MovingWorlds March Giveaway
Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Enter to win a lifetime membership to a network of free, life-changing volunteer opportunities

Meet Plan Go & MovingWorlds March Giveaway
What is MovingWorlds? If you’re looking to make a real difference on your next trip, and you don’t like the idea of having to pay to “volunteer,” then it’s the perfect time to check out MovingWorlds.org. MovingWorlds connects people who want to travel and volunteer, with social impact organizations around the world. They selectively source and qualify social impact organizations working in the field so you can be confident your skills will make the most impact. “Experteers” have access to MovingWorlds exclusive training, resources, and planning guide to help ensure safe, high-impact engagements.

See our Top 10 Reasons Career Breakers Should Include Experteering in their Itinerary

What is this giveaway? Meet Plan Go has partnered with MovingWorlds.org to share the awesome work they are doing in the volunteering space around the world. They have given us one Full Membership (with unlimited phone support) to giveaway to the Meet Plan Go family. See Terms and Conditions

Explore MovingWorlds.org: If you would like to check out the various opportunities on MovingWorlds, they have provided us a link that allows you to review the complete details on every single opportunity they have available (and if you don’t see the perfect opportunity, they will reach out to their global partners and find one that fits your criteria). Follow this link, http://MovingWorlds.org/MeetPlanGo, click “Join Now” on the top right, and you will have unfettered access to the site, and never be asked to pay a thing until you find the perfect opportunity (and when you do find that perfect opportunity MPG members simply pay an administration fee of $112).

volunteer experteer

How to enter this giveaway:

  • Meet Plan Go will be giving away one full MovingWorlds Membership PLUS additional support to someone who is interested in volunteering in 2016 (value: $300)
  • Everyone who would like to enter should email Mike@MovingWorlds.org with the following:
    – Your First Name, Home Country & the Email you used in your MovingWorlds profile
    – Link to your favorite 1 (or) 2 MovingWorlds “Experteering” opportunities
    – A few sentences telling us why you would like to volunteer for this organization in 2016
    – Confirm that, if you win, you are willing to share your experience with the Meet Plan Go audience via a few blog posts
    The email you send will earn one entry in the contest, and is mandatory for anyone who wishes to enter
  • Optional: If you would like to earn a second entry in this giveaway, post a tweet with a link to the MovingWorlds opportunity you are interested in. You can say whatever you wish, simply include the link to the project and mention @MeetPlanGo & @Experteering in your tweet.
  • Optional: If you would like to earn a third entry in the giveaway, head over to this Facebook Post, and leave a comment that includes a link to your favorite MovingWorlds opportunity, along with a few sentences about why you want to Experteer there.

Deadline: On March 31st 11:59 PM EST . We will add each entry that meets the criteria (including each Twitter & Facebook entries) on their own row in an excel file, and use Random.org to randomly choose the winner. Winner will be notified by email (via the email address that was used to make the first submission) within five (5) days following selection of Winner.  Once the winner accepts, we will mention the winner on social media for both Moving Worlds and Meet Plan Go.

Please read all Terms and Conditions prior to entering.

Questions: If you have any questions about MovingWorlds or this contest please email Mike Howard, Mike@MovingWorlds.org

Valuable Skills to Learn Before Hitting the Road on a Career Break
Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Haggling is part of everyday life in some countries, such as India, Vietnam, and Egypt. Vendors are known to inflate prices for tourists and are very skilled in getting foreigners to pay more than they would charge other locals. This goes for everything from backpacks to t-shirts to fruit to tuk tuk rates. Knowing how to successfully negotiate prices will help ensure you aren’t taken advantage of and overcharged.

Creating a backup plan or two before you start haggling is important in case your first strategy doesn’t work. Plan A could be basic price negotiation. Should that fail, you enact plan B, which could be walking away or threatening to go to a competitor. Plan C could be more creative, like having a travel partner step in or offering to buy multiple items at a set price.

You can haggle for a good deal at the Luang Prabang night market.

