Friday, February 20, 2015

5 Myths About Traveling That Keep People From Their Wanderlust

The perception is that we all have trust funds, or caught a lucky break, or are just simply irresponsible and don't care about the future. The truth is yes I was middle class (but my parents never gave me a dime to travel with), I worked my ass off for almost a year to buy my plane ticket (sacrificing my free time and sometimes my sanity), and while I can say it takes a little bit of irresponsibility to throw all your obligations to the side (in reality, it takes a lot of bravery to give up on security and step out of you comfort zone). I've been incredibly touched by the positive responses I received on my article about why you should quit your job and start traveling, but I've also felt sorry for some peoples' ignorant comments and it got me thinking. While there is always a bit of trolling, and "negative nancying" to be expected (this is the internet afterall), some people seem to legitimately believe that traveling is out of the realm of possibility for them. This is who I want to reach with this article, for the ones who want to travel but think that they never could afford it, and the ones who believe they have to be responsible and a sabatical is impossible. To the ones that have MASSIVE student loans, and the ones that are simply too afraid about the idea of moving to another country. To those of you who are simply negative, think traveling is stupid, or think people who are passionate about traveling are taking a personal shot at you living your life in simplicity. Your opinion is yours to have, and I respect everyones lifestyle choice, but you're just wasting your time if you read the rest of this. 

For the rest of you, for the skeptics, the critics, the ones burdened with monetary problems, here is your solution. These are the 5 main "Travel Myths" and the realities and problem solving solutions to all of them. 

MYTH #1: Traveling is SUPER expensive!
REALITY: Life is expensive, it's just a matter of where you want to spend your time and money.
It cracks me up when I hear from my friends who live in New York, or LA telling me how they wish they had the money to do what I did. I saved 5k working my butt off for 6 months to get over here and I'm still working while I'm here to continue to fund my adventure. Meanwhile my friend in New York is probably paying over $2,000 a month to RENT, not own but rent an apartment in the city. It's all about priorities and what you want to spend your money on. If you like living above your means, paycheck to paycheck, then traveling probably isn't too realistic. But if your desires are more about life experience and less about material things, you'll find it's very easy to save money and get your journey started. 
The reality is, the startup cost for traveling (i.e. flights) are usually the most expensive part. There's people who spend more on a two-week all inclusive vacation then I've spent in the six-months that I've been here. It's all about priorities and what's important to you. 

When you do begin your journey, here are a couple of easy resources everyone can use to save money whenever possible:
- Flights: Skyscanner is a great resource for comparing rates and finding the cheapest flights (helpful tip, if you're flying anywhere in Oceania, Jetstar will match any deal you find and beat it by at least 10%)
- Crashing for Free: Couch Surfing is a free app for Iphone and Android. Couch Surfing allows people from all over the world to find nice hospitable places to sleep for anywhere from a night, to a week, or longer. I've had great experiences with this app and I've yet to meet anyone who's had a bad experience.
- Crashing for Cheap: there's tons of apps and websites out there, personally I prefer hostelworld, but it's about preference. Hostels are a great way to start off in a new city, there's lots of like-minded fun people, but I wouldn't recommend staying more than a week.
- Cheap Trips: I'm a HUGE groupon fan, and everybodys favorite "I don't need it, but I can't afford not to buy it" app is available in quite a few countries now. If you're looking for a cheap excursion for a few days, this is a great place to start. 

This is just a few examples, but there's so many more apps and websites out there that can assist in making your bigger purchases a little more affordable. The point being if you want to make it happen, don't let cost be the thing that holds you back. Everything costs money, where do you want to spend yours?

