Posts Tagged ‘travel tips’

To Plan or Not to Plan
Friday, August 23rd, 2013

cat direction

Plan your stops?

The best-laid plans of travelers often go awry…a truth you will most definitely learn on the road. Traveling long term is different than a vacation. In a vacation you normally have to maximize your short time very carefully; transportation, lodging, tours, and sometimes food is often planned. However when you are roaming from place to place over the period of 3 to 12 months, planning each detail becomes much harder.

Things to consider when trying to plan:

You Will Change

One of the most rewarding things about extended travel is that you have time to learn; not only about other cultures, but about yourself. You may be surprised what you learn about yourself. The knowledge you gain will likely effect your plans, so consider leaving yourself open to new opportunities.

Seeing the Whole World

You can’t get to every ‘must-see’ in the world. We know it’s tempting to look at the globe and know that you have more time off then you ever have before in your life and want to do EVERYTHING. But really…do you want to do everything? If you do, then what’s left? One of the biggest benefits of taking a career break and traveling is that you will infuse travel into your life from this point on. We’ve never met anyone who traveled the world and didn’t want to go back out again. Travel and exploring will become a part of your life, you will have more opportunities to get back to places you didn’t get to on this trip.

You Don’t Know Until You Get There

Many times you plan to go to a place and have something specific that you want to do there or see. But once you hit the ground, you’ll meet locals and other travelers and bond with them. Soon you learn of other things that you want to see and do that they recommend. If you have everything already planned, then you may miss out on these new places/experiences that you just learned about.

Oh – The People You’ll Meet!

Whether you are a solo, couple, or family traveler you will meet hundreds of new people while you travel. Each person brings a new possibility; one which you will never be able to predict or control. You may decide to travel with a new friend, you may fall in love, you may get offered a job, or you may decide to stay and help someone. Remain flexible & open and you will most likely end up in a place that you never knew about – and certainly wasn’t according to plan.

Sometimes when you plan too much in advance, the universe has a way of laughing at those plans. That’s what happened to Stephanie and she shares how she now travels at a different pace.

You Will Get Tired

At some point in your extended travels, you will get tired. You won’t want to move any longer, pack any more, see another museum, or ride another bus. If you plan everything in advance, then you’ll wear yourself out with no time to recover. Remember you don’t want to return home as tired and stressed out as you were when you left!

Overall we recommend building a structure and foundation, but know it’s okay to fill in the details as you go. If you are the planning type, then we recommend getting the first few weeks or months planned with transportation and an itinerary, but leave the remainder open-ended. It’s good to have a few core ideas, but fight the urge to connect them until it gets closer to the time in which they will occur.

How the West Can Be Won
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Cost is an obvious, integral factor for those of us planning an overseas sabbatical.  You’ve already resolved to place your day job on pause, now it’s time to strike a balance between where you would like to visit and the amount of money it takes to get there.  While Western Europe rightfully holds an allure for all travelers, some of its more enticing cities tend to be the most prohibitively expensive.  It’s the reason we see few backpacks in Florence and a barrage in Luang Prabang; Southeast Asia is the affordable alternative, particularly when you’re sustaining yourself with US dollars.  But is it completely out of the question to be Euro-friendly?  On a recent trip to Berlin, I discovered that Western Europe can indeed make the shortlist for potential career break destinations.

There are few places in the world in which I believe the possibilities are infinite; Berlin is one of those cities.   Perhaps because certain areas appear under perpetual construction, or likely since there are invariant traces of its tumultuous past, Berlin exudes an energy that similarly sized cities notably lack.  From its trove of museums to a nightlife that puts New York’s to shame, the once-divided metropolis may sate whatever a traveler craves.  The fact that it is one of the least expensive cities in Western Europe makes it even more palatable for those seeking a bit of intrigue versus the steeply priced capitals. Food, housing, and transportation are a relative bargain when compared elsewhere within the EU; Berlin’s monthly metro/bus pass is $98, dinner and drinks runs around $50 for two, and a private flat in the city’s most convenient and compelling neighborhoods can be had for $40 per night.  You won’t reside in a lap of luxury, though that usually isn’t one’s intent when embarking on a sabbatical in the first place.

As I’m sure it will take some convincing, here’s a snapshot as to how Berlin can be your private and economical European playground:

Expense-Free Exploration

Anything pertaining to World War II is free of charge.  The Holocaust Memorial should be at the top of your list as the museum provides context for all European nations who were affected by the Nazis, while its exterior, undulating slabs of concrete are a site in and of themselves.   The former SS Headquarters, now known as the Topography of Terror, along with the Resistance Museum (think “Valkyrie”) are likewise of interest, as is the lesser-known Museum Otto Weidt, the namesake of which is attributed to a man who hired blind Jews at his factory and successfully saved them from deportation through 1943.  Also notable is the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining portion of the Wall covered in commissioned art for ¾ of a mile, while the Tränenpalast is a former border crossing that today exhibits East/West checkpoint complexities.

Note: If you need a respite from Berlin’s varied past and happen to be in town on a Tuesday, free concerts are held each week at 1pm at the city’s Philharmonic.

Cut-Rate Transportation

As mentioned earlier, a monthly pass in Berlin costs roughly $98 and covers S-Bahn, U-Bahn, and bus services.  Those who prefer to have a late start while on break should instead opt for the “Wide-Awake” monthly pass ($72), the primary difference that it may only be used between 10am-3am Monday through Friday, with all day/night continuing to apply on weekends.

