Category Archives: Travel
The other day I overheard a conversation between two women discussing their summer holiday plans. One was telling the other that she had gone to her local travel agent and asked for a cheap package holiday in Spain. The agent had quickly managed to find a holiday that suited and the lady booked it immediately.
The other woman said that she wished she could do the same but had been unable to find a travel agent who could help. Apparently, someone she knew recommended Northern Cyprus to her. The description of its climate, fabulous beaches, beautiful scenery and welcoming local people deeply appealed to her but she had been unable to find any travel agent offering package holidays there. The person who recommended Northern Cyprus to her explained how it was possible to book flights and accommodation online but she felt apprehensive about not going through a travel agent.
I was quite taken aback at hearing this admission of total dependency on travel agents and ignorance of Internet travel sites. After all, this was 2008 in the U.K. where traditional travel agents have long since been marginalised by online travel sites. Yet, as the conversation developed it became apparent that neither woman knew anything about what resources the Internet offers in this respect.
It got me thinking about how many other people there were around who need tips on organizing travel online and when I got home I decided to write down the following seven steps for them.
- Step 1: Finding out about the travel destination – Open Google and type into the search box, the name of whatever country or general area you want to holiday in, followed by the words “travel information” or “travel guide”. For example; “Spain travel information”. Browse several of the sites your search throws up and then decide which ones give you the best travel tips relevant to your holiday needs.
- Step 2: Deciding on the actual resort – Use the best sites you find from step 1 to decide which resort or locality offers you most of what you want for your vacation. For example, localities with secluded beaches or beaches with lots of facilities, resorts that have plenty to keep the children occupied or quiet villages in scenic locations, etc. Having familiarised yourself with all that you want to know about the resort or locality, ascertain the nearest airports (or other relevant transportation centres).
- Step 3: Finding suitable accommodation – When you have found some resorts that satisfy your criteria, look for suitable accommodation in them. This may require typing a new search term into Google because the sites you have looked at so far may not have sufficient detailed information about specific accommodation in a given locality. They may however have some links to other sites that do. If so, check the links out before starting a new search. If you do need to do a new search, the best search term to use would be something like; Name of resort or locality followed by the word “accommodation”. For example if after researching southern Spain, you had decided you liked what you had read about Mojacar as a holiday resort, you would type; “Mojacar accommodation”. Here’s a tip worth remembering: you may need to refer back to the other website pages that you have already opened so keep them open by doing your accommodation search in a new tab. In case you don’t know about using tabs, take a look at your browser tools options and learn how to set your browser up so that you can open new pages in new tabs.
- Step 4: Checking cheapest flight availability – When you have ascertained that accommodation exists in your chosen locality, the next step is check out what flights (or other transportation) is available to get you to the resort. Open another tab on your browser and this time type in the search term, “cheapest flights” followed by the name of nearest airport. If there are other, more distant airports that you would be prepared to consider, you might want to run separate searches for each airport. Spend time on checking for flights because quite considerable variations in ticket prices exits, not only from flight operator to flight operator but also from one airport to another even when they are more or less the same distance from your departure airport and operated by the same company. Very significant price variations will also be found by trying different departure and arrival dates.
- Step 5: Provisionally book accommodation – Assuming that you establish the availability of flights (or other transportation) at the time you want and within your budget, you will be in a position to provisionally book accommodation. Return to the browser tab you left open with the websites providing accommodation details and follow the instructions for contacting the person or organisation offering the accommodation. Sometimes this will be an automatic online process and sometimes you will need to send an email. Submit the dates you have decided upon from the flight availability research. You will not normally be asked for a deposit at this stage but if you are, inform the accommodation owner that you want them to provisionally hold the dates until after you have booked your flight.
- Step 6: Booking your flight – Having received confirmation that the accommodation is available for you between the selected dates, return to the website where you found the cheapest flight deal and book your outgoing and return flights. Very occasionally you might be unlucky and the flights on the selected dates are no longer available. If so you will need to select new dates and redo step 5.
- Step 7: Confirm Accommodation – Once you have your flight has been booked you are in a safe position to confirm your accommodation booking. Usually, this will require that a deposit is paid, either online or by bank transfer. Either way, the balance is usually paid upon arrival at the accommodation.
Oman is an Arab country located south and west of Saudi Arabia, directly south of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Though Oman hasn’t been considered a tourist destination until recently, it is working to grow its appeal as a holiday spot. The capital of Oman is Muscat, and here is the best place to begin your Oman holidays.
Before You Go: Before leaving, it’s important to know that Oman is very hot, especially during the summer. So, if you’re visiting this off-the-beaten path travel destination, consider going for a winter visit, between the end October and early March to fully enjoy your Oman travel experience.
It is a Muslim nation, so pack clothes that are respectful of the people, their beliefs and their traditions. In other words, avoid tank tops and short shorts.
