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Giving Back: Please Check Out These Social Impact Organizations

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Students from FLYTE on a trip abroad posing near street art
Posted: 12/21/2020 | December 21st, 2020

Travel is a privilege — even budget travel.

The ability to hold a passport and purchase a plane ticket to another country is a luxury not afforded to most people around the world — including many in my own country.

That’s the reason I created FLYTE over five years ago. Travel has changed my life completely, and I wanted students who didn’t grow up with the same privileges as me to have that same opportunity. So many inequities exist in our world today. The least we can do is try to give back to help balance the scale.

The goal of FLYTE is to empower youth from underserved communities through transformative travel experiences. Since 2015, we’ve worked with six schools and nearly a hundred students, who have collectively traveled roughly 300,000 miles around the world. They come from communities where international travel is not readily accessible, so these trips give them the opportunity to get on a plane for the first time, helping them understand the vastness of the world — and their power to change it for the better.

To make these experiences as impactful as possible, we work hard to ensure that these trips maximize the benefit to the communities our students visit.

While we give the teachers and students the power to craft their itinerary so that their trip reflects what they’re learning in the classroom, one of the few requirements we have is that there is also some type of service or learning component.

We’re very intentional about what this involves, as the ethics around volunteering and travel are complicated. All too often, volunteers benefit more than the communities they visit. We want to avoid that.

Besides volunteering, another powerful way to make sure your tourism donors sustain the areas you visit is to support social enterprises. These are local businesses that don’t rely on grants or donations but rather are financially sustained through sales of products or services, the profits from which directly go back to the community to fund various social initiatives.

Today, I wanted to highlight a few of the nonprofit organizations and social enterprises that our students and our team have visited around the world in hopes that you’ll be inspired to visit them on your next trip:

Casa Victoria – Quito, Ecuador
Our FLYTE students traveled to Quito in 2017. While searching for an organization for them to work with, Jackie and Christine (the teachers leading this trip) were deeply inspired by Alicia Durán-Ballén, who recognized that she could no longer wait around for her community to improve — she had to be the change herself.

Casa Victoria, which she founded, is a nonprofit program that provides academic help, social support, and hot meals to the youngest members of the community.

The FLYTE students brought Snap Circuits, a gadget used in the Robotics Club back at Excelsior Academy in Newburgh, New York, for the kids at Casa Victoria. They also volunteered their time and learned to cook traditional Ecuadorian food.

Para la Naturaleza – Puerto Rico
Para la Naturaleza works to protect the natural ecosystem in Puerto Rico, which our next group of FLYTE students from New Orleans will be visiting next summer (or when it’s safe to travel again) in order to work on coastal restoration and reforestation projects throughout the island. Coming from a city that understands the impact of the climate crisis, these students will be able to learn from this experience so they can create meaningful change in their own neighborhoods.

Konojel – San Marcos, Guatemala
Konojel’s goal is to reduce chronic malnutrition and endemic poverty in San Marcos. When our students from Victor, Montana, traveled there in 2018, they learned about the reality of life in a rural village. They had the opportunity to visit and volunteer at the community center where undernourished children receive healthy meals and educational enrichment. Together, they broke down cultural differences by reading books together and playing football and basketball.

As Lindsey, the teacher leading this trip, shared, “These multicultural connections we were forging made the news from home of separated immigrant families at the border seem both unbelievable but also conquerable if we simply continue to foster friendships and understanding, like those I was seeing form in a matter of days.”

WAS Foundation – Bali, Indonesia
Bali is known for its idyllic beaches, Insta-worthy rice paddies, and yoga retreats. But there is more to the island than that. The WAS Foundation allows tourists to dive deeper, by organizing beach cleanups and recycling workshops to preserve and sustain the natural environment. It also conducts workshops on traditional wellness practices for local youth and the wider community.

Crabtree & Evelyn, FLYTE’s major partner, also supports this organization as part of its philanthropic efforts.

Amigos de Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz, Guatemala
During our FLYTE trip to Guatemala, students visited this social enterprise that aims to improve the lives of the indigenous people of Santa Cruz and surrounding villages through support for education and sustainable economic empowerment. In addition, the organization has an artisan store where local women can earn a fair living wage through their sewing, weaving, and beading handicrafts. Our students learned about Mayan cuisine from Claudia, a Santa Cruz resident, who taught a cooking class.

Experience Real Cartagena – Cartagena, Colombia
One of the big highlights of our 2019 trip to Colombia was the students’ journey to Barrio San Francisco with Alex Rocha from Experience Real Cartagena. His tours are designed to make deeper connections with the marginalized communities of Colombia. The proceeds from these tours fund an after-school program. Our students had an opportunity to meet with some of these youths and participate in activities like drawing, dancing, and soccer.

This was also a chance for both our students and chaperones to talk to the local youth to learn about what their life is like, which helped them form connections between their two worlds. Aliza, a student, felt that this was the highlight of the trip because she “was able to see the kids and understand their environment and how they live every day.” Another student, Jany, reflected on “how they make the best out of what they have. They’re grateful and humble and always try to find something positive.”

Akha Ama Coffee – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is a remote-worker hot spot, and as a result, there is no shortage of cafés in the area. However, Akha Ama Coffee serves fine cups of fair-trade coffee that’s sourced from the villages around Chiang Mai. Blogger Shannon O’Donnell visited there and wrote about the collective of coffee growers that “represent 14 families from the Maejantai village area who have joined together under one brand to increase their ability to control, market, and command fair prices for the coffee they grow. They formed the collective so each family could bring in more money and thus assure themselves fair wages with which to obtain an education for their children and modern conveniences.”

Sheroes Hangout – Agra, Indi
While visiting the Taj Mahal may be the highlight of a trip to Agra, a visit to Sheroes Hangout might be just as powerful of an experience. This is a center for women’s empowerment, where survivors of acid attacks and other social crimes operate a café, community center, and handicraft store. These inspiring women have lived through the most heinous of situations, and Sheroes Hangout provides them with a safe space to connect, share their stories, and create a sustainable livelihood.

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With the privilege of travel comes the responsibility to be mindful of how we spend our time and money. Even though our world has many complex challenges and injustices, there are also many individuals and communities committed to changing it for the better. We’re so grateful to learn about these organizations and hope that both you and our FLYTE students have the chance to do so as well.

What nonprofits and social enterprises have you visited abroad? We’d love to grow this list, so please comment below with any experiences that have really impacted you on your travels!

P.S. – Want more students to have opportunities to visit ethical tourism opportunities and social enterprises abroad? Donate to FLYTE below! Our work has been funded by thousands of donations, and we couldn’t do this work without our generous community.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Need to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

The post Giving Back: Please Check Out These Social Impact Organizations appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Oaxaca: An Even Bigger Love Story

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The narrow, colorful streets of Oaxaca, Mexico
Posted: 1/26/21 | January 26th, 2021

Have you ever arrived at a destination and just knew it’s for you? Something in the air just told you that this place is everything you dreamed it to be and you were going to be in love with it forever.

I’ve felt this way only a few other times before, in Paris, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.

And I felt that way again when I got to Oaxaca.

The city’s energy and mine just synched. We were a pair. I could recognize the signs: a sense of unconditional joy emerged in my heart. My eyes constantly shifted to every shade of color, every movement, as if I had an insatiable hunger to take in everything. I was in love.

My two subsequent weeks there only deepened that feeling.

Oaxaca, a city in the central part of the Pacific coast of Mexico, is set in a valley surrounded by craggy mountains. (It is also the name of the state it lies in.) The area has been inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous Zapotec and Mixtec peoples. In 1440, the Aztecs arrived and annexed it, naming it “Huaxyacac,” meaning “among the huaje” (a type of local tree). Less than a hundred years later, the Spanish conquered the region.

The narrow, colorful streets of Oaxaca, Mexico

Fast-forward to today and Oaxaca has become a center for heritage tourism, owing to the many historical attractions (including Monte Albán, a UNESCO Heritage Site; and Mitla, a Zapotec archeological site) in the city and surrounding area. It is a city of colorful buildings, scenic rooftop restaurants and bars, street art, historic Spanish colonial churches, cobblestone streets, and many parks.

In the last decade, as mezcal has become incredibly popular, it’s also become the hub for all things mezcal, with tourists reaching record numbers (pre-COVID). And, along with Mérida and Mexico City, it’s considered one of the gastronomic centers of Mexico.

In short, the city had everything I like: history, booze, and food. Add to that, an attractive urban aesthetic that created an easy-on-the-eyes venue for consuming said food and drink, and you’ve got an ideal spot to spend a week or three.

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It wasn’t that I loved Oaxaca because of the sites. There’s a pandemic raging and I wasn’t comfortable being around crowds. My friends who haven’t had COVID were even less comfortable. While mask-wearing was prevalent, the closer we got to Christmas, the more crowded the city became, and it just felt like there were too many people around.

So there were no tours, crowded markets, or sightseeing in general for me, but there was dining, drinking, and seeing my friends who lived there.

This city of 300,000 inhabitants just had the je ne sais quoi that filled my spirit and my stomach.

Oaxaca is famous for its mole (a traditional marinade/sauce), tlayudas (a pizza-like street food), chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers), memelas (grilled corn cakes with bean, meat, and cheese toppings), and tetelas (triangular corn snacks filled with beans and cheese).

And I ate them all. Given the climate, the restaurants all had outdoor dining, so it was easy to do so safely. I couldn’t walk a block without stopping and wondering, “Should I go there? Maybe a third dinner?”

A small but colorful local market in Oaxaca, Mexico

Wandering among the 10-peso (50-cent) taco stalls of the city, I also came across the famous hamberguesa: a burger topped with a hot dog, sliced cheese, Oaxaca cheese, ham, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, and jalapeño. It’s all the delicious unhealthy foods you could ever want for 35 pesos ($1.75 USD). And it was the best burger I ever had in my life! I tried a few different versions, but the verdict was always the same: one more, please!