Thrifty Fine Dining

On my recent jaunt I devised a gastronomic tour that encompassed any and all cuisines.  Henne, a traditional “wirtshaus” in Kreuzberg, is the frontrunner as it serves remarkable roasted chicken along with kraut salad and wine for $26.  Close seconds are Monsieur Vuong, a trendy Vietnamese spot in Mitte that I’d recommend for lunch and dinner (appetizer + entrée + drinks for one = $23), and the inventive Rosa Caleta, a Jamaican joint where I dined on a jerk platter and crispy snapper (plus drinks = $32).  For Italian enthusiasts, Muret La Barba is an inviting wine bar where the host stood at his Mac and obligingly translated the German-only menu (homemade linguine + wine = $16).   Schöneberg’s Bejte is another top contender, offering excellent Ethiopian fare that ran three of us $64, while W-Der Imbiss specializes in an array of appetizing naan pizzas ($8-10) that range from guacamole to olive tapenade.  For a meal on the go, Mustafa’s Gemuse Kebab was the best $4 I spent during my trip – expect a line.

Shelter on a Shoestring

I rented a two-room flat in Schöneberg via airbnb.com that was considerably larger than my one-bedroom in New York.  The rate was $60 per night (taxes/fees included), though I could have leased a smaller yet equally adequate space for less than $40 a day.  In addition to where I stayed, the neighborhoods best suited for sightseeing and sustenance are Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, and Friedrichshain, the latter of which has most faithfully retained its eastside temperament.

In all fairness, it should be noted that half of Berlin was once part of the Eastern Bloc for almost thirty years, a fact that continues to impact its current economy.  Every city likewise has its perks; nearly all museums in London are free, the Paris metro is $2 per ride, and the art in Rome is unquestionably worth the price.  Is it impossible to find a meal in London for two under $50?  It’s quite feasible, actually, though your day-to-day costs on the Tube along with lodging will leave you feeling Pound foolish.  My advice to anyone who is considering a Westernized sabbatical – save the other capitals for one-off visits, and instead couple Berlin with more reasonable cities like Lisbon and Barcelona.  While Bangkok may be kinder to your bank account, the exchange rate doesn’t necessarily create a barrier between Western Europe and the wandering employee.  And Berlin is the perfect place to begin.

Paul Fusco is an avid traveler who works as an Executive Recruiter at an international management consulting firm in Manhattan.  He took his first career break in early 2010 and recently achieved a personal objective of visiting thirty countries by the age of thirty, celebrating in both Israel and Jordan.  In his spare time Paul writes, maps out future destinations, and enjoys New York City for all it has to offer.

The Ultimate Travel Tips
Thursday, April 11th, 2013

We all know that the internet is a cluttered place of information — some good and some bad. Here at the Meet Plan Go! Career Break Headquarters we are always trying to weed through it all to bring you the best nuggets of information out there so you are fully prepared for your travels, armed with tips and advice from those who’ve done it before you.

One of our very own, Chicago host, Lisa Lubin of LLworldtour.com, has just released a brand new eBook called: The Ultimate Travel Tips: Essential Advice for Your Adventures

If you’ve been dreaming about that career break, but are still apprehensive, Lisa’s book is full of info and tips that will put you more at ease and show you how much easier this kind of trip is than you think!

Summary from Amazon:

Have you ever had the urge to chuck it all and travel the world? Or maybe you seek less-permanent adventures but still want to experience something new. Whatever your travel dreams, author and LLWorldTour blog founder Lisa Lubin encourages you to take the leap. After all, that’s what she did! After more than a decade in broadcast television, she quit her job and sold everything to travel the world and chronicle her adventures on her blog. In her eBook, “The Ultimate Travel Tips: Essential Advice for Your Adventures,” Lubin offers readers practical advice on how to save money, pack well, and make connections in new countries. Through her personal stories, you’ll learn tips on packing, dealing with money (saving and spending), getting around in foreign countries, finding the best food for the money and adjusting to cultural differences.

Excerpt:

“Once you are out on the road, first things first: Stop and smell the roses. Enjoy it. This is your time. A lot of the planning is done and now you can just be in the moment. If you are traveling long-term, you will fall into a rhythm and your old chores or to-do list will be replaced by little tasks like finding somewhere to do your laundry or booking your next hotel. Try and travel slowly if you can. The slower you go, the more money you will save (less transport costs) and the more local experiences you will have. Sticking around for a couple weeks or more allows you to immerse yourself more and meet the locals. Meeting people from all over the globe is the best part of travel… besides the tasty food! Getting to know folks from a different place and culture will create memories and stories that you will never forget. Be open to trying new things. You will find yourself doing things that you might never do at home. Jump in. Say “yes” more and you will be amazed at what you learn about the world … and yourself.”

Includes:

Introduction
What to Do with Your Stuff
Packing (with packing list)
How to Save Money for Travel
How to Save Money While Traveling
How to Find Cheap Airfare
How to Find Affordable Accommodations
Credit and ATM Cards
Getting Around
Eating
Traveling Solo, But Never Alone
Adjusting to Foreign Locales
Parting Thoughts

Buy it here on Amazon today!

