Nomadic Matt's Travel Site https://www.nomadicmatt.com Travel Better, Cheaper, Longer Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:17:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 UPDATES: I’m Hosting More Speaking Events and a Newer Guide to Free Flights https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/community-flight-updates/ Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:07:05 +0000 https://www.nomadicmatt.com/?p=98604 This week, I have two important announcements to make. First, I've updated and expanded my Travel Hacking guidebook. It will show you how you can start earning free flights today with minimal effort! Second, I will be hosting travel meet-ups across the USA and Canada over the next few weeks!

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friends traveling together

Hello everyone!

Happy Thursday! I’m currently leading a tour around Austin (if you’re in town, come to the BBQ tomorrow) but here’s just a quick update today, as I have two big announcements:

First, the Nomadic Network tour is back! A few months ago we started doing a “beta” test of community meetups in preparation for our September launch of a new global community event program (more on that later, like in September). We learned a lot during the first go-round on how to make the meetups better, and we’re doing another mini-tour at the end of the month!

At each of the events, you’ll have a talk or presentation by me and other travelers, giving you practical advice on how to travel on a budget and create a life outside the box, followed by a social hour to meet like-minded folks! The goal of these events is to take this amazing online community offline and into real life!

Here are our next dates:

June 28th – Miami | Sign Up Here
June 29th – New Orleans | Sign Up Here
July 5th – Houston | Sign Up Here
July 6th – Denver | Sign Up Here
July 9th – Vancouver | Sign Up Here
July 10th – Toronto | Sign Up Here

The cost of each event is $6 USD. We’re not doing this for profit. It’s purely to cover the cost of the event spaces. However, anyone who attends the events gets 10% off any books we sell on the website to help offset the cost of admission.

You can sign up through the Eventbrite links above. Note: You will need to register in advance as we will NOT be collecting any money at the door.

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Second, I’ve updated my guide to travel hacking. Travel hacking, the art of using points and miles for free travel, is one of the most important tools in the budget traveler’s arsenal. It’s how I travel so often for so cheap. (I flew back home this week on Lufthansa first-class using points.) Every year, I earn and burn over a million points for first-class flights, business-class flights, a trip for my parents, free hotel stays, and much more!

The new edition of the book reflects changes in travel hacking methods over the last six months. I’ve updated loyalty program requirements and rules, credit card bonus information, links, phone numbers, and everything in between to reflect recent changes and mergers in frequent flier and hotel loyalty programs, as well as the credit card programs themselves. I also removed old and outdated information from the book. (Ya know, all the little things you do when you update a guidebook!)

But beyond that, I ADDED a lot of new advice, tips, and tricks to help you better navigate this world so you can maximize your points and rewards at a time when airlines are slashing their loyalty program perks. Here’s what’s new:

  • A spreadsheet that tells you what cards to use when you want to fly a certain airline (I created this detailed spreadsheet. You won’t find it anywhere else!)
  • A more detailed section on redeeming miles, including tips on how to know what program and cards to use for each redemption
  • A more detailed section on credit cards, including added information for people with no or low credit
  • More ways to earn double or triple miles on your everyday spending (why get one point when you can learn how to get five!)
  • A new section on gift card and merchandise reselling to generate points and meet card minimum-spending requirements
  • How to use PayPal to pay your bills — and generate free points from it
  • How to fund bank accounts with your credit card — and generate free points from it
  • A more detailed resource list
  • A spreadsheet of the latest deals
  • More detailed, step-by-step breakdowns of all the information in the book and how to put it into practice
  • And a whole bunch more!

All that translates into over 30 pages of new content!

The book is still $29.99 and comes with a 180-day guarantee. I promise you’ll get at least one free flight through travel hacking, and if you don’t, I’ll give you a full refund! I’m that confident this stuff works. Here some of the successes other buyers had with the book:

Michael: “I bought the guide a few months ago and was able to book a one-way flight from New York to Saint Petersburg for 30,000 miles and $5.60! Matt lays out a great plan on finding the best card for you, how to use it to its full advantage, and quickly building up air miles. The easy explanations and layout take a potentially complicated topic and makes it easy to understand. I would gladly recommend it to anyone with the slightest desire to travel!”

Rusty: “Matt’s guide has unlocked a whole new way to travel. His book was an eye-opener — it explained the concept and language of travel hacking in a way that is easy to read and understand. Since buying his book six months ago, I have accumulated nearly 300,000 points. Now, I’m repeating the steps for my wife so we can have double the miles for our future trips!”

Lisa: “I always thought credit cards were bad, but after reading this book, I realized that they can actually work for you, not against you! After following Matt’s advice, I now have two free airline tickets to the US Virgin Islands and I am asking myself, why didn’t I start doing this years ago?! If you are dreaming of traveling more, this book is a must-read. I used to be a real skeptic, but I see that it really does work and it doesn’t ruin your credit!!!”

Jennifer: “Matt’s book was an eye-opener for us. We’d been slogging along, getting 1 point for $1 spent on an airline credit card, and we aren’t big spenders, so it seemed like getting enough miles for a trip would take forever. Well, three months after getting the book and using the techniques mentioned, we are planning a trip to Thailand with a free stopover in Tokyo! Thank you, Matt!

Cindy: Matt’s travel-hacking book was a great purchase. It was really informative and covered a lot of different aspects of travel hacking that we were not even aware of or thinking about. Matt explains everything very well and makes it really easy for readers to understand. Thanks to Matt’s book, we are on our way to getting a free flight to South America!

If you already bought a previous version of this book, an update link has already been sent to you! Yup, you also get free updates for life when you buy the book. It doesn’t matter when you buy it. If I make a new edition ten years from now, you’ll still get an update link!

Travel hacking isn’t about making you sign up for a lot of credit cards, creating extra work, or having you figure out complicated loyalty programs. This book will show you how, in just a few hours a week, you can turn your day-to-day spending into free travel and hotel stays for the rest of your life.

So if you’re ready to stop spending a lot of money on your flights and start making your dream trips happen, you can order the book right now by clicking right here.

(Or, if you still want learn more about the book, you can click here for added information)

Either way, don’t leave free travel on the table. Don’t let fear, uncertainty, or disbelief keep you from learning this essential aspect of budget travel. Because when you travel hack, the world truly becomes your oyster, money is of no concern, and life offers seats, lounges, and meals like this:

Nomadic Matt flying first class
A seat in Lufthansa first class
Nomadic Matt flying first class
Nomadic Matt in a fancy hotel room

There’s a lot of information on the web about travel hacking but information isn’t enough. You need to know how to distill it all and turn it into action. This guide does that. If you’re ready to stop spending money on flights and hotels, travel in comfort, and actually enjoy the flying experience, pick up this book today.

Because once you take money out of the equation, the world truly is your oyster.

– Matt

P.S. – If you have any questions, send me an email at matt@nomadicmatt.com

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30+ Essential Resources for the Modern LGBT Traveler https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/lgbt-travel-resources/ https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/lgbt-travel-resources/#comments Mon, 19 Jun 2017 13:00:58 +0000 https://www.nomadicmatt.com/?p=97829 In this month's LGBT column, Adam from Travels of Adam shares the most essential travel websites and apps for the modern LGBT traveler. As the world becomes more open and accessible to the LGBT community, these websites and apps will help make planning an LGBT-friendly trip simple and safe!

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An large LGBT Pride celebration
I’ve added an LGBT column for the website to make the site more inclusive and talk about issues that affect some members of our community. In this column, we will hear from voices in the LGBT community about their experiences on the road, safety tips, events, and overall advice for other LGBT travelers to get the most out of their time on the road! Back again this month is our column leader Adam from travelsofadam.com who is talking about the best websites, apps, and blogs for LGBT travelers. 

Today, modern lesbian, gay, bi, and trans travelers no longer need a print guidebook to find underground, gay-friendly places. We don’t have to walk around with colored bandanas to send secret signals when cruising. Why? Because now — more often than not — we’re out in the open.

The basic LGBT trip  now starts like any other planned holiday. Where do we go? What do we want to do and see? How do we save money? Thanks to increased acceptance over the years, we’re far more out in the open and, with that comes a lot more options – both online and off – to plan your trip and find LGBT friendly attractions, businesses, tours, and ways to meet people. While we don’t have to let our sexuality define our travels, if you’re looking for activities and people who share a similar lifestyle, these are the best tools on the web:

Where to Find LGBT Travel Inspiration & Things to Do

A couple planning a trip together
Travel blogs & vlogs – In this new era for the travel media industry, independent bloggers and YouTubers have been at the forefront. Increasingly, we base our travel decisions (where to go, what to do) on not just our friends’ Instagrams but those  who’ve already been there, done that. The most popular gay and lesbian travel bloggers (myself included) generally publish destination guides — it’s just a matter of finding the one that fits your own personal travel style. Here are some of my favorites (starting with my own):

(For more blogs, check out my list here: http://travelsofadam.com/gay-travel/)

Websites – There are a handful of dedicated LGBT travel websites that publish detailed and up to date guides. My favorite are:

  • Out Traveler – once a print magazine, still publishes and maintains up-to-date LGBT city guides on its website.
  • AfterEllen – Regularly publishes lesbian travel guides.
  • TravelGayEurope and TravelGayAsia – These websites provide comprehensive city guides.

Travel guidebooks – The Damron series started out in 1964 for men but has also published a separate guidebook for lesbians for nearly 20 years. And Spartacus Publishing (out of Germany) has printed a comprehensive guidebook to all gay-oriented hospitality businesses since 1970. Moreover, these days, even the most mainstream publications are likely to include some LGBT-specific recommendations in their listings. For the past several summers, many major travel brands (such as Trip.com, Lonely Planet, Expedia, and even Hostelworld) have gone so far as to print LGBT Pride travel guides.

Local magazines, newspapers, and guides – There are countless independent, LGBT-oriented city magazines and newspapers around the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Adelaide, Australia, or London, England — you’re going to find a local LGBT print publication or guide. Some will include weekly listings of clubs, parties, and events; others might feature personal ads.

Unfortunately most of these indie publications have poor websites, so your best LGBT travel research is going to have to happen on the ground. One of the best ways to find them in a new city is to simply go to the queer neighborhood and then look for them in a bookstore or bar — anyone who’s ever been inside a gay bar or club is probably familiar with the stack of magazines, brochures, or flyers in the doorway or by the bathrooms. (And make sure to support those businesses that carry these publications!) Also check out the pamphlets, flyers, and advertisements on the corkboard in the local LGBT center.

