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6 Things Traveling to Peru Taught Us About The World


As an American couple, traveling to Peru gave us an opportunity to experience something we hadn’t before. While Europe and various U.S. locations have provided travel opportunities that are different in many ways from what we’re accustomed to, in many other ways life on these trips is very similar to how it is back home. It’s a modern world, with all the conveniences of a first-world existence that are emblematic of society and the ever-present hum of technology around us. No matter where you are, in one language or another, the news will buzz about you from media outlets the same way in London or Venice as they will in America. While you’ve escaped normality, changed your setting and opened yourself up to experience, in many ways travel can be awkwardly similar to where you came from. Traveling to Peru, however, was a different experience and one that taught us much.

What Tracy and I were looking for while visiting Peru was a reconnective experience, and we found it. Peru is, without question, a gem that needs no polishing, and a location that is undoubtedly unique in a way that is sadly so as a Westerner experiencing it for the first time. Reconnective? Yes. Immersive? Without question. What’s more, however, is how Peru woke us up again from a world that, even while traveling, can sometimes feel all-too-homogenized and anesthetic in the ways that you don’t want it to be. We found ourselves truly experiencing, and in fact learning, in Peru. Here are six things we learned in Peru.

It’s Okay to Disconnect

When traveling in Peru, especially as a Westerner or European, you’re unlikely to be as connected as you are where you’re from or where you’re accustomed to traveling. That’s what you want. There’s nothing wrong with it, and in fact, Peru made us consider the possibility that we’re maybe too connected.

There were moments in Peru destinations that you can’t get in the U.S., or at least easily. Being a country that is formed out of the bare clay of absolutely beautiful nature, natural existence takes center stage. It was refreshing, and even necessary, to have not given a single thought to calling anyone, checking Facebook, texting people or Tweeting while we were there. Peru pulls you away from that, and rightfully so. Without doubt, we are too connected. We look at our phones every five seconds, and rarely out of actual necessity, but rather as an automatic repetition that we’re afraid we’re going to “miss something.” Sometimes, the need is even less poignant, and the distraction is merely that – distraction. Waiting in line at the grocery store? Cell phone. Sitting in traffic? Cell phone. Sometimes your mind just needs to be present, and it’s perfectly okay to let it be so.

It’s easy to forget also that just a mere 15 years ago, most people couldn’t connect this way all the time. No one could call you unless you were at a phone, because no one had a phone. There’s something easily romantic about that now, and something that Peru helped us connect with. Those people that need to text you or call you, sometimes they can wait. Sometimes the world that is there for you through a device can wait.

Sometimes the world in front of you, the one you can touch and see, is the only one you need.

There’s A Lot We Will Never Know

Tracy and I are both history buffs. We love it, we love contemplating where we came from, the history that formed everyone’s current story, and the civilizations that preceded us. That civilization still feels vibrantly alive in Peru.

From Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo, being able to touch the relics from the past is a surreal experience. Additionally, there’s much in the way of how these cultures lived and interacted with the outside world that, while we can hypothesize, we can never be completely sure. That’s one of the great things about a place that has cherished it’s ancestry such as Peru, and one of the things that made us feel so closely related to it.

You can’t possibly look at Machu Picchu and think we know all there is about how these people lived, and why they fled. Their technological capabilities and brilliance were rare for the time, and they succeeded in building some of the most beautiful structures in existence – still. Machu Picchu is brilliant, but the massive stones that hold together Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley are truly mysterious.

It’s okay to accept that there’s much we don’t know, and in fact it’s more enjoyable sometimes to not know. Humans seem to enjoy informational overload, and sometimes it’s better to just marvel and wonder. Sometimes it’s better to just close your eyes, smell the Andes on your breathe and see if you can hear the passage of time in the wind without analyzing everything and needing a definitive answer to who we are and how we got here.

Lima Is Bigger Than You Think…

While not nearly as big as the United States, traveling to Lima definitely reminds you that it’s a big city. In fact, the population of Lima exceeds the combined populations of Los Angeles and Buenos Aires by nearly one million people! You can feel this when you drive through Lima, or when you get transportation from the Lima airport to Miraflores. Buildings are everywhere, people are everywhere, and in many ways you get the feeling that it dwarfs New York City. Then you realize that Lima is bigger than New York City by more than 400,000 people!

Some people avoid traveling to South America because they don’t have in mind the “big cities” of the world like New York, London, Paris or Tokyo, but South America has plenty of major locations. Lima happens to be one of the most populous cities in South America, next only to Sao Paulo, Brazil. While many areas in Lima aren’t recommended for enjoyable tourism, there are large areas such as Miraflores which are as nice, quaint, beautiful and cultured as anything you could dream staying in.

But, So Is Peru

Peru, while not classically big in the way that Russia, Canada, China, and the U.S. are, is a bigger country than most realize. By land mass, Peru is the 20th largest country in the world – more than double the size of France and nearly three-times the size of Spain. As big as Peru is, it’s also diverse. Coastal cities and beautiful vistas of the ocean? Check. Mountaintop wonders? Got it. Jungles? The biggest. Arrid plains and dry deserts? Check, check. The only thing we regret is not being able to see were more of the destinations Peru has to offer, as each area offers different cuisines and different social morays, all of which add to our fascination with Peru.

Don’t take the size of Peru for granted – it’s a big boy. One of the biggest, and the variety of things to do in Peru exemplify that size and variety. In fact, don’t even be sold on simply going to Machu Picchu every time – drive around. See the coast. Edge up next to the jungle. It is all incredible.

You Can’t Describe Machu Picchu

After we traveled to Machu Picchu, the invariable question asked by everyone was “how was it?”

Let me say this – nothing you will say, no matter how many times you go or how closely you rehearse what to say about Machu Picchu, will ever describe it. I’ve never found myself at a loss for describing a place, but words fail when it comes to Machu Picchu. It’s too grand. It’s too old. It’s too important. The enjoyment of Machu Picchu, in part, is being dumbfounded. Enjoy that, and when people come back simply tell them as you sigh, “you simply have to see it for yourself.”

There’s More To See

Visiting Peru is a symbol of the possibilities that exist when you travel. No matter how much of the world you have seen, and no matter how many flights you’ve taken, there is always more. More you haven’t touched, more you haven’t seen, more you haven’t experience, and there just might be another Machu Picchu out there.

