6 Lessons Learned from World Domination Summit and How To Take Action on Them

World-Domination-Summit-2014

Last year, I went to the World Domination Summit for the first time and was blown away.

I heard great speakers, met tons of great people, and learned 7 really important lessons (a post that ranks 3rd when you Google “world domination summit”…take that SEO gurus!).

[bluebox]If you want to see how I implemented those lessons in this past year, check out my 2013 WDS report card. [/bluebox]

This year, I returned for round 2.

If you also attended WDS, then we may have had the pleasure of meeting.

If we didn’t meet, shame on you for not coming to my party (and seeing my buddy Jason cross an item off his bucket list by buying the whole bar a round).

And if you weren’t able to attend WDS this year, don’t worry.  Because once again, I’ll present to you the lessons I learned from this year.

And because a lesson learned doesn’t mean anything unless you take action on it (which, ironically enough, is a lesson I learned again this year!), I’ll also be presenting to you the goals I hope to achieve by WDS 2015 based on those lessons.

Lesson #1:  Take Imperfect Action

Jadah-Sellner-World-Domination-Summit

If there was one over-arching message I took away from this year’s WDS, it was to take action.

AJ Jacobs described it as:

“Act your way in to thinking instead of thinking your way in to a new way of acting”

Saki Mafundikwa said:

“Jump and the net will appear.”

Elise Blaha Cripe worded it as:

“Become an expert at the attempt.”

And Jadah Sellner summed it all up by simply saying:

“Take imperfect action.”

Most people, myself included, come up with an idea and then try to map every single detail of it.

We come up with contingency plans for failures that might happen, and then contingency plans for those contingency plans.

And in the end, we do nothing, because it has become too daunting and too large before it has even been started.

Paralysis by analysis.

But what if we just DID IT?

What if we just started down the path, and figured things out while we went?

I knew I wanted to start Frequent Flyer Bootcamp for over a year.  I thought about it every day when I was swimming, about what it would look like and how I would run it.

And I did nothing.

One day, I got sick of doing nothing.

So I decided to announce that I was going to run my first session and that registration was open.

I had no videos created, no fancy website for it, no clue how I’d run the weekly conference call, and no idea if anyone would sign up.

Within the first hour, 5 people signed up, and I thought “well, it’s time to get to work!”

The first session was a smash hit, but of course, it wasn’t perfect.

I asked for feedback, got some, and then made a few changes for session two.

And did the same for session three.

And session four.

And now, with us preparing to run session five, I’m still tinkering and making changes.

The truth is, it’ll never be perfect.

And if I had waited until it was, I never would have built the incredible relationships I have through Frequent Flyer Bootcamp.

I never would have helped people book some incredible trips, like a round-the-world honeymoon or a 4 continent trip for a family of five.

Action:

  • Create an online community site/social network for people who want to learn how to create their dream lifestyle.

Question:  What’s ONE thing you’ve put off starting because you’re not sure how it’ll turn out?

Lesson #2:  Tell the World (or Even One Other Person) Your Plan

Say-It-World-Domination-Summit

The most important step in taking action is telling others that you’re going to do something.

Call it accountability, call it peer pressure, call it a kick in the ass…it doesn’t matter.

Once someone (or many people) know what you’re planning on doing, it’s much, much harder to back out.

When I first launched The Ultimate Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles, I set a date one month in advance and told everyone it’d be available on that date at noon.

Up until six hours before it went live, I was still sending changes back and forth with my editor and the designer.

I was a nervous wreck.

I didn’t sleep much.

But because we had a deadline, we got it all finished, and at noon, we launched.

If I hadn’t set a date, I would still be making edits.

The book would never have gotten launched.

And I never would have been able to help thousands start traveling for free.

Which is why at our WDS party this year, we asked people to do two things (and bribed them with a free drink, some free appetizers, and even fake mustaches):

  1. Write down ONE thing they wanted to accomplish before WDS 2015.
  2. Tell their one goal to us in a short video with the camera we had set up in the corner.

By announcing their goals and by making them tangible through writing them down and recording them on video, people who were at the party will be spurred on to action.

They’ve now let others know, and there is no turning back now!

So I guess you’re wondering what my one goal before WDS 2015 was?

Action:

  • Set a Guinness world record for the longest ever elliptigo trip by riding one 3,300 miles across the entire continental United States.  Anticipated start date:  April 1, 2015

Question:  What’s one thing you want to accomplish before July, 2015?

Make it public by posting it in the comments below!

Lesson #3:  Don’t Be Afraid to Ask “Bigger People” for Help on a Project…But Make Sure You Don’t Half-Ass It!

Full-auditorium-world-domination-summit

A few months ago, I decided to launch The Paradise Pack.  I wanted to bring together 10-15 of the world’s foremost experts on travel and location independence.

The first step was to ask those experts to come on board.

To agree to join a project that was in its first year and had no track record.

To put their products and reputations on the line for MY project.

And it was scary.

But I knew that in order for The Paradise Pack to truly help the most people create their dream lifestyle, I had to get the very best.

Some of these people were “on the same level” as me, people who had been successful as online entrepreneurs for a few years now.

But some of them were “bigger”–real rock stars in the online space–and people who had been doing it for much longer than I had.

People like Benny Lewis, who runs the world’s largest online community for language learning, just wrote an international bestseller, and whose site gets upwards of a million visitors a month.

Or Natalie Sisson, who sells out conferences at the drop of a hat and has been thriving as an online entrepreneur since before I even knew what those terms meant (not that she’s old–she just started early)!

I asked in a very genuine way, and thankfully, almost every single person responded that they were interested.

Which was great…except that it meant I needed to put together a package and build a website that was worthy of having such amazing people in it.

With the help of my business partner, Jason Moore, and an incredible team, we launched a website that blew the roof off my expectations and everyone else’s as well.

The feedback we got on the site was amazing, and I received emails from very large websites asking me who designed my site (LunarWP) and if they could hire them (sure, but only if LunarWP continues to help us as well).

On top of the amazing site, we did EVERYTHING we could to make sure this was done as well as it could be done.

From spending hours crafting emails to sending out video thank you emails, we left no stone unturned in our quest to make sure everyone who was involved was incredibly happy with the results.

So don’t be afraid to reach out to people you respect and admire, but if they say yes, put 110% effort in to making it worth their while.

Action:

  • To launch The Paradise Pack again next year with even more experts and increase sales 3x.

