Excited by Airbnb!

With my tenure in the Middle East coming to a close, I have set my mind on new adventures. My current musing have me, in my mind’s eye, backpacking around Europe. A Europe of the summer type of event. This, as we all know, is not the cheap time to be in Europe. Normally, I would consider the shoulder season, unless there is a specific date range that I need to be in a specific country for. Shoulder season is the better time to be in the land of the Euro. The prices are cheaper, the crowds are less, and the weather is still pretty nice. Current planning still has me heading back across the Atlantic in the spring shoulder season. That will allow me to cover some ground before prices start to climb. After the prices start to climb, I have been researching options to keep the overall cost down to a reasonable extravagance.

This research has led me to become extremely curious about Airbnb. I have heard a lot about Airbnb over the last couple years but have never tried them out. I tend to just find low cost hotels and consider that good enough. I’m not a hosteler. I’m too old for that experience. So, it’s usually hotels.

I was reading a good piece on keeping things within budget from light-travels.co. It is a great blog, full of good advice, and a breeze to read. In a section regarding maximizing your travel money, Carly (the blog’s author) was a great proponent of Airbnb, as their pricing for stays of more than a couple days was a good cost savings. This article led me to their website. Since then, I have spent many hours on their site typing in different cities and date ranges to see what is on offer. I am continuously amazed by the difference in pricing they offer compared to even low-grade hotels in the same cities.

I have to say, this has me very excited. I even changed my way of thinking about the trip to incorporate more week-long Airbnb locations, as opposed to 2 and 3-day hotel stays. I’m hoping that this will extend out my available travel time by keeping the cost down. I will definitely be letting everyone know how things are going once I get out on the backpacking trail. Until then, I’m just super excited about looking at the website and seeing what the available options are.

Hopefully, this gets you thinking about ways you can stretch your travel budget. Travel doesn’t have to be overly expensive. It just tends to end up that way via the path of least resistance. If you look around for options, they are usually there for you. Definitely look around before you just book that all-inclusive vacation package. A little research will save you some money.

Now get out there. Go vacation and stuff.

Just Say Yes.

This post isn’t really a travel post. It’s more of a mindset post. It’s about how you end up doing the things you end up doing.

Generally, I find that my friends fall into one of two broad categories. There are people that take the chances, go do the things they want, and generally have a good time. Then, there are those that are set back more, always justifying why they shouldn’t do something, and are generally sedentary. I have a lot of people in this second group that will say things like: “I can’t believe you did that.”, “I thought about doing that, but…”, “I don’t know how you do those things or go to those places?”, and a host of others. In my distinct opinion, they all boil down to meaning the same thing. When the opportunity came along, for whatever reason, they said no. It’s as simple as that.

I admit that I’ve done a few crazy things in my lifetime. How this happens to me, and why I am never at a loss for a story in a bar can be summed up pretty easily. When the universe offers me a new/stupid/crazy/exciting opportunity, as a general rule, I say yes.

It’s that simple. When I stumble across things that look intriguing, I decide if I can pull it off or not, and I say yes. By pull it off, I don’t mean succeed at it. I have failed in multiple different things, after repeated attempts to do them. (Sometimes, I learn slow.) I have made numerous bad decisions, but I have also made many, many more good decisions. Repeated attempts to learn to surf, maybe a bad decision. Trying to climb Mt. Rainier and failing badly every time, maybe a bad decision. Running with the bulls, awesome idea.  Riding the motorcycle to Sturgis, awesome idea. Heading down to Machu Picchu, awesome idea. And so on, and so on, and so on.

I find that most people say no, by default. They almost don’t even know they are doing it. They rationalize away their decisions, “with maybe next year”, or “it’s not financially a good idea right now.” All the rationalizations people use are simply ways of saying no. I think it’s somehow a learned response these days. Society has trained people to hold off, or to prioritize things so they are better for society. I tend to see things as what’s best for me? What new adventure can I have? What’s exciting that can be accomplished? Not being open to the idea of saying yes to things as they are presented to you, will just end up putting you in a position where less new things are presented to you. Or, that my view of the universe.

I check myself after saying no, and ask why not? It forces me to keep the idea of saying yes, in the present. I have made myself relearn a couple of important lessons over the years. I usually do the relearning once I am in the middle of the next grand idea. Those two lessons are as follows. One, Time is not the same as money. Time is life, and you only have a certain amount of it. Two, if you’re only worried about the money, don’t. the money will come back, but the time never will. Both are true, whether or not you buy into the ideas.

This is another one of those posts that was supposed to be happier in its tone than it came out. Odd? So, look at what you want to do, and say yes. It’s that simple, say yes. Don’t just dismiss ideas as not obtainable. You can have all the adventures you want to have. You do all the things you want to do. Some things will require more work than others, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. Seriously, one day I’m gonna learn to surf! It will happen. I may be 80 and on a long board, in the kiddy waves section, but it will happen. When Chance offers you a choice, SAY YES. (Seriously, that’s how I ended up working in the Middle East.)

Topside after my first dive. Great Barrier Reef. 2015. Definitely, a good yes idea!

Now get out there. Live your own adventure. Say yes to life. You’re gonna die at the end. Don’t die with things still unaccomplished.

Generally … Good Advice.

As the title eludes to the topic, this blog post is just a collection of things I have learned from traveling. I usually learned them all by doing. So, it seems like a bad idea, it was a bad idea. I find experience to be the best teacher. Here are some things that everybody should consider when traveling the globe. These ideas apply whether you’re 25 or 65. They are just pieces of good advice.

