Be wary of free roaming animals… No matter how cute

You will likely come across many different animals along your travel trail. Among others, I’ve seen monkeys bite and dogs nip. All were avoidable, but once in a while someone wants to show-off or maybe just had one to many drinks and found a dog simply irresistible, that would otherwise seem completely mange and disgusting. Keep away from fleas, ticks and injury by keeping your distance.

Keep your passwords and credit card info safe from Internet Cafes

I started doing some research on this subject because a travel friend of mine is currently dealing with credit card fraud in Panama. Internet cafes may have software that records your keystrokes as you type. In this way, when the “keylogger” sees 16 digits in a row, it knows its is likely to be a credit card number, or possibly a password if you type your password multiple times while online.

One way to combat this is to open another internet window. Then, when you are halfway through writing your credit card number or password, type some random numbers or charictures in the additional window before completeing your password.

Taking Risks on the Road

I am currently in Panama, but was reflecting on my time in South East Asia last year, where I experienced many friends and fellow travelers fall victim to accidents including motorbike and water activities. We all travel to experience new things, often pushing the limits of our own personal comfort zone by taking it a step too far. Know your limits and don’t let the excitement of travel take you over the edge. If you haven’t been on a Motorbike before, its best not to rent one out in the hectic streets of Hanoi, Vietnam. If you haven’t surfed before, don’t rent a surfboard and hit the big waves on your first day in Panama. These may seem obvious, but unfortunately i have seen both of these circumstances play out several times over. If it’s not your own urges, it could be from the pure pressure of you travel mate(s). I’m guilty of taking things too far on many occasions, but I’ve been lucky enough to come away unscathed. It’s interesting how our minds change and transform while we travel, but its essential to keep your urges in order.

Travel on an Ocean Freighter

Ranging between $65 and $130 USD per day, per person, traveling on a cargo freighter is a unique means of travel that not many people get to experience.  At freightercruises.com you can look up the different routes of the cargo freighters to see what works for you.  They typically do round trip tickets, but offer one-way trips or “segments” as well.

Dealing with the Travel Jitters

 

For my trip to South East Asia, I went though the Travel Jitters for about six months. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to travel anymore, but I didn’t want to make the wrong choice in leaving my life behind. It had a lot to do with what was going on in my personal or work life day to day. But, over time, I knew if I didn’t get on that plane, I would look in the mirror some day and see that my own fear of the unknown defeated me. I spoke to countless people from generations above me and the resounding answer was they wished they had traveled more when they were young, or they absolutely loved their time traveling and wouldn’t give up the memories or friendships they created along the way for anything.

Overanalyzing the details is completely normal. Typically analyzing all the things that could go wrong, and assuming you will eventually wish you hadn’t left your life at home. I have yet to meet someone in any age group who regrets traveling for an extended period of time. I will not say it’s always easy, as traveling has its hardships, but I assure you that it’s not only the path to foreign discovery, but to self. The best way to find out who you are is to get out of your familiar space and explore. At home it is much more difficult to find the same stimulation that will automatically bombard you while traveling in the way of smells, sights, sounds, history, architecture and lifestyle. With all these senses firing, you will gain a much broader outlook of the world and, as a result, yourself.

Knowing who you are will allow you to choose a path that will ultimately make you a happier person. Maybe you will realize leaving you past job is what you want to do for the rest of your life after traveling for a while. Maybe you’ll leave that job and be completely disgusted by the thought of it. What’s important is that you questioned it and traveling has given you a clear view on life and the confidence in knowing who you truly are.

As Confucius said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” That first step is deciding to travel. Once that step is taken, the hardest part is over…I promise.

How to Haggle Overseas

Haggling is still a way of life in many counties around the world. If you are new the to concept outside of purchasing a car or going to the local swap-meet and want to be prepared for the lively and sometimes overwhelming wild west of open markets you will confront abroad, have a look at the tips below.

1. Don’t get visibly excited. When you find something you like, get a solid poker face on and be ready to bluff your way to a good price. If your face lights up and give off the “Oh my god this is perfect” vibe, you will likely get an even higher markup from the vendor, as they know you really want the item.

2. Decide how much its worth to you. How much are you willing to spend on the item? If you don’t set a limit in your mind, the item may remind you of the high price you paid as opposed to the cultural memento it should remind you of.

3. Allow the vendor to give you a price. I typically cut that price by 1/3 to 1/2 of the asking price and work my way up from there. This cannot be a set rule as all counties and vendors are different. It typically depends on how much im willing to spend.

4. If you are not happy with the price, feel free to start walking away.  Often, they will bring the price down further. If not, you may have brought them down as low as they’ll go. There is no shame in walking right back to the vendor to make your purchase. The vendor has their tactics and we have ours.

More often than not, there is another store or market vendor near the one you are at which is selling a similar or the same item you are bargaining for. If you cant get the price you want, take a second to look around and compare prices. Its one of the greatest powers you have over the vendors.

Haggling is not about being a hard ass. It works for some, but I don’t recommend it. You are going to want to do haggle with a smile and try to connect with the vendor. This should be a fun experience. Maybe even learn how to say clever statements like, “you’re breaking my heart” in the native language. The vendor will likely get a kick out of it and laugh. If the vendor likes you, they will give you a better price than the person who says something like, “F%&$ that, ill give you $6″. The vendor would rather have fun at work, just like you when you’re at work. You don’t necessarily have to try to be their buddy, but try to be nice.

Also, if you are serious about your markets and want to make sure you are able to get the best price, leave the nice watch (which you shouldnt bring traveling with anyway) and designer clothes behind. If you reek of the big bucks, that’s what you’ll end up paying.

Choose your Travel Guide Book

Over the past two decades, the popularity of guidebooks has grown rapidly. There is likely to be several guidebooks to choose from no matter where you travel. Typically, popular guidebooks like Lonely Planet, Lets Go! and Rough Guides cover an overview of the history and statistics of the city or town your visiting, followed by suggestions for accommodations, restaurants, activities and transportation. The only way you will be able to find the right guidebook is to have a look for yourself. I suggest going to your local book store to check the formats of each and browse amazon.com for online reviews. The following points should be considered:

  • How current is the book? Is it the most current addition? The accuracy of guidebooks begin to fade before their even printed, so you don’t want an old book which could have outdated addresses and contact information.
  • Are you looking for more information about the history of a location, or the most popular bar to meet fellow backpackers? What does the writer emphasize? 
  • Look at the maps given in the guide. Are they detailed?
  • If you choose the popular Lonely Planet as your guide, you can expect to see high demand for accommodations suggested in the book. Know that many other travelers will be reading exactly what you read, and as a result, competing for the same beds. During high season, consider contacting popular accommodations before arrival.
  • If you’re visiting a few countries in a region, consider buying a guide which covers multiple countries. As I write this I am in Cambodia, but I have been carrying the same lonely planet guide that covered other destinations i have visited on this trip including Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. The book also covers Indonesia, which I wont be visiting, but it was worth not having to carry several book or purchasing one for each country. Consider cutting out the pages of the countries you wont be visiting.
  • If you plan to carry a book for each country, buy one for your first stop and trade guide books with someone as you leave for your next country.

Once in a while, put your guidebook away and find something off the guides trail. Guidebooks are a great tool for reading about culture, history, language and suggestions, but its important to branch out from time to time if you find yourself sticking to a guidebook.