Question:  Who are some people you would love to work with and how can you reach out to them?

Lesson #4:  Exhaustion is the New Status Symbol…But It Doesn’t Have to Be

michael-hyatt-world-domination-summit

During Michael Hyatt’s incredible presentation, there were so many nuggets of wisdom it was hard to pick out just one.

But a few days later, the phrase that kept running through my head was:

“Exhaustion is the new status symbol.”

The reason it struck a chord with me?

Because it’s so true in my life.

I decided to build my own website and run my own business so that I could create my dream lifestyle.

And there are a ton of great things I get to do:

  • Travel around the world
  • Work from anywhere
  • Make my own schedule
  • Wear the same clothes 3 days in a row
  • Do work I love.

Overall, it’s amazing, and I’m not asking for anyone’s sympathy.

But…there are times when I’m just exhausted.

I’m drained, my brain is fried, and I’m stressed out.

And I find that the more successful I become, the MORE it happens.

The more I worry, the more I stress, the more I’m mentally fatigued.

For the past 6 months, if anyone asked me how things were going, my reply would be “Great, but I’m just soooooo busy.”

Being busy isn’t a bad thing, by any stretch.

But being busy just to be busy is.

And lately, that’s how it’s been.

I feel tied to the internet.

Tied to my email.

Tied to doing SOMETHING, even if it isn’t overly important.

And the reason is that, deep down, I have a feeling that I NEED to be busy.

Even though I’ve been my own boss for 2 years, I still have that feeling that if I’m not “putting in the hours” then I’ll ultimately fail.

If I’m not punching the clock for at least 40 hours a week, I’m doomed.

Which is ridiculous, because I know that’s not the case.  It’s about working smarter, not harder.

Engaging in my work when I’m working, and enjoying my time away.

And ultimately, basing my feeling of worth on what I’m accomplishing–not how tired I am.

Just like last year, the best way to do this is to limit “time and energy sucks,” my biggest of which is email.  I received a C- on email goal in my 2013 WDS report card, so I have a lot to improve upon this year.

Action:

  • Unplug from the internet for 7 consecutive days (the horrors)!
  • Check and respond to general emails only once per day (and eventually, only twice per week).

Question:  What work are you doing that is leaving you exhausted but not helping you move forward?

Question #2:  What are your biggest time sucks?

Lesson #5:  Never, Ever Work With Someone You Don’t Respect

john jantsch world domination summit

Besides being a fantastic guitar player, engaging speaker, and award winning author, John Jantsch is also a business consultant to small businesses all over the world.

He’s so good at what he does, that people are knocking down his door to work with him.

But he’s turned down some major contracts (and major money) not because he thought they’d be unsuccessful but because of the character of the people he’d be working with.

As Extra Pack of Peanuts continues to grow, I’m looking to launch into bigger and bigger projects.

Things that I have neither the desire nor the skills to take on myself.

Which naturally leads to working with others–a situation I’m not completely comfortable with yet.

After 2 years of doing everything myself, it’s hard to start working with others.

I’m afraid that it will ruin relationships.

I’m afraid my ideas will get diluted.

I’m afraid of all the other things I can’t even put into words.

Yet, my first real joint venture, The Paradise Pack, was an incredible success.

I never would have or could have done it alone.

It was the perfect partnership.

The reason:  I worked with the perfect partner.  Jason was someone I had known for awhile, someone I trusted implicitly, and someone whose work and drive I respected.

While I’m not naive enough to think that everything will always work as perfectly as this, I do think that picking the right partner is 90% of the battle.

With that in mind, I’m working on putting my misguided-but-still-present fear of working with others in the rearview mirror and launching some projects this year that can only be done with the help of someone else.

Action:

  • Launch one project (most likely the online community/social network) with a partner.
  • Pitch my idea for an app to at least one startup incubator or team of investors.
  • Have an employee or team of employees working at least 20 hours a week for EPoP.

Question:  What’s one project you want to work on that would be better or more fun with a partner?

Question #2:  Who is one person you’d love to work together with on a project, and why?

Lesson #6:  Work Incredibly Hard to Maintain Relationships

maintaining-relationships-world-domination-summit

One of the best things about the World Domination Summit is the amazing people you meet.  Sometimes, it’s people you know of beforehand and want to meet (like AJ Jacobs).

But many times, it’s the random meetings you have with people, either at pre- and post parties or through simply sitting next to them during one of the sessions.

Everyone has a story to tell, a goal they want to conquer, and an open and earnest nature.  I have yet to meet a single person at WDS that I disliked or found disingenuous.

But the hard part comes after WDS, when everyone disperses and goes their separate ways: maintaining the relationships.

Last year, I met a ton of people, and did a fair job staying in touch.

But this year, after meeting even more people, it’s even more important to actually prioritize maintaining relationships.

It seems strange, I know that I need to actually schedule out “staying in touch” so that I can continue to grow these relationships and that we can all help motivate and inspire each other.

And while mail is fine, but the further you can move up the ladder (email > phone > skype > in person) the better.

Action:

  • Email five friends on the first of every month for the next year, asking how I can help them accomplish a goal.
  • Get one accountability partner and schedule a weekly phone conversation.
  • Meet at least 10 WDS friends or readers in person throughout the year.

Question:  Who are 3 people you know that inspire and motivate you?  

Question #2: How are you going to continue to grow a relationship with them?

Final Word(s)

World Domination Summit is an absolutely amazing event put on by amazing people (thanks guys)!

It has the potential to change the direction of your life.

But without action, it is just a really cool, really invigorating hang out session for a few days.

If you’re someone who attended, don’t let your passion and energy dissolve now that you’re home.  Make actionable steps toward the goals you set.

If you didn’t attend, I’m hoping that this post can inspire you to do the same.

Because not being there doesn’t mean you can’t implement these awesome life lessons, same as being there doesn’t ensure that you will.

So take action, friends, and if you want to be held accountable, answer the question “what’s one thing you want to achieve by WDS 2015?” in the comments below.

And if you’re reading this and attended WDS, come say hi either on Facebook or Twitter or through email (trav@extrapackofpeanuts.com).  I’d love to hear from you!

(photos courtesy of Chris Guillebeau and Armosa Studios)

My 2013 World Domination Summit Report Card: 1 Year Later, How’d I Do?

World-Domination-Summit

After attending World Domination Summit last year for the first time, I posted the 7 lessons I learned and the goals they inspired me to set and stated:

Learning a lesson doesn’t mean anything if you don’t implement it. 

