Keeping in Touch While Traveling

With all the excitement and preparations of traveling it’s easy to (initially) forget the family and friends you’re leaving behind. But we’re interested, honest; and most of us (for the time being anyway) are living vicariously through you, so don’t forget about us. We want to know about the interesting guy you sat beside on the plane who invited you to dinner afterward. Or the hidden cave you explored while swimming in the Mediterranean. So please, fill us in.

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Havana Cuba, Frozen in Communism

For many travelers there is a certain Mystique that Cuba and in particular Havana holds. The largest Island in the Caribbean is a treasure of Spanish Colonial architecture, breath taking beaches, classic American Cars and being one of the final bastions of communism. Frozen in time is one of the descriptions I use to convey the feeling and emotion of being in Havana. Every where you cast your eyes you cannot be but reminded of being in a place that has changed little since the late fifties.

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Where Would You Travel with $1,000 and a Free Flight?

Here’s a hypothetical question that I hope you’ll have fun with:

You walk into work today and were told you are getting a free 2 week vacation as a thank you to your performance and loyalty.  You’ll be given two weeks off, a $1,000 bonus, and get to cash in airline miles from the company for your flight.

Where would you travel to if you were given a $1,000 budget, and a free flight to anywhere in the world?

Where would you stay?  What would you want to see and what kind of activities would you do?  If you are a no-frills traveler, would you upgrade your level of accommodations, or if you are used to luxury, would you use some of your own money or travel cheaply and stay within budget?

Post your hypothetical travel plans in the comments and be sure to read others’ as well.  Let’s have fun with this! :)

Thanks to Darren for the post idea.

How the Economy is Changing Our Travel

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Two weeks ago I asked you readers how the economy was affecting your travel plans or travel habits.

I think that there are several obvious things that are changing.  Several people commented and told me on twitter that they are traveling less due to being laid off.  That’s unfortunate news and I’m very sorry to hear about anybody losing their job.

But what wasn’t as obvious, and exactly what I hoped to hear when I posed that question, was how people are changing their travel habits so they could continue traveling despite lower pay, no job at all, or just worry about the economy in general.

Despite these challenges posed by various financial concerns, people are still traveling.  Affordable vacations like road trips, camping and other outdoor activities appear to be gaining in popularity.

Some popular domestic vacation destinations like Las Vegas have been hurting, but some travelers are finding great deals for both airfare and hotels.

On my last vacation I talked to a lot of travelers of all ages and nationalities.  Although it is a trend I have been noticing for a few years, many hostels are becoming increasingly popular with older and/or more financially stable visitors than the typical crowd one would expect at youth hostels.  Note: you won’t find the word “youth” in many hostel’s names anymore :)

And then there is the final type of traveler who is not affected too much by the current economic situation.  Several people mentioned on twitter that they’re not too worried since they already travel cheaply.  Combine that airfares that continue to get lower and lower, and these travelers are benefiting the most from the current economy.

If you have any questions or comments on traveling in this economy please share in the comments section below. We’d love to hear any and all opinions and/or tips!

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10 Easy Ways to Stay In Shape While Traveling

creative commons license by aarmono
creative commons license by aarmono

I’ve already touched on ways to stay healthy and combat sickness while traveling, but how about if you want to keep in shape?

For those who keep up on eating healthy, working out, and generally staying in shape, taking a week or longer off can really put a damper on your physical goals.  Here are a few ideas to help keep up your fitness while traveling.

1. Go for a run

Why not start your day off with a nice run?  Head out in the morning for a run down the beach or wherever you may be.  Scenic outdoor destinations will probably be more encouraging than others.

2. Find a local gym

If you have a gym pass at home check and see if your gym has locations where you’ll be traveling.  Some cities will have local gyms that will allow you to work out for a small fee.  I found a tiny gym in Quepos, Costa Rica that only charged $2 per workout.  Many larger hotels also have their own gym facilities.

3. Walk

If you’re considering hopping on the subway for a few stops, driving or even taking a taxi, why not just walk?  Some cities are best experienced by foot anyway.

4. Outdoor Activities

Are there any hiking trails where you’ll be going?  What about other activities like rock climbing or rafting? If you’re staying at a beach, go for a swim or rent a surfboard. Do anything you can to enjoy the outdoors and be physically active at the same time.

5. Eat healthy

I’m not one to pass up the local cuisine, but you might want to do so in moderation.  Skip candy bars and chips for snacks and look for fresh fruit stands when you’re between meals.

6. Drink plenty of water

Most people don’t drink enough water during the day when at home, let alone while traveling.  This is especially important if you’re doing a lot of physical activity and sweating.  If you are somewhere warm and not used to warmer climates, realize that you’ll need a lot more water than you are used to.  Carry a bottle or two with you all the time.