MYTH #2: I have student loans (or any kind of debt really)
Reality: You can actually improve your credit score while traveling, and knock down your loan payments.
I'm extremely fortunate that I don't have any student debt, I have friends who feel like they are now crippled by the weight of something that seems insurmountable. The truth is, if you have loads of student loan debt or any other kind of debt, you're probably not gonna be paying it off in a year. So why not take a year off from it? When I was in college my girlfriend at the time couldn't seem to ever get out from her bills, yet she was always traveling abroad or across the country. At the time I was extremely conservative with my money and I thought she was insane to keep building and building on this debt. What she ended up teaching me in our time together was a lesson I still carry to this day, and is part of the reason I was inspired to travel in the first place. Essentially what it boiled down to was, "Logan, I'll be paying this off for the next ten years anyway, so what's the difference if it's ten years or 12 years. If I spend the next two years worrying about this debt, it's not gonna go away, I'll just have wasted two years worrying, but if I spend my time traveling and living my life, then I still have debt but at least I wasn't miserable over it. Nothing changes except my level of happiness, and I'll take happy and poor over miserable and poor, everytime."

What this wise little yoda-esque girl taught me was there is no time like the present, because if you only worry about the future, before you know it the present is gone. Besides being wise beyond her years she told me a few tips on how she managed this juggling act and I will share them with you. The truth is credit companies want to be paid, bottom line, paid. What she figured out was it doesn't always matter how much you pay them as long as it's something. So whenever she wanted to take a trip she had been trying to save for, she would simply call the creditors and tell them she couldn't make her payments (maybe she lost her job, family emergency, etc.). 90% of the time they were more than happy to work with her to lower her payment (by 50% sometimes more) to make sure they were still getting paid something, sometimes for up to six months at a time. That's more than enough time to have a nice little galavant around the world without worrying about making all your ridiculous payments.

The other tool I've seen many people use is something I call "credit card balancing". Basically before you decide to leave for your destination you apply for a few different super low interest credit cards, and one or two flight rewards cards. The balancing part comes in when you start making payments back and forth between the cards to 1. keep your biggest balance on the lowest rate card and 2. to make sure all your more "major" purchases are using the flight rewards cards.  In doing this you're really just borrowing money, but instead of simply borrowing, your making that money work for you. If you're smart you can earn enough miles that you'll rarely have to pay for a flight, and at the same time your building your credit by balancing all these different accounts. The only caveat attached with this is you HAVE to keep on top of it, otherwise you can do a lot more harm than good. 

Debt sucks, but it won't go away simply because you stress over it, and I can think of no better stress reliever than lying on a beach in Thailand drinking ice cold Tiger beer. So when it comes to the prospect of traveling with debt really what you have to ask yourself is, how much effort are you willing to put in to make it work. If the answer is "as much as it takes" then get out there and make it happen. 

MYTH #3: You have to go somewhere "Exotic" to really travel.
REALITY: Traveling is what you make it. If that means moving to another continent, do it, if that simply means moving to a different state, that can be just as rewarding and fulfilling. 
Everyone seems to get caught up on the notion that in order to travel and experience the travel lifestyle you have to go to some far away distant place. This however, is most certainly not the case. There's so many backpackers I've met here in Australia that talk about wanting to go explore in the U.S. and it's made me realize what a great and multi-faceted country I come from. You can gain just as much by moving to a different state as you can by moving to another country, it's all about what you want to get out of your experience. Maybe you have no desire walk through a crowded night market, dodging people in the street so you don't spill your food everywhere. Maybe you simply have grown up in blistering cold winters in the midwest and you're dying to live by the beach. If that's what traveling means to you then pack everything up and drive down to Sarasota, FL and enjoy waking up everyday and walking to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. 

People seem to get caught up on thinking traveling has to mean living like a dirty hippy out of a backpack (though for some it does, including myself), but it doesn't have to. Traveling is not about the destination, it's about the journey. So kick aside your predispositions and simply do what makes you happy, that's what it's all about.