The post went semi-viral, motivated others, and most importantly, held me accountable.

Today, I’m sitting in Portland 1 year later at WDS 2014.

So, how’d I do with my goals from last year?

Let’s check out the report card!

Lesson #1:  Surround Yourself With People You Admire

My belief in this statement is even stronger this year than last.  Achieving success is hard enough, but it’s nearly impossible if you try to do it alone.

I’ve been very fortunate, through my podcast and through reaching out to others, to have met some awesome people over the last year and strengthened bonds with others.

I truly believe this is one of the most important factors in many of my successes from the past year.

My goals from 2013:

Create a mastermind group to hold each other accountable.

Grade: F

Well, not exactly the best way to start out, but there is no denying the fact that I’m currently not in a mastermind group.

I’ve dabbled in some and toyed with starting a few, but haven’t done it.

Email each person at least once a month to maintain contact.

Grade: B

Staying in contact with people I met last year at WDS or people I’ve met this year has been one of my strengths.

Almost every single bond has become stronger, and I’ve had some amazing experiences helping people I admire travel for cheap (ScottSteve, and Jacob, among others).

In return, I’ve gotten invaluable advice and guidance for helping build my site and my business.

Lesson #2:  Stop Doing It All Yourself, Because Others Can Do It Better

This was a quote from Chris last year, and when I interview people about the stepping stones in their business, almost every single person points to leaning on others and hiring help as THE step that helped propel them.

I knew this was a step I had to take this year, but it wasn’t an easy one.

My Goals from 2013: 

Bring on an intern

Grade: A

After some fits and starts, I finally got my act together and put out a call for part-time help in January.

I was swamped with amazing applicants, and after sifting through them all, I’ve been able to bring on a few people part time to help me with the things I’m not good at.

Chris has been an absolutely amazing podcast editor, and Tiffany is Ms. Do-It-All.

I couldn’t be happier with how it has worked out.  It’s amazing how talented other people are, and I’m excited to have them on board and to bring on others as EPoP continues to grow.

Outsourcing the design side of the website, such as new email opt in boxes.

Grade: C

After interviewing John from The Democratic Travelers and meeting up with him in Philly, we decided to work together to redesign the EPoP site.

That was in December; I’ve been dragging my feet, and the design is still not complete.

Yes, it’s half way done and yes, I’ve hired a professional (and a really good one at that), but I’ve not been on top of it as much as I should have.

Lesson #3:  Embrace Every Chance You Have to Meet New People

WDS is the perfect place to do this, but when you get home you stagnate, feel comfortable, and end up not getting out of your comfort zone and meeting new people.

I knew that going in, which is why I set the following goals for myself.

My Goals from 2013:

Go to a Meetup.com meeting for entrepreneurs in the Philadelphia Area.

Grade: F

I haven’t gone to a single one all year.  I talked about going to one once, but that’s it.

If there isn’t one that fits for me…start one!

Grade: C

I organized Scott Dinsmore’s Live Your Legend Local Philly Group, and we had an amazing meetup in January with 20 people showing up in below freezing temperatures.

But then, both because I was traveling and because I was lazy, we never had another meeting.

I put forth the effort to organize the first one, but I let it fizzle after that, and I’m definitely not proud of that.

Lesson #4: Don’t Let Your Doubts and Fears Cloud Out Your Dreams

Most people doing the things you want to be doing aren’t smarter or more talented than you.  The difference is that at some point, they decided to go for it.

They had a dream, they went for it, and most of the time, they succeeded.

I had two big dreams after leaving WDS a year ago.  Here’s how they shook out.

My Goals from 2013:

Launch Frequent Flyer Bootcamp before August.

Grade: A+

Frequent Flyer Bootcamp is one of the things I’m most proud of.

It truly is a win-win-win.

Bootcampers learn skills that will help them travel free for the rest of their lives, I have a blast teaching, and people are traveling all over the world to their dream destinations!

To date, we’ve run 4 cohorts of FF Bootcamp since last August, and each time it has gotten more popular.

In fact, last time we sold out the 30 spots!

If you’re interested, I’ll be announcing signups for the 5th cohort sometime later this summer, so make sure to join the email list for first crack at signing up.

Build and launch my most ambitious project ever, tentatively titled The Action Initiative. 

Grade: D

This is an incredibly hard grade to give.

No, I haven’t been able to launch it yet.

No, I haven’t even been able to create the site yet.

And no, I haven’t received funding for the project yet.

But I have taken the initiative to create a teaser video for it and enter it in startup competitions (though I haven’t won).

And I have personally been putting money aside with the idea of potentially funding the project myself.

The hardest decision is knowing what to do next, and since I was hoping to be in the process of building by now, I have to give myself a failing grade.

Lesson #5:  Impress Less People, Make Deep Connections with More

Connecting with people seems to a be a bit of a theme here, eh?

Last year, Donald Miller told us to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks, and do what we feel is right.

By doing that, we’ll naturally find the people who can help us the most.

My Goals from 2013:

Goal:  Be even more open and more honest in my posts and less worried about everything being perfect all the time.

Grade: B

I’ve definitely made the conscious effort to not only be more consistent in my posting (podcasts on Tuesday, posts on Thursday) but also to be more open.

To let my personality shine through.

To be very transparent in how I took this site and made it in to a business.

And to provide a roadmap for others trying to do the same thing.

I wrote about my struggles and the time I lost $6k on my birthday in my Thanksgiving Thanks post. 

I wrote about how two funerals reshaped my beliefs on travel.

And I wrote about how I conquered the single biggest obstacle in my life but how I wasn’t coping well with stress.

The response from you guys has been overwhelming, and I plan to continue to share my journey honestly and openly (all while hopefully cutting down on the incredibly long time it takes me to write a post).

Lesson #6: Just Ask

How can something so simple be so hard?

I have yet to figure that out, but as you can tell from the lack of progress toward my goal, it’s something I struggle with.

My Goals from 2013:

Ask to become a keynote speaker at next year’s World Domination Summit (and provide enough compelling arguments to make it work)!

Grade: F

This was, admittedly, a pretty audacious goal.  But those are the best kind.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any of the advice that I wrote last year.

Had I asked and been turned down, fine.

Give myself an A for effort.

Or had I asked and been told yes, even better!

But what did I do?

Nothing.

I didn’t ask.

I never even inquired about it.

