Archive for the “Travel Tips” Category

As you all know, we’ve been traveling now for over 5 months now. There are days where I feel like leaving it all behind and getting back to a comfortable routine and my productive day to day life. After several “insane” moments along the journey, I’ve taken time to think about the things I’ve done to stay sane along our travels. The following are things that every long term traveler should consider (they have definitely helped me along the way):

  1. Take time apart from your travel buddy. Whether it’s just for a few hours or several days, it is a necessity.
  2. Reward yourself when you feel the world is getting the best of you. Stay at a place with a hot shower or take yourself out to a nice dinner. Trust me, it’s worth the money once in a while.
  3. Take care of yourself. If you feel you need to a good rest after sleepless nights on the trains and buses, then make a point to not set your alarm. Even take a sleeping aid if you can’t get good rest on your own.
  4. Stay connected to things that interest you physically, mentally and emotionally. Always have a hobby that you can turn to even if it seems completely bogus at times.
  5. Learn. Learn. Learn. There are so many cultural experiences available to anyone who’s interested. Learning about different countries and their customs provide a whole new appreciation for things that may have not have made sense before.
  6. Talk with other travelers and locals. It’s extremely easy to make friends, get travel tips and find local hidden gems. Even better, it keeps you entertained from someone other than your travel mate.
  7. Be adventuresome. I know it’s easy to fall into a routine and it’s often uncomfortable to break old habits. However it’s definitely worth breaking outside the norm and do something new, like white water rafting or shooting an AK-47. These are the experiences you’ll never regret. They are the memories that fill your trip with excitement.
  8. Create “you” time. Whether it’s reading a book, watching the sunset, or journaling, be sure you have time to relax for you and you only.
  9. Learn to accept everything for what it is. It may not be logical or reasonable to you, but it works for other people. All you can do is embrace it and smile through gritted teeth.
  10. Have fun. The minute you’re no longer enjoying your travels you need to change it up or head home. It’s that simple.

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Since most people’s iPhone’s aren’t unlocked and AT&T charges an obscene amount for international data roaming, I’m going to assume that the majority of users aren’t going to be able to use any applications that need to access the Internet. Therefore, I’ve divided my list of iPhone apps in to two categories: Offline and Online.

Offline (no Internet required):

  • GoodReader – An offline html/doc/pdf reader and my #1 app. I have 3-4 different websites backed up on my iPhone, along with countless Lonely Planet pdf files. It’s because of this app that I don’t travel with a guidebook.
  • Currencies – My personal favorite currency convertor (except that it doesn’t include Syrian pounds and Lao Kip)
  • Babelingo – A travel phrase book with 300+ phrases in 11 languages (but still no Arabic…).
  • MotionX GPS – An offline GPS application. When I know I have an upcoming bus or train ride, I often store the destinations as gps waypoints so I can monitor how much longer I have on the journey.
  • gUnit – The most comprehensive Unit Convertor for the iPhone
  • Your favorite time-wasting game: My current favorites are Catan, Spades Classic, Adikus’ Backgammon and Lux DLX


  • Kayak – The easiest way to check flight prices on your iPhone
  • Flight Status – Great interface for monitoring/tracking flights
  • Skype – Great for a quick and cheap call home when you find free wifi
  • Tweetie 2 – My personal favorite iPhone Twitter client (the latest version supports geotagging tweets)

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Whoever says traveling as we are for 8 months is like a long vacation is severly mistaken. While it has been the best learning experience I’ve ever had and we have had a wonderful time along the way, it is by no means a relaxing vacation. Up until this point, Chris and I have lived off only $29USD per person per day including food, transport, acomodations, and activities etc. We’ve been eaten alive by mosquitos, crammed 40 people into a 14 person bus, slept in places that wouldn’t even be considered adequate housing the States, been haggled and harassed because we’re white, and eaten food that could make your gag reflexes react in an instant.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a sweet satisfaction in saving money and it’s even better when we recognize that we’re getting the local experience by submerging ourselves in the foreign cultures. I have learned more this trip than I have in traveling to Europe and Asia combined because we are doing almost everything at a local level. And to my surprise, the cheaper the accomodations we stay at, the more interesting and outgoing people we meet. If we hadn’t lived the cheap life, we would never have learned the language. We would have never have cooked the food. We would never have seen the hardships. We would never have learned the rituals and cultural traditions. Our trip would be a long, posh, series of uneventful experiences and people.

Traveling on the cheap has come with it’s own obstacles, but I can’t recommend it enough. It allows us to only begin to see the world from a lifestyle that more than 90% of the population lives… in poverty.

