Cost is obviously one of the most important factors in deciding where and when to travel. Before beginning, I should say that a lot of my trip was in the low season for many places (that is, not summer), and I would almost always travel in the cheapest class of transportation
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As I am starting a trip that will take me from China to (hopefully) Eastern Europe over the next several months, I thought I might go through what I am packing for this trip. There have been a few changes since my last trip's packing list (link for original packing post), mostly in terms of electronics, but for the most part it is very similar. Overall, my goal is maximum mobility and minimum weight, but not bare-bones, super lightweight (for that, see No-baggage challenge). My backpack is right around 25-28 pounds (11-13 kg), so it's light
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Bolod was the owner of the guesthouse that I stayed at in Ulaanbataar, and, due to it being the low tourist season, also my source of transport/translation when I headed out to the Mongolian countryside. His main guesthouse was actually closed, but I stayed in his "suburban guesthouse", which was just a room in his house with his wife and kids.
He grew up in a small village in Eastern Mongolia and came to the capital when he was young for school. Coming of age when
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Preparing for my trip to Asia, I had to obtain visas before arrival to China and Russia. Since I am just finishing up this process, I wanted to describe the steps that I went through in case anyone might be doing the same thing and wants to save some time on research. This is geared for the independent traveler without set itinerary.
5:30 am. I'm leaving my hostel in San Cristobal as the sun breaks, already reminiscing about the cool weather, good people, and nice local markets stocked with fresh produce every day for pennies. I have left myself two weeks to hitchhike back to Michigan (click here to see the route). After talking with a few of the dread-locked, unicycle-riding sort on the street last night about hitchhiking, I decide to take colectivos up to Villahermosa since hitching in Chiapas is supposedly fraught with long waits and suspicious people. Another big plus is that the main highway to
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This story is the other side of the news reports, the non-profitable story, the anti-State Department website of the capital of Guatemala, Guatemala City. Instead of pointless violence, I am writing about pointless kindness.
After being abroad for a long period of time in non-traditional tourist spots, a certain persistent question always and unavoidably comes up: “But, isn’t it dangerous in [insert city]?” Even between long-term travelers who should know better the question is frequently asked, with swapping stories of tourist crime (usually second or third hand and undoubtedly exaggerated for narrative effect) being an entertaining way to pass the time
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You have set out to travel to extract yourself from the daily routine, but there is one chore that will never go away: dirty clothes (nudist colonies an exception). And if you´re trying to save money on the road, or just don´t trust that random lady on the corner lavanderia, washing your clothes by hand is the only option that´s left. The good news is that it´s easier than you think, and with practice becomes no chore at all and you can tailor it to your situation. Here´s a quick run down on how to get it done.
With the cash economy spread to every corner of the globe, it´s no hidden fact that travelers abroad are many times looked at more as breathing cash machines and less as curiosities from foreign lands. It´s not that people are necessarily looking to grab money from tourists, but rather that poverty incentivizes creative pricing where price tags are lacking. Those of us traveling on a budget for extended periods need to economize since we´re already putting a hefty bit of cash into the local economies of the places we visit, so let opportunists prey on the less saavy traveler. There
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Close to Shanghai, I made a trip out to Suzhou to see some of the renowned gardens in the city. Unfortunately nothing was really in bloom and it was gray and cloudy, so I only bothered to check out the largest garden in the city, the Humble Administrator's Garden, and wander around a bit. Pretty uneventful, but I was taken by surprise when I passed by the "Canglang Retarded School" and the "Stupid Ox restaurant". The concentration of hair salons (equally as frequented by males as females) and clothes stores seemed to be particularly high in Suzhou, as the younger generation chooses to spend their hard-earned yuan on hair styling and new clothes. Whereas even the most metrosexual males...
Taking off from Shanghai for a day trip, a quick passage on the high-speed train got me to the nearby city of Hangzhou. I only did cursory research before arriving and was expecting a quaint sort of place, but quickly had that erased at the packed train station with high rises in all directions and observing a thick, ever-present smog intermingling the crevices of the town. Supposedly claimed by Marco Polo as "beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world", and knowing train stations aren’t the place places to judge cities, I was still holding my breath (literally and figuratively) to check out the particular kind of tea produced here, longjing tea, and the natural scenery.
My first stop traveling in Asia, I thought I might try to mash up a few videos that I took of Shanghai as opposed to just pictures (my camera has HD video, after all). Sorry in advance for the poor filmmaking skills, but I'm using a point and shoot after all. I thought this video might speak better than my words for the town. It's obviously not exhaustive, but just a few things that caught my eye or are not usually photographed. However, the aspect of Shanghai that I don't think I captured was the sheer size.
