Many travel blogs are written by people who’ve sold all their possessions and have taken a huge plunge into the world of long-term travel. This can sound expensive at first, but when you consider that you don’t have rent or a car payment in this lifestyle (or much room to carry any possessions), it can actually be very cheap to live this way, provided you can work a little along the way, or do some kind of virtual freelancing or contract work.
I’m not one of those people.
I do have rent to pay, and a car payment, and bills, and the trappings of a fairly typical middle class young urban professional life. I have a cat. I work in a cubicle. I like some amount of routine, and sleeping in my own bed. I have a ladder to climb, that I want to climb.
I also don’t have a ton of free income to spend on travel.
Despite all this, in the past 2 years I’ve managed to visit 9 cities in 4 countries (Colombia, Jordan, Egypt, Spain) and very soon I’ll be off to visit 7 more cities in 3 countries (Italy, Croatia, and Spain again — I love Spain), a 17 day trip; a few weeks after I return, I’m off again on a small trip to Mexico for a wedding. When I’m done, that’s 16 cities, 7 countries, in just 2 years. Not much for the permanent nomad, but a lot for someone who’s expected to be at work by 9am every weekday.
When people find out how much I travel, some imagine I must have a lot of spare income or be a trust fund baby. I keep encountering this perception — especially among Americans — that travel is this huge undertaking that is incredibly expensive. Well, it sure can be, if you choose to make it that way. But if you step outside this perception, and do some research, you’ll find that it really doesn’t have to be that way. Travel can be affordable, if you plan for it and prioritize it in your life.
Here’s how I do it:
1. Flights. By far, this can be the single most expensive purchase of your trip. A coach round trip ticket from the US to Europe usually runs anywhere from $700-1200 on average, depending on the season. The trick is: don’t buy your ticket with actual money. Buy it with fake money called points or miles. A few years ago, I strategically opened 2 different credit cards (one an AmEx, one a British Airways Visa) with unusually crazy high enrollment bonuses. Within just a few months’ time I went from 0 miles to 50,000 AmEx points (redeemable for airline miles on at least a 1:1 basis) and 100,000 British Airways miles. Keep in mind, BA is part of the OneWorld alliance, so I can book with other airlines using these miles. In just a few months’ time, with 2 credit cards (that didn’t hurt my credit, by the way) I earned enough miles to take 3 international round trip flights — without ever stepping on an airplane. I got the AmEx points simply for opening the card, and I earned the BA miles after spending $2500 in 3 months, which wasn’t that hard for me because I strategically put ALL my expenses on the card for 3 months.
The trick is knowing which cards to open. These cards usually aren’t well advertised, so you’ll have to do your research. A few good resources to get you started:
Unconventional Guides: Frequent Flyer Master by Chris Guillebeau. This is actually the first resource I used to learn more about travel hacking. If you’re a total newb, as I was, this is the best introduction to the world of frequent flyer miles that exists. But it’s not overly simplistic; there are a ton of insider tricks and tools in here that I haven’t even taken advantage of yet. This guide is the reason I earned 150,000 miles without stepping foot on an airplane.
FrugalTravelGuy.com This is a great blog for those interested in staying up to date on the latest frequent flyer news and credit card offers.
2. Rooms. Very rarely do I stay in what most Americans think of as a “hotel” when I travel abroad. Many travel hackers and frequent business travelers are loyal to a certain brand of hotel, especially those with their own reward points systems, which earn them free stays (and yes, there are credit cards for this too). These can be a great value and I do participate in a few programs like Hilton HHonors for stateside bookings. For my international trips, however, I prefer everyday price flexibility, so I book a variety of inexpensive, off the beaten path accommodation types — and none of them involve splitting a room with strangers, camping (not counting the bedouin camp I stayed with in Petra, which I did for the experience and not the savings), or couchsurfing. A lot of people associate budget travel with roughing it, but it is possible to be comfortable. In fact, by avoiding the beaten path, I usually have a less expensive, equally as comfortable, and more interesting cultural experience.
Most of my international trips have involved staying at a combination of private rooms at hostels, small independently owned hotels, bed & breakfasts, and private apartments.
Hostelworld.com This room search and booking site will expand your idea of what a hostel can be. Often you’ll find that smaller, inexpensive and independent hotels will list rooms on Hostelworld even if they have a website and brand themselves as a hotel or bed & breakfast. You can search for rooms nearly anywhere in the world, filter by room type (most hostels have private bedrooms, some with private bathrooms and some with shared bathrooms), location (there’s a handy map view), price and more. It’s also low risk - you just pay a small 10% down payment when you book and the rest when you check in. I’ve stayed in some very nice hostels for a fraction of the cost of an equal quality hotel and it’s one of the first places I look when I start planning a trip.
