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Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Secret to Long Term Traveling

What is the secret of being able to travel for a long term? I have gotten a lot of questions about how I afford to travel so I thought this would be a great article to explain. You don't need to be a millionaire or win the lottery to travel, just need to re-arrange your priorities. This is a great article written by Nomadic Matt outlining the secrets to being able to travel for a extended period! The hardest part is taking the first step, or leap. Once you realize some countries are extremely cheap to live/travel in and you re-arrange your's pretty simple from there. For example the top rated hostel I stayed at in Kiev, Ukraine cost $5 a night and I spent about $10-15 a day on food (2 meals from decent restaurants). I'll be talking more about this in another post on, "why your perception of traveling is flawed." 

The Secret to Long Term Traveling

By Nomadic Matt | Published January 28th, 2009
Backpacker travelingI get a lot of emails asking for my secret. People read my posts about how I manage to travel but still wonder if I am holding something back. What am I leaving out? What, they ask, is my secret to escaping the cubicle and being a nomad? Did I win the lottery? Do I have a trust fund? There must be something that makes me so special.
I’m so sick of these emails that I am finally going to spill the beans. I will probably get kicked out of the secret club of travelers for this, and Rolf Potts and Bill Bryson will probably send their goons after me, but I will let everyone in on our big secret because you deserve to know.
The big secret to traveling long term is….nothing. There is no special secret.
Vagabonds, nomads, and long term travelers are nothing special. We have no super powers or secret Swiss bank accounts. I used to think these types of people were special – unique for what they were doing. They had found the secret to breaking free from the cubicle I was so chained to. I was jealous. I was envious. I was determined to live this romantic life of travel, globetrotting around the world and having amazing adventures that you only read about.
But once I got on the road, I saw that their secret was that there was no secret. Lots of people did this. It wasn’t special. It wasn’t unique. I had left thinking I was going on an exciting adventure few people go on – then I went to Khao San Rd and hung out in Amsterdam during the summer. I met travelers young and old doing exactly the same thing as me and none of them were trust fund babies either. Nope, I wasn’t special. Lots of people did this. Just none of them happened to be my friends from home.
Extended travel is a big deal around the world. The gap year is a rite of passage for many people. It is normal to take a year or two to live and work somewhere else around the world. In some countries, it is actually abnormal not to. The problem is one of those countries is not America, which is why I thought it was something special. However, I quickly found that it didn’t take any fancy footwork or large bank accounts. All these people had that I didn’t have before was the desire to do what they want to do, free of the expectations of society, because they enjoyed it and that was all the reason they needed. They simply said “I want to travel” and then did it and made it work.
Relaxing on a beachThey did what they wanted – a revolutionary idea for me at the time. But after years of travel, I realize that it’s not so revolutionary. If people really want something, people do it. If you want a big screen TV or a DVD, you go buy it. If you really want to eat sushi for dinner, you are going to have sushi for dinner. If you want to travel, you will do that too. It is that simple. Just like you find a way to pay for that TV or your new car, these travelers simply arranged their life so that they could afford to travel. As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
People ask me about whether I worry about bills, retirement, and yada, yada, yada. When you travel, all those things disappear. I have no bills now. Just what I spend day to day. I’m a big believer in the idea that we shouldn’t work our life away and that we should take short breaks from it to pursue our passions. Why should I spend my best years in an office, saving money for an age I may not even see or, if I do see, might be too sick to enjoy? Yeah, we long term travelers save a bit for a rainy day, but we don’t worry about the future. We enjoy now. Take care of your present and your future works out. When I stop traveling, I’ll figure out what is next.
So when you ask travelers how they do it, they aren’t lying when they say they did nothing special and that there is no secret. We simply made a conscious decision to do it and, after that, just worked toward our goal, saving money and making plans just like what you would do with any other venture in your life.
And that’s our big travel secret.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Oktoberfest in Munich

Do you remember that feeling after spring break? You have been on a 5-day/night drinking bender. Broke, sun-burnt and exhausted.  You went hard. The last thing you want to do is drink for at least a few days.