Some examples:

  • Siegessäule, Berlin’s free gay magazine, likes to claim one of the highest readerships and circulations of any print media in Germany.
  • HISKIND, a free lifestyle magazine in London with thought-provoking essays and local artist and drag queen interviews.
  • Windy City Times still prints an LGBT newspaper for Chicago.
  • Washington Blade operates in DC.
  • Seattle Gay News covers Seattle.

Company blogs – Even the biggest gay apps have started to push out content through their channels. Grindr launched a digital magazine, Into, with a travel section earlier this year, and Hornet acquired the one-time popular gossip blog Unicorn Booty several years ago and now publishes gay men’s travel guides for assorted cities (even if they’re slightly basic). Each of the other hookup apps, including the more niche ones, like Surge, Blued, and Planet Romeo, maintain regularly published blogs, sometimes featuring travel tips and local insider guides. Scruff probably has gone the furthest in incorporating travel tips into its app with the feature Scruff Venture, which allows users to search a destination for other visitors, local ambassadors, and events.

IGLTA – The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association is the leader when it comes to LGBT tourism. Its members include hundreds of airlines, hotels, destination tourism offices, and independent tour operators, both LGBT-owned and mainstream. On its website, you’ll find a useful “Plan Your Trip” feature that searches through its members (just be mindful that these are members who have paid for their placement). It’s a great place to find LGBT-specific things to do on your trip.

Related: An In-Depth Guide to Planning a Lesbian-Friendly Trip

LGBT-friendly accommodation – Often the most challenging part of gay travel can be finding an LGBT-friendly hotel or accommodation. Some of the biggest hotel chains and brands have actively supported the LGBT community by participating in Pride events around the world, by training all their staff (from the front desk to the reservations center) in diversity and inclusiveness issues, and by running LGBT-inclusive campaigns. Even Airbnb launched a #HostWithPride campaign last year after updating its terms of service to protect and safeguard LGBT travelers and hosts.

There are gay-specific accommodation websites such as Rainbow World Hotels, Purple Roofs, and MisterBNB, but you’ll almost always find the same listings on mainstream sites for far cheaper prices. You’re paying a premium when trying to book through a gay-specific website, and in most instances, the mainstream sites and listings are increasingly safe and comfortable for LGBT travelers.

How to Meet Other LGBT Travelers

Travelers hanging out on a beach together
Gay travelers today are much luckier to have apps like Grindr in their pockets. I never would’ve discovered a gay bar in Amman without the Grindr app and a local’s helpful directions, nor would I have met that handsome tourist from Austria during Prague Gay Pride. Meeting strangers is one of the joys of traveling, and there’s nothing better than having an LGBT local to show you around. It will certainly make a trip more interesting, much more memorable. Here’s where to find them:

The hookup apps – If there’s one thing that’s revolutionized our little gay world, it’s Grindr, the location-based hookup app for gay men. For better or worse (you either love it or hate it), Grindr has changed the way we find sex, love, or even friends and it’s also quite simply enabled a lot more connections. Grindr makes it easier to meet locals when you’re abroad, whether it’s for a romp in the bushes behind Berghain or an innocent coffee date. While sex does happen often enough through these apps, it doesn’t have to be the end goal or even your main objective to still find value in them. Here are the main useful apps:

Networking groups – For a long time, Couchsurfing was one of the best places to meet other LGBT travelers and locals. With a strong community, the bed-sharing and hosting network made it easy to connect with other travelers — and the “Queer Couchsurfers” group was one of the site’s most active and welcoming. There were plenty of times I used Couchsurfing not just for a place to sleep but also to attend local get-togethers.

On Meetup.com you’ll find most major destinations have LGBT/queer-themed groups and meetups, and these are often a great and safe way to meet other LGBT travelers in nonsexual encounters. Sometimes you’ll find them for very specific interests, whether it’s a group of gay science fiction fans in Berlin or LGBT professional networking in London.

StartOut, a nonprofit for professional business and entrepreneurship networking events in various American cities, is also worth checking out. Facebook, with its thousands of public groups, can also provide a great meeting point online — and then offline — through local city or regional networking groups. It’s just a matter of doing some research beforehand to find the right networking group for your trip.

A Note on Safety

A Pride flag waving at a celebration in America

As I’ve written before in this LGBT travel column, safety and comfort is an important part of any gaycation. Thankfully, there are more than enough resources online to help you decide what or where might be safer to travel. For a more independent look at the LGBT rights and safety situation, Equaldex is my favorite. Unlike media and blogs, this is a crowd-sourced platform where users can post and share country-specific news articles related to LGBT rights. This can be especially helpful for those less-familiar places and to get a general comparison of LGBT inclusiveness around the world.

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Over the years and thanks to new technologies and new formats for our media, the way we travel now has changed for the better. And for LGBT travelers specifically, these advancements have made it not just easier but also safer and friendlier. Using these tools and resources, so much more of the world is open to us.

Adam Groffman is a former graphic designer who left a publishing job in Boston to travel around the world before settling in Berlin, Germany. He’s a gay travel expert, writer, and blogger and publishes a series of LGBT-friendly Hipster City Guides from around the world on his gay travel blog, Travels of Adam. When he’s not out exploring the coolest bars and clubs, he’s usually enjoying the local arts and culture scene. Find more of his travel tips (and embarrassing stories) on Twitter @travelsofadam.

P.S. – Starting next week, I’ll be doing the next round of Nomadic Network meet-ups around the U.S. (and in Canada!). If you want to meet up, come check out the dates and sign up!

P.P.S. – I’m doing a BBQ in Austin on Friday. Come hang out!

Photo Credit: 4

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7 Common Myths About Traveling Africa – And Why They Are Wrong https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/africa-travel-myths/ https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/africa-travel-myths/#comments Thu, 15 Jun 2017 13:00:43 +0000 https://www.nomadicmatt.com/?p=75957 In this guest post, Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse breaks down the seven most common myths about traveling around Africa. Relying on her years of experience on the continent, Kristin proves that Africa is not just a beautiful destination but one that is safe, accessible, and budget friendly!

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travel in africa
Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes our regular column on solo female travel. It’s an important topic I can’t adequately cover, so I brought in an expert to share her advice for other women travelers to help cover the topics important and specific to them! She’s also amazingly knowledgable about traveling around Africa. This month, Kristin breaks down some of the most persistent myths when it comes to traveling Africa.

When I told my friends about my first solo trip to Africa, they thought I was crazy.

“What about Ebola?”

“You can’t travel to Africa alone! It’s too dangerous!”

“You’re going to get eaten by a lion or something!”

This is a common reaction from those who have not been to the continent and are used to seeing it portrayed in a very negative light in the news and popular culture. We often hear only about the bad side: corruption, war, disease, crime, and poverty. With little else to go on, most people naturally have a negative impression of Africa.

The reality is that Africa is a continent with incredibly varied cultures, landscapes, and activities that you can only experience there. Safaris are certainly a big draw, but there’s so much more to Africa than that. Africa is where I saw my first whale shark, where I spent more time staying in the homes of people I’d just met than paying for hostels, and where I safely hitchhiked from beautiful beach town to beautiful beach town. It’s a continent filled with people on the move, a thriving film industry, growing tech centers, and lots of development projects. I am still continuously humbled by the hospitality and uniqueness I find there on every visit.

Yet each time I go back, I hear the same concerns, worries, and misperceptions. Today, let’s address them. Here are seven common myths about traveling in Africa — and why they’re wrong:

“Africa is just one big place.”

travel in africa
Africa is often thought of as a single place in the media and pop culture, like when Australia’s shadow foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek referred to Africa as a country. But the continent contains 54 countries, thousands of cultures, an estimated 2,000 languages, and widely divergent landscapes. Africa is home to the largest desert on earth (the Sahara) and the highest free-standing mountain in the world (Kilimanjaro). More than 600 new species have been discovered in Madagascar in just the last decade.

I’m constantly blown away by how much variety there is in Africa. I’ve sandboarded down giant orange dunes in Namibia, walked along white sand beaches in Tanzania, trekked with gorillas in Uganda, and eaten at BBQ joints in the South African townships (and fancy restaurants just a few miles away).

Talking about it like one big place is kind of like saying that Europe or Asia is one big place. With Africa, you can’t generalize.

“Africa is dangerous.”

travel
Recent terrorist attacks in Kenya by the extremist group Al-Shabab, the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram in Nigeria, the difficulty establishing a solid government in Somalia, civil war in South Sudan, and the whole Kony 2012 movement hasn’t helped Africa’s image. Combined with our cultural memory of “blood diamonds,” the Rwandan genocide, and Black Hawk Down, most people’s mental image of Africa is that of a place teeming with conflict and danger at every corner.

It’s true that some — but certainly not all — of Africa is very dangerous to travel through at the moment. But this is another instance where you can’t generalize. There are many, many safe parts. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace (which bases its rankings on such factors as violent crime, terrorism, and internal and external conflicts), Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Madagascar, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Malawi (just to name a few on the list) are all safer than the United States.

“Traveling in Africa is only for voluntourism or safaris.”

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I remember sitting in a restaurant in Namibia with some locals when one of them asked cheekily, “So what are you here to save?” After all, Africa sees a large number of voluntourists who come to save something and try to do good (though often do the opposite). 47% of Peace Corps volunteers serve in Africa and, in 2014, South Africa alone welcomed 2.2 million volunteers!

As for tourism, most people think that in order to see Africa, you have to go on a safari and have everything planned out for you. Very few imagine “backpacking” through Africa as feasible and safe, but just like Asia or South America, Africa has a backpacker’s trail as well, and it’s full of people who are neither volunteers nor safari seekers.

There’s so much else to do and see in Africa, like touring the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, lazing away on the famous beaches of Zanzibar, climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, exploring the ancient cities of Marrakech and Timbuktu, scuba diving in Mozambique, exploring the townships in South Africa, and bungee-jumping at Victoria Falls in Zambia, one of the natural wonders of the world.

“You need a lot of money to travel through Africa.”