Booking.com This is a rising star in the online travel booking world for hotels. Based in Amsterdam, they are one of my top sources for rooms in Europe (though they offer rooms in several other parts of the world too). Booking.com’s strength is their breadth of rooms available; you can find a variety of low-cost, tiny, independently owned hotels that will be difficult or impossible to find elsewhere. They even offer free cancellation on many rooms. Their pricing also cannot be beat — sometimes I even find rooms that are less expensive than hostels!
Airbnb.com I am a huge fan of this service. A major disruptor to the online travel booking industry, Airbnb offers you the ability to reserve a room in a private apartment directly through someone who lives and is local to the place you’re going. You can book entire apartments or just spare bedrooms, allowing you the choice between having a cozy place all to yourself or staying with — and getting to know— a local, something that may not have happened otherwise (and my most memorable trips have been those in which I connected with locals while I was there). A few other perks can involve more amenities than a budget hostel or hotel may offer, such as the ability to wash your own laundry or cook your own food if you need to (it is an apartment, after all). I travel for 2 weeks at a time when possible (more on that later), and I pack only a carry-on. After a week like that, a washing machine is an unexpectedly welcome blessing. You’ll also get to feel more like a local, even if you never meet your host. You’re staying in a neighborhood, not a commercial, touristy zone. There’s a lot to be said for that. Finally, I love their website. Not only very easy to use and socially integrated, the design is beautiful. I love flipping through the home slideshow of gorgeous apartments on offer. It’s interior design porn at its most authentic — these are real peoples’ homes!
3. Timing and trip length. I would be remiss to say that the above 2 factors are the only methods I use to travel to so many places affordably. The fact is, I can say I fit in 16 cities and 7 countries in 2 years because of how many of those cities and countries I manage to pack into a single trip. In 2011, I did only a 1-week trip to Colombia. In 2012, I did a 17-day trip to Jordan, Egypt, and Spain. This year, I’ll do another 17-day trip (that’s essentially 12 vacation days) to Italy, Croatia, and Spain. Considering all the places within those countries I travel to in each trip, I typically pack up and move on every 2-3 days. That’s not a lot of time in each place! Just enough to visit the major sites, take in the atmosphere, and decide if I’m intrigued enough to return someday to make a longer trip of it.
This pace is not for everyone, but it works for me. I’m restless, and like squeezing every drop out of my precious vacation days. Plus, nothing’s worse than booking 5 days in a place you’ve never been, only to arrive and find out you’re bored after 1 day and it’s too late to make any changes. I intend to see the world, and I have to do it in 2 weeks per year. So, I compromise. It can be a little tiring, but I don’t take these trips necessarily to relax — I take them to recharge in other ways. Travel is my passion and I crave new cultural experiences. My worldview has expanded a little more each time I set foot on US soil again; this is creative fuel to the fire of everything I do, from painting to marketing strategy. That’s why I’m determined to prioritize it, even with a limited budget. For those who’ve also been bitten by the travel bug, you get it. The rest of the world will go on thinking that we’re rich, and I suppose that’s fine.
At the Hotel Oriental Rivoli in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Somewhat fancy, resort-style digs. About $60/night.
i dont procrastinate because im lazy i procrastinate because theres so much shit i need to do and its fucking overwhelming and i distance myself from it and do things that bring at least some enjoyment and then i get even more overwhelmed when ive procrastinated for too long i cant win its a vicious cycle
it’s weird how people talk bad about strippers but no one says anything about the people who go to see them
Also, last time I was visiting my brother and his family in South Carolina I heard a story on the news about a town trying to block an Adult Store from opening. I asked my sister-in-law why they were trying to prevent the store from opening and she told me there are already too many adult-themed stores in that town.
1. If there are already enough, why would one more make a difference? 2. Who is patronizing the existing stores to the point that people need to use local law to prevent a new, similar store from opening?
Don’t get angry at the new business trying to open; get angry at the people supporting those businesses. People vote with their dollar, regardless of their religious/political alignment.
In the game Taboo (by Hasbro), the objective is for a player to have their partner guess a word written on a card, without using that word or five additional words listed on the card. For example, you might have to get your partner to say “baseball” without using the words “sport”, “bat”, “hit”, “pitch”, “base” or of course “baseball”.