Languages: In Muscat, Oman, many people speak English. There’s also a British radio station. Once you’re out of the capital, very few people speak English, so knowing basic Arabic will be useful.
Some things you should see and places you should go include:
Nizwa- located in the highest mountain ranges, this is a historic city about two hours from Muscat
Darcy’s Kitchen- Muscat-based European restaurant
Before You Buy: While there, barter for the best prices on goods. They’ll notice you’re visiting.
Luxury Oman family holidays are different than anywhere else. Oman travel is relatively new to the world of tourism. However, they have beautiful hotels and outstanding tourist options. Shopping is ultra modern in gorgeous complexes.
If you love to take trips then you really need to investigate Travel auctions. This is a great way to find an inexpensive, yet exotic last minute vacation.
Bid for the Best Vacation Price
A Travel auction works just like any other type of auction. You simply find a web site that features vacations up for bidding. You then place a bid on the vacation package that you are interested in. You will usually have to keep monitoring the bid (easily done through email from most sites) so you will know if you have to rebid to keep yourself in the game. Keep in mind that if you do win then you are generally obligated to pay.
Look for Distressed Holiday Packages
You might wonder how it is that so many resort packages, cruises, five star Travel destination and exotic adventures end up on the online auction block. In essence vacation companies use auction to sell holidays that might be difficult to sell at the full price because of the destination is off-season, has suffered a disaster or has political turmoil or is just simply overbooked! The people in the industry call these vacation packages “distressed stock” and try to get rid of it the same way any other business would put “damaged” goods on sale. Except in this case, what is being sold is an experience and not something that is usually in need of repair!
Find Promotions and Deals Online
However not all vacation packages are inferior in some way. More than half of them that are presented online are put there with the intention of promoting a new amusement park, five star hotel or resort. It is a really good way to generate good word of mouth about a place that has yet to receive a lot of visitors.
There are four big websites that run Travel auctions online. Do an online search to locate these.
Vegans and vegetarians frequently struggle when it comes to describing their dietary restrictions to the waitstaff at any local restaurant. This situation becomes even more out of hand when traveling abroad! Many travelers do not speak the language of their intended destination country. Vegans may find it extremely frustrating to attempt to describe to their international waiter, that they not only do not eat meat, but also can not eat eggs, cheese, or other animal byproducts in their vegetable plate. As a vegan myself, I have come across several, wonderful resources to alleviate this issue.
One option is to take a foreign language class at an adult education center prior to your trip. I frequently sign up for these classes before embarking on an international journey. These classes are typically about 10 weeks in length. Many of these programs are focused on the traveler in mind. They even may throw in a few local, culture lessons regarding communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal. An Arabic course, for example, includes learning to read and write the script. That is useful while looking at menu items. Common words taught in a language class for travelers include: words for common vegetables, beverages, and the phrases “I eat..” or “I would like to order…”. Class handouts and textbooks should be taken along on your vacation! It is a great befit that these classes are usually offered by native speakers. This helps the students with both listening to the native accent and feedback on their pronunciation skills.
Another option is to study a foreign language using a CD or DVD, home study course. This method allows you to study at your own pace. The courses provide exams or quizzes for each lesson. Some of these programs include recording capabilities so that the students may practice their pronunciation and hear their voice played back with the proper accent. These course studies are easy to find. Even your local mall sometimes has the vendor selling these products through a kiosk. Special attention can be focused on learning the words and phrases of importance to vegan travelers such as names of vegetables, “I do not eat..”, and “I am vegan..”.
A couple of books in print also exist for help in foreign language translation. “Vegan Passport” translates phrases such as “I am vegan”, “I do not eat chicken, dairy products,..”, and more in approximately 120 of the worlds’ languages. “PointIt” is a photo guide. It contains many travel-related items. The most relevant pages for vegans would be the pages which consist of vegetable and grains photos. A veggie-friendly traveler need only to point to the vegetables they enjoy and their international waiter will know what the customer would like to eat for their meal. No foreign language skills are required.
My final suggestion is to search online for software language translation tools. Yahoo Babelfish is one of them. You simply enter a phrase such as ” I would like to order vegetable soup”. Select the language you wish to translate from and translate to. The selected translated phrase appears.
As you can now see, there are many options for vegans to communicate their dining needs during travel, without fear of being misunderstood
Free trips! Exotic vacations! First-class travel, everything paid for! Ah, the life of a travel writer. All you need to do is bang out a few words about it and you’re part of the besotted brotherhood of pampered travel journalists.
Oh, yeah: First you need to sign up for an pricey course that tells you how to cash in on all these free trips travel purveyors are dying to toss your way.
That was effectively the message of a pitch I recently received to sign up for a how-to-be-a-travel-writer course. The course might be okay-I didn’t fork over the $300 to find out-but the pitch offends me.
