Travel

But, I want to see that place. with the thing. you know.

One of my favorite lines from any movie is one from the movie Eurotrip. “We can to see Europe, not some crappy statue.”

I think this statement leads to an important question about why people travel. It leads to an interesting thing, which is how you set up your travels and where/when you go. Basically, this would be: what do you travel for?

Personally, I’m an art and architecture guy. I like big, old, historical building and monuments. I like history. I love good paintings, specifically the Old Masters. The big cathedrals, the classic basilicas, the coliseum, the area lines of Nazca, that’s what I find interesting. I like god statues and excellent paintings. The Hall of Rubens in The Louvre is possible my favorite place on earth.

This is me. That what I dig. I have friends that are all about new experience. They like meeting new people. They like to interact with individuals and meld into different cultural settings. If that is your interest, that’s awesome. However, you will need to set up your travels differently than I set up mine. And that, is good!

I have other friends who are about new personal experiences. They want to skydive, scuba dive, BASE jump, or surf. They want to ride motorcycles in the desert (I do enjoy this). They want to test themselves against something new. That’s cool too. These people set up their travels differently than the two groups above.

It is important to know why you want to travel, and what new experiences that you want to experience. This way you end up travelling the right way. You also end up travelling to the right places, at the right times. And, most importantly, for the right reasons.

I structure art and architecture into my plans, and I go to new places to see new things. I understand what I want to see before I decide to buy my plane tickets. I know the experiences that I want to have before I start looking at new destinations. When I do start looking, I look for the things I wish to find.

I have to admit that I also have traveling friends who have no preconceived ideas about what they want. They simply want something different than what they currently are experiencing. I think these people may have to hardest problems in choosing a new travel experience, simply because everything presents itself as new and exciting. I’m happy I don’t have that problem.

I guess all of this boils down to: understanding what you want makes it easier to get what you want. Sitting down and thinking about what you want to do is a solid use of your time. I do this a lot. I do it while watching TV or doing other residential tasks. If I see something on a TV show and it looks awesome, I put it on the list of new places. Sometimes I go there, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it takes five or six years before I get there.

Case in point. I watched a show on Machu Picchu back in 1995. It looked cool. I really wanted to go there. I did. In September of 2012 I bought a plane ticket to Lima, Peru, and went to find the Not-So-Lost city of the Inca. That’s how it happens in my world. Never just let the idea go. Because, it may not be the best idea this year, but it may be THE BEST idea next year. There really is no explaining it sometimes.

No matter what possesses you to go exploring, embrace it! Figure out what makes you happy and chase after that. Find that things that gives your travel meaning and do that. Travel should be a lot of things, but most important is that it should not be something that you don’t want it to be. If you like old building, like I do, great. If you like meeting new people, great. If you like having new experiences, great. Go do that. And, take a lot of pictures while you do. You’ll be happy that you did.

Now, go. Get out there.

Aaron.

 

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Machu Picchu, September of 2012. Taken by yours-truly, from the corner of the entry path. It is one of those places on the globe that will make you happy you put forth the effort to go there. Seriously.

 

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Travel

West-to-East, or some other route?

If you are traveling to see the world, which way do you go? Can you call yourself a traveler if you only stay on the main route? Do you need to venture farther afield to see it all?

The majority of people take, what I like to refer to as the East-West route. They basically go from east to west, or the other-way round, along the equator of the planet. The America to Europe travel. Or the America to china and South East Asia. Some People are adventurous and extend or connect the two lines together, adding stops in the Holy Land, India, and the like.

There is a valid reason for this seemingly straightforward route choice. It’s called history. The expansion of the European Renaissance, the Crusades to the Holy Lands, the conquests of Alexander, The Great Silk Road, they all go basically West-to-East. The majority of the great civilizations are located along the wider part of the equator. The desire to explore and expand boundaries have historically been along this path.

This means that most all of the old, cool stuff that travelers want to see and experience are also located along this wider path around the equator. This being said, the answer to the original question can probably be answered as yes, you can call yourself a traveler if you go this way. A person can see a great piece of the world going this way. They will end their journey with stories to last a lifetime.

For full disclosure, I have spent a large portion of my traveling life utilizing the West-East route. Normally, exploring Europe and the North African area. I like the Old Masters and the great stone cathedrals of Europe.