Peru, and Machu Picchu, will always be our travel “unicorn”, I suppose. We’re constantly looking for the thing to top it, or to at least make us stop and consider “is this close?” We leave for the Yucatan Peninsula in two days, and I can promise you my thoughts have been absorbed with the hope that I’ll be as overcome with awe as I was at Machu Picchu.

Then again, that’s why we travel, isn’t it? That’s why you should visit Peru and why you absolutely have to travel to Machu Picchu. Make it happen, and let it inspire you to make even more happen. Any avid traveler will agree that traveling is a drug they don’t mind being addicted to. The more you get, the more you want, and you’ll do anything to travel more with the ones you love once you’ve had a taste of it.

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Travel Blogging – What to Expect in the First Few Months


This blog is the result of an idea that started over a year ago, and like many of you fellow writers, it was a sudden change in our lives that spawned the idea. We didn’t have any idea how to start a travel blog, no real idea of what it involved, we just started somehow.

At the time, I had worked for ten years to a point where, professionally, we were very comfortable. Suddenly, I was notified at the end of another long work day that my situation was actually not comfortable at all. I was advised that there were going to be some realignment within my organization, and that my position was going to be eliminated.

The change was stunning, and it caused me to think of what I really wanted to do. After some consideration and thought, there was never a moment where Tracy and I “came up” with the idea of travel blogging – it seemingly began organically. One moment, we were having dinner and discussing what we really wanted to do, and the next we had made a decision. We loved writing, we loved traveling, and the next thing you knew we were buying a URL and learning about how to start our blog.

One of my favorite pictures, taken the day we decided to become travel writers.

Our blog began, in earnest, in December 2016. Since that time, we’ve learned immeasurably and found that travel blogging is certainly not something to be taken into halfheartedly. There have been endless things discovered, and many things left to be learned. The idea that we would hit “publish” and suddenly become a great blog like Nomadic Matt vanished quickly when days passed with no traffic and no interest. There weren’t any media outlets pounding at our door, and it seemed like we were simply writing for no one.

As the lessons have piled up, so have the small wins, and we’re beginning to see the return on our time investment. We have the believe that it will continue, and lead to us becoming one of the best travel blogs for solo travelers and couples seeking answers to their travel questions. Some of you can relate, those of you who are also aspiring writers, and we thought we would share a few things you can expect in your first few months of travel blogging.

Dedication

Travel blogging requires much more time than we originally thought. Yes, there was an initial feeling that we would build a site, post a few articles, go live and watch the views and share counts mount. We were wrong.

This is hard. Very hard.

It isn’t all tropical sunsets – travel blogging is hard. Very hard.

Travel blogging has an immense failure rate, with some estimates stating that as many as 97% of travel bloggers quit within the first 18 months. Two of the remaining three percent quit over the next six months, and the lucky “one” is the one that goes beyond two years. Most don’t realize that there really is one thing you must possess to put up with the constant challenges, constant need to learn, to adjust course, to adjust attack, to learn, to build social media, to connect with other bloggers and a multitude of other tasks.

That one thing is love.

If you don’t love this, you will fail. If you don’t love this, you will quit. It’s difficult, and you have to have an essential passion for this to press on through the twists and turns of what lay ahead. If you don’t love it, find something you do love, because travel blogging is not for the casual observer unless you truly want to do it casually.

What’s fun? Doing what you love. What’s more fun? Doing what you live, with the one you love.

With that being said, we understand that it’s only been four months. Could we quit? Sure. We won’t, though. When you check back a year from now, we’ll still be here because we love it. Will we be rich? Probably not, but we would do this anyway. We love it that much.

Don’t write solely for the money. Don’t build your blog and your website solely for the riches, because we know it’s going to take us and anyone else that undertakes this task a long time to get there. Write for the passion, and let the money come when it comes. You can only dedicate yourself to something like that if you love it.

That’s our outlook, and what we believe will see us through.

We believe the climb to the top will be worth it.

 

Learning

Of the things you see on our site, from the design and website UX to the widgets and e-mail list, the only thing we knew how to do four months ago was write articles in a Word document. It takes a lot of learning to start your own travel blog, but it again falls back on your passion to determine whether or not you have the dedication to see it through.

Our first major lesson learned was perhaps our most difficult, and costly. We originally bought the URL in mid-summer last year, and began working on our brand new blog. We bought the URL on Wix, as we had a previous positive experience with a small site for a completely unrelated venture. We had no knowledge of WordPress, true website design or building a site from scratch. We thought the easy-to-create templates on Wix would allow us to bloom.

Wrong.

Wix, and most of the cheaper, DIY, template-based blog CMS that you seem on television commercials are created with software code that is so clunky that Google’s algorithm can’t even locate the page content.

What does this mean? We had to learn WordPress.

If you want a serious blog, go with WordPress from Day One.

Do yourself a favor. On day one, don’t believe you can start this without doing it on WordPress. The learning curve is steep, but it’s also doable if you’re committed (see how that keeps coming up)? We have spent at least fifty hours on the layout and design of this website. We have spent at least a hundred more looking up the answers to questions we needed to do that layout. That research paid off, however, as our blog is currently improving in search engine position thanks to the lean code design that WordPress offers.

Additionally, you’re going to learn about things you possibly haven’t even heard of before. Get ready to immerse yourself in photography and social media, to learn about intimidating terms like SEO, backlinks, and TrustRank, and then get ready to apply all of this to your new project. It is, in many ways, like trying to uncrack a code.

You will learn as much starting your blog as you will going through actual school, but the difference is that you are the one that is going to dig through, with blood, sweat and tears, and find the answers.

When learning WordPress, there are times where the light at the end of the tunnel feels like a train.

Investment

This is a word that scares some people, but you’re going to invest a lot into starting your blog. Be it time or money, you’re going to invest if you want to get your blog off the ground.

I do recommend, no matter what level of expertise you have in creating blogs, to take the training course offered by the world’s leading travel blogger – Nomadic Matt. Matt’s course, called Super Star Blogging, has been one of the best investments we’ve made in beginning our blog. You have the opportunity to connect with not only Matt, but his support team and hundreds of other bloggers and authority figures from travel photography, entrepreneurship, travel blogging and other fields. Taking the course is something that has greatly accelerated our pace and allowed us to really understand what we’re doing.