Then there’s the famous Mercado 20 de Noviembre, a huge bazaar of little stalls and a famous Pasillo de Carnes Asades, or “Meat Alley,” a gauntlet of grill stalls where the scents of hundreds of dishes waft in the air, all beckoning you to their source. In Oaxaca, it’s best to graze, for there will be many tempting meals on offer.

And you should not limit yourself. (The number on the scale when I returned home showed me I followed my own advice.)

A local man in Oaxaca, Mexico with a bicycle near a colorful building

Then, there’s the mezcal, the region’s quintessential spirit. While it is produced in a few states, Oaxaca is the center of the mezcal world, and just a few hours away is the main producing area, near the town of Santiago Matatlán, where you can’t walk anywhere without coming across a mezcalería. They’re like pho stalls on the streets of Saigon, pubs in Prague, wine bars in Bordeaux, or Starbucks in any big American city: everywhere.

My friends Anna and Brooks from Rambling Spirits drove us around on a full-day tour, and I learned a lot about the drink. Like tequila, mezcal is made from agave, but unlike tequila, the heart of the plant is cooked in a pit in the ground before it’s crushed. Then water is added, and it’s allowed to ferment. Since it’s cooked, mezcal has a much smokier flavor than tequila.

But, beyond the food and drink, were the wonderful and cheery people I met. From José, the mezcal production owner, to Asís, a local friend of a friend, to the staff of the hotel I lived at, to the hamberguesa maker I kept returning to, everyone was hospitable, warm, and welcoming. “You should stay” and then “Well, come back, ok?” were phrases I heard often.

And, if I didn’t have to go home, I would have stayed the winter.

It was by far my favorite spot in Mexico and now holds a place my heart in a way I did not expect. I mean, I knew I would like it, but to love it so much? That was a surprise.

But, then again, it’s the destinations that we have the least expectations about that turn out to be our favorites.

So, now, along with a very small handful of places in the world, I can add Oaxaca to the list: cities I will love for the rest of my life.

P.S. – All photos by my friend ExplorAddict. Give her a follow on Instagram!

P.P.S. – I did a thing. I created a Google map of all the places I love to eat in the world (or the ones I can remember at this moment). It’s shareable and saveable and it has all my Oaxaca favorites listed. You can check it out here.

Book Your Trip to Mexico: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite place to stay in Oaxaca is:

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Mexico?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Mexico for even more planning tips!

The post Oaxaca: An Even Bigger Love Story appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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23 Ways to Cut Your Expenses and Have More Money for Travel

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A large piggy bank full of money for traveling
Last Updated: 1/7/2021 | January 7th, 2021

Get out a sheet of paper and write down all your set expenses: rent/mortgage, car payments, cable/streaming bill, cell phone, insurance, school payments, etc. Tally them up.

Then write down all your discretionary spending. This is what you spend on food, movie nights, drinks, shopping, that daily coffee from Starbucks, cigarettes, sports tickets, your daily midday snack, and other similar things. If you don’t know what you spend money on, go track your expenses for a two-week period, see what you spend, and come back.

Add that all up — what did you get? Probably a large sum of money.

And I bet there will be many expenses you didn’t realize were there. Financial experts call these “phantom expenses” — we never know they are there because the expenses are so small. People bleed money without realizing it. A dollar here and a dollar there adds up. Even a daily bottle of water or candy bar can make a substantial difference over the course of a year.

What does this have to do with travel?

One of the main reasons why you think you can’t travel the world is money. “I can’t afford it,” people say to me, “I have too many expenses.” Most of us certainly have expenses we can’t cut (though remember when you travel the world long-term, many of those expenses disappear), but if we cut our phantom expenses, reduce our set costs, and find other ways to save we can build our travel fund much more quickly.

In short, if you want to start traveling more or save up for a specific trip, you need to create a budget. This will let you see where you can make cuts and where every penny you earn is being spent.

Cutting your daily expenses, being more frugal, and downgrading to a simpler way of living will allow you to save money for your trip around the world without having to find extra sources of income. I know these tips work because I used them before my first round-the-world trip (and still use them to keep my living expenses low).

Of course, the lower your income, the longer it will take to save enough to travel. But longer doe not mean never. A little bit every day adds up to a lot over a long period of time.

Here are some simple and creative ways to cut your expenses, make money, and get on the road sooner:
 

1. Track your spending

As mentioned in the introduction, most people don’t have a budget so the first thing you need to do to save money is to know where you’re spending it. In an age where you tap an app and a car comes, it’s easy to not think about how much we spend. Create a spreadsheet or use a service like Mint and track all your expenses. You’ll probably be surprised at where your money goes once you start paying attention. I live in Austin and I found myself realizing I was spending close to $100 USD a month on escooter rides. The distances I take them aren’t that far and, since the weather is usually nice, I decided to start walking more. It’s healthier and cheaper. That’s a $1,200 a year savings (i.e. a few months in Southeast Asia!)

Start tracking your expenses – and keep doing so – so you can keep cutting out the low hanging fruit and find where you’re spending money. You can use a spreadsheet or website like Mint to do so.
 

2. Set up a separate bank account

Financial experts have long recommended this. Set up a separate bank account and have money automatically deposited into that account each pay cycle. No matter how much you put away there, putting that money in a separate bank account means it’s away from your spending and you won’t overspend. Think of this like a piggy bank. Don’t raid it. It’s your travel fund.
 

3. Cut the coffee

Love your Starbucks? Well, Starbucks loves your money. Coffee is a daily expense that quietly drains your bank account without you even noticing. That daily $5 USD coffee costs you $150 USD per month. At $1,800 USD per year, that’s two months in Southeast Asia.

What’s more important: your daily cup of Joe or spending more time on the beaches of Thailand or exploring the jungles of Borneo?

Sure, giving up your cup of coffee seems like a “duh” thing. And, yes, there is utility in the time saved from buying one. Under normal circumstances, this would be “small thinking” financial advice that isn’t worth the time or effort.

But, right now, you have a travel goal to reach and every penny counts.
 

4. Learn to cook

We all need to eat but restaurants are expensive. To keep your food bill low, cook more often. I learned to cook while in college (a skill that has helped me ever since) and before I left for my first trip, I cut down my eating out to two times per week. Every other meal I cooked myself. I would save the leftovers from dinner for lunch the next day, thus saving more money.

You don’t need to be a whiz in the kitchen, either. There are a million and one cooking sites, YouTube videos, and recipe blogs that will teach you how to cook fast and healthy meals. I never spend more than 20-30 minutes making a meal.

Here are some sites to check out to get the ball rolling:

 

5. Lose the car

Between insurance, repairs, loan payments, and filling your tank with gas, cars are crazy expensive to own. Get rid of your car if you can. Learn to love the bus, take the subway, bike, or walk. It may take longer to get to work using public transportation, but you can use that time to plan your trip, read, write, or do other productive tasks.

I understand that this tip may not be feasible for everyone, especially those in smaller towns that don’t have an extensive public transportation system, but an alternative is to sell your car and buy a cheaper used one, which you will only need until you leave for your trip. Buying a throwaway car will allow you to pocket the money from your more expensive car and put it toward your travels.

Additionally, with the proliferation of Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services, it’s never been easier, even in small towns, to find transportation. Do the math on it but it may be cheaper to get Lyfts around town than to own a car. (Plus, if you need a car for long distances, you can easily rent one.)
 

6. Save on Gas

Gas adds up! Luckily, there’s plenty of ways to save on gas! First, use the app GasBuddy to find cheap gas near you. Second, sign up for all the major gas station loyalty programs. By default, they save you around 5 cents per gallon. Shell’s Fuel Rewards is the best because you attached it to a dining program leading to savings up to 50 cents a gallon. Moreover, use GasBuddy’s credit card, which can be tied to any of these loyalty programs and then used for an additional savings of 25 cents per gallon. Most supermarkets also have loyalty programs that offer gas savings. And, if you sign up for Costco, they have huge savings too.
 

7. Stream!

In the age of Hulu and free (and legal) streaming TV, there’s no reason for you to be spending $50 USD per month on cable television. Get rid of it and just watch everything online for free. You can also start sharing your streaming costs with friends or family. Standard Netflix is $12.99 USD per month. If you can cut that in half by splitting it with a friend, you’ll save a few bucks.
 

8. Downgrade your phone

The average American phone bill is over $100 USD per month. That’s crazy! While smartphones are handy devices, getting a cheap phone without any fancy apps will cut your monthly phone bill in half (if not more). You might get bored on the train not being able to read the news, but saving an extra $600-800 USD a year will allow you to spend a few more weeks in Europe, buy fancier meals, or learn to scuba dive in Fiji.

Consider buying a simple flip phone or even a refurbished phone. You’ll waste less time online and save money. Double win!
 

9. Get a new credit card

A travel credit card can give you free money, free rooms, and free flights. After accruing miles and rewards points with your card on everyday purchases, you can redeem them for free travel on your trip. Travel credit cards are a big weapon in a budget traveler’s arsenal. You’ll even earn huge sign-up bonuses when you get a new card.

When used properly, these cards generate free money so start early. As soon as you decide to travel the world, get a travel-related credit card and begin earning points on your daily purchases. A few credit cards worth checking out are:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – The best card on the market, offering 3x points on restaurants and travel, lounge access, and over $300 in travel credit.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – A more affordable version of the Reserve with 2x points on restaurants and travel as well as no foreign tranaction fees.
  • Capital One Venture – An easy-to-use card with a $100 credit for Global Entry over 10 airline partners you can tranfers points to.
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited – A simple cash-back card with 5% cash-back on travel.

For more credit card suggestions, check out this list of the best travel credit cards.

And, for more information on travel credit cards in general, here is my comprehensive guide on how to pick a good travel credit card.
 