About Lisa

Lisa Lubin is a three-time Emmy® Award-winning television writer, producer/director, photographer and video consultant. After more than a decade in broadcast television, she decided to take a sabbatical of sorts, which turned into nearly three years of traveling and working her way around the world. She documents her (mis)adventures on her blog, LLworldtour.com, with photographs and articles from the road/train/rickshaw/camel. Her writing and photography has been published by the Wall Street Journal, American Way Magazine, The Malibu Times, Chicago Tribune, Latina, Smithsonian, Encyclopedia Britannica, and the Huffington Post. She also runs LLmedia, a video consulting business.
Lisa has been featured on WGN-TV, Good Morning America, MSNBC.comFOX.comFrommers.com, the Chicagoist.com and in the Chicago Daily Herald and the NJ Daily Record.

Lisa teamed up with Whole Foods, REI and Hostelling International for several “Travel & Food” lectures. She also hosts the Chicago portion of the annual national “Meet, Plan, Go!” event, encouraging working Americans to take career breaks and sabbaticals. She has spoken about video and journalism at several conferences, including the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX), the World Travel Market in London, and “Visit Russia 2012” in Yaroslavl.
Lisa loves cheese and kittens, but not together.

A Solo Traveler’s Guide to Polynesia
Monday, February 18th, 2013

Relaxing on a beach. Sipping fresh coconut juice from an actual coconut. Watching palm trees sway gently in the breeze. How is that picture not appealing? You can experience it for yourself if you include Polynesia on your career break itinerary.

Polynesia is a term used to describe many of the Pacific Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. There are hundreds of Polynesian islands in the South Pacific, but some of the most accessible are Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. Traveling solo to Polynesia may bring up some unique concerns, so here are some things to keep in mind.

Arriving in Polynesia

The Polynesian islands of Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands are a lot less developed for tourism than their Fijian Melanesian neighbor. Flights tend to arrive at ridiculous hours of the night as well. My flight to Samoa arrived at 1 am. I am the type of traveler who usually has no qualms with sleeping in airports, and I initially planned to do that in Samoa. However, when I arrived, I did not feel comfortable to do so as a female on my own. Because I had planned to sleep at the airport, I hadn’t done much research into nearby accommodation. Luckily, I had a very helpful taxi driver who not only didn’t rip me off too badly, but also took me to the cheapest guest house in the capital city of Apia. When I arrived in Tonga, it was also late at night, but I had booked ahead with a local hostel that offered a pick-up service (Toni’s Guesthouse), so I was secure in knowing I would be safely taken to my accommodation.

Tip: If your flight will arrive late, do your research and know what hotel or guest house you want to go to. Try to find some other travelers to share a taxi with and try to bring a small amount of local currency with you as ATMs are not always reliable on the Pacific Islands.

Cultural expectations

The majority of Polynesians are devout Catholics. Everywhere you go, you will see villages competing with each other to have the biggest and most ornate church. Everything shuts down in Polynesia on Sundays, so don’t expect to get much done. Women in Polynesia are very strong and independent, so most locals won’t think it is too weird that you are traveling alone as a female. I never got any questions about whether or not I was married, or where was my boyfriend, except by one particularly hopeful young man in cafe.

With such a religious population, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Polynesians are also very modest people. Although you do get a little bit of leeway as a foreigner, women should take care to dress conservatively. This doesn’t have to be over the top – just keep your swim wear to the beaches, and when walking through towns or villages make sure you are not showing too much skin. Under no circumstances should you walk around a village in a bikini top. I made sure to pack t-shirts instead of tank stops, and I wore leggings under my short shorts, or knee length skirts.

If you want to attend a church service (and you should – the Polynesian singing is something to experience!), then make sure you pack something appropriate. A long skirt or trousers will do, or alternatively you can “go local” and wear a sarong or lava lava. Polynesians are very proud about their dress and their religion, so make sure that whatever you choose to wear, it is clean and presentable.

Dangers and annoyances

Like in any place that is unfamiliar to you, it is probably not the best idea to walk around late at night by yourself. This is especially true if you have been drinking, or if you are walking around in areas where other people who have been drinking are congregated. In the villages and small resort towns, the bars will most likely be located in your resort so there isn’t too much worry about safety there. In the cities though, you need to be more careful when walking at night.

I didn’t find that anyone was threatening or made me feel uncomfortable when I walk at night, although I did notice a distinct lack of street lighting around. If something did happen, it is unlikely anyone would be able to notice in the darkness. If you do need to walk alone at night, stick to the busier main roads or just take a taxi – they are incredibly cheap on the Pacific Islands.

More than anything, use your common sense, and you should have no problems at all. So just relax, enjoy your coconut, and work on that tan.

Jade Johnston is a Canadian expat who now lives in Australia. She writes about budget travel, destination and adventure travel, and family travel on her blog, OurOyster.com. Follow her on Twitter as @our_oyster or on Facebook.

Exploring Phnom Penh on a Budget
Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Phnom Penh has been a capital city of Cambodia since 1866. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it was the capital city of the Khmer empire – one of the major powers in Asia, covering area of today’s Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Nowadays, Phnom Penh is the second most visited city in Cambodia after Siem Reap. And Cambodia itself is becoming more popular with travelers, including career breakers.

The more tourists, the higher prices – that is one of the rules in Cambodia. Therefore, traveling in the area on a budget is getting more and more difficult. However, you can still add Phnom Penh to your career break itinerary and explore the city on the cheap by following some of these tips:

1. Never stay at The Lake area

All backpackers, once they get to the city, head straight to the Lake area in order to find a cheap accommodation. This area is full of cheap hostels; however once you stay anywhere else in Phnom Penh, you can save a lot of money finding much cheaper and nicer places to stay overnight.