I’ve been a freelance writer for a long time, mostly in the travel arena. I feel compelled to dispel or clarify some of the myths about travel writing.
FAQs About Freelance Travel Writing
Do you get offered all sorts of free trips? Yes. But remember, I’ve been a productive writer for more than three decades. Public relations people representing travel destinations, outfitters, and adventure-travel companies know me and know that if I take a trip, they’re likely to get covered in a major national magazine.
Can anyone get in on the fun? No. Most trips are offered to “writers on assignment.” The public-relations folks setting up the trip want to know exactly who you write for, and often ask for proof of assignment. Usually they’re looking for firm newspaper or magazine assignments-not assignments from blogs or websites. They want to know your track record, and they avoid writers known as trip grubbers.
Do you take any of these free trips? Occasionally.
Dirty Little Secret: Few magazines or newspapers can afford to pay writers’ expenses. You’re on your own. Very often, the only way to write about a great destination is to have the expenses paid by someone else.
Because Dirty Little Secret No. 2 is: Your writing fee won’t cover the cost of the trip. You won’t even break even.
So you get cool paid vacations? These are far from vacations! I travel to some amazing places, but I’m working. Taking notes, photos, hustling interviews, moving at three times the speed of a casual traveler to see everything I can, to get a full and balanced picture of the place in a limited amount of time.
And then magazines pay you for it? Yes. Assuming I deliver a good story. It’s a great life.
But here’s Dirty Little Secret No. 3: Even when my expenses are paid, my fee doesn’t necessarily cover my time on the road.
So how do you make a income as a freelance writer? That’s the point of my book, Write Where the Money Is. It’s absolutely possible. But it takes hard work, serious commitment, and understanding of countless tricks of the trade.
It’s easier if you’re not counting on writing income as your living. And, frankly, easier in almost any arena other than travel writing.
Be wary of programs that promise you the sexy life of a travel writer. Don’t assume it’s all mai tais on the beach. Be a travel writer to earn a freelance writing income, not to take free trips.
Our tour guide kept saying “Let’s say together” These three little words made me feel like I was in elementary school, then I would remember why, and I would immediately find the core of my group and join them.
If your travel destination has shown up on the US State Department’s Travel Alert within the past 12 months, then you too may want to travel with a group. Or if you are traveling alone, or if you don’t want to spend a lot of time ‘thinking’ about your next venture while visiting far away places then, group travel would be the answer.
Travel is Education at its best, or at least that is our slogan.
When I traveled to Egypt a few years back, there had been some problems, nothing serious but Egypt was listed on the US Department of State Travel Alerts. I was traveling alone and I needed the security of a group so I sign up for a 10 day group tour and cruise to Egypt. It was one of the most memorable journeys of my life. I traveled from San Francisco to JFK, New York, then to Paris and then to Cairo, Egypt.
Egypt had some issues with terrorist and US citizens had been involved in a couple of the incidents, so the “lets all stay together” idea was foremost in my mind. When we landed at the Cairo International Airport we saw guards walking around the Airport with machine guns on their back. From the moment I saw this, they never had a problem with me staying with the group. Sometimes when visiting ancient sites, I would get a little excited and move ahead of the group. It was the memory of the machine guns at the airport and our tour guide saying “lets stay together” that would cause me to Immediately find and join the group. I had not been this group conscience since I went through East Germany on the troop train, to West Berlin, in the 1970s. (Travel has always helped me to appreciate the US)
Back to the reason for this article. “Stay With the Group” was the unspoken theme of our tour. This was not hard to do since we had a tour bus assigned to us (air conditioned) and our tour guide spoke very good English. If any of us wanted to explore a destination or a particular place on the tour, at least 3 or 4 of us would join them to ensure that we “Stayed Together” Yes, there were times when I personally grew tired of my tour and my tour companions, there was so much information, so much to learn and see, I would just stay in my hotel room or tell them that I didn’t feel well.
A couple of little old ladies on the tour stopped me from fibbing about where I was going for the morning or afternoon. They would wait down stairs in the hotel lobby and catch me when I was coming out of the elevator. “Oh, you are feeling better; good we can catch a cab and go to the bazaar”. It seems that the little old ladies did this to several of the younger travelers. Needless to say, they always got their way.
“Free Time” was scheduled on the tour, however our group had grown close and pretty much stayed together. Our group consisted of couples, college students, little old ladies, professionals, retired individuals and me. We were a regular UN from the US.