10. Open an online savings account

While saving, you can have your money grow a little bit more by putting it in a high-yield online savings account. I’ve done this since the time when I was preparing to go away on my first trip and I netted a few extra hundred dollars. Interest rates are pretty low these days but you can still get 0.50-0.80%. Good online US banks include:

  • Salem Five Direct (0.80%)
  • Citibank (0.70%)
  • CIBC Bank (0.70%)
  • Discover Bank (0.60%)

Not from the US? Check out these websites for more local information:

 

11. Get a Charles Schwab account

Charles Schwab bank refunds all your ATM fees and has no account fees. With this card, you’ll never pay an ATM fee again. When you think about how often you take out money — both at home and abroad — this is a game changer. For more on saving money when you bank, read this article.

Note: This is only available to Americans.
 

12. Sign up for travel newsletters

No one likes to clutter up their inbox, but by signing up for mailing lists from airlines and travel companies, you’ll be able to get updates about all the last-minute sales or special deals happening. I would have missed out on a round-trip ticket to Japan for $700 USD (normally $1,500) if it wasn’t for the American Airlines mailing list.

Additionally, consider signing up for a website like Scott’s Cheap Flights. They hunt down deals and send them directly to your inbox — for free! They also offer a premium service that offers more (and better) deals but at the very least join their free newsletter. Chances are you’ll find some awesome deals!
 

13. Build a network on Couchsurfing

Building a network on Couchsurfing can help you make friends with locals and get free accommodation when you do travel.

However, if you’ve never used it before you might not get many responses. After all, someone who hasn’t been vouched for and has no reviews isn’t an appealing candidate. Before you go away, sign up for Couchsurfing, find a local meetup (there should always be at least one in your area), and attend. You’ll make friends, be added to people’s profiles and vouched for, and have a network you can utilize when it is time to actually go away.

Of course, if you have space in your apartment you can also host travelers before you depart (or just meet up with them for coffee). This is the best way to build your network, get familiar with the platform, and earn reviews that will help you down the road when you’re looking for a host.

If possible, verify your account as well. Having a verified account will boost the chances of a host accepting your request.
 

14. Replace your light bulbs

Electricity costs money and since every penny counts, using energy-efficient light bulbs will cut down on your utility bills. Fluorescent light bulbs are cheap and replacing just five bulbs can cut $75 USD per year off your electric bill. Plus, due to energy efficiency initiatives in certain states, many electric companies will give you a rebate if you buy fluorescent bulbs! Be sure to check out which rebates your local energy company offers no matter where you live in the world.

Going green can save you green!
 

15. Buy second-hand

Why pay full price when you can pay half? Use websites like Amazon (discounted books and electronics), wholesale websites, and clearance sales to buy at discount. Towns big and small usually have a thrift store where you can pick up clothing and odds and ends — most of which also have regular sales. Sure, you don’t want to buy everything used, but you can definitely buy most things used!
 

16. Cut coupons

The Entertainment Book, grocery coupons, Groupon, and loyalty cards all reduce the price you pay at the register. Clipping coupons might make you feel like an 80-year-old grandmother, but the goal here is to be frugal and save money, and coupons definitely help with that.

Many grocery stores also offer electronic coupons based on your shopping habits. Sign up at your local grocery store for their loyalty program and you can lower your weekly grocery bill with discounts either sent via email or added directly to your loyalty card. Here are some discount and coupon websites worth checking out are:

 

17. Sell your stuff

Before I started long-term travel, I looked around my apartment and saw just a lot of stuff I had no need for anymore: TVs, couches, tables, stereo equipment. Instead of keeping it in storage (which costs money), I decided to just get rid of everything. I sold it all and used the money to travel. After all, I’m not going to need my couch while eating pasta in Rome!

Sites like Craigslist, Amazon, and Gumtree are excellent places to sell your unneeded consumer goods.

If you’ve got a ton of stuff, consider having a yard sale. That’s the fastest way to clear out your house and make a few bucks in the process.
 

18. Skip the movies

I don’t know about you, but I find movies ridiculously expensive. It can cost up to $20 USD for a ticket, and that much again for the popcorn and soda. Cut out the movies or rent them online via Netflix or iTunes. Whatever you do, cutting out trips to the movies will save you a bundle.

If you do want to see the occasional movie, go on the cheap night (most theaters have one) and sign up for their loyalty program to earn free movies.
 

19. Stop drinking alcohol

Alcohol is expensive. Cutting down the amount you drink is going to have a big impact on your budget. While this might not apply to everyone, those of you who are carefree might go out with your friends on the weekend. Drink before you go out to the bar or simply don’t drink at all. Cutting down the amount of alcohol you consume is considered low-hanging fruit — an easy way to save money.
 

20. Quit smoking

Smoking kills not only you but also your wallet. A $10 USD pack per day amounts to $3,650 USD per year. Even half that amount would still yield enough money for close to two months in Central America. If you don’t want to stop smoking for your health, do it for your trip.
 

21. Stop snacking

A snack here and there not only adds calories to your waistline but also empties your wallet — another example of phantom expenses. We don’t think much of them because they cost so little, but they add up over time and eat into our savings. Eat fuller meals during lunch and dinner and avoid the snacks.

If you do want to snack, bring snacks from home and plan your snacking in advance. That way, you can buy cheaper (and healthier snacks) and avoid buying chips, chocolate bars, and other expensive junk.
 

22. Earn extra money on the side

The sharing economy has made it really easy to earn extra money on the side. You can rent your spare room out on Airbnb, drive with Lyft, cook dinner on EatWith, or lead personalized tours through Get Your Guide.

No matter what skill or unused asset you have, there is a moneymaking service for you. Use these websites to boost your trip savings and travel cheaper. Here is a full list of sharing economy websites you can use to earn some extra cash on the site.
 

23. Buy a reusable water bottle

Single-use water bottles are not only harmful to the environment, they are also harmful to your wallet. One or two water bottles a day at $1 USD per bottle will add up to at least $30 USD a month. That’s $360 USD a year! You can spend a week in France with that much money!

Instead of plastic, buy a reusable water bottle and fill it with tap water. You’ll want one for your trip anyway, so buy one now and get in the habit of using it. I like Lifestraw as it also has a water filter.

***

These tips will help save you thousands of dollars and will make your dream trip seem less like a dream and more like a reality. I know some of them are obvious but it’s the obvious things we rarely think about.

The most important thing you can do though is to track your expenses as everyone’s situation is different. For me, the biggest “Wow! I can’t believe I’m spending money on this” were Lyft and escooters. Hundreds of dollars a month were being wasted with me realizing it.

Track your spending so you can keep cutting what is discretionary spending. And keep this list in mind so you always remember what to cut so you can save for travel!
 

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

Nomadic Matt's How to Travel the World on $50 a DayMy New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A to Z planning guide that the BBC guide the “bible for budget travelers.”

Click here to learn more and start reading it today!
 
 

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Need to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

 

The post 23 Ways to Cut Your Expenses and Have More Money for Travel appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Mexico: A Love Story

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A huge, bright historic building in Mexico
Posted: 1/12/21 | January 12th, 2021

Some things just aren’t meant to be. Sometimes, no matter how much you want something, the universe seems to conspire against you.

While I believe you make your own fate, I do think the universe has a way of saying, “Hey, the timing isn’t right. You should rethink your plans.”

So it was with my move to Mexico.

Last year, I wrote how I had planned to move there for the winter.

I needed a mental break, wanted to save money by renting out my apartment, and had a number of friends living there. My goal was to work, eat tacos, have a little social bubble, and spend a lot of time socially distanced at the beach.

But, thanks to a new management company that refused to allow me to sublease my apartment, those plans withered away. And while I’m not above having someone live there “under the radar,” most people in Texas need a car — and a parking pass for my building would definitely require my property management company’s approval.

Thus there would be no winter in Mexico for me.

But I discovered something during this process: Mexico is awesome.

Yes, I know I’m late to this party. So late that the hosts are cleaning the dishes and asking me where the heck I was all night.

Mexico is not some undiscovered land. Nowhere I went could be considered “off the beaten path.”

But while it was not my first time in the country — I’d briefly touched its shores as part of a cruise and once spent three days in a resort on a press trip way back in 2011 — it was my first time really seeing it.

Before this trip, I never gave Mexico much thought. It’s just a few hours away from Austin, so I had always figured I could go there anytime. Why visit Mexico when I could see French Polynesia instead?

People rarely explore their own backyard. To many, travel is about long flights and faraway destinations.

So it was for me for a long time. Though in recent years Mexico rose higher on my list of places to visit as more friends raved about it, it just never seemed to make it to the top. I’d make plans to go, only to be distracted by a shiny object (i.e., some other country).

Oh, how I regret that after seeing what I’d been missing!

Mexico is magical.

In the six weeks I was there, I spent close to three in Tulum (which was terrible), one in Playa del Carmen, five days in the Yucatán, and two weeks in Oaxaca.

The original plan was to spend a few weeks in Tulum then move to Playa del Carmen, where some friends lived. We’d form our little social bubble, and I’d get some work done and stay until March. But by week three, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I hated Tulum and I didn’t really vibe with Playa. (Here’s a long post on why I hated Tulum in case you missed it.)

Playa was nice. There was a lovely beach, some good restaurants and bars, and lots of digital nomads. I can see myself going back, meeting people, and partying on the beach. But in the age of COVID, that’s not what I wanted to do, so Playa didn’t really feel like the place to be right now.

Between that and my apartment situation, I realized my stay in Mexico was coming to an earlier end than planned.

But what to do with my remaining time that was also COVID safe?

A relaxing park in Mexico

While in Tulum, a friend and I took a car to Yucatán — which was like crossing over into Shangri-La. Suddenly, the roads got better. Masks were being worn everywhere, there were restrictions on group sizes, and business hours were limited. Here was somewhere that took COVID seriously — and I loved it. The area felt safe, and its case count (only a few dozen a week in the entire state) reflected that.