While walking down a small side street in Fethiye, Turkey, we came across a table set up with bottles of perfume and cologne. There was a wide variety, like you would find in an airport duty free shop. Mike stopped to look at the selection while Tara stood uninterested a few feet away. The Turkish vendor manning the table came up to Mike and offered cologne suggestions and prices. His initial offer started high, as street negotiations do, and Mike showed hesitation upon hearing the price. This caused the vendor to lower the initial price without Mike having to say a word. He landed at 50 lira, which was still too high for Mike since he knew they were knock-off products. Mike counter-offered with 10 lira. Of course that’s a laughably low number, but the key to agreeing on a price you want to pay is to start low to bring the seller’s offer price down (this was plan A: plain negotiation). After a couple minutes, Mike got him down to 25 lira, but it didn’t seem like the seller was willing to drop below that. That’s when plan B kicked in, and Tara stepped in to the conversation and offered to buy two bottles for 30 lira. Sold!

As Americans who never haggle for goods at home, we went through trial and error until we got used to negotiating. It’s a skill we wished we had developed or even researched a little before leaving for our 14-month RTW trip. As we traveled, we discovered many other skills that also fell into the “wish we knew about that” category. It’s easy to overlook or not even consider learning these skills when you’re planning your career break. After all, you become consumed by figuring out how to save more money, sell your possessions, and plan a smooth transition from working 9-to-5 to a life of full-time travel. That’s why we included a whole chapter on these skills in the travel-planning book we just published, called Create Your Escape: A Practical Guide for Planning Long-Term Travel – because you don’t have time to think of everything yourself when you’re planning your big trip.

There are a lot of skills you can and should learn before leaving, but we’ll focus on a few other important ones here.

First Aid

Accidents happen even if you aren’t the clumsy type. You might wipe out on a bicycle or trip and scrape your knee while hiking. Knowing how to properly clean and bandage wounds will help ensure you don’t get an infection. And, just as important, you should know which first-aid items you should pack in the first place. Sure, you can purchase antiseptic and bandages on the road, but it’s a good idea to have a starter kit in case you need it in a remote area or after hours when shops aren’t open.

Drive a Manual Car and Motorbike

learn to drive a motorbike

Tara not really driving a motorbike in Kampot, Cambodia (more like posing). She never learned before the trip so Mike was the driver – just to be safe!

You don’t want your skills (or lack thereof) to hold you back from cool experiences while traveling. You might have an opportunity to rent a car or motorbike for a day trip or coastal drive, and you shouldn’t attempt to drive either vehicle if you don’t know how.

When we were in Southeast Asia, a local said to us, “You see all the foreigners with bandages or casts? Those are likely the result of a motorbike accident.” It’s true that many people underestimate motorbikes and scooters and think they can drive them with ease. Fully automatic motorbikes might be easier to drive, but many rental companies only offer semi-automatic and manual options. You have to be skilled in driving this type of vehicle to be successful, otherwise you risk endangering yourself and others on the road.

Likewise, many rental cars around the world are manual, and it takes practice to understand how to drive these vehicles. You could ruin the engine if you incorrectly use the clutch and don’t know how to properly shift gears, and that might cost you a pretty penny to replace. Plus, stalling out in the middle of a street (at a light or stop sign) could cause a traffic jam or even an accident depending on the flow of traffic.

A new country with different road rules than your own is not where you should learn to drive a motorbike or manual car. Sign up for a class at home so you feel confident using the vehicle and learn how to be a defensive driver. Doing this will not only ensure you don’t have to pass up an opportunity to rent a vehicle, but it may also help you in an emergency situation where you have no choice but to get behind the wheel.

Learn to Swim

Tara swimming in the Mediterranean off the coast of Turkey.

The underwater world is incredibly beautiful with its colorful coral and curious fish. You’ll likely have at least a few opportunities to snorkel or even become SCUBA certified if you want. You could see the majestic Great Barrier Reef or even watch manta rays swim inches below you. Even though you could use a life jacket or inflatable tubes to help you stay afloat, you really should be confident in the water and know basic water safety if you’re going to splash around in it.

Being a skilled swimmer isn’t just important for water-based experiences, but it could also save your life in the event of an emergency. If you’re not comfortable in the water, take lessons before you leave until you feel confident enough to float, tread water, hold your breath under water, and swim to safety.

Be an Exceptional Photographer

Mike taking photographs in Iceland.

