Travel

Cheap Travel and Other Tips

 

I often get asked about traveling. How I personally do it, or better yet, how I can afford it.

This is a real difficult question to answer because it is really up to the individual asking; everyone wants something different out of travel, has places they won’t go, or things they will not do.

This blog post is more for the ones who are not afraid to sacrifice in order to save some dough.

Let’s dive in.

 

Use airfare apps or sites such as Skyscanner, Hopper, or Hipmunk.

These apps and sites allow you to find the cheapest flights by pretty much cross-referencing other sites such as Kayak.com. If you don’t have a set date yet you can use the graph tool or the color coordinated price tool (no idea what the correct terminology happens to be) but you will see what I mean. Once on these sites it is pretty self-explanatory. Select destinations, dates, and so on.

For flying I recommend checking flights early and using the price tracker apps like Hopper, which see if flights go up or down and notify you accordingly. It is almost like playing the stock market.

The cheapest flight may have long layovers so plan for sleeping in airports if you want to save money. This is far from my favorite part of traveling but for the experience I’ll do just about whatever it takes.

Also try booking flights during the weekdays two months or two weeks before, as it seems flights are cheaper. Oh, and try not to fly weekends or big holidays if you can avoid that. You will not only pay more but will also be in a world of misery when the flight delays start to hit.

Skyscanner also has an “explore” option, which allows you to basically look at the best deals and dates no matter where and when they are. This is good for getting ideas on where to go or inspiration to get up and running.

 

Coach surfing, hostels, home stays, Airbnb, hotels.

Pretty much in that above order.

Seriously, this is going to be the second most expensive part of your budget (behind airfare).

I get a lot of questions about the safety of hostels and regards to staying with other people and I have done this hundreds of times, on five different continents, you will be just fine. Just always watch out for yourself.

Bring a lock or rent one at the hostels. Most, if not all, have a locker for your luggage and belongings. The hostels are shared spaces like dorms in college and are a great way to meet people if you are traveling solo. And before you ask, I have met plenty of solo women travelers as well that stay in the hostels.

Hostels have amenities just like a hotel, yet some are better than others.

For first timers you can use Hostelworld or couch surfing apps and for my older friends out there than AirBnb might be a better option, especially if you have kids.

The apps mentioned above give you a rating and review system on Hostelworld; and couch surfing is much like a social media site and people are “verified”.

AirBnb allows you to pick out a place that is an entire home, condo, etc, or you can rent out a room. Renting a room is cheaper but obviously less private.

Of course there are sites and apps like bookings.com, hotels.com, kayak.com… I really shouldn’t have to go into detail about these.

 

Food, food, food.

As far as food goes, there are also many options.

Being a bit of a food person I tend to eat street food or as locally as I can get and that can be anything from tostadas, a piping hot and aromatic bowl of pho, or even some pigs brains. Now you don’t have to eat like this to avoid spending a fortune but eating what the locals eat is usually the best way to avoid that, but maybe not dysentery.

Western food is expensive no matter where you go, so I tend to avoid it. If you don’t see any cows around, the chances are a hamburger is going to cost you a pretty penny and probably won’t be appetizing—or even beef.

You can also buy groceries and cook for yourself (depending on where you are staying). Most hostels and Airbnb places have kitchens available for use. So buying at local markets and making your own food is probably the cheapest way to go other than starvation.

 

How do I get there?

Then we come to transportation.

Buses are usually cheap and can range from city buses to cross country sleepers. Be sure to check the reviews on bus companies before getting tickets.

There is a lot of information out there about sleeper buses and city routes on other blogs and websites. Personally, I have never really had any horror stories other than in Vietnam where they wanted my party to sleep on the aisle floor of an overnight bus.

Just be cautious and careful.

Trains are great in Europe and other places like Japan but will cost you a little more usually. They also tend to get you to your destination faster.

Taxis, tuk-tuks, and Ubers are also an option but be weary of getting ripped off. Always make sure your taxi is being metered or you negotiate a fair before getting in. The same applies for tuk-tuks.

Lastly, just be aware of what is going on around you, stay safe, and have a good time. Travel isn’t about getting to the destination; it is about the journey – good or bad.

 

Register with the embassy

Figure out where the embassy is and make sure to write down the address.

I screen shot everything too. You can register with them and make life easy or you can be like me, lazy.

Knowing where to find the embassy in the countries being traveled to is fine just in case you lose your passport or run into trouble.

 

Take photos/photocopies of important documents 

Photos and photocopies can spare someone from a lot of stress.