It was also the first time since I landed that I really felt like I was in another country, not someplace designed for tourists who wanted a “safe” version of Mexico. I loved the Spanish architecture, the incredible and diverse cuisine, and, of course — as clichéd as it is — the people. So many people just wanted to stop and talk, and I felt a lot of hospitality there.

In Mérida, we found Mezcalería La Fundación, a mezcal bar recommended by a few bloggers, but it seemed closed. On a whim, I decided to walk around the block to this hot dog restaurant I had seen and ask if they knew if the bar would be open later.

“The bar closed permanently because of the pandemic,” she replied.

“Crap,” I said turning to my friend. “I guess we’ll go to the market now.”

The server turned to the other guy in the shop and, in Spanish too fast for me to understand, started talking, and then turned to me. “This guy will take you to a place nearby. It’s very good.”

So we followed a stranger back down the street toward the closed mezcal bar. At first, I thought there had been some miscommunication, but he knocked on another door instead, one so barely noticeable I had walked past it twice. A man came out, words were spoken, and we were told to go in.

“Whoa,” I exclaimed. “We’re in a mezcal speakeasy!” I was beaming, as I love speakeasies and fancy cocktail bars.

“Ohh, this is not the speakeasy,” the bartender said. “For that, follow me.”

He walked to the far end of the bar, then opened the bookcase into another secret bar. A bar within a bar!

“What’s this bar’s name?” I asked.

“We have no name,” the hostess said.

“How do people find this place?”

“You have to have our number. It gets shared by word of mouth.”

After a few drinks in the secret bar, we met the owner, Roberto. He used to work in advertising but got tired of it and started a mezcal brand. The bar we were in, Acervo, opened a year ago but was kept fairly secret. The speakeasy, which has no name, social media, or website but does have a beautiful outdoor garden, was started right before the pandemic.1

On hearing we were going to Oaxaca, he gave me the number of his friend. “He’ll teach you all about mezcal.”

Then into the night we went; music and dancing filled streets and plazas.

Even against the backdrop of the pandemic, Yucatán, and specifically its capital, Mérida, adhering to public health rules, showed that you could balance life and COVID and still keep case counts low. (Admittedly, this is aided by their ability to be able to do outdoors and spaced apart.)

But, while I loved Mérida, it was Oaxaca that really made me swoon.

A quiet historic street in Mexico

Have you ever showed up somewhere and before you know it, something in the air just tells you that this place is right for you? That it’s everything you ever wanted and you’re going to be in love with it forever?

That was Oaxaca for me. The food, the mezcal, the architecture, and (of course) the people were amazing. The city is a mix of modern buildings painted in bright colors, historic Spanish colonial churches, cobblestone streets, and lots of parks.

In the last decade, as mezcal has become incredibly popular, Oaxaca has also become the hub for all things mezcal, with tourists reaching record numbers before COVID. And, along with Mérida and Mexico City, it’s considered one of the gastronomic centers of Mexico.

My expat friends and I ate and drank our way through the city. We discovered the hamburguesa, an Oaxacan street burger that contains beef, ham, hot dogs, two kinds of cheese, pineapple, tomatoes, and lettuce, all in a grilled bun (it’s as delicious as it was unhealthy); ate lots of moles, tacos, and Oaxacan cheese; and went to the mountains to see some ruins and learn how Mezcal was produced. And, of course, we met Roberto’s buddy, who did indeed give us an educational mezcal tasting on his bar’s rooftop (and who helped my friend find her apartment when she decided to stay in Oaxaca for the winter).

***

I was surprised by how much I loved Mexico. Sure, it has problems: many cities are no-go zones because of cartels, corruption is rife, there’s a lot of violence and poverty, and it gave its people no assistance to weather the pandemic. “You’re on your own,” said the government.

And there’s a lot I still need to learn about the country. I only saw a tiny sliver of it through mezcal-tinted glasses. There’s a lot more to see and a lot more of the culture, people, and life I needed to learn. I barely scratched the surface.

But that’s all the more reason to return.

I can’t believe I missed this place for so long.

What I fool I was!

I won’t make the same mistake twice.

 
1- If you want to go to the speakeasy, you need to make a reservation. Text +52 999 658 1678 for that evening’s password. On Thursdays, they have jazz.

2 – Let’s talk COVID. Mexico is open for tourism. It doesn’t require any testing or quarantining. (I got a PCR test before I went because it’s just the right thing to do.) And that’s why so many people go there to party. I mean, Tulum was insane, and I was glad to get out of there. Masks and restrictions were enforced in Yucatán and Oaxaca, but not so much in Quintana Roo (where Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancún are).

But, frankly, I wouldn’t advise going to Mexico right now. Cases have risen a lot since I first went and even once-safe places like Oaxaca aren’t so safe anymore. I know that sounds hypocritical of me since I was just there — but things were different in November and, if I had to make the same decision now, I wouldn’t do it. Mexico can wait.

Book Your Trip to Mexico: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Mexico?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Mexico for even more planning tips!

The post Mexico: A Love Story appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Tulum is Utterly Terrible.

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A wide beach on a sunny day in Tulum, Mexico
Posted: 12/14/20 | December 14th, 2020

Hell is a town called Tulum. Watched over by Mayan ruins and buttressed by the ocean, this is a place of pothole-filled streets, overpriced taxis, terrible traffic jams, and out-of-touch yuppies, celebrities, influencers, wannabe gurus, COVID deniers, and well-to-do folks looking to “find themselves” in overpriced retreats, hotels, and bars.

It is a town where one can overhear tech deals, talk of the “the China flu,” Instagram algorithms, and an upcoming drum circle within the span of a few minutes.

I came here with very low expectations. I’d heard the stories from my friends, seen all those “influencers” on Instagram gushing profusely, read the articles, and spoke with other travelers.

Tulum was influencers paradise, which likely meant it wasn’t mine.

But I wanted to see what all the hype was really about. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe I was just being a stubborn old goat.

Nope. Tulum was even worse than I had imagined.

A sleepy little town during my last visit in 2011, Tulum is now a mecca for jet-setting millennials, celebs, hippies, and spiritual types. It is a place where they come to do all the things they can do back home — but without the cost, in better weather, and with more international people around.

It’s become another Bali or Goa: a relatively cheap retreat for Westerners who want to drop in, drop out, live in their bubble, eat açaí bowls during the day, and party all night long. Here, in expensive beachside boutique hotels, they eat in Miami-style restaurants while listening to the latest EDM music.

They aren’t in Tulum to experience Mexico. They come here for their little bubble.

I wanted to love Tulum. I kept thinking to myself, “What am I missing? What do they see that I don’t?”

Tulum isn’t all bad: the ruins, set above the beach, are immaculately preserved, there are lots of cenotes (sinkholes) to swim in nearby, the beach is truly world-class, and the food downtown — especially the taco stalls and seafood restaurants — are excellent.

Noamdic Matt posing near ruins on the beach in Tulum, Mexico

And the design of those boutique hotels and restaurants, with their minimalist esthetic and use of wood, plants, and lights, is quite stunning. The “Tulum esthetic” as it is called is actually beautiful.

But the reason Tulum is hell is not because of that but because of the people.

There are just too many tourists behaving badly here, acting as if they weren’t guests in someone else’s country. And it kept rubbing me the wrong way.

Travel is a privilege — and the people who come here don’t seem to appreciate that. Most are simply re-creating their own cultures rather than trying to enjoy Mexican culture.

And, while I did enjoy some of those bougie restaurants and beach bars, I don’t travel in order to just re-create my life back home. I travel to experience a destination. I want to talk to locals who aren’t serving me food, eating a roadside taco stands and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and just trying to get a sense of life here.

Of course, not all travel has to be deep. Sometimes you just want a vacation. Sometimes you just want to jet off to a beach destination and drink from coconuts before going back to “the real world.”

I’m not irked by the ones that come to Tulum for that.

It’s the folks who are here long-term, feigning a deeper spiritual enlightenment and extolling the “magic” of this place, that seem hypocritical to me. They come to Tulum and pretend they are some magical spiritual quest or to work remote. But all they do is stick to their own Westernized bubble.

They then complain about the locals, crime (fueled by their own desire for drugs), and, in the same breath, lament things are changing — even as they’re excited about a new airport and wonder where they can find a Whole Foods–style grocery store. (Yes, in the expat group I joined, someone actually asked that question.)

It’s these folks, the ones who make up the majority of Tulum’s visitors, that made me hate Tulum. Especially, now, during COVID.

A lot of people come here because they know they can escape public health restrictions in their own country. In fact, a lot of the “COVID is a hoax” folks move here, bars are packed, and group events happen all the time. In fact, the week I arrived, Tulum had a festival called Art with Me, which became a superspreader event.

While I think there is a safe way to travel and am not in the “no movement ever” camp, I think it’s just super reckless to pretend COVID doesn’t exist and go about your business. Most of my time was at my Airbnb, around downtown, eating at outdoor restaurants or stalls, and on the beach alone (the public beach is incredible). I got to enjoy the best of Tulum away from the worst of it.

After all, the traveler is a guest in someone’s home and should treat that with respect. To fly to a place, attend events that increase the risk of COVID, act like it doesn’t exist, refuse to wear a mask, and leave the locals to deal with the consequences (or catch it and take it back home) is just a reprehensible thing to do.

***

Clearly, I’m not the yoga/burner/let’s talk about chakras kind of guy. And I have many friends who love Tulum and will go back over and over again. The “scene” in Tulum is simply not for me. There’s too much unsustainable development egged on by people who “care about the environment” but are all too happy to stay in overpriced hotels that have to constantly run generators since the hotel zone has no infrastructure.

Years ago, I said I’d never return to Vietnam. Age and experience have shown me I was wrong to judge Vietnam so harshly on a first visit. Every place deserves a second chance.

But, after seeing what Tulum has become, I doubt I’ll visit Tulum a third time. Maybe if I become super-rich and can avoid those bougie $800-a-night hotels or decide that, actually, drum circles really are for me.