If I had, who knows what would have happened?  Maybe I would be leading the Travel Hacking Academy session.

Or maybe I’d be on the big stage.

Instead, I’m sitting here having to give myself an F.  Bad form, Travis!

Lesson #7: Give Yourself Time and Space to See the Forest Through the Trees

Last year, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger talked about “creating space to observe sparks.”

To not get bogged down by mundane, everyday tasks and to focus your energy on big projects and look at the big picture.

I’ve never been obsessed with Facebook or Twitter, but email has always been my vice.  Hence, my two goals.

My Goals from 2013:

Only check email twice a day, at noon and 5 pm.  And never check it first thing in the morning, where it becomes a time trap, or on my phone, where I can’t respond and it creates “open loops.”

Grade: C- 

I’ve gotten better, that’s for sure.  There were even days that I stuck to the “email twice a day, never in the morning” goal.

But more often than not, I allowed these “time sucks” to take too much of my time and dull my creative spark.  You’re not going to believe it, but I actually just checked my email in between writing these two sentences!

Moving forward, this will DEFINITELY be a major goal until I find a schedule that works for me.

Take 15 minutes to exercise directly after checking my email at noon, then come back to the task at hand refreshed.

Grade: B-

I’m giving myself a bit of leeway with this one.

No, I haven’t followed the letter of the law on this one and exercised directly after checking email at noon (mainly because I’m not checking email at noon).

However, I have found two activities that have allowed me to clear my head, and which I’ve been doing during the day or evening when I’ve felt stressed.

One is biking.  Pretty normal, right?

The other is archery.

Go ahead and laugh, I wouldn’t believe it either.

My dad is an avid hunter, and while I don’t really care too much about hunting, specifically, I have found that going out and shooting my bow during the middle of the day (it helps to have a big backyard) is one of the most relaxing things I can do.

It clears my mind, gets me outside, and helps me focus.

And if I ever get stranded on an island with just a bow, I might not even starve to death!

Final Word(s)

Looking back on the things I wrote last year made me aware of how many things I still need to accomplish and focus on.

But, in the spirit of always being positive, I also see how far I’ve come.

It also made me realize how many opportunities pop up that I never could have envisioned.

The Paradise Pack, one of my biggest projects of the last year, was not even a twinkle in my eye last July, and the Extra Pack of Peanuts Travel Podcast, which was just starting out last year, has become one of my most successful ventures.

Many people overestimate what they can get done in one day, but underestimate what they can get done in a year.

I didn’t achieve everything I set out to do (and I had some colossal flops) but I’m going to World Domination Summit this year better than I was last year, and that’s something to be proud of.

What were some of the goals you set for yourself last year, and how have you measured up?  Let me know in the comments below! 

Why Losing My Wallet in Paris Was The Best Thing That Could Have Happened

Moulin Rouge at Night

We were walking back to our apartment, a few blocks up from the Moulin Rouge.

It was 9:30 at night in Paris and we had just spent the day wandering around and eating baguettes.

Our stomachs were full, and we were headed home.

But those neon cases, they called to us. Like a beacon, they cut through all the other glitz and glamour.

“Do you want some Chinese food?”, I asked.

I don’t eat Chinese in America. Why in the world would I be eating it in Paris?

Those lights…it’s those lights that make it look so appealing.

“Sure” Heather said.

And there we were, ordering takeaway Chinese food.

Twice, we almost left after it took so long to get someone to take our order.

And when we did order, they shoved way too much in, despite my too soft protestations.

Since it was done by weight, our little “snack” ended up costing us 18 euros.

I pulled out a 20 euro note and tried to explain we didn’t want that much, but to no avail.

I got two measly coins back, and we left.

During the one block walk back to our apartment, I was fuming.

18 euros on Chinese food?

What were we thinking?

And I really got mad when I took a bite and it was gross.

So I didn’t eat any more, and chalked it up to a bad decision.

18 euros on BAD Chinese food!

But I have a problem letting things go, and was still upset the next morning.

Until we walked out the door, and I noticed I didn’t have my wallet.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Mighty Wallet

Missing: A Tyvek paper wallet that looks like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

 

Going back inside, I checked the counter, where I had been putting it the entire trip.

Nope.

Ok, how about my desk in the bedroom, where my pocket travel journal was?

Nope.

The front pocket of my small daypack?

Nope.

Ok, it’s got to be in my pants from last night?

Nope.

And then, that’s when panic set in.

But hold on…the apartment is only 300 square feet.

So how hard can it be to find?

4 hours later, I found out the answer:

Pretty hard.  Impossible, in fact.

I had looked in every single spot in the apartment. I had taken the bed apart, all the couch cushions off, and even checked the oven.

Nothing.

I had taken every single article of clothing out of both our bags and shook them out.

Nothing.

I had gone through both bags of trash, including sifting through the disgusting Chinese food from the night before (talk about adding insult to injury).

Nothing.

I had even walked down to the Chinese restaurant and asked if they had it using an awful French pronunciation (portefeuille is wallet, in case anyone was wondering).

And on the way back, I got down on my hands and knees in the gutter of the street to check under every car.

Still nothing.

I went to the police station, filled out a police report, and tried to explain to them that I was looking for a paper wallet that had a picture of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on it.

They laughed, and in the most French way possible, said:

“You’ll never get it back here.  Not in this part of the city.”

I should have been pissed. And for the first 4 hours, I was.

Upset, angry, and incredibly perplexed.

But then, we decided to take a walk. To get out of the apartment I had just turned upside down and inside out.

So we headed to Sacre Couer.

And I sat there, in a beautiful cathedral, high above Paris. And sat there. And sat there.

I just allowed my mind to be clear.

And after saying a few prayers (no, not all about finding my wallet!), I felt at peace.

For the first time the entire trip.

You see, before this, I had been a bit of a mess.

I was having a pretty major case of travel anxiety.

Seems weird, for someone who travels so much, right?

But it was true. I was flipping out on Heather for every little thing we were spending money on (Paris is quite hard to be frugal in) and had been stressing about the next parts of our trip.

Yes, the trip was designed to be unplanned, and I thought that would be easier.

But thinking about what was next was making me not be able to enjoy the present.

And worrying about every little Euro was driving me insane.

And then, I lost my wallet. 200 Euros in cash, plus all my credit cards, bank cards, my license, etc.

And what did I realize?

That it wasn’t that big of a deal.