7. Exercise in your room

Can’t make it to the gym?  If your workout usually consists of weight lifting, do some push ups and sit ups in your room.  You can also use your bed or a chair for dips and other body weight exercises.

8. Carry your own luggage

Carry your own backpack or luggage if possible.  Don’t bother paying porters at the airport or your hotel when you could be doing it yourself and getting a quick and easy workout at the same time.

9. Try a martial art

Whether you are already into martial arts or not, consider trying a local gym.  Many will give you a free guest pass just to check them out while others will charge a small fee for your participation in their program.  Boxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu are two things I train in and it’s common for students to travel to other gyms and take classes with various well-known teachers.  You can even schedule a private lesson with some coaches to get a taste of their training.  You’ll almost always learn something new and different than your current regimen.

10. Rent a bike

Whether you want to go on a nice long bike ride or just use one as an alternative means of transportation, bicycles are typically pretty cheap and readily available in most places.  Cities like Paris even have bike rental kiosks around the city that are available 24 hours a day with your credit card AND you don’t have to return it to the same place.  It’s a great system.

If you have any other tips on staying, or getting in shape while traveling please feel free to share them in the comments below.

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Teaching English Abroad

This is the third in a series of posts about how to spend your time during extended travels.  Be sure to check out Taking a Year Off After School to Travel and Volunteering Abroad During Your Travels.

Traveling is wonderful but unless you have a big bank account before you set out, you probably won’t manage to travel forever.

A great way to make ends meet abroad is by teaching English.  It doesn’t matter where you are going, chances are there are schools teaching English to people who want to learn it.  You don’t even need a college degree.  What you will need is a TEFL or TESOL certificate.

Let me warn you first: there are an abundance of online TEFL programs that may or may not be recognized by many institutions.  The general consensus is that the best way to get your TEFL certificate is to enroll in a program where you will receive hands-on teaching experience.  Many of these programs are arranged in foreign countries so you have classes for you to begin working with immediately.

Also, these schools can often help with job placement but be careful of any guaranteeing you a job after you finish.  Not many reputable programs will guarantee you job placement and if they do, they’re probably getting a kickback of some sort or even charging you for the service.

The money isn’t great but is typically enough to get by on and put a little bit away for furthering your travels if that is your plan.

The places you can teach are endless, but chances are employment will be difficult to find in most areas of Europe.  Asia, Latin America, and many Middle Eastern countries are probably your best bets.  The classes you can teach can range from adults learning English for business to children who might not even have their own native language skills down yet.  The great thing about this style of teaching English is that you don’t need to know the local language to teach it.  It’s all done with signs, gestures, and other techniques that mean you could teach in China one semester, and Peru the next.  I was pretty impressed the first time I was given a demonstration by a teacher working in Costa Rica.

If you are interested in more information about choosing a TEFL program, I recommend checking out BootsnAll‘s article, How to Choose Your TEFL Certification Program (if at all).

Have you taught English abroad or are you looking into it? We’d appreciate hearing about it in the comments below!

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creative commons photo by rudenoon on Flickr

Volunteering Abroad During Your Travels

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Creative Commons License - by Common Threadz

Lately I’ve been asked by several people about things they can do while traveling for an extended surprise.  Much to my surprise, some people they will get bored or sick of traveling and want to have something to fall back on.

While I can’t imagine ever getting bored with traveling non-stop I do understand the desire to change it up while out on the road.

Why not look at volunteering?  There are opportunities all over the world and you can easily manage to help for a while during your travels.

One problem with searching for volunteer opportunities from abroad is that “volunteerism” has become quite popular and many people are exploiting volunteer’s desires to help by charging high prices for volunteer trips.  Some of them might be legitimate, but I don’t understand paying a couple of thousand dollars to go somewhere for a week and work hard.

Luckily, Serve Your World has built a good list of free volunteer opportunities.  But keep in mind that your costs are typically not covered so you’ll have to pay for your airfare and travel arrangements but often the organization has some sort of housing for you and sometimes provides meals as well.  You might also want to check out Volunteerism.

Looking to make a little more of a dent in the world?  Why not check out the Peace Corps?  You’ll have to be more dedicated, as the minimum commitment is 2 years.

Becoming quite popular recently is WWOOF’ing.  And it’s not just fun to say either.  WWOOF stands for WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  When volunteering on a WWOOF farm you’ll work and live on an organic farm, helping do any number of tasks and receive free meals and a place to stay.  There are an abundance of farms in the organization so you should definitely check out the website to see all of the opportunities to help sustainable agriculture. Note: some of the organizations charge a small fee to gain access to the website and this fee goes to supporting the network.

These aren’t the only opportunities around, but three of the more popular options.  If you are interested in learning more please check out the appropriate links above.  It’d also be worth your time to look into various NGO’s (non governmental organizations) in the area you’ll be in.

Have you volunteered abroad or are you looking into it? We’d appreciate hearing about it in the comments below!

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