This is exactly how I felt, but I had been doing this for almost 3 months now. Extremely worn out and all I wanted to do was rest. I had just returned back to Prague. The previous 3 months were spent traveling to 15+countries around Europe and my final month was spent working a Pub Crawl in Croatia (where I was paid to drink in a Paradise city on the beach. yeah…dream job!)  More about that later. Anyway, I was living out of a backpack for three months…and VERY excited to get back to my left behind wardrobe. I had 5-6 shirt rotation…and got tired of those real quick.

I had just gotten off a plane and back to my room in Prague…all I wanted to do was sleep and get ready to start my full time job in one week. However, an opportunity to check something off my bucket list fell into my lap. Oktoberfest was this weekend…and Munich was only a 4 hour drive from Prague. I knew it was going on, but had no plans at all to make it there. (Due to the fact most accommodation fills up at least 6 months in advanced.)

People normally plan trips to Oktoberfest months, sometimes even a year in advanced. I was lucky to have a friend in the “Tourism Biz” who had a free spot in his car and a place for me in a hostel (Mad props to Isaac: Owner of Prague’s Clock Tower Pub Crawl). 6 million+ people visit Oktoberfest during the 16-day span…this was an opportunity I could not pass up!

I had 2 days of rest and then packed up my bag and we headed off for Munich. It was a quick 4-hour drive in our Skoda that maxed out at about 88 mph, so we were really racing on the Autobahn (no speed limits). We checked into our hostel and went out for a few liters of German Beer.  Tomorrow was opening day of Oktoberfest aka “die Wiesn” to the locals. We took it semi-easy because to get a seat in a tent you need to be there EARLY…we were up at 6am.

(6 am first day of Oktoberfest)

6 am rolled around way too quick. It was time to head off to the main tent. We hopped on the metro and did not bother getting a ticket.  We stopped outside the main gate for an early morning photo shot, and then headed to the most crammed line I have ever. It was full of local Germans and some very young Germans (age 15 accompanied by an adult and 16 to drink by themselves); it was going to be a local spot as we knew beforehand. 

This was my buddies 8th Oktoberfest, so he knew how things were going to go down. We got to the line around 6:30 am and waited there until 9 am when they opened the doors…I was ready for some beer after the sardined packed line. I’m not going to lie, it sucked. Unfortunately, beer was not served until noon. Nevertheless, our tent was the most important one of Oktoberfest. We were in the Schottenhamel tent on OPENING day. The first keg would be tapped in this tent and first beer poured by the mayor.  We drank the first beers of Oktoberfest 2011!

How to avoid this crowd? 1.) Choose a mid week festival day  2.) Avoid some of the most popular tents like Schottenhamel 3.) Opening weekend is normally the most crowded

The doors have just opened and it was a mad dashed push to get through this bottle necked door. Huge German door guys trying to make sure there was some order to this madness. Once inside it is a freaking war zone trying to get a table.  You cannot save seats. We had our full table ready and sat down next to two Germans who immediately got up and left because they were trying to save seats.

We finally got our table and all we could order was a Fanta/Coke mixture (that was actually really good), but I was craving some BEER! Noon came around very slowly, but finally it was beer ‘o’clock!!! It was 9 Euro per liter of beer. (We tipped our server 100 euros at the beginning so we would get served first; it takes forever after a while to get served if you do not tip.) There was a huge ceremony in our tent for the tapping of the keg (all in German) which was entertaining and of course great German music to go along with it. After many liters of beer, it was time to head outside of the tent.

Ahh, outside the tent is where you really experience the great part of Oktoberfest. It is like the moment you walk out of a dark movie theater and are blinded by the light. So you start by drinking a lot of beer, go outside to stuff your face with food, and then finally hit up all the carnival rides.  What a great order of events. We went outside and you really are a kid at a carnival, but for grownups.  The rest of the day got a little blurry, but I made it home safely to the hostel after a great festival! The festival continues pretty late through the night, but some of the tents close at different times. Stick together, have fun, and if you see people snorting white is most likely just Wiesn Koks (smokeless tobacco). This turned out to be one of the best weekends of my life and I would recommend it to anyone traveling Europe. It's not as expensive as you would think and well worth the journey!