2. Use local transport, avoid taxis and tuk-tuks

Phnom Penh is one place in Cambodia where there is a great variety of transport to choose from, so you can easily get around the city anytime you want. Various means of transport require different amount of money, so knowing the prices is one of the most useful thing to know. Especially when you are a budget traveler.

If you want to save some money, take local buses. They are slow, old, smoky and terribly loud, but also the cheapest when it comes to price. They run on long routes as well as short distances and you can catch them from nearly any street. You also do not need to book them in advance as the tickets are always available. Tickets can usually be purchased at points scattered around guesthouses and hostels. Moreover, you can rent a bike for just 1 or 2 dollars per day, which would be worth it in a long run.

Avoid taking motorbikes, taxis and tuk- tuks. Prices for the ride are always different as they must be agreed before you decide to take a ride and you need to bargain a lot. Otherwise, you will get ripped off, just like most tourists.  If the driver does not want to give you a reasonable price, then turn around and keep walking till he starts shouting after you. That is the best way of negotiating the price you really want. Most of the prices start from 4000 Riels ($1) no matter how long your ride is.

Shared taxis are a nightmare. These are ordinary cars which can carry up to 8 people (passenger sitting next to the driver pays double). Car rental is horribly expensive. Road conditions also leave much to be desired – but the main routes (kept in good condition) are mostly sandy, rocky and dangerous. The only place you should go by car with a driver is to Phnom Kulen near Siem Reap. Prices are high but as long as you travel with more than 3 people, they are still affordable.

3. Grab local street food, avoid restaurants with foreign food

You are in Cambodia, so use this opportunity and eat as much local food as possible. As you will notice, street food is sold everywhere, nearly 24/7 and there is a great variety, ranging from noodle soup to any rice meals, so there is no way you will not find the food that you like. Are you a big fan of fruits and vegetables? That’s great. You can find vegetable and fruit markets on every corner. Bargain a lot in order to get as low price as possible.

Take some fellow travelers with you so you can order more dishes and pay less and the bill will be shared. Never dine out in restaurants where foreign food is being served. These are the most expensive places where you pay some extra money for the service. Want to have a nice burger or a pack of fries? Wait till you get back home, it will taste much better. Swap your McDonald’s meal for a huge bowl of rice – it’s much healthier and cheaper!

4. Learn some Khmer

Depending on how long you are planning to stay in Phnom Penh (or any place in Cambodia), knowing some basic Khmer words can help you a lot, especially with haggling. As you probably know, going off-the-beaten-path places is much cheaper, but also more difficult when it comes to interactions with local people. Therefore, in order to understand people and be understood, buy a mini dictionary and try to learn some words by heart. Keep practicing every day and you will see how much your language skills will be appreciated by locals. The more words you learn and the more Khmer you can speak, the cheaper prices you can bargain.

5. Pay in local currency

Khmer people can be really tricky. They quote the prices in American dollars, but give you the change in their currency – riel. By doing this, they make you think the prices (in comparison to the prices in your home country) are still very low so you don’t need to bargain.

That is the most common rip-off in Cambodia. Before you purchase anything, check how much money locals pay for it and then you will know how much you should pay for it. You will probably pay more as Cambodians think it is unfair for foreigners to pay the same amount of money as locals, but you can at least know how far you are from the fixed local price.

Cambodia is still inexpensive compared to places in Western Europe, but you can keep your costs down – and immerse yourself more in the local culture – by keeping these tips in mind.

 Agness Walewinder is a Polish vagabond who, after graduation, left her comfort zone and set off for a journey of her lifetime to China in 2011. She has been constantly traveling the world since then (slowly, but surely as she says), living like a local for less than $25 a day. She is a passionate photography and adventure blogger sharing her life enthusiasm and travel experience with everyone around. Follow her adventures on etramping.com, on Facebook or on Twitter.

 

How to Safely Travel Solo on Your Career Break
Monday, February 11th, 2013

The recent death of a New York mother, Sarai Sierra, while traveling in Istanbul has led to scrutiny over whether it is safe for women to travel solo. Many comments on articles about the incident have asked why Sierra was traveling alone or have stated strongly that women should not travel on their own overseas.

Obviously, here at Meet, Plan, Go! we support, and even encourage everyone to travel solo – male and female. We also understand that incidents like the killing in Istanbul or the recent gang rape in Delhi, India, raise questions for individuals who may be considering traveling solo on their career break – especially if they have not previously traveled alone. To that end, we’d like to share five safety tips to keep in mind as you set out on your journey.

1. Let someone know where you’re going.

If you have a fixed itinerary, give it to friends and family before leaving, including information about where you are staying and any planned activities. On the other hand, if you tend to travel more spur of the moment, keep loved ones updated through social media – email, tweet or update your status on Facebook to let people know where you are and what you’re doing. Also take a minute to register with the U.S. State Department so they know you are in the country in case of political unrest or natural disasters.

2. Dress appropriately.

Women should be careful to dress conservatively in countries with more conservative cultures. Covering shoulders and knees and avoiding low-cut or tight clothing will help to defray unwanted attention from men and will help you blend in more.  Furthermore, both men and women are less likely to stand out as tourists by dressing as the locals do and by not wearing expensive watches or other jewelry that thieves might target.

