Those of you following my blogs know that I am well into a trip around the world. In my last blog, I told you what I did wrong. Now I’ll tell you what I did right.
Travel with Small Duffel Bags and a Small Back Pack
I only travel with what I can carry in my hands and on my back. That forces me to be a minimalist. In my case, I use the small Eagle Creek duffel bags. I carry two small bags rather than one regular size bag for several reasons: First – it keeps me balanced. One big bag would make me lopsided and it would be too heavy for me to lift. Second – two small bags can fit into the luggage sections of tourist vans far more easily than a larger bag could. Third – I often use one bag to carry stuff I’ll need for the next few weeks and leave the other bag in a guest house to pick up a few weeks later. This lightens my load tremendously.
If you’re planning to travel in third world countries, avoid getting luggage with wheels. The sidewalks are uneven. The curbs are high. The wheels add weight. It’s just not practical.
My backpack is a small PacSafe camera bag. Of course, I carry my camera in it, but I also carry my MacBook Air, iPad, iPhone, external memory, external power supply, noise cancelling headset and all the cables and other paraphernalia I need. The PacSafe bag is lined with a wire mesh that prevents thieves from sticking knives through the bag. It’s lined with an RFID shield to prevent others from reading my credit cards and passport. It has a place for everything so I can quickly scan the cubbyholes to check that I have everything. Although I’m generally a low-budget traveler, I don’t mind spending top dollar on luggage because it pays off big time.
Computer, Tablet, Smart Phone
I buy Apple everything. Aside from the fact that I am an admitted Apple bigot, I am certain I can get technical support from certified Apple technicians anywhere in the world. I have a global Apple support plan, and I had to use that support in Bangkok. Worked like a charm.
I bought the MacBook Air because it is the thinnest and lightest-weight computer I could find in the Apple lineup that would do the work I needed to do. I had an iPhone 5 that is at least 5 years old by now. I had my telecom company unlock the phone before I left so I just need to buy a new SIM card every time I go to a new country.
I debated about whether to buy an iPad or not because there are arguments, both pro and con, once you have a computer and a smartphone. In the end I did buy one and I’m glad I did. I can carry the iPad around with me on a day’s outing and use the mapping feature so I don’t get lost. I’m building quite the eBook library on the iPad and I can read the books easily and naturally on it. It would have been a bit awkward on the computer. There are probably half a dozen applications I use regularly that just seem to fit the tablet format better than the computer or iPhone format. I would definitely recommend you pick up a tablet of some sort before you head out the door. You will find it’s worth both the extra weight and the cost.
Back Up My Computer Files with Carbonite
When I had a home office, I backed up my files on a large, local external hard drive. There are some obvious problems doing that when traveling. So I choose to backup with Carbonite and keep my backups in the cloud. Simple, cheap and weightless. You should do that too.
Build a Growing Library of E-Books
I love to read books. On earlier trips, I bought paperback books and read them in my room. I had so many books that I had to pay overweight charges at the airport. During the last 15 months on this trip I’ve built up a library of more than 40 books on my iPad. The books are always there for me. I can read them in bed even after ‘lights out’ because the tablet screen is backlit. These books cost less than half of the cost of a paperback book and I can download them immediately – no need to hike over to the local bookstore. (Actually, I still go to the bookstore, but only to get ideas about books to buy.) As long as I travel, I’ll never plan to buy another printed book.
Never Get Lost with CityMaps2Go
On earlier trips I would buy paper city maps to help me navigate my way around cities. Then I’d throw the maps into my day bag. This was good, but not great. I still got lost.
Then I discovered CityMaps2Go. This is a free app that runs on tablets and smart phones. This app allows me to download electronic maps of the territories and cities I’m visiting. Then it tracks where I am so I never get lost. I can look for specific tourist sites or hotels. Given those two, it’s a piece of cake to navigate from where I am to where I want to be. Once I have a marker for where I am and another for where I want to go, I can walk around new cities without ever worrying about getting lost. It gives me a sense of confidence I’ve never enjoyed before.
Advise My Banks That I Am Travelling
When banks recognize that someone is making ATM withdrawals from foreign countries, it’s not unusual for them to freeze the account or, even worse, treat the card as lost or stolen. By advising my banks in writing that I would be traveling overseas, my banks did not freeze my accounts. It’s a simple step I forgot to handle during my first trip out of the country.
Collect All the Right Electronics
In addition to the computer equipment I mentioned above, I bought some other electronics that proved quite valuable.
A few months ago I bought a Plantronics 725 headset with active noise-cancelling – invaluable for phone calls with clients when I am in noisy environments. Then I bought all the software I needed. Whenever the vendor comes out with an update, I download and install it automatically.
I bought a Sony compact camera – the HX400V. This is a top-end compact, but I would urge others to buy a smaller camera that is shock-resistant. Your travel camera will take a bit of a beating and you don’t want to have to be afraid to throw it into your day pack.
I bought a 10500 Asus battery pack. This is an external battery pack that’s sufficient for recharging an iPad or an iPhone but it won’t recharge a computer.