In Cairo women were not allowed in the casinos at night without a male escort. So the women who had husbands ended up sharing their husband’s attentions with all the single women on the tour. We just selected the couple that suited our personality and tagged alone with them. No, there was no under the cover activity going on! It was good clean honest survival tactics. For some reason they forgot to mention in the tour brochure that women were not allowed in the casinos without an escort. (Yes, they have casinos in Egypt)
During my stay in Cairo, I wore a scarf over my head when I went out of the hotel. I did this out of respect. Cairo, at that time had over 14 million people living there and 75% were Muslims and 25% were Christians. Even though I was not a Muslim, I felt more comfortable covering my head and blending in with the Muslim population.
Our tour went something like this; Full day tour featured the Egyptian Museum, the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza, the Solar Boat, the Citadel, the Hanging Church and the famous Bazaar over a 3 day period
Then it was time to depart Cairo and catch a train to Luxor to begin our Nile Cruise. Our train ride was overnight and we had sleeper cars so privacy was not an issue. During the train ride while viewing the terrain, the small towns and the living conditions of the Egyptians, we had time to reflect on all the information, history and lessons we had experienced while in Cairo.
We sailed from Luxor to Aswan (Aswan is the gateway to Africa and was a prosperous market city on the crossroads of the ancient caravan routes) and then caught a flight back to Cairo) The river boats go back and forth from Aswan to Luxor, so some of the Americans on another tour flew to Aswan and then sailed back to Luxor.
Once on the luxury (small) cruise ship, it was like floating on air, where ancient pictures of the Nile River banks could be seen from each stateroom and the dinning rooms. Almost every moment of every day for 3 days there was a Kodak moment happening on the shores of the Nile River. The cruise revealed the most intimate details of the river banks. The ship was extremely modern and the sights were exceptionally ancient. It felt like we were caught in a time machine.
Our tour guide was an Egyptologist, she had gone to school for 4 years to learn what to say to American tourist and how to say it. She took us on a couple side trips to places that are mentioned in the Bible. It was amazing to see these historical sites. No amount of tuition could have paid for what she taught us and more importantly, what she showed us! I truly recommend that you sign up for tour information to Egypt.
Our tour was ‘high end’ meaning it was a 5 start tour, the hotel was beautiful and the cruise on the Nile was breathtaking. I returned to the United States feeling more knowledgeable and more willing to “stay with the group” when traveling to far away places. All the questions both spiritual and about world history were answered. My entire life changed for the better once I returned to the US.
Bordered by Laos, Thailand and Vietnam; Cambodia boasts of a magnificent heritage, untamed wild landscape and friendly people. The country has a population of 13,995,904 and 90% of this consists of the Khmer ethnicity. The terrain is mostly low, flat plains with mountains in the Southwest and North areas. Since recent times it has developed into a popular destination for many travelers and holds stories of many adventures experienced.
The glorious Khmer civilization of Cambodia is represented by the beautiful temple ruins at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. This is now one of the most celebrated historical sites in Asia. Apart from these famous temples, there’s more to Cambodia than what meets the eye, from the lazy beaches Sihanoukville and Kep to the distinctive Boker Hill Station. Travelers with a passion for adventure will love the country’s wild north east with its spectacular scenery, wildlife and hill tribe cultures. Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, famous for its historical heritage is a seductive and impressive journey into a majestic past combined with new Asian culture.
Apart from the historical sites and travel destinations in this beautiful country, the unique Asian cuisine is similarly noteworthy. The cuisine can be well associated with the Southeast Asian delicacies. Although it is compared to Thai cooking, Khmer cuisines are relatively superior and fresher than the Thai food. The most authentic Cambodian food can be found mostly in road side stalls and small restaurants. Bigger dining locations and Cambodia hotels [http://cambodia.raffles.com/] add a luxurious twist to these unique delicacies to favor the diner’s taste buds.
Cambodia surpasses as one of the best travel destinations in the world today, with its audacious culture and history. The infinite wonder of this country is an experience which can never be articulated through words.
Preparing For Long Term Travel
Traveling abroad is an art. It requires intellect to plan, courage to enact, and perseverance to endure. When planning your dream trip, you must walk a fine line between over- analysis and not-so-blissful ignorance (summer in Sudan, anyone?).
There are several things you should consider before booking your travel, and the most important will be deciding where and when to go.
Where to Go
After working in a cubical and day dreaming about traveling around the world, most people already have a pretty good idea where they want to go. It’s a personal choice and there are amazing places to see and experience all over the globe. If you intend for your systems to pay for your travels, the main factor in deciding where to go is your budget.
How Much the World Costs
These numbers assume a few things. Firstly, you travel slowly (no more than one out of every four days). Second, you stay in clean, basic accommodations. While it’s certainly possible to rent a $3 room in Cambodia, most people mature enough to run a business want a little more comfort. We’re talking rooms with a bathroom, hot water, shower, towels, a bed, and a TV… but not much else.