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Since most people assume they have to go on a safari, they think it’s expensive to travel in Africa. But Africa doesn’t have to be the land of safaris that cost several thousand dollars per day and beach hotels with private butlers.

The opposite is actually true. I was surprised that I could drive myself through Kruger National Park in South Africa or Etosha National Park in Namibia, without paying top dollar for a tour. Between those two parks, you can easily spot “the big five” (the lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, and leopard) on your own.

I was impressed by the great value for accommodations as well. In Mozambique, I was able to rent a beach hut for only $15 per night, and you can find budget accommodations ranging from $10 for a dorm room to $20 for a private bungalow (in South Africa, Namibia, and Morocco, as well). I couldn’t believe how unique and funky the accommodations in South Africa were, from campsites to self-contained vacation rentals. In Tanzania, the campsites were usually in beautiful locations, with hot showers and cooking areas and sometimes even swimming pools!

Transportation doesn’t have to be expensive either. For example, there are budget safari options as low as $80 per day including food, accommodation, and activities (or take yourself on a self-driving safari); Baz Bus (aimed at backpackers in South Africa) offers $10 short rides or a three-week pass for around $325; and car rentals in Namibia and South Africa run around $25 per day for a basic vehicle.

Africa doesn’t have to be super luxury to be enjoyable!

“Africa is dirty and underdeveloped.”
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As I drove into Rwanda, I couldn’t believe how clean everything was, with almost zero trash on the side of the road. I was equally amazed by the sprawling mansions I saw upon entering the capital, Kigali. Since the mid-’90s, Rwanda has pulled over one million people out of poverty and maintained peace, as well as involving more women in politics (64% of people in parliament are women) than any other country in the world.

This is just one of many countries that are doing well in Africa, including Botswana, which quickly outgrew its ranking as one of the poorest countries after independence from Britain in 1977; it has had one of the highest average economic growth rates in the world (averaging about 9% per year from 1966 to 1999 and 5% since then). The Ivory Coast is also experiencing heavy growth, with a GDP growth of 8.5% in 2016 compared to 1.6% for the United States.

Cell phone ownership is skyrocketing in Africa. I couldn’t believe that in Tanzania, in the Serengeti of all places, I still had full 3G service. My coverage was way better out there than I often get in the United States!

I was similarly blown away by how good the roads were in most of southern Africa and parts of east Africa, including Tanzania and Zambia, for example. There are certainly plenty of roads riddled with potholes or simply made of dirt, but that wasn’t the majority of my experience on the roads there.

While there are many (very many) development problems that need to be solved, the notion that the majority of the countries in Africa are barely developed, poor backwaters is just very far from the currently reality.

“Africa is full of diseases.”
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The Ebola scare a couple of years ago prompted my friends to worry that heading to South Africa might put me in danger. The reality was that Europe, where I was living at the time, was actually closer geographically to the epidemic than South Africa. (Again, people are geographically challenged when it comes to this continent.)

Malaria is another big concern; however, there are major initiatives in place to eradicate it. While asking your doctor about preventative measures like malarone or doxycycline is still absolutely advisable, between 2000 and 2015, cases of malaria on the continent have dropped an estimated 88% thanks to an increase of insecticide and mosquito nets. There’s been a 60% drop in mortality! Here’s a chart:

travel

HIV and AIDS is also a major problem, especially in South Africa and Botswana, where over 19-25% of the population are infected. That said, the rate of infection in the region has fallen by 14% from 2010 to 2015. Elsewhere in Africa, such as in Madagascar, Morocco, and Tunisia, among others, the infection rate is below 0.5% of the population.

“Traveling alone there, especially as a woman, is a terrible idea.”

travel in africa
Tell anyone that you plan to travel alone to Africa and you might be met with horrified reactions, due to all of the perceptions listed above. I was admittedly a little bit afraid to travel solo in Mozambique, mostly because I couldn’t find much information about it that was positive, but I went anyway and came out of the experience with tons of new friends and wonderful memories.

I have found that solo female travel in Africa is just like anywhere else — you definitely have to be careful not to walk alone (especially at night), should not get too intoxicated, must remain aware, and need to trust your intuition, but it’s not a big disadvantage to be solo there. The locals often took me under their wing more, and per usual, I was surprised to find that there were plenty of other solo travelers around, too.

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While the media’s portrayal hasn’t been the best for Africa, it is, in reality, a wonderful place to travel through, with experiences you can’t have anywhere else. There are still cultures in Africa that maintain their roots, animal encounters that don’t exist in other parts of the world, and some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.

Africa is has so much to offer, it has quickly become my favorite continent to travel through, thanks to the friendliness, the warmth, and the adventures. But don’t take my word for it, go and see for yourself and try not to fall in love.

Kristin Addis is a solo female travel expert who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has solo traveled the world for over four years, covering every continent (except for Antarctica, but it’s on her list). There’s almost nothing she won’t try and almost nowhere she won’t explore. You can find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and Facebook.

P.S. Want to meet other travelers? I’m hosting a series of meet-ups around the US and Canada this summer! If you’re looking to step up your travel game AND meet other like-minded travelers be sure to check out the announcement and register for an event near you!

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The End of Goals: Thoughts on Turning 36 https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/thoughts-turning-36/ https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/thoughts-turning-36/#comments Mon, 12 Jun 2017 13:00:51 +0000 https://www.nomadicmatt.com/?p=75982 I’ve finally decided to give up on bucket lists. As much as I love planning, life keeps throwing too many other exciting and interesting opportunities my way. Does that mean I’ll stop planning? Nope! But it does mean I’ve learned to let go of some of the less important details in favor of the things that matter.

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nomadic matt hiking
In 2013, I created a list of 19 things I wanted to do before I turned 35. This list was going to serve as a guide for all my travels until I hit that all-important (OK, not really) birthday. Last year, when I turned 35 and realized I wasn’t even close to completing it, I mentally tweaked the list title: it would now be 19 things to do through age 35.

Today, I turn 36…and out of those 19 things on my list, I did a whopping FOUR.

Yup, only four.

In a sense, I failed pretty badly. I set out with a simple list of goals to accomplish over a three-year period and didn’t even finish a third of them.

But, as I look back at that list and think about it, I realize I just don’t care.

I often called it my “non-bucket-list bucket list.” You see, I don’t actually like bucket lists. I mean, I love lists and making plans, but to me, bucket lists convey this idea that only things on that list are worth doing and that accomplishing those things will somehow make your life complete.

“If I do these things, I can be happy when I kick the bucket!”

While I think it’s great to have goals and dreams, how can we convey all those dreams on one little list? After all, life changes, dreams change, and goals change. Why should a list you make at one point in time define your life before you “kick the bucket”? The bucket list we create at 20 will be a lot different than the one we create at 60. Plus, the things we don’t include on the lists are often the things that bring us the most satisfaction in life – friends, family, that amazing hike in the park, the new job, the hobby you pick up. They are often the things we look back at when we judge our lives.

Bucket lists are often an exercise in futility.

(And, apparently, non-bucket-list bucket lists are too.)

I wanted to journey to Antarctica, backpack all of South America and hike the Inca Trail, see India, visit Pacific islands, travel to the Seychelles and East Africa, see a World Cup game, and so much more.

Did I do any of those things? Nope.

But in their place….

I published a book and drove across the country for five months.

I hiked in Patagonia.
I backpacked in Thailand and Laos.

I ran tours around Europe.

I attended Carnevale in Venice.

I moved to Austin and started a hostel.

I traveled to Dubai, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

I went back to Australia.

And, then, just like that, 35 has came to an end.

I could say that I pasted my list to my wall and referred back to it — but I didn’t. It went mostly forgotten. I was too busy enjoying life, finding flight deals, starting new projects, and traveling to exciting places to think about it.

Life gets in the way of lists and plans.

My friend Blake and his girlfriend Molly just sold everything so they can travel around the world for a year. They are planners. When we had brunch and they showed me their spreadsheet, I told them two things: first, there’s no need to spend half your trip in Europe (it’s way too long) and, second, that none of this was going to matter because once they started traveling all their plans would go out the window.

“But don’t we have to give people dates for when they visit us?” Molly asked.

“Sure, you can give people dates, but an exact place? I wouldn’t.” I replied. “You can’t know so far in advance. I’ll bet $100 most of your itinerary gets dramatically changed and you won’t be where you’d think you’d be.”

Like my friends, I love planning (heck, I just spent three hours researching the Loire Valley before I wrote this) but I know it goes all out the window hit the ground.

Apparently, so does even a basic set of goals.

And so, as I turn 36, I hereby declare I give up on bucket lists, not-so-bucket-list bucket lists, and pronouncements that I’m going to go to “X” later this year/next year/whenever. I can’t stick to such goals. Life keeps getting in the way of my plans….with even better plans!

There’s a lot I want to do in life. And, as I grow each day, my goals keeps changing. Maybe one day I’ll get to all the places on that old list. Maybe I won’t. I keep saying this is the year I finally get to Brazil and Nepal but who really knows? I keep living my life and enjoying every moment of it. I don’t need a list to make that happen.

I’ll just keep following where the road takes me.

It hasn’t led me astray yet.

Cheers to another year around the sun!


P.S. – In a few weeks, we’ll be doing the next round of Nomadic Network meet-ups around the U.S. (and in Canada!). In prep for our big September launch, I’ll be doing another tour across the country! If you want to meet up, come check out the dates and sign up!

P.P.S. – For my birthday, my only wish is that you consider helping support FLYTE, our community foundation aimed at sending underprivileged kids on overseas trips. Right now, we’re sending a group of kids to volunteer at Ecuador and we’re 75% to our goal! Help reach the finish line.

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How to Travel Around Namibia on a Budget https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/travel-around-namibia-budget-2/ https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/travel-around-namibia-budget-2/#comments Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:38:11 +0000 https://www.nomadicmatt.com/?p=56463 In this guest post, Natasha and Cameron from The World Pursuit share their tips and tricks for traveling around Namibia on a budget. Whether you are considering a guided tour, renting a car, or even hitchhiking, this post will help you plan your visit without breaking the bank!

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namibia road trip
Welcome to the latest post in our Africa column by Natasha and Cameron from The World Pursuit. While I’ve been to the continent in the past, I’ve only seen a few countries so I’m super duper excited to have these two travelers share their knowledge about traveling the continent. This month they are sharing how to travel around Namibia, one of my top five countries in the world, on a budget!

