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How to Road Trip Around Oahu

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A bright blue sky over the island of Oahu, Hawaii
Posted: 8/3/20 | August 3rd, 2020

I didn’t know much about Oahu before I visited. Everyone told me it was worth it for Pearl Harbor but to spend the rest of my time elsewhere in Hawaii. Maui and Kauai were where the action was, they said.

But Oahu was home to Honolulu’s international airport from which I was catching an onward flight to Taiwan. Since I had limited time, going to multiple islands wasn’t feasible.

Fortunately, after spending a full week on Oahu, I can say this: everyone was wrong.

Maybe they just let their preconceived notions get the better of them.

Or maybe they just didn’t give the place a chance.

But, whatever the reason, I’m here to tell you that Oahu has some magic to it. Sure, it’s quite developed, has terrible traffic, and huge crowds. And yeah, maybe it’s not as “raw” as the other islands (I assume that’s why people like them).

But there are plenty of spots in Oahu where you can live that Hawaiian dream

I spent a week round-tripping the island (which, given how small it is, turned out to be quite easy). My plan was simple: sit on a beach as long as I could, eat my body weight in poke (diced raw fish, pronounced “po-keh”), and hike.

Along the way, I also binged on shrimp, drank the best piña colada of my life, and took notes so you can do even better when you visit!
 

Driving Oahu: A Road-Trip Itinerary

Driving on the highway in Oahu, Hawaii surrounded by forests and jungle
First, a tip: if you’re driving around Oahu, go counterclockwise from Honolulu, since most of the food trucks you’ll want to stop at are on the ocean side of the highway as you go up the east coast. So going in that direction just makes it easier to pull off the road and try all the food trucks that line the highway (and there are a lot). There’s also more to do on the east side of Oahu, so it’s best to start there.

That said, I actually don’t think a traditional road trip is the best idea. Oahu is smaller than you think — you can drive end to end in under two hours — so everything listed below can really be done as a day trip from one base or another, which will save you packing and unpacking, as well moving from place to place too often (especially since the east and west coasts don’t have a lot of affordable accommodations).

Base yourself on the North Shore for a couple of days and then in Honolulu (in the south) for a couple of days (or vice versa).
 

Day 1: Honolulu to Kailua (28 miles)

The skyline of Honolulu, Hawaii surrounded by lush forests and jungles
Pick up your rental car, head out of Honolulu (you’ll be back later), and start off at Hunauma Bay in southeast Oahu. You can spend a few hours there snorkeling and relaxing on the beach before heading to the nearby Halona Blowhole Lookout for the view and Makapu‘u Point (Oahu’s easternmost point) for a short hike. There are also plenty of beaches, food trucks, short hikes, and viewpoints along the way to Kailua, where you’ll want to stay the night.

Where to Eat:

  • Teddy’s Bigger Burgers
  • Any of the food trucks on the way north
  • Buzz’s Steakhouse (for dinner)

Where to Stay:
Airbnb is the best option, since there aren’t many hotels or hostels in Kailua. Book early though, as there isn’t a lot to choose from.
 

Day 2: Kailua to Haleiwa (50 miles)

The beautiful coast of Kailua in Hawaii surrounded by water
Start your morning with the famous Lanikai Pillbox hike just south of Kailua, where you can get sweeping views of the ocean and the cities and beaches on this side of the island. The hike is short (it only takes about 20-30 minutes) but steep, so wear appropriate shoes.

If you have some time in the morning, Kailua and Lanikai beaches are both beautiful (they’re right next to each other and on the way from the pillbox hike). Not a lot of people, white sand, blue water. They’re heaven.

As you leave this area to head north, visit the Ho‘oamaluhia Botanical Garden (it’s free!), which is also home to a lake filled with tropical plants.

Afterward, drive up the east coast toward the North Shore. Along the way, you can stop at the Kualoa Ranch, where many movies have been filmed. If you do a tour, I suggest the 90-minute Hollywood Movie Sites Tour (which includes scenes from Jurassic Park!), as you don’t need much more time than that to see the ranch. (It’s expensive, though, so if you’re on a budget, I’d skip it.)

As you keep going north, you’ll find a ton of beaches and hikes (there are plenty of signs for everything). I really enjoyed the Hau’ula Loop Trail especially, which is about 10 miles north of Kualoa. It’s a really overgrown trail, so you’ll feel like you’re very much in the jungle (meaning you’ll also need to bring bug spray). And like most hikes here, there’s a scenic viewpoint!

Then drive around the northern tip of Oahu to Haleiwa, your base of operations while on the North Shore.

Where to Eat Along the Way:

  • Kalapawai Café and Deli
  • Fresh Catch Kaneohe
  • Shrimp Shack
  • Seven Brothers
  • Ken’s Fresh Fish
  • Fumi’s Shrimp

Where to Stay:
Airbnb is again the best option, as there aren’t many hotels or hostels in Hal‘eiwa. Book early here too.
 

Days 3 & 4: North Shore (Base: Haleiwa)

A beautiful soft sunset on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii
This was my favorite part of Oahu. It was Hawaii the way you imagine it should be: a lot quieter, less touristy, and less developed. And it had that whole “hippie vibe” going for it. Everyone up here was much more laid back than down south.

You can learn to surf here (two-hour lessons begin at just $80 USD) or hike the Ka‘ena Point Trail (west of Haleiwa) and/or the ’Ehukai Pillbox (east of Haleiwa). The latter is pretty muddy, so bring appropriate shoes.

Haleiwa itself is a sleepy little tourist town with a bunch of restaurants, shops, and parks. There’s not much to do in the town itself than eat and window shop.

If you do just one hike, though, I definitely recommend the Ka‘ena Point Trail, which was one of the best experiences I had. It’s a scenic two-hour coastal walk to the northwestern tip of Oahu, where you will find a protected biological area with seals and native birds. At the tip, you can see all the way down the west side of the island — a magical view. Bring sunscreen and water, as the whole trail is exposed to the sun.

Where to Eat:

  • Ted’s Bakery
  • Sunrise Shack
  • Hale‘iwa Joe’s
  • Matsumoto Shave Ice
  • Ray’s Kiawe
  • Kono’s
  • Jenny’s Shrimp Truck
  • Giovanni’s Shrimp

 

Day 5: Dole Plantation, Oahu’s West Side, Honolulu (60 miles)

The rugged coast of Waianae on the west coast of Oahu, Hawaii
Head south (inland) and stop at the Dole Plantation. While it is super cheesy and touristy (I mean, so many useless souvenirs!), it does have a cool maze, and there’s a train ride through the farm that, while whitewashing a lot of bad things, was an interesting look at the importance of the pineapple to Oahu. For a general overview geared to your average tourist, it was surprisingly informative.

Afterward, continue south toward Honolulu and then head west on the H1 road to the west coast for some deserted local beaches, such as Ma’ili, Ewa, Makua, or Yokohama. Stop at Countryside Café for some incredible diner food. The portions are pretty large, so you can share them.

Then head back into Honolulu, as there’s not a lot of accommodation along the west coast. If you do want to stay longer, you’ll find some listings on Airbnb and Booking.com if you book far in advance. Otherwise, there are a few hotels in Kapolei if you don’t want to drive all the way to Honolulu.
 

Days 6 & 7: Honolulu


I actually liked Honolulu a lot (the main beach area of Waikiki is a tourist trap though.) While downtown is a bit bland, other neighborhoods are filled with awesome stores, breweries, bars, restaurants, and art galleries. Be sure to check out the “hip” Kaka‘ako part of town in particular.

Consider going on a hike on Diamond Head, a volcanic cone on the east side of town. It offers an incredible view of the city, though it’s one of the more popular trails in the area so if you aren’t there early enough to beat the crowds you’ll basically be walking in a slow-moving line up the mountain. If you are short on time, skip it.

Other Things to Do:

  • A free walking tour with Hawaii Free Tours (call ahead, since they only run when they have bookings).
  • Pearl Harbor – This is a must. It’s not even up for debate. You have to go.
  • Iolani Palace, the former royal residence of Hawaii’s monarchs.
  • Soak in the sun on Waikiki Beach or other nearby beaches, such as Ala Moana, which is popular with locals.

There’s also an Islamic art museum, which is supposed to be great, but I didn’t make it there.

Where to Eat:

  • The Pig and the Lady
  • Mei Sum Dim Sum
  • Shirokiya Japan Village Walk
  • Rainbow Drive-In
  • Leonard’s Bakey
  • Ono Seafood
  • Hula Dog

Where to Stay:

  • The Beach – This hostel is right on the beach, includes free breakfast, and has plenty of space to relax and meet other travelers.
  • Polynesian Hostel Beach Club Waikiki – The accommodation here is basic, but the staff are super friendly and helpful, and they organize lots of events.
  • Waikiki Beachside Hostel – A fun, social hostel that hosts live music. Breakfast is included too.

Additionally, head to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for the best piña colada of your life. It’s not cheap ($15 USD a pop), but it is sooo good! Every one of my friends who didn’t order one got it as their second drink. (Fun fact: My grandfather was stationed in Oahu during WWII and went back to Oahu often. The Royal Hawaiian was his favorite hotel. It’s pretty cool that it’s still there!)
 

Average costs

How much do things cost on Oahu? Here are some typical prices (in USD):

  • Airbnb – $100+/night for a one-bedroom or studio
  • Hotel – $175–250/night for a mid-range boutique hotel
  • Hostel dorm – $27
  • Car rental – as low as $20/day, plus insurance
  • Gas – $3–3.50/gallon
  • Poke bowl – $12–15
  • Takeout meal – $10–14
  • Sit-down meal at a fancy restaurant (with drinks) – $50+
  • Local lunch – $15
  • McDonalds – $6 for a value meal
  • Groceries – $75 for one person for a week
  • Beer (at a restaurant) – $8–10 ($2–3 at the Japanese Walk!)
  • Piña colada – $10-15
  • Coffee – $5
  • Surfboard rental – $25/day
  • Snorkel gear rental – $15/day
  • Scuba dive prices – $125

 

Budget Tips

Oahu is pretty expensive. Most everything has to be imported, so if it can’t be grown nearby or caught in the ocean, expect to pay a lot. But it’s not impossible to save money. Here are a few ways to cut your expenses:

  • Hike and enjoy the beaches. Nature is free!
  • Buy your own food from supermarkets so you can cook your own meals or have picnics. Sure, there are plenty of world-class restaurants here, but if you want to keep your food costs down, you should cook some meals. The poke at supermarkets is delicious anyway!
  • If you do eat out, hit the food trucks. Most cost around $10 USD for a meal — much cheaper than sit-down restaurants.
  • If you’re going to buy alcohol, do so at Japanese markets, where you can find beer for only $2–3 USD (compared to $8 USD at bars).
  • Skip ride-sharing websites like Getaround or Turo (where you rent cars from private owners). They are usually cheaper than the big rental companies, but on Oahu, hosts charge you an added fee for dropping the car at the airport. I found the traditional car rental companies to be much cheaper, with rates as low as $20 USD a day.
  • Get your gas at Hele stations. They were consistently the cheapest on the island.

***

While Oahu is often crowded and overly commercial, there were a lot of wonderful things to do and see. To me, the best parts were the food and the hiking — with so many hikes, you could spend weeks here. My favorite part of Oahu was the North Shore, so I recommend you spend a few days there at least. I certainly look forward to returning!

Book Your Trip to Hawaii: 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. My favorite places to stay in Oahu are:

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!

Need an affordable RV for your road trip?
RVshare lets you rent RVs from private individuals all around the country, saving you tons of money in the process. It’s like Airbnb for RVs.

Want more information on Hawaii?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Hawaii for even more planning tips!

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Philanthropy & Travel: How One Business Is Giving Back w/FLYTE

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Posted: 9/15/2020 | September 15th, 2020

This year, FLYTE, our nonprofit, celebrates its five-year anniversary! We launched it in the summer of 2015 with nothing more than a desire to help kids see the world, discover a love of travel, and learn the practical applications of their education.

In the past half-decade, we’ve sent 70 students to five countries all over the world!

Thinking about this milestone has made me reflect on why I started this nonprofit.

When we leave our comfort zone, we’re confronted with many of the world’s problems.