[There's a map in the post to get a visual idea of where I'll be] So this is a general idea of the areas I plan to cover over the next few months. From China through Kazakhstan will be overland, then potentially a flight to Georgia, and then overland to Turkey. After I get to Turkey (if indeed I get there), I hope to head into Eastern Europe, but really have no idea where I might go. I have this planned up to this point due to the fact that I had to arrange visas for China and Russia before leaving and had to report general trajectory. You can click on the map or here to see a more interactive version through Google Maps. Any comments or recommendations would be great!
During this past summer, I have been taking mini-vactions at Tantre Farm, riding my bike the 22ish miles west of Ann Arbor on Fridays to enjoy good food and good company, and contribute work to the farm on Saturdays. My good friend Kate started working out there after she returned from Cuba in the Spring and invited to visit, after which I have been making regular visits. Much less masochistic than it sounds, volunteer working on the farm is more an outdoor experience than hard labor, surrounded by fresh air, an astounding variety of crops, and idyllic rolling hills. Somehow weeding corn, pulling garlic scapes, and collecting endless pints of strawberries isn't so bad there. Quite a variety of characters work there, from Chizo (sp?), the thrice-divorced Buddhist monk from California, to Deb and Richard, the kind and conscientious owners of the farm who welcome me like family everytime I stay there. The majority of the workers on the farm are twenty-something kids as "interns" that live on the farm and work 6 days a week, looking to learn about organic agriculture and sustainable living. Started about 10 years ago, the farm has slowly added varieties of crops, now at a staggering number. They run a thriving CSA business, or community-supported agriculture, which is basically
A few months removed since returning from my trip from Peru to Michigan overland, I realized that I had a gap in the photos from my time there: Huaraz. Although it was a stunningly beautiful part of Peru (about 9 hours by bus north of Lima) set in the Cordillera Blanca, one of the highest parts of the Andes, my enjoyment there was limited by a fairly severe bowel assault by bacteria. I was staying in a comfortable guesthouse owned by the aunt of a young guy who I met on the bus to Huaraz, and he finagled a private room at a rock bottom price of about 3 dollars a night, so I was in no hurry to leave. However, only a day and half into being there the intestinal hoopla began.
I was only able to explore some ruins from the Huari culture called Wilcahuaín a bit north of the city, take a hike to some hot springs, and venture up to a lagoon in the mountains. I don’t recall the name of the lagoon since that was when the fever and chills began and my concerns drifted.
From the Do Lecture website on this legendary travel author promoting independent travel: "His zeitgeist defining book is not just how to travel the world on a shoestring, but, more importantly, the mindset you need to take with you. It is now in its 10th reprint." If you need some travel inspiration, take a peek at the video. His points are applicable to not just travel, but also life: Time = Wealth, Be Where You Are, Slow Down, Keep It Simple, Don't Set Limits. As far as his travel resume: Rolf Potts has reported from more than fifty countries for the likes of National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times Magazine, Slate.com, Conde Nast Traveler, Outside, The Believer, The Guardian (U.K.), National Public Radio, and the Travel Channel. A veteran travel columnist for the likes of Salon.com and World Hum, his adventures have taken him across six continents, and include piloting a fishing boat 900 miles down the Laotian Mekong, hitchhiking across Eastern Europe, traversing Israel on foot, bicycling across Burma, and driving a Land Rover from Sunnyvale, California to Ushuaia, Argentina.
After the natural wonder of Semuc Champey, I made my way to the man-made wonder of Tikal in northern Guatemala, one of (if not) the most impressive and largest Mayan ruins uncovered to date. It was popular to go early in the morning, but I wasn´t in the mood to wake up at 4:30 in the morning. Besdies, I was working out a strategy to get in for free or cheap to Tikal after talking with some Norwegians who managed to get somone´s ticket and use it to get in for half-price. The tickets worked out to about 21 USD (not including transport there), so I was eager to find some way to dodge the price. I would have gladly paid if I was more financially endowed, but when I´m trying to keep my budget around 15 dollars a day this sort of thing is quite a burden. I was not without moral qualums, and I roundabout justified it by telling myself they wouldn´t have made it so easy to sneak in if they weren´t actually winking figuratively at the poor, saavy traveler while trying to extract as much money as possible from the suitcase travelers (there was no student price since those a frequently abused, just a Guatemalan citizen price that was about 3 dollars). After taking a look at a few people´s tickets who