So, dear traveler, if you’re like me and travel to learn about the country you are visiting, an extended visit to Tulum probably isn’t for you. There’s not much of Mexico to be found in the overpriced boutique hotels, shops, retreat centers, or restaurants selling pizza, pad thai, açaí bowls, and juice cleanses.

Come for a quick trip to the ruins, swim in a few cenotes, eat the wonderful street food, dine at the hole in the wall local restaurants, and wander the downtown area.

Then leave and skip the rest with no regrets.

Because the rest is an unsustainable and overdeveloped hell hole of fake influencers, wannabe celebs, and people tearing down paradise.

And it’s not worth your time.

Book Your Trip to Mexico: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Mexico?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Mexico for even more planning tips!

The post Tulum is Utterly Terrible. appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Patreon News: More Perks, Posts, and Other Updates

Posted By : webmaster/ 213 0


A traveler meet-up for the Nomadic Network
Posted: 12/10/20 | December 10th, 2020

Over the past few years, we’ve worked hard to make sure that our community believes that traveling is attainable. We’ve built a company based on the premise that you can take the trip of your dreams without breaking the bank — and we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of readers do just that.

It’s great reading emails from people who have taken the leap and booked flights that they always dreamed of and traveled to places they always wanted to visit.

Earlier this year — all the way back in the century we call March, when the world shut down and travel stopped — we watched our traffic dwindle down to zero in a matter of days. So we brainstormed ways to continue to serve our community during these uncertain times.

One idea that felt right for us was to create a community-funded Patreon page, a members-only subscription service that allows people to support their favorite artists and online creators.

Keeping the community connected and inspired was an important factor in the creation of our Patreon page. Last November, we launched The Nomadic Network (TNN), a community where people can create local chapters and hold travel-centric events to help each other travel better, cheaper, and longer. Our goal then was to take this amazing online community we have created over the last twelve years and bring it offline, to foster real-world connections and friendships.

But then COVID came. In an effort to keep the travel community alive, connected, and inspired, we started two initiatives: virtual TNN events and a Patreon page. Both aimed at serving our community and boosting our travel spirits during these uncertain times.

Patreon has been a huge success, and, based on your feedback, we’ve recently made some changes, adding in more content, Q&As, and even some cool swag!

Now, as a patron, you’ll get:

  • Monthly live Q&As with me!
  • Travel planning calls with me!
  • Calls with the team
  • Free tickets to TravelCon
  • Access to all our TNN events and virtual replays
  • Autographed books
  • Postcards from me when I’m on the road
  • Private Instagram posts
  • Exclusive personal blog posts I don’t share elsewhere (for example, I’ve written about when I tried boxing in Thailand, shared chapters from my book that didn’t get published, and told some crazy hostel stories, to name a few!)

Moreover, we added the following new perks:

  • Patrons now get early access to certain blog posts and the ability to give feedback and suggestions before they are published on this website. This applies to “thought pieces” where I discuss some ideas I’m working through. In short, you’ll get to help guide the direction of this website!
  • We are now making T-shirts, so you can have a symbol of your membership (and hopefully spot others when you travel).
  • We now offer our weekly TNN webinars as replays that you can watch whenever you have time. We record them all and upload them to Patreon each week. It’s the only place they can be replayed!

And finally, Patreon now allows for annual memberships. If you become a patron now, you’ll get one free month!

You can sign up by clicking here.

While the information on this site will remain free, Patreon allows you to be part of a broader community and have more interactions with our team and community members. It also helps ensure that this website and the community around it will be around for a long time to come.

I started Nomadic Matt with the simple dream of teaching people how to travel. That hasn’t changed. It never will.

But being part of our Patreon gets you exclusive perks, content, and access that will help sustain this community while improving your travels and give you access to events that are patron-only.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

Sincerely,

Nomadic Matt

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Need to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

The post Patreon News: More Perks, Posts, and Other Updates appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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14 Great Travel Backpacks for Your Next Trip

Posted By : webmaster/ 222 0


A hiker walking on a trail toward snow-capped mountains
Posted: 12/7/2020 | December 7th, 2020

Buying a travel backpack is one of the most important purchases a traveler will make. A backpack isn’t just where you carry your stuff — it’s your home.

Your bag is an important investment. You want one that can handle the abuse that comes with traveling the world on a budget. You’ll be living out of this bag for weeks or months or years. You’ll be hauling it on hikes and across hectic cities, stuffing it onto crowded buses, and flying it around the world.

If you’re like me, you want a bag that lasts. I’ve had my bag for five years (my previous one, before it got lost on a flight, lasted ten), my community manager has had his backpack for seven years, and the director of our charity FLYTE has had hers for eight.

You’ll need a bag that works for you — but what works for you might not necessarily work for someone else. So, before diving into how to pick a backpack for travel, I want to mention the most important features you need to consider as you evaluate my favorites listed below. You want backpack that has:

    • Water-resistant material
    • Lockable zippers
    • An internal frame
    • A padded hip belt & shoulder straps
    • Multiple openings (not just a single top opening)
    • Lots of compartments
    • A contoured/padded back

And be sure your backpack fits your body too. Don’t get one that’s too small or too large as it will hurt your back. Proportionality matters!

To help you save money and stay comfortable as you travel the world, below are my top 14 travel backpack suggestions.

In a rush? Here’s a list of only the best travel backpacks:Best Overall Travel Backpack: REI Flash 45
Best Backpack for Digital Nomads: NOMATIC 40
Best Backpack with Wheels: Kathmandu Hybrid Trolley 50L
Best Backpack for Women (Under 50L): REI Flash 45
Best Backpack for Women (Over 50L): REI Traverse 65
Best Backpack for Men (Under 50L): Osprey Farpoint 40
Best Backpack for Men (Over 50L): REI Traverse 70L

 

The Best Travel Backpacks: Detailed Review

Best Overall
REI Flash 45 Pack

REI Flash 45 Pack

The back paneling on this pack is breathable, and the handy water bottle pocket is located near the front of the hip belt so you never have to take off your backpack to get a drink. The design is great!

SUMMARY:

  • Size: 45-47L
  • Compression technology
  • Movable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible

Check Best Price

While that backpack is my favorite, here are some other packs that you can’t go wrong with either:

Image

Travel Backpack

Details

Men’s Osprey Aether AG 60

  • Size: 57-63L
  • Dual upper side compression straps, lower inside-out compression straps, and dual front compression straps
  • Large front J-zip, detachable daypack, hydration sleeve, plenty of pockets

Men’s Osprey Farpoint 40

  • Size: 38-40L
  • Two front compression straps and two internal compression straps
  • 15-inch laptop sleeve, large zippered panel, padded handles

Women’s Osprey Fairview 40

  • Size: 38-40L
  • Dual front compressions straps
  • Large zippered front panel, pockets, padded handle, laptop sleeve

Women’s Osprey Ariel AG 65

  • Size: 59-65L
  • Dual upper side compression straps, lower inside-out compression straps, dual front compression strapsails
  • Large J-zip at the front, sleeping bag compartment, removable sleeping pad straps, removable daypack

Osprey Atmos AG 65 Pack

  • Size: 62-68L
  • Upper and lower side compression straps
  • Adjustable harness and hip belt, lots of pockets, hydration sleeve, FlapJacket to protect against bad weather

Kathmandu Hybrid Trolley 50L

  • Size: 50L
  • Quick-deploy shoulder harness and padded back panel
  • Converts to wheeled luggage; has inner and outer mesh pockets, and attachment slots for a day pack.

Osprey Porter 46 Travel Pack

  • Size: 46L
  • Padded hip belt, shoulder harness
  • Laptop sleeve, lots of pockets, lockable zippers, padded handles for toting

NOMATIC 40L Travel Bag

  • Size: 40L
  • Padded straps, detachable waist straps
  • RFID protected pocket, cord organizer, laundry bag, laptop and shoe compartments

Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 Anti-Theft Adventure Travel Pack

  • Size: 46L
  • Breathable shoulder and waist straps
  • Built-in rain cover, main compartment accessible through back panel, smart zipper security

Women’s REI Flash 45 Pack

  • Size: 45-47L
  • Compression technology pulls the pack’s load up and inward so that the pack is closer to your center of gravity
  • Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, 3-D contoured hip belt

Women’s REI Traverse 65

  • Size: 61-69L
  • Adjustable padded shoulder straps and hip belt
  • Large zippered front pockets, accessible water bottle pockets, hip belt pocket, hydration compatible, rain cover

REI Traverse 70

  • Size: 66-74L
  • Adjustable padded shoulder straps and hip belt
  • Large zippered front pockets, accessible water bottle pockets, hip belt pocket, hydration compatible, rain cover

Osprey Talon 44

  • Size: 44L
  • Seamless lumbar-to-hipbelt support
  • Breathable back padding, lots of pockets, narrow design, and water resistant material

***A good travel backpack will last years and make all your journeys better, and those on this list are some of the best on the market.

But not every one of these bags will work for you. Some will be too narrow or too wide. Some will be too tall or too short. For that reason, you’ll want to spend some time trying your bag on and making sure it’s comfortable. Choosing the best travel backpack — the one that works for you, even if it’s not on this list — is what’s most important here!

This isn’t just a purchase; this is an investment. Remember, it’s not just a bag: it’s your home.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

Nomadic Matt's How to Travel the World on $50 a DayMy New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A-to-Z planning guide that the BBC calls “the bible for budget travelers.”

Click here to learn more and start reading it today!

 

 

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Need to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

The post 14 Great Travel Backpacks for Your Next Trip appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Black Friday Sale: Get up to 50% off!!

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Nomadic Matt Black Friday Sale
Posted: 11/24/2020 | November 24th, 2020

Hello, everyone! It’s that time of the year again, thanks to all those online deals, we all do our holiday shopping.

And we’re no different than anyone else in that regard.