Recently, however, I have started to expand my horizons. I added sections of the globe that were farther afield. I did so, because I wanted to see other cultures and old stuff not found in, what I like to call, the historic belt. Trips to Central America, and South America, and most recently out to the Land Down Under (Australia). There were new things to see in these places; like rain forests, the great lands of the Inca and the Nazca, and natural wonder like the Great Barrier Reef.

I would submit that travelers should add diversion to their standard routes. Going north to south can add new favor and excitement to traveling. The regions outside the equatorial belt offer many natural and cultural highlights that should be added to any traveler’s agenda.

I am happy to confess that a person can spend the majority of their life traveling around just one continent and not experience everything it has to offer. I have been traveling around the continental United States for over twenty years and still haven’t seen all of it, by any stretch of the imagination. If you enjoy Europe and the experience you are having there, then by all means continue to go. But, if like me, you like to see what new things the world has to offer, I would say that you should spend some time going North-to-South.

Lawrence of Arabia made a lasting name for himself by traveling the Silk Road. Doctor David Livingstone did the same thing by exploring the darker parts of the African continent. I give you these two examples to show that, in my opinion, there is no Right Path. Travelers travel, and explorers explore. It’s the quest that makes it all worthwhile. The going and seeing, not what way you took to get there.

Yes, you can be a traveler going around the globe from west to east. Yes, you can be a traveler going around the globe more north to south. I can guarantee that there is a never-ending host of things to see along the way.

 

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The Monkey. The Nazca Lines, in the deserts outside Nazca, Peru, 2012 range. Taken, obviously, from the air.

 

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Uncategorized

All the way around, or just part way?

One of the great questions in the traveling community is that of distance. Do you need to go all the way around the world or can you just go pat way? Can you go a third of the way, and do another chunk of it later? Personally, I say yes and no. The two acts of travel are different things. Or, at least they are in my opinion. When travelers say that they have traveled around the world, it’s a different statement than saying that you took an around the world trip. The first one indicates that you have traveled a great deal and covered a large amount of ground. The second one means that you have circumnavigated the planet, in one fashion or another.

I am a proponent of the partway and then partway method. Why? Simple, it requires much less planning. It requires fewer logistical problems. It can be done in a reasonable amount of time, whether that be a month of six months.

I very much like the idea of the grand adventure. The idea of circumnavigating the planet is a quest few undertake, and fewer complete. It’s a life’s pursuit type of thing. It is on my list of things to accomplish, before I die.

Getting back to the chunky-clunky travel in sections theory, I would say that to claim a “around the world” status you do need to go around the world. If you go a third of the way and then a third of the way, and then finish it off later with the last third, that’s okay. If you skip a section, that’s probably not okay. (My one exclusion to this statement would be war zones. no need to travel through the war zones.)

A great many people travel around one continent, and then on another trip travel around a different continent. I have done this as well. I would say that this approach is fine, as long as it adds up to around the world. Many people use this technique to accomplish a different travel trophy. That would be setting foot on all the continents. This too is a worthy goal, if you chose to attempt it.

I would say that as long as you understand the reason why you travel, go travel and enjoy! If you can pull off a full around the world trip, Awesome. If you do it in smaller pieces, that’s cool too. Either way, get out there and cover some ground. sooner or later, we’ll all make it all the way around to where we started.

Now go! Get out there.

 

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The author, traveling around Egypt with a bunch of crazy Australians. Summer of 2000.

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Travel

Stuff part two. The small stuff.

This section of dealing with stuff is based around the smaller stuff in your life. You will also find that it requires easier decision making paradigms.

If you have decided to keep your house, condo, apartment while you are away traveling around the globe, well then, this decision is easy. You leave your stuff right where it is. See, that was easy!

If you decide to downsize, some more relevant decisions need to be made. First question, do you keep anything? If you’re like me and have been a bunch of places, the answer to this question is yes. Realistically, by the time that you have made it to the middle of your years, you have collected a certain amount of things that are not disposable. However, you’ll be amazed at just how little stuff this actually is. Seriously, it’s not as much as you think it is.