The prices below are for two people and include food, room, laundry, toiletries, visas and overland (usually local) travel:
o Southeast Asia: $50
o UK and Ireland: $100
o Australia and New Zealand: $80
o South America:$55
o Africa: $60
o Western Europe: $90
o Eastern Europe:$65
o Indian subcontinent:$40
o Japan: $90
As you can see, expenses can be very reasonable, far more reasonable than what you may be currently paying back home. However, you will want to travel somewhere that your systems can afford.
You can escape home faster and live better if you visit third world areas such as Southeast Asia and India. Though we’ve visited the UK several times, my wife and I are still a long ways away from living it up in London! There’s another more powerful reason for going third world initially: a new perspective. Chances are, if you’re reading this you are probably raised in the Western world. When you board that plane, you will no doubt be ready for a change, and the transition from first to third world will be as eye opening as the transition from worker to entrepreneur.
All in all, their calculations have been fairly close to my personal experiences.
Money Saving Tips
These are some tips I’ve learned from both working as a travel agent and personal experience. There are many, many ways to stretch your budget:
o Purchase tickets ahead of time, or last minute. So many people lament over rising flight costs, when they should have bought the damn thing months ago and saved a bundle. Here is my rule of budget travel: purchase tickets ahead of time if you know where you want to go, purchase last minute if you don’t. For example, there is currently a special discount flight to Hungary from San Francisco for three hundred dollars, last minute. Did you plan on going to Hungary? No, but when the opportunity arises, you should take it.
o Slum it, then go all out. My wife and I cycled across Ireland without breaking the bank, and yet we stayed in quality bed and breakfasts (including an old Irish castle). How did we do this? Simple: for every one night in a great location, we camped two nights. Once we arrived at our room for the night, we cleaned up and had a good time. The next morning we showered and hit the road. Following this approach you only miss a shower for one day at a time…
o Change your drinking habits. One of my largest grievances with budget travel writers is their silly notion that you should sacrifice a cold beer in the name of saving money. There are far better ways to save a dollar while you’re traveling. What you should avoid are bars. You can drink cold beer or local spirits for cheap from bottle shops (or oddly enough, 7-11’s). I found myself contemplating buying a can of Guinness in Thailand for more than it cost back home! True, it was an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day, but come on…
Health: Avoiding Problems
You need to start getting some of your vaccinations at least two months before departing on a trip. Several inoculations require three or four visits, spaced two to three weeks apart. Here’s a short list of the most common vaccinations required (or highly recommended) for global travel:
o Hepatitis A and B. (if possible, get the combined vaccine)
o Japanese encephalitis
o Polio, diphtheria and tuberculosis
o Yellow fever
While there is no vaccination for malaria, there are a number of anti-malarial tablets you can take to help combat the disease (though none of them is 100% effective). Check with your doctor to see which prescription is right for you. You can also learn more at www.malaria.org.
To get these vaccinations, visit your local travel clinic or speak with your physician. If you’re currently employed, check if your benefits will cover vaccinations. I was able to save over $700 on vaccinations thanks to the health insurance provided by my previous employer. Talk about a severance package!
When it comes to food, I follow a few simple rules:
1. Eat at restaurants with a lot of people and high turn over. It probably means the food is fresher.
2. Eat cooked food. Try to avoid any raw vegetables and raw fish. Fruits and vegetables that you can peel are a safer option. Consider bringing vitamin tablets if you’re not getting enough fruits and vegetables.
3. Don’t over eat. If you stuff your face with contaminated food, you’ll feel a hell of a lot worse than if you ate a smaller portion. The only two times I’ve been sick abroad were shortly after a three or four course meal at a high end steakhouse.
Depending on where you travel, you might need to bring a water purification system. I use The Steripen Adventurer UV purifier. The same size as a screwdriver, this wonder tool can purify one liter of water in one minute using an ultra violet light bulb and lithium batteries. Though it isn’t cheap- retail is about $130- the Steripen is both lightweight and effective. Keep in mind it doesn’t work with ice, a common cause for getting sick among travelers.
If you’re planning on buying bottled water over seas, keep in mind that many merchants refill used water bottles with local water and resell them. If the plastic seal is broken- and it often is – you probably don’t want to drink it.
Traveler’s diarrhea claims 30-50% of tourists abroad within the first two weeks, and is often accompanied by vomiting. In other words, don’t be surprised if you’re leaking out both ends… it’s natural. The best thing to do? Take over the counter anti-diarrheal medicine or antibiotics (rather than something that just plugs you up), drink lots of water, lay low and let the good- or bad- times flow. Symptoms should clear up within a few days. Any more than that, contact a doctor.