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One of our favorite nonprofits in the world is a San Francisco based or organization called Couchsurfing. They exist to connect travelers with locals in over 230 countries and territories around the world. The Couchsurfing community is made up of over 1 million members who come from 62,000 different cities and speak 1,270 unique languages. Since their founding in 2004, 1.25 million successful CouchSurfing stays have been recorded and 1.5 million new friendships have been formed.

I joined Couchsurfing over a year ago, but was never an active member. I had almost forgot about it until we starting thinking about how we could meet local people as we travel the globe. I remembered Couchsurfing and knew it would be the perfect for our situation. However, since we believed so much in the organization (and because we didn’t have any references yet) we decided to start hosting people at our apartment in San Francisco a few months before we left for our trip. In total we hosted about 15 people from all over the globe and have made quite a few great friends (even some that we’ll stay with while we’re traveling).

Couchsurfing with Ben and Kerri in Rundu, Namibia

Couchsurfing with Ben and Kerri in Rundu, Namibia

So far on our trip, we’ve Couchsurfed with Jonathan in Cape Town, Ben and Kerri in Namibia and Baraka in Dar Es Salaam. They were all FANTASTIC hosts and each had a unique local persepective of the country we were visiting. They all went above and beyond the call of duty to show us around their city and make sure we felt comfortable in their homes.

As we continue our journey, we plan to Couchsurf as much as possible. While not all of the homes we’ve stayed at were as convenient as a downtown hotel, the expierences and friendships far outweighed any commute we had to a city centre. If anyone reading this isn’t already a member of Couchsurfing yet, I highly recommend you join the community and feel free to add me and Amy as a friend.

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As you might know, Amy and I, along with 2 guys from Sweden, rented a car in South Africa to drive through Namibia and Botswana. After replacing two tires (or tyres as they say here…), denting the frame and knocking some plastic parts off the undercarriage, we’ve learned a few lessons we wanted to pass on to you:

All Foreign Driving

  1. If you’re driving on the opposite side of road for the first time in a few months, it REALLY helps to have a second person in the car to help remind you when you’re driving on the wrong side of the road (something all four of us have done at one point or another).
  2. Carry a bag of zipties, they’ve been a lifesaver at keeping dangling car parts from falling off the car.
  3. Depending on the country you’re in, fill up your gas tank as frequently as possible. We found in Namibia that its quite normal that you could drive 250 miles without ever seeing a gas station.
That's Our Toyota Yaris!

That's Our Toyota Yaris!

Foreign Car Rentals

  1. In addition to checking the car for dents and scratches, ALWAYS check the inner and outer tread on ALL the tires. Our need to replace two tires in Namibia could have been completely avoiding had we looked carefully at our back tires before leaving and realized what poor condition they were in. Also, don’t forget to double check your spare tire.
  2. If you will be driving ANYWHERE that doesn’t have well-kept tarred roads, get the best insurance coverage possible. It didn’t cost us more than US$2-3/day to have a $0 deductible and I assure you it was worth it…
  3. Make sure you read the insurance coverage very thoroughly AND make a copy of it for your records. I’m currently writing this from the middle of Namibia where we know that we’ve banged up our Toyota Yaris quite a bit, but don’t have the paperwork to know if it’s going to actually cost us anything when we return the car.

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We’re lucky to have found that the international image of America has changed drastically in the past year. Almost everywhere we go in Africa, upon saying we’re from the States, we here “Obama People!”. So instead of tips relating to hiding your “American-ness”, these are a few special tips specifically relevant to our way of life.

  1. Learn to drive a standard (manual) transmission. Unless you’re always around expensive luxury cars, you’ll find that almost every car in the rest of the world has a manual transmission, and on the rare occasions that we’ve seen an automatic transmission car for rent, there’s been a very hefty “fee” for that luxury
  2. Learn the metric system. Not only does the metric system make far more sense than our antiquated imperial system of measurement, but also it is the way EVERYONE else in the world measures just about EVERYTHING. No need to know absolutely everything, but having a sense of some ranges of temperatures in Celsius and knowing how to convert lbs<>kg, mi<>km and ft<>m will make all the difference in the world.
  3. Understand that almost everywhere you go the power outlets will be 220 volts instead of the 110 volts we have in the states. While many modern electronics (iPhones, most laptops, etc) will all accept 220v power, some will not. Look at your device/charger and if you see 110-240v, you’re in the clear. If not, then you’ll either need to get a new device or buy a power convertor (which will definitely add some weight to your bag)

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