One of the most powerful and challenging lessons that travel teaches us is how unequal the world can be. Seeing an impoverished child begging on the street makes you reflect on colonization, war, and the systemic inequalities that cause poverty.

Likewise, venturing underwater only to see dead coral reefs or struggling to breathe in cities enveloped in smog makes climate change even more real.

Yet travel also brings us closer together. It reminds us of our shared humanity and provides a platform for our own personal growth and development.

Travel has shown me my privilege but also my power to do something to make the world a better place.

It’s for that reason that I created FLYTE.

Many kids don’t have access to opportunities that can help them see beyond their current situation.

Through these FLYTE trips, we’re working to give students the chance to see how incredible our world is — and to remind them they have the power to change it for the better. I want FLYTE to be a chance for them to see the world beyond the stereotypes, to put their education to use, and to see that the world is full of possibilities!

Today, I’m excited to share two announcements:

First, FLYTE has a new partnership with Crabtree & Evelyn, a company that’s combining travel, philanthropy, and beauty.

It’s making a huge donation of $35,000 and funding an entire group of students’ life-changing trip abroad! How amazing is that?

The founder of Crabtree & Evelyn, Cyrus Harvey, explored the world and returned home to Boston with various soaps and perfumes from his adventures. With those products, he founded Crabtree & Evelyn.

He wasn’t just selling soaps. He was selling stories. Cyrus loved connecting with people. He built a business around those connections so he could share his passion for travel and discovery with people back home.

As part of the company’s new initiatives and plans, it’s supporting students, giving them the opportunities Cyrus also had.

I had the chance to interview Ashley Souza, Crabtree & Evelyn’s chief brand officer, and she shared more about Cyrus’s story, the company’s evolution, and why FLYTE was chosen as its nonprofit partner.

Nomadic Matt: My earliest memory of Crabtree & Evelyn was a brick-and-mortar store that sold bath salts. How has the company evolved over the years, and what’s the story behind your recent rebranding?

Ashley: Our founder Cyrus was a culture junkie. Before we were Crabtree & Evelyn, he founded The Soap Box, where he showcased artisan soaps he picked up on his travels around Europe.

Crabtree & Evelyn was founded with a heavy British inspiration and with a diverse portfolio that included many lifestyle products in addition to personal care. We discovered through our deep consumer research, before the rebrand, that the traditional British qualities of C&E no longer resonated with a younger consumer. So we went back to the fundamental values that Cy originally built the business on: exploration, curation, and storytelling.

We kept our core ranges as a homage to the historical C&E: Evelyn Rose, Crabtree, and the Gardeners, but our real purpose is coming to life through our Exploration ranges, capsule lifestyle collections inspired by locations that our Exploration team authentically explores with locals. [NOTE: Nomadic Matt readers get 10% off their first order using the code FLYTE10 at checkout!]

How has Cyrus’s legacy and travel shaped the company’s mission and values?

Cy was a believer in connecting cultures, whether that was through the films he imported and showed at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge or through the products he sold. Our passion is the same: creating connections for our customers through stories and products from our travels. We want to provide an experience to our community that they might not otherwise have.

We’re so grateful that you’re funding an entire FLYTE trip! What moved you to choose FLYTE as your nonprofit partner? Why do you think it’s important for students to see the world?

The goal of this rebrand was not only to revive a heritage brand in a new and modern way but to use our platform for good. For each Exploration collection we launch, a portion of proceeds will be donated directly to a charitable organization in the location we have explored, for a specific need that the people we connect with on our travels have cited as important.

In addition to our collection-specific give-back program, we wanted to do more to encourage travel and understanding of other cultures. FLYTE was a perfect partner for us. Its mission, exposing youth in the United States that might not have had the means to travel to other ways of life, other ways of thinking, is how we break down barriers and become a more unified world.

Personally, I was blessed to have parents that taught me the importance of travel. They urged me to educate myself through cultural experiences at a young age. It taught me to be more understanding, more considerate, more tolerant, and it deeply impacted who I am today. Traveling has the ability to break a cycle, shift a way of thinking, and push you to trust yourself and others — invaluable life lessons that I am thrilled to be able to help kids experience through our partnership.

Your company’s slogan is “Born Curious, Grown Wild.” How has this translated into your products and outlook?

Our slogan pays tribute to Cy, who was born a very curious man with lofty goals and incredible business sense, and to the brand now, which has taken his original ethos and turned the volume up, creating a cultural experience for C&E customers.

***

The second big announcement is that of our new partner school:

Rosenwald Collegiate Academy (RCA), an amazing high school in New Orleans, Louisiana, whose students will be traveling to Puerto Rico!

With a majority BIPOC population, Rosenwald celebrates equity, inclusion, and diversity through rigorous classroom instruction, social innovation, and cultural authenticity. The goal for all students: college success and lives of limitless opportunity.

Many of Rosenwald’s students continue to face circumstances that present significant challenges for their personal and academic journeys. Despite all these obstacles, they persevere in so many exceptional ways.

“They are creative and authentic and work incredibly hard to get through high school. Their goal is college, and the choices they make every day push them closer to that goal.” This is how Erica Perez and Angela Filardo, the teachers who will be leading this trip, described these remarkable students in their FLYTE application.

Percy, a junior at RCA, shared that he “hasn’t traveled anywhere outside of New Orleans besides Little Rock, Arkansas. This trip will be opening my mind up to things other than just New Orleans. It will be a wonderful learning experience for me. I want to go to school to be an engineer and will probably have to go to different places to learn about this subject. This will be a good way for me to learn how to adapt to a new place and environment and learn from other cultures.”

Last March, when the students found out that they would have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico, this was their reaction.

This trip will focus on sustainability and climate change. The students have demonstrated interest in creating policy changes, and this trip will give them much practical information and context as they work with local-led organizations focused on coastal restoration and reforestation.

We’re so excited about this new partnership with Crabtree & Evelyn and can’t wait for the students from Rosenwald Collegiate Academy to get out into the world!

Our team has been pretty quiet about FLYTE these past couple of months because, for a nonprofit whose mission is to get students onto planes, this goal isn’t possible in our current COVID-19 world. But, since we forged this new connection with Crabtree & Evelyn and since Rosenwald starts school this month, we’re super excited about what is to come!

Right now, we hope for this trip to take place in the summer of 2021. We also wanted to stress that our students are at the core of what we do, and their safety is our highest priority. To ensure their safety as well as that of the communities they will visit in Puerto Rico, this trip will only happen when regulatory agencies, the school administration, and science-backed evidence tell us it’s safe to travel again.

In the meantime, we are working in partnership with the school to create virtual programming so the students can prepare for their journey from the safety of their homes (Rosenwald is starting the school year remotely).

During these truly trying times, I’m so thankful to everyone who continues to support FLYTE. I’m so glad to celebrate the work that Crabtree & Evelyn is doing to incorporate philanthropy. Because of all of them, FLYTE will be able to send even more students abroad in 2021 and beyond.

When we can all travel safely again, our FLYTE students will play a critical role in rebuilding our global community. We’re grateful for your help and support in making that possible! You can use the donation form below to donate or find out more about getting involved by clicking here.

Thank you everyone for your support over the last five years and we’re super excited about this new partnership with Crabtree & Evelyn! We can’t wait for the world to get back to normal so these students can go to Puerto Rico!

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

Sincerely,

Nomadic Matt

P.S. – Don’t forget to use the code FLYTE10 for 10% off your first purchase. Just click here to check out their new products!

The post Philanthropy & Travel: How One Business Is Giving Back w/FLYTE appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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How to Spend 48 Hours in Oslo

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The famous and historic royal palace is Oslo, Norway during the summer
Updated: 8/10/20 | August 10th, 2020

Most budget travelers skip Norway because it’s an expensive country to visit. The capital, Oslo, is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the world owing to its high taxes, strong currency, and high percentage of imported goods.

Understandably, traveling here on a budget here is tricky. Yet I still encourage you to visit, even though it’s not a budget-friendly destination. There are unique museums, beautiful parks, and stunning nature to be enjoyed. It’s small enough that a two-day or three-day visit is usually enough to get a feel for it.

To help you plan your trip and make the most of your time, here is my suggested 48-hour itinerary for Oslo.
 

Day 1

Wander Vigeland Sculpture Park
A small baby statue in Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway
Start your day wondering this 80-acre park and see its 200 statues. Located in Frogner Park, it’s the world’s largest display of sculptures created by a single artist. Gustav Vigeland (1869–1943) created the collection of bronze, iron, and granite statues that now stand in this open-air “gallery” (you’ve probably seen the famous ‘crying baby’ statue on social media).

In the summer, the park is where you’ll find locals enjoying the long days of sunshine. There are often events and concerts held here as well.

From here, head down to Bygdøy island, where you’ll find many of Oslo’s museums.

See the Viking Museum
This museum is home to the best-preserved Viking ships in the world, some of which date back to the 9th century. It’s a sparse museum (the focus really is on the ships) but the burial ships (as well as the preserved tools and carts from the Middle Ages) are incredibly rare and worth seeing for yourself. The museum offers a short film and as well, though the free audio guide is the best way to make the most out of your visit.

Huk Aveny 35, +47 22 13 52 80, khm.uio.no/besok-oss/vikingskipshuset. Open daily from 9am–6pm in the summer and 10am–4pm in the winter. Admission is 120 NOK for adults and free for kids under 18.

Explore the Norwegian Folk Museum
Not far from the Viking Museum is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. It has a collection of over 150 buildings from various periods throughout Norwegian history. It’s an open-air museum, so you can explore both the interior and exterior of many of the buildings, some of which date back to the 12th century.

The most impressive of its exhibitions is Gol Stave Church, an intricately carved wooden church constructed in 1157. The museum also has a large photographic archive as well as tons of historic artifacts, documents, tools, and more.

Museumsveien 10, +47 22 12 37 00, norskfolkemuseum.no. Open daily from 11am–4pm. Admission is 160 NOK.

Visit the Fram Museum
A wooden icebreaker The Fram in a museum in Oslo, Noray
As a northern country used to frigid temperatures and harsh winters, polar exploration is a field intricately woven into Norwegian history. This museum highlights that history, focusing on Norway’s contributions to polar exploration. The centerpiece of the museum is the Fram, the world’s first ice-breaking ship. The ship was used between 1893 and 1912 and is actually made of wood. The Fram made trips to both North and South Poles and sailed farther north and south than any other wooden ship in history.

The museum is incredibly detailed; there’s a lot of photographs, artifacts, tools, and tons of information. It’s a unique look into Norwegian culture through the lens of exploration.

Bygdøynesveien 39, +47 23 28 29 50, frammuseum.no. Open daily 10am–6pm. Admission is 120 NOK.

Visit the Holocaust Center
Established in 2001, this museum highlights the experiences of Norwegian Jews (as well as the persecution of other religious minorities). It’s located in the former residence of Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian fascist who headed the Norwegian government under Nazi occupation between 1942-1945. It’s a somber and sobering place to visit but incredibly insightful with various exhibitions, photos, films, artifacts, and interviews from World War II and the German occupation of Norway.

Huk Aveny 56, +47 23 10 62 00, hlsenteret.no. Open weekdays 9am–4pm. Admission is 70 NOK.

Learn About the Kon-Tiki Expedition
The famous Kon-Tiki balsa raft in Oslo, Norway
In 1947, Norweigian historian and explorer Thor Heyerdahl used a traditional balsa raft to cross the Pacific Ocean from South America to Polynesia. This journey set out to prove that the Polynesian islands were populated from the Americas — not Asia, as had been previously thought.

He and his small crew spent 101 days at sea. They filmed much of the experience, winning an Academy Award in 1951 for Best Documentary (he also wrote a book about the trip)

To get a sense of what his journey was like, watch the 2012 historical drama Kon-Tiki (it’s a great travel movie).

Bygdøynesveien 36, +47 23 08 67 67, kon-tiki.no. Open daily from 9:30am–6pm (shorter hours in the autumn and winter). Admission is 120 NOK.

City Hall
End your day at City Hall, which is open to the public and free to enter. While it might not sound like an interesting sight, tours of the hall are will give you lots of insight into the city and its history. Most noteworthy are the hall’s twenty murals and works of art. They depict everything from traditional Norwegian life to the Nazi occupation. Also highlighted here is the history of the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s awarded here annually (the other Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden).