I could call up and cancel my credit cards and ATM card and have them send replacements. I’d get a new license when I went home.

And 200 Euros, well, sure, no one likes to lose money, but what could I do about it?

So if losing my wallet, which was a much bigger deal than all the other little things that I had been worrying and freaking out about for the past 4 days, could be solved so easily, then so could everything else.

And Heather, who easily could have been upset with me for not only ruining our trip to Versailles that day but also for losing the cash, was right there beside me, sifting through the disgusting Chinese food.

What more could I ask for?

If it took me losing my wallet to relax and turn this 2 month trek through Europe in to what it is supposed to be, then so be it.

And if you’re sitting there waiting for a storybook ending, sorry, this isn’t Hollywood.

I never did find that wallet, and that’ll be the last time I eat Chinese food in Paris.

Have you ever had a serious case of travel anxiety and how did you deal with it (hopefully not by losing your wallet)?  

What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you while traveling, and how did it affect your outlook?  Let us know in the comments below!

(moulin rouge image courtesy of chrissy575)

What the Heck is TravPacking?

TravPacking

[bluebox] TravPacking- verb:  Traveling cheaply and traveling well by finding the sweet spot between cost, comfort, convenience and experience.

By Travpacking, I was able to have an amazing experience traveling through China in for under $2,000!

[/bluebox]

The tuk tuk ride from the airport to the city center was so cheap, I actually didn’t have small enough bills to pay it.  Amidst the open air markets and cafes, I had to buy a banana so that I could get some change.

By the time I returned, the tuk tuk driver had left, telling the hostel owner just to pay her and that he’d get the money sometime later.

We had just touched down in Chiang Mai, on our first ever backpacking trip, and here we stood, in front of the Mojito House, our hostel for next two nights.

The owner was friendly, and as when we walked in to the downstairs lobby area and restaurant, I was surprised.

This place was pretty nice for $4 a night.

We told her we were the couple that had booked the “private double” room, of which there was one, on the 3rd floor.

We headed up the stairs, and on the landing of the 2nd floor, we had to step over rows of sleeping bags with people in them, picking our way through like we were in a minefield.

I was told that this was the “dorm”.

Hmmmm….

Making it through the minefield, we got to the 3rd floor and our room, and double private ensuite.

Giving us the key, the owner left, and we just looked at each other.

The sheets had stains all over them.  This skeeved Heather out, but I was ok with it.

I was, however, much more concerned with the springs that were actually popping out of the bed.

Looking on the bright side, I mentioned that we did have our own bathroom.

A small victory, considering that the water not only didn’t get hot, but it actually didn’t turn on at all.  

Oh, and we were given 4 square of toilet paper.

Heather started crying.

And we stayed.

Welcome to TravPacking, circa 2010.

Over the years, my traveling philosophy, and the way I travel, has changed.

But one thing has remained constant:

My answer to the always ubiquitious question

“How can you afford to travel so much?”

is still the same.

And it’s much simpler than people expect.

I save money in many ways that other people don’t.

In fact, when I travel, my costs are usually the same as when I’m at home.

All it takes is making the right conscious choices, and not seeing travel as an excuse to blow through all your money.

My TravPacking series is designed to show you EXACTLY how I do this during my travels.

I’ll provide enough details of my travels that if you wanted, you could theoretically recreate them step for step.  And if you want to do that, by all means, be my guest.

Imitation is always the sincerest form of flattery!

But the real purpose, and the way that I believe most people will use my TravPacking posts, is to help you see what options are really out there.

And how traveling on a budget, or traveling cheap, does not mean that you have to scrimp on convenience and comfort.

From here on out, I’ll be providing in depth TravPacking reports of all my major trips (including my latest one to China) and providing you with information about how much I spent, down to the dollar.

I’ll also be providing some commentary on my thought process on the spending, why I spent what I did, and what the alternatives may have been.

TravPacking is about finding the sweet spot- where convenience and cost merge with value.

By doing this, you’ll save a ton more money than most people who travel, and you’ll also have as good, if not better, of an experience.

Because spending more does not always equate to better.

And the more you save on this trip, the more you can travel.

Travel More, Spend Less!

The Main Tenets of TravPacking

1.  There is No Wrong Way to Travel

Just because I’m writing about how I travel does not mean that the way you travel is wrong.

There will be plenty of people out there who will be appalled that I spent so much money on a trip and proclaim that they did the same thing for half the price.

Great!

I was exactly like that 5 years ago.  But getting older and having a wife as my travel companion has changed my habits, although I definitely still skew toward the frugal end.

There will be others who refuse to ever stay in a hostel.  And while I disagree, mostly because I think that people misunderstand the word hostel, that’s their prerogative.

There are plenty of other ways to save money when traveling, and I hope they’ll take some of them and run with them.

In the end, getting out and traveling is always better than not traveling.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re:

  • going to an all-inclusive in Mexico (something I’ve done),
  • going on a cruise (something I haven’t done but would do)
  • or backpacking solo through the Amazon, sleeping in caves (something I also haven’t done but would do).

I have no patience for people getting on their high horse about the “best” way to travel or the “true” way to travel.

I’ve found what works for me (something that is a continual learning process) and what I think can work for many people out there.

Whether you choose to emulate it or not is up to you.  But I do ask that you have an open mind and don’t knock the way I travel or the way anyone else does.  We can all learn from each other.

[hopping off my soapbox]

2.  Frugality is Important…

I’m a naturally frugal person.  This website is geared towards helping people save money so that they can travel more.

So I’m always looking at the prices of things, and I write down EVERYTHING we buy.

My compulsiveness is why I’m able to provide such an accurate portrayal of my trip for you.

And I’m also a bit anal about not getting ripped off.

If I’m thirsty and someone is trying to sell me a $3 water just because I happen to be standing next to the Colosseum, I’ll walk the additional 20 minutes to find a $0.50 one.

That’s just who I am.

3.  …But Not at the Expense of Amazing Experiences

Yes, I’ll walk 20 minutes to save a few dollars on a water.

Because to me, that water is not an experience.  It’s not worth the feeling of getting ripped off, and it’s not worth the extra money.

But if I’m at the Taj Mahal and the entrance fee is $15, I won’t refuse to go in because I can catch a glimpse of it for free from a rooftop deck.

I’ll still get the awesome view from the rooftop deck, but I’ll also pay the $15 to walk around, partake in the history of the place, and take cheesy pictures.

To me, it’s worth it.