MYTH #4: All these people are traveling without working. 
REALITY: I work 40-50 hours a week, the difference is I can take off whenever I want, and when I do have free time I get to spend it in another awesome country, instead of say... Sioux Falls (not that there's anything wrong with Sioux Falls). 
In this age of social media we take all the best aspects of our lives and put them on display to create this sort of "augmented reality". The truth is I don't go kangaroo riding and koala hunting everyday of the week, but when I do have free time, that's how I spend it. So while girls back home take their "pool selfies" I can post pictures under a 100 meter waterfall. The reality is most of the people backpacking don't have enough money to simply travel all the time, we work just like everyone else. The thing that seperates us and made us what to pack up and go in the first place is not the fear of work, but rather the fear of the mundane, outside of work. If I hate what I'm doing, and I'm doing it in a city I don't like that much, simply to pay the bills, why waste my FUCKING time?! I work, and I work hard, but I'm in a place that has a massive turnover rate, where my owners know we're here to work to live, not live to work, and if I want time off, I get it. Back home I had to request off two months in advance to get a long weekend to go back home, here I give a days notice before the schedule gets finalized. They make it work because they have to, and because they recognize that, it works out better for everyones sanity (especially mine). So next time you see your friend who's overseas posting some crazy pictures to make everyone of their friends jealous, realize they probably worked damn hard so they could afford to go there, most of us don't have a trust fund to fall back on, that's why we got a work/travel visa.

MYTH #5: Travelers are just a different breed, I would never have the courage to up and leave
REALITY: Many people here had nothing to leave behind, but just as many took a huge leap of faith and left good careers, and security back home. Getting here is the scary part, but once you've taken that step it changes your life 
People seem to think that everyone who is out traveling the world is either a recent college graduate or just someone who was going nowhere in life to begin with. Back home I was managing two multi-million dollar bar concepts making great money with a bright future in the business ahead of me. One of my best friends here from Italy was a practicing attorney back home on his way to applying to become the Italian equivalent of a district attorney. An english gent I worked at a surf camp with was working as a fire inspector in London (a very lucrative and hard to break into field). The point is we all have a story, and most of them don't start with, "I wasn't doing anything with my life so I just packed a bag and left". What we do all have in common was a desire to see the world and explore (more than our obligatory two-weeks vacation a year). When you travel you meet people from all walks of life and almost every story begins with how nervous people were to go. We all knew we wanted to travel and go somewhere new and try to "find ourselves" but like everyone else there was always something else holding us back. Maybe it wasn't enough money saved, or being away from our family and friends, financial obligations, etc. The point is you don't have to be extremely brave to go off and take an adventure, what you need is just a few simple things. A destination, a time frame to make it happen, and most importantly, a ticket. 

I remember I had quit my job and moved back home with my family to save for the six months leading up to my expected departure date. As I sat in my kitchen one night staring at my computer screen looking at flights on Kayak I kept thinking of all the reasons why I was crazy for doing this. I could have gone back to my job and been received with open arms, why was I leaving what would surely be a lucrative career to "find myself". I was bombarding myself with self doubt and second guessing, but finally using all the courage I could muster, I gulped back the rest of my wine and took the biggest leap of faith in my adult life. I clicked "book trip", and just like that it wasn't a hypothetical anymore, it was matter of fact. Whether I was going to stay for a week or two years I didn't know but I had finally crossed the biggest hurdle we face when starting to travel, making the commitment. Now my time frame was set in stone and there was no going back "one-way flight to SYD International, August 8th, 2014". For those of you who doubt you have what it takes to make that leap this is the best advice I can give you, make a monetary commitment. Once you've done that, you stop thinking about it and are forced to start planning it. It's no longer "I might be traveling to" now it has become "I'm moving to", trust yourself and believe in what you know in your heart is right, and with any luck we'll cross paths for a drink someday soon. 