Rådhusplassen 1, +47 23 46 12 00, oslo.kommune.no/radhuset. Open Sunday-Thursday from 9am-4pm. Admission is free.
 

Day 2

Wander Akershus Fortress
https://www.flickr.com/photos/claudinelamothe/30985467914/
Originally built in 1290, Akershus Fortress is a medieval fortress that evolved into a Renaissance palace under Danish King Christian IV. Currently, it’s used as an office for the prime minister. It was built for protection and the fortress has never successfully been besieged (though it did surrender to the Nazis during World War II).

Inside the fort is a military museum as well as a museum dedicated to the Norwegian resistance during World War II. In the summer you can take a guided tour and there are also often events here as well (mostly concerts). Check the website to see if anything is occurring during your visit.

+47 23 09 39 17, forsvarsbygg.no/no/festningene/finn-din-festning/akershus-festning. Open daily in the summers 10am–4pm (winter hours vary). Admission is free.

Take a Harbor Cruise
The Oslo fjord is stunning. With its towering cliffs, calm waters, and rugged green shoreline, the Oslo fjord should not be missed. You can take a hop-on-and-off boat that shuttles people from the various attractions and museums or enjoy a proper two-hour cruise through the fjord. I recommend the two-hour cruise since it goes deeper into the harbor and you see a lot more. It’s a relaxing way to spend part of your day — especially if you’ve been on your feet all day.

Tickets for the two-hour cruise cost 339 NOK per person.

Explore the Royal Palace and Park
The Royal Palace is the official residence of the monarch (Yup! Norway still has a king!). Completed in the 1840s, it’s surrounded by a huge park and locals can usually be seen enjoying the long summer days here. During the summer, parts of the palace are open to visitors and tours. Tours last one hour and you’ll be able to see some of the lavish and ornately preserved rooms and learn about the country’s monarchs and how they ruled Norway.

Slottsplassen 1, +47 22 04 87 00, kongehuset.no/seksjon.html. Summer hours vary. See the website for details. Admission is 140 NOK and includes a tour.

Visit the National Gallery
While small, Oslo’s National Gallery has a wide range of artists on display. Here you’ll find Impressionists, Dutch artists, works by Picasso and El Greco, and the highlight of the gallery, “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. Painted in 1893, The Scream has actually been stolen from the gallery twice over the years. Admittedly, the gallery doesn’t have the biggest collection I’ve seen but it’s nevertheless worth a visit. It’s a relaxing way to end your trip.

The National Gallery is temporarily closed and will reopen in 2021 but you can find some of its collection in the National Museum.
 

Other Things to See & Do

If you have extra time in Oslo, here are a few other suggestions to help you make the most of your visit:

  • Explore Nordmarka – The Nordmarka Wilderness Area offers everything from biking to swimming to skiing. It spans over 430 acres and is home to huts that are available for overnight stays. You can reach the area in just 30 minutes by car or 1 hour by bus. Avoid going on Sunday, as that’s when all the locals go so it will be busier (unless you want to meet more locals!).
  • Go Tobogganing – If you visit during the winter, do the Korketrekkeren Toboggan Run. The track is over 2,000 meters long and sleds are available for rent (including helmets) for 150 NOK per day (so you can take as many rides as you like). It’s only available when there is snow so the schedule will vary, however, it’s incredibly fun and popular with the locals too!
  • Wander the Botanical Garden – Home to over 1,800 different plants, this botanical garden/arboretum has two greenhouses full of exotic plants and a “Scent Garden” designed specifically for the blind so they could have a sensory experience (it’s a really neat experience so don’t miss it). There are lots of benches so you can sit down with a book and relax, as well as works of art throughout the garden. Admission is free.
  • Go Swimming – Oslo is surrounded by water and has lots of places to swim. The water is clean and safe and locals can be found swimming all year round. Tjuvholmen City Beach, Sørenga Seawater Pool, and Huk are three spots worth checking out if you’re looking to take a dip when the weather is nice.

***

Since there are a lot of attractions involved, it’s best to get the Oslo Pass. Like everything in Norway, attractions are expensive. If you plan on visiting lots of museums (and using public transportation) the pass will save you a good chunk of money. The 24-hour pass is 445 NOK while a 48-hour pass is 655 NOK (they also have a 72-hour pass for 820 NOK).

While Oslo has a lot more sights and activities, two days here is manageable enough to get a feel for the city and learn its history without entirely breaking the bank (though you’ll come close!).

Book Your Trip to Oslo: 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 being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most comprehensive inventory. If you want to stay somewhere else, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels. My favorite places to stay in Oslo are:

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 those I use to save money — and I think they will help you too!

Looking for more travel tips for Norway?
Check out my in-depth Norway travel guide for more ways to save money, tips on what to see and do, suggested itineraries, informational reading, packing lists, and much, much more!

Photo credits: 3 – Tore Storm Halvorsen, 4 – Daderot, 5 – Claudine Lamothe

Note: Visit Oslo provided me with free accommodation and a tourist card to get into attractions for free while I was there. I paid for my own meals and flights to/from Norway.

The post How to Spend 48 Hours in Oslo appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Why Don’t More Black American Women Travel Solo?

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Senitra, a solo black female traveler posing near a canal in Europe
Posted: 8/13/2020 | August 13th, 2020

Today, we have a guest post from Senitra Horbrook. She’s a frequent solo traveler who uses miles and points to experience champagne travel on a budget. She has been to six continents and is working on her next goal of visiting 100 countries. In this post, she’s going to talk about Black American women and solo travel.

Sometimes when I travel outside of the United States, I take a look around at the faces of other people. I don’t often see any else who looks like me, a Black American woman. On the occasions when I do see another Black person, they’re frequently not an American but someone from an African country, usually residing in that location for work or school.

Closer to home, like in the US, Mexico, or the Caribbean, I may be more likely to see other Black American travelers at resorts or tourist attractions, but rarely do I come across another Black woman traveling solo like me.

Why is that?

It’s something I’ve always thought about. Now, I don’t proclaim to speak for all Black American women, but, after talking to others and reflecting on my own experience, I think it has to do with the following reasons:
 

We Probably Don’t Have Passports

According to data from the US Department of State, fewer than half of Americans have a passport. It’s unknown exactly how many Black American women have a passport, as the statistics do not break down passport issuance by race or gender. But, in my experience, the importance of having a passport was not something that was communicated to me growing up.

In my youth and even into early adulthood, getting a passport wasn’t something that I or my parents viewed as being essential to everyday life. Why would we spend almost $150 USD on something that we had no plans of using? And getting a passport for the first time requires applying in person, which may mean taking time off work to do so.

I got a passport for the first time at age 28 to go on a family vacation to Mexico. After my first visit out of the country, I wanted to fill that passport up with stamps and see every country I could, even if that meant I had to go solo. Why was I just now discovering the allure of international travel, I wondered?
 

We Think Travel is Too Expensive

This line of thinking is not necessarily limited to Black American women. However, it is definitely something that can hold us back.

There’s the idea that traveling costs even more if you’re alone because you have no one to split accommodation costs with. Or there’s the fact that single travelers on cruises or group tours are charged more.

But in reality, if you plan ahead you can end up spending less because you can better control the costs as a solo traveler.
 

We See a Lack of Representation and Role Models to Emulate

Think of the travel magazines, guidebooks, or destination advertisements you’ve seen. How often are Black travelers featured? How often is a Black woman’s solo travel experience highlighted?

When we don’t see others who look like us traveling to fantastic destinations, we start to wonder if maybe it can’t be done or that maybe it’s not for us. You all need role models that look like us.

This has been a historic problem in the travel space.

Thankfully, it’s changing.

In “Tweeting the Black Travel Experience,” a 2018 study published in the Journal of Travel Research, researchers analyzed the hashtag “#TravelingWhileBlack” and concluded that the lack of representation of Black travelers in the tourism industry helped Black travelers create communities on social media to share their travel experiences. Moreover, groups like the Black Travel Alliance are fighting for more representation in the industry.

Thanks to those social media communities, I’ve been able to read about the experiences of other Black American women solo travelers. They have inspired me – and I am sure they have inspired others.
 Senitra, a solo black female traveler posing by a huge tree

We Think Black People Don’t Travel Internationally

A 2018 survey of African-American travelers found that more than half of the respondents said they traveled only between 100 and 500 miles from home on their most recent leisure trip. Top US destinations included Florida, New York City, and Atlanta.

When I think of my summers or family vacations while growing up, they didn’t involve leaving the country. Some years it was a trip to Disney or more local amusement parks. Other years a “vacation” was a road trip to visit family in other states. And I didn’t know anyone whose vacations encompassed a trip abroad. The only Black people I observed traveling to other countries — on television or in the news — were famous or in the military.
 

Our Families May Pressure Us Not to Travel Alone

Family pressure to avoid solo travel can be a common issue for all types of travelers. For Black American women, we may hear our families tell us the world is too scary for us to be out there alone. They warn us about all of the “what ifs?” They worry about us flying across oceans — despite the fact that car accidents are more common than plane crashes.

Historically, Black Americans have been more likely to travel in groups, say Gloria and Solomon Herbert, publishers of Black Meetings & Tourism magazine and one of the sponsors of the aforementioned 2018 travel study. Traveling in groups offers camaraderie and protection, they explain.

When I see Black travel — in Black-centric magazines, movies, or TV shows — it is most commonly girls’ getaways, family reunions, or cruise ship vacations with friends or family. So those of us who grab our passports and board that airplane alone seem to be trailblazers.
 

We’re Waiting on Friends

Movies like Girls Trip idealize fun times away with our girlfriends at big events. Unfortunately, flaky and noncommittal friends are a real impediment to having those types of travel experiences. I’ve been there!

Let’s say you’ve planned a wonderful getaway with a group of friends, but when it comes time to buy the flights, all of a sudden, they have umpteen excuses why they can’t go. Or they just keep putting you off, never saying they can’t go, but never committing to actually going.

Maybe they weren’t able to save up enough money. Maybe they’d just rather stay home. What helped me was the realization that if I was waiting for flaky friends to travel with me, I may be waiting for a long time.

While Black women aren’t the only types of people with flaky friends, this is something I’ve observed as keeping us from traveling solo. It’s time for us to embrace the unknown and travel solo, because, as the saying I’ve seen on social media goes: “They ain’t comin’, sis.”
 

We’re Concerned About Racism in the Destination

All travelers have some sort of safety concerns. For some, their biggest fears may be getting pickpocketed or walking down the wrong street in a bad neighborhood. Female solo travelers may fear sexual harassment or assault. For Black travelers, it goes even further: we’re often afraid of being physically targeted because of the color of our skin.

I typically do Google searches for trip reports, looking for experiences from Black women as tourists in countries I am thinking of visiting, since part of my decision-making process in determining where to travel is how the locals of that country view Black people and if that country has a history of racism. While some trip reports I find give me pause, more often than not, there’s no reason to be concerned because, in many countries, we’re just as warmly welcomed as our white counterparts.
 

We Want to Avoid Casual Racism

It’s not just racist-based physical assault we may fear, though. Casual racism and prolonged stares can be uncomfortable and unsettling, like being followed around in stores, being refused service in a restaurant, or being refused help from a stranger when you ask for directions.

People who stare may have never seen a Black person in real life before. A smile, nod, and “hello” can go a long way in showing friendliness and approachability. And generally, being an American with money to spend can positively influence a local’s perspective, even if their first instinct may have been to eye us suspiciously.

I’ve been approached by strangers wanting to take pictures of me because I’m “exotic.” Depending on how someone does this, I don’t necessarily view it as a bad thing. If I’m someone’s first or limited interaction with a Black American woman, I want it to be a positive experience.
 

Senitra, a solo black female traveler posing while on safari in Africa

We Don’t Want to Face the Stereotypes

Americans are often subject to the “ugly, loud, unruly” stereotype when traveling, especially young twentysomething travelers. But Black Americans can face additional stereotypes.

Some people’s only exposure to Black America is through television and other media, so they only know of the athletes, rappers, singers, or movie stars. So they may shout at us in passing, comparing us to people like Beyoncé, Serena Williams, or even Oprah. Annoying, yes. But no real hazard.

