secretly) thrilled that I loved an Indian dish so much and that I know exactly how it tastes in her hometown. When she asked my friend and I to be present at her son’s birth, her parents hugged me and told me to take care of her, knowing that only true friends would have traveled to India to see their child get married years ago. My friend is an awesome person and I would be friends whether I had traveled to India to watch her get married or not, but travel has added a richness to our friendship that can’t be replicated. Sometimes I think we over think things and place too much emphasis on cultural differences (as beautiful as they are) and forget to look for the moments that don’t need translation. Do you have to travel to find connection? No. Does travel magically make connections happen? No. But travel has expanded my understanding of what connection can mean, presented opportunity after opportunity to explore human connection, and made my circle wider and deeper than I ever thought it could be. My connection with this friend and every single person who has touched my life along the way, is a gift I carry forever.
3. Clarity. Time spent away from home and all things comfortable has a way of clarifying that which is most important. Trekking from place to place with everything you own strapped to your back will make you think twice about your material “needs”. Watching a mother drop her child off at an orphanage because she doesn’t have the money to feed all three of her children will make you reconsider what “good parenting” means. Working with an NGO in a foreign country will forever make you look more closely at where your donated dollars are going. Visiting Mother Theresa’s homes in Kolkata will make you question the party line about mission work in the third world. Watching the sun cast shadows over ancient Mayan temples will make the history you think you know look dull. Meeting living victims of your country’s foreign policy will make you wonder just what else is being done in your name.
If it sounds like travel raises a whole lot of questions and not a whole lot of clarity, that is only partly true. Travel certainly and inevitably does raise innumerable questions…but the clarity lies within those questions. Clarity does not mean “figuring it all out”. Some questions will be answered, some will not. The very realization that the questions exist is clarity in itself.
2. Empathy. Over the course of this long, continuous journey, I have come to the conclusion that pity and empathy do not look the same. Pity is what I had for people who were “less fortunate” than me back before I had met any of “those people”. Pity allowed me to see myself in some small way as “better than” and in no way did it serve me or those I thought needed me to do something for them. Pity paralyzed and disconnected me.
Empathy is what I hold now that I have helped birth babies, cook meals, and define education with people who would have previously been considered “less fortunate”. The key word in that last sentence is WITH, not FOR. I recognize the core of our shared human experience reflected in circumstances I will never fully understand. I have learned to actively remind myself that poor is not synonymous with “less fortunate” any more than rich is synonymous with “happy”. I still struggle with the “why” of our world’s inequality but I now know that the “how” for doing something about it depends on our ability to empathize, not pity.
1. Perspective. Triumphs and tribulations have a way of seeming really, really big when we have nothing to compare them to. Exploring our vast and varied world has given me the opportunity to step outside of the day to day that we all get caught up in and see the larger picture. Long term travel reminds me regularly that no matter the political, philosophical, or economic agendas being pushed back home, this is the one and only shot we have got at this life. I could spend every day hemming and hawing about the socially acceptable way to live this life (according to my home culture) or I can actually live it. The mundane must still be dealt with and the day to day must still be lived but at the end of my life, I will be damned if I look back and think ” I should have done more”.
What have you gained from travel?
Airfare is most likely going to be the biggest budget item for your long-term trip, and we at BootsnAll would like to simplify it for you.
When someone decides to go vagabonding and travel the world, dreams of white sand beaches, mountain tops, temples, and the aromas of local cuisine fill the mind. Travelers envision all the people they’ll meet and the things they’ll learn.
But once the honeymoon period wears off and the realities of planning a trip like this come to the forefront, that excitement and eagerness can turn to frustration, particularly when it comes to figuring out airfare, a costly, but necessary part of world travel.
The first google search of “round the world airfare” spits back a myriad of results, from what different travel agents, companies, and airline alliances offer to a few “analyses” of those options.
While there is plenty of good information on those resources, we at BootsnAll didn’t find one that broke down all the options and did so in a simplified manner, so we created one ourselves.
The latest version of the Around the World Airfare Report (which we offer for free), published in September 2014, is the result of months of research, as we created three different traveler personas and shopped three different multi-stop routes, posing as customers.
The goal of the Around the World Airfare Report is to help make it easier for you to decide which option is right for your trip.
Everyone travels differently and has unique wants and needs when it comes to their big trip, and we get that, so we wanted to create a resource that delves into all options, offering suggestions for which companies to begin your search based on what type of traveler you are.
In addition, you’ll find price breakdowns between nine different companies and airline alliances, speed comparisons (how long does it take for each company/alliance to get back to you with a bookable price?), and a frustration factor, breaking down all those pesky rules and terms and conditions in a simplified and easy-to-understand manner.