It needs to be noted at this point, I hate junk. I hate clutter. It’s probably left over military living or something. Maybe it’s a side-effect of 20 years of traveling for work. Stuff that doesn’t have a specific place and need is junk. Junk needs to be disposed of. It is my opinion that if you are going to traveling, even domestically, for any amount of time, you need to develop a less is more strategy.

For most people, separating themselves from piles of possessions is much more of an emotional issue than it is anything else. It is a capitalist mantra that people need stuff. People that have stuff are well off. More stuff is more good. That way of thinking is, once again in my personal opinion, a bunch of rubbish.

Once of dispose of your home’s furniture, there will be a big pile of stuff leftover. That stuff, is the stuff we are talking about. The furniture in any home can basically be replaced with no great loss of equity later on. It is also a good source of extra travel money. If you have family heirlooms, or antique pieces of furniture, that is a different matter altogether. On that specific note I would say store those items for later on. Usually, antique furniture equity cannot be recouped later on and should be retained. Otherwise, dump the furniture.

That pile of randomness left in your apartment or house is what now remains of your life, to date. You will find that probably 20 percent of that pile is actually stuff that says something about your years on this planet. The other 80 percent is just stuff. The stuff, that’s what you want to be separating yourself from. This point, right here, is where many people emotionally fall down.

Everybody has that friend. That friend that has a house full of stuff. Fancy painted signs on the wall, little stuffed do-dads in every corner. Different sets of dishes for different days of the week. Travelers are NOT these people. Don’t attempt to be these people. If you are honest with yourself, you’ll understand that all of this “stuff” is junk that can be expunged from your life. If you truthfully, emotionally can’t bring yourself to part with your knickknacks, you may want to rethink a traveling and adventurous lifestyle. It’s probably not for you.

For the rest of you, Trust me when I say that a well appointed two bedroom house will fit comfortable in a 10-foot by 10-foot storage unit when you’re down downsizing. I know it will. Personally, I think 10×10 is a little too big, but it’s a standard size in the storage unit business.

As far as disposal goes: I say either list it or just give it away. You would be amazed how many of your friends will take knickknacks from you. (More stuff is more good.) The listing side is also easy. There’s Craigslist, Facebook, A dozen stuff selling apps, and the newspaper want ads for starters. Once you cut the emotional cord, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to actually get rid of.

Moral, less is more. The emotional freedom of not having to look after your stuff is worth the effort made. Less is more. Experience will always outweigh stuff. Always, and every time.

That’s my two cents.

Now, go on. Get out there.

 

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One house in a 10×10. Probably should have dumped the bike, but we can’t all live by our convictions, can we?

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Travel

The stuff? What about the stuff?

 

I suppose it’s time to tackle the biggest single problem with travelling. Stuff. Everybody has stuff. Most people have lots of stuff. Stuff is a universal first world problem. We are almost drowning in great big piles of stuff!

Okay, all jokes aside, it is one of the single biggest problems for travelers. I’m not talking about the stuff you take with you when you travel. Most-likely you have too much of that as well, but we’ll jump off the packing bridge later on. No, I’m talking about the stuff you leave behind.

Blogs that circle around the 20-something traveler have a simple solution for this problem of too much stuff. Sell it! Craigslist it, Facebook it, tell all your friends about it. The solution, get rid of it. You’re young and you can get more stuff when you’re done traveling.

To this whole Idea, I say Nay!

If you have managed to make it to the assumed plateau of middle age, good for you. You have probably managed to do a great many other things along the way. Those other adventures have probably come with trinkets and certificates and fancy stenciled beer mugs. You have probably managed to acquire a whole houseful of stuff. And, a house to put it in.

Seriously again, a house is one of the single most important purchases a first world, employed, US person can make. And, once they make it, changing it has long-standing repercussions. The loss of equity, and the inability to regain favorable interest rates a second time, maybe the inability to come up with down payments are only three of them.

If you have managed to make middle age and are considering traveling, one of your primary decisions to be made is going to be what do I do with my house? And, all the stuff inside it? It’s a major issue point that will take a long time to produce a solid decision. It might be one of the reasons that people say travel while you are young.

If you decide to keep your house and travel, then the real question becomes how do I pay my bills while on the road? We will cover this later on. If you decide to sell your house, or rent it out while you are gone, then what do you do with your stuff? If you are going to rent out your condo or home, you can always put all of your stuff in one room and lock it up. That will cut down on the storage fees. If this is not an option due to space or if you plan on selling, then moving your stuff to a storage facility is a good alternative.

