$7,035.57 = How much it costs to travel around the world through nine countries over five and a half months

 

Since I get a lot of questions about how much it actually costs to travel, I thought I might go through what my trip around the world (across Asia to Europe and back to the US, click here for the rough map) cost according to my bank statements.

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 Read More ...

Revisited: How to pack for an independent traveler with no set return date

 

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 Read More ...

A glimpse in the thoughts of Bolod Namkhai Mukhadi

 

Click here for an explanation of "A glimpse in the thoughts of..."

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 Read More ...

How to get Chinese and Russian visas as a United States citizen: My experience

 

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.

I want to emphasize that it may be different depending on where you are from in the United States (and obviously different if you are from a different country, check here for the Russian consulate and Read More ...

Marathon hitchhiking: Southern Mexico to Michigan in 7 days over 3,400 mi

 

Day 1

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 Read More ...

Mango Surprise: Being the victim of a random, delicious act of kindness

 

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 Read More ...

How to wash your clothes by hand while traveling quickly and effectively

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.

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How to get the local price for anything while abroad

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 Read More ...

Quick and dirty travel tips

bulbLooking back in my notebook, I found some scribbles of useful or handy tips that I picked up while on the road. None are particularly worthy enough to write whole page on, and only a handful were generally applicable to traveling, so I decided to start this page as a sort of collection of these sorts of tidbits I would like to share.

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Costa Rica for me = Beaches + Waterfalls (video of jumping in post) + Way too expensive

costa rica montezuma waterfallKnowing full well that Costa Rica was going to be absolutely overrun with tourists and commanded the most outrageously inflated prices in Central America I made it a mission to get in an out as quick as possible while still trying to see something. It really is a beautiful country, but with the shady citizens all trying to make a buck and the stupidly high prices resulting from years of wealthy, price-insensitive tourists unwittingly leaving poor backpackers hung out to dry it was a bit hard to enjoy ($7 to camp and not even giving a towel...WTF?). I^m pretty sure there are some amazing things to see in terms of wildlife (confirmed by a Quebeqois (sp?) hostel owner in Nicaragua), but I wasn`t about to test my budget. I actually got to the border of Costa Rica a bit late and ended up camping on the Panamanian side in an Adventist school where they graciously allowed me to pitch my tent for the night until I hitchhiked to the border in the morning. I arrived first in the southern port town of Puerto Viejo, which, like many
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Getting some cool weather in the Panamanian highlands (Boquete)

bamboo boqueteLeaving from an uneventful stay in Panama City, I decided to skip over probably the most popular tourist destination in Panama (Bocas del Toro) due to time limits and get some cool weather in Boquete. Initially recommended by a doctor that I met while desperately trying to get to Panama, as soon as he said cool weather I was dead set on getting there. Besides that, there were some nice hiking trails that I explored with Brett, a Philly native that I met in Panama City. It´s also known for its coffee and strawberry production in the area, but I never got around to seeing any of that. Most of the pictures of flowers are from a free garden in the area called ´Mi Jardín es su Jardín´, and and I put them on a separate page (click here for the link). Pictures below.

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Panama City. ´Nuff said.

 

panama city street casco viejoAfter arriving from the exhausing boat trip with the Panamanian tuberculosis researchers, taking things easy was mandatory in Panama City. Approaching the city, the driver asked if I had a place to stay, and I said I was planning to just look on the internet nearby the district that supposedly had a lot of hostels (San Pedro). He said he would drop me off at a hostel he knew in the area, which normally is a danger signal to me since there are always commission networks of taxi drivers and owners of horrible hotels, but I was too tired to protest. The hostel actually ended up being legit and apparently popular with touists (it was the Our Pick in LP, something I try to steer clear from since they tend to turn into cattle-herding operations). I took the obligatory visit to the Panama Canal and basically just relaxed while battling a minor stomach disruption. It seemed like a cool city, but I didn´t really give it much of a chance before heading to the cooler Boquete. Pictures below.

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How to wash your clothes by hand while traveling quickly and effectively

clotheslineYou 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.