3. Expect to be safe

This doesn’t mean be naïve or oblivious to the risks – it means adjusting your attitude so you expect good things to happen as you travel, making decisions to maximize your safety and exuding confidence. As Lash World Tour explains:

[I]magine a different traveler who goes out into the world nervous, scared, worried about their safety. What kind of body postures, facial expressions, eye expressions, and vibe do you think they’re going to exude? Do you think people -particularly importantly here ‘bad’ people- are going to pick up on that, either consciously or subconsciously? Of course they are. Will that traveler seem vulnerable, an easy target? Quite likely.

4. Do your research

While some travel tips are universal, others may be specific to certain cities or countries. Refer to guidebooks, online travel forums or even simple Google searches to find out what neighborhoods you should avoid in your destination. Likewise, read up on what typical scams might so you know what to watch out for. Understand what the cultural norms are in the countries you are visiting so you don’t inadvertently offend someone with your actions.

5. Talk to locals and make friends.

As children, we are often taught not to talk to strangers. And when you are traveling alone in an unfamiliar place, it may be tempting to keep your guard way up in an effort to protect yourself. But to do so would be to miss out on one of the best aspects of traveling – meeting people! Not to mention, when you make friends wherever you are traveling, those people can advise you about where to go and what to avoid. More importantly, your new friends are more likely to look out for you if something goes wrong.

For more safety tips and perspective, see Travel Tips and Safety Advice For Your Career Break, as well as these posts from top female travel bloggers:

Breathedreamgo: Why we need the WeGoSolo movement, Top safety tips for women in India (and elsewhere) and Commentary on travelling safely in India

Solitary Wanderer: 5 Safety Tips for Women Traveling Alone

Legal Nomads: Revisiting the Solo Female Travel Experience and Solo Female Travel, Trust and the Art of Fitting In

Twenty-Something Travel: Solo Female Travel is NOT the Problem and Experiencing the World through a Female Lens.

A Dangerous Business: Dear Dad: Please Don’t Worry (A Treatise on Solo Female Travel)

Journeywoman: She Travels Solo

Adventurous Kate: The Truth About Solo Female Travel and Safety

Travel Yourself: Yes, It is Safe to Travel Solo as a Female

Katie Going Global: No, It’s Not Stupid to Travel Solo

Flora The Explorer: Happy, Safe and Solo: Travelling in India by Yourself

Hole In The Donut Cultural Travel: Traveling Safely

Solo Traveler: Am I the Pollyanna of Solo Travel?

Grrrl Traveler: Is Solo Travel Still Safe for Women? …6 Safety Tips that make it so.

LashWorldTour: Travel Safety Tips: How to Travel Safely pt 1 – Attitude and Travel Safety Tips: How to Travel Safely pt 2 – Education

WAVEJourneyWomen’s Adventures, Vacations & Experiences!: Travel Tips: Female Solo Travel Safety

Also be sure to follow the #WeGoSolo hashtag on Twitter and join the conversation this Wednesday, February 13, 11-11:30 a.m. EST.

Volunteering in Dangerous Places:Lira, Uganda
Monday, January 21st, 2013

As I travel around the world, I often volunteer with global nonprofit organizations. To me, volunteering is a great way to get to know local communities and cultures and I like the idea of giving back while benefiting from the experience.

Before I left on my two-year around-the-world trip, I spoke with several nonprofit organizations and lined up a few volunteer gigs during my first year of travel. One of these opportunities was to work with an American nonprofit organization that is building wells in East Africa, bringing clean drinking water to communities in need.

I was super excited about this opportunity and planned my entire first year of travel around this particular volunteer gig, coordinating my schedule so I could accompany the U.S-based team that was to visit the region in mid-October.

Imprecise Planning

Unfortunately, once I arrived in Uganda’s capital Kampala my pre-trip preparations unraveled fast. It soon became apparent that I would need to make my own way to Lira (a 5-hour drive north of the capital), arrange for transportation to the well site (a further 3-hour drive on dirt roads), and figure out my own accommodations.

Now, traveling in northern Uganda is dangerous by any stretch—Think Joseph Kony 2012, Lord’s Revolutionary Army, child soldiers, mass rape. I had to make the serious decision on whether or not I would go it alone to Lira.

After much reflection and quite a few sleepless nights, I decided to go. Clean water is an issue in which I feel passionately. Also I was already in Uganda and looking forward to meeting the local community. Finally, this was my largest donation to date and I wanted to see the funding in action.

Ensuring Self Safety

After making my decision to move forward, I lined up my resources to ensure my own safety. Here was my 5-point plan of action:

1. Kidnap & Ransom Insurance

Before I left on my worldwide travels I bought Kidnap & Ransom (K&R) insurance. I knew that I’d be traveling alone throughout Africa and the Middle East and so bought the policy for about $1,200 a year. (Individuals can’t buy this type of insurance, but companies can. As president of my own consulting firm, I purchased the policy for myself.)

Along with the policy, you get access to a personal safety team. I called them before I left to introduce myself, thinking that if they have a voice / face with the name, they might try just a little bit harder to find you. Before leaving for Lira, I also sent emails to my contacts to let them know I would be traveling in the area, the dates I was traveling, and the name of the organization I was volunteering with.

2. U.S. State Department Registration

I always register with the U.S. State Department’s STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) before entering a new country. Not only will this alert the government that you are in the country during times of conflict, it also supplies the government with next-of-kin information.  Another advantage is that you’ll receive local travel updates, as well as invitations to parties and consular events.