As we do every year, we’re going to participate in this mass consumer event by putting all our guidebooks and courses on sale.

From right now until Monday, November 30th at 11:59 pm EST, all our books and courses are up to 50% off. Moreover, we doing a special release of all our previous TravelCon recordings.

Here’s the rundown of our Black Friday sale:

Books

This year, all my guidebooks are 50% off. While you might not be traveling right now, you can still start planning for a future trip — and my guidebooks are perfect for that! Each book just $4.99! Here’s a list of all my guides, which are available via PDF or Kindle:

Additionally, if you want to buy all the books together, you can do so for the ultralow price of $39.99. That’s 57% off the regular price! Just click here to get my entire collection of guidebooks!

These guides will help you collect points for free travel and explore destinations away from the crowds. They encompass my vision of travel: affordable, untouristy, unpretentious, and filled with good local eats!
 

Business & Writing Mentorship Programs

Nomadic Matt speaking at the WDS conference
If you’re looking to start a blog, get readers, rank high in Google, make money, or grow your existing business, my hands-on mentorship program can help you do just that. With it, you’ll get personalized help and feedback from my team and me. This isn’t a course. It’s a class where I’m here to help you create your strategy, show you our processes, and help you succeed online. It’s hands-on.

Moreover, on December 1st, we’re raising the price of this mentorship to $79 per month or $599 a year.

But, right now, you can get it at the current price of $49 per month or $399 per year and, when you use the code twomonths, you’ll get 50% off your first two months of membership! You’ll be grandfathered in at our current rates for life. You’ll never get a price increase for as long as you’re a part of the program.

So what’s included?

You’ll get behind the scenes of how I run my website and give you all my tips, tricks, and secrets to running a successful blog. I share metrics, screenshots, and all my numbers. I show you how I create products, grow my email list, make money with affiliates, write sales pages, network with other bloggers, get media coverage, and so much more. It comes with:

  • Weekly Q&As and strategy calls
  • Unlimited tech support (you break it, we fix it!)
  • Professional feedback and edits on your blog posts
  • A community forum to interact and network with other students
  • A collaboration board so you can get links and guest posts to gain readers faster
  • Bonus webinars from the most successful online creators in the world
  • Real-world assignments to keep you on task

It’s even beneficial if you’re an existing creator. Here’s what Jeremy from Travel Freak said:

“Though I’ve been blogging for 5+ years, I still found Matt’s program extremely beneficial. It helped me to rethink my strategy and come up with a more long-term and sustainable business model. Even as an established travel blogger, this program was useful because it helped to change my mindset and taught me advanced tactics I didn’t know. The information he shares is required to run a successful blog and business in today’s climate.”

So, if you’d like me to be your blogging teacher, click here to learn more about the coure and join today.

Don’t forget to use the code twomonths to save 50% on your first two months.

Additionally, we have a writing mentorship taught by OG travel writer David Farley, who has written a best seller book, taught at NYU and Columbia, and hosted a National Geographic series. This program gets into the nitty-gritty of becoming a better writer. You’ll learn how to improve your writing, self-edit, become more descriptive, draw your reader in, come up with story ideas, pitch editors, and even make a living as a writer.

Additionally, David and I will give you feedback and edits on your writing throughout the course. No one improves their writing alone — and no other writing course offers this kind of hands-on help.

Plus, you’ll get over 12 hours of interviews with other travel writers and editors in order to learn their best practices for improving your writing and starting a career as a writer.

Here’s what Whitney thought of the program:

“This program surpassed any writing course I have ever taken in college, as a homeschool teacher, or as a travel professional. I really enjoyed the content and how it was presented, along with the fact that I could send in my writing for David and Matt to review and give feedback on. This program is really is the best of the best! Thank you, David and Matt!”

Click here to learn more and join today. (Don’t forget to use the code twomonths to save 50% off your first two months.)
 

TravelCon Virtual

Oneika Raymond speaking at TravelCon
If you missed out on TravelCon 2018 and 2019, we’re bringing back our virtual recordings for a limited time. We recorded all the talks from both events — and, now, you can now get BOTH conferences’ recordings together in one special package. That’s over 60 hours of information on running a successful blog from the best minds in the travel and entrepreneurship worlds.

You’ll get talks from speakers like Cheryl Strayed, Mark Manson, Tony Wheeler, Oneika Raymond, Ryan Holiday, Glo Atanmo, Kiersten from The Blonde Abroad, dozens of DMO representatives, Rolf Potts, Wandering Earl, Lola Akinmade, Kash Bhattacharya, The Planet D, Renee Roaming, Dalene and Peter Heck, Kristin Luna, Gary Leff, Johnny Jet, Vagabrothers, Hey Nadine, Kristin Addis, Alex Baackes, Pat Flynn, Steve Kamb, and so many more names!

In total, you’ll get talks from over 100 of the top experts in travel and marketing!

From now until the end of Monday, you can get this massive repository of knowledge and behind the scenes information. All our talks have tons of actionable advice you can implement right away.

Just click here to get all these recordings for just $99 USD.

This is your last chance to get all of TravelCon’s excellent programs for one low price. We won’t offer this again.

***

So, that’s it! That’s our sale! If you have any questions, drop them in the comments. I’ll be happy to answer them. Our sale goes until Monday night EST, so don’t delay!

– Nomadic Matt

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Need to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

The post Black Friday Sale: Get up to 50% off!! appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Canada Road Trip: A One Month Suggested Itinerary

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People canoeing on the bright, clear waters of Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
Posted:

Spanning 9,306km (5,780 miles) and six time zones, Canada is the second-largest country in the world. It’s home to rugged coastlines, vast prairies, dense boreal forests, towering mountain ranges, and upwards of two million lakes.

But what makes Canada special is its people. It’s a place that embraces its diversity and that encourages people to be friendly, caring, and polite.

Due to its large size, though, traveling across Canada can be a little challenging. Domestic flights are prohibitively expensive due to low competition and, outside of the eastern part, trains don’t go many places.

That means if you really want to see Canada, you need to drive.

To help you explore this amazing country, Chris Oldfield, our Canadian team member, helped create this suggested itinerary for a one-month road trip. It’s packed, since you’ve got a lot of ground to cover. However, it’s also not too rushed (though you can easily extend this out to six or eight weeks as well).

(Note: Canada is huge, and there are many routes and itineraries you can take. This one is by no means comprehensive but instead meant to give you a good overview and introduction to the main cities and sights.)
 

Days 1-3: Vancouver, BC

The towering skyline of Vancouver, Canada overlooking the ocean
Kick off your adventure in Vancouver, one of my favorite Canadian cities. It’s tucked between the ocean and the mountains, making it a paradise for anyone who loves the outdoors.

It’s also the third-largest city in Canada, so there’s plenty to see and do while you’re here. There’s an amazing foodie scene here too.

Here are a few suggestions to help you start your trip off right:

  • Visit Granville Island – Granville Island is a shopping district in the middle of the city. It’s also a hub for foodies. Explore the public market, grab a beer at Granville Island Brewing Company, and wander the cool shops. There are also galleries, some performing arts venues, and all kinds of events and festivals held here too!
  • Enjoy the view from Grouse Mountain – Ride the gondola to the top, where you can enjoy the view over the metropolis and mountains. There are lots of trails for hiking in the summer and sections for skiing and snowboarding in the winter. You can also hike to the top (which takes 1.5–2 hours) and then take the gondola down for just $15 CAD.
  • Relax in Stanley Park – Located in the heart of the city, this enormous park (a 400-hectare natural rain forest) is a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown. Its waterfront path right on the Pacific is a nice place to go for a stroll, swim, or bike ride. There are also sports fields here and over 20km of trails.
  • Walk the Capilano Suspension Bridge – This 450-foot long suspension bridge stands 230 feet high and offers views of the surrounding forests and trails. I don’t love heights, but it’s worth it for the view! Tickets are $54 CAD.

For more suggestions, here’s a detailed list of things to see and do in Vancouver.

Where to Stay

  • Cambie Hostel Gastown – Located in the historic Gastown district, this hostel has comfortable beds, a small common room for hanging out, and access to The Cambie, the hostel’s bar.
  • HI Vancouver Downtown – Tucked into a quieter part of town, HI Vancouver Downtown is in a good location for exploring the popular Granville and Davie Streets, which offer plenty of cafés, bars, clubs, restaurants, and shopping.
  • Samesun Vancouver – With cozy pod beds, clean bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, and free breakfast (including eggs and hot cereal), this is my favorite hostel in the city.

Here is my complete hostel list with even more suggestions!
 

Day 4-5: Whistler, BC

A calm lake with a small floating dock near Whistler, BC, Canada
Located 90 minutes from Vancouver, Whistler is home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America. If you’re visiting during the winter, be sure to hit the slopes.

In the summer, there are tons of outdoor activities to enjoy such as hiking, swimming, cycling, zip-lining, and bear watching. There’s also a 4.4km peak-to-peak gondola where you can enjoy the stunning mountain vistas that envelop the region.

Where to Stay
Airbnb and will be your best choices here. Book in advance, as they get booked fast!
 

Days 6-8: Banff National Park, AB

The vivid waters of Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta
Next, head east to Banff National Park. It’s an 8.5-hour drive, so you can break it up with a stay in Kamloops or just muscle through in one go.

Banff is home to two of Canada’s most picturesque (and most Instagrammed) locations: Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. They are incredibly popular sights, so get there early to beat the crowds.

Beyond snapping some Insta-worthy shots, there is plenty of hiking to enjoy in the surrounding mountains. It’s a beautiful place to relax in a rustic lodge or cabin or go camping (you can rent camping gear if you don’t have any).

Be sure to spend some time in the town of Banff as well. It’s a touristy resort town but it’s also super quaint and charming.

Where to Stay
Airbnb will be your best option if you’re on a budget. If you feel like splurging on a luxury resort or lodge, use Booking.com.

For camping, you can use this government website to book a site in the park.