Tying Up Loose Ends
Before you hit the road you’ll need to close up shop. While most of these steps aren’t necessary for short term travel, they are imperative for long term wandering.
o Three – Six Months Out:
o Get a passport (if you don’t have one).
o Book your airplane flights.
o Visit your doctor or travel clinic to get vaccinations. Check if your employer’s health insurance covers them before you quit!
o Determine how to handle your living situation. Consider renting out your residence furnished. This saves you the hassle of storing your belongings, and moves you one step closer to paying off your mortgage. Most people interested in furnished accommodations are working abroad for a year or more: perfect for your intentions.
o Book a dentist, doctor, and optometry appointment for one month before you go to make sure you have a clean bill of health. This gives you time to handle any cavities before you leave.
o One Month Out:
o Set cancellation dates for all insurance policies, credit cards, and other miscellaneous items.
o Close any unnecessary accounts (e.g. banking accounts and department store accounts).
o Sign up for Online Banking (if you don’t already have it).
o Set up a forwarding address with the post office to a friend or a P.O. Box in your name.
o Find someone to rent your car while you’re gone. Make sure they get insurance and to draft an automobile leasing contract.
o Go to your dentist, doctor, and optometry appointments.
o Get travelers insurance.
o Two weeks out:
o Give your two weeks notice to your employer.
o Email yourself copies of your passport, driver’s license, insurance policy, credit card, and any other important information you might need while you’re away.
o Get travelers checks and email the security numbers from those to yourself.
o Notify your bank that you’ll be making purchases in a foreign country with your credit card.
o Have a garage sale. If you don’t manage to sell the majority of your belongings, have another garage sale following week. My wife and I made over $1,500 of two days work selling our stuff- worth over a month of travel in Southeast Asia. If you can’t sell your stuff, look into a storage unit.
o Get a visa if applicable for your first country.
Remember, you don’t need half of what you may think you do, a truism that applies to a crucial step in preparing: packing for long term travel.
What (Not) To Pack
Prior to departure: create a checklist of items you need to take. At a maximum you should include:
Drivers license (international if possible)
Credit cards, travelers checks and US dollars
Photocopies of important documents
Youth hostel card
Scuba diving certification (if applicable)
Passport photos (1 or 2 per country)
One small day pack
A good book
Pen and notepad
Laptop and headset for Skype
Two pairs of light weight pants
One pair of shorts
Three shirts (one for going out)
1 Pair Sandals
1 Pair Shoes or Boots
Swim suit (if applicable)
Silk sleep sack (not a sleeping bag)
First aid kit
Swiss army knife
Possessions will only tie you down. For example, let’s say you purchase a brand new digital camera before your trip (chances are you will). Sure, it’s a great way to document your experiences, but it weighs you down a lot more than you think.
You have to think twice about swimming in the ocean for fear someone will steal it. Crossing a river could potentially destroy it. Strangers become potential threats.
And these are just the tangibles. The worst, and most common, is that it prevents you from truly experiencing a place before reaching for your camera. This effectively removes you from your surroundings, preventing you from ever really gaining anything at all.
Why Einstein Was Wrong – How to Travel
The theory of relativity states that time slows down when as speed increases. For example, imagine a friend whizzing across or solar system in a spacecraft while you remain here on the Earth. Einstein proved that your friend’s clock would seem to tick more slowly than your own.
Sadly, the opposite is true when traveling. People who travel near the speed of light- or at least sound- arrive home seemingly unaware of where they had just visited. Locations become nothing more than a check box on their itinerary, an experience not to be savored, but shown off to others. They develop the classic “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Rome” syndrome. Speed is not better, which is why you shouldn’t try to travel at the speed of light.
My advice is to travel at the speed of smell.
As I write this, there is a large Vietnamese market going on less than five meters away. The smell of pho boiling over and the sounds of locals conversing is something I wouldn’t have noticed on a five day whirlwind tour of Vietnam.
In order to really experience your surroundings, you must slow down. While guidebooks may offer walking tours that allow you to “do” a city in a day, it takes much longer to “feel” it out.
Somewhere along the line, we lost the point of travel. People visit pagodas, temples, churches, museums, and art galleries not out of personal interest, but out of some misplaced obligation. If you aren’t interested in art, skip the Museum of Modern Art. If you don’t like sports, forget the Superdome. Can’t stand witnessing first hand poverty? Don’t go to India.
It’s not about seeing the most acclaimed sights. It’s about experiencing those that affect you the most.
Your First Night Abroad: Make It a Soft Landing
Your first two days in any new region should be seen as a transition period. Don’t throw yourself into the mix right away; book your hotel prior to departure and stay there for at least two nights. This will help you acclimate to your new surroundings, and sleep comfortably for the first few days. Your first few nights shouldn’t be concerned with travel plans, budget, or any other logistics… just unplug and rest while your body adapts to the new sights, smells and time zone.