I can only hope that I addressed some of the issues people face when contemplating travel. Obviously this is not a fully comprehensive list, but I think it's a great place to start. If you're considering traveling I implore you to do some research, read tons of travel blogs, and once you decide where you want to go, lock it in. There will never be a perfect time to leave, there's only the time you decide to make it happen. The world is out there for you to explore, you just have to take that leap of faith. Talk to people who you know who've done it, if you want message me personally and I will do my best to get back to you. If you're inspired to make it happen, you'll figure out a way to make it work. Best of luck, and happy travels. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

If You Ain't Cheating... You Ain't Trying

It's been a decade, and two heartbreaking losses, to the same team, on the sports biggest stage, but the New England Patriots are World Champions... again. Few teams in sports are quite as polarizing as this rag-tag bunch from Massachusetts. In his infinite "hoody" wisdom Bill Bellichek has managed to create contenders year after year, with no name super stars, and one Thomas Brady. There's no two ways about it, as with most things Boston sports, people either LOVE the Patriots, or LOATH  them. Now I don't want to downplay the high level of dedication and continued success that Tom and Bill have had in their tenure together, but the fact of the matter is the Patriots might be the worst thing to have happened to the NFL in this generation (not being dramatic or anything right?!). 

 When Russel Wilson threw that quick slant and was picked off, it was deflating to so many people for all the right reasons. Cheaters shouldn't win, and in the last decade nothing has made Patriots detractors happier than watching them get so close, and then losing it all. 

A miraculous catch (arguably would've been the most memorable in Super Bowl history), a tenacious runner, and all it would have taken was one more push, one last skittle powered run, to prove that just because you would've beat the Colts anyways, doesn't mean cheaters get to come out on top. But we all know what happened, we all saw the audible, that "wasn't" an audible. And  we all felt deflated as that pass was just a little too late, and fell abruptly into the hands of another Patriots diamond in the rough. 

Bill Bellichek is a genius, Tom Brady is a top-five "All-Time" quarterback, these things are not debatable. What will be shrouded in debate, and drive sports fans wild for generations to come, is how much of this dynasties success is real, and how much was just a little (some would argue a lot) tainted. What troubles me as a sports fan the most is the fact that nothing of any real consequence will come to pass with this team. Take away their first round drafts picks (they do their best work on the second day of the draft), fine them (Robert Kraft isn't worried about his pocket book), but nothing real, nothing that will really hurt them at their core. 

Barry Bonds is permanantly associated with steroid use, yet was never actually found guilty. He will almost certainly never be elected to the hall of fame, even though he is without a doubt one of the top 20 players in the games long history. We have no problem throwing his whole career, all his accomplishments under the bus, because of what we all assume (and most likely is true), but has never been proven. Yet, Bill Bellichek and Tom Brady will both be 1st Ballot Hall of Famers, and they have both admittedly cheated, and been caught.

Now we probably can't blame Tom, he's just guilty by association, but there's something about the Patriots as a whole that just drives myself, and a lot of other people crazy. I'm not a Seattle fan (though I do love me some beast mode), but this last Sunday I was the 12th man in every sense of the word. There's something about that team, the quarterback who was passed over, the defense that won't quit, that made them the perfect team to go for the 3-peat of Patriot anguish. They represent all that is right about sport, a team that really seems to care and rely on each other. Where there's always something about Bill and the Patriots that make it seem to him like everyone on his team isn't actually a person, but a strategically situated pawn, to be used as he sees fit. That is except for Tom, the Golden Boy, the only piece of the puzzle that had stayed the same, and which makes him complacent in this whole shady experiment. 

It's probably ridiculous to think this whole thing is bigger than a couple of incidences, but something about Bill Bellichek makes any Patriots hating conspiracy seem possible. The ultimate puppet-master pulling all the strings, or at least one can hope. For now I can only hope the Seahawks get healthy, get better, and most importantly, get even. Because nothing makes a Patriots-hater happier than seeing that look of complete and utter despair on Tom Brady's perfectly sculpted jaw line, and hearing that no comment post-game speech from a downtrodden Bellichek. It's a "fine-able" offense when Marshawn Lynch does it, but when it happens the Bill... it's everything that's right in the world of sports. One can only hope that Brady doesn't walk off into the sunset with his head held high, that maybe, just maybe, we can to see those sad, sad tears, one last time. Or maybe I just need a girlfriend and I should stop putting so much energy into hating the Patriots... only time will tell.