A few other things are going to cost some investment as well, from WordPress themes and plug-ins to Facebook advertising and e-mail hosts, you can’t do this for free. Is it expensive? No, absolutely not. However, do expect that it will take you a few hundred bucks to get started and probably $20-30 per month on various tools to get you going.

The bigger investment is time.

What do our days look like? Here’s a snapshot:

6:30 to 8am – Wake up, work out, make breakfast and do a social media blast on our primary outlets before going to work.

8am to 6pm – Work our day job. Use off-time for social media blasts, responding to blog comments or reading about tactical elements related to the blog.

6pm to 7pm – Make dinner and set-up to work on the blog.

7pm to 11pm or 12am – Write articles, work social media, work on design elements, network with other bloggers and followers, white-board ideas, brainstorm, read, and plan.

That’s 90% of our days Monday through Friday. While we try and breakaway on the weekends, we always come back to this because we love it. We don’t have to push to maintain the schedule above. If you love it, you won’t either.

Saturdays and Sundays are really maintenance days. We’ll spend a few hours here or there finishing articles, connecting on social media or responding to emails, but we try to balance ourselves and keep our social life at least somewhat alive. It’s worth the trade-off.

Frustration

We see why bloggers quit. We get frustrated, we get tired, and we do get burned out sometimes. Tied to Google Analytics for hours a day waiting for the “big break” to happen is all-too-common, but it’s also unrealistic. The work has to be done, and it’s much more than most anticipate. Frustration is inevitable.

You do have to find balance to get through the tough times, no matter how you work, as that frustration can disillusion many into simply giving in to the easier thing to do – quitting. That’s where the other 10% comes from in our regular Monday through Friday schedule – sometimes you just have to let it all sit while you get a beer. This is especially important if you’re a couple looking to have a great relationship.

There are times you just have to put it aside and get a beer with someone you love.

We’ve had our share of lows already, including the initially wasted five months on Wix, but we’ve also had our share of highs. We’ve had an article on the beautiful island of Bonaire get shared 400 times, and written some content of which we’re very proud. We’ve added design elements, features and “thickened” our website. We continue to, and we consider all of these “small wins”.

Those small wins will keep you living and breathing. Notice them and celebrate them, because there are going to be a lot of times when you want to chuck your laptop through a window. Design flaws, coding errors, debugging issues, writer’s block, lack of inspiration and burn out are going to visit you at some point. Expect it. Know it will come, and prepare for it.

When you feel frustrated, understand that you are a part of the entirety of bloggers who have felt that way, from your peers who are beginning to the world’s most well-known blogging brands. Everyone has felt it. Just let it pass. Either get through the problem you’re facing at the time or get away from it all-together, but don’t stew in the frustration.

Guinness is for bloggers.

Also, remember that bloggers are a helpful lot. It’s interesting to see a community of people who are actually competitors willing to help one another. There are countless Facebook groups and social media gatherings where you can get support, as well as professional learning opportunities such as Super Star Blogging that will give you a network of people willing to assist you.

Consider us a few of those people, because the world needs more people willing to write, willing to speak, and willing to have a voice. For those brave few, there is support in one form or another to get you through any difficulty.

Conclusion

We plan on doing a follow-up to this around our one-year mark, at which point we’re excited to see where we are. We’re excited to see where you are too, and hope that for those mulling over a decision to start something (blogging or not) that this serves as a call to action and to serve notice on what to expect.

The common theme behind all of this is passion. Whether your passion is travel blogging, writing, painting or starting a brick-and-mortar business, I’m sure you have a similar story. I would urge you to tell yours. Let someone else learn from it and pay your knowledge forward.

The only two reasons you should start a blog are Freedom and Love.

Most of all, however, remember to have fun. Love what you do. If you don’t, find what you do love. Write, live, read, and risk with passion. The world is full of people hating their nine-to-five job, so be different. Find your passion and let your passion find you.

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How to Succeed as a Traveling Couple


I was having an interesting conversation recently with an acquaintance of mine, a guy about my age who has been with his wife for about four years, and asked me “how do you still get along while you travel?” The question struck me strangely, perhaps because I really don’t often consider the status of “getting along” or “not getting along” in terms of our relationship – we’re together. Always will be. Win, lose or draw, good day or bad, it’s us. There’s only one state of “permanence”, I suppose, and we stay present in that when we travel. And, as the quote says, “the couple that travels together stays together”.

I had to think about the question for a moment because Tracy and I don’t really consider our relationship in those exact terms, so I had to ask him to expound. “Well, just being around each other for weeks at a time. Doing everything together. Never being out of eyesight or earshot… how do you do it?”

I was a little saddened by the question when I understood what he was driving at, but also understand it’s a question that’s probably fairly normal to most people. There was a realization that some couples may struggle to get along more when they travel, but it’s our experience together over ten years and many trips that have helped us to learn how to do so. I gave my friend a moderately well though-out explanation of what I thought before moving on, but the question hasn’t left me for a few days. I thought “maybe this is a real problem for every couple… maybe we had the same problem once and just figured it out?”

It seemed like something worth writing about.

We do have ten years together, and while I don’t think we have it all “figured out”, our disagreements are normally pretty short in nature, pretty silly, and we move past them without too much time wasted. I thought of the first few times we traveled together, however, and I suppose the reality did strike me that we did, in fact, have to learn to travel together. Travel is fun and travel is expansive, but sometimes it can be challenging and force you out of your comfort zone in ways that compel you to admit that you have the capability of improving. Especially when you travel with the one you love.

So, after ten years and twenty countries together, we were able to come up with a list of a few things we remember that help us survive (and even thrive)  as a traveling couple!

The Couple That Travels Together, Stays Together

This may seem obvious, and it is. Really obvious.

Pick the right person to be with.

Does this mean you’ll never fight? Yeah, right. Does this mean you’ll never disagree? Not a chance. However, there should be a basic respect and interest in one another, as well as commonality that will enable you to travel with each other. If you don’t have this, forget traveling, you probably shouldn’t even be together. Harsh truth? Maybe. Truth, none-the-less? We believe so. We’ve all been in relationships where we didn’t have anything in common with the other person, and we actually place the “love of travel” right along the questions of religion and children when being in a relationship. If one person loves travel and the other could care less? One will either have a sense of unrequited wanderlust or the other will feel dragged through life paying for trips they don’t want to go on.