(View from one of the rides)

So how can you make it to Munich’s Oktoberfest in a more organized fashion???
After using multiple tour companies around Europe….I always recommend my favorite to friends traveling Europe: They have an awesome business model that puts together incredible trips for young travelers. (Fun groups, highest rated hostels, and is cheaper than if you did it on your own.) It is always more fun to travel in groups and less stressful when the trip is planned out for you!

Click here for the Oktoberfest Fest Tour I would have done if I had planned ahead!

Sunday, 3 February 2013


My good friend, Kait, who I met in Prague, asked me to do an interview for her is her questions and my answers. Hope you enjoy and you can check out more posts on her great blog here: Where is Kait?

My Friend, The Traveler: “Swiggy” from the States

It’s baaaaaaack!
Man, I absolutely LOVE these interviews I have been doing with friends that I have made from around the world. They always remind me of my own stories and experiences I have had, and get me so pumped up for all the traveling I still intend on doing. 
It is my hope that by reading these, you also have a similar desire to embark on your own journey and have your own crazy stories to share with the world. 
Maybe skip that next Starbucks, or buy generic instead of name brand, and instead, put that extra money in savings towards a trip for yourself…that money starts adding up.
Even if you only want to go to a city that is only a 2 hour drive away, GO. It’s still traveling. It’s still adventuring somewhere new. 
This week on My Friend, The Traveler, we meet Mike “Swiggy” Swigunski. We met about a year ago through mutual friends when I was in Prague, and he was teaching at a university there. 
Swiggy has done quite a bit of traveling and living in different places, so he, of course, has a lot of insight to share with those who have never done much travel, or are just starting out. 
1. What do you think the difference is between being a tourist and a traveler and would you describe yourself as one or the other or both?
“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been….travelers don’t know where they are going.”
–Paul Theroux
This quote does a great job explaining the difference between tourists and travelers. Tourists and travelers have very different priorities when on a trip. I think tourists have more of a set itinerary, tend to stay on the main path and try to cram everything into a short amount of time.
Travelers come in a bunch of different shapes and sizes.  They are in a city to meet new people and are there for the experience, not to just check off landmarks. Travelers are lot more spontaneous. They live out of a backpack versus a suitcase, stay in hostels instead of hotels, take 10-hour bus rides to save a few bucks. Although travelers sometimes do the “tourist stuff” it doesn’t define their trip. 
2. If you could pick anywhere in the world to live for the rest of your life, where would it be and why?
Ideally, it would be somewhere close to a beach with all my friends and family. As of now, after traveling to 37 countries, Prague is still my favorite city in Europe. I would spend 9 months in Prague and 3 months in Croatia on the beach. However, I plan to keep traveling so this might change.

3. What is one thing that you have learned while traveling that you wish you had know before you left?
Traveling has taught me so many different things; it is hard to pick one. I really wish I had done a better job of recording funny stories, great restaurants, and overall experiences. I recently started to keep a short journal, which will be the basis of my travel blog (whenever I get around to publishing my posts).