Lunch at 4AM? How to Deal With Jet Lag
There are several ways to combat jet lag, a common problem among travelers. It certainly hits some people harder than others; it takes me over a week to adjust, while my wife takes it in stride. Here are some ways to battle jet lag:
o Don’t eat. Studies have shown that your liver takes longer to adapt to a new time zone than any other part of your body. By not eating for 12 hours or more, your body will adjust much more quickly. If this seems like too much, try eating on your intended destination’s clock a few days before departure (dinner at 10 AM, anyone?).
o Sunshine. The sun helps you set your circadian clock, so the more the better. Exercise also helps.
o Pop some pills. There are additional over-the-counter pills that claim to help with jet lag. Though I have no personal experience with them, several people I’ve spoken to swear by No Jet Lag.
Now that you’ve freed up your time and location, you’ll need to monitor your systems and stay in touch with loved ones. Here are several crucial tools to maintain your systems abroad.
A great way to pick up care packages from home. Get the address of the main post office in whatever town you’re in (or will be shortly) and have people address your mail to the following:
LAST NAME, First Name
Poste Restante, General Post Office
When you arrive at the post office, simply present your passport as identification and you’ll be able to claim your mail. Generally post offices around the world will hold mail up to two years.
A great way to keep in touch is to start a travel blog. You can do so with free services such as Blogger.com or WordPress.com; both are free and can be set up in a matter of minutes. By creating a travel blog, you are able to avoid sending out group e-mails, which always come across as forced and rather generic. This way, people who were really interested in your trip can check up on you whenever they like, leave comments, and engage other people visiting your blog.
Also, blogs allow you much more creative freedom than sending emails. You can include pictures, video, polls, international clocks, maps and a whole host of other customizations, all of which provide a great scrapbook after your travels.
Word of the Year: Wifi
Wireless is the name of the game. As time progresses, connecting to the Internet will only become increasingly important, so you might as well get used to ranking “free internet” higher than amenities such as free breakfast, swimming pool, and massages. Let’s face it: you’re now able to create systems that pay for your lifestyle, completely free of employees. Free of fax machines, cubicles, commutes, and water coolers… so logging into your accounts to make sure the money’s coming in doesn’t seem like too much of a hindrance, does it?
Expect internet cafes to run around $1-2 USD an hour. Seeing that your business is Internet based, you may want to consider traveling with a laptop depending upon your goals.
Laptop: Luxury or Necessity?
If you intend to develop more systems while traveling, a laptop is necessary. You will need to upload webpages to your sites, conduct phone interviews with prospective freelancers, and keep tabs on your expenses and revenue streams. If you intend to just monitor or expand your existing systems, you can use internet cafes, though working amidst Chinese computer gamers ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.
Laptops also provide more security. You don’t know what kind of spyware (programs that remember your keystrokes for future use) might be on some random computer. To paraphrase sex ed teachers, a trusting, monogamous relationship is one of the best ways to avoid viruses.
Though I personally don’t use one, cell service is getting better all the time, and can save you a lot of time if you need to call people who don’t use Skype. For example, I spent thirty minutes in search of an international phone to call my bank for a phone call that lasted two minutes.
You can’t go wrong with free international phone calls, and Skype provides just that. Get your friends and family back home to sign up and you can chat through your laptop for free. More and more businesses are jumping on the bandwagon, though banks and credit card companies are still behind the curve.
An additional feature that may be of some use is the ability to forward calls from a US based phone number to your cell phone abroad. If you handle customer service questions, it pays to list a domestic number. After all, would you buy a product from a company that requires you to call East Timor with questions?
Dragon Naturally Speaking
If it wasn’t for this software, this book would never have been written. For less than thirty bucks you get a microphone, headset, and the ability to dictate to your laptop. I’m able to “write” at about 120 words per minute. An added bonus is that you can use the microphone and headset with Skype.
An absolutely essential tool. There will be times when you won’t be able to access the Internet with your laptop, and a handy USB allows you to backup your work.
Other Technological Marvels for Working Abroad
o GoToMyPC : This software allows you to access your home computer from any other computer in the world. If you are abject to traveling with a laptop, this is the way to go. Just remember, you’ll have to pay for internet connection along the way, making this a better solution for short term travel.
o World Electronics USA: Get information on global phones. Good explanation of which GSM frequencies and “bands” function in which countries, which will determine the phone you purchase for travel (and perhaps home).
o Universal Plug Adapter: I’ve purchased adapters in several countries in order to power our digital camera and laptop, though it can be a hassle if you’re exploring several different regions. This universal adapter works wonders around the world.
o World Electric Guide: This site is a life-saver when it comes to handling electronics abroad. It breaks down voltage, wattage and a slew of other technical requirements by country.
Use what you’ve learned and hit the road!
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Some travelers like to take photos, some like to write about their travels, and some only want to enjoy the moment. This article is written for the first two types of travelers; the photographers and the writers. The others will have to live off their memories without any prompts from audio-visuals.