At this point I find I have to admit that I’m not a fan of lots of stuff. Stuff just takes up space and collects dust. That being said, I have acquired a great deal of stuff that I would choose not to part with. I have had as little as a wall locker full of stuff and as much as a house full of stuff. I currently have a storage unit full of stuff. Interestingly, all the really important items in all those piles of stuff still take up about the same amount of space. Which, really isn’t much at all. My books, photo albums, military memorabilia, and writing manuscripts can easily fit a small storage unit. Add to it the plastic tubs of travel and concert T-Shirts and you are still only in a medium sized storage unit.

I decided to part with my house a couple years ago. Not because it was a burden, but because I was never in it. The storage unit was a massively cheaper alternative to my lifestyle. Will I buy another house? Definitely. At some point. Do I wish I hadn’t sold it? Sometimes.

The reality is that I only sold it after I thought long and hard about it. It is not a decision to be made lightly. It is the biggest single equity investment that most people make. Parting with it shouldn’t be an easy decision!

I can say after half a lifetime of doing it; travelers are travelers. It is in the blood and in the bone. And, you’re not happy when you’re not traveling. That being said, it REALLY NICE to have somewhere to come home to. Think long and hard before getting rid of your house. Look at options like renting, leasing, and such. If you are in an apartment and unattached to residency, well then, storage units are looking good aren’t they. If you have invested great amounts of time and money in a home, think long and hard about letting it go easily. It may not be so easy to get back again.

 

 

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Anybody need a house. It was mine a couple years ago.

 

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Travel

Unemployed Nomad or Sabbaticalled Worker?

One of the two real decisions to be made once you decide to travel the globe for an extended period of time is that of employment. Most notably, do you attempt to keep a job while you are gone or do you step away from work and worry about the consequences later? If we were 20, this would be an easy decision. When you get to the middle of your life it becomes a little more daunting.

 

For most of us in the first world, by the time we have reached middle age, we have invested a certain amount of our life in establishing a career. If you have a decade with a company and are entrenched in healthcare and retirement options, the decision to leave that comfortable place can be a hard one to make. If you are at a point in your professional advancement where you are acquiring company bonuses and profit sharing plans, it can be even harder.

 

Most travel blogs would offer the advice of: Go Travel! You can find a new job when you return to your home country. While I completely agree with this mindset when it comes to someone just out of school, I would say to the middle aged crowd that you may want to consider it further. There are a great many things to consider for people that have invested time in establishing careers. The most important of which is, will it be there when I return home?

 

The job market in the United States in definitely in a better place than it has been in some time. That being said, work availability for different skill sets and sectors of the population, not to mention age brackets, is still in a great deal of flux. If you are in technically specific industry or are coming up on that age where employers view you as more of a health risk than an asset, you may want to consider staying put. Also, if you are a family person, this is definitely a family decision. If you can escape the confines of your cubicle, then I would say that you have better options at hand.

 

It should be noted here that I have had one of those jobs where I traveled for work. I mean I travelled extensively for work. All across the continental United States, 40-50 weeks a year on the road. It’s easy to say go, when you go all the time. When you are entrenched in the corporate 9-5 it is not as easy a decision. It’s also one that needs to be substantiated by rational decisions.

 

Is the experience of traveling worth the time you invest in it? In my opinion, yes. Experience is much more important, and practically useful, than the acquisition of material goods. At the end of the day, stuff is stuff. Experience is something else. It’s knowledge of places. It’s new and rekindled friendships. It’s acquired skills. It’s a host of life’s moments stamped indelibly into your being. (Okay, that last one was a stretch – but also probably true.)

 

If you find that leaving your current employment to travel is not something you are comfortable with, then take heart. Most rational people aren’t comfortable with it either. It’s Okay! When you have invested sufficient time in a career to be in a comfortable place, wanted to leave that place doesn’t make a lot of sense. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other options available. One of them might be the previously mention route of the Ex-Patriot. It can be a solid move for some people.