What’s worse are the people whose exposure to Blacks is through negative news and other media that portray us as criminals. Those people may display signs of overt or casual racism, like clutching their purse when you approach or crossing the street as you’re about to walk by.

Even when traveling in the United States, Black female travelers may be more likely to experience poor customer service due to stereotypes, one example being that Black people don’t tip. You could be a great tipper, but that stereotype can potentially set you up for defeat as soon as you enter an establishment.

We have to work to prove we’re different from the stereotypes others may have prejudged us by. My first instinct is to make eye contact and give someone a friendly smile and nod, even if they don’t smile back. It’s great to get a friendly smile in return, but if I feel I’m experiencing hostile behavior, I’ll leave and remove myself from that situation.
 

We Don’t Know How to Swim

Many of the best vacations involve water activities: going out on a boat, jet skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling, or a refreshing swim in a cool hotel pool on a hot day. But what if you don’t know how to swim?

According to a 2017 study from the USA Swimming Foundation, 64% of African-American children have no or low swimming ability. By comparison, 40% of Caucasian children are nonswimmers.

We may grow up in a city or neighborhood without access to a community pool. Our parents and family members don’t know how to swim, so they can’t teach us. Lessons are expensive. And there’s the not-so-distant history of racial discrimination and segregation at private pools and athletic clubs. Black people simply weren’t allowed in.

I grew up afraid of the water and did not know how to swim until I enrolled in lessons at age 26. Knowing how to swim has greatly enhanced the types of travel experiences I have.
 

We Worry About What to Do with Our Hair

For many Black women, our hair is not just “wash and go.” Styling our hair can be an extensive process. Sometimes we’ve paid a good sum of money to get our hair styled at the salon before a trip. We don’t want to get sweaty or get our hair wet (if straightened, wetting our hair can cause it to revert back to its natural texture). Or it can get tangled or matted.

And if trying to pack light and carry-on only, travel-size hair products just aren’t going to do the job, especially for more than a few days. We want to be cute when we’re “flexin’ for the ‘gram”, that is, posing for our Instagram pictures.

All of these can be reasons why Black women are hesitant to travel.

I have dealt with the “hair issue” in a variety of ways. Earlier in my travels, I’d get my hair weaved or have extensions added, so I could “wake up and go.” And since my real hair was protected underneath the weave, I could go swimming or get my hair wet without worrying about damaging my real hair.

More recently, I’ve worn my hair styled very simply, often in a bun or pulled back. And since I wear my natural texture instead of straightened, I don’t worry about getting it wet.

***

For Black American women who want to travel solo, there are obstacles and fears to overcome, but it can be done. Like many things worth doing, I find that the rewarding feeling of traveling solo outweighs the fears I may have.

Even though I may not often see other travelers, especially Americans, who look like me, I’m hopeful to see more ladies like myself having wonderful solo adventures as more Black travel experiences are highlighted.

Senitra Horbrook has spoken at numerous travel conferences in the US and enjoys sharing her tips on solo travel and strategies to earn many frequent flyer miles and hotel points through credit card rewards. A journalist, you can connect with her online on Instagram or Twitter.

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 being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and 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 those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!

The post Why Don’t More Black American Women Travel Solo? appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The 22 Best Things to See and Do in Bangkok

Posted By : webmaster/ 73 0


One of the many beautiful temples in Bangkok, Thailand
Posted: 8/17/20 | August 17th, 2020

Bangkok. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s a vibrant, chaotic, international, funhouse. A city 600 square miles and with a population of over 8 million, you could spend months here and you’d still only scratch the surface.

I’ve visited the city more times than I can count. I even lived there for a couple of years . I’ve watched the city change and grow in so many ways since I first landed here in 2004.

While there’s not a lot of traditional touristy things to do in the city (those fill a day or two), there’s a lot of food and culture based activities here that can give you a sense of what life is really like in Bangkok beyond the tourists.

To help you, here are my top 22 things to see and do in Bangkok:
 

1. Take a Free Walking Tour

One of the first things I do when I arrive in a new destination is take a free walking tour. You’ll get to see the main sights, learn a little history, and start to get a sense of the culture. Best of all, you’ll have an expert local guide with you who can help answer any questions you have and give you suggestions and recommendations.

Bangkok Walking Tours has a few different tours available every day that provide a solid overview of the city. Just be sure to tip your guide!
 

2. See the Grand Palace

The stunning Grand Palace temple in Bangkok, Thailand
The Grand Palace was built over the course of three years between 1782-1785 by King Rama I when the capital moved from Thonburi to Bangkok. It’s the official residence of the king, though he doesn’t live there anymore (it’s just used for ceremonies).

The palace was originally constructed from wood as supplies were short. Eventually, after raiding other sights in the region, they were able to find the building materials they needed. Hidden behind high concrete walls, the palace isn’t one large building but rather a collection of wats (temples), chedis (mound-like structures containing Buddhist relics), carvings, statues, and the famous 15th century Emerald Buddha.

Na Phra Lan Road, +66 2 623 5500, royalgrandpalace.th. Open daily from 8:30am-3:30pm. Admission is 500 THB. Be sure to wear clothes that cover your legs and shoulders. You can rent pants or shirts at the palace if you need them.
 

3. Visit Wat Pho and Wat Arun

Wat Pho, known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is famous for its massive golden reclining Buddha statue. Built in 1832, the statue is 15 meters tall and 46 meters long. It’s one of the most popular sights in the city.

The temple is the size of a city block and there are tons of reliefs, statues, courtyards, temples, and spires to see. But there is more than just a photo opportunity here. The prestigious Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School is also located on the grounds. When you are done seeing the sights, get in line for a massage (it’s considered the best massage school in the country). Be sure to arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon, otherwise you’ll have to wait at least 45 minutes for your massage.

Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) is a gorgeous Buddhist temple on the edge of the Chao Phraya River (it’s just opposite the Grand Palace on the other side of the river). From the top of the main spire, you get sweeping views of the city. The intricately tiled facade reflects the light beautifully during sunrise and sunset. It’s my favorite temple in the city.

Wat Pho: 2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, +66 2 662 3553, watpho.com. Open daily from 8am–6:30pm. Admission is 100 THB. Massages cost around 260 THB for 30 minutes.

Wat Arun: 158 Wang Doem Road, +66 2 891 218. Open daily from 8am–6pm. Admission is 50 THB. Be sure to dress appropriately for both temples.
 

4. Experience Khao San Road

The busy street of Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand
This is the backpacker capital of the world. Khao San Road (along with Soi Rambuttri) has been the hub of backpackers in Asia since the 80s. While it’s a full-on tourist trap now, with non-stop bars, hawkers, and street stalls, it’s still a fun place to spend some time — even if you’re not staying in the area. Grab a drink, order some banana pancakes, and spend some time meeting other travelers and watching the world go by.
 

5. Explore Chinatown

This is one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world. It’s home to some delicious restaurants and street food as well as places to shop. But the main draw here is the food. There are tons of vendors selling food you’ve likely never see anywhere else in the city.

If you’re a fan of seafood, be sure to spend some time wandering the narrow streets and sampling everything. If you’re not sure where to eat, just pick a stall that has lots of locals eating there.
 

6. Take a River Cruise

Cruising along the Chao Phraya River in  Bangkok, Thailand
To see the city from a different perspective, take a tour of the Chao Phraya River. The river stretches over 370km (229 miles) and river cruises offer a relaxing way to enjoy the view see the city in a new light. That said, avoid taking an overpriced river cruise. Instead, just ride a water taxi up and down the river for just a couple of dollars. You can start at the central pier, go to the end, and come back. You’ll save money and still get an enjoyable tour of the river as it weaves throughout the city.
 

7. Check out the Floating Market

The busy floating market in Bangkok, Thailand
While the floating markets are a little touristy, they are super fun and can’t be missed. The two main floating markets in the city are Khlong Lat Mayom and Thaling Chan (the latter being the most popular). Locals will paddle their small boats around the water and you can just shop as they pass you by. It’s definitely a unique experience!

The markets are chaotic and aromatic and can be a sensory overload. Arrive early (especially at Thaling Chan) so you can beat the crowds and tour groups. There’s lots of cheap food here too so it’s good to come hungry. I always like to wander the market first to see what I want to sample and then go about eating my way around.
 

8. Visit the Museum of Siam

Opened in 2007, this museum highlights the origins of Thailand and its culture. Housed in a 19th-century European-style building, the museum is fully interactive. There are galleries, movies, and multimedia displays that cover culture, history, Buddhism, war, and the making of modern Thailand. The museum does an excellent job of keeping things both fun and educational.

4 Maha Rat Rd, +66 2 225 2777. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-6pm. Admission is 300 THB.
 

9. Visit the Bangkok Malls

Malls in Bangkok are not like malls in most other countries. Thanks to the AC, they are more like social hubs where locals can gather, eat, and hang out to escape the heat. The foodcourts here are actually delicious, there are coffee shops for relaxing or working, and there are even movie theatres and bowling alleys in the too. In short, they are fun places to hang out and to take in some of the less-conventional experiences of the city.

Some of the best malls to visit are Terminal 21 (my favorite mall), MBK Center (for electronics and knock-offs), Siam Paragon (upscale), and Pantip Plaza (electronics).
 

10. Tour More Temples

Temple in Bangkok
If you want to visit more temples, Bangkok has plenty more to offer. You can hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you around the city for a day to see them all (or at least the main ones). Some of my favorite temples are:

  • Wat Saket – This is one of my favorites in city because of its beautiful golden temple and wonderful views from its top. Admission is 10 THB.
  • Wat Benchamabophit – This temple is pictured on the back of the 5-baht coin and has 53 Buddha images in the courtyard representing different Buddhist mudras (ritual gestures). Admission is 20 THB.
  • Wat Ratchanatdaram – Built in the 1840s, this temple is one of the few temples in the entire world with a bronze roof. Admission is free.
  • Wat Traimit – Located in Chinatown, this temple is home to a massive solid-gold Buddha statue (it weighs 6 tons!). Admission is 40 THB.
  • Wat Mahahat – This royal temple is home to Thailand’s oldest institute for Buddhist monks. It also hosts a weekly amulet market where you can buy amulets to help you with luck, love, money, and more. Admission is 50 THB.

 

11. Visit Jim Thompson’s House

The historic Jim Thompson's house in  Bangkok, Thailand
Jim Thompson was an American spy during the Second World War and silk merchant in Thailand during the ’50s and ’60s. He mysteriously vanished in 1967 while in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands. Some say he was lost or killed while hiking while others say he disappeared himself (he was a spy, after all).

When he returned to private industry after the war, he almost single-handedly revitalized Thailand’s sinking silk industry. While living in Bangkok, he lived in a traditional Thai home. It was decorated with beautiful teak wood and surrounded by a beautiful garden. Today, you can visit the house and learn about his life, the silk industry, and how and why Thais design their homes the way they do.

1 Khwaeng Wang Mai, +66 2 216 7368, jimthompsonhouse.com. Open daily from 9am-6pm. Admission is 200 THB.

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12. Shop (and Eat) at the Chatuchak Weekend Market

This massive, sprawling market is the size of a few football fields and is one of the largest open-air markets in the world. There are over 15,000 stalls and booths here and the market sees upwards of 400,000 visitors each weekend.

It’s is the best place in the city to buy gifts or souvenirs, find knockoffs, barter, and eat delicious food. There are maps around the market so you can navigate the various sections though it always gets crowded and hectic so come prepared.

Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, +66 2 272 4813. chatuchakmarket.org. Open Wednesday-Thursday from 7am-6pm, Fridays from 6pm-12am, and Saturday-Sunday from 9am-6pm.
 

13. Watch a Muay Thai Fight

Muay Thai Fighting
Muay Thai (Thai boxing) is a martial art/combat sport involving striking and clinching. It’s one of the most popular sports in the country and is taken very seriously (much like football in Europe). Fighters train for years to master the art and you can catch bouts at Rajadamnern Stadium.

Matches typically last around 25 minutes unless there is a knockout and there are usually 7-9 fights per night. There are lots of food hawkers here as well so you can grab a bite while you watch the violent spectacle.

1 Ratchadamnoen Nok Rd, +66 2 281 4205, rajadamnern-boxing-stadium.business.site. Main fights are on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Tickets range from 1,000-2,000 THB.
 