Take cell phone photos of important things such as: passports, visas or anything else that is needed while out in the world.

Once said documents are lost there is not as much stress if a photo is on hand; although new documents will be needed eventually.

This is a trick to spare a few days of headaches.

 

Bring extra passport photos

Passport photos come in handy for in country visas (visa that can be purchased in the country you are traveling through).

Having some extra pictures of your mug is good anyways.

For all of my fellow narcissists out there.

 

Stay at a hotel or with a host after flying

You will thank me later for this one.

Yes, you can get right off the plane and run to a hostel or go out and explore but most likely jetlag will catch up with you.

Why not take it easy for just a day by knowing you have amenities surrounding you?

Now, if this is your first rodeo, just go out and get your feet wet.

 

Find the names of local transportation before leaving 

If the research can be done beforehand, than why not do it?

Find out what the names are for the buses, trains, and other transit; maybe even print out underground rail maps as they can get confusing in some big cities. I know that Berlin is a little crazy when it comes to the underground.

Having apps for the different forms of transportation is a good thought too.

These are very useful when trying to find the schedules of arriving and departing trains and buses.

 

Change your cell service 

Don’t buy an international plan because most of the cell service providers have something they can switch the service to while traveling.

Most of the time this is done at no extra costs but there are limitations.

These limitations can range from not having any service other than Wi-Fi in certain countries to having the slowest service or emergency outgoing calls only.

I do not work for a service provider, so contact the specific one you have and sort out the details.

Don’t be afraid to keep them on the line while you ask questions to iron out all the fine print. We all pay a ridiculous amount for the use of these devices, they can field a few questions.

 

Alert your credit card and bank providers

Credit card companies will most likely shut off cards if they are not alerted beforehand about traveling out of country or even out of your hometown.

Avoid getting declined that cannoli because your card won’t go through.

This also applies to your bank. Call them and give them a heads up that you are leaving the country.

Again, you don’t want to be trying to take out money for beers at a local pub just to be cut off by the bank.

Skip all of the grief and call the bank and credit companies, they will probably ask what countries and for how long.

On a side note, if you don’t like talking on the phone log on to the website and most likely there is an option to set travel details. This would also be a good time to ask if there are any foreign interest rates or anything of that nature. Some companies will charge you interest or fees to use your card in other countries.

 

Bring books or fill up your phone with music

Planes, trains, and automobiles can only get people from point A to point B so fast.

Entertainment is a must, so load that cell phone, iPad, or other device up with music, books, movies, and what ever else you can. If you have room in you luggage, pack some books in there.

Nothing sucks more than a 6-hour train or bus ride without music.

 

Keep a level head and be aware of your surroundings

 

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Philosophy, Ramblings, Travel

Distracted

Asking kids what they want to do with their life is crippling.

It drives them to the point of anxiety.

At which point everyone walks around thinking that if they don’t know the next move then they have failed.

I never had any intention of ruling the world.

It was somewhere outside of Delaware, late into the night.

That’s when I found myself.

Or it could have been on an empty train lost in northern Italy.

Yeah, That’s where I found myself.

It could have been in a foreign airport, or an open road, even a drunken night out laughing with friends; but maybe I haven’t found myself yet.

Maybe the man I’m looking for so hopelessly is still out there waiting to be discovered.

Could it be that with each sip of whiskey, each mile, each fear, the innocent laughs and the unbarring tears, that I’m closer to finding what makes me up?

I can’t help as I take this late night drive but to conjure up all the emotions I once had on these very roads. Maybe these memories compose the man I am. These events that at one point impacted my every being.

Could familiarity be what makes a man or is it something greater?

Do we learn, grow and get wiser? Or just familiar.

As for me?

Well, I am still at a crossroads.

The feeling of a million things pulling me in all directions.

I guess the road can do that to you after awhile. It turns you into something new while you are still searching for what you once were.

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Philosophy, Ramblings, Travel

Open Sky

God, it used to be so much different; the world seemed like a lighter place. Now we have moved far from the simplicity we once took for granted. Now we look back at the roughest of times and whisper, "man, those were the days". As if we would go back and relive those moments.

Well the truth is we wouldn't.

We would scream and yell the same obscenities that once flowed from our lips.

Nostalgia is pain and the future is bleak at best, so live in the moment.

Kiss in a downpour; drink to excess; eat like a glutton; love, curse, fight, walk slowly. Because moments are fleeting and one day you will look back with starry tear-filled eyes and think… "God, it used to be so much different; the world seemed like a lighter place".

But you don't know.

You don't know what it's like to lie in bed sleepless with all these ramblings in your head.