As soon as I see a problem like that, I at once think, “An artificial group conflict in which you use a long wooden cylinder to whack a thrown spheroid, and then run between four safe positions.” It might not be the most efficient strategy to convey the word ‘baseball’ under the stated rules - that might be, “It’s what the Yankees play” - but the general skill of blanking a word out of my mind was one I’d practiced for years, albeit with a different purpose.
Yesterday we saw how replacing terms with definitions could reveal the empirical unproductivity of the classical Aristotelian syllogism. All humans are mortal (and also, apparently, featherless bipeds); Socrates is human; therefore Socrates is mortal. When we replace the word ‘human’ by its apparent definition, the following underlying reasoning is revealed:
All [mortal, ~feathers, biped] are mortal; Socrates is a [mortal, ~feathers, biped]; Therefore Socrates is mortal.
But the principle of replacing words by definitions applies much more broadly:
Albert: “A tree falling in a deserted forest makes a sound.” Barry: “A tree falling in a deserted forest does not make a sound.”
Clearly, since one says “sound” and one says “not sound”, we must have a contradiction, right? But suppose that they both dereference their pointers before speaking:
Albert: “A tree falling in a deserted forest matches [membership test: this event generates acoustic vibrations].” Barry: “A tree falling in a deserted forest does not match [membership test: this event generates auditory experiences].”
Now there is no longer an apparent collision—all they had to do was prohibit themselves from using the word sound. If “acoustic vibrations” came into dispute, we would just play Taboo again and say “pressure waves in a material medium”; if necessary we would play Taboo again on the word “wave” and replace it with the wave equation. (Play Taboo on “auditory experience” and you get “That form of sensory processing, within the human brain, which takes as input a linear time series of frequency mixes…”)
But suppose, on the other hand, that Albert and Barry were to have the argument:
Albert: “Socrates matches the concept [membership test: this person will die after drinking hemlock].” Barry: “Socrates matches the concept [membership test: this person will not die after drinking hemlock].”
Now Albert and Barry have a substantive clash of expectations; a difference in what they anticipate seeing after Socrates drinks hemlock. But they might not notice this, if they happened to use the same word “human” for their different concepts.
You get a very different picture of what people agree or disagree about, depending on whether you take a label’s-eye-view (Albert says “sound” and Barry says “not sound”, so they must disagree) or taking the test’s-eye-view (Albert’s membership test is acoustic vibrations, Barry’s is auditory experience).
Get together a pack of soi-disant futurists and ask them if they believe we’ll have Artificial Intelligence in thirty years, and I would guess that at least half of them will say yes. If you leave it at that, they’ll shake hands and congratulate themselves on their consensus. But make the term “Artificial Intelligence” taboo, and ask them to describe what they expect to see, without ever using words like “computers” or “think”, and you might find quite a conflict of expectations hiding under that featureless standard word. Likewise that other term. And see also Shane Legg’s compilation of 71 definitions of “intelligence”.
The illusion of unity across religions can be dispelled by making the term “God” taboo, and asking them to say what it is they believe in; or making the word “faith” taboo, and asking them why they believe it. Though mostly they won’t be able to answer at all, because it is mostly profession in the first place, and you cannot cognitively zoom in on an audio recording.
When you find yourself in philosophical difficulties, the first line of defense is not to define your problematic terms, but to see whether you can think without using those terms at all. Or any of their short synonyms. And be careful not to let yourself invent a new word to use instead. Describe outward observables and interior mechanisms; don’t use a single handle, whatever that handle may be.
Albert says that people have “free will”. Barry says that people don’t have “free will”. Well, that will certainly generate an apparent conflict. Most philosophers would advise Albert and Barry to try to define exactly what they mean by “free will”, on which topic they will certainly be able to discourse at great length. I would advise Albert and Barry to describe what it is that they think people do, or do not have, without using the phrase “free will” at all. (If you want to try this at home, you should also avoid the words “choose”, “act”, “decide”, “determined”, “responsible”, or any of their synonyms.)
This is one of the nonstandard tools in my toolbox, and in my humble opinion, it works way way better than the standard one. It also requires more effort to use; you get what you pay for.
The Florida theater played the red-band trailer for Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac instead of Disney’s ‘Frozen’ and the trailer finished playing before the projectionist could fix the problem. For those not aware the red-band trailer for Lars Von Trier’s ‘Nymphomaniac’ features a blow job and various other sex-acts. It’s about as raw as red-band trailers get.