As steam rose from the tarmac and mirages presented themselves in the far distance, our truck’s engine nearly boiled over. We drove through empty Namib Desert in 40°C (104°F) heat with the windows down and heat on full blast to cool it off. Traveling around a sparsely populated desert country in Africa presents its challenges!

Despite our desert adventures, we loved traveling around Namibia and think it’s a great African destination to explore, especially for first-time travelers to the continent. We saw the sun rise over the largest sand dunes in the world in Sossusvlei and listened to thousands of seals give birth at the Cape Cross Seal Colony. Just driving around the country without seeing a single other person for hours made us feel as if we were on another planet.

Namibia is a special place that many in the world have never even heard of. Compared to South Africa, it’s a lot less visited by tourists, especially those traveling on their own and not on a tour. But we found the country easy to visit and affordable.

Where did we go?

We entered southern Namibia, as we were traveling north from Cape Town, and exited via the Caprivi Strip into Botswana. Here is the route we followed.

Fish River Canyon – Luderitz – Aus – Kalahari – Namibrand Nature Reserve – Sossusvlei – Walvis Bay – Swakopmund – Skeleton Coast – Spitzkoppe – Etosha National Park – Caprivi Strip

This route took us a month to complete, with most stops taking up 3-4 days of our time. We wanted a relaxing holiday, but if you move fast and are short on time, you can easily do a Namibian road trip like this in 15-20 days.

We decided to skip Windhoek, as there wasn’t much in the capital city we were dying to see. Due to lack of time, we also skipped the northwestern Kunene region, which is where the Himba people live. For those wanting to travel to this part of the country, the only way to get there is with a fully equipped vehicle or a tour. The region is isolated, so you must be fully capable of getting yourself out of any circumstances and stock up with food and water.

How much does it cost to travel around Namibia?

namibia road trip
Namibia is one of the cheapest countries in Africa. It uses the Namibian dollar (NAD), which is 1:1 with the South African rand, and all prices are about on par with South Africa . Depending on your chosen method of transport and accommodation preference, Namibia can easily be done on a budget.

We averaged about $45 USD (600 NAD) a day per person for campsites, food, beer, and transportation, with a majority of that going to fuel (our Land Cruiser was thirsty – 6km per liter/14 miles per gallon – and distances are long).

Here are some average prices:

  • Campsite – $6 (80 NAD) per person per night
  • Dorm bed – $8 (100 NAD) per person per night
  • Private double room – $45-$60 (600-750 NAD) per night
  • National park fees – $6 (80 NAD)
  • Petrol – $0.80 (10 NAD) per liter
  • A cook-your-own-pasta meal from the supermarket – $2.50 (30 NAD)
  • Salad from a café – $4 (55 NAD)
  • Bottle of Windhoek beer – $1.10 (15 NAD)
  • Cup of coffee – $2 (25 NAD)

So if you were staying in dorm beds, taking the train, and cooking all your own meals, you could get by on a budget of $20-30 a day. However, if you want to camp and get outside the main cities, you will need to take a tour or have your own vehicle, which will up your costs to about $45 (to self-drive with four passengers) to $90 (for a tour) a day.

How to get around Namibia

namibia road trip
Bus
There is no official public bus system in Namibia, but there are local buses that connect almost all of the major towns and cities.

The most reliable bus option in Namibia is the Intercape bus service. They are generally in good condition and safe, and even provide air conditioning. Intercape buses do not run every day and don’t have many stops, so it’s important to look at the website for their routes and schedule.

Prices vary according to the distance traveled: a bus from Windhoek to Livingstone, Zambia, costs roughly $50 USD depending on the exchange rate, while a bus to Springbok, South Africa, from Windhoek costs $31 USD.

Rental Car
This is the most popular form of traveling in Namibia. The rental truck industry in Windhoek, the capital, is booming! With wide-open desert roads, towering sand dunes, and no one around, a road trip in Namibia is the perfect way to go exploring.

Rates for a rental truck stocked with everything you need for camping and a pop-up tent vary depending on the season. In low season (January–July), you can pick up a two-person Hilux for $75 USD a day; in the high season (July–December), it will go for around $130 USD a day. The more bells and whistles you add on to your rental, the higher the cost gets. When we last visited in November, the entire country was sold out of rental trucks in what was traditionally the shoulder season, so it is highly advised to book in advance.

Overland Tour
We talked about overland tours previously. There is a really wide range of ways in which you can do a tour in Namibia. The least expensive option is to go with one of the many overland tour companies such as Oasis, Nomad, Acacia, or Intrepid.

Tours are great for solo travelers looking to meet people, and also for those that want maximum fun with minimal planning effort. Overland tours in Namibia start at an average of $87 USD per person per day. These tours cover all transport within Namibia, activities, camping, and most meals.

Train
The TransNamib passenger train makes only a few stops, but it definitely provides interesting views of this desert country out the window. Trains mostly operate at night, so if you plan to make use of the train you should be prepared to sleep in a first-class seat or economy reclining seat. There are no sleeping cabins aside from the Keetmanshoop-Windhoek train. Tickets range from $6 to $15 USD for economy and business-class seats, respectively.

The Desert Express is another train service geared toward more the luxury-minded tourist, with prices starting at $230 USD per ticket.

Hitchhiking
There seems to be an increasing number of vagabonds in Africa who are getting themselves into dangerous situations and relying on strangers to bail them out. We would not recommend hitchhiking in Namibia, as the population is sparse and it could be hours between passing cars.

Tips for traveling in Namibia

namibia road trip
Traveling around Namibia is fairly straightforward. Here are ten tips to keep in mind for your trip there.

  • Learn how to change a tire Namibian roads are very rough on cars. They are badly corrugated and dry and dusty. Make sure you know how to change a tire in case you get a flat or else you could be waiting on the road for a few hours.
  • Avoid night driving – Whether self-driving, on an overland tour, or taking buses, we would advise against any kind of night driving. There are no streetlights on Namibian roads, and cattle roam freely on them.
  • Don’t rely on the internet – We found the Wi-Fi in Namibia to be passable at best, and even if you pick up a SIM card, don’t expect it to work anywhere but in the cities and towns. Much of the country is empty desert where there are no cell phone towers.
  • Stay full and hydrated – No matter what kind of transport you use, it’s important to stock up on food and water, although Western-style supermarkets can be found in Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Luderitz, and other relatively large towns.
  • ATMs can only be found in main cities and towns – You will be able to withdraw cash in Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, and Luderitz, but we would be wary about being able to in other places. Make sure to have enough cash on you to make it to your next major destination, as credit cards aren’t widely accepted. Almost all places in Namibia accept the South African rand as well.
  • Prebook in the high season – Namibia’s high season runs from mid-May to mid-November, so we would recommend booking your accommodation for these months ahead of time. Even the campsites book up with overlanders. We visited in November and ran into problems a few times with hotels being at capacity.
  • Stay safe – Namibia is one of the safest countries in Africa. However, it is still a developing nation, and common sense should be utilized, especially in the capital of Windhoek, which in recent years has seen a rise in crime. Don’t show signs of wealth, use vigilance at night, and all should be OK.
  • Namibian national parks are affordable – We found that Namibia has some of the cheapest national parks in Africa. Etosha National Park, for example, is the largest and easily most recognized park in the country, with entrance fees costing as little as 80 NAD ($6 USD)! The wildlife spottings are fantastic in the dry season as well.
  • Take care of your electronics – The desert heat is no joke, and neither is the sand. Cameras, laptops, and even cellphones should be well protected from the dry air and dust that can easily find its way into the tiny crevices of your valuables.

When people ask us what country they should visit in Africa, Namibia is always at the top of our list. There is just something about seeing the stars twinkle in the desert night without a soul around.

Even though we had a month in the country, we still felt we could have delved way deeper into the remote parts and explored more. The country is vast and has so many interesting things to offer, we can’t wait to return!

Natasha and Cameron run the blog The World Pursuit, focusing on adventure and cultural travel. The two of them met in the film industry before they decided to abandon the American lifestyle and travel the world together. They’ve been traveling together for three years across 55 countries and six continents.  They recently bought a 4×4 at the tip of Africa and are traversing the continent while documenting their story on Instagram and Facebook

Photo Credit: 1,3

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How Amanda Educates Her Kids From the Road https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/family-budget-travel-education/ https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/family-budget-travel-education/#comments Thu, 01 Jun 2017 13:54:30 +0000 https://www.nomadicmatt.com/?p=54061 In this reader interview, Amanda shares her ultimate tips and tricks for long-term family travel. Amanda shows that it’s possible to not only educate your children on the road, but to do so on a budget. If you've ever considered taking your family on a round-the-world adventure, this expert advice is a must read!

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a traveling family
Ever wanted to travel the world with your family? Not sure how to do it on a budget? Not sure what to do about their education? Well, even though I don’t have children, I’m always curious about how families manage to do these things. Maybe one day I’ll have kids and this will become important! So, today, I’m sitting down with Amanda, a community member and writer of funny parenting and travel stories from Idaho. In this interview, Amanda explains how she takes months off to travel with her kids, does it on a budget, and how she continues their education from the road!

Tell us about yourself!
My name is Amanda (but I write as AK Turner). I’m a 40-year-old mother of two from Maryland now based in Idaho. I write full-time, my husband owns a real estate brokerage, and we spend about four months of every year living in other countries.

Before writing full-time, I spent a solid decade in starving-artist mode. I waited tables and cleaned houses. When I became a mother, I was inundated with advice and shocked at how many people think there is only one way to parent (usually their way). I channeled that energy into writing. The result was my first book series, a fairly foul-mouthed, parenting-humor trilogy of This Little Piggy Went to the Liquor Store, Mommy Had a Little Flask, and Hair of the Corn Dog. The books did well and eventually made the New York Times best-seller lists.

As our travel increased, I began writing the Vagabonding with Kids series, travel humor books that chronicle our adventures and mishaps along the way.

How did you get into travel? 
Many years ago I first traveled to Russia when I was 15 for an exchange program. I spent four months in Schelkovo, a Moscow suburb, where I attended a Russian high school and lived with a host family. I’ve had the travel bug ever since. I went back four years later for a semester of college at Moscow State University, this time living in a dorm with a Korean roommate. She spoke no English and I spoke no Korean, so it really forced us to work on our Russian skills. She also fed me excellent kimchi.