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Step 2 in getting to Panama (the hard part): Nausea-inducing island hopping (Kuna Yala/San Blas) with the tuberculosis researchers

kuna yala molaAfter arriving in Puerto Olbaldia (for the first part of the trip from Colombia to Panama click here), the first port on the Panamanian side and a fairly depressing, lifeless, and beachless village, I realized I had only about 20 dollars in my pocket and zero access to banks until getting to Panama City. Since all of the towns are so isolated in the Darien region there are no ATMs, something I hadn't really bothered to research before leaving from Colombia. I needed to make it a long distance up the coast to the nearest town that had a road connection to Panama City (apparently a 5-14 hr boat ride depending on who you talked to) that would cost me at least forty dollars. When I arrived at Puerto Olbaldia I got my entry stamp in my passport to Panama from an incredibly rude immigration officer and walked down to the dock to figure something out. There were a few ships in the harbor going in the right direction over the next few days, but most of them weren't permitted to carry passengers. In terms of the small boats that were allowed to carry passengers, I was informed that they might come, they might not, they might be full, they might not, they might be willing to take me for the cash that I had, they might not...basically a lot of information that was totally...

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Step 1 in getting to Panama (the easy part): the last few jungle and beach towns in Colombia

flower in the darien

Sadly leaving from Barranquilla, my next stop was going to be the last few places on the coast of Colombia before reaching Panama. Isolated towns only accessible by boat due to the impenetrable Darien Jungle and heavy guerilla activity, I was pretty excited to see what they were like. The other options in getting to Panama were several hundred dollar sailboat or plane rides, options that didn't really fit into my budget, and I wanted to see some places these means of transport left out (albeit while being far more comfortable). I left Barranquilla a bit late and decided last minute to skip over Cartagena (promising myself that I would return), and ended up having to pass the night in a muggy, mid-sized town called Monteria. Since the buses to the coastal town of Turbo where the motorboats depart from were leaving (supposedly) at 4 am, I just decided to stay in the bus terminal and read and maybe dose off for a little bit. Sleeping proved difficult with all the mosquitoes, but I found a TV in the terminal, which was surprisingly modern and well guarded. After watching Cris Angel's MindFreak, Gene Simmon's Family Jewels, and assorted TV shows describing American serial killers, I was happily reminded of why I never owned a television...

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Couchsurfing in Barranquilla and an unexpected detour into rural Colombia

beach tolu

 

After quickly passing through Medellín (and promising myself I´d spend more time there in the future) I started my way up towards the Carribean coast of Colombia. Initially I just wanted to spend a day or so in Barranquilla or Cartagena on the way up to the Guajira Peninsula on the far northeast side of the country, but instead I sent out a few Couchsurfing requests and was invited to stay in Barranquilla. More than a few people responded, but the first was David (aka Jose aka Josh), a university student in Barranquilla. If you were to ask me why I love Colombia so much, I would definitely have to cite David and his family and their incredible hospitality and warmth towards a tired traveler. David (who freely switched between Spanish, French

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Crazy skilled soccer juggler in Medellín Colombia

Definitely worth a watch. An impressive show by a street soccer juggler in Medellín. He would dash out in the street as the light turned red and start a mad display of soccer skills before throwing out the hat for change for the waiting cars. He made a descent amount of cash in the bit that I was watching him.

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Wasn`t really expecting to like Bogota that much...

 

church candelariaAfter taking off from the Tatacoa desert the next stop was Bogota, the largest city in Colombia and one of the largest in the Western hemisphere. I really hadn`t read much about the city, heard mixed comments about it from Colombians and foreigners, and had no guidebook to reference. It turned out to be so much better than I imagined. Unfortunately for a lady from California I met, she had her passport, about 500 dollars worth of pesos and dollars, credit and ATM cards, and license stolen in a parade from her fanny pack. I spent the best part of two days helping get everything sorted and lending her money, but all in all I´m glad I helped since at the very least I´ll know what to do if it happens to me. Besides that incident, Bogota was great, with amazing people, nightlife, and neighborhoods, and the city comes highly recommended from me, for what it´s worth. I still have a lot to see there.

 

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Recent Photos

Camping in Puerto Olbaldia along the Atlantic.JPG
Leaf cutter ants in the Darien.JPG
The crystal clear waters of Porvenir.JPG
The jungle of the Darien.JPG
The ornate mola of the Kuna Yala people.JPG
Wax plams in Salento.JPG
a central plaza in tikal.JPG
a compass while hitching back to the US from mexico.JPG
a fire juggler near lago atitlan.JPG
a semuc champey in guatemala.JPG
a the market in san cristobal.JPG
a zapatista graffiti while in san cristobal.JPG
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