14. Relax in Lumpini Park

The calms waters of the lake in Lumpini Park,  Bangkok, Thailand
Spanning over 140 acres, this is one of Bangkok’s largest parks. It’s home to bicycle lanes, jogging paths, picnic and chess tables, tai chi classes, plenty of trees, and rowboats for rent on its pair of small lakes. There’s a lot to do here, and in a city that really, really, really lacks green space, it’s a blessing to have. Grab a book, pack a lunch, and come and lounge in the shade and watch the afternoon go by. It’s a nice change of pace from the hectic flow of the rest of the city (it’s a no-smoking area too).

192 Wireless Rd, +66 2 252 7006. Open daily from 4:30am-9pm.
 

15. See the National Museum

Established in 1874, this museum focuses on Thai culture, with highlights that include a large collection of musical instruments, recorded music, ornate royal funeral chariots, and impressive wooden carvings. It houses the largest collection of local art and artifacts and has been undergoing renovations over the past few years so it’s slowly becoming more interactive and English-friendly (though some sections still don’t have English signs). Nevertheless, it’s still incredibly interesting to see the artifacts and items in the collection. They offer English tours on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9:30am.

Na Phra That Alley, +66 2 224 1333, virtualmuseum.finearts.go.th/bangkoknationalmuseums. Open Wednesday-Sunday from 9:30am-4pm. Admission is 200 THB.
 

16. Take a Cooking Class 

A delicious meal of khao soi in Bangkok, Thailand
Thai cuisine is one of the most delicious in the world. If you want to learn how to make some of the country’s mouth-watering dishes, take a cooking class. You’ll learn about Thai cuisine and cooking and be able to take your new knowledge and skills home with you. Here are some companies worth checking out to help you get started:

 

17. Hang Out at Soi Nana

There are two areas in Bangkok called Soi Nana. One is a sex tourism hub and not the one you should visit. The Soi Nana I’m referring to is known for its fun, hip nightlife. Located near the train station in Chinatown, this street is filled with bars and cocktail lounges making it a great place to have a few drinks and get a feel for the city’s wild nightlife.

Some of my favorite bars in the area are Pijiu (Chinese beer bar), Teens of Thailand (first gin bar in Thailand), Ba Hao (four-floor Chinese-inspired bar), El Chiringuito (Spanish tapas), 23 Bar & Gallery (bar in an art space).
 

18. Enjoy an Event at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center

The interior of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center in Bangkok, Thailand
If you’re a fan of live music, art, and performance, be sure to visit the city’s Culture Center to see if anything is happening while you’re in town. Opened in 2007, the BACC hosts art, music, theater, film, design, and cultural events in its exhibition and performance spaces. There is also an art library, cafe, gallery, craft shop, and book store here too.

939 Rama I Road, +66 2 214 6630-8, bacc.or.th. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-9pm. Admission is free.
 

19. Wakeboard at Lake Taco 

If you want to get out of the city and have some adventure, head to the eastern outskirts of Bangkok for some wakeboarding (riding on a short board while being pulled along a set route). The lake is just 40 minutes away. This is a popular thing to do with expats and though I never did it (I’m not much of an adrenaline junkie) my friends always said it was a fun time. It costs around 500 THB but comes with everything you need to have fun and stay safe (board, helmet, life jacket).
 

20. Take a Day Trip to Ayutthaya

The famous and historic temples of Ayutthaya near Bangkok, Thailand
Ayutthaya (pronounced ah-you-tah-ya) was founded around 1350 and was the second capital of Thailand (it was the capital before moving to Bangkok). Unfortunately, the city was destroyed in 1767 by a Burmese attack and there are only ruins and a few temples and palaces still left standing.

In 1991, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a popular day-trip destination from Bangkok as it’s just 90 minutes away. While lots of companies offer tours, I recommend you simply go on your own by train (it’s much cheaper that way). A typical day tour of the area will cost you about 500 THB.
 

21. See a Ladyboy Show

This glitzy spectacle is Bangkok’s version of Moulin Rouge. It’s a lively cabaret show with show tunes, dancing, K-pop, and elaborate costumes. It’s a glamorous, rambunctious night out that is guaranteed to entertain. Calypso Cabaret, founded in 1988, is the best place to see a show in the city. Playhouse Cabaret and Golden Dome Cabaret are two other reputable venues that host fun performances as well.

Tickets from 900 THB per person.
 

22. Take a Food Tour

The delicious food from a Vanguard food tour in Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok is all about food. It is a foodie city. The sheer variety of options is staggering. You have food from all over the world. To develop a deeper appreciation of Thai food and learn more about the cuisine, consider a food tour.

My favorite food tour company is Bangkok Vanguards. Their tour was put together with the help of my friend Mark Wiens from Migrationology. Mark is the biggest foodie I know and he spent years crafting the perfect Bangkok foodie tour. It doesn’t disappoint!

***

Bangkok is a world-class city that is worth spending the time to explore. While I didn’t like it when I first visited, after spending more time there I got to understand and appreciate what the city has to offer. You need to look beneath the surface here to really get a sense of the city. Do that and you won’t be disappointed.

 

Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Bangkok!

Nomadic Matt's Guide to BangkokMy detailed, 80-page guidebook is made for budget travelers like you! It cuts out the fluff found in other guidebooks and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel and save money while in Bangkok, a city I used to call home (so I know it really well!). You’ll find suggested itineraries and budgets, ways to save money, on- and off-the-beaten-path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, and bars, and much more! Click here to learn more and get started!

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Book Your Trip to Bangkok: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Get Your Guide
Check out my detailed guide to planning a visit to NYC with suggested itineraries, places to stay, things to do, where to eat, and how to get around. Just click here to get the guide and continue planning today!

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. Some of my favorite places to stay in Bangkok are:

If you’re looking for more places to stay, here are my favorite hostels in Bangkok.

And, if you’re wondering what part of town to stay in, here’s my neighborhood breakdown of Bangkok!

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!

Photo credit: 7 – Twang_Dunga, 9 – J. Maughn, 11 – m-louis, 14 – Bangkok Vanguards

The post The 22 Best Things to See and Do in Bangkok appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The Life of a Travel Writer with David Farley

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Author and Professor, David Farley
Updated: 8/24/20 | August 24th, 2020

When I started in the travel industry, one writer came up often in conversation: David Farley. He was a rock-star writer who taught at NYU and Columbia, wrote for AFAR, National Geographic, the New York Times, and many other publications. I always wondered who this guy was. He was almost mythical. He was never at any events.

But, one day, he turned up and, over the years, we became good friends. His writing tips and advice have helped me immensely, and his impressive résumé and keen sense of story are why I partnered with him on this website’s travel writing course.

Unlike me, David is a more traditional magazine/freelance/newspaper writer. He’s not a blogger. And. today I thought interview David about his life as a travel writer.

Nomadic Matt: Tell everyone about yourself!
David Farley: A few interesting facts about me: My weight at birth was 8 lbs., 6 oz. I grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs. I was in a rock band in high school; we played late-night gigs at Hollywood clubs, and we weren’t very good. I travel a lot, but I have no interest in counting the number of countries I’ve been to.

I’ve lived in San Francisco, Paris, Prague, Berlin, and Rome, but I currently live in New York City.

How did you get into travel writing?
The usual way: by accident. I was in graduate school and my girlfriend at the time, a writer, proofread one of my 40-page research papers — I think it was on the exciting topic of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s — and afterward she said, “You know, don’t take this the wrong way, but your writing was better than I expected.”

She encouraged me to write stuff other than boring history papers. I heeded her call.

One of the first stories that got published was about a pig killing I attended in a village on the Czech-Austrian border. After that, enough of the stories got published, mostly in travel publications, that by default I became a “travel writer.”

I ended up breaking into Condé Nast Traveler, working my way all the way up to the features section, as well as the New York Times. Eventually, I wrote a book that Penguin published. Then I expanded my field of interest to food and now I often combine food and travel.

Having done this for about two decades, one thing I’ve learned is that the “expectations of success” is really just a myth in our minds. I always thought, for example, that once I write for the New York Times I’ll have “made it.” Then it happened and didn’t really feel like I had done so.

Maybe when I write a feature for a big travel magazine? Nope.

Maybe a book published by one of the biggest publishing houses in the world? Not really.

The point is: just keep striving in the direction of success and forget about various plateaus you want to get to. I think it’s a much healthier way to go.

Do you have any favorite experiences/destinations that you’ve been able to write about?
I’d long been wanting to go to Hanoi to investigate, report on, and write about the origins of pho. I finally convinced the New York Times to let me do it in February. It was amazing and delicious.

But then, as we all know, the pandemic decided to swirl its way around the world, and, as a result, most travel stories—including this one—are rotting away on editors’ hard drives for the time being.

I’ve been really lucky to convince editors to let me delve deep into some things that I’m fascinated with and/or love such as spending two weeks hanging out with the guys who cremate bodies on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi to see what I could learn about life and death.

I got to spend a month volunteering in a refugee camp in Greece and write a dispatch about it.

I went cycling across southern Bosnia with four great friends following a bike trail that was carved out of an erstwhile train track.

I got drunk on vodka with old Ukrainian ladies in their homes in the Exclusion Zone in Chernobyl.

And I hiked across a swath of Kenya with my uncle, sister, and brother and law for a good cause: we raised thousands of dollars for an AIDS orphanage there and also got to spend a few days with the children.

I could go on and on — which is precisely what makes this a rewarding profession.

What are some of the biggest illusions people have about travel writing?
That you can peel off a feature story for a travel magazine just like that [snaps fingers]. It takes so much work for each story to get to the type of experiences we end up writing about — a lot of phone calls and emails to set up interviews and to get your foot in the door some places.

When a magazine is paying you to go to a place so you can come back with an interesting story, you have to do a lot of behind-the-scenes work to ensure that you’re going to have a good story. It rarely just happens on its own.

Travel stories are essentially a fake or altered reality, filtered through the writer and based on how much reporting she or he did on the spot, as well as her or his past experiences and knowledge about life and the world.

How has the industry changed in recent years? Is it still possible for new writers to break into the industry?
Very much. In the last few years, we’ve seen an industry-wide push to be more inclusive of female and BIPOC writers, which is a great thing. The publishing industry – magazines, newspapers, books – is always ready to accept great, new writers.

The key is that you, as a writer, need to learn how the industry works first.

So, how do people even go about breaking into the industry?
In the decade or so I taught travel writing at NYU and Columbia University, the students of mine that went on to write for the New York Times, National Geographic, and other publications were not necessarily the most talented in the class; they were the most driven. They really wanted it.

And that made all the difference.

What that means is they put enough energy into this endeavor to learn how the game is played: how to write a pitch, how to find an editor’s email address, how to improve your writing, learning the nuts and bolts of writing, and expertly knowing the market that’s out there for travel articles (i.e. learning the types of stories that various publications publish).

It seems there are fewer paying publications these days and it’s harder to find work. How does that affect new writers? What can new writers do to stand out?
I realize this is a hard one, but living abroad is really helpful. You end up with so much material for personal essays and you gain a knowledge of the region that allows you to become something of an authority on the area. It gives you a leg up on other people who are pitching stories about that place.

That said, you don’t have to go far to write about travel. You can write about the place where you live.

After all, people travel there, right? You can write everything from magazine and newspaper travel section pieces to personal essays, all about where you’re currently residing.

How do you think COVID-19 will affect the industry?
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has put a hold on travel writing a bit. People are still writing about travel but it’s mostly been pandemic-related stories. That said, no one knows what the future holds. Which in a perverse way–not just about the travel writing industry but in the bigger picture as well–makes life and reality kind of interesting too.

And while many people are losing their jobs and magazines are folding, I have a feeling the industry will bounce back. It just might not be over night. Which is why it’s a perfect time to build up those writing chops. You can also shift your focus for the time being to writing about local places and about other niches (food, tech, lifestyle) based on your expertise and interest.

What can new writers do now to improve their writing?
Read. A lot. And don’t just read, but read like a writer.

Deconstruct the piece in your mind as you’re reading.

Pay attention to how the writer has structured her or his piece, how they opened it and concluded it and so on. Also, read books on good writing.

This really helped me a lot when I was first starting out.