You’ve probably perfected your selfies, but leave the selfie stick at home and turn the camera around to capture the incredible and inexplicable moments of your trip. These are images you’ll be showing others and looking at for the rest of your life, so you should know how to take a sharp, well-framed, and interesting shot, as well as edit the files to enhance them even more.

The first step is learning to take great photos, which you can do through an online course or by reading a book and then practicing every chance you get. Then take it one step further and learn the basics of Photoshop or another photo editing program so you can make your images look even better. You’ll want to understand resizing, color correction, and working with shadows, midtones and highlights. Those are very basic concepts, but they’ll help you create a more vibrant image than your camera may have captured if the lighting was poor when you snapped the shot.

To know what else you should learn before hitting the road, check out chapter 6 in Create Your Escape. It’ll give you good ideas of what to expect in foreign countries and make you an even savvier traveler.

About Tara and Mike

Career Break for CouplesTara and Mike are the original Two Travelaholics. In 2012, they quit their jobs to travel the world on their extended honeymoon, racking up 40,000+ miles in their first year and a half of marriage. When they aren’t traveling, they’re on the lookout for pugs, craft beer, and great bands. They are the authors of Create Your Escape: A Practical Guide for Planning Long-Term Travel, which teaches other travelaholics how to prepare for extended travel. Check it out at http://createyourescape.today

Favorite Tips: Updating Your Resume Before Your Travels
Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Now that you’ve made the decision to take career break and travel I, bet you have an extensive Excel sheet with all the items you need to pack and do before you go away.

  • Do a test pack of backpack to make sure it’s not too heavy – Check
  • Make extra copies of visas and passport – Check
  • Create blog to stay in touch with family & friends – Check
  • Update resume – wait, what?!?!?!?!

I know you just left your job and can’t wait to focus on your travels, but updating your resume before you leave is one of the best pre-trip activities you can do. In his post, “How My Career Break Helped My Career”, Michael Bontempi noted:

I developed a resume prior to leaving to ensure that my latest accomplishments were fresh in my mind.


How to Travel As a Couple on Career Break
Monday, May 19th, 2014

Warren and Betsy Hiking the Lycian Way in Turkey. Travel is a real test of a relationship!

How will your relationship fare during a career break? It’s easy to romanticize the entire thing, thinking your trip will play out like the couple version of Eat, Pray, Love. Even though reality is not quite as easy or predictable as the movies – thank the travel gods! – our friends and career break veterans, Betsy and Warren, say you can plan on a stronger, healthier relationship by the end of your career break by setting just a few ground rules and expectations.

Betsy and Warren Talbot first began planning their career break in 2008, and in 2010 they set off to travel the world (after hosting the first Seattle Meet Plan Go event!). While on their career break they began writing about their experiences and lessons, and it eventually spawned their own publishing business of books, courses, and a weekly podcast. Their career break actually led them to a brand-new career!  We’ve actually featured a number of their books on Meet Plan Go as they are great resources for career break planning, teaching you how to save money, get rid of your stuff, and overcome fear of making big changes in your life.

Now that they’ve been living, traveling and working together non-stop for four years, we wanted to ask them some specific questions about what they learned, and they sat down on the terrace of their new home in Spain to reveal some of the insights from their new book, Married with Luggage: What We Learned About Love by Traveling the World

Here’s what we covered:  

  • Travel actually strengthened your relationship – why is that? (0:25)
  • How did you handle the planning stages as a couple?  Did someone take the lead or was it shared responsibility? (1:23)
  • How do you make decisions as a couple when you travel? (2:25)
  • How do you manage when something really goes wrong? (4:25)
  • What one new thing did you learn about each other once you started traveling?  (5:33)
  • What tips do you have for spending 24/7 together as you are traveling? (6:48)

Popup_MWL_FinalWhat’s next for these two? They are taking a 12-city tour of Europe by train to mark the release of their latest book, and they are calling the whole trip An International Love Affair. Follow along at Married with Luggage to see what they uncover about love and romance as they ride the rails this summer.

And if you want an inside peek into the evolution of a marriage on the road, check out their 5-star rated book, Married with Luggage: What We Learned About Love by Traveling the World.