Find someone that loves to travel as much as you do.

Assume Positive Intent

So, you picked the right one? Here’s a secret – you’re still going to have disagreements. Travel doesn’t change that – it can, in fact, enhance it. The biggest travel tip for any couple is to “assume positive intent.”

After a twelve-hour flight, expect each other to be less energetic, less understanding and less patient than normal. This is absolutely human nature, and something you should both expect from one another.

You’re going to be tired sometimes. Jet lag is a nightmare to your state of mind, so allow for some adjustment. You’re going to be curt with each other at some point on your trip if you get a little lost or something doesn’t go according to plan. Don’t make it the end of the world, don’t make it more negative than it is, and don’t expect the worst in the other person because they’re a human with human feelings and prone to the same bouts of unsolicited grumpiness that you also exhibit.

Instead, assume that the other person loves you and means well. Assume that, if something offensive was done or said, that it wasn’t done maliciously. Don’t look for reasons to stoke the fire. Assume positive intent and ask the same in return.

Compromise

It goes without saying that every relationship requires compromise to work, but it’s especially important when traveling together. After all, travel opens up possibilities and gives you myriad things you can do together. Isn’t it wise to make sure that each of you gets to do the things that matter most?

Tracy and I feel like this is something we’ve learned well over the years, and an area where we needed improvement – and luckily have! Much of our planning prior to trips comes with the idea in mind of picking “me-things” and “you-things” to make sure we each give and take in our experiences, but what you find is that even the “you-things” are enjoyable and help you out of your comfort zone!

For example, we wouldn’t even travel today if Tracy didn’t help me get over my fear of flying. Early in our relationship, we established a give-and-take that included me working on my fear so we could enjoy traveling together. Once out of my comfort zone, I was able to experience the deep love I also had for travel, but could never express!

Over time, it’s amazing how many of your interests will begin to meld if you remember to meet in the middle when it comes to picking excursions and even picking places to visit.

Communication

One thing that makes compromise impossible is a lack of communication. After all, how can you compromise with each other when you don’t know what the other person wants? It’s important to ask and be an active participant in listening to what your partner wants to do. Furthermore, understand why.

For Tracy, I couldn’t properly appreciate her love of the United Kingdom without understanding her fascination with her family heritage, and she could say the same about me and Scandinavia (Skol!). Understanding the “why” behind the “what” is an old sales tactic, but it’s really best used in a relationship – especially for traveling couples!

You should set expectations while being flexible. For example, if one of you really has a bucket-list item that isn’t shared by the other person, it’s pertinent to make sure that happens – for each of you. Decide what those important things to each other are, and show understanding by making sure they happen when you travel.

Give Space

While the point of traveling together is to be together, there should be times where you do your own thing – if even just for a few minutes at a time. I’ll give a few different examples.

In Lima, I found myself more jet-lagged than usual after a five hour flight. Really wanting to do nothing but rest, Tracy decided to venture out for a few hours (it was still daylight in a safe area close to the hotel, nothing crazy), shop, and get familiar with the area around the hotel. By the time she got back, I was rested and ready for dinner, and from that point on we were synced. Had I pushed and gone out, my exhaustion probably would’ve only gotten worse, crankiness may have ensued and we could’ve had a disagreement because of it.

On a smaller scale, don’t stay attached to the hip in markets and walking around in general. For example, while in the flower markets in Amsterdam, Tracy would walk off while I did the same, and generally say “let’s meet back here in 20.” You can do everything generally the same without doing everything exactly the same and allow each other a little breathing space.

Embrace Doing Nothing

Couples can feel a lot of pressure to do more than what is necessary when they travel. Sometimes what’s really nice is just to do absolutely nothing together – especially while you’re adjusting from jet-lag.

What’s funny is that, many years after having gone on certain trips, Tracy and I still talk about the times we did nothing. Right alongside our conversations of the Rialto Bridge and Machu Picchu is the time we arrived in Vienna with overcast, chilly weather, took a four-hour nap, woke up and went to get a beer. Don’t let each other feel the pressure to overextend – enjoy the relaxation.

Accept The Disagreements That Do Happen

Following all of this advice for couples who travel, you’re still going to have disagreements from time to time. This occurs in relationships, no matter if you’re traveling or not.

It’s easy to get frustrated when this happens, and the frustration can lead to a lack of listening, lack of understanding and ultimately a longer argument. Just accept that disagreements exist and realize them for what they are – normal.

Instead of concentrating on being right or “winning” a disagreement (no one ever does, by the way) concentrate on understanding, listening, communicating and understanding why you traveled together in the first place – for the love of travel.

 

 

 

 

Avoiding the Travel Hangover


It’s something we all deal with, whether a nomad, backpacker, empty-nest vacationer or someone with an allotment of vacation days to use. It’s a commonality for anyone who wants to break free of the norm, which is really everyone. No matter how dedicated you are to what you do in your daily walk, we humans really aren’t built for monotony (though we deal with it). Some call it post-travel depression or try to cure travel anxiety, but we simply call it the travel hangover.

The nomad plans for a getaway the same as the vacationer, and travel is no less travel whether you do it 10 days a year or 300. You plan, you build in excitement, the day comes to leave and then, before you know it, that trip (or at least that leg of your travels) is over, never to be replicated.

I remember the first time Tracy and I went to Europe, and even more vividly so the first time we went to South America. Our two week jaunt in Peru was life-changing, as I realized that I had seen life and black-and-white before, and there were so many colors to be seen along the spectrum of experience. Coming back, sitting at a desk, florescent light bearing down on me – it hit me. The weight of normalcy, of restriction, was heavy and intense. It wasn’t the jet lag. It was the cold repression of real life bearing back down on me.

Believe it or not, this was a weight so intense that it took more than just a few days or even weeks to leave me. In fact, I imagine it’s much the reason why we travel now and will continue to. Once you’ve been opened up to the idea of a truly remarkable traveling experience, you wait to become normal again, you wait for the feeling to leave you, but it doesn’t. Wait as long as you wish, it won’t go away.

Returning from travel can leave you longing for more – which can be good or bad.

That’s why you should travel, in fact. To be changed. However, for most people the act of traveling still requires that one be able to still reintegrate into society when they come back, to bring a piece of the experience back, to be changed but to still be grounded in what responsibilities you had prior to leaving. You may decide to take on a different life path, you may decide that the day job isn’t for you anymore, but above all you must maintain happiness wherever you are – even when you’ve left a place you would rather stay.

