Positive Personal Changes After a Year+ of Travel, Part 1

Mike and I live differently now. Maybe it’s just another year of maturing or perhaps it’s a result of our 14-month RTW trip. I like to think it’s the latter because I truly believe that a lot of positive things came from the people we met and what we experienced.

It’s been easy for us to spot some of the changes. A quick look around our apartment reveals simplicity, nothing excessive. Tabletops are generally clear of clutter. Our shoes are left in foyer; our feet bare when we’re inside the apartment (a great habit we picked up in Asia).

Before we left on our trip, we spent at least eight solid months selling and donating anything we owned that didn’t have immense meaning to us – books, clothes, furniture, electronics, kitchenware, unopened pantry items, and more. The amount of possessions we saved could easily fit in a small closet. Doing this allowed us to store our remaining things with my aunt and uncle instead of shelling out monthly payments for a storage unit (A big thanks to Rick & Lisa!!!). It saved us money during our trip, but most importantly, it provided us with a fresh start when we moved into an efficiency apartment in DC in February. Instead of being burdened with hand-me-downs, possessions that had been grandfathered into our relationship and items that we may have otherwise never gotten rid of, we were able to furnish and decorate our new space from scratch.

Kitchen & Dining Room

The kitchen and dining room area of our efficiency apartment.

Continue reading

About these ads

Coachella Camping Hacks

Camping at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival in Indio, California is often labeled a rite of passage for first-year festival attendees. The party does not end the second the last band leaves the main stage every night; there is something kinetic about the rowdy crowd. Campsite dance floors blast music hours after the venue locks its gates for the night, and other campers who are too wired to sleep re-cap their day and plot a schedule for the next one. This either sounds like a very good time, or a turnoff to those who only go to Coachella to see their favorite bands live.

Entering the venue

Entering the venue

So why, for five years (going on six) have I camped out rather than get a hotel? The answer is pretty simple: the camping community is welcoming and the benefits of not having to take a shuttle or drive to the venue every day makes the choice a no-brainer. Camping allows you to roll out of bed when you want, catch an afternoon nap, grab snacks or drinks of your choosing and it grants you the ability to slap a burger on the grill whenever you want. To me, camping at Coachella is not just a rite of passage, but also a way to improve your festival experience. Read on to help get the most out of your camping experience, and so you don’t spend your days waiting in line to take the shuttle into town to buy the essentials you forgot to bring. Continue reading

Visiting Kerala and the Periyar Wildlife Reserve

One of our most popular YouTube videos is of Tara and I riding and bathing an elephant at Elephant Junction in Thekkady, India. The whole experience was extremely memorable, and it was just a puzzle piece in our month-long exploration of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. It ended up being one of our favorite regions we visited during the two and a half months we traveled around the country.

Tara and Bina share a bath together.

Tara and Bina share a bath together.

Most tourists who visit Kerala choose to sightsee in four cities: Kochi, Alleppey, Thekkady, and Munnar. These are the region’s golden circle of must-visit cities for those visiting the area. We ended up visiting three of the four, skipping out on Munnar simply because it offered mainly the same activities as Thekkady but with higher accommodation costs.

Tara and I started our month-plus visit to Kerala in Kochi. More specifically, we spent about a week relaxing north of Kochi at a remote homestay on Kuzhupilly Beach. We spent our days reading, writing, jogging along the beach and enjoying each other’s company. It was a period of relaxation after a month of quick travel through the north. Continue reading

A Guide to Buying Couture Clothing in Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

A street in Hoi An, Vietnam.

The skillful tailors of Hoi An are well-known throughout the world. Many of them can trace the trade through several generations of their family, and it’s not only women who are pulling a needle and thread. With deft fingers and a keen eye, they’re known by many as master craftsmen, able to copy any design they see. If you show them a picture of a coat, suit or dress, you can expect a nearly exact replica to be produced within 24-48 hours. The best tailor shops in Hoi An are well-known, and they are the reason that Vietnamese from all parts of the country will encourage you to visit this central city.

Unfortunately, not every business operates honestly. The city has seen an increased number of tailor shops over the years because of those eager to capitalize on the influx of tourists looking for custom-made clothing. A larger variety of shops isn’t a bad thing, but the fallout of this explosion is that many of these tailors produce shoddy work. The supply has yet to exceed the demand and, as a result, some of these shops have less-qualified employees using lower-quality materials. Worse, the demand for quickly assembled clothes has led to the creation of overworked sweatshops. If you aren’t interested in giving your money to a questionable operation, read on for our tips on finding a great Hoi An tailor and how to handle the process of buying custom-made clothes. Continue reading

GUEST POST: Low-Cost Cruise Getaways

If you want a low-cost cruise getaway, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a sea-based adventure without breaking the bank.

For starters, look out for cruise deals and discounts to help make your vacation cash go further. Just like discount packages, late deals are one of the best ways to enjoy a low-cost cruise. Specifically, this involves searching for cruises departing within the next six weeks or so, and keeping an eye out for reduced prices. Cruise operators routinely drop the prices of some voyages close to the sailing date in order to fill those last few available cabins, so this is a great time to look for a bargain.

Be aware that not every cruise departing within the next few weeks will be reduced, and some may be discounted more than others, so make sure you search far and wide to find the best deals. It’s also worth bearing in mind that in order to get the best deals, it’s necessary to be as flexible as possible and also look into destinations that you might not ordinarily consider. For instance, try not to become hooked on the Mediterranean if it means you could save a small fortune by going with a cruise in another area, such as the Canary Islands or the Greek Islands. Also, keep your criteria as flexible as possible and try not to have set criteria like sailing dates or duration. Continue reading

Baking Recipe: Pear Cranberry Ginger Pie

I prefer to cook than bake. I look at a recipe and feel like I can improvise more when it comes to cooking on a stove than in an oven. The creative side of my brain works better when something calls for a pinch or a dash versus exact measurements, temperatures, and times. So when I came into a box of Harry and David pears, I knew I was going to make a pie. Starting with a family apple pie recipe in my head, this is my take on a pear pie – plus ginger and cranberry for some added zest.

Pear Cranberry Ginger Pie

Continue reading

Self-Diagnosing on the Road

Tara Putting on a Bandage

Tara putting on a bandage after a minor motorbike mishap in Laos.

When you take a short vacation from work, you typically wouldn’t visit a doctor during your trip unless a serious matter had to be addressed. Long-term travelers, however, can’t wait months until their return to seek treatment or a doctor’s opinion. They have to find care on the road or risk that a small issue might turn into a larger one. But even if they have health coverage, the hassle of navigating through their plan’s fine print coupled with trying to find a trustworthy physician in a foreign country discourages some from seeking help.

If you recall, when Mike and I were planning our trip, we divided tasks according to our individual strengths. It was my responsibility to find travel insurance that would also provide us with good medical coverage, and I took this job very seriously. We ended up buying 13 months of insurance through STA Travel, with coverage administered by CSA Travel Protection. There were a variety of reasons this insurance won out against our second choice, but one very nice inclusion was that a one-time payment of up to $1,000 could be applied toward your first in-network physician visit during your coverage period. Naturally, we didn’t want to waste that $1,000 by going to the doctor for the common cold or something that would only use a small portion of that monetary offer. But we’ve also never been the type to run to the doctor for every ache and pain anyway. It would be better, we thought, to put the $1,000 toward what would be a more expensive doctor visit, like to treat a broken ankle or – heaven forbid – something major. Continue reading