Note: If you have more than a month for your trip, consider a stop in Jasper National Park before heading to Banff. It’s an extra nine-hour drive from Whistler but the natural beauty here is jaw-dropping (seriously, google “Jasper National Park” — it’s stunning!).
 

Days 9-10: Calgary, AB

The towering skyline of Calgary, Alberta during sunset
Calgary, an often-overlooked destination, is just 90 minutes from Banff and worth spending a couple days in. It’s a cosmopolitan city with a rough and wild cowboy charm to it. There’s plentiful hiking, kayaking, skiing, rafting, and camping all nearby. And the city itself is one of the liveliest in Canada, especially during the Calgary Stampede in July, which attracts tens of thousands of people from around the world.

Here are a few things to see and do during your visit:

  • Attend the Calgary Stampede – The Calgary Stampede is an annual rodeo. Expect chuckwagon races, bull riding, concerts, carnival rides, and endless fair food (deep-fried butter, anyone?). Tickets start at $18 CAD.
  • Visit Fish Creek Provincial Park – Fish Creek sits along the Bow River and is perfect for walking, cycling, and rollerblading. In the summer, people come here to fish, swim, and barbecue. It’s a fun, relaxing place to get some exercise and enjoy the weather.
  • Go brewery-hopping – Calgary has a huge number of brewpubs and small craft breweries. Citizen Brewing Company, Cold Garden Beverage Company, and Big Rock are some of my favorites. You can take brewery tours for around $25 CAD or do a brewery tour for around $90 CAD.
  • Take in the view from Calgary Tower – Built in 1967, the Calgary Tower commemorates Canada’s Centennial. From the top, it offers an uninterrupted view of the Rocky Mountains. The observation deck has a glass floor that adds an extra thrill to your visit (if you like heights, that is). Tickets are $18 CAD.

For more suggestions, check out my comprehensive free guide to Calgary!

Where to Stay

  • HI Calgary City Centre – This is the best hostel in the city. It’s newly renovated, has a full-equipped kitchen, includes towels, and the beds are comfy.

If the hostel is booked, use Airbnb. Be sure to book in advance if you’ll be here for the Stampede.
 

Days 11-12: Regina, SK

The small city of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada in the summer
Located seven hours east of Calgary, Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, is named after Queen Victoria (regina is Latin for “queen”). The province is incredibly flat and dominated by farmland — which is why it’s often overlooked.

Home to under 240,000 people, Regina is a small city that’s worth a quick visit. Here are some suggested things to see and do while you’re here:

  • Visit the Royal Saskatchewan Museum – This natural history museum was opened in 1906 and is home to the world’s largest T. rex cast as well as an insightful exhibition on Canada’s First Nations. It’s an educational place to visit if you’re traveling with kids.
  • Watch the Roughriders – The CFL (Canada’s answer to the NFL) is popular here as Regina is home to one of the league’s best teams, the Roughriders. If you’re visiting between June and November, catch a game at Mosaic Stadium and get rowdy with the locals! Tickets start at $32 CAD.
  • Tour the Legislative Building – The Saskatchewan Legislative Building was built in 1912. It’s a National Historic Site and Heritage Property and is home to one of the tables used by the Fathers of Confederation when they drew up their plans to create a united Canada. Take a guided tour (they last around 30 minutes) and learn about the province’s history.

Where to Stay
Airbnb and Booking.com will be your best choices here, depending on your budget and what kind of accommodation you’re looking for.
 

Days 13-14: Winnipeg, MB

The city of Winnipeg, Canada during the warm summer months
Winnipeg is one of Canada’s up-and-coming destinations. The capital of Manitoba, it’s located six hours from Regina and is home to a burgeoning food scene. There’s also a growing arts and culture community here too.

While it’s known for its harsh winters, Winnipeg has been working hard to evolve into a world-class city. Slowly but surely, it’s succeeding. Stop by for a day or two and check out some of the city’s best sights:

  • See the Canadian Museum for Human Rights – This museum highlights the crises and evolution of human rights in Canada and around the globe. Opened in 2008, it’s the only national museum outside of Ottawa.
  • Watch the Blue Bombers – For more CFL action, catch a Blue Bombers game. The team was founded in 1930 and is one of the best in the league.
  • Explore the Forks National Historic Site – This urban park is a relaxing place to read or have a picnic. At the intersection of two rivers, it was historically significant for trade between indigenous people and Europeans, with human settlement going back as far as 6,000 years.
  • Visit the Royal Canadian Mint – If you’re a collector or are just curious how coins are made, stop by the mint. It’s made over 55 billion coins for 75 different countries. Over 1,000 coins are made every second here! Tours are $8 CAD.

Where to Stay
If you’re on a budget, try Airbnb first. If you’re looking for a hotel, Booking.com has the best rates.
 

Days 15-16: Thunder Bay, ON

A statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox in Thunder Bay, Ontario
Time to head to Ontario! It’s an eight-hour drive, so you can stop along the way to break up the trip (there are tons of parks, campgrounds, and small towns you can stay in along the way).

Tucked away on the edge of Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is one of the biggest cities in Northern Ontario. It’s just an hour from the US border and is one of the sunniest cities in Eastern Canada.

Here are some things to see and do while you’re here:

  • See the Terry Fox Monument – In 1980, cancer-survivor Terry Fox set out to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. He did so on just one leg (he lost the other to cancer). He managed to run for 143 days straight (5,373km, or 3,339 miles) before his cancer returned and he had to call off his quest.
  • Go hiking in Sleeping Giant – Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is located on Lake Superior and offers 80km of hiking trails, including both short day hikes and multi-day routes.
  • Visit Fort William Historical Park – This park is where the reconstructed Fort William is located, a fur trading post from 1816. There’s a traditional blacksmith, cooper, and canoe builder, and you can interact with actors playing the various people you would have met here in the 19th century.

Where to Stay
Airbnb doesn’t have many options here, but if you can find one, they start at $45 CAD per night. For hotels and motels, use Booking.com.
 

Days 17-19: Algonquin Provincial Park, ON

A sweeping vista of forests in Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada
It’s time to get away from it all and spend some time in nature. Algonquin Provincial Park spans a whopping 7,653 square kilometers (2,955 square miles) and is home to black bears, moose, foxes, beavers, wolves, and all kinds of birds and plants.

There are several different campgrounds in the park, dozens of hiking trails, and over 1,500 lakes (it’s massive!). You can also rent canoes and kayaks to explore and go deeper into the park. Multi-day portages are possible too.

Even if you’re a newbie camper and don’t have gear, you’ll be able to rent what you need to have an enjoyable, relaxing getaway for under $50 CAD per day.

Days 20-23: Toronto, ON

The iconic skyline of Toronto, Canada as seen from the island
Perched on the coast of Lake Ontario just a couple hours south of the park, Toronto is often considered the New York of Canada. While it doesn’t have the charm of cities like Vancouver or Montreal, it’s the country’s biggest, most diverse city. In fact, since 50% of the population is foreign-born, it’s considered one of the most diverse cities in the world.

There’s a ton to see and do here. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

  • Visit the CN Tower – The iconic CN Tower stands 550m tall and is a fixture of Toronto’s skyline. It offers panoramic views, shopping, and 360-degree dining in its (expensive) restaurant. If the weather is nice (and you have some extra money to spend), you can also walk along the outer edge of the tower. It’s touristy and expensive but fun!
  • Relax on Toronto Island – Spend an inexpensive day at Toronto Island Park and enjoy the beach, play volleyball, have a picnic, and take in the view of the city from the water.
  • Visit the ROM – The Royal Ontario Museum has thousands of artifacts and specimens spread over 20 exhibits. There are displays on dinosaurs, ancient China, indigenous Canadians, medieval Europe, ancient Egypt, and more. It’s the best museum in town and a fun place for kids and adults alike!
  • Hit the beach – The beaches near Lake Ontario are a relaxing way to spend the day during the humid summer. You can stroll along the boardwalk, eat at one of the many restaurants, or rent a boat and head out on the lake. Some of the best beaches are Cherry, Woodbine, and Centre Island.
  • Wander Kensington Market – This bohemian neighborhood offers an eclectic mix of alternative restaurants and shops. It gets quite bustling in the summer, and there are often free concerts too. It’s one of my favorite places to wander around!

For more suggestions as well as money-saving tips, check out my free guide to Toronto!

Where to Stay
Hotels in Toronto are expensive, so use Airbnb if you’re on a budget. If you do want to stay in a hostel, Planet Traveler Hostel is the best in the city.
 

Days 24-26: Ottawa, ON

The Canadian parliament building in Ottawa, Ontario
Next, head east to Canada’s capital. While Ottawa doesn’t get the love that cities like Toronto and Montreal do, it’s definitely still a city worth visiting — especially if you’re a history buff like me!

Located four hours from Toronto, it’s is full of historic buildings and museums, and is just a short walk from Québec (Canada’s French-speaking province).

Here’s what I would focus on in Ottawa during your stay:

  • Wander the Byward Market – This massive market is full of restaurants, shops, and open-air stalls. There is a lot happening all year round, though in the summer it’s bustling with fresh produce and many local artisans. If you’re looking for a souvenir or just want to people-watch, this is the place!
  • Visit the Canadian Museum of Civilization – While technically not in Ottawa (it’s across the river in Québec), this world-class museum is one of the best in all of Canada. It does an amazing job of showcasing Canada’s entire history, including some insightful exhibitions on First Nations. There are lots of kid-friendly exhibits too. This museum shouldn’t be missed!
  • Try a beaver tail – These are not actual beaver tails, don’t worry! They’re delectable desserts resembling a flat donut, made of fried dough and covered in all sorts of sweet toppings. They’re a must!
  • Visit the Canadian War Museum – Canada is known as a peaceful nation, but it’s been involved in its fair share of conflicts too. This museum does an excellent job of highlighting Canada’s military history. It has exhibits on both world wars as well as modern conflicts Canada has been engaged in.
  • Skate on the Rideau Canal – Every winter, the Rideau Canal is frozen over and turned into a massive skating rink that stretches for miles (it’s the longest skating rink in the world). If you’re visiting during the winter, you can rent skates for around $20 CAD if you don’t have your own.