For most of us, talking to strangers is not easy. Plus, our moms told us not to do so. But the best travel stories are those that are most reported. So the more we talk to people, the more likely other opportunities arise and the more material you have to work with. It makes the writing of the story so much easier.

Sometimes you’ll be right in the middle of a situation and think: this would make a great opening to my story. My good friend Spud Hilton, former travel editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, says that the dirty secret to good travel writing is that bad experiences make the best stories. This is true, but please don’t put yourself in a bad situation just for your writing. You can write a great piece without having to get your wallet stolen or losing your passport.

What books do you suggest new travel writers read?
There are a few books out there on how to be a travel writer, but they’re all embarrassingly abysmal. For me, I write William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” and James B. Stewart’s “Follow the Story” when I was first starting out and they were very helpful.

For a memoir or personal essay, Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” is excellent.

For great travel books, it depends on what your interests are. For history-laden travel, anything by Tony Perrottet and David Grann are incredible; for humor, David Sedaris, A.A. Gill, Bill Bryson, and J. Maarten Troost; for just straight-up great writing, Joan Didion, Susan Orlean, and Jan Morris.

I highly recommend reading your way through the series of annual Best American Travel Writing anthologies.

Where do you find inspiration for your articles? What motivates you?
I get my motivation and inspiration from unlikely sources. I think about the creative masters and wonder how I can tap into their genius.

What did Austrian painter Egon Schiele see when he looked at a subject and then the canvas?

How did Prince put out an album a year from 1981 to 1989, each one a masterpiece and each one cutting-edge and like nothing anyone else at the time was doing?

Is there a way to apply this creativity to travel writing?

I’m not saying I’m on par with these geniuses — far from it — but if I could somehow even slightly be inspired by their creativity, I’d be better off for it.

More specifically for the articles that I end up writing, a lot of it just falls into my lap. The key, though, is recognizing it’s a story. A friend will casually mention some weird facts about a place in the world and it’s our job to take that fact and ask yourself: is there a story there?

What’s the most difficult part about being a travel writer? 
The rejection. You really have to get used to it and just accept that it’s part of your life. It’s really easy to take it seriously and let it get you down. I know — I have done this.

You just have to brush it off and move on, get back on that literary bike, and keep trying until someone finally says yes. Be tenacious.

Writing is a craft. You don’t have to be born with a natural talent for it. You just need a strong desire to become better at it. And, by taking writing classes, reading books about it, talking to people about it, etc. you will become a better writer.

If you could go back in time and tell young David one thing about writing, what would it be? 
I would have taken more classes to both keep learning — one should never stop learning about writing — and to force myself to write when perhaps I didn’t want to.

I think we can all learn from each other, and so putting yourself in that kind of instructive environment is helpful. I took one writing class — a nonfiction writing course at UC Berkeley — and it was super helpful.

***

If you’re looking to improve your writing or just start as a travel writer, David and I teach a very detailed and robust travel writing course. Through video lectures, personalized feedback, and examples of edited and deconstructed stories, you’ll get the course David taught at NYU and Columbia – without the college price.

Additionally, David will be doing a FREE webinar this Thursday, August 27th on travel writing as part of our Nomadic Network series of free events.

For more from David, check out his book, An Irreverent Curiosity or visit his blog, Trip Out.

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 being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and 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 those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!

The post The Life of a Travel Writer with David Farley appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My Favorite Gear for Travelers

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A map, backpack, and other gear for travel
Posted: 9/10/20 | September 10th, 2020

What do you take on your trip? What do you need? As long time readers know, I’m a fan of packing light. I don’t think you really need much when you travel. As a backpacker, I want to make sure everything I own fits into one bag. I often think people bring too much stuff when they travel.

I went to Costa Rica on my first trip overseas and I took with me the entire suggested packing list my tour company gave customers. I carried around so much stuff I never used. Years later, when I did my first backpacking trip around the world, I still carried so much, I ended up leaving stuff in hostels as I went.

But I also recognize everyone has different travel styles and needs. No two travelers are alike.

As you prepare for future trips and are wondering “what do I really need to bring?”, I wanted to give you a list of what I view as practical and must-have items. These items won’t take up too much space, are incredibly useful, and will make your trip better.

Here’s my favorite travel gear:

 

Items Under $25

1. Travel Padlock

Master travel padlockSafety first! If you’re a budget traveler and plan on staying in hostels during your next trip then you’ll need one of these. Since most hostels use lockers, budget travelers need to provide their own travel lock if they want to keep their stuff secured. While you can usually rent or buy them at hostels, it’s much cheaper just to buy one before you go.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

2. Travel Adapter

travel adapterAs many travelers have learned, it’s incredibly frustrating (not to mention inconvenient) to arrive at a new destination only to realize you can’t charge your phone or computer because the electrical outlets are different. That’s why you’ll want a travel adapter. They’re a simple accessory but a necessary one if you’re visiting different regions of the world. This is one I personally use as it covers every region of the world (and comes with USB ports too). It’s affordable, easy to use, and lightweight.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

3. Packing Cubes

travel packing cubesIf you’re going to be living our of a backpack for a few weeks (or months) or you just want to keep your suitcase better organized, buy packing cubes. They come in a variety of sizes, allowing you to store items big and small. They’re great for making it easy to find everything in your backpack or suitcase. (If you want better-quality packing cubes, check these ones out!)

Buy now on Amazon!
 

4. Earplugs

travel ear plugsAnyone who has ever stayed in a hostel knows that earplugs are a necessity. From snorers to late-night drinkers to copulating couples — I’ve heard it all. Even if you’re not going to be in a hostel, they’re still helpful for sleeping in buses, overnight trains, and other types of transportation. A good night’s sleep is priceless — travel prepared!

Buy now on Amazon!
 

5. DryFox Quick Dry Travel Towel

sea to summit travel towelUnless you’re only staying at hotels and using Airbnb, you’re going to need to bring a towel. Having a lightweight, quick-drying towel makes a huge difference when you’re on the road since regular towels are too bulky and heavy (and they take a long time to dry). Instead, get a travel towel. They’re a compact, quick-drying solution that every backpacker needs. (Use code “nomadicmatt” for 15% off your purchase!)

Buy now at DryFoxCo!
 

6. Passport Holder

travel scratch mapA passport holder is a must-have for any avid traveler. It protects your passport from wear and tear — which is important because a damaged passport might get you sent home early or denied entry to a destination (plus, replacing a passport is an expensive hassle). While there are tons of pricey, fancy options out there, a simple one will get the job done.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

7. Toothpaste Bites

Bites toothpaste jar with spilled toothpaste tabsHaving to travel with liquids is a pain. They’re always a hassle at airport security. And when it comes to toothpaste, there is a lot of waste (you never get all the toothpaste out and the plastic package is bad for the environment). Enter toothpaste bites. These dry tabs of toothpaste that come in a recyclable jar (no plastic!). They take some getting used to but they’re an eco-friendly option for the environmentally-conscious traveler. (If Bite doesn’t ship to your area of the world, Lush also sells toothpaste and mouthwash tabs).

Buy now at Bite!
 

8. Moleskine Notebook

moleskine travel notebookI never leave home without one of these. Not only to I use them for work (I’m constantly taking notes and writing down ideas) but I also use them to keep track of my travels so I have something to look back on. They are the perfect notebook for journaling during your trip as well as for writing down travel notes such as directions, contact information, and language tips. Even in this hyper-technological age, I think everyone needs to write more during their travels so they have something to look back on.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

9. Celiac Travel Cards

Legal Nomads celiac logoMy friend Jodi from Legal Nomads created these helpful travel cards for anyone traveling with Celiac disease. They are in-depth resources that communicate your concerns to restaurant staff in a way that allows anyone traveling with the disease to have a worry-free meal. If you or someone you love has Celiac disease, these travel cards are a useful resource! (Use the code NOMADICMATT for 10% off!)

Buy now at Legal Nomads!
 

10. First Aid Kit

If you’re going to be doing any hiking, biking, or other activities during your trip I suggest bringing a small first aid kit. It just needs to include the basics (band-aids, antibiotic cream (Polysporin), paracetamol (Tylenol), gauze, etc.) so that if you get a small cut, blister, or burn you won’t need to worry about infections. Of course, you should always buy travel insurance before you leave home but this will help you take care of any minor cuts or scrapes you get during your travels.

(Also, as I think we’ve all learned over the past few months, bring some hand sanitizer too!). Here’s more information on how to pack a basic first aid kit.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

Items Under $100

11. LifeStraw

lifestraw water filterSingle-use plastics are common in a lot of countries around the world. They’re also polluting our oceans and destroying the environment. But when you’re traveling, they can be hard to avoid if you want to stay safe. Fortuantely, you can do your part to help the planet by traveling with a reusable filter. LifeStraw is an awesome brand that sells bottles with built in water filters. The filters last 5 years so you save money on changing them too. You’ll be able to stay healthy and lower your reliance on single-use plastics. Double win!

Buy now at LifeStraw!
 

12. Travel Headlamp

travel head lampThis is a handy tool for both backpackers and anyone looking to do any hiking or camping. If you’re going to be staying in a hostel, having a headlamp is helpful when you need to check in or out but don’t want to disturb your fellow travelers by turning on the lights. They’re also helpful in emergencies.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

13. Trtl Travel Pillow

a comfortable travel pillowTravel pillows are perfect for those long-haul flights, delayed buses, and airport naps. Every avid traveler should have a travel pillow. They just make being in transit all the more comfortable. They help prevent jetlag and make even the longest, most uncomfortable trip a little more bearable.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

14. Suavs shoes

suavs shoesSuavs shoes are versatile and durable. They’re perfect for traveling because they work for exploring a new city while also looking a little fancier so you can dress them up if you have to. They are flexible, light, washable, and breathable. I love them!

Buy now on Suavs!
 

Items Over $100

15. Travel Backpack

REI Flash travel backpackIf you’re a long-term traveler, your backpack is your home away from home. A reliable, durable travel backpack is a must for budget travelers, minimalists, and backpackers. A well-made bag will last for years and through dozens of adventures. Having a reliable travel backpack is one of the most important items for a traveler and is worth investing in.

My favorite bag is the Flash 45 from REI but other companies worth checking out for high-quality bags are Osprey, Nomatic, and MEC (for Canadians).

For a different backpack suggestions, check out my guide to finding the right backpack!

16. Travel Clothing from Unbound Merino

Unbound Merino wool shirtThese travel clothes are some of the most versatile on the market. Made from merino wool, Unbound Merino offers clothing that can be worn daily for weeks without getting smelly. They are super light (great for carry-on only travelers) and they look sylish too. I really love the material, they’re comfortable, they hardly ever need a wash, and they last forever!

Buy now on Unbound!
 

17. Eco-friendly Luggage from Samsonite

samsonite recycled eco-friendly travel luggageIf you’re looking for a suitcase instead of a travel backpack, Samsonite has been a go-to brand for durable, quality luggage for ages. Personally, I’m a backpack guy but even I am a fan of this luggage set because it’s made from 100% recycled plastic. Not only that, it also comes with a limited 10 year warranty in case something goes wrong.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

18. Kindle

a kindle from AmazonPersonally, I prefer physical books when I travel. However, I can’t argue against the convenience and simplicity of the Kindle. I’ll admit, hauling around physical books is a pain. It’s old-fashioned and inconvenient. With a Kindle, you can pack thousands of books into a single device, ensuring you always have something good to read when you’re in transit.

Buy now on Amazon!
 

19. GoPro Hero 8 Black

gopro hero 7I’m not much of a photographer myself, but even I’ll admit that every traveler needs a camera. If you want something better than your phone but still easy to use, get a GoPro. They’re durable and take incredible photos and video without a steep learning curve. They’re waterproof too and work well for both everyday exploring as well as adventurous activities. It’s the most versatile camera there is.

Buy now on Amazon!

***

Whether you’re heading out for a two-week vacation or a full round-the-world adventure, this list of travel gear will help you get started. You need a lot of stuff when you travel but the right stuff can make a world of difference.

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 Gear for Travelers appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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How to Plan a Successful RV Trip

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Mike and Anne from HoneyTrek posing in the arctic circle
Posted: 8/27/20 | August 27th, 2020

Since international travel on pause, people have turned to exploring their own backyards. From the U.S. to Canada to England, Europe, and New Zealand, people are getting in cars, campervans, and RVs and heading out on road trips. After all, it allows you to social distance while still getting outside!

