Travel the world

7 Travel Questions: 7) Best Gems of Advice for Us

A friend of mine from high school asked me a few questions about how we afford to travel and do what we do.  I realized that these are questions Carrie and I get asked pretty frequently.  So I’m posting the answers to her seven questions in a series of posts on our site here.

Every person has to find their own path to getting whatever they want from life.  At the same time, it’s helpful in that path to have the knowledge and experience of others.  Some of this is worded pretty strongly, but as always, take what works for you and leave the rest for someone else.

7) best gems of advice for us, in your personal opinion.

If you’re traveling together:

  • Take trial runs.  See if you will be okay spending that much time together.  Go away for a month together somewhere… Canada or Mexico maybe.  When you travel together, you will spend LOTS of time together on buses, trains, planes, boats, etc.  Make sure it works short-term before trying to make it work long-term.

We had:

  • 2 Weeks together driving the desert Southwest from Greeley to Denver to Las Vegas to LA to Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon back to Denver (2004), before we had…
  • 1 week together in Mexico (2004), before we had…
  • 1 week together living on a house boat at lake Powell with my parents, sister, and neighbors (2005), before we had…
  • 6 weeks together traveling around visiting family and friends on the east coast (2006), before we had…
  • 6 weeks together (honeymoon) traveling around visiting family and friends in Europe (2007), before we had…
  • 6 weeks together in a 2 bedroom apartment in Buenos Aires (April 2008), before we had…
  • 3 weeks together in a 1 bedroom apartment in Germany (December 2008), before we had…
  • 6 months together in a small 1 bedroom apartment in Denver (spring/summer 2009), before we…
  • left on this travel (October 2009)

We learned a lot about each other’s habits and preferences in that time.  I recommend trial runs in smaller increments as we’ve met couples who are trying to discover the habits and preferences of each other while going through the challenges of traveling.

It’s better to know those things beforehand.

  • Put together a list of the things you want to do in your life.  Put them someplace you can see them EVERY DAY.  Laminate a copy and put them in the shower.  I’m on my computer every day, so mine are actually my startup page in Firefox (rather than Google or Yahoo or something like that).  My friend James Martell has a service that will let you do this called (it’s free).
  • Always, always, always have each other’s back.  The person you’re traveling with has to always know you’re there for them.  No matter what, you’ve got the other person’s back in every situation.
  • Listen to your intuition and basic wisdom.  There are things that are in fact true, even though they’re “too good to be true.”  Even though they’re true, and truly good deals, you are better off listening to your intuition and deciding that something “doesn’t feel right” or “might be the best deal on the planet, but still not worth it for the potential risk”.

    If it doesn’t feel right, avoid it.  Carrie and I felt something was off when we were walking down the street in Granada, Nicaragua.  Couldn’t tell what, but I suggested we cross the street.  We did.  If we hadn’t, we would have walked right into the middle of a heated exchange which turned into a shoving match between a couple of drunk guys.  If it doesn’t “feel” right, even though you don’t know why, go somewhere else… do something different.

  • Based on our experience, many taxi drivers lie.  Their meters are rarely actually broken, and some will try to charge you different prices on arrival (getting into the taxi) than departure (when it’s time to pay).  The best solution to this is country specific, or maybe even situation specific.  Sometimes it’s best to agree to a price in advance.  In Costa Rica, we found it best to agree in advance. You can sometimes offer 1/ 2 – 3/4 of what they say the price is, not be willing to negotiate at all, but then once you start walking away to a different taxi, they will agree to your price.  In Guatemala, it was best to just pay something fair once we arrived at the destination.  The trick is knowing what’s a fair taxi rate.  This is where Google can be your best friend.  Do a Google search before going for “Fair Taxi rate CITYNAME, COUNTRYNAME”
  • On that note, before going to a new country, know what the exchange rate is.  Changing money at the border is fine (there are always people in Central and South America at the borders trying to get you to change money, but you’ll often get the best rate at an ATM).  Factor in a 1-3% commission for the person changing the money for you before going to one of them to change money, and stick to no more than 3% commission.  If they won’t do it for that commission level, get the smallest amount you need at their commission rate to get a taxi to get to the nearest ATM.

Best practices apply… these things are good to do in any country anywhere in the world.

  • Leave your passport somewhere safe unless you need to carry it with you.
  • Carry your money divided in separate places, just in case something happens.
  • If you don’t need to carry large sums of money, don’t.
  • Always cover your PIN code with your hand at the ATM.
  • Look at the front of the ATM slot to see if there’s some kind of card-reading device on it.

The list of these kinds of things goes on and on, but just basic rules apply… just maybe with a  greater degree of awareness because it’s sometimes more difficult to get things which are based out of the US taken care of when you’re out of the US.

I’m sure I’ll have more nuggets of “wisdomish” kinds of things, but these are the things which come to mind at the moment.

So, where are you going to start your travel?

Let me answer that question for you…

At the bookstore.  Where you’re going to buy Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

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