I’ve found that gratitude is always the best medicine for so many things, especially an existential funk like the return home from a great vacation that made you see the world differently. Consider how fortunate you were to have had the experience instead of loathsomely stagnating in your day to day life upon return, as I initially did. Lack of gratitude is a sickness that infects everyone from time to time, and it’s neither healthy nor positive. Upon return, be thankful for maybe the things you have that the place you traveled didn’t, such as the comforts of home, friends or family.

We always bring the travel vibe back home, and remember to enjoy ourselves no matter where we are.

If your traveling truly changes you in a way that forces you to re-evaluate your wants, do so from a state of gratitude, but don’t stagnate. Instead, make a plan and act on it. When we came back from that first European trip, the heaviness of coming back, unknowing when we might return, we eventually found ourselves resolved to travel more, to see more of the world – no matter what it took. I changed jobs. We moved cities to a place closer to an international airport. We made a plan, and acted upon that plan that would allow us to use every spare moment to see more of the world. The result? 20+ countries in only four years while working full-time day jobs on American vacation policies (which is a fraction of Europe’s time allotment). No travel anxiety, and no travel hangover.

It’s simpler than you think to cure the travel hangover. You can maintain your positivity and your happiness upon return, even if you realize that what you’re doing isn’t working anymore. Don’t waste time lamenting, but rather make a plan and act. Make your life what you want it to be.

Another thing Tracy and I did with increasing frequency upon return from our first international trips was travel more locally. What do I mean by this? The vacation mindset opens people up to find the nooks and crannies of cities, the freebies, the good stuff that maybe the locals have never done. We came back and used that mindset to explore where we lived.

If the travel bug really bites you, make a plan to buy that next ticket – no matter what it takes

The museum we always drove by and never saw? We visited. The diner on the corner we never tried? Loved it. Those parks we always bypassed with little thought? We frequented. The truth is, if you look at the definition of travel, we can all travel incessantly. In reality, travel just means to be moved from one place to another. Sure there are assumptions, but can you really say what is travel and what isn’t? Drive into the country and find a place to have a quiet meal in an area you haven’t been. Take a hike somewhere close to home. Take a day-trip over the weekend. Just do something. Don’t bother defining travel, but rather stay in constant motion and travel will define itself for you.

We all love to travel, but the absence of a big trip doesn’t mean the absence of experience. You can travel wherever you are, and let all the travel you do make you more grateful, more appreciative, and determined to open yourself up to more of what the world offers.

Staying Present While You Travel


I suppose it was different in decades past. No mobile phones, cameras were big and bulky, travel blogging was a generation from existing and so was the internet. One traveled, took it in, and in most cases the only documentation you came home with was with a camera of a different sort – the human eye and your memories.

It was probably a bit easier to stay present, wasn’t it? Instead of pausing in front of every landmark in London for a photo opportunity or a faux-jumping still-shot in front of Machu Picchu, you just observed and appreciated. Yes, the way we travel now is different. Far different, in fact. However, different doesn’t imply that we necessary travel better or worse now – we just have to be smarter or problems with our constant connectedness can creep in.

Don’t forget to just take it all in, sometimes.

What type of problems? The problem of failing to be present. The reason why you travel is, after all, for escape. We have our daily routines and our lives seemingly cycle around this relative consistency of seeing the same thing and being the same everyday. We have our roles, and travel is a release from that – to just be an appreciative citizen of the Earth and the wellspring of culture, people, places, smells and tastes it offers. Travel is beautiful, but we can’t forget the point of the entire endeavor. We travel to appreciate. To be moved. To expand. To experience.

Travel bloggers have this problem especially, but I believe any traveler has a tendency to do travel instead of letting it be and letting it enact upon you. You can hear it in the stories of those when they come back, in fact. People give you a laundry list of what they did and where they went, which is all fine and well. That’s great. But, can you remember what you smelled? Can you remember the sounds and the stillness, even in the bustling of a densely populated city? If you can, then that’s a good indication that you’re doing it right.

Staying present while one travels seems difficult, and in fact it can be. The world pulls at us. Our phones pull at us, as well as social media and the demands to tie back to work and report without being too absent. We constantly have the world tugging on us from all angels, no matter where we are. That’s why it’s important to be in charge of our experiences, and prioritize the documentation of the experience behind the actual experience itself. We don’t claim to be masters at this just yet, but we’ve definitely improved as our travels have increased.

Here are a few ways we make sure to stay present and truly experience  what we’ve come to see.

Put the Phone and Camera Away – Sometimes

The devices we have aid so much in our documentation of our experiences, but can often do much to inhibit us actually experiencing them. They really are a double-edged sword that can give you a lot of digital memories of things you really don’t remember enjoying, but can also help augment great trips if done correctly.

Take the time to take in, or even recreate, what you see around you.

How you ultimately decide to detach from your devices is up to you, but it should definitely be done. Tracy and I will often save our documenting for the middle-portion of an experience. When we step up to a monument for the first time, or when we viewed Machu Picchu, we didn’t walk directly up with our cameras in the ready position. You want to feel that initial exhilaration. You want to capture that moment with all of your senses the first time you see something you know is going to be unique. Give yourself a moment, at least, before you break out the technical equipment and start snapping selfies.

After you’ve documented, maybe sent out a tweet or an instagram picture (bloggers, I’m talking to you), take the last few moments before you move on to soak in the scene again. That’s what you want to be hit by, and that’s what you want to leave with. Pictures are for posterity – don’t forget that.

Set Expectations

Most travelers do so with day-jobs. Some of those day-jobs are quite demanding, and a vacation really can just become answering your emails in a different country. If this is the case, and you’re obsessed with work even when away, you either need to establish boundaries with your employer or reconsider what you do for a living.

Most employers will be completely fine with your honesty on the matter. “Hey, so when my wife and I are in Japan I’m going to be out of pocket a lot and I probably won’t be responsive to emails. I’ll get caught up, and if there’s anything that’s urgent, contact so-and-so… ” Essentially what I’m saying is this – you give all of yourself to your job while you’re there, make sure you give yourself to travel when the time calls for it also. Set the expectations with pertinent people that you will or won’t be able to contact often, and under-promise rather than over-promise on the amount of attention you can offer while you’re away.