Everyone’s definition of what is “worth it” will be different.

And there have certainly been times when I wanted to do something, like take the cable car to the top of the Jungfrau in Switzerland, and turned it down because I couldn’t afford it or it cost too much ($100+ is pretty steep).

But generally, I’ll scrimp on everyday comforts, like buying a water immediately, in order to spend more money on experiences.

Seychelles

4.  However….Some of the Best Experiences Are Free!

Like I said, I generally go to monuments, historical sites, and “touristy” things, especially the first time I’m somewhere, unless they are prohibitively expensive or cheesy.

(Even I’m not a big enough sucker for the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel in Shanghai for $10).

And they are all usually pretty cool, which is why they are so famous in the first place!

But most of my best experiences come from wandering.  

And the best part about wandering?  It’s free.

I’m a huge proponent of getting out.  Out of your hostel or hotel.

And just exploring.  Map, no map….who cares!

Walk around, head down small alleys, peak around corners, and engage locals (even especially if you don’t know the language).

Travel is not just about the places you see, but the people you meet.

And you can’t meet people if you’re sitting in your room watching Game of Thrones on your laptop!

5.  Taking a “day off” is OK

This has been one of the biggest changes in my travel style over the years.

Well, this and the fact that I’ll upgrade from a $4 hostel to a $8 one if the bed springs are popping through the mattress.

I used to try to pack everything in to my trips.  I needed to see everything, I needed to be out and about all of the time.

How do people in this area act during the night?

I don’t know, let’s stay out and see!  

How do they act in the early morning?

I don’t know, let’s get up early and see (ok, that never happened).

But still, I was “going” all the time.

And when I wasn’t, I was worried I was missing something.

This is a very common feeling for people, especially because most don’t know if they’ll ever be back.

But one of the best things about TravPacking is that if you are able to save money on one trip, the odds of you going back to a place is much higher!

With Heather’s help, I’ve learned it’s ok to take a day (or half a day) in the middle of the trip and just RELAX.  

If I want to read a book, I’ll read a book.  If want to chill out and Skype family back home, I’ll chill out and Skype family back home.

And I’ve found that I often feel much more refreshed and ready to have a “go-go-go” day afterwards.

So if you’re feeling stressed or rushed, take a few hours or even a whole day and do something that you’d normally do at home.

Something calming.

And you’ll probably feel much better for it.

6.  Do What YOU Want To Do

When most people go to a place, they assume they have to do the “top 10 things” in that area.  I’m no different, trust me.

And usually, those things are good recommendations.

But that doesn’t mean you HAVE to do them.

If you don’t like art at all, then don’t go to the Louvre.

If you like to get outdoors, then go hiking or biking, even if it’s not “listed”.

And if something is a must-do but too expensive for you, like taking a gondola ride in Venice for $120, then skip it.

It’s your trip, so do what YOU want.

7.  The Biggest Ways to Save Money Are on Flights and Accommodations…

I’ve written at length about frequent flyer miles and how they can get you flights around the world for under $100.

If you’re not earning and using frequent flyer miles effectively, this needs to be priority #1.

There are also two other main ways to save money on flights.

First, consider flying on budget airlines.

I’ve flown over 30 times with the world’s best budget airline, Air Asia, and never had a bad experience.

In fact, I find Air Asia preferable to many bigger US carriers like United, American, and Delta.

To find out which budget airlines operate in the areas you’ll be in, check out this Wikipedia page.

The other way is to take advantage of mistake fares.

This is how I scored $125 tickets to Italy, $225 tickets to Spain, and $550 tickets to China.

For everything you need to know about mistake fares, check out this post.

Saving money on accommodations is even easier.

When most people think of where they are going to stay when traveling, they instantly think of “big box” hotels, like Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, etc.

I’ll certainly stay there if I have hotel points and free nights (again, it’s about getting value, and there isn’t much better value than free).

But if I’m paying, I’m always looking elsewhere.

Renting apartments can be an awesome way to spend less than a hotel and have a more authentic experience.

Hostels are another excellent option, and completely misunderstood by most people.

Nowadays, many hostels (the Mojito House notwithstanding) are more like boutique hotels without the price tag.  

There’s no better example of this than one of my favorite places of all time, the Lisbon Destination Hostel, which we scored for $40 a night.

And if you’re looking for even more authentic and cheaper options, there’s always Couchsurfing and housesitting.

I’ll take a mint on the pillow when I’m staying for free, but with all these options, there is no way I’m spending $150+ a night on a standard, sterile hotel room with no character.

8.  …But the Little Things Add Up Too

Remember that $2.50 you saved on a water bottle a little while back?

Well, do that 2 days in a row and all of a sudden you’ve saved enough money for the world’s best sandwich from All’Antico Vinao.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when wondering how they can save more money is to ONLY look at the big wins.

Sure, saving $600 on a plane ticket or $150 a night on a hotel room is awesome, and the main reason I’m able to keep on traveling.

But doing the little things can also help make a difference.

Save the money on that water bottle.

Walk the mile from the train station to your accommodations instead of taking the taxi.

Eat delicious street food instead of sitting down for a meal.

During the course of the trip, you’ll be surprised how much it adds up.

9. Walking and Biking Are Paramount

I consider walking and biking to be the best parts of most of my trips.

Biking through Kyoto at night, seeing geisha while whipping through the backstreets, was a magical experience.

Cycling through the small towns around Yangshuo, riding through “Jurassic Park-like” landscape and snapping hundreds of pictures, was one of my top five travel days of all time.

And I’ve already mentioned how much I love wandering.

Biking and walking are not only cheap (or free), but they give you glimpses of the real life of an area that you’d never get any other way.

10.  Splurging is Fine…In Small Doses

I was with the two most important women in my life; Heather and my twin sister Gale.

We were in Porto, my favorite city in the world.

And it was Valentine’s Day.

So we did something I rarely do, and went out for a very nice sit down dinner at one of the city’s finest restaurants.  

And it rocked!

The service was amazing.  The food was superb.  The portions were huge.  And the atmosphere was incredible.

It was a night that we will all remember for the rest of our lives!

Sometimes, even a curmudgeon like myself, needs to loosen up the purse strings a tiny bit and just enjoy it.

As long as it is only sometimes, skewing towards rarely, then you’ll be fine!

11.  Experiences are Valued Over Possessions, But Sometimes You Just Have to Buy It

I walked by the same woodcarving stand in Lijiang, China for 6 straight days.