Resources to Help You Learn about Teaching English Abroad
Friday, September 6th, 2013

Teaching English in Cambodia

 From China and Cambodia to Costa Rica and Chile, teaching English abroad provides hundreds of thousands of opportunities for English speakers from all backgrounds to work and get paid to live overseas, making the field ideal for those who truly want to become part of a local community in a foreign country.  Because demand for English teachers worldwide is so high, it also provides a viable means of income for those who want to engage in extended career break travel, but who don’t have the $10,000 – $20,000 in the bank that may be required to undertake a 6-12 month foreign adventure.  And guess what?  You don’t have to have a background in education, professional teaching experience or even a college degree to get hired, though a TEFL certification provides the training and qualifications most language schools around the world seek when hiring English teachers.

That said, if you are considering teaching English abroad, there are numerous questions and variables you will need to consider, including (to name a few):

  • Where can I teach English abroad based on my own personal background?
  • What kinds of schools will hire me and who will my students be?
  • If I want to teach English in Mexico, China or Japan, do I need to have a college degree?
  • What are salaries and benefits for English teachers in different countries?
  • How do I actually find jobs and get hired – do I need to line up a job prior to my departure, or can I find jobs in my destination country upon arrival?

The answers to such questions will vary from country to country and getting a job to teach English in Costa Rica will be a very different process and experience than teaching English in South Korea, Russia or Spain.  To help you sort out your options, answer your questions, and assist you in learning more about opportunities for you to teach English around the globe, here are some great resources worth checking out.

  1. Check out this Country Chart, which compares teaching English in more than 50 countries worldwide by salaries, hiring requirements, interview procedures, hiring seasons, visa regulations and more.
  2. Major ESL job boards like www.daveseslcafe.com,  www.eslemployment.com and www.eslbase.com feature job listings for teaching English in dozens of countries around the globe and feature forums where English teachers around  the globe share their experiences and insights.
  3. For more in-depth personal accounts and insights check out this index of more than 100 blogs, interviews and articles from actual people teaching English around the globe. You can also find many great videos like this one on YouTube and through Google or any search engine that provide informative and often colorful perspectives on what it is like to actually teach English abroad.

  1.  There are a number of good books about teaching English overseas, but the tops is probably Susan Griffith’s Teaching English Abroad, which features hundreds of pages of country profiles, listings for schools and other potential employers and tips for teaching English in all regions of the world.
  2. The International TEFL Academy website features an index of more than 150 articles and FAQs about all aspects of teaching English abroad and TEFL certification, from salaries and hiring procedures to visas and housing arrangements.
  3. You can also call International TEFL Academy, which certifies nearly 1,500 people a year to teach English abroad, at 773-634-9900 to speak for free with an expert advisor who will answer your questions about teaching around the world.

These are just some of the resources you can use to research opportunities to teach English abroad and to learn how teaching overseas can help you achieve your goal of traveling and living abroad.  To learn more, request a 30-page eBook about teaching English abroad from the International TEFL Academy or call 773-634-9900 to learn more about teaching English abroad and TEFL Certification around the world.


About the author: John Bentley is a Senior Admissions Advisor at the International TEFL Academy, which trains and certifies 1,500 people a year to teach English abroad and provides lifetime job search guidance to all students and graduates.  John wrote for the Egypt-Israel edition of the famous Let’s Go! travel guide series and he has worked in the field of international travel and education throughout his career.  He also grew up in Egypt and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe.




5 Hostels Great for Female Travelers
Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

prague female friendly hostel

PLUS Prague Female Friendly

Traveling alone as a female in a foreign country can be intimidating. With all the different things to think about, such as travel schedules, places to visit, safety, and eating, the details can get overwhelming quickly. Luckily, there are dozens of hostels around the world that are perfect for the solo female traveling on a budget. Some of them are only open to women and others have women-only areas. Check out these hostels in world-class destinations that will make you feel safe, comfortable, and welcome.

PLUS Prague Hostel – Prague, Czech Republic

Located in one of the most beautiful historic cities in all of Europe, the PLUS hostel has more than 540 beds along with an indoor swimming pool and sauna for you to relax in after a day spent exploring the city. There is also a restaurant on-site with affordable meals and a bar to meet other people from around with the world with similar travel ambitions as you. There are multiple different room options with mixed rooms as well as female only rooms and each room has its own private bathroom. There is also a PLUS girls space, intended to allow you to indulge in being a woman and forget that you are living out of a backpack. There are big bathrooms fully equipped with cosmetic tables, large mirrors, and hairdryers. You’ll receive an extra fluffy towel and a small bag of cosmetics that you can take with you.