Today, I’ve invited my friends Mike and Anne from HoneyTrek to share their RV tips and advice. They’re full-time RVers and will help you get your next RV adventure started easily and on a budget!

A couple of years back, the van life craze had everyone curious about rubber-tramping across North America. Maybe you thought, nah, I prefer my city apartment or jet-setting abroad.

Then COVID-19 hit. All of a sudden, getting out of Dodge with a house on wheels started to sound really good, didn’t it?

There is no doubt that RVing is one of the easiest and safest ways to travel right now. No crowded planes or questionable hotel rooms required — an RV gives you the freedom to explore and the peace of mind of having your own space.

Over the course of our eight-year “HoneyTrek” we’ve tried virtually every style of travel — backpacking, house-sitting, small-ship cruising, backcountry camping, five-star honeymooning, etc. — but the day we rented a campervan in New Zealand, we knew this was our preferred mode of travel.

For the past three years, we’ve been traveling full-time in our 1985 Toyota Sunrader “Buddy the Camper,” from the Baja Peninsula to the Arctic Circle and 47 states in between.

We’ve learned a lot along the way and are excited to share what we think are the most important things to know before setting out on your RV journey.

Here’s a video we just filmed which covers all the basics (or read the post below):

 

How to Pick the Right Size RV

For maximum adventure and comfort, we’d recommend a camper around 21 feet long. We know those big RVs tricked out like a penthouse apartment look tempting, but remember that every foot in length costs mobility. A shorter rig allows you to:

  • Access rugged terrain
  • Fit in a normal parking space, even parallel park
  • Avoid length restrictions on some of America’s most beautiful winding roads and ferry rides
  • Get better gas mileage (Most rigs get 6–10 MPG. Ours gets 19.)
  • Have less stuff to break, which means more time exploring and having fun!

And, while even shorter 16- to 19-foot-long campervans do have the ultimate mobility, there are a few things you should know before you fall for that adorable Westfalia or stealthy Sprinter.

First, life ain’t so pretty without your own indoor shower and bathroom. And, while we respect the vanlifers who make do with public restrooms, bucket toilets, and catholes (digging a hole outside when you need to go to the bathroom), let us tell you the virtues of having a flushing loo: privacy, cleanliness, and autonomy.

We can be in a city center or a protected conservation area and conveniently and responsibly stay the night. In these unprecedented times, it’s more important than ever to be self-sufficient and not rely on shared facilities.

Besides a bathroom, a 19- to 22-foot long RV is big enough to also give you a proper bed and ample storage while still being small enough to explore with wild abandon.
 

How to Get Power (A.K.A. the Virtues of Solar)

Mike and Anne from HoneyTrek boondocking in Pariah Canyon, USA
RVs and campers have a house battery to run the lights, water pump, fans, and power electronics. Here are the various way to keep it charged:

  • Drive a few hours per day
  • Pay to plug in at a campground
  • Run a generator
  • Have solar panels

Your average road trip will likely give you enough charge from driving, but if you really need power, an RV park is never far away. If you are looking to slow-cruise the wilderness and lower your environmental impact, solar panels are a must. The simplest and most affordable option ($70–150 USD) is to get a portable panel and use it whenever you’re stopped in order to charge up the house battery of your RV. This obviously isn’t as convenient or powerful as an integrated system, but it should be enough to keep your phone and laptop charged.

If you are in this for the long haul, though, you’re going to want to install a solar system. We bought 300 watts of flexible monocrystalline solar panels, installed them to the roof, and wired them all together with a charge controller, lead-acid battery, and power inverter in about 20 hours — all for $1,200 USD.

If you want the best efficiency and lifespan, spring for a lithium-ion deep cycle battery, like the Relion RB100. If a DIY electrical project sounds too scary, you can have it professionally installed for $1,000–2,000 USD. We know that’s is a chunk of change, but investing in solar has allowed us to spend the last three years without having to ever pay for electricity, worry about running out of power, or generating any greenhouse gases.
 

How to Get Internet

Anne from HoneyTrek working on a laptop in her RV
Your smartphone is your on-the-go router. It’s important to use a carrier with an extensive national network (AT&T or Verizon) so as to get reception in remote areas (the dream is to be using your laptop from a secluded beach, right?).

We use our Verizon phone as a hotspot for our two laptops, getting 50GB unthrottled per month, plus unlimited calls and texts, for $109 USD.

While that’s a decent amount of data, it’s not a home internet plan through which you can be streaming all day. If you’ll be on the road for more than a couple weeks, monitor your usage with the GlassWire app and install NetLimiter on your laptop to help ration your data. Save your big downloads and uploads for free Wi-Fi zones.

We love working at libraries, not just for the internet but for their inspiring spaces, peace and quiet, community offerings, and open invitation to stay all day.

And, when all else fails, McDonald’s and Starbucks have wifi that’s usually strong enough to tap from the comforts of your camper.
 

How to Find Places to Camp

Your basic campground typically offers a flat parking spot with a picnic table, fire pit, and shared bathroom for $10–30 USD per night. If you bump up to $35–80 USD a night, you’re in RV park territory and will likely get power, water, sewer, and shared amenities like a clubhouse and a pool.

But did you know there are tens of thousands of free campsites scattered around the wilds of the USA? The federal government has reserved 640 million acres of public lands (national forests, BLM [Bureau of Land Management] land, national conservation areas, etc.) for your enjoyment. These sites are pretty bare-bones (sometimes it’s just a clearing in the forest) but, since we have a self-contained camper with our own drinking water and bathroom, all we really want is a peaceful spot with a good view.

This style of independent camping has many names: dispersed camping, wild camping, dry camping, freedom camping, and most commonly “boondocking.” We find our favorite boondocking spots via the Ultimate Campgrounds app, which we use to see what sites are nearby.

If we’re striking out on that app, we turn to iOverlander and FreeCampsites.net.

With these apps, we’re able to find great camping on the fly and rarely pay a dime.

That said, there is a time and place for more traditional campgrounds. They can be a great way to meet other campers, enjoy a few extra services, or stay in the heart of a national park. ReserveAmerica.com is the main campground portal (290,000 listings!) for public (national and state parks) and private campgrounds. HipCamp.com also has extensive offerings and is our favorite for unique sites on private land — it’s like the Airbnb of camping. KOA has tons of options too.

If you know there is a certain place you want to be on a specific night, you can book in advance. But also just don’t be afraid to go with the flow — there is always a beautiful boondocking spot somewhere!
 

Urban Boondocking

Mike and Anne from HoneyTrek boondocking in Seattle, USA
Speaking of boondocking, it’s not just for the woods. We have spent countless nights “camping” in the heart of cities, and if you adhere to a few simple rules, you can feel confident doing the same:

  • Obey all street signs and curb markings and keep the meter fed. If it says “no overnight parking,” take heed. If there is any ambiguity in the signage (street cleaning conflicts, permit parking, etc.), find another spot.
  • Don’t overstay your welcome. We usually limit our time in the same parking spot to two nights.
  • Don’t draw attention to yourself with excessive lights, music, noise, etc. Even though our 1980s RV is far from a stealth camper, we have slept in over 50 cities and never been asked to “move along.”

Be smart, be respectful, and the world is your campground.
 

How to Save Money on Gas

Mike and Anne from HoneyTrek parked at a small general store
We know gas is only around $2 USD/gallon at the moment, but when it comes to your long-term travel budget, every bit counts. Here are some tips to save at the pump:

  • Get the GasBuddy app. It allows you to see the gas prices along your route, often saving upwards of 50 cents per gallon, particularly if you can wait to cross a state line or get farther off the highway.
  • Get yourself a Discover card and/or Chase Freedom Unlimited card; certain months of the year, they offer 5% off your fill-up.
  • Sign up for gas station rewards programs, especially Shell and Pilot, which give 3–5 cents off per gallon.
  • Keep your tires inflated at the recommended PSI, and drive under 55mph. In addition to the gas savings, it’s safer and prolongs the life of your rig.

How to Find the Back Roads

Mike and Anne from HoneyTrek in the Black Hills
Set your GPS to “avoid highways” and you’ll discover just how beautiful this country can be. Interstates have blazed straight lines across the nation but the old network of roads, working with the contours of the land and connecting historic towns, still exists.

The best routes are America’s Byways, a collection of 150 distinct and diverse roads protected by the Department of Transportation for their natural or cultural value.

Even better than that website (because you can’t rely on back roads’ cell reception) is a hard copy of the National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways. It maps out the prettiest drives in every state, with something to marvel at even in “the flyover states.” We refer to it every time we start a big drive and discover interesting landmarks, quirky museums, scenic viewpoints, quintessential eateries, and short hikes, which always improves the ride.
 

Take Glamping Breaks

Mike and Anne from HoneyTrek glamping in the desert
To make sure you don’t burn out on small-space, off-grid living, treat yourself to the occasional glamping getaway. Creative outdoor accommodations with a plush bed, hot shower, and friendly host always remind us how much we love the woods.

When we get to a glamp camp, we can walk away from our normal responsibilities (setting up camp, cooking for ourselves, and DIY everything) and truly relax. A gorgeous treehouse, dome, yurt, or safari tent has been designed with your enjoyment in mind, and if you need anything, your host is at the ready.

A little pampering and fresh take on the outdoors will give you the energy to keep on truckin’.

To find fabulous getaways along your route, check out our glamping book, Comfortably Wild: The Best Glamping Destinations in North America.
 

How to Protect Yourself and Your Ride

You’ll be exploring remote areas, going down rough roads, and having wild adventures (get excited!). Consider these three forms of protection and you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way:

  • RV insurance – While this is specialty car insurance, the good news is it can be cheaper than insuring a sedan (we pay $375 USD a year for our Progressive plan).
  • Travel insurance – While most people think of travel insurance for big international trips, it usually kicks in 100 miles from your house, covering health emergencies, trip delays, canceled reservations (from campgrounds to river rafting excursions), and a variety of other snafus. Rather than getting insurance every time we hit the road, we use the Allianz All Trips Premier Plan so we’re automatically covered wherever we go throughout the year.
  • Roadside assistance – Good ol’ AAA does have RV plans, but we like that Good Sam is designed specifically for RVers and doesn’t charge a premium for it. An annual membership covers towing RVs of all sizes, tire blowouts, running out of gas, locking your keys in your vehicle, plus lots of other benefits and travel discounts.

***

As full-timers, we’re incredibly passionate about RVing and lot to share road trip itineraries, advice about buying a vintage camper, and lessons learned from three years on the road. While there is a lot to know about RV travel, renting a camper is a safe and easy way to get started. And there is a wonderful RV and #vanlife community online that will be happy to help too.

Mike and Anne Howard left on their honeymoon in January 2012 and never came home. They created HoneyTrek.com to chronicle their journey across all seven continents and help people realize their travel dreams. They are the authors of National Geographic’s bestselling book, Ultimate Journeys for Two, and the first-ever book on glamping in North America, Comfortably Wild.

Book Your Trip to the USA: 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!

Need an affordable RV for your road trip?
RVshare lets you rent RVs from private individuals all around the country, saving you tons of money in the process. It’s like Airbnb for RVs, making roads trips fun and affordable!

Want More Information on traveling the United States?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide to the US for even more tips on how to plan your visit!

The post How to Plan a Successful RV Trip appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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A Love Letter to Maine

Posted By : webmaster/ 69 0


A picturesque lighthouse on the coast of Maine
Posted: 9/8/2020 | September 8th, 2020

Tucked away up in the northeast corner of the United States, Maine evokes images of endless shorelines, wild forests, Stephen King, iconic lighthouses, and lots and lots of lobster dinners.

Despite growing up only 90 minutes from the state, I only visited once in my life. I was in college and my friend George was from there, so one weekend, we drove up to his hometown of Gorham.

Maine was always one of those places that I felt I could visit anytime so was never a rush to do so. There was always a flight to some distant land to get on instead. Maine could wait.

People tend to put off traveling their “backyard” until the end and I was no different.

But then COVID struck and there were no more flights to distant lands.

A busy harbour on the coast of Maine, USA

There was just my backyard to see.

So, while I was back in Boston longing for nature, I decided to finally visit Maine. My original plan was to spend a roughly ten days there before heading to Vermont then Upstate New York and then back to Boston.