What made you decide to travel with your kids so often?
After having children, it would have been easy to settle into a routine in one location, but that didn’t feel right as a way of life. It’s not just that I like to travel, but I also see a huge benefit for my children by exposing them to other countries and cultures. The value of that education can’t be quantified. They learn adaptability, gratitude, compassion, languages, and cultural appreciation. I think it’s also important for children to know that there are many different ways of life extending far beyond their suburb.

Another motivator is recognizing the importance of getting out of your comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong: I love comfort. Ordering takeout and bingeing on Netflix sounds fantastic! But I think staying in one place and repeating the same routine year after year breeds stagnation. For both me and my family, I see great value in a varied set of life experiences.

a traveling family

What’s been the biggest lesson so far?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that there is no one right way to go about exploring the world. We become hell-bent on proving that we are “travelers” and not “tourists,” as if one term means we are authentic and doing it right, while the other categorizes us as displaced, unadventurous failures. Shedding these falsehoods was freeing. I learned that it’s OK to take the tour and get off the beaten path. Our means and method of travel are whatever work for us at the time, and I’m not out to prove anything. Just because Anthony Bourdain ate goat brains in South Africa doesn’t mean I have to partake.

What advice do you have for people looking to travel with their children?
Children are often more adaptable than adults. We tend to forget that and assume everything will fall apart if they don’t have their daily schedule and routines. They might just surprise you.

I know many parents who fear long, international flights with children. In truth, international flights are far easier than domestic flights. On international flights, you are catered to more, and each seat comes with a screen and an endless library of movies. Our kids love long flights now, because they know they get to indulge in movie marathons. We’re not big on screens and devices, so it ends up being a treat for them.

I’ve met many parents who think they can’t travel with their kids during the school year. At present, we homeschool (whether we are in Idaho or abroad) but for a few years they attended the local public elementary school whenever we were in Boise. There were many times during parent-teacher conferences when I’d tell a teacher we’d be leaving for a few months. Not once did a teacher respond negatively. They were overwhelmingly supportive and often gave us materials to take with us. I think it’s important to know that not only can you buck convention and break the rules but you also might be commended for it and helped along the way.

a traveling family

Traveling with kids seems costly. How do you keep your expenses down? 
We use three different Alaska Airlines credit cards: one for my husband’s business, one for my business, and one for personal expenses. Regular bills, like telephone charges and monthly subscription services tied to the businesses, are automatically charged to one of these credit cards, so each month we accrue miles. In addition, our daughters each have their own mileage numbers, so they gain miles with every flight we take. The miles accumulate and we redeem them for travel, leaving us with only taxes and incidental fees to pay for out of pocket. We recently booked round-trip flights for our family of four from Boise to Madrid over a six-week span — and paid just over $300.

We use HomeExchange.com to trade homes with people around the globe. Leveraging our home in this manner allows us to eliminate the expense of hotels or long-term rentals. By having a house with a kitchen, as opposed to a hotel room, we save money by preparing our meals instead of eating out all the time.

If we’re unable to set up a home exchange, we’ll rent out our home on VRBO.com. The income from two weeks of renting out our home covers our mortgage payment, plus approximately $600. This overage can then be applied to accommodations in our destination country (in many cases a home or apartment booked through Airbnb — again so that we can have a kitchen, prepare meals, and reduce the costs of eating out).

We often trade vehicles as well as homes, which is an option that can be negotiated on HomeExchange.com. By negating the expenses of accommodations and in-country transportation, we’re able to travel for longer periods of time.

Of course, vehicle exchanges aren’t always an option. We had two stretches of time in Australia when we needed to rent a car. With a little online research, we discovered there are options other than the typical car rental agency. Through DriveMyCar.com.au, which matches up would-be renters with people who have spare wheels and the desire to earn a little extra cash, we were able to rent vehicles much more cheaply than what they would have cost otherwise. We ended up saving over $300 on a month-long car rental by using DriveMyCar.com.au versus what we would have paid to a rental agency.

We also treat long-term travel as life versus vacation. We travel to live in another culture, not vacation there. Meaning we’re looking for experiences, not souvenirs, fancy restaurants, and tourist traps. Our goal is to spend the same or less than we would while living at our home in Idaho. If that means peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so that we can travel the Australian coast in a camper van for a few weeks, bring on the peanut butter and jelly.

What’s been the biggest challenge traveling with your kids?
Adapting our children’s education to a more nomadic lifestyle can be a bit of a puzzle. We use an extensive mix of online education tools, including IXL (worth the $20 monthly subscription for access to K-12 lessons in math, social studies, science, and language arts — cheaper packages available with lesser access), Khan Academy (math tutorials, coding, adult education), YouTube channels (Señor Jordan for basic Spanish, Crash Course Kids for science lessons), Duolingo and Memrise for language learning (for faster, adult-paced language acquisition, I prefer Pimsleur — pricey but effective), Typing.com for keyboarding, and Magic Treehouse and Prodigy for game-based learning. E-readers come in handy, as our daughters read chapter books at such a pace that would prohibit carting along enough material to get them through a trip.

Given that laundry list, one might think our daughters are glued to screens when we travel, but just as much as we use computer-based learning, we also try to employ local culture. An educational assignment might include interviewing a local business owner about the three biggest challenges they face in their community, comparing flora and fauna to that in the US, or learning the meaning behind a country’s flag. Though figuring out how to educate our children on the road has been a challenge, it’s been an enjoyable one.

a traveling family

What other challenges are there to consider?
Children are challenging as it is. I don’t find it drastically more challenging by being in a different location. That said, navigating foreign hospitals and emergency rooms can be difficult if there’s a significant language barrier, so I’m always an advocate for having at least a rudimentary knowledge of the language of your host country (it’s also just the considerate and appropriate thing to do). Sign language and patience go a long way when your language proficiency is less than fluent.

The biggest challenge in my family of four is time. We cannot afford to stop working when we travel, so my husband and I have to figure out effective tag-team parenting that allows us the time we need to put into our respective businesses. The rough framework we use (but again, this is a malleable undertaking that changes as needed) is that my husband wakes early and begins work. I deal with the kids in the morning (breakfast, schoolwork). My husband takes over around lunchtime; by that time he’s put in a full workday. This gives me time to write and work on my business. By mid-afternoon, we’re ready to venture out and explore.

Do you meet a lot of other families on the road? Are there any good resources or websites out there for families to connect?
We’ve met many traveling families: in campgrounds, hostels, and simply when exploring a new city. On a remote beach in Mexico we met a family from Virginia with similar plans and children of similar ages to ours. We met up with them a few times, connected on Facebook to stay in touch, and fostered an ongoing pen-pal relationship between our daughters.

Worldschoolers and Multicultural Kid Blogs are both excellent for connecting with other traveling families and discovering new resources for education, travel, and parenting abroad.

Why do you think few families travel like this? More and more seem to do so, but compared to solo travelers, traveling families aren’t as common.
Many parents are afraid of the dangers their children might face in another culture or country. In reality, I think my children are safer when we travel, because I’m more alert and aware of my surroundings. I pay more attention so that I can effectively navigate in unfamiliar territory.

Money holds people back, often because they associate travel with expensive flights and hotel rooms, which doesn’t have to be the case. But by far the biggest thing holding families back is simple convention. Our society, until fairly recently, promoted a monochrome ideal of what family life should be, and this involved staying put during the school year, with a two-week family vacation during the summer. The information age has brought examples of alternatives to this routine to light, and as more positive stories of long-term family travel are heard, more families will take those first steps and take flight.

a traveling family

What have been some of your favorite experiences? 
Some of my favorite experiences have happened during the Christmas holidays. One year we were in a small town on the Tasman peninsula in Tasmania. We spent Christmas Eve visiting the Port Arthur convict settlement (I have a morbid fascination with facilities of incarceration). Then on Boxing Day [December 26] we visited a Tasmanian devil sanctuary, where they try to save the species from devil facial tumor disease, which has decimated the devil population. I don’t think I’ll ever forget watching a Tasmanian devil eat. Table manners are not their strong suit.

We spent another Christmas in the Amazon, hiking through the jungle and fishing for piranha. A few months later we took our daughters to an all-night Carnaval parade at the Sambadromo in São Paulo. These were great lessons in the adaptability of children. I wasn’t sure how our kids would fare with long jungle hikes, but they rallied.

What’s your number one piece of advice for new travelers?
There will never be a perfect time. It’s better to get out there and learn as you go. You’ll be glad you did.

I know so many people who say they’ll do it someday. And honestly, “someday” is one of the saddest words there is. There isn’t any guarantee of someday. Others have the intention of traveling but they constantly push it back, because they think they need everything planned and perfectly in place, but again, it always comes back to the fact that there is no such thing as the perfect time.

Travel can also be on whatever scale works for you. It doesn’t have to be selling everything you own and traveling around the world for two years. You can start with small, close-to-home trips to test the waters and make sure the world doesn’t end because you left town, then branch out from there. (Hint: the world will not end because you leave town.)

For more travel tips and tales, be sure to check out Amanda’s website. You can also follow her as she adventures around the world with her family on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

P.S. – There are two spots left on my Austin tour for later this month, so if you’re interested, check out the announcement page for all the details!

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Is it Safe to Visit the United States? https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/united-states-travel-safety/ https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/united-states-travel-safety/#comments Tue, 30 May 2017 14:15:46 +0000 https://www.nomadicmatt.com/?p=56096 America has a bad reputation when it comes to gun violence, racism, and police violence, but those statistics don't paint a full picture. America is a diverse, eclectic country – and it's also safer than the news makes it seem. So let's look at the statistics and recent news and talk about the current travel environment in the country.

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usa safety><br />
Last month, I wrote an article about why, despite what you see in the news, <a href=Europe is safe to visit. Someone asked (with a degree of snark) if I would I write a similar article about the U.S. too?

Well, it’s a valid question. As an American writing for a mostly American audience, I tend to write mostly about what’s beyond our shores. But I have thought about this question before – especially since 45% of the people who read this website are outside the US. So let’s turn the tables on my post and ask:

“Is the United States safe to visit?”