Now, I know that you may not consider yourself either a writer or a photographer based on the results of the reporting of your personal travels. But, if you put your travel information and photos on Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, a blog, or any other social networking site, you are a writer and a photographer already — and a published one at that.
O.K, I didn’t say you were a professional writer or photographer, but in my opinion you still qualify for both terms. Keeping a travel journal is not designed as a step to becoming a professional writer. It is designed to preserve and share your travel memories. Who knows, your journal might be the first step toward becoming a professional. Stranger things have happened.
Whether you want to systematize your writing and your photographs while traveling, or do it from notes when you return from your trips, a good vehicle for doing this is an online journal.
What is an online travel journal? Think of an online journal as a personal travel diary which can be used at will, opened to or closed to the public, and is kept up through an internet based service. You can log in daily or keep notes and log in when you have time later. You can upload your descriptions or your photographs from anywhere in the world where there is an internet connection.
In the past a travel journal was usually a physical notebook or bound journal in which a traveler wrote down his impressions or thoughts about his or her travels. Before you could share your travels with family and friends, you first had to write up you experience, make copies of your pictures, and usually prepare a presentation folder for them to see.
With the advent of the internet all that has changed. You no longer have to wait until you are back home to start sharing. Today, with an online journal you can almost instantaneously share your impressions of your travel destinations with descriptions and photos.
Where do I get an online travel journal? Online, of course. Do an online search for the key words “online travel journals” and you will have numerous sites from which to choose. I have personally checked out over a dozen online diaries sources that are available for your use.
Most sites have a “free” version and a “fee” version. There are some additional features with the “fee” version, but the major difference is in the amount of storage space available for your use. Take the “free” one. You can upgrade to the “fee” one if you find you are running out of space.
Lamar Ross is an author, educator, photographer, internet entrepreneur, and international traveler. He has a special interest in training individuals for expatriate living and providing information on unique travel destinations. He has lived in the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and India and has traveled extensively in 29 different countries. He speaks both English and Spanish fluently and has a basic ability in several other languages.
Big, beautiful, bold, and breathtaking are just some of the words I would use to describe the magnificent city of Cape Town, a bustling metropolis with a small town feel.
One of those travel destinations that gets under your skin, Cape Town is a place where one immediately feels welcome, and once you start to uncover the delights that South Africa’s “Mother City” has to offer, you may well find yourself choking back the tears when the time comes to leave.
Sitting at the tip of Southern Africa between the rugged coastlines of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, Cape Town is an action packed tourist destination where can enjoy everything from a round of golf, wine tasting tours, boat trips, mountain hikes, cultural tours and some of the best dining venues in the world.
Since the 2010-World Cup highlighted the beauty of South Africa, Cape Town and its surrounding areas have become increasing popular with international travellers, and with daily flights from most large European and US airports, it is more accessible than ever before.
So what makes Cape Town so great? Well, firstly it would have to be the sheer beauty of the place. Table Mountain makes a striking backdrop, and when you combine that with the Lions Head Mountain, the huge expanse of coastline, and a mishmash of luxury villas, hotels, shopping malls and the Waterfront harbour, you get a vibrant, interesting and colourful city.
The people of Cape Town are some of the friendliest people you will encounter, and if you take the time to get to know them, you may well make lifelong friends during your stay.
As with every major city, Cape Town has its own international airport and hotels to complement every taste and every budget. From Backpackers hostels to five-star luxury, you will find whatever accommodation you are looking for in this sprawling city.
Dining is big in South Africa and if you enjoy trying new foods, you may find yourself spoilt for choice. As one would imagine, the seafood is fresh and plentiful, the fruits and ripe and delicious, and you will have the opportunity to try rare game meats that you might not find at home.
Dining wouldn’t be complete without a bottle of wine, and Cape Town is surrounded by some magnificent wine regions including Stellenbosch, Paarl and Wellington. Most hotels offer wine tasting tours, and if you would like to discover New World Wines, you will struggle to find anywhere that does it better.
Highlighted excursions include a trip up Table Mountain, a boat ride to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent several years incarcerated, a day tour/drive to the Cape of Good Hope, and a sunset champagne cruise along the coastline.
Cape Town is a paradise for shoppers and offers both colourful street markets and high-end luxury stores. The Victoria & Albert Waterfront shopping centre is the perfect place to spend your last few South African Rands, and if you want some handmade trinkets and souvenirs, just head over to Hout Bay and shop the local market.
Overall, Cape Town has something for everyone – it’s new, it’s exciting and it is waiting to receive you with open arms – so why not head on down to the Rainbow Nation this year!
Wendy Kaufmann is the owner of Equatours Limited. A family owned and family run business specialising in unique travel experiences to countries below the equator.
Fully bonded tour operator, our packages are inclusive of all travel arrangements, accommodation, insurance and a personal travel guide is with you every step of the way to make sure your trip with us is a holiday of a lifetime.