If you’re planning or thinking about planning a long-term trip, download this free report to learn more about this complicated part of round the world travel.
Once you do, we’d love to hear what you think – what did you like, what didn’t you like, what would you like to see in the next version? Review the report here.
It can be difficult to find new angles through which to view places you already know well. Human nature being what is, it takes a conscious effort to see anything through new eyes. We tend to see only what we’re familiar with, and what strikes our vision on the most surface levels: the old buildings, the people, the streets, the here-and-now bustle that is so easy to get caught up in. But shifting our approach is sometimes needed if we are to really appreciate all the layers and the richness any place has to offer.
As a travel writer I’m always forced to do this, and though it’s challenging, it always rewards me with a much deeper perspective of a city’s beating heart and long-hidden scars.
For example, trying to find a topic in which to write about can suddenly have me thinking thematically. In the case of Amsterdam, I was recently casting about for a theme. The picturesque canals and predictable clichés are worn out. I wanted to go deeper.
Of course, a well-deserved reputation for religious tolerance in previously intolerant times is a strong undercurrent in the city’s history, shaping its character. But everyone knows about the city’s lenient attitude towards marijuana and prostitution. The pot-selling “coffeshops” and the brightly painted brothels of the Red Light District are hard to miss, and at any rate weed and sex are not exactly major taboos anymore. So, in doing this “personality profile”, as I like to view travel writing, I decided to focus on the less well-known, more hidden-in-plain-sight landmarks that quietly but effectively tell the story of Amsterdam’s legacy of tolerance in intolerant times.
The point is, looking around the city for these things forced me to look through fresh eyes. I began to notice things I hadn’t paid much attention to before. Statues and plaques commemorating Amsterdam’s history—normally easy to pass over in the bustling, thoroughly modern city—began to emerge from the background, as if reaching out through the centuries to educate me with a silent power.
Paying attention to these small reminders eventually told a story, a long and rich narrative, of how the city’s philosophy of tolerance became a beacon for many persecuted people seeking a safe refuge from their own country’s intolerance in a way that the pot bars and sex shops could not. Small churches emerged from the urban crush and hordes of camera-toting tourists, inviting me into their quiet, solemn interior just as they’d invited minority sects whose beliefs had marked them out for discrimination. Small Catholic churches in times of Protestant intolerance (and vice versa) thrived here, as did humble little synagogues that operated without interference or malice from the city’s fathers.
Around a corner from a busy street, a small brick building in a quiet courtyard bears a faded plaque indicating that English pilgrims came here to worship before heading to the New World. They prayed here, and then boarded the Mayflower to escape persecution in their home country. They were made to feel comfortable here.
The remnants of more recent times came to the fore as well. I begin to notice the many houses bearing historical plaques indicating that the occupants courageously sheltered Jewish families during the Second Word War.
Not far away a statue of a portly, none-too-attractive dockworker seems at first glance to be a forgettable, bland post-war tribute to laborers. Look closer and you’ll find an inscription indicating that it memorializes the brave stand of the Amsterdam’s dockworkers, who staged the first strike undertaken in Occupied Europe to protest the mistreatment of the city’s Jews by the Nazis.
The strike, held a few days after 400 Jewish men were herded together on the spot where the statue now stands, was brutally put down by the SS within hours, and is remembered by few today. The statue’s rotund subject was a real-life non-Jewish dockworker who participated in the strike because he felt it was the right thing to do.
A small room in the city’s historic Dutch Theatre, once a point of assembly for Jews about to be shipped off to concentration camps, holds a humble memorial of three little stones. The memorial seems unimportant. Search for the true story, however, and you’ll find that the three stones represent a local man named Walter Suskind, his wife and small daughter. Suskind smuggled 1,200 Jewish children to safety during the war. In 1945 his work was discovered by the Nazis and he and his family were themselves sent to Auschwitz, never to return.
Soon I begin to understand how many centuries’ worth of brave Amsterdammers have risked it all to welcome and aid minorities in dark times, and that courage was common place in the face of tyranny. It underscores the strength of Amsterdam’s heritage of tolerance more than any fashionable pot bar or cheesy sex shop ever could.
My point is, the “what” that you look for isn’t nearly as important as the act of searching for new ways to connect to a city’s unique DNA. The important thing is looking from a thematic perspective, searching for that thread of history that informs its culture. This can provide the prism through which you can see through the here-and-now veneer and access the richness of a city’s historical character, forged in the crucible of time and trial.
1) Make travel a part of your life’s education
Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience. He that travelleth into a country, before he hath some entrance into the language, goeth to school, and not to travel.