I stopped in to gawk at the artwork almost each time.

I “chatted” up the young guy working there, which basically consisted of head nods, smiles, and giving him a thumbs up.

And I watched him carve a beautiful blue wall hanging.

I fought with my inner monologue for days.  I loved it, but it was a bit expensive.

I NEVER spend $100 on myself.

If fact, I can probably count on 1 hand how many times I’ve spent $100 on an item that wasn’t a laptop.

For some of you, this may not be a problem!

But it was awesome.  It was authentic.  And, after 4 days of debating, I ran down to the shop 20 minutes before we were catching our taxi, bartered him down to $60, and bought it.

Now, it’s hanging in my office, and one of my most prized possessions.

If it’s calling to you, sometimes you just have to buy it.  

And you don’t always have to wait 20 minutes before you leave, although if you’re as frugal as me, you probably always will!

12.  Always Try to Give Back to the Local Community

One of the main reasons I rarely stay at  big box hotels, unless I have a free night, is because I’d prefer that my money go back to the local community.

Not only will staying at a local owned guesthouse almost always be much cheaper, but that money is going towards the real people who live there, not to lining the pockets of a multi-national corporation who has bulldozed their way in to town.

While I may be frugal, I do find it much easier to spend money if I know it’s going towards someone who is working hard for it.

Like the woodcarver in Lijiang, China.

Or Sony, the world’s nicest guesthouse owner in Siem Reap.

Or Bunthy, my favorite cab driver of all time.

Eating local, staying local, and buying local is a win-win-win for everyone, and puts some extra cash in your pocket!

Final Word(s)

You may agree with all, some, or none of my philosophies around TravPacking.

I’m cool with any of the above!

The purpose is to show you how I’m able to afford to travel in a manner that is not only budget friendly but also lends itself to great experiences.

And hopefully help you find your own travel style and philosophy.

I’d love to hear any and all feedback about what you do differently.  We can all learn from each other.

Are you already a TravPacker?  What things do you do when you travel to find the “sweet spot” between cost, comfort, and experience?

My Top 10 Travel Experiences from 2013 (and 32 Cheap Travel Tips)

EPoPing-Victoria

That pose above is lovingly referred to as “The EPoP”. Arms and legs wide, head back, just taking in the amazing scenery around you. If you’re somewhere cool, take a pic doing the EPoP and send it to me!

This is the one part of my look back at 2013.  Other posts include:

2013 was an absolutely amazing travel year, taking us from the beaches of Nantucket to the narrow back alleys of Lisbon.

From the rocky bluffs of northwest Spain to the Rocky Mountains.

From Gilbraltar to the Golden Gate Bridge.

And while showing you pictures and telling you stories of my travels is great, I’m going to one up my Top 10 Travel Experiences post from 2012.

This time around, I’m going to tell you HOW I was able to do it, including “cheap travel tips” for every single place on the list so that you can Travel More and Spend Less!

Here’s my list of the my top 10 travel memories of 2013, in chronological order.

1.  Finally Visiting San Fran for the First Time

golden-gate-bridge

Waving hi to everyone while driving down Lombard!

Waving hi to everyone while driving down Lombard!

Every time I told someone in Japan that I was from America, they told me they loved San Fran.

When I replied that I had never been, they looked at me like I had 3 heads.

When I explained that San Fran was very far from my home on the East Coast, they still looked at me like I had 3 heads, but that was probably because of my poor Japanese.

So when we moved home from Japan, the very first trip we did was head out to San Fran for a week and a half.

And it was awesome!

Highlights included an awesome walking tour of the Mission, heading out to Napa for a day with friends, driving down Lombard street (4 times!), attending a Warriors game and indulging in some wonderful food.

How we did it cheap:

  • I used the Southwest points and Southwest Companion Pass I had earned from opening the Chase Southwest credit cards to get us roundtrip airline tickets for $10.
  • We stayed right downtown and paid pennies (relatively) by staying at the two really nice, really fun hostels (read my reviews here).
  • The hostels included tons of free (yep, free!) activities like the aforementioned walking tour and a wine and cheese night.
  • Overnight street parking is free in most areas.

2.  Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific-coast-highway

17 Mile Drive outside of Monterey at sunset.  Stunning!

17 Mile Drive outside of Monterey at sunset. Stunning!

In 2012, we had the opportunity to drive the Great Ocean Road in Australia, which still remains one of my all-time favorite experiences.

This year, we had the chance to take on the US’s equivalent, and it was equally as amazing.

We went from San Francisco to Monterey on the first day, driving the gorgeous 17 Mile Drive during sunset.

The next day, we went all the way down to Cambria, a drive that should take 2:38 according to Google Maps.

It took us 10!

Each and every turn, we stopped to take pictures.  We couldn’t help ourselves!

Every vista was more beautiful than the next, and we spent more time out of the car than in it.

How We Did it Cheap:

  • In Monterey, we stayed in a hostel. It’s barebones, but it was 1/3 the price of anything hotel in the area (see my review here) and parking is free.
  • The best part of the PCH, the views, are completely free!

3.  Viva La Espana

madrid-kisses

At the "edge of the world" in Finisterre, once believed to be the westernmost point in Europe.

At the “End of the Earth” in Finisterre, once believed to be the westernmost point in Europe.

In February, we jetted off to see my sister, who lives in Santiago de Compostela, and explore the rest of Spain.

We had no plans to go to Spain in February, but after finding $250 roundtrip tickets from New York to Madrid, there was no way were passing up the opportunity.

We spent 1 night in Madrid upon arriving, took the train out to Santiago, and then spent 4 great days exploring the old city and surrounding area, including a trip to the “End of the Earth”.

From there, we flew down to Malaga, trading the cold of northwest Spain for the sun and surf of the Costa del Sol.

Five days with a few British friends who flew in to visit was too short, but we did manage to squeeze in trips to see the Alhambra in Granada amidst all the eating and lying by the pool that we did.

Once we took them to the airport, Heather and I drove across the southern coast of Spain to Gilbraltar, a funny little place that’s best attribute is being able to see both Africa and Europe at the same time.

How We Did it Cheap:

  • We got a mistake fare ticket to Madrid, which only cost each of us $250 roundtrip!  Make sure to follow The Flight Deal to get the best deals on paid tickets, and when a mistake fare happens, jump on it immediately and figure the rest out later.
  • Travel to Europe in the off-season.  Sure, it was colder than we would have liked, but you miss all the crowds and you can score sweet deals on accommodations.  Our 3 bedroom villa in Malaga was less than $100 a night (and we split it 3 ways)!
  • Fly budget airlines in Europe.  Our tickets from Santiago to Malaga were only $30 per person on Ryanair.