3. Private Driver / Bodyguard

I decided not to take local buses like I normally do, but instead hired a driver, that could then serve as a sort of bodyguard for me. I wanted someone who spoke the local language, knew the area, and would accompany me into town.

While in Kampala, I contacted another nonprofit organization that I had worked with several years earlier. They arranged for a driver for 5 days, supplying me with his State ID, Driver’s License, and a background check. At about $1,000, this was a significant cost for me, but my driver Fred was the consummate professional, trained in Germany and incredibly serious about his job. This was exactly the person I wanted by my side.

 4. Personal Emergency Procedures

My family and I have a safe word that I can use if I’m in imminent danger. If they receive a call or message with this word, they are instructed to call the K&R team, the U.S. State department, and the local Embassy. I sent a message to my family to be on alert that I was heading into dangerous territory.

5. Self Defense Training

Before I left on my travels, I went through a 3-day self defense training course by a global nonprofit called IMPACT. The classes are taught by women, for women. The training I received was the single most empowering experience of my life. While making my arrangements in Kampala, I took the time to review what I had learned, so my skills were fresh.

Prepared for the Possibilities

In the end, my days visiting the well site in Lira were a highlight of my trip. I met many members of the community, talked with women who lived in the village, gained a greater understanding of the village’s need for clean water, and visited the children attending school in the area.

The children showed me the current well, which is too shallow and now polluted with E.Coli, and we broke ground at their Apache SDA school where the new well was being built. Tears repeated welled in my eyes as the local congregation and school children sang for me in the age-old African tradition.

Was my 5-day trip into northern Uganda worth the extra safety precautions and added expense? Unequivocally yes. I was happy that I visited Lira and got to join in the building the well.

The dedication plaque on the new well reads:  “May your life overflow with possibilities.” The opportunity to travel to northern Uganda to volunteer was a possibility that, despite the risks, I could not pass up. But it was a possibility for which I was well prepared.

A former finance executive, Erin Michelson is now an “Adventure Philanthropist,” who recently completed a two-year global giving adventure, visiting all 7 continents and exploring 60 countries. Volunteering with global non-profit organizations along the way, Erin helped build a house in the Philippines, a well in rural Uganda, and a library in northern Laos, sponsored secondary school education for a young woman in India and helped provide self-defense training for young girls in Israel.  Read more about her experiences on GoErinGo.com or follow her on Twitter as @GoErinGo.

Save Time Planning Your Career Break
Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

You have taken the first step – you decided to take the plunge to take a career break to travel. Now comes what should be the fun part – the actual planning. If you are like many career breakers, you might be thinking about booking a round-the-world flight itinerary including multiple stops around the world. Unfortunately, you may find that pricing out such an itinerary can be extremely time consuming. It can quickly chip away at the time you need to take care of everything else on your to-do list before leaving.  Even frequent world traveler Chris Guillebeau has said it can take as much as 40 hours to get a handle on planning a multi-stop trip.

Indeed, planning a trip with five or more stops often requires the use of a travel agent – search engines like Travelocity and Expedia don’t let you book trips with so many stops. Using a travel agent, it can sometimes take days just to get a price quotation in a particular itinerary – and if you want to change that itinerary before booking, count on more time to get a revised quote.

Wouldn’t you rather spend your time thinking about what you’re going to do once you reach your destination instead of sweating out how you’re going to get there?

Never fear – BootsnAll is here to help. The well-known independent travel website has just launched Indie– the first airfare booking engine that offers instant prices, no rules and online booking for multi-stop itineraries. While most search engines like Travelocity or Expedia allow you to book a trip with up to 5 or 6 legs, Indie lets you plan a trip with up to 25 stops. Even better, Indie helps you do it quickly – you can plan and book your entire itinerary in just an hour!

The idea for this new web app was spawned from actual travelers’ feedback,” Sean Keener, co-founder and CEO of BootsnAll, says, “to give travelers the ability to search and book a multi-stop or round the world ticket in minutes. We’ve been serving RTW and long-term travelers since 1998, and one of the biggest pain points we have heard, thousands of times, is the difficulty in planning the airfare component. Indie solves this problem.”

Using Indie is easy – simply enter your proposed route and then view it instantly on a map. You can drag destinations around to change up the itinerary and even add a combination of overland travel and flights. Better yet, unlike other round-the-world booking engines, you can travel in any direction you want and there is no limit on the mileage you travel. As soon as you are ready, you can get an instant price quote for your itinerary and book it on the spot.

Meet, Plan,Go! editor Katie Aune was curious and decided to test Indie out for herself. Having recently returned from a 13-month career break, she plugged in all of the destinations that she flew in and out of – an itinerary that looked like this: ORD-HEL-MOW-VVO-TBS-ROM-IST-TBS-TAS-FRU-RIX-BCN-ORD. Within seconds, she had a price quote for just under $6,000. Since she actually traveled overland between several of those destinations, she altered the itinerary to account for the overland travel and quickly received a revised quote of $3,764 – which was pretty close to what she actually spent on the flights that she had booked as she went along. Her only complaint? She actually flew into Dushanbe, Tajikistan rather than Tashkent, Uzbekistan as she eventually plugged in, but Indie didn’t recognize Dushanbe as an airport (editor’s note: after notifying Bootsnall of the issue, they added Dushanbe to Indie within 24 hours).

Indie has received positive feedback from travelers so far.  “I might’ve been able to get to the same number on Travelocity, but it just felt like more work,” says Jamie Boud. “Now, maybe that was an illusion because I was spending a lot of time checking various sites, trying to work out all the details that I started to get burnt out. But that’s a big reason I appreciated Indie’s clean interface.”