Hostelle Female Hostel – Amsterdam, Netherlands

This hostel caters exclusively to women and is a 15 minute tram ride from the Central Station. There are a variety of different sized dorm rooms available, and each room has its own theme, comfy linens, and some even have a balcony to admire the view from. The cozy atmosphere lends itself to meeting new people in a safe environment.

FIT Hotel – New York City, USA

FIT NYC hostel

FIT Hostel in New York City

Located near Central Park and the Museum of Natural History, the Jazz on Amsterdam Avenue Hostel in the FIT hotel is located in the heart of New York. Outfitted with two-bed women only rooms, or private double or twin rooms, you can feel safe in this classy hotel. There is a private lounge, lobby, cafe, and luggage storage for all travelers to relax and share stories of their day. You can check out more hostels in New York via HostelBookers.com.

Base St Kilda – Melbourne, Australia

Located on the sunny seaside, this affordable hostel caters to solo women travelers. Not only is there a private lounge for relaxing after a day of fun, but women are also outfitted with a gift pack, including hair care products and other cosmetic items. Bathrooms are equipped with hairdryers and straightening irons so that you can leave each morning looking your best. To encourage the social scene, free champagne is served every night.

St. Christopher’s Inn-Oasis – London, England

St. Christopher Hostel London

St. Christopher Inn Oasis London

Found in the London Bridge area, this women’s-only hostel is a beautiful blend of affordability and luxury. There are a variety of different sized dorm rooms, and the bathrooms are all filled with hairdryers, towels, quality shampoos, and body washes. To make sure you look good from head to toe when you leave, each of the dorm rooms also have a full length mirror.

Backpacking around the world as a solo woman doesn’t mean you have to be roughing it in dark hostel rooms or being worried about your safety at night. By finding the right places to stay, you can enjoy traveling and have some luxuries too. Staying at hostels lets you meet other people doing the same thing you are and gives you the opportunity to make new friends while not spending a lot of money. If you are looking for some more inspiration then you can check out HostelBookers’ page on hostels for female travelers here.

This article was written by HostelBookers.com

The Naysayers
Thursday, August 8th, 2013

A group of career breakers future and past meet in Seattle at a local meetup

No matter what it is that brought you to the decision to take a career break, it’s important to keep reminding yourself what that motivating force was.  You will meet naysayers along the way, trying to get you off course and doubting yourself and your choices. There will be people telling you that are ruining your life. Telling you that your life will never be the same. They’ll say things like:

  • “You’re going to ruin your career, you know?”
  • “Why don’t you just wait until you retire?”
  • “It’s not safe to travel where you’re going.”
  • “Must be nice to be rich.”
  • “That’s the worst thing you could ever do for your kids. How selfish.”
  • “You’re traveling for a year with your wife? Good luck not killing each other.”

And while the statements above may infuriate you, they are right about one thing. Your life will never be the same. If you decide to take charge of your life and take back your time, things will change. If you decide to truly make your dreams come true, the person you are right now, this second, will change. And it will change for the better.

While the detractors like to think that you’ll end up in a gutter somewhere if you dare veer off the path set forth for you by society, chances are the opposite will happen. You’ll come back from a break like this more open-minded, more willing to try new things, more outgoing, more able to adapt to change, more motivated, and more confident than ever before. Life as you knew it before your career break will be but a distant memory.

Eliminating Negative Human Influences

Crafting your environment is not only about surrounding yourself with people of similar mindsets and goals, it also means that you may have to change your relationship with people who don’t support your goals. There will be people in your life who don’t understand why you are doing this – then what do you do?

Simple – ditch the haters. OK – maybe it’s not that simple. What if they are friends or family? You don’t have to disown them – but consider not sharing this part of your life/plans with them. As long as you have other supportive people to share with, then you simply can change how and what you engage with the non-supportive people about.

Katie Aune shares how she handled the reaction of unsupportive friends and where she found a new support system to lean on.

Remember – staying motivated and achieving goals is about surrounding yourself with supportive people. One of the most important things you can do in order to stay motivated and moving towards your goal is to craft your environment to be supportive.