When most people ask me this question, I feel they are really asking me two things: (1) Does gun violence happen so often I should worry about being shot? and (2) Will everyone hate me because I’m a foreigner (or, especially, a non-white foreigner)?

These are valid concerns. After all, just like how we in the United States have a perception that the rest of the world is unsafe and unwelcoming, so too the rest of the world has that perception of the United States.

In their news, they hear about our mass shootings and gun violence, as well as reports of police brutality toward minorities and murders (or beatings) of Indian students confused for Muslims and wonder if they are welcome. They see the election of President Trump, the huge rise in deportations, the (yet still illegal) Muslim travel ban, heightened security measures at airports, and people being detained and go, “Maybe the United States isn’t the safe and welcoming country we thought it was. How are much are those flights to Europe, honey?”

The media cuts both ways.

I won’t deny the statistics: The US has the highest rate of death by guns in the developed world (outside of war zones, of course), we have nearly the highest incarceration rate in the world, hate crimes have gone up since the election, and we average roughly one mass shooting five out of every six days (and 90% of the mass shootings in the world happen here).

And when these incidents and attitudes are projected around the world in conjunction with our recent political strife, it creates the perception of the United States as a dangerous and unwelcoming place.

Already tourism has fallen and airline bookings are down.

But, just like Europe, the United States is safe to visit.

There’s no reason to avoid visiting here — even if the TSA makes it more of hassle and, well, our political landscape is less than ideal.

First, the United States is very big and very, very diverse. It’s larger than Europe (the sovereign states not the continent) and Australia. You can drive 15 hours here in still be in the same state. It’s huge. A lot of visitors fail to understand that. A Chicago friend told me how two visitors from France wanted to go to Disney for the weekend. They thought it was a short drive because in Europe a multi day drive gets you most of the way across the continent! Most visitors just don’t understand how vast the US is geographically until they arrive. Even I never got sense of just how big the country is until I drove across it. You can see it on a map but until you’ve spent a few days driving, that sense of size is hard to comprehend.

And due to this size, there is a lot of cultural (and political) variation. While Americans do share common bonds and beliefs, it often feels like the US is really a collection of micro-countries. The culture of Alabama is different than the culture of NYC, which is different than the culture of Chicago, Hawaii, Alaska, middle-of-nowhere Wyoming, or Florida. Heck, southern Florida is a world away from the Florida Panhandle, and Austin is a blue (liberal) dot in the red (conservative) sea of Texas. Cuisine, slang, dress style, accents, attitude, how people walk – it’s all different from region to region and state to state.

Second, despite what you hear, crime in America is near a 20-year low. It’s been declining for many years. Here’s a visual representation of the article:

usa safety graph
Graph: 1

(And the recent uptick is mostly due to a increased violence in few cities. The broader nationwide trend is still down.)

For example, I live in NYC. Crime is down 50% over the last 15 years. I never worry about being robbed or mugged while in Manhattan. Sure, some of the other boroughs are still unsafe, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns throughout the city, but, overall, NYC is a lot safer than it used to be. Twenty years ago, you would never go through Central Park at night. Now, people go there regardless of the time of day.

Also, you have less of a chance of dying in a terrorist attack in the United States than dying by a bathtub.

I’m not saying there is nothing to worry about. There is crime (but most gun violence in the US is gang related, people killing friends, or suicides). Chicago, Philly, and Detroit have gang related crime problems. Racism is still a big problem. Police brutality is a problem. Mass shootings happen too often.

The United States is not perfect.

But, just as in Europe, the likelihood that something is going to happen to you is very slim. The media sensationalizes attacks throughout the world! When attacks happen in Paris, do you say, “Honey! Paris was attacked! Let’s not go to Lisbon”? No, because you know that these places are far apart and that an attack in one place doesn’t mean you can’t go somewhere else.

The United States is 9 million square miles and filled with dozens of climates, hundreds of cultures, thousand of cities and towns, and 321 million people. Problems in one state or city don’t mean you can’t visit another part of the country.

Not coming here because “Americans don’t like foreigners” ignores the fact only 26% of Americans voted for Trump, and there’s currently a huge debate between the right and left about so-called “sanctuary cities” (those that limit their cooperation with the federal government over immigration law enforcement). Remember that when the travel ban briefly went into effect, there were nationwide protests against it. It was never supported by a majority of the American people.

Not coming here because of what you read in the news is to say everyone is the same and not recognize the vast cultural differences in the country. It is like saying you won’t go to the Middle East because everyone there is a terrorist.

I know that as a white guy I can’t speak to what life is like here as a person of color. I’ve met many, many, many non-white travelers tell me how wonderful the found the United States and how welcoming everyone is, how people smile, say hello, and go out of the way to help but I don’t know what it’s like to travel around as a non-white person. I know there is systemic racism in the country, but just as people aren’t the government, so too we shouldn’t stereotype and say that all Americans are racist. Attitudes about immigrants, gays, Muslims, and everyone else vary a lot depending on where you are.

(But, rather than being some white guy talking abut race, here is a link to an article about traveling the U.S. when you aren’t white. It will give a better perceptive on the subject.)

What you see on TV is only a small, small, small sliver of the people who live in the country. Because remember if it bleeds, it leads and the stories that pain the United States as this violent place fits nicely into the existing narrative it has. (Just like the world being unsafe fits into the narrative we Americans have). The United States is not all filled with gun carrying, immigrant hating, racist, ignorant, fearful yokels.

Can I say there won’t be any gun violence while you’re here? No.

Can I say you won’t experience racism? No. (My friend’s Asian girlfriend was recently told to go back home.)

Can I say something bad won’t happen to you? No.

But all countries have their problems and the media hypes up everything. Americans, like people everywhere, are generally good people who are just trying to get through the day. They are people with friends and families and are welcoming towards strangers. We aren’t foreign haters – and we don’t live in Westworld where everyone is shooting everyone all the time.

Be safe. Be aware. Use your common sense.

But don’t skip this place I call home. It’s an often-overlooked destination that’s cheap to travel around and incredibly diverse (both culturally and geographically).

So, just like with Europe, ignore the news, book your flight, and come visit the United States!

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Breaking Up with American: A Frequent Flying Budget Traveler’s Dilemma https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/airline-loyalty-status/ https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/airline-loyalty-status/#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 14:45:30 +0000 https://www.nomadicmatt.com/?p=55236 Until recently, US airlines had amazing loyalty programs. Unfortunately, times have changed. Frequent flier programs don't reward frequent fliers - just big spenders. Loyalty no longer matters. As someone who flies a lot but on cheap tickets, this has changed how I travel - and how you should too!

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breaking up with American Airlines

I did it. I went back and forth on the decision for a long time. Like someone who just couldn’t let go, I continued with the relationship even though I knew, deep down, it was over.

But there’s always a tipping point when you must face reality — and that point was when I realized I’m just not going to fly all that much this year.

So I did it: I finally split up with American Airlines.

After years of being loyal to them and the Oneworld alliance, paying extra for flights to ensure I kept my status, and championing them on the web, it’s time to face the truth: they’ve ruined their once-stellar loyalty program and given me (and basically everyone else) no incentive to fly them over any other (crappy domestic) airline.

A few years ago, both Delta and United devalued their award charts — awarding fewer miles per flight (unless you bought high-priced tickets), requiring more miles when redeeming them for a flight (The Points Guy just recently showed a screenshot of Delta requiring 255,000 miles to go from NYC to LAX! Crazy!), reducing benefits, and requiring customers to spend a certain amount of money to maintain their elite status. Their message was clear: “We only value you if you spend lots of money with us.”

Yet (in part because of their merger with US Airways) American held out — often increasing benefits. American AAdvantage was a shining jewel in the airline industry, lauded by journalists, insiders, and consumers alike.

I went out of my way to fly American because I felt my loyalty was valued. I was upgraded often, their employees were friendly, customer service issues were often solved swiftly, it was easy to find award seats, and they were often generous in their benefits.

But in the last year, they’ve let their program go to hell.

What’s wrong with American AAdvantage?

  1. They now require elite-qualifying dollars (EQDs), but unlike United and Delta, they offer no waiver if you spend a lot on American’s branded credit cards.
  2. They have upped the cost of award tickets – a lot.
  3. They severely reduced saver rewards availability. It’s basically impossible to find saver rewards these days.
  4. Confirmed upgrades for anyone but the top elites is basically impossible. I can’t remember the last time I got an upgrade.
  5. They have slashed miles earnings on their partner’s flights.
  6. They now prioritize upgrades based on status and spending (take that, million-mile status folks!).
  7. How they calculate EQDs is opaque and not straightforward. One dollar spent is not one EQD earned, even if you purchase full fare business and first class tickets.

The list goes on. There have been so many blog posts written about the demise of AA’s loyalty program that I’ll just link to them here, here, here, here, here, and here. And here and here too. (Ok and here too!)

American AAdvantage was the only thing American really had going for it. It was the sole reason I flew them. Sure, their new 777 and A321T planes are nice, but even when they refurbish their old planes they still have many varieties you never know what kind of plane you’re stepping on. It could be a nice and new interior or it could be something last refurbished in 1987. (And you never want to get on an old US Airways plane — no power, no TVs, and a disgusting interior) Plus, the food in their lounges is terrible (as well as the lounges themselves), their partners are not as great as United’s, and their in-flight service/seats/food aren’t as good as Delta’s. I redeemed miles for a business-class flight from Paris with AA and this is the food I got:

What the hell is that? I mean seriously. McDonald’s would have been a better option. (It tasted as disgusting as it looks!)

I fly a lot — over 100,000 miles on over 50 flights last year. (Maybe more. I lose track.) I’m a frequent traveler — but I’m a cheap frequent traveler. I always buy the cheap economy-class tickets and use my status and miles to upgrade.

That makes me a low-revenue flier. I probably spend $6,000–10,000 a year on flights. That’s a lot by everyday standards, but when it’s your job to travel, you’re off to conferences all the time, and have team members to book flights for too, I think I’m actually coming in pretty low. And I also spread that around multiple airlines.

American now requires me to spend $6,000 a year on American alone just to get mid-level platinum status (the kind that gets you international lounge access). I don’t remember the last time I spent that much money on one airline.

And thus the current dilemma: If you are a low-spending but still frequent traveler, does it make sense to stay loyal to an airline in this day and age?

The answer, I’ve come to realize, is a resounding NO.