Tough times don't breed tough people.

Tough times are just that–tough.

And you should, you should go gentle into that good night; because, raging against it will only prolong the inevitable.

People fucking fade.

So when my day comes to catch up on sleep–I'll embrace it like an old friend.

I've lived well.

No rage. Just love.

Riding off into that good night like a cowboy to the sunset.

I want to be like John Wayne in one of those spaghetti westerns. Tipping my hat to my lady and galloping away, never to be seen again.

At the end of the day, life is not about money, fame, or any of those petty attainments.

Life is about empathy.

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Philosophy, Travel

The Path Less Traveled

I’d like to believe that travel makes me a better man. It opens me up to new ideas, new cultures, new foods. It doesn’t judge me, yet, I may at times judge it. I may get exhausted or livid while traveling. At the end of the day, travel is still here for me. 

For better or worse.

Often I consider myself to be very articulate but recently I have not wanted to write. I felt out of place writing about things that I see, a fraud if you will. Somewhere in Spain I started to feel myself again. Not what society, friends, or even family perceived me as. I am still learning, growing, and at times, failing. But as long as you fail forward life will be ok.

So fail, fail forward. Fail a lot. Learn what makes and breaks you as a person. Learn what you love and what scares you. And face it all down each day.

As for me? 

Maybe I’ll find a nice Spanish woman, settle down, have a few hell raisers. Develop a healthy addiction for cured ham, cheeses, and alcohol. And die young.

That it, that’s how I want to go. 

While under the influence of jamón and sangrias. 

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Philosophy, Travel

Short and Sweet 

Old punk rock fills my ears as I sit at a wooden counter top that has obviously seen better days. And did I mention there is an endless supply of draft beer and accompanying booze meant for human consumption?

No, this isn’t heaven but it’s pretty close. 

No matter where I find myself in the world I always seek out grungy dive bars. Because, well, I just feel at home. These are my people! Wait, why is that old guy passed out on the bar? It’s only noon!

You may ask yourself, where is The Beard this time? Where is he face deep in some sudsy goodness? Could it be Ireland, London, NYC, Miami? Could it be some crazy little Midwest town in the states where he is surrounded by truckers, bikers, and ladies who dance provocatively for a living?

Not even close. Where I am is far from those places. One might even say it’s the holy land… Of course I am speaking of Jerusalem.

The second you step foot on the slick stone walkways of the old city you feel it. You sense an energy gripping you that this place is archaic. Not old like your grandfather; I am talking drastically ancient.

This is the setting for that one book that you probably should be reading–yes you, heathen. 

The old city of Jerusalem is like if a central Asian market had a baby with a small city. It is lined with merchants and food stalls, often times, trying to get your business. Separated in three quarters (Jewish, Muslim, Christian) a person can find any food or item that they desire. The vast possibilities of culinary treats include: Shawarma, hummus, falafel, and pretty much any other levanent or Middle Eastern dish you can fathom.

Here is a place you can buy stuff for friends and family, exchange money, see every tourist in the world…

With all that being said, let’s raise our glasses to dive bars. Let’s raise a glass to merchants and the aroma protruding from food stalls. These things are a slowly bringing the world together.

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Philosophy, Travel

Tel Aviv, Israel.

Israel. 

A hotbed for controversial subject matter. From political and economical, all the way down to religion. In regards to the part known as Tel Aviv, well, you might just forget these issues for just a moment because Tel Aviv is a bubble…

Are those people with tattoos? Wearing shorts and quirky shirts? Beards and round glasses? Are those… Are those hipsters? 

If you take a quick deliriously delightful walk, mainly caused by jet lag, around this city not far from the beach. You will in fact find yourself surrounded by gentrification. 

At first I thought it was just the jet lag setting in but there are hipsters everywhere.

Strategically placed in between the spice and retail shops some of the sights may scare those who have seen what these pseudo fashionistas and latte sippers do to older parts of cites. The nice man selling spices now has to share space abreast from coffee shops, slick restaurants, and other trendy endeavors. 

But is gentrification a bad thing? The old has to — at some point in time — innovate, adapt, or die. 

Is culture destroyed? Do we lose some sort of history and authenticity when things are gentrified? Socrates would probably ponder the same questions if he lived in these times. Hell, he might have been a hipster himself.

Gentrification, a lot like tourism, can take something that brings us satisfaction and glee and just smash it all to pieces like a fully built lego set that your older brother crushes. 

When mankind tends to love or enjoy something then we often smother it — spend every second basking in the way it makes us feel. We want to travel to experience culture, enlightenment, and cuisine; but sadly with this we also leave behind our impact on the places we encounter as travelers. 