Where to Stay

  • Ottawa Backpackers Hostel – This laid-back hostel has some of the cheapest accommodation in the city. The dorms are spacious, it’s social, and it’s right near the Byward Market.
  • HI Ottawa Jail Hostel – This hostel is located in a former jail. The rooms are small (they’re former cells), but it’s an incredibly unique space — and a little spooky too!

 

Days 27-30: Montreal, QC

The skyline of Montreal, Canada in the summer
Montreal is one of the largest French-speaking cities in the world. Just two hours from Ottawa, it’s located in Canada’s only French-speaking province, Québec.

Personally, I think it’s one of the best cities in Canada. The Old Town looks like something straight out of medieval France, and the French-inspired cuisine and eclectic nightlife (especially the jazz clubs) leave little to dislike.

Here are my suggestions for things to see and do while you’re here:

  • Wander Old Montreal – This is the most attractive part of town. It has cobblestone streets, and its historic gray-stone buildings date back to the 1700s. Some of the city’s finest museums and art galleries (such as the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History) are here too.
  • Hike Mount Royal – For a view over Montreal, hike up Mount Royal (after which the city is named). You can also jog, picnic, or just people-watch around the park too. It’s a relaxing green space.
  • Visit the Notre-Dame Basilica – This 17th-century Gothic Revival basilica has dual towers that are reminiscent of Notre-Dame in Paris. Its interior is stunning and full of religious paintings, colorful stained glass windows, and gold-leaf decoration. There’s also a 7,000-pipe organ. A 60-minute tour costs $15 CAD.
  • See the Museum of Fine Arts – This huge museum has over 43,000 works of art. There are both permanent galleries and rotating exhibitions, so there’s always something new to see. Admission is $24 CAD.

For more suggestions, as well as money-saving tips, check out my guide to Montreal!

Where to Stay

  • HI Montreal – HI Montreal is just a two-minute walk from the metro, offers both dorms and private rooms, and has a pool table. There’s also free breakfast and daily activities, including bike tours, walks, a pub crawl, and even poutine tastings!
  • Alternative Hostel of Old Montreal – Located in the historic area of town and a short jaunt to the city center, it has an eclectic and artsy vibe. Free breakfast is included, and there are plenty of common areas for relaxing and meeting other travelers.

Here are some other great hostel suggestions too!

***

With a month at your disposal, you’ll be able to experience the majority of Canada’s sights and cities without having to rush. And, with an additional 10-21 days, you can add more of Québec and the Maritimes, Canada’s rugged and picturesque east coast.

Canada is such a massive, diverse landscape. It truly has something for everyone. While this itinerary only covers a portion of Canada, it does give you a peek into just how awesome it is.

Book Your Trip to Canada: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Canada?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Canada for even more planning tips!

Photo credit: 8 – Cameron MacMinn

The post Canada Road Trip: A One Month Suggested Itinerary appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My Favorite Books of 2020

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A woman in a bookstore looking at books on a ladder
Posted: 11/12/2020 | November 12th, 2020

This year hasn’t been what anyone expected. As COVID has reminded us, you never know what tomorrow will bring. And, this year, it didn’t bring too many great things (especially for folks like myself working in the tourism industry).

However, if there’s been one silver lining, it’s that being home this much has allowed me to supercharge my reading. While this year started off slow, since COVID, I’ve been averaging a book (sometimes two) a week. (I mean, after all, what else am I going to do?) Books that have sat in my bookcase for a long time were finally opened.

So, as I look back on this year as it comes to an end, I can find at least one good thing about it!

And, since it’s been an entire year since I a post about my current favorite reads. (As we head into the holiday season, a book is always a good gift idea!) Here are all the books I’ve read this year that I’ve loved:
 

Looking for Transwonderland, by Noo Saro-Wiwa

Looking for Transworld book coverThis was one of the best travel books I’ve read in recent memory. I absolutely loved it. Author Noo Saro-Wiwa returns to her Nigerian homeland from London to learn more about her heritage, country, and her father. It’s filled with vivid descriptions, engaging prose, and wonderful dialogue that gives a lot of insight into the country and diversity of Nigeria. It’s a must-read.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 

The Invisible Hook, by Peter Leeson

The Invisible Hook book coverThis book is about the economics of piracy in the 1700s. It’s a fascinating look at how pirates created constitutions, workers’ compensation programs, governed themselves, and used branding to minimize battles. Turns out, everything you think you know about pirates is just flat wrong. You wouldn’t think a book on “the economics of piracy” would be interesting but you’d be wrong on that account too!

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 

Atomic Habits, by James Clear

Atomic Habits book coverThis cultural bombshell of a book teaches us that small changes to our habits can create big results and help us create systems to achieve our goals. It was a good guide to how to structure your life for maximum pleasure (like waking up early to read!). While I do a lot of what he suggests, there were some tidbits that made me rethink my own habits. It’s the most practical habit creation book I’ve read.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

See You in the Piazza, by Frances Mayes

See You in the Piazza book coverFrances Mayes is famous for sitting under the Tuscan sun, but in this book she and her husband Ed take you off the tourist trail and around thirteen regions in Italy. Just as wonderfully written as Under the Tuscan Sun, this look at Italian food and culture was inspiring and informative, and it will fill you with wanderlust. It makes me want to go to Italy as soon as all this COVID stuff is over.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

An Arabian Journey, by Levison Wood

An Arabian Journey book coverLevison Wood is a British author who likes to go on long walks. He’s walked the Nile, the Himalayas, and the Americas. In this book, he spends months walking across the Middle East during the height of the Syrian civil war. I’m a big fan of Wood: his engrossing stories are filled with people and interesting facts about places. I found myself devouring this book as quickly as his previous ones.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

The Great Influenza, John M. Barry

The Great Influenza book cover This is a fascinating look at the 1918 flu pandemic, covering how the flu works, public health measures, and other aspects of what happened during the outbreak. There are a lot of lessons here that we could (re)learn as we battle COVID. Skip the entire first section though: it’s a really boring history about the main scientists and doctors and not needed at all. After that, though, the book really picks up.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

Stardust book coverI love the movie Stardust and it was only after listening to Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass did I realize it was based on a book that he wrote! So, I picked it up and devoured it in a few sittings. The story kept me saying, “And then what happened?”, which is what you want any book to do. It’s a very wonderful book that will have you daydreaming about adventure.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

Meeting Faith, by Faith Adiele

Stardust book coverFaith Adiele is a very talented travel writer and also super nice — one of my favorite humans. This book chronicles her life in Thailand and how she became the first black Buddhist nun in the country. It’s a remarkable book about finding your place in the world.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

Nerve, by Eva Holland

Nerve book coverWritten by fellow travel writer Eva Holland, this book is on the science of fear. What causes it? How do we get over it? And how does it relate to adventure? Using her desire to get rid of her own fears, she deep dives into the science of fear and what we can do about it. Eva is one of my favorite writers and she knocks it out of the park with her first book.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

Tracks, by Robyn Davidson

Tracks book coverThis book follows Robyn Davidson as she travels solo across the Australian outback in 1980. It was riveting, and as someone who has visited some of the places she went, I found it to be a super interesting account of what they looked like long before I came through. I was captivated from page one of this thrilling tale of grit and adventure.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin

The Three-Body Problem book cover Some friends turned me onto this sci-fi trilogy that involves aliens, space exploration, human psychology, and the terrifying concept of “a dark forest” that I haven’t stopped thinking about. The third book is my favorite. It’s perhaps one of the greatest sci-fi trilogies I’ve ever read and I’m super psyched Netflix is making it into a series!

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

The Yellow Envelope, Kim Dinan

The Yellow Envelope book coverThis book by Kim Dinan was an engaging travelogue about a woman who felt uneasy in her marriage and life in Portland. After convincing her husband to travel the world, they head on an adventure that tests their marriage. Along a journey that lasts longer than they thought, Kim finds her place in the world. It’s a stoy found in many travel books but I enjoyed her writing and tales very much.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell

Talking to Strangers book coverThis is probably now my favorite Malcolm Gladwell book. It’s an amazing look at how we (frequently fail to) communicate with each other. It talks about how we default to truth and make assumptions about people’s intentions. We often don’t put ourselves in the other person’s shoes to understand why they are reacting the way they are — and usually fail to ask too.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere book coverAfter Stardust, I picked up another Gaiman book. In this fantasy, an everyday Londoner, Richard, gets caught up in “London Below,” a world where the supernatural takes place without people above knowing about it. Incredibly well written and filled with vivid imagery, this is my favorite novel of the year.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
 

Ten Years a Nomad, by me!

Ten Years a Nomad book coverAnd, finally, since I haven’t mentioned it in a few months, if you haven’t picked up a copy of my book, now’s a great time to do so. My memoir follows my ten years backpacking the world and talks about the ups and downs of life as a permanent nomad. It’s my treatise on long-term travel and something I poured my heart and soul into. Be sure to come to our December Book Club meeting on it!

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Bookshop
 
***

This has been a great year for reading, and I’ve found some wonderful titles and incredible new authors. COVID may have ruined my travel plans, but I’m an even more devout reader now. If you have any suggestions, drop them in the comments.

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P.S. – If you’re looking to get any of these books and are from the US or the UK, I highly recommend Bookshop. It supports independent booksellers — and still makes sure you get your books fast. The discounts aren’t as big, and obviously, there’s no Kindle, but if you’re still getting hard copies, please support your local bookstore. I know it’s super hard not to use Amazon (I default to it too often), but these small stores need our help!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years.

My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and I think will help you too!

The post My Favorite Books of 2020 appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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