 

Another option to consider would be a sabbatical. Sabbaticals are usually thought of in the context of teachers and other academic professionals. While this is true, there are other industries where it can be an accepted practice. These areas include technology sensitive and highly skilled companies. Many companies would rather offer things such as sabbatical than lose employees to burnout and sector pressure. They also would many times rather accommodate an employee than spend time and money training a new one.

 

Sabbaticals are surprisingly available in the corporate world. They are also not spoken of, because companies would rather have employees producing for the company. They keep them in their back pocket and pull them out when they are needed. This being said, you may want to investigate your company’s own policy regarding sabbaticals and extended periods of leave. You may find that your employer isn’t completely hostile to the idea.

 

It’s my own personal opinion that experience is what we are. The sum total of one’s own experiences define who that individual is. Experience is the only thing that can’t be taken away from you, and is the only thing that you take with you when you leave. Experiences can be as small as the time spent studying the spring flowers in your local park or as large as studying the expansive mountain views from atop Machu Picchu. (I have done both with, what I would like to think is, equal merit.)

 

Since this is theoretically a travel blog, we are going to try and focus on the far flung. The getting out there and experiencing the world part of life. The small journeys have great merit. The large journeys also have great merit. Being able to disconnect from your routine life and become absorbed in another setting or situation is what travelling is about. The longer you spend doing that, the better and more worthy experiences you will come away with.

 

So, for the mid-lifer’s out there, think it through. Career stability is a worthy goal at our age. The experience of life is also a worthy goal. Someone once said; “To live is rare. Most people simply exist.” Whoever they were, I think they were right. But, that just my opinion.

 

Now go! Get out there. Life is waiting for you.

Aaron.

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The inside of the Convent of Christ, Templar Stronghold and later home to the Knights of the Order of Christ. Tomar, Portugal, fall of 2009. Just one of the places you might end up.

 

 

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Travel, Uncategorized

Staying Alive.

something that isn’t considered on the average vacation, but is a definite point of concern for the duration traveler is insurance. To be specific, medical insurance. 

I can understand if this isn’t something that comes to mind when I say lets go travel the world. As most people never leave their natural surroundings for long enough to make companies waver policies or get serious medical issues while at the beach. For the standards 2 week crew, this actually isn’t a major topic. Most policies, if they cover whatever you are actually doing on vacation, will cover your vacation issues. Worst case, you get sent home for treatment. However, if you plan on traveling for an extended time or ex-patrioting for work, independent medical insurance is an issue that you will need to consider. 

I have been carrying independent diving insurance for over a decade now. Diving has inherent risks, especially in unknown waters. Independent medical diving insurance is a must for the traveling diver. Personally, I use DAN – Divers Alert Network – for my policy. They have also covered medical insurance for other non-conventional travel experiences I have undertaken. (Think Running with the Bulls)

For the traveler that currently has an internationally recognized carrier, new insurance won’t be a major stumbling block. Both Cigna and Blur Cross Blue Shield offer international policies. Aetna also offers an international policy. Now, these policies will have pronounced restrictions, specified deductibles, and steeper premiums than the ones you get their your employer, but hey — you’re a traveler now. 

If you are quitting your current employer, have one of the inexpensive Obamacare options, or are covered by a regional coverage group, there is a very good chance that your insurance without transition out of the country with your traveling. Fear not! Okay, maybe fear just a little, but don’t get crazy. All the above mentioned carriers, as near as I could tell, also take on new individuals. Also, the traveler standard places like MEDEX , Allianz Worldwide Care, and Healthcare International are places to shop for a medical insurance policy that might fit your needs. Another thought would also be AIG – Travel Guard. 

All carrier have different coverage and different fee schedules. It pays to shop a couple and see where you can get better service for your money. But I would suggest that you think about this rationally. You do NOT want to try and argue your way through a crappy insurance policy in some far-flung land where you don’t speak the language. At least, I don’t won’t to. Maybe you like s challenge? 

Like I said, if you’re part of the two week crowd this probably isn’t a major point of concern. If you choose to pick up your pack and travel the globe it might be something to think seriously about. Something as simple as getting Pharohs Revenge because you drank the water in Cairo can quickly turn nasty. (I had it, it’s not joking matter.) 

Anyway, something more to consider. Face it, we’re not 20 anymore. Now, go on! Get out there!

Aaron. 

  
The La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles, California. Monday, 2-29-16. 

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