As someone who likes the concept and perks of loyalty, it saddens me to say this, but unless you are spending a lot of money on one airline, loyalty — at least to airlines — is an antiquated concept.

The major airlines in the United States do not value your loyalty anymore. They are only rewarding their high-spending clients with deep pockets — not their frequent clients. Travel 100,000 miles a year, but on just a few cheap tickets? Great — that will earn you a pat on the back. Spend $20,000 on a few high-priced tickets? The red carpet is rolled out for you!

Why? Because (a) they are flying fuller planes so don’t need to cater to customers as much, (b) people are shelling out for perks, and (c) they are assholes and don’t give a f**k…because they know you don’t have any many options, and (d) when X% of revenue comes from higher spenders, why should they care about low spenders?

I used to say that if you can fly 50,000 miles or more, it’s worth focusing on one airline and alliance because the perks are worth the extra price (especially the international lounges). But now, with the heightened spending requirements, reduced benefits, and overall “F U” attitude airlines have, it doesn’t make sense to be loyal to an airline if you aren’t a high spending traveler.

As we get close to the midway point of the year, I realize that, for the first time in a long time, I’ll end this year with no elite status. Most of my flights for the rest of the year are long-haul international flights — the kind I always use points on so I can fly for free in business class. Most of my paid, status-earning flights will be cheap domestic flights. With the new spending demands, I’m simply not going to be able to meet the status requirements – for any airline.

Sure, I could spend $25,000 on my American AAdvantage credit card to get partial credit toward the EQDs but (1) that’s a ton of money to spend and (2) if I did spend that much, I would get one point per dollar spent. Why would I do that when I could get three times as many points on other cards? It doesn’t make sense.

So I will lose my status — and, honestly, I have no desire to get it back.

This has changed how I fly. Now, it’s all about price. I’m not going to bother spending an extra $20, $50, or $100 for a flight to maintain my elite status. Why should I? Airlines aren’t giving me a reason to.

Just give me the cheapest flight.

I’m flying Alaska/Virgin, JetBlue, and Southwest a lot more. These airlines don’t have baggage fees, they do have friendlier staff, and better in-flight products (hello, free gate to gate Wi-Fi on JetBlue!).  I’ve been flying these airlines a lot lately and the experience is leagues better than the big three!

I still believe in the art of travel hacking and as such will continue to collect credit card points and airline miles so that when it’s time to fly overseas, I can redeem those miles for nice business-class seats. I mean, when you are flying premium, you’re treated well — paid ticket or not! Additionally, I’ll keep all the airline credit cards since they come with the perks of basic elite status, like priority check-in and boarding and free bag checking. When you’re being charged for bags and required to go all Hunger Games for overhead space, those perks are worth the yearly credit card fee.

Airlines always say that, since consumers fly on price, they have no incentive to offer better service or amenities. And, that’s true to an extent. Most leisure travelers fly only on price. They just want to go from A to B on the cheapest fare and have mostly accepted that service will be terrible.

But when you cut loyalty programs, you make frequent travelers like me also only care about price and you shoot yourself in the foot.

Because now I have no incentive to go out of my way to fly you. And the first rule of business is that is always cheaper to retain a customer than a acquire a new one.

So, simply put, in this day and age, there’s no reason to be loyal to any one airline. Collect frequent flier points and miles for premium seats on those long-haul flights (free flights are the best flights) and fly short haul flights based on price. Go with whatever is cheap!

Because screw these big airlines.

(If you’re super rich, fly a ton, and buy higher-priced tickets — then ignore all this advice because you’re now making out like a bandit! Please pass some champagne to us in coach!)

P.S. – Ever wanted to visit Austin? Next month, I’ll be leading a small group of people around my home city! We’ll be staying in the hostel I own, visiting my favorite locals bars and restaurants, hanging with some of my cool friends, and two stepping the night away! If you want to spend a few days down south, here’s more information!

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Overland Travel: How Ryan Drove from Seattle to South America https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/overland-driving-across-continents/ https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/overland-driving-across-continents/#comments Mon, 15 May 2017 13:19:44 +0000 https://www.nomadicmatt.com/?p=54074 The Pan-American highway offers over 30,000km worth of adventure. Recently, Ryan and his partner drove the majority of it, overlanding from Seattle to Colombia. Best of all? They did it on a budget. In this interview, they share how they did it, costs, and advice so you can plan an epic cross-continent road trip too!

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A truck for overlanding
I hate driving. I don’t like driving in my own country, let alone foreign ones. It’s not that I’m bad at it. It’s just that I do it so infrequently that it makes me nervous these days. And so I’m always fascinated by people who travel by car. Back in the early days of this blog I met a group of guys driving a trip around the world. They had crazy stories. A few months ago, I announced we were going to start doing more reader stories to highlight some of your crazy stories. In our first reader spotlight, we’re talking to Ryan who is driving from Seattle down to the tip of South America with his girlfriend! (Which, let’s be honest, sounds like an amazing adventure!)

Nomadic Matt: Tell everyone here about yourself!
Ryan: I’m 33 years old and originally from Seattle, Washington, but after college I spent five years working in Washington, DC in the halls of Congress. When my boss decided to retire in 2012 instead of run for re-election, I opted to take a yearlong sabbatical to road-trip across the American West and to hike and climb as much as I could. When the year came to an end, though, I wasn’t ready to give up the nomadic lifestyle, so I just kept going.

So how did you get into travel?
My first overseas travel experiences were thanks to studying abroad in college, with lengthy stays in Florence, Italy, and Sana’a, Yemen. Both trips instilled in me a sense of wanderlust that stuck with me through my years of working a desk job, and I believe they played a significant role in eventually getting me out there on the road.

Where has this amazing trip taken you so far?
Following my yearlong road trip through the American West, I headed down to Colombia with a buddy and we set out explore the country. We only made it as far as Medellín, where I settled down. I felt a need to slow down after living out of my truck and then a backpack for about 15 months — and then meeting a great local girl.

my girlfriend and I drove my truck from Seattle to Medellín, traveling overland through every country in Central America and having an amazing time. We had to ship the truck from Colón, Panama, to Cartagena, Colombia), since there are no roads through the Darién Gap (the missing link in the Pan-American Highway.

We stopped in Medellín for a bit again to regroup, but we are now getting ready to head out on part two of the road trip: driving all the way to the southern tip of Patagonia, which is a place I have long dreamed about visiting.

We will mostly be traveling along the Andean spine on this journey, and I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the mountain scenery.

What made you decide to go on this trip?
My solo road trip across the American West was an absolutely transformative experience, and the seed of driving to Patagonia got planted in my mind and took root over a few years. I began to think, why just drive across America when you can drive across all of the Americas?

I also like exploring new cultures and foods and immersing myself in different languages whenever I travel overseas. I long to get a little farther afield, to get off the well-worn tourist track, and that can be quite difficult. I’ve traveled the backpacker circuit and schlepped my bag around colorful little towns and hopped on and off public buses — but when you’ve got your own wheels, a whole new world of travel opens up and allows you to get away from the crowds and immerse yourself in local life.

Ryan standing in the ocean

What’s been the biggest lesson so far?
Just how doable this sort of trip is!

When you take in the whole scope of driving across Central America — traveling into “dangerous” Mexico, dealing with corrupt cops or protests and blockades, and contemplating the logistical hassles of crossing eight or nine international borders with your vehicle and then loading it into a shipping container to South America — it can all just be overwhelming. It seems almost impossible.

But when you break it down into a day-to-day journey, it was all quite easy. One thing flowed from another, nothing was as hard as we imagined it would be, and we came out more confident and capable with every little bump in the road.

What’s your number one piece of advice for a trip like this?
I’d say one of the best parts about travel is overcoming challenges and embracing the unknown, so just let go of the idea of waiting for things to be perfect!

In the overland travel community, I’ve seen countless people who plan for years and years, investing more and more money into their vehicles and accessories, and spending more time and money on the “getting ready” stage than they do on the actual travel and adventures. It’s as if the planning becomes the substitute for actually doing.

But as for more concrete advice for a new traveler, I’d highly, highly recommend learning as much of the target language you can before leaving. The first time I came to Colombia, I had the basics of Spanish: ordering food, getting around in a taxi, other formalities. But my travels have become so much more rewarding as my language skills improved and I could really communicate with the people I was meeting on a daily basis.

Overlanding in South America

What are the logistics of a trip like this? Is it hard to plan?
Logistically, there are a few basics you should have covered, which would entail having the originals (and lots of copies) of all the relevant vehicle documents: your title, registration, etc. But you don’t actually need much more beyond your passport, and a general idea of where you are going (or in some cases, places you shouldn’t go, for safety’s sake). But if you add in some equipment to allow you to camp and cook, you’ll be much more versatile on the road and have more options for saving money.

One incredible resource that initially planted the idea of driving all this way was the annual Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona, where a few thousand people gather every spring to talk about all aspects of overlanding. They offer seminars and talks from experienced travelers on everything from safety and security to camp-cooking recipes to border-crossing tips and tricks. Attendees are a mix of people who have completed massive drives across the Americas or Africa, people in the planning stages for a big international trip, and those who just like camping out of their vehicles in the USA.

Being around so many like-minded people who had “been there, done that” was what initially made me feel like this was possible — though it was another two years before I drove across the border into Mexico.

Due to the sheer scale and uncertainty of a monster trip like this, it can indeed be difficult to plan everything out in advance in terms of where to go, where to stay, etc. Before leaving, we planned in broad strokes the route we would take, about how long we thought we would take in each country, etc., but we were open to being flexible throughout the journey.

Luckily there have been many travelers who have documented their trips on their blogs and can provide a good frame of reference on border crossings, where to camp, safety concerns as a driver abroad, and so forth.

One of my favorite resources while on the road was a website called iOverlander.com, where fellow travelers add prices, descriptions, and GPS coordinates to everything from free campsites to cheap hotels with secure parking lots. It has become the go-to resource for overland travelers.

What’s been the most difficult part of your journey?
The hardest part and the easiest part are both the same: traveling with your vehicle. An obvious foreign license plate can attract interest, both good and bad: friendly locals will take notice and chat you up about your travels — and more unscrupulous people might target your vehicle for the valuables inside.