We essentially destroy a part of what we had lusted for. 

The same principals apply for gentrification. 

I will be the first one to say that it’s not all doom and gloom. 
No! In fact look at hipster style food trends for example; I will be the first in line for that crazy new spin on pork belly or to sit in awe over the chef spooning a heap of smoked bacon foam over my otherwise plain and ordinarily boring BLT sandwich. 

I get it, it’s innovative, it’s trending, sometimes it’s even, god I’ll say it… It’s even more delicious than before!

But aside from these incoherent ramblings about the future, there is still an Israel. There is still, specifically, a Tel Aviv. 

From the markets that boast fresh produce all the way down to seafood caught daily in the Mediterranean. The honking of taxis and buses; families walking around Rothschild street’s scenic stretch. The town is getting a mixture of different cultures but there is one common theme for the most part — coexistence. 

At least for now the workers will work, the chefs will cook, families will live, and life will go on. At least for now while standing at a busy street corner or a market — pumping like a fully functioning aortic valve — you see it. 

Like I said before, Tel Aviv is a bubble. A bubble that exists, what seems like, far beyond the affairs that trouble other parts of Israel. It is more progressive, more open-minded. And whatever the future may hold for this city on the Mediterranean coast, hopefully it will remain a beautifully diverse bubble. 

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Philosophy, Travel

Let’s Wait and See

This time I am far, far gone — way out. Busses, taxis, and shuttles could barely reach me to snatch me back from the void, if just to turn around and thrust me back into reality. 

Past the mountains, through windy highways; just me and the coastline to my left, desert to my right. 

Final destination? 

Kum Kum: a secluded beach bungalow on the Red Sea's shoreline. The places along the water are usually run by Bedouins, a nomadic people of the Middle Eastern deserts. These are people who thrive on providing hospitality to any visitor that may come their way.

The Egyptian flags swaying with every passing gust, an occasional clunking of gears being shifted on a commercial truck, Saudi Arabia slowly moving into focus across the waterway.

Peace and serenity. 

Those awakened ideals can be found here; right here, in the middle of the world. 

Right where it all began.

All is not well in this part of the world, and nor has it ever been. There are still many issues troubling northern African countries and their surrounding neighbors: war, famine, poverty, disease, Sally Struthers. 

This is still — technically speaking — the Middle East.

But for that brief moment in time, as I looked out at the Red Sea with a cool Arab breeze sweeping through my scruffy blonde hair, the world felt alright. A place that I had never dreamt of until now had opened a spot for me. And come what may, I was in the continent of Africa; sitting on a beach located in the southern Sinai Peninsula; in Egypt.

And can I just say that the days seem long but all so much more vibrant with life. 

Time just moves on a much slower liner scale here. Everything, for that matter, moves a little more slowly. 

Once you get by the basic shock of being in physical and emotional paradise. Well, you start to see the world as a different place. 

I would not advise to visit this land if you are the more naive and ignorant westerner: There is Arabic spoken, the people here do adhere to Muslim standards, and there will be those crazy, yet enchanting, songs on the loud speaker.

My rambling seems to have went on a little longer than usual… What's in this tea? That couldn't have been tobacco in that paper I inhaled. And, shit! Why is the rum gone? 

It's all ok, Logan. Just look at the stars. Look at all of them. 

And, boy. I have never seen a more eloquently beautiful sight. It is like I could pick a twinkling star from the sky like a tomato, fresh off the vine.

This is the Middle East and it's not. it's a lusciously seductive taste of culture that will, for the most part, Leave you blissfully blown away. 

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The above was written days before I would learn of the horrid attack on a bus of Egyptian Coptic Christians in the city of Cairo. 

The above was selfishly written far from the evil that the world seems to have to endure almost daily.

Egypt, and specially, the people on the Sinai Peninsula, welcomed me into their homeland with open arms. 

The driver that had taken me to my little seaside getaway waited for me at the border when I was leaving (he was late so his brother picked me up). He waited for me and my travel partner to bid us farewell. 

This was about an hour before I would first hear of the tragedy that had fallen on Egypt. The last words this man told me as I stepped across the border were, "this is your home now". 

A piece of my heart will always reside in Egypt, and for now, the rest of my heart is with them as well. 

Maybe not all is good in the world. 

Bad things happen to good people daily. 

What is the right mindset to have? Do we respond to violence and pure evil with compassion and peace or more violence and anger?

I really don't know anymore; but I hope for the sake of the world that we figure out the answer soon.

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