2) Keep a travel journal, at sea or on land
It is a strange thing, that in sea voyages, where there is nothing to be seen but sky and sea, men should make diaries; but in land travel, wherein so much is to be observed, for the most part they omit it; as if chance were fitter to be registered than observation: let diaries, therefore, be brought in use.
3) Seek interesting sights, such as:
* The courts of princes (especially when they give audience to ambassadors)
* The courts of justice (while they sit and hear causes)
* The churches and monasteries (with the monuments which are therein extant)
* The walls and fortifications of cities and towns
* The havens and harbors, antiquities and ruins
* Treasuries of jewels and robes, cabinets and rarities
* Shipping and navies
* Houses and gardens of state and pleasure, near great cities
* Armories, arsenals, magazines, exchanges, burses, warehouses
4) Seek interesting activities, such as:
* Exercises of horsemanship, fencing, training of soldiers, and the like
* Comedies, such whereunto the better sort of persons do resort
* Libraries, colleges, disputations, and lectures
* Triumphs, masks, feasts, weddings, funerals, capital executions, and such shows
5) Make use of guidebooks and local resources
Let him carry with him also some card, or book, describing the country where he travelleth, which will be a good key to his inquiry. Let him, upon his removes from one place to another, procure recommendation to some person of quality residing in the place whither he removeth, that he may use his favour in those things he desireth to see or know.
6) Seek varieties of experience, even within a single location
Let him not stay long in one city or town, more or less as the place deserveth, but not long. When he stayeth in one city or town, let him change his lodging from one end and part of the town to another, which is a great adamant of acquaintance.
7) Seek out travel companions that will challenge you
Let him sequester himself from the company of his countrymen, and diet in such places where there is good company of the nation where he travelleth. Thus he may abridge his travel with much profit. As for the acquaintance which is to be sought in travel, that which is most of all profitable is acquaintance with the secretaries and employed men of ambassadors; for so in travelling in one country he shall suck the experience of many: See and visit eminent persons in all kinds, which are of great name abroad, that he may be able to tell how the life agreeth with the fame.
8) Avoid traveling with quarrelsome people
For quarrels, they are with care and discretion to be avoided; they are commonly for mistresses, healths, place, and words; and let a man beware how he keepeth company with choleric and quarrelsome persons; for they will engage him into their own quarrels.
9) When coming home, keep your travels alive with intellectual exercise
When a traveller returneth home, let him not leave the countries where he hath travelled altogether behind him, but maintain a correspondence by letters with those of his acquaintance which are of most worth; and let his travel appear rather in his discourse than in his apparel or gesture.
10) Don’t flaunt your travel experiences to the folk back home
In his discourse let him be rather advised in his answers, than forward to tell stories: and let it appear that he doth not change his country manners for those of foreign parts; but only prick in some flowers of that he hath learned abroad into the customs of his own country.
Originally published by World Hum in 2008
I’ve spent the past few weeks traveling around, catching up with old friends. I’ve been through Paris, London and am now sitting in the Yotel hotel in New York City. As I was thinking back, deciding what to write about – the moments that burned brightest were the meals that I shared with friends. The exquisite home-cooked meal that David and his wife made in Paris. The Argentinian wine and bar snacks in London. The pizza shared with a friend along the Thames. The gregarious antics with a group of friends, while eating a fine meal in a hidden gem in NYC.
Now, in my day-to-day life, I’m utilitarian in my eating – I eat to have energy to get the things done that I need to do. I watch protein levels, healthy fat content and all that jazz. Sure – I want it to taste good, but a meal is simply a tool – one that allows me to do other, more important things.
When I’m out with friends – though, it’s another thing all together. The meal gets intertwined with the conversation and laughter. It’s as if there’s something primal… instinctual about sitting down with others and breaking bread. That if you’re willing to be at the same table with someone, that you’ve unconsciously decided that they aren’t a threat. That you can let down your guard just a bit and allow a deeper connection.
I don’t think the caliber of the meal is utmost important, at least not for me. Sifting back even further through my memories, I can remember great times at varied diners across the country. Then again, I’m not picky and my palette is unrefined. I’m loud and I laugh a lot. But always in the company of great people — friends who make all those meals memorable.
What are your favorite moments while traveling? What burns brightest in your mind?
P.S.> I wanted to share a few of my favorite photos over the last 3 weeks – a bit eclectic, but fond memories.
What?!? You can’t travel through Paris without taking at least one picture of a tourist landmark! (Well – I guess, you can. This is my 3rd or 4th time through Paris, but the first time I’ve seen these landmarks.)
I’m enthralled with urban art and street art. This was a playful version of that – all done in chalk along the River Seine.