But as the days ticked by, 10 turned to 12, which turned to 14, which turned to 21.

I just couldn’t quit Maine.

I loved the quiet, slow pace of the state.

I loved the small-town feel to the cities, and the fact you were never far from nature. Every city had access to it, and there was always someplace to go hike. Even tiny Bangor had parks and greenways galore.

Nomadic Matt posing for a photo in Acadia National Park, Maine

I loved the food. Besides traditional lobsters and oysters and other seafood we all know about, there was excellent Thai food, upscale American, and creative gastronomy. There was a lot of good food in Maine and, as someone who plans their travels mostly around food, Maine was perfect.

I loved all the microbreweries. Maine is one of the best states for beer and I found myself bouncing from microbrew to microbrew in search of the best IPA. (The winner was Rising Tide in Portland.)

And, of course, there were the people. There’s something about the state that makes everyone smiley, talkative, and welcoming. They’d ask you where you were from, shoot the shit with you, and always have suggestions on where to go next. From the diner owner in Bangor to the staff at the hotel I ended up extending to my stay at to the attendant at the park — who, when I asked directions, decided that was his chance to go into a long soliloquy on his state — to countless others, people in Maine were really nice.

Stephen King's house in Maine, USA

My time there took me to Portland, Bangor, Camden, Acadia National Park, Moosehead Lake, and tiny coastal towns for lunch stops. I learned to shuck oysters. I went on a hike every day. I read lots of books. I ate a lot of delicious food. Since COVID-19 closed most museums and indoor attractions, there was no much else to do. (But, really, who needs more than that?)

In small-town Maine, the rest of the country and its troubles seemed far away. A friend described it as the place for those who want to get away from society but feel like Alaska is too far. In a state where the population density is 41 per square mile (38th in the country), it seems like a perfect analogy.

A peaceful river surrounded by trees in Maine, USA

Maine seems to enchant people, casting a magical spell that lasts forever. It’s no wonder so many people I know from Boston go to Maine every summer. And it’s no wonder why I suddenly found myself calculating how much a summer home there would really cost and, if I too, want to spend the rest of summers here.

In a word, Maine is magical.

If you’re looking for a place to get away from it all with beautiful forests to hike, long coastlines to explore, delicious food to eat, and friendly people to chat with, you need to visit Maine.

Thank me later.

And send me a postcard.

Logistical Information
Eat: Duckfat (Portland), Eventide (Portland), Bite into Maine (Portland), Gidden Point Oyster Farm (Damariscotta), Long Grain (Camden), The Traveling Lobster (Bar Harbor), Havana (Bar Harbor), Rosalie’s (Bar Harbor), Beal’s Lobster (Southwest Harbor), The Fiddlehead (Bangor), Judy’s (Bangor), Stress Free Moose Pub (Greenville)
Drink: Rising Tide (Portland), Stress Free Moose Pub (Greenville), Atlantic Brewing Company (Bar Harbor), Bissell Brothers (Portland), Urban Farm (Portland), Mason’s Brewing (Bangor)
Stay: Black Elephant Hostel (Portland), Leisure Life (Moosehead Lake), Bar Harbor Manor (Bar Harbor)

Book Your Trip to the United State: 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:

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!

Need an affordable RV for your road trip?
RVshare lets you rent RVs from private individuals all around the country, saving you tons of money in the process. It’s like Airbnb for RVs.

Want more information on the United States?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on the USA for even more planning tips!

The post A Love Letter to Maine appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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12 Things I’d Tell Any New Traveler

Posted By : webmaster/ 218 0


A solo traveler standing on a mountain looking out into the distance
Updated: 7/10/20 | July 10th, 2020 (Originally published 3/30/15)

Hope. Fear. Excitement. Traveling for the first time produced a wave of emotions.

When I left to travel the world on my first round-the-world trip, I didn’t know what to expect.

Now, with fifteen years of travel experience under my belt, I know better. Traveling is second nature to me now. I land in an airport and I just go on autopilot.

But, back then, I was as green as they come.

To compensate for my lack of experience, I followed my guidebooks and wet my feet by going on organized tours. I was young and inexperienced and I made a lot of rookie travel mistakes.

I know what’s like to just be starting out and have a mind filled with questions, anxieties, and concerns.

So, if you’re new to travel and looking for advice to help you prepare, here are 12 tips that I’d tell a new traveler to help them avoid some of my early mistakes:
 

1. Don’t Be Scared

Fear is a powerful deterrent. Taking the leap into the unknown is scary, but remember: you aren’t the first person to travel the world. You aren’t discovering new continents or exploring uncharted territories.

There is a well-worn travel trail out there and people to help guide you along the way. If millions of people can make their way around the world each year, you can too.

You’re just as capable as anyone else. After all, you did the hardest part: deciding to go. Having the courage to make that decision is the hardest part.

You’ll make mistakes. Everyone does. But that’s part of the experience.

There will be lots of people out there to help you. You’ll be shocked at just how helpful and kind people are. You’ll make friends, you’ll survive, and you’ll be better for it.
 

2. Don’t Live by Your Guidebook

Guidebooks are useful for a general overview of a destination. They’re a great way to learn the basics and get introduced to the cities and countries you plan to visit. But you’ll never find the latest off-the-beaten-path attractions, bars, or restaurants in them.

For the latest info (as well as insider tips), connect with locals. Use websites like Meetup.com or Couchsurfing to connect directly with local and expats so you can get suggesitons, advice, and tips to make the most of your trip.

Additionally, ask other travelers you meet or the staff at your hotel/hostel. Visit the local tourist board as well. It’s a wealth of information that often gets overlooked.

In short, use a guidebook for the foundation of your plans but fill in the details with up-to-date info from locals.

You can also use travel blogs for planning tips since they are updated more often than guidebooks.
 

3. Travel Slow

This is something most new long-term travelers learn the hard way (myself included).

I know it can be tempting to pack in as many cities and activities as possible. (This is especially true if you only have a few weeks of vacation.)

But rushing from city to city every other day is just going to leave you exhausted and stressed out. You’ll experience a whirlwind of activity, most of which will remain a blur when you look back on it. Sure, you’ll have some great pictures for Instagram but is that really why you’re traveling?

Travel is about quality, not quantity. Don’t worry about how much you see. Don’t worry about trying to impress people with the number of countries you’ve visited. Slow down and soak up your destinations. You’ll learn more, enjoy it more, and have a much more memorable experience.

When it comes to travel, less is more. (Plus, traveling slow helps reduce your transportation costs. It’s cheaper to go slow!)

 

4. Pack Light

When I went to Costa Rica in 2003, I brought a bag filled with tons of stuff: hiking boots and pants, a fleece jacket, too much clothing, and my bodyweight in toiletries. And it all sat in my bag, mostly unused.

I was packing for “just in case” and “what if” instead of the reality of my trip.

While it can be tempting to bring more than you need “just in case,” remember this: you can buy things on the road. Socks, shampoo, jackets, new shoes — you can find it all aborad. There’s no need to bring everything and the kitchen sink.

So, pack light. You’ll have less to carry, saving you the hassle and stress of lugging a huge backpack around for weeks (or months) on end.

Unless you are going somewhere cold, a bag around 40 liters will suffice. Bags around this size are easier to carry, don’t get too unwieldy, and can fit on your flight as carry-on only if need be (a huge perk if you want to save yourself some headaches).

Here’s everything you need to know to help you find the perfect bag for your budget and your trip.
 

5. Get Travel Insurance

Whether you’re a travel veteran or a brand new backpacker, don’t leave home without making sure you’re protected in case something goes wrong. As we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, sudden emergencies can come out of nowhere.

I’ve had my luggage lost. I popped an eardrum in Thailand. I was knifed in Colombia.

I’ve had a friend break bones, need to be helicoptered out of the Amazon, or fly back due to a sudden death.

Stuff happens.

To ensure you’re protected, buy travel insurance.

I never leave home without it because I know just how quickly things can go sideways.

You never know what might happen. The road is filled with uncertainty. Make sure you’re protected. It will also give you peace of mind and help you travel with confidence.

Here are a few posts worth reading. I know it’s not a fun or sexy topic, but it’s an important one!

 

6. Bring a Phone (and Get Local SIM Cards)

Having a phone with data means you can look up directions on the fly, make reservations, and contact emergency services if something happens.

Sure, there is free wifi pretty much everywhere these days so buying a local SIM card for data might seem like a waste of money (especially if you’re on a really, really tight budget) but having that immediate access to roaming data can be a lifesaver.

If you’re from the US and traveling for less than 3 months, T-Mobile has reliable data plans. Google Fi is another great option too.

Additionally, having a phone makes it easier to connect and stay in touch with travelers you meet.

Simply put: having a phone is really helpful in this day and age.

Just don’t stay glued to it all the time.
 

7. Go with the Flow

When every day is planned out and there are timetables to follow, you’ll get stressed. Very stressed. You’ll rush around and be unhappy if there are any glitches in your well-curated schedule.

And there will be hiccups. And glitches. And all kinds of inconveniences, both major and minor. Life on the road doesn’t always go as planned — which is both fun and frustrating.

When you plan too much, there’s no room to experience the happy accidents of travel. There’s no room for spontaneous choice, for incorporating new information and advice that you learn.

When making your plan, make sure that it’s flexible. Learn to go with the flow. Plan one or two activities and let the rest of the day happen.

It’ll be a more enjoyable and less stressful experience. You’ll be surprised by what happens.

Be flexible. Let life unfold the way it should.
 

8. Bring Some Extra Money

Travel isn’t as expensive as many people think but you still need to create a budget that means your needs. The secret to long term travel is smart money management.

However, always overestimate the amount you need. You never know what might come up on the road. After all, you didn’t spend all that time saving every penny and staying home to skip those once in a lifetime activities?

Maybe you want to try bungee jumping or you discover an amazing restaurant you can’t pass up. Or maybe you meet some cool people and decide to scrap your plan altogether.

No matter how well you plan, something can always come up that will throw your budget out of synch.

That’s fine.

Just leave home with a little extra. If you’re planning says you’ll need $2,000, bring $2,500. It will give you a buffer for emergencies and spontaneity.
 

9. Remember Everyone is in the Same Boat

It takes courage to talk to strangers when you’re new to travel, especially if you’re an introvert like me. What do you say? Can you just invite people to join you? What if you end up alone?

These are all questions I had when I first started traveling. The good news? Everyone is in the same boat. All around you are other solo travelers looking for friends. They want to meet new people too.

While there are a few tricks to learn to help you meet people, it mostly just comes down to saying “hello” and taking that first step. Everything else will fall into place after that. You have nothing to lose and, in the process — this is how you’ll get over your shyness, make new friends, and get better at conversation.

 

10. Be Adventurous

The only time we grow is when we’re outside of our comfort zones. And travel is about growth. That doesn’t mean you need to do dangerous things, but it does mean you need to push yourself beyond what you’re used to.

Hiking, sky diving, eating new foods, camping, rock climbing, hitchhiking — whatever taking a risk looks like to you is 100% ok. Everyone has different interests and tolerance levels. Push yours. It may be scary and uncomfortable at the time, but you’ll be glad you did it later.

Challenge yourself. Try new things. You’ll walk away more self-confident.
 

11. It’s Ok to Change Your Mind

If you hate a city, leave and go to another one. If you don’t enjoy the tour your on, cancel it early. And if you really love the place you’re visiting, change your plans and stay longer.

It’s perfectly normal to change your mind on the road.

Maybe that means extending your trip. Maybe that means going home early. There’s nothing wrong with either choice.

Always remember you can go home if you aren’t having fun. You aren’t stuck with your decision to travel or your decision to be in a specific place. You’re the captain on your own ship. Never forget that!
 

12. Remember, You’re Not Alone

Wherever you go, there is a network of travelers who will be your friends, give you advice or tips, and help you out. They will guide you, point you in the right direction, and be your mentors.

You aren’t out there on your own.

And you will be OK.

***

I know you’re nervous about heading out into the unknown. It’s human nature to worry. But, if you remember these words of wisdom, you’ll go into this the right mindset and able to avoid rookie mistakes.

So take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy your trip!

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 being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and 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 those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!

The post 12 Things I’d Tell Any New Traveler appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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