Always change your money either in your own country or your destination, not in-between

 

On one of my random trips to Europe, I forgot to change some money at the airport before I left. I figured, no problem, I’ll do it when I land in London. I have a good layover there. There will be plenty of time to find a currency exchange. I landed, I found a currency exchange, and they fleeced me. I ended up changing my Dollars to Pounds, and the my newly acquired Pounds into Euros. Each time taking the appropriately reduced exchange rate, and the added transaction fee. Needless to say, I flew out of the airport with less than I flew in with. This taught me to always handle my transaction either in the original currency or the end currency. And let’s be honest, everybody anywhere that deals in currency will take the US Dollar.

If you plan on taking a hit on the exchange rate, right from the start, things will be better

 

Everyone on the internet (myself included) throws out advice on how to maximize your exchange rate. You can use bank exchanges, use your debit card at ATMs, do major purchases on your credit card for better rates, and a host of other ideas. They are all solid pieces of advice. But, let’s be frank, sometimes you want to go for a week or so and not deal with the front-end planning. You want to pull some money, grab your passport, and hit the road. I have been here many times. If you just factor the lesser exchange rate into your thought right out of the gate, it won’t hurt as much. Once you stop thinking about it, you start thinking about your vacation instead. This, after all, is why you walked out the door in the first place.

Things won’t actually be as expensive as you think they will be, but you’ll end up spending too much anyway

 

I work with a per-day budget when I travel. I take whatever I managed to bring along, and divide that number by the number of days that I plan on traveling. This tells me how much I can spend each day. Normally, I tend not to spend it all. At the mid-point in a trip I may have double the daily amount in my pocket, because the scraps from each day get added to the next day’s available cash. This excess generally leads me to spending extra time at the bars or buying things I wouldn’t normally buy. So, it all ends up getting spent anyway. That is when I find something else I can’t live without or change my plans in mid stride, and wished I hadn’t of spent so much. I say, don’t worry about a couple extra dollars here and there. Money comes and goes, whereas time just goes. You may never find yourself there again in your lifetime. And, you can’t take it with you. Spend the money and be happy.

Almost all airport food is bad

 

I’ve been in a lot of airports. I’ve eaten in most all of them. Airport food may seem new or exotic, because you may have never been to that particular local before. I find that if you find the same meal out on the economy, it will always be better. Sometimes, it’s a matter of timing. Early flights or long connection can facilitate the need for eating at the airport. As a rule, I say eat downtown somewhere, then go.

McDonalds is the same … even at the airport at Bangkok.

Whenever possible, don’t check any bags.

 

Okay, I’ll preface this one by saying that I’m not a girl, and I have no need for multiple changes of clothes when I travel. I’m your standard t-shirt and jeans kind of guy. I throw it all in a backpack and head out. I’ve checked bags a several times with good success. I’ve also checked my dive gear, snowboard, and golf clubs with equal success. Then again, there are times when I made the other end and my bags (or golf clubs) did not. I find it to be completely aggravating. If it will all fit in a carry-on, then definitely carry it on. Carry-on bags almost never get lost (at least I haven’t lost any yet), and they are no more of a pain than waiting in some throng of people who think that their bag is somehow more important than yours. I avoid the carousel at all cost.

Airports make us walk through the Duty Free Shop because they know that we’re weak-willed

 

It’s just a simple truth, you show me booze and food, and you have my undivided attention. Airport planners know that we are inherently weak-willed. They put the booze and the shiny stuff right up in our face, so we must have it. The cologne and perfume, the Cuban cigars center stage in the walk-in humidor, the shiny bobbles and watches, all right in front of us for the taking. They know we are already on vacation mode and are unconscientiously spending money. They want some of that money. And, they usually get it. At least, the booze isle in any Middle Eastern airport has my full attention.

Getting to the airport early is a waste of time.

 

I tend to not plan my exit very well. I get the flight out that I want, and then grab whatever return flight they recommend as being the cheapest. If it fits into my general return timing, I’m almost always cool with it. This, almost always, leads to me having time to kill. This killing time, almost always, leads to me getting to the airport earlier than I need to. This leads to me playing Boom Beach or Doom on my phone for hours, until I can check-in for my flight. This time can always be put to better use. Find a hotel with a bag check, so you can go out before you must check-out. Plan ahead with better return flights. Whatever works, wasting time at the airport is just wasting time. (I have wasted time at many airports and train stations, as well as ferry docks and bus terminals. Once your phone goes dead, you’re just sitting around bored as hell.)

Screenshot for one of my epic Boom Beach battles while killing time.

Don’t panic, you will most-likely have money left over

 

With an homage to point number three, don’t panic about the money. I’ve travelled to expensive places around the globe, and I’ve travelled to cheap places around the globe. AT the end of my individual journey, there was almost without exception some money left over. Sometimes, it was cab fare home from the airport money. Sometimes, it was put it back into my bank account level money. I say this because there was pretty much always a time during each of these trips where I spent too much on something, or didn’t think I was going to make my budgeting amount. My advice, don’t panic. Just keep loving your trip and let the money do what it is going to do. That’s what I try to do, and there is usually always money left over.

My bag of random currencies leftover from this year’s excursions.

That is that, as they say. I find from talking to people as I travel that people have the same experiences, given enough time. Maybe, these thoughts will help you out at some point along the way.

Now, get out there! Go do travel stuff!