We travelled around the world last year and are looking to go again in 2013,” explains Brian Kelly. “We have had a number of quotes again using Star Alliance, etc., that we used last time, but this system…seems a thousand times easier and lets us get to exactly where we want to go without the usual restrictions placed on you with other RTW companies.”

To try out Indie for yourself, visit indie.bootsnall.com.  And once you’ve booked your dream trip, we’d love to hear how Indie worked for you!

Travel in Style by Housesitting
Monday, January 7th, 2013

One thing that often holds people back from taking a career break to travel is the worry that long-term travel only involves living out of a suitcase on a limited budget. Taking that career break is all about adventure, which inherently means a rougher lifestyle, right?

Not necessarily. I am writing this today from Santiago de Chile, where my partner Dani and I are housesitting for two adorable Scottish terriers in a luxury condo in one of the most exclusive areas of the Chilean capital.

The owners have gone to spend the holidays with their family in Ireland. In exchange for keeping their home and pets safe, we are not paying a penny for our accommodation. While we love the free rent (who wouldn’t!) there is much more behind why Dani and I have become such avid housesitters over the past two and a half years. Housesitting allows us to travel full time and yet live a life filled with all the creature comforts most people have to give up when traveling long-term. 

During the seven weeks we are spending here in Santiago, the two of us have a three-bedroom, four-bathroom condo all to ourselves. Rather than a private room in a hotel or hostel, our condo is bright, sunny and we even have a fully-furnished terrace to spend time on, plus a swimming pool downstairs. There is also plenty of space for both of us to work out everyday, which means we can maintain our workout routine, which is difficult to do in hostels. The space is great for us as a couple, too. Traveling with your partner is such a tremendous privilege, but stuffing ourselves in small hotel rooms night after night, month after month, can be stressful.

Housesitting also frees up our budget. We are able to opt for higher quality food items at the grocery store, and we don’t have to say no to specialties like delicious cheeses and quality wines (though, being in Chile right now, even cheapie wine is delish). Rather than eating only in budget restaurants, we splurge more often on highly recommended places. On Saturdays, we walk to the nearby organic market (which we would have never found if we had stayed at a city center hotel) to pick up our fruits and vegetables for the week and then cook up any number of fun and healthy recipes. Having our own kitchen is such a blessing, especially because they are usually fully stocked with appliances like bread makers, blenders, crockpots and other fun items. During periods of heavy travel, we often have to grab whatever food is available and go, but when housesitting, we can stay healthy by being in full control of what we cook and eat.

With the money we save on accommodation while housesitting, we also opt for nicer buses or flights when we can and stay in better hotels when we get back on the road.

After 12 housesits on four continents in under three years, we feel confident in saying that, while each one is unique, one consistency we have found is that we almost always end up living in places that tourists would spent hundreds of dollars a night to experience.

We lived on a remote Caribbean beach in Mexico for two months, looking out every day at crystal clear water and working from hammocks. We didn’t just travel through Tuscany, we cared for four cats and a Bed and Breakfast which we had all to ourselves for ten days. In the hot Arizona summer we swam in our own private pool every day, and we will probably never drink water as fresh as we had in our housesit in the Bavarian Alps, where it literally flowed from the top of the mountains down out of the taps of our cottage. No matter where we have housesat, we can live like locals, go sightseeing and explore, but at the end of the day rather than return to a hotel room, we can sleep in our own comfortable bed in our own (temporary) house.

Some people housesit exclusively, but we prefer to apply only when we see an opportunity that fits in with our travel plans. There was no plan to housesit in South America, for example, but we saw the Santiago opportunity listed on one of the housesitting websites we use, so we applied and were accepted. The more experience we get under our belts, the more often we are accepted for sits. Every time, we recharge our batteries for just long enough and then get the itch to get back out and travel.

In this way, housesitting helps us maintain our zest for long-term travel. 

Curious about how we find all of these great housesits? There are several websites you can sign up to, but which to choose varies by where you are looking to housesit. We have done a full analysis of the top 20 sites in our book, Break Free: The Ultimate Guide to Housesitting.  You will also find over 100 pages packed with step by step details on how to get started and how to get your first housesit, even with no experience. Break Free shows you:

♦ How to find housesitting opportunities

♦ How to write a stellar profile

♦ How to be an excellent housesitter and get great refereneces

♦ How to deal with issues of insurance, contracts and emergencies

The book also includes samples of profiles, application letters to model yours after and full checklists that both housesitters and homeowners can use (and print!) to make sure everything is covered before, during and after the housesit.

Dani and Jess are a German-American couple who left their adopted home of London and set off to travel the world in 2010. With the motto ‘Two Girls. One Globe. No Regrets’ they have since traveled through North America, Europe, Mexico, Central America, South East Asia and now South America, while running their travel website GlobetrotterGirls.com. The girls are digital nomads, street food junkies, public transportation masters, LGBT travelers, hotel enthusiasts, street art lovers, vegetarians, and avid housesitters.

The Best “How to” Advice of 2012
Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Over the last few weeks, we’ve recapped some of the best posts about preparing to take a career break to travel from 2012, as well as the best from career breakers on the road. Today, we look back at some of the most valuable “how to” posts – practical advice that you can use before, during or after your career break!