Go to all the museums and art installations you want – to me this is just as beautiful. I love the craftsmanship and details that were put into this bike. It caught me off guard – didn’t expect to see it in Paris.
My last night in London – a friend took me out to the Tall Ships Festival in London. The ships were brilliantly lit up, going down the River Thames. What struck me, though – was the feeling of being transported to another time — or at least two times mixing. Yes, you could see the city in the background, but if you allow yourself to imagine in just the right way, you can feel time slip back just a little bit.
Get out there, travel safe and trust your gut
Chris Plough writes and podcasts at oznog.com, where he shares stories and advice from his adventures and from the incredible people that he’s met along the way. You can also follow him on twitter: @chrisplough.
For every travel destination, there is always someone with an opinion about why you shouldn’t go there. One person will say “I would travel pretty much anywhere, but never India.” while another person says, “I could go pretty much anywhere but never Mexico.” For a long time Colombia was the place I figured I’d never go.
I’m writing this article from Cali, Colombia, feeling perfectly fine about being here, though practicing a bit more caution than I might normally.
The reason I never wanted to go to Colombia, and the reason many people have “no-go” countries on their list, is because dangerous things do happen and we read or hear about it on the news.
This brings up the issue I’d like to think about today. There seems to be a fine line between staying informed and getting intimidated. My trip to Thailand at the very start of the military coup this spring made me acutely aware of the power of news media. Many readers emailed to ask whether or not they should cancel trips they’d planned to Thailand, concerned that it wasn’t safe for tourism. I don’t watch news at all, but it made me wonder how the media was portraying the unrest. The feeling I got from readers was that the media painted a dangerous and frightening picture.
In an article I gave my account of traveling through Thailand during martial law, a fairly uneventful tale of streets quieting down earlier than usual. It did not feel dangerous or frightening. It’s not to say that Thailand was without issue during that time, but as a tourist I never once felt unsafe.
However, I know that my husband and I tend to err on the side of under-cautious, and occasionally that does get us in sticky situations. We’ve stumbled upon riots before, for instance. I often wonder how many bad situations we’ve narrowly missed. For this reason, I certainly don’t want to be the only voice weighing in on this question.
So I asked a few other travel bloggers or frequent-travelers their thoughts. Are other travelers watching or reading news media, and if so, which news sources do they access regularly?
Various responses I got included BBC’s website, CNN Kids, NatGeo Traveler, The Atlantic, The Economist, and of course some replied that for the most part they don’t check news resources regularly. Other, less mainstream options included StuckinCustoms.com and BatteredLuggage.com. (I found it interesting and worth noting that no one news resource came out ahead as the most frequently accessed. Granted, I asked a small pool of travelers.)
As to whether or not these media resources effect each traveler’s approach to travel or not, LeAnna of EconomicalExcursionists.com had the following take:
“The truth is, I am not going to choose to go to a place that is in civil dis-rest. Not because the media tells me not to, but because I personally would like to live a few more years. However, there are several places that I have traveled to that some may consider “unsafe” (Russia, Czech Republic, Africa) but I feel that the people who consider them unsafe are uneducated about those areas.”
LeaAnna highlights the benefit in striving for an informed, realistic opinion of a place.
Where might that informed opinion come from? Many of the travelers I interviewed commented that regardless of what media resource they’re tapping into, they’re going look into the media’s claims further and do their own research too. In other words, even when news media is involved in their attempts to stay informed, it’s not the last stop before their opinions are made.
Why take these precautions to go beyond what the media is saying? Heather of jfdioverland.com offers this:
“I try not to let the media influence my travel plans; the media often over exaggerates the issue and most of the time issues are in small areas, rarely the whole country.”
Jason, another frequent-traveling friend said that rather than the news influencing his approach to travel, something quite the opposite is true. His travel influences his reaction to the news:
“I don’t think the news media influences how I travel or how I approach a new place. It’s actually more of the opposite- the more I travel and the more places I visit the more I am able to separate what’s happening in the news versus what’s happening on the ground. People generally just want the same things in life no matter where they live, a home to live in, security, food, education and a better life for their children. So the things that make them unique in the news are not really what make them unique at all. Generally the stuff that you read in the news is in the realm of government, and has very little to do with what the average person’s life is like…I’m no longer scared to go to places that everyone else is scared to go to because I know those places have human beings that are just trying to get by in life, just like we are in [the] United States.”
Over all, while not everyone is so extreme as to avoid the news entirely, there does seem to be a general skepticism of news media- that it is not, on its own, enough. Or even that it is not, on its own, helpful.
Now I’d like to know what you think.
Do you trust news media to inform you realistically about a place? Does it effect your worldview, your willingness to travel? If not, why not? How do you approach news media to keep this from happening?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!