If these responsibilities include home-based roles, such as being a parent or leaving pets at home, do your best to disconnect. Especially for parents who travel without children, it’s difficult to fully give into the moment and appreciate what you’re doing, but remember this – you’re travelling to better yourself and experience more of the world. You need to connect with that for you, so that you can be a better person and perform better in all of those responsibilities. Communicate with whoever is in charge back home, pick someone you can trust, and let go as much as possible.

Connect with your Senses

A cool trick I ran across while we were just in the Bahamas really helps you connect with your senses, and thus connect with the experience. Standing on a boat in the middle of the Caribbean, my mind was racing with thoughts of what the did last night, the dinner plans for later, and the generalities of life. It was mind-noise at it’s finest, and it had completely taken me out of the moment. Here I was, gazing as crystal-clear water under a blanket of absolutely perfect blue, and I was wondering if I should get Oysters Rockefeller or Raw… what the hell was wrong with me?

Remember – no camera beats the human eye.

Luckily, I was able to catch myself and I stopped. “How can I be more present right now?” I thought. “Commit to one sense,” is what came to mind. In that moment, I gazed at the slow-rolling splash of the water passing alongside the boat and gave that all of the attention I had. Suddenly, I was back in the moment. My mind calmed down and I could hear the birds, smell the freshly-cracked cans of beer, and I was back to enjoying myself.

Your senses are there for a reason – allow them to work and get out of your mind more.

Talk less, listen more.

This directly relates to the point above, but pay attention to how much you talk. This goes beyond vacation, really, but if you’re travelling with a group, a friend or meet locals you become much more in tune with what’s happening, where you are and can appreciate the setting when you aren’t attached to what you’re going to say next.

A great trick for this is to ask yourself, on occasion, “when is the last time I asked someone a question?” Be the person who is asking the questions, and you’ll be the receiver of great information and experience.

Notice what is different, and what is the same. 

When we’re on the road, I love noticing what is different and what is similar about what I’m familiar with. Listening to your senses helps to pull in the information when you’re doing this, but it really is in these little details that places begin to take on a persona and a personality for you. It’s interes
ting to note the differences in the way people dress, but even within those cultural differences you can find commonalities between where you are and the culture from where you come. The conclusion you’ll come up with is that, while different, we’re all incredibly same in so many ways.

When all you need is all around you…

Engage Locals

This is where I would advise you, if at all possible, to learn a little bit of a country’s language before you travel there. Not only is it helpful, but it’s polite, the right thing to do, and not nearly as hard as most would assume.

You don’t have to be a polyglot by birth to ask someone how their day is or “where is the bathroom?” The internet is full of options for those seeking even the basics of a language, many of which are completely free! We use the Memrise app and website before we travel, and I’ve found it to be an absolutely invaluable part of some of the best experiences we’ve had while traveling. You can browse more than 80 languages with complete user-contributed courses that will have you learning the basic commands in any language in minutes.

The locals know where the good stuff is. They know where you should be instead of where the guidebook or some guy on the Travel Channel told you. They’ll tell you where is safe, where you can’t wear that necklace, where the cheap beer is, and if you’re lucky, a little bit about themselves. Learning about locals and how they live is another way to stay present, to stay in the moment and to truly appreciate the similarities and differences between you and the rest of the world.

As you can see, it’s really not that difficult to stay present while traveling and to have a truly memorable experience that you not only remember, but feel. The tools we have at our display, the technical gear and the futuristic aids are all meant to augment your experiences, not take away from them. With these few tips, you’ll be well on your way to experiencing more of your travels and having all the documentation you could ever need to prove you were there!

 

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Why Travel?


“Why?”

It’s a question we’ve gotten often, either in regard to why we’re going to a specific place or why we travel as much as we can, in general. It’s a question I don’t understand, from a mindset that I do. “Why?”

For us, travel is less of a decision and much more of a compulsion. The oddness of travel is that the more you do so, the more you want to do it. The more you travel, the more you feel connected through being absolutely unplugged. It’s dichotomous. The more you travel, the more adventurous and comfortable with going off the beaten path you become. It begins to transform your wants. It builds on itself. You start with one place, one trip, then you want to travel the world.

We understand the mindset of the unknown, where a desire to travel isn’t present because one hasn’t done it before. However, the question of “why?” now corresponds to “why breathe?” or “why eat food?” to us. It’s as though someone is asking to get rhetorical about something very commonsensical to us.  It’s understandable.

Why travel? To get stuck in the middle of cool situations.

“Why travel?” I’ll explain it like this. Before you travel, you may have the illusion that you are who you are, complete, wholly, and fully defined in the boundaries where you live with the people you know. When you travel, you realize that the real you, who you are meant to be and the best version of yourself, is scattered across the world in a million pieces waiting to be discovered. As you pick up the pieces, as you venture, you add these pieces back to your nature and become whole again. It’s as though, at birth, the world says “your challenge is to find the rest of yourself.” Every place and every person holds a piece.

We get the “why?” question often because of the seeming scariness of the world, but believe us: it isn’t that terrifying to travel. The vast majority of the world, even in places you think would be sketchy or frightening, really isn’t. Most people want what you want – happiness and peace. They’ll offer that to you if that’s what you’re looking for, so long as you offer it in return. Give memories, get memories. Give love, get love. Give kind-heartedness, get kind-heartedness. It’s really a simple philosophy.

So, the question of “why?” is one we understand, but one we don’t really understand. Why travel the world? It’s as though someone is describing something to us that we’ve never seen before. I can picture it, I can even come pretty close to exacting in my mind what it really looks like, but I haven’t been there.

It’s important, however, to understand that this is a real question to people who have either never realized the desire to travel, or have had fear override that desire. If you have the desire but lack the funds, maybe you don’t know that there are inexpensive ways to travel? Maybe fear and the assumption that it’ll never be for you has kept you thinking that travel is for rich or well-to-do people? I can assure you it isn’t.

Travel is a priority. Some people go to the doctor for regular check-ups, and fear the worst if they don’t. I haven’t seen the inside of a doctor’s office in nearly a decade, but I feel the same about travel. I can’t not. I know that there’s more of me to meet, and more of you. I know there’s a great, big world, so big that I find it hard to believe I was destined to experience only a minute fraction of it. Have you ever felt that way? If so, then maybe you’re closer than you think.