Traveling with your own vehicle provides added worries at times. You must always be somewhat conscious of the general security of your vehicle so as to not expose yourself to potential break-ins when parking on the street — or even in some parking lots — and there are the added difficulties of traveling into small colonial cities with narrow roads. Then there’s finding a hotel that also offers secure parking for your vehicle when so many cater to the backpacker crowd.

That being said, we had no break-ins or anything like that on the whole journey, and while we were cautious, we weren’t overly so or paranoid.

The easiest part of this trip, though — again — is having your own vehicle, which means you are free to bring quite a bit more stuff than if you were backpacking. We travel with gear for cold and warm weather, for general camp comfort, and for cooking, as well as quite a few electronics: laptops, cameras, a small solar panel, etc. We also have the freedom to go when and where we want, without being tied to public transportation or the traditional backpacker circuit.

So there are two sides to the same coin, but I’d say the benefits of “overland” travel like this far outweigh the negatives.

Overlanding near a mountain

Does this cost a lot to do? How do you keep costs down?
The big up-front cost for overland travel is obviously the vehicle. Vans, trucks, or SUVs are generally the vehicle of choice for most overlanders, given their size and the ability to create a space to sleep inside the vehicle (or on top of it, with a roof-top tent).

If you already have a truck or van, you’ve overcome the biggest cost. I used my old 1991 Toyota 4×4 pickup — the same truck I’ve had since high school — and it served me well with the addition of an elevated canopy and a simple build-out of the back to create a sleeping platform and storage system.

If you have to purchase a vehicle, you would do well to look for an older rig that is sold all over the world, like a Toyota, so you won’t deal with more obscure vehicle brand or engine parts that might be hard to come by in other parts of the world.

If you’re looking to buy, you could also join overlanding groups and try to purchase from a fellow traveler who has recently completed the trip and is looking to unload the vehicle at a cheap price rather than ship it overseas to their home country. They typically sell in Panama, Colombia, Argentina, or Chile.

There are people who have done the trip with a traditional car and many who complete the drive by motorcycle or even by bicycle — so don’t let the fact that you don’t have the “perfect” vehicle stop you from this adventure.

Overlanding in South America

In terms of the actual costs during the trip, it can vary a lot from country to country and depending on the exchange rate, but I’d say our general rule of thumb for the entire trip thus far was about $75 per day, as a couple. That price is overall for everything, including gasoline, hotels or camping, food, etc. As always, you could do it for either less or more money, depending on the individual traveler.

The price breaks down to around $20/night for lodging, $20/day for food, and $35/day for vehicle expenses (gas, toll roads, paid parking, maintenance, etc.). But those daily averages can vary a lot from place to place.

Sometimes a country, like Mexico, is so cheap to travel in that we find ourselves eating out frequently and finding budget hotels. But other times a country is so expensive, like Costa Rica (for gas, lodging, food, everything!), that we spend virtually all our time camping and only occasionally eating out. Our strategy for keeping costs down is to sleep more often in the back of the truck at cheap or free camping areas, and to cook a little more often.

Surprisingly, there aren’t many costs associated with bringing your vehicle into each country. Some countries require you to purchase insurance, others don’t; some have small fees ($10-15) associated with bringing your vehicle across (temporary import permit, insurance, fumigation), some are free, some are kind of expensive, like Honduras ($40).

But overall it is quite affordable to cross international borders with a vehicle, and your biggest expenses remain the regular costs of gasoline and maintenance.

If you want to follow up on Ryan, he is the author of Big Travel, Small Budget and the blogger behind Desk to Dirtbag, detailing his travels and outdoor adventures after leaving his Washington, D.C. desk job. Right now you can find him road tripping across all of South America and follow his adventures on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

P.S. – Ever wanted to visit Austin? Next month, I’ll be leading a small group of people around my home city! We’ll be staying in the hostel I own, visiting my favorite locals bars and restaurants, hanging with some of my cool friends, and two stepping the night away! If you want to spend a few days down south, here’s more information!

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How Travel Taught Me How to Not Give a F*ck https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/subtle-art-travel/ https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/subtle-art-travel/#comments Thu, 11 May 2017 14:21:14 +0000 https://www.nomadicmatt.com/?p=54142 All too often we get caught up on the little things: our plane being late or someone in the dorm room being loud. We spend our energy focusing on problems and things we can't control. New York Times best-selling author Mark Manson talks about how travel helped him to calm down and focus on what really matters.

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Mark Manson looking over a city
I vaguely knew about Mark Manson. He was a friend of friends, a fellow blogger, and someone I knew who wrote well researched (and always a little controversial) posts. When he and his wife moved to NYC, we finally met in person (I actually met his wife first). We became friends – we’re both nerds, entrepreneurs, writers, poker players, and lovers of whiskey. I blurbed his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. It’s a phenomenal book about focusing on what matters. Chelsea Handler and Chris Hemsworth (aka THOR) are huge fans. Mark is a phenomenal writer and, and in a long overdue post, he finally wrote something for the site. In this post, Mark talks about how travel made him the person is today – and laid the foundation for the book.

I have vomited in six different countries. That may not be the most savory statistic for a travel article, but when you’re huddled over a drainage ditch, spewing up what for all you know could have been sautéed rat meat, these moments have a way of staying in your mind.

I remember getting a flat tire in the Indian countryside and the locals being flabbergasted as I changed it myself. I remember staying up until 4AM in a hostel arguing with a drunk English kid who thought 9/11 was a hoax. I remember an old Ukrainian man got me drunk on the best vodka of my life and claimed he was stationed in a Soviet U-Boat off the coast of Mississippi in the 1970s (which is probably untrue, but who knows).

I remember climbing the Great Wall of China hungover, getting ripped off on a boat trip in Bali (spoiler alert: there was no boat), sneaking my way into a five-star resort on the Dead Sea, and the night I met my wife in a Brazilian night club.

Since selling my possessions in the fall of 2009, I remember a lot of things. I set out with a small suitcase to travel around the world. I had a small internet business, a blog, and a dream.

My year (maybe two) long trip turned into seven years (and sixty countries).

With most things in life, you know exactly what benefits you’re going to get from them. If I go to the gym, I know I’m going to get stronger and/or lose weight. If I hire a tutor, I know I’m going to learn more about a specific subject. If I start a new Netflix series, I know I’m not going to sleep for the next three days until I finish it.

But travel is different.

Mark Manson at the Grand Canyon

Travel, unlike anything else in life, has the beautiful ability to give you benefits you didn’t expect. It doesn’t just teach you what you don’t know, it also teaches you what you don’t know you don’t know.

I gained a lot of amazing experiences from my travels — experiences I expected and looked for. I saw incredible sites. I learned about world history and foreign cultures. I often had more fun than I knew was possible.

But the most important effects of my years of travel are actually the benefits that I didn’t even know I would get and the memories I didn’t know I would have.

For example, I don’t know the moment I became comfortable being alone. But it happened somewhere in Europe, probably in either Germany or Holland.

When I was younger, I would consistently feel as though something was wrong with me if I was by myself for too long — “Do people not like me? Do I not have any friends?” I felt a constant need to surround myself with girlfriends and friends, to always be at parties, and always be in touch. If for some reason I weren’t included in other people’s plans, it was a personal judgment on me and my character.

But, by the time I returned to Boston in 2010, that feeling somehow stopped. I don’t know where or when. All I know is I flew home from Portugal after 8 months abroad, sat at home, and felt fine.

I don’t remember where I was when I developed a sense of patience (probably somewhere in Latin America). I used to be the guy who would get angry if a bus was late (which often happens in Latin America), or I missed my turn on the highway and had to loop back around. Sh*t like that used to drive me insane.

Mark Manson talkig about travel

Then one day, it just didn’t. It ceased to be a big deal. The bus will eventually come and I’ll still get to where I need to go. It became clear that my emotional energy was limited and I was better off saving that energy for moments that mattered.

I don’t recall exactly when I learned how to express my feelings either.

Ask any of my girlfriends pre-travels and they’ll tell you: I was a closed book. An enigma wrapped in bubble-wrap and held together by duct tape (but with an extremely handsome face).

My problem was that I was afraid to offend people, step on toes, or create an uncomfortable situation.

But now? Most people comment that I’m so blunt and open that it can be jarring. Sometimes my wife jokes that I’m too honest.

I don’t recall when I became more accepting of people of different walks of life or when I started appreciating my parents or when I learned how to communicate with someone despite neither of us speaking the same language.

But all of these happened….somewhere in the world, in some country, with somebody. I don’t have any photos of these moments. I just know they are there.

Somewhere along the way I became a better me.

Mark Manson snorkeling

Last year, I wrote a book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. The premise of the book is essentially that we all have a limited number of f*cks to give in our lives, therefore we should be conscious of what we’re choosing to give a f*ck about.

Looking back, I think that it was my experience traveling that subtly, without me realizing it, taught me to not give a f*ck. It taught me to not give a fu*k about being alone, the bus being late, other people’s plans, or creating an uncomfortable situation or two.

Memories are made from what we give a f*ck about.

I have all the usual photos from my travels. Me on the beaches. Me at Carnaval. Me with my buddy Brad surfing in Bali. Machu Picchu.

I gave a f*ck about those.

The photos are great. The memories are great.

But like anything in life, their importance fades the further removed you get from them. Just like those moments in high school that you think are going to define your life forever cease to matter a few years into adulthood, those glorious peaks of travel experience seem to matter less the more time passes. What seemed life-changing and world-shaking at the time now simply elicits a smile, some nostalgia and maybe an excited, “Oh yeah! Wow, I was so skinny back then!”

Mark Manson in Moshi

Travel, although a great thing, is just another thing. It’s not you. It’s something you do. It’s something you experience. It’s something you savor and brag about to your friends down the street.

But it’s not you.

Yet these other, memoryless qualities — the outgrown personal confidence, the comfort with myself and my failings, the greater appreciation for family and friends, the ability to rely upon myself — these are the real gifts that travel gives you.

And, despite the fact that they produce no photos or stories for cocktail parties, they are the things stay with you forever.

They are your real lasting memories….because these things are you.

And they will always be you.

Mark Manson is a blogger, entrepreneur, and author of the New York Times Bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. His book is one of the best books I read in 2016 and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s well written, funny, self-deprecating, and even works in a panda bear! You can read more of his work at MarkManson.net.

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