How to Stay in Shape on the Road

Five years out of college, Matt Sussman could no longer ignore his constant itch to travel. Leaving his stressful financial job in New York behind, he is following his dream of traveling the world. Meandering solo since July, Matt has made it a priority to find time to exercise and shared his tips for staying in shape on the road.

As I started planning my career break, I struggled with how I would manage to stay in shape on the road without a gym to go to every day. I had been looking for a theme to keep me sane in my travels and thought what better challenge to keep me motivated than trying to stay in shape while traveling around the world?

Searching online for how other travelers dealt with this dilemma yielded little useful advice. Sure I could just run every day but that would quickly get boring, not too mention the pounding my knees would take. Pulling what I could from crossfit sites and conversations with trainers, I started to assemble a word document of body weight exercises and routines that I could do on the road. Continue…

How to Land a Crewing Job at Sea

Kelly Wetherington has been traveling since she first escaped her cubicle in 2007. Her insatiable curiosity for the world and thirst for adventure have led her to trek, dive, sail, zip, surf, climb, and paddle her way through 25 countries across Central America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. In this post, she shared her tips for finding a crewing job at sea.

Learn as much as you can before you seek a position.

Go sailing, practice tying knots, familiarize yourself with yachtie terms.

Learning to sail is like learning to speak a foreign language. If you aren’t willing to ask the dumb questions like “What does to reef mean?” then you will never learn the lingo (reefing is taking in a sail). Continue…

How to Account for a Career Break on Your Resume

One of the most common questions we get about re-entry is “how do I explain my career break on my resume?” This post offered some valuable tips and examples.

You arrive home at the end of a life-changing travel experience and one of the biggest questions facing you likely will be how to find work again. Whether you traveled as part of a career break, gap year, or sabbatical, you will need to figure out how to best represent the time and experiences on your resume.

Where should it go on my resume?

It depends. Do you think the experiences you had traveling apply to you finding a new job in your field?  If so, then place it in the main part of your resume. If you don’t feel like it applies, then it probably belongs in a section reserved for Additional Information or Hobbies. Continue…

How to Make Career-Related Connections on the Road

Bethany Rydmark is a landscape architect by trade and a lover of the world by nature.  She and her husband Ted left their beloved home state of Oregon in 2012 to travel South America, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand. She made a point to make career-related connections before she hit the road and shared this advice.

Though I left my job behind to travel the world for thirteen months, I did not abandon my career.

Intentional preparation allowed me to harness my professional skills, expand my experience and qualifications as a landscape architect, and add value to my travels. By laying groundwork before departure and remaining engaged on the road, I’ve connected with relevant projects and opportunities, and as a bonus, I’ve leveraged my skills to offset traveling expenses. While my story is connected to landscape architecture, the concepts apply to careers across the spectrum: nursing, construction, sales, finance, writing, painting, teaching…you name it!

As you plan your career break, consider these eight tips for making career-related connections on the road. Continue…

How to Make Processing Part of the Re-Entry Process

Cate Brubaker helps all kinds of travelers navigate intercultural, personal, and re-entry experiences in her work with TrekDek, SmallPlanetStudio.com, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

You’re probably familiar with the terms re-entry and reverse culture shock. While some people sail through re-entry problem-free, most say they feel more lost upon returning home than they ever did abroad. This actually makes a lot of sense. When we go abroad we’re constantly in the “new.” We’re seeing new things, having new adventures, hearing new languages, trying new food, considering new perspectives.

It’s exhilarating. Euphoric. It’s why we travel!

Back home, we’re no longer in the “new.” Back home, we are the new. On one hand, we’re happy to be home with family and friends, speaking our native language, eating our favorite foods, and even sleeping in our own bed. But we also feel like something is a bit off. It’s not necessarily bad, just…off. Continue…

How to Accrue Frequent Flier Miles

Mike Choi is known as the resident world traveler in his office and blogs about his travels at thefitworldtraveler.com.  With his knowledge of FFM, he runs a part time frequent flyer mile consulting shop at iflywithmiles.com to help those with miles see the world. He provided a great two-part series earlier this year about how to accrue and redeem frequent flier miles. Here is an excerpt from part one:

Frequent Flyer Miles (FFM) can be an excellent way to subsidize airfare costs during your career break.  For those unfamiliar with FFM, they are a unit of rewards earned through an airline’s loyalty program by flying.  The objective of these loyalty programs is to retain customers by rewarding customers with miles, which translate to free flights with enough accumulated miles.

In the United States, aside from flying, there are numerous ways to earn FFM such as purchases with co-branded airline cards and a slew of other promotional offers. Unless you have a lot of reimbursable expenses, purchases with a co-branded airline credit card will not generate enough miles for a flight in a timely manner.  This post will focus on flying, assuming there are some future career breakers who travel for work and are allowed to accumulate FFM for personal use. Continue…

How to Redeem Frequent Flier Miles

The second part of Mike’s series on frequent flier miles focused on how to redeem those valuable miles.

As discussed in Monday’s post, How to Accrue Frequent Flier Miles, earning and redeeming miles can be a great way to save money on your career break.

All frequent flyer mile (FFM) programs publish an awards table for the required miles needed for a flight redemption.  The exact number, of course, depends on your origin and destination countries.  For instance, at the time of this writing, U.S. Airways, a Star Alliance member, requires 60,000 miles to fly round trip from North America to North Asia while United Airlines, another Star Alliance airline, requires 65,000 miles for the same round trip flight. Continue…

 

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