Early morning over Barcelona

People say we fear the unknown, but I actually feel like we fear our desire of the unknown. I think we, as a species, are obsessed with the unknown but feel it taboo to admit it. There’s a reason why the Travel Channel rakes in cash and food trucks with bizarre, international combinations have lines wrapping around the block. We all want a taste of the unfamiliar, just to see what it’s like to feel like we can experience something out of the ordinary, so we can experience something outside of ourselves. Why do people pony up cash for lottery tickets by the billions? Is it the money, or what the money represents – total freedom, total access to do “whatever the hell I want”.

In other words, to break free of the constraints of normalcy.

Why? Are we engineered that way? Inside of our prescribed, civil lives are we actually rebels looking for a way, any way, to break free of tradition and consistency? I think we are.

Recently, when discussing with someone that we were going to Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, we were asked “why do you want to go there?” This wasn’t said quizzically. It was said with a level of bewilderment, almost to the point of being angered by confusion. “Why do you want to go there?” Sure, I get the misconception that all of Mexico is riddled with gang activity, and much of it is, but have you ever seen Chichen Itza? Have you ever seen Tulum? Do you know what happened there? What can we learn about us there? What can we learn about ourselves? Sorry, I’ll climb over broken glass to get to a place like that. We love traveling the world because of the overwhelming impulse to see more, to be more and to feel more.

El Castillo at Chicken Itza (Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico)

 

“Why?” is less of a function of understanding than it is a judgment, unfortunately. “Why?” is often a question stemming from a cold-war era philosophy, stuck in rhetoric, that assumes if you’re in any way worldly that you can’t possibly love where you live. That you’re a dissenter. It’s a response you often get from the overly-patriotic who wonder “why would you ever go anywhere other than America?” Quite simply, I’m a citizen of the U.S. by paper. By a decision that was made, long before my chunky fanny came corkscrewing out, that lines would be draw “here” and “here” and we’ll name it “this”. That’s what a country is. That’s what nationality is.

No, I’m first-most a citizen of the world. I have no lines I won’t cross. Everyone is my countryman.

“Why?” travel? It’s like asking “why live?” I don’t know really, because I wake up and find myself alive? Because I wake up and find myself breathing? Travel feels nature. It is natural. It’s more than natural – it’s nature itself. It’s my nature. It’s your nature. We’re seekers. We’re explorers.

We’re the species of Vikings and Columbus, of Vespucci and Magellan. We’ve traveled to space! We all want that. We all are that – misfit explorers making the best of it on a spinning marble that could fly off into outer-space like some interstellar frisbee at any point.

“Why?” is a function of discovery, in of itself. Sometimes “why” really means “why”. As in “I want to know”. Tell me why this means so much to you. Tell me why it should mean so much to me. The love of travel is infectious, which is why we all, at the very least, question it. Tell someone about the best vacation you’ve ever been on, and I promise your passion will come across, showing absolutely and definitely who you are at your innermost core, and they will respond with admiration. Travel is good for you, and has innumerable benefits. It creates a new, purposeful you that comes across vividly. They will respond with love. Furthermore, they’ll want to go, too!

Why are you at your best when you even talk about travel? Why is travel important? Because it is your nature, and the explanation of it is like the explanation of an impossible equation or the listening-to of a great symphony – your passion will seep out of you. It’s detailed. It’s elegant. It’s passionate. It’s truthful. It’s wise and mysterious. It’s you, and it’s everyone who isn’t  you.

So, “why” travel? Because, at it’s very nature, it’s all there is to do.

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Travel as a Self-Development Tool


I didn’t grow up flying. In fact, the first two times in my life that I found myself on an airplane I was 16 and 22, respectively.

I didn’t grow up taking lavish vacations, seeing the European countryside or even making the cross-country jaunt to such far-away places as… Texas? We did that once, and I remember feeling so alive with the first vestiges kindling of the wanderlust that would completely own me in later years.

Our favorite view of the world…

My parents worked hard to provide a living, and I relished the family car-rides to the East Tennessee mountains or the pristine beaches of Florida’s panhandle. They were far-away places to me, a child who would find “home” on the old paper globes, turn it 180 degrees and locate what was farthest from that point and say “there… I’m going there some day.” I suppose I knew the globe well back then, mostly on the account of dreaming.

I can say I’ve been to some of those “there” places of which I dreamed. What I can’t say is much else, because the thought still leaves me speechless. I look back in thankfulness for all Tracy and I have seen together, because for a very long time in my life “travel” seemed like a complete pipe-dream.

You might have felt that way once. Maybe you still do.

Bonaire – where we found our favorite place in the world (so far…)

I wonder, like everyone else does about moments in their life, about landmark moments and what would have become of me had I “zigged” instead of “zagged.” When was it that I fell in love with the idea of travel? Was it easy? Was it always there? Was it uniquely me from the beginning? That’s hard to say, because what I remember first about travel wasn’t a want or a lack of want, but rather fear. A nasty, horrendous fear of flying that, in hindsight, could have had crippling effects on my life.

My father never has, to this day, flown on an airplane. My mother only had late in life, and never for reasons of luxury or adventure. My first flight, in fact, was during my sophomore year of high-school. As an accomplished athlete, my football team traveled to Alaska for an official, organized competition. While I wish I could say I enjoyed the experience of flying, I must certainly did not. White-knuckled, I sat there in my seat. I almost remember counting the beads of sweat on my palms as a diversionary tactic. Every second seemed like a minute, every minute like an hour as I looked out the window in near-panic.

Then the plane actually took off.

While I don’t need to recount the entire, sordid ordeal, it goes without saying that it was a terrible experience for me. I wasn’t straitjacket-crazy, but it was then that the idea came to mind that seeing the world probably wasn’t on my agenda in adulthood. What strange paths we travel, don’t we?

For years, fear gripped me over the idea of flying. I quit jobs that presented amazing opportunity to avoid travel. I missed out on once-in-a-lifetime chances to take the safer path. Now, it seems insane and as though some gutless ne’er-do-well had taken over my body. Yet, I can’t forget that at one time in my life, that was me.

The want of travel was always there, and it hung on me like a ghost. It pressed as I got older, and upon meeting Tracy and falling in love it became something I had to face. She wanted to travel. I wanted to travel. I wanted her. I had to get over my fear.