Where to find people in your community:

• Meet, Plan, Go! Events: We hold local events in a handful of cities  – check out our calendar and see if you can join in the Career Break conversation with people in your city. You can fill out a traveler profile over at Bootsnall.com and meet other long term, career break, and around the world travelers!

• Meetup.com: Search for “Travel” in your town/city and see if there are any groups meeting in your area. If you didn’t find one in your city, then you can start your own – it’s simple to hold your own meet-up group.

• Travel Massive: A global initiative to connect people in the travel industry locally, bringing together travel bloggers, brands, startups and socially engaged travelers

• Couchsurfing: A worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit.

Non-Human Influences

BOOKS: Here are some of our favorite career break and travel-related books.

• Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

• The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, Amanda Pressner

•  The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook by Jeff Jung

• Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau

• Escape 101 by Dan Clements and Tara Gignac

• Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim

• Reboot your Life by Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley, Jaye Smith

Have you ever come across Naysayers when talking about your career break?  How did you handle it?


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.


“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.”


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
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.

Travel Gearology Update
Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Jannell Howell kicked off her first around-the-world journey in January and has already explored Thailand and a bit of Cambodia. She is now in India with plans to see Jordan, Europe, and Morocco before coming back to the U.S. In 2010, Jannell started Traveljunkie’s World Tour to blog about her trip preparations and in the process became a self-confessed travel gearologist.  This post is in follow-up to a few gear & service items she highlighted prior to beginning her trip.

In January, I explained how my passion for gearology came about and shared a few items I was sure would make my around-the-world trip better.  I’ve had a few months to test them out on the road and want to provide some results.  Additionally, I’ve discovered several items that I have not used and am trying to decide if I they should stay in my suitcase.

Still loving my PacSafe Venture Safe backpack and its anti-theft powerhouse features.  I haven’t noticed any thwarted pickpocket attempts, but I do feel much better knowing I can lock down the zippers and that the bag is durable – no frayed seams, no broken components and no worn zippers.  The Venture Safe 25L backpack is my new ‘wubby’ as I always have it with me.  

As I’ve been staying in hotels/hostels with wi-fi, I haven’t used the Alfa long-range wi-fi antenna much.  Given that I used it recently at a bus station in Thailand to gain access to a remote wi-fi signal, I can honestly say that the antenna works as described.  I was even successful in using it to increase the wi-fi signal strength at a hostel I was staying in; unfortunately, I learned that a stronger signal does not increase the internet connection speed (drat!).  If I continue to stay in hotels, hostels, or apartments with decent wi-fi, I doubt I will need to use the antenna on a regular basis.

Now that I am traveling, my focus is no longer on accruing frequent flyer miles; luckily, the Travel Hacking Cartel offers videos and other tutorials to help me USE miles to my advantage. I will continue to look at the mileage accrual deals conveniently emailed to me for good opportunities, as my next goal is use frequent flyer miles to stay in a five-star resort.  Perhaps I should change my membership to start learning ways to obtain upgrades? 

The Mobal global sim card won’t really be used until an emergency, but I have tested it twice so far. There were no problems calling the US from Thailand and I had no difficulty receiving a call while in Cambodia. I can confirm (and as advised), that the GSM sim card does not work in Japan.  To coordinate with other travelers in Thailand, I purchased a local sim card for $12 US, but I didn’t use it to call home.  I have been relying on a combination of email, Skype, and Google Voice to keep in touch back home.  I will continue to test the Mobal sim card as I make my way through Nepal, India, Europe, and Morocco.

After lengthy research, I purchased and brought a few items that I have yet to use:

— Headlamp (guess I am not staying in remote places)

— 65L waterproof bag (this was a “what if” purchase)

— Sink plug (I tend to wash clothes in the shower with me – rinse and hang up right away). Plus, having laundry done in Southeast Asia has been extremely inexpensive.

— I have yet to use my sleep sheet. Either I am a gross person or I just haven’t stayed anywhere icky yet?

In the next month or so, I’ll decide if I should purge a few items from my suitcase. I have a nagging suspicion that as soon as I send home something – THAT is when I’m going to need it!  As I am meeting and talking to other travelers on the road, I am adding to my list of travel gear and services to research.  I’ve come to understand that there is a wide range of travel styles and traveler types. For the moment I’m in the ‘flashpacker’ (backpacker with a bigger budget) category. Gear is not static – one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.