4. What is the most challenging thing that has happened to you while traveling and how did you overcome it?
By far the most challenging thing to happen to me was something that happened before, not whilst traveling. The challenge has still not been defeated and never will. It is a challenge I face every day and something I am still coping with.
On April 18th 2011, my mother, Fran Swigunski, passed away after two years of fighting a very late stage of breast cancer. May 2nd my senior Finals started and on May 7th I was moving back home from college while trying to pack up for at least a year abroad. May 12th I was on a one way plane to Europe, in charge of 35 study abroad students for a month, no job lined up afterwards and had just lost the most influential person in my life.
To have the closest, most loving and caring person in your life taken from you is not something you overcome, but is something you learn to live with. Each day I think about how much I miss her, but always realize how lucky I was to have such a wonderful person in my life.
So much happened in less than a month that I actually think the chaos helped me manage my emotions in a better way.  It gave me a very different perspective on life. I would follow my dreams and not take the boring cubicle path after college. Since 2008, when I first traveled to Italy, I knew I wanted to live in Europe and this dream would come true.
So to answer the question: I think traveling has been the solution for overcoming the most difficult time in my life.
5. Tell me one strange or funny incident that has happened to you while you’ve been abroad?
There has been a ton of strange and funny things to happen to me while abroad. I guess one thing that is always strange and makes the world seem so much smaller is running into people unexpectedly while traveling.
Coming from Munich and heading to Paris, we shared a 6-person sleeper cart with three random guys from England who were super nice. After the train landed, we said our good byes and never expected to see them again.
After arriving in Paris and settling down in our rooms with my two friends we decided to head out for some dinner. The two girls I was with knew a friend who was in Paris, but had no way of contacting. We started walking and walked past a restaurant where we randomly spotted their friend. So we decided to join him and afterwards walked to check out Eiffel.
After watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle we decided to go home…on our way back to the subway we ran into the three English guys we never thought we would see again. Said hey and had a drink then continued onto the metro. In the metro, we ran into four guys who I knew from high school.
It really is a small world after all. Paris has a population of 2.5 million people, so the odds of randomly meeting all these people must have been very low. Especially within 4 hours of walking around.
 6. Is this your last big traveling experience or do you plan on doing another big trip (or trips) in the future?
After living in Europe for a year and a half, my traveling is far from over. I am moving to Australia on February 25th 2013 and plan to stay at least a year. I plan to be in Brazil for the world cup in 2014 and my life goal is to travel to every country in the World.  
7. What is the best day that you have had traveling so far?
This is a super tough one because there are so many amazing days while traveling. I think the most exciting day was when we hopped on a bus and started heading to Pamplona, Spain with no accommodation (aka we slept in the park for 3 days on towels). The first night we planned to not drink anything then run with the bulls the next morning, well that plan immediately failed. We met up with some English guys and drank/partied all night until 7 am right before the running started. Still a bit tipsy and very tired we took to the cobblestone streets to stretch for the most adrenaline-filled moment of my life to date. It was time to RUN FOR OUR LIVES from some huge bulls. We ended up surviving and touched a few bulls in the ring. Something I will remember for the rest of my life is the 3 days in Pamplona, Spain!

8. If price didn’t matter, would you choose to stay in a hostel or hotel and why?
If price were no option, I would always choose Hostels over hotels! Hostels are an amazing way to meet new people and honestly the best way to see a new city. They are cheaper and overall a lot better experience!
9. What advice would you give to people who are about to embark on their adventure?
  • Sign up for a frequent flier miles program and a good Airline credit card (just got a $50 1 way flight to Sydney w/ a 3 day layover in Honolulu using miles)
  • Use hostels not hotels…so many cool young people from all over the world.
  • Start a couch surfing account NOW! (I am still a bit new, but all my experiences have been awesome!)
  • If you are in Europe, use for the cheapest flights AND use their fly to everywhere search feature. (For example- when I was living in Prague I would choose “From: Prague” then “To: Everywhere” finally pick the dates you are looking to travel. This would generate the cheapest flights out of Prague. This is how I did cheap weekend trips every month for a year.
  • Keep a journal and stay in touch with the awesome people you meet along the way
10. Besides friends and family, what is one thing that you miss from home?
This is the question I have been asked the most and I have finally come up with a decent answer. Besides family, friends and my dog…It has never really been food or drink. Once you have had a good Kebab or the best Czech beer, it makes all the food and drink cravings cease to exist.
The ONE thing I miss the most from the US is the ease of doing stuff and not having my car! For example, one day in Italy we tried going to a bank during the only time we had class break.  The banks and pretty much everything else closed down for about 2 hours mid-day. It was an important for my friend to actually meet with a teller because of a credit card issue and was a huge pain. There have been countless other frustrating experiences…some simple things can be very difficult in other cultures. Dealing with the visa process in the Czech Republic was by far the most inefficient system I have ever seen.
Not having a car falls into the ease of doing things category, but is also just something fun I miss doing. While living in Prague the public transport was so amazing and cheap, so not having a car was more of just a luxury I could live without.
BONUS: Tell me about the most exciting hookup you have had on your trip. (You know you had at least one!)
Ahh the best for last, not sure if I want to go into so many details about this aspect of my life, due to the fact that I still in the back of my mind think I will be running for president in the near future.
I will however be covering dating and relationships while abroad in my new blog.
You can read more about Swiggy and all of his traveling and adventures at his brand new blog, From Tourist to Traveler, or contact him directly at