Somehow.

With much intent, I took a job that required travel. I was terrified. It’s not even that the job was the “stuff of dreams,” but it paid the bills and served a purpose – to help me confront the fear that was holding back my passion, my wants and my ability to be close to someone with whom I had fallen in love.

The first few flights were horrible, but I had adapted a methodology that was one-part booze/one-part headphones and two-parts fear to confront my terror. When I wasn’t flying, which was about half of the time during a standard work week, I took my off-time to look at the statistics of air safety versus car-travel safety, and myriad other statistics that made me begin to believe my fear was somewhat unfounded.

My fear lessened, but only marginally at first. Oddly enough, when the fear broke it broke completely and suddenly. I remember the moment, my first flight on a “prop” plane (a small airplane operated by two front propellers) and was I first noticed was the absence of nerves. There were some present, but nothing like before.

The humid, overcast Florida afternoon hung over the plane as it hummed into the sky – and then it happened. First a shaking of the plane, then a jolt, then steady again. Then another jolt. I waited on my fear… nothing. Another jolt. “No sweat on my palms,” I thought. Jolt. Shake. Veer.

 

Nothing. Just breathing, and the sound of my music player ringing into my ears a song that has become so symbolic of such an important moment in my life – “My God is the Sun” by Queens of the Stone Age. The chorus hit just as the prop plane crested above the final mound of clouds, turned port-side just a bit and, as if determined by something far higher than myself, the beautiful afternoon sun stared me down. Setting, disappearing. Just like my fear.

Travel is perhaps the most effective method of better you, of helping you find out who you are. It did that for me, and if it hasn’t done it for you yet, it will. As I’ve mentioned in my circumstance, travel helps you overcome fear. Fear of heights. Fear of flying. Fear of strange food, and people of different cultures. There is no fear travel can’t help you overcome. The mere temptation of being able to see the world, to reach out to far-flung places is enough for many to leave caution to the wind and grasp for their inner-most adventurer. It literally moves you.

Travel also culturally changes you. Especially in the West, we tend to live in fairly homogenized cultural bubbles that fail to challenge our perspective of the world. Looking down from a hilltop on the small houses in the mountainside city of Cusco, Peru gives you perspective. Struggling to have a broken conversation with someone in a foreign language opens you up. You learn appreciation. You learn tolerance. You learn that the world is so big that you simply have to love it.

Another way travel helps you grow, and many forget this, is that travel gives you a chance to give. Being generous in a foreign country, taking the time to talk to a stranger and express gratitude for their customs and to learn about what matters to them is giving of your attention, but travel is also an incredible way to give through your efforts. Mission trips, humanitarian aid and animal rights causes all coincide with travel very often, and give opportunities to give instead of get when you travel.

Travel does all this and more. It makes you brave. It makes you a more interesting person, and gives you more to talk about and share with others (just don’t brag about how much you travel).

If you’ll let it, you can be transformed by your willingness to explore. Find yourself somewhere else, and by doing so, find yourself.

 

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Forgetting Fear: How to Enjoy Travel in a Changing World


On the afternoon of November 13th, 2015, we were days from taking off for two weeks across three European countries – Austria, Spain and Portugal. First the murmurs came across the news ticker at work, that an attack had not only occurred in Paris, but was in fact still underway. As the hours passed and the gravity of the situation worsened, Tracy and I became gravely aware that the terror had spread into neighboring Belgium and all of Europe was placed on high alert as the situation climaxed.

Often when we travel, family and friends often ask us if we’re worried about our safety when we’re abroad. We’ve been to places before where we haven’t particularly felt safe, but fear hasn’t been something that has held us back. There are reasons for this that we would like to share with you, as it is an unfortunate reality that one does have to consider safety in a changing world that, while wonderful, can oftentimes feel small and insecure.

Be respectful

Before you go anywhere, whether it’s Northern Europe, Asia, South America or Egypt, research cultural norms and try to blend in from an attitude standpoint. Don’t be loud. Don’t desecrate public monuments. Don’t urinate into fountains. Be aware that you are the foreigner in a foreign land. Treat it with respect, as well as the people. It takes five minutes online to get a feel for where you want to go and what the vibe is. Try to match that vibe.

Embrace the locals

Provided that the locals understand and communicate in a language you also understand, don’t be too shy to ask the barista at the coffee-shop or the bartender at the restaurant where to go to and where to avoid. In most places, no matter how culturally different you might be from them, everyone’s basic humanity comes out when there’s an opportunity to help someone or give advice. Seek out that advice and embrace it.

Don’t be stupid

What do I mean by stupid? Being hammered in the wrong part of town at 3am. Not knowing where the “wrong part of town” is. Wearing that jewelry that maxed out your credit card. Flashing money or status. Don’t do illegal things. Don’t pet dangerous animals. Don’t be Ryan Lochte.  Don’t be stupid.

Know your transportation options

Even generally safe areas by day and by afternoon can get dicey at night, so always know how to get out of an area that you’ve gotten yourself into. What time do the trains stop running? What reputation do the cab drivers have? It’s a bad idea to be a half hour from the hotel with a belly full of liquor after the trains have shut down in an area where the cab drivers are dicey. Avoid it by preparation.

Be cognizant of your important documents

Listen to me carefully – do not use your passport in public unless it’s necessary for what you’re doing. If you’re going bar-hopping, find a creative and safe place in your hotel room to hide your passport and use your state or province-issued ID for drinks and entry where needed.

Tracy and I are a little different in that we generally don’t use turn-down service in hotels. After all, we can clean up after ourselves and can ask for any supplies we need at the front desk. You should consider the same, and why? By leaving the “do not disturb” sign on the door, you can safely stow your belongings in the room without fear of them being “lifted”. This hasn’t happened to us, but it’s happened to several people we know and we normally try and learn from others’ mistakes as much as we learn from our own.

In addition, make two copies of your passport. Keep one in your bag, and one in your wallet or purse. This way, if you do happen to lose your passport the process of getting home becomes much, much easier.

In conclusion, don’t forget to have fun. Yes, traveling successfully can take some preparation and forethought to do so safely, but once you’ve put the thought and care into making your trip memorable, MAKE IT MEMORABLE. Fortunately, most of the world is still wide-open for people looking to visit with their head on their shoulders, who respect the culture and who look to give a little something while also being given to.