There is clearly a heavy overhead for maintaining and carrying these electronics. In fact, I bought the PacSafe backpack I mentioned earlier just for the electronics. It cost more than the most expensive backpack you’ll find in outdoor stores but I see it as essential to protect the investment I’ve made in the technologies that allow me to earn my living, manage my money, book travel arrangements, stay in touch with friends and get the training I need.
I have one piece of valuable technology that does not even weigh a gram: Fongo. Fongo is a Canadian-based telephone service that allows me to make free phone calls to nearly everywhere in Canada. Other places in Canada cost about 2 cents a minute. And I can call American numbers – both landlines and cell phones – for 2 cents a minute. The company offers low-cost phone calls to most of the other countries in the world.
I prefer Fongo over Skype because it is easier to connect, the prices are lower, the voice quality is better and I have not yet had a call dropped. Skype still has a few advantages over Fongo, though. For one, calls between Skype users are free. For another, Skype offers video connections. And third, Skype has a call recorder while Fongo does now.
My cousins south of the 49th parallel should look for a similar app – something like Line2.
Take the USANA ‘The Essentials’ Religiously
Traveling creates a whole range of stresses. I breathe polluted air in many countries and there is no getting away from it in the cities. When I change guest houses or hostels, I also change mattresses. I never know for sure how well my food has been prepared. Although I make every effort to drink bottled water, I can’t always get it. I’m facing constant uncertainty in terms of travel arrangements, sleeping arrangements and daily schedules. All of that creates a lot of stress. On top of that, travelers are vulnerable when they are traveling alone because they have no one to look after them when they get sick.
It’s vital that I stay healthy all the time. At a minimum, when I do get sick, I need to bounce back quickly. The USANA supplements I take have done wonders to help keep me healthy in spite of all the germs I come in contact with. They are so important to me that I have them air-shipped to me at a premium. Sometimes I even have to pay duty on the products. It’s worth it. I simply don’t get sick.
Learn to Teach English as a Second Language
My income on this trip has been spotty. After a year of traveling like this, I realized I needed a more stable source of income, but I didn’t want to sacrifice the travel. This led me to take the most advanced online course available to teach English as a second language. I took the course through www.myTEFL.com. The course cost $295 US but the school gave me a 40% discount, so the cost was manageable. Now I have my TEFL certificate in hand.
In April I will start teaching English to elementary and high school children in Nepal. That will give me practical experience. The combination of the TEFL certificate I earned online, practical experience in Nepal and my university degrees should set me up to get short-term teaching jobs all over the world. In fact, once I am well into teaching in Nepal, I will start applying for teaching jobs in Japan, Shanghai, Brazil, Argentina and other places that look interesting.
Teaching English does not pay a lot of money – typically something on the order of $2,000 US a month with room and board thrown in. But it provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about a new country, meet the people and see the sites. At the same time, I put a little money in the bank.
Read the Guidebooks
The guidebook I prefer is the ‘Insight’ series. This is a series of high-quality guidebooks with plenty of pictures, maps and background information on every aspect of a country. I download the books to my iPad and read them in preparation for my visit to a new country. When I go to a city or a tourist area, I take my iPad with me and carve out time to read the books while I’m at the tourist site. It helps me be sure that I know exactly what to go see – and then to understand what I’m seeing.
For macro-planning, I bought a book called ‘1,000 Places to See Before You Die.’ Wonderful book. It’s organized by country. When I’m planning to visit a country, I can quickly build a list of the top 3 to 10 places to visit. By cross-referencing the two books, I know I’m seeing the best a country has to offer a short-term visitor. (And, in an existential sense, we are all short-term visitors.)
I regret that I have not been able to learn more than a few words of the language in the countries I visit. For one thing, I’ve discovered that it’s difficult for me to learn languages. For another, I only spend a little time in each country. Third, the people I meet tell me they look forward to speaking English with foreigners.
I work while I travel. In fact, it is essential that I earn money while traveling because my miniscule pensions are inadequate to allow me to do much more than survive. I take on billable projects that often require me to master new skills. Fortunately, I can learn those skills rapidly by taking courses on Lynda.com. This site offers a wide range of courses on photography, web development, business, software, video etc. I highly recommend that long-term travelers who expect to earn while traveling subscribe to this service.
I Never Take Offense
I’ve learned to never take offense. No one ever means to be rude.
In most countries, people ask me the same 5 questions:
Where are you from?
How old are you?
Where is your family?
What religion are you?
Are you rich?
The first question is normal. In North America, we would see the other questions as intrusive. Here, they are seen as normal questions. I have fun with the questions and use them as conversation starters.
Young children are quite direct. They ask me why my skin is so pale. They want to know why my ears stick out, why I have no hair and why my nose is so skinny. In Myanmar, a country that has only recently opened its borders to tourists, even some of the adults look at me with interest. I have never sensed hostility or envy – I’ve only sensed curiosity.
Photos are Fair Use