What items have you found most useful when you travel? What have you discovered you can do without?


Travel Gear Tips from a ‘Gearologist’
Monday, January 9th, 2012

Jannell HowellJannell Howell is about to embark on an around-the-world journey that will take her through many countries including Thailand, India, Jordan, and Europe before coming back to the U.S. 15 months ago, she began blogging about her preparations on her site Traveljunkie’s World Tour.

Jannell has discovered a love of researching travel-related gear and services and shares some of her favorite finds with us.

While going through Meet, Plan, Go!’s Career Break Basic Training, I was introduced to some pretty incredible services and gear that I didn’t know existed. In the process of learning more about these newfound products, I found that I REALLY enjoyed the research. I have since completed the Basic Training course, but have continued to explore new items and I look forward to further study which, I admit, borders on obsession . . . perhaps I’ve become a travel gear-ologist?


VentureSafeThe PacSafe VentureSafe 25L backpack is my favorite piece of gear so far. The VentureSafe has a deceivingly large amount of space, a padded 13″ laptop pocket and is surprisingly comfortable.

It’s also an anti-theft powerhouse with slash-proof metal ‘exomesh’ within the fabric, zippers that hook and hide closed and extra durable slash-proof straps. I think the VentureSafe is the ultimate traveler’s daypack and am so pleased I got one.

Wifi Antenna

One piece of gear that I can’t wait to see in action is an Alfa 802.11g/n wifi antenna. I got this tip from Anil Polat of FoxNomad (Thanks, Anil!). This palm-size antenna plugs into my laptop via USB port and is said to increase the wireless Internet range so I can search and find more (hopefully unlocked) networks. The Alfa wifi antenna can be used with either PC or Mac operating systems and boasts a strong signal, high speed data transfer rate, and keeps my wireless data secure. I love that the antenna is only 2 ounces and measures 3.5 x 2.5 inches (8.5 x 6.3cm) so it can be packed easily.

Airline Miles

Travel Hacking CartelHands down, the best service I’ve used this last year is the Travel Hacking Cartel by Chris Guillebeau. Per the Cartel website, Chris ‘teaches members about glitch fares, round-the-world tickets, padding mileage accounts, earning elite status and much more’. Members get video tutorials on what travel hacking is all about and deal alerts emailed to them on airline mileage promotions, hotel points, car rental offers – even frequent dining programs!

Chris offers a guarantee of at least four free plane tickets a year and monthly memberships start as low as $15 (well worth the information you get) with a 14-day trial period for just a dollar. With the information I learned in the Cartel, combined with some ‘strategic spending’, I’ve earned 94,000 frequent flyer miles in one year – without getting on a flight!

Sim Card

global sim cardOnce I am outside the U.S., I’ll explore Mobal’s global sim card service. I wanted the option to make/receive a regular phone call when I don’t have access to wifi/Skype. Since I will be traveling to more than 15 countries, I wanted to avoid the hassle of getting a new sim card for every country. Additionally, it is much easier to give my family one international phone number to reach me instead of 15+. By using the Mobal sim card in my unlocked GSM phone, I only have to pay for activation once ($9), the card works in over 190 countries without monthly service fees or minimum usage and never expires. Unlike other sim card providers, Mobal charges for calls after I’ve made them.

The best attribute about using Mobal’s sim card is the high quality call signal. The service will automatically connect to the strongest cell phone signal wherever I am. The only downer I could find about Mobal was the expensive call rates (from $1.50 to $3.95 per minute), but I don’t intend on using it often. Aside from testing it (in one minute spurts!), I’ll use the sim card in case of emergency when call quality is the most important.

Jannell HowellThese are just a few of my favorite items. I am already so confident about these products that I signed up as an affiliate, but will thoroughly ‘test-drive’ them in the coming months and will share my experience with Meet, Plan, Go! – So ‘stay tuned’.

You can read about other travel-related products I’ve studied and I will continue to research MANY more items. I’d love to hear from other travelers about their favorite gear and/or services (I gotta feed my obsession).

– Your friendly travel ‘gearologist’

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