4.  Falling in Love With the Portugal

The incredible limestone cliffs in Lagos, Portugal

EPoP’ing the incredible limestone cliffs in Lagos, Portugal

The famous cable cars of Lisbon.

The famous cable cars of Lisbon.

The Pena Palace in Sintra is one my favorite monuments in the world.

The Pena Palace in Sintra is one my favorite monuments in the world.

The Dom Luis Bridge in Porto.  Notice the similarities to another famous monument?

The Dom Luis Bridge in Porto. Notice the similarities to another famous monument?

While it may not get the publicity of it’s much more touristed and popular neighbor, Portugal was every bit as amazing as Spain.

After leaving Spain, we road-tripped through Portugal, hugging the southern coast.

We spent a very wet night in Lagos, which was beautiful but completely dead during the off-season.

Next up was Lisbon, a fantastic city with one of the neatest historical sites I’ve ever been to:  The Palace of Sintra.

Last year, I claimed that Angkor Wat was my “hands-down the coolest historical site I’ve ever been to.”

While that still may be true, Sintra is a close second.  It’s the type of castle any kid would dream up, except it actually got built in real life!

After Lisbon, we continued north up to Porto, which just may be my new favorite city in the world.

Awesome food, amazing views, cheap prices, a great vibe, tons of stuff to do…and port wine!

What more could someone want?

How We Did it Cheap:

  • In Porto, stay at the Casa dos Guindais.  It’s one of the most unique places I’ve ever stayed and it can be had for under $80 a night (tell Alvaro I sent you).
  • You can use your cellphone for less than $10 by getting a Portuguese SIM card and switching out regular SIM card.

#5.  Garden of the Gods and Rocky Mountain National Park

Garden of the Gods outside of Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods outside of Colorado Springs

 

EPoP'ing in front of the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park

EPoP’ing in front of the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park

In May, Heather and I were fortunate enough to be invited to attend a conference in Colorado Springs for travel bloggers.

Of course, we put our Southwest Companion Pass to good use and once again snagged tickets roundtrip tickets for $10 each.

We also decided to spend a few extra days out there, so we explored the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and then headed up to Denver.

We made the day trip up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, which had 4 feet of snow in some places even though the temperature in Denver was 80 degrees!

Another great highlight was biking around Denver for a day.

I’m amazed at how open and easily accessible cities can be to bikers when they don’t start Phil and end with delphia.

How We Did it Cheap:

  • Denver’s great bike-share program only costs $8 per day and is an awesome way to see the city.

#6  Spending a Week in the US’s “Hippest Town” for the World Domination Summit

Multnomah falls, about an hour outside of Portland

Multnomah Falls, about an hour outside of Portland

The gorgeous Willamette Valley wine country.

The gorgeous Willamette Valley wine country.

Portland, what a treat you were!

Heather and I went out to Portland for an amazing conference called the World Domination Summit, hosted by my friend and EPoP podcast guest, Chris Guillebeau.

Of course, we once again used our Southwest Companion Pass to fly there, which meant, that yes, once again, we paid $10 roundtrip.

The conference was only Friday-Saturday, but having never been to the Pacific Northwest before, we decided to make it a Tuesday-Tuesday excursion.

Eating was tops on the list, including trips to the PB&J food truck, Salt & Straw, quite possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever had, and multiple happy hour stops at Brix Tavern.

When not indulging, we visited the magnificent Japanese gardens, which brought back a flood of memories and truly is an exact replica of what you see in Japan itself.

We also made it out of the city to Multnomah Falls and up then up to Washington State to visit some relatives.

And of course, no trip for Heather is complete without a stop in the region’s wine country.

The Willamette Valley was stunning, and was everything that I imagined Napa would be like but wasn’t.

With the perfect weather in July, is there any better place in America to be than Portland?

How We Did it Cheap:

  • I can’t stress enough: The Southwest Companion Pass.  We flew for $10 roundtrip.  When you aren’t paying for flights, travel is cheap!
  • Portland has to have the best happy hours in the country.  Most bars run them from 2pm-6pm, and then again late night for a few hours.  And most bars offer 50% off drinks and food.  Incredible!

#7  The ‘Sconset Bluff Walk on Nantucket and Massive Lobster Rolls on Martha’s Vineyard

Quintessential Martha's Vineyard: Enjoying lobster rolls from Grace Church on the beach.

Quintessential Martha’s Vineyard: Enjoying lobster rolls from Grace Church on the beach.

The path through town leading to the 'Sconset Bluff Walk.

The path through town leading to the ‘Sconset Bluff Walk.

A view from the 'Sconset Bluff Walk as you reach the end.

A view from the ‘Sconset Bluff Walk as you reach the end.

It rained almost the entire 2 days we spent on Martha’s Vineyard, but all of that was forgotten the last night, when we ate the world’s largest lobster roll from Grace Church.

Luckily, the bad weather didn’t follow us when we moved to Nantucket for 2 days.

Nantucket is everything it’s cracked up to be, and we literally biked the ENTIRE island.

The best part was the absolutely breathtaking Sconset Bluff Walk, in which you actually walk through the backyards of some of the world’s nicest residences.

It’s incredibly difficult to find (go to the end of Front Street, follow the sign that says “footpath” and then go left through the hedges).

It feels weird to walk through someone’s yard (although it’s technically public property).

But who cares!

The views are out of this world, and you also get to get a peek at how “the other half lives”.

How We Did it Cheap:

  • The ferries are never cheap, but the slow one is only half the price of the fast one and only takes 1 hour longer.
  • Bringing a car on the ferry is expensive and renting one on the island is even worse.  Instead, rent bikes and use the easy to figure out public buses to get around both islands.

#8 Driving the Icefields Parkway and Camping in the Canadian Rockies

Jasper National Park, where it's impossible to take a bad picture.

Jasper National Park, where it’s impossible to take a bad picture.

elk-jasper-national-park

EPoP'ing the Icefield Parkway

EPoP’ing the Icefield Parkway

Stanley Park with downtown Vancouver in the background.

Stanley Park with downtown Vancouver in the background.

We had heard that the drive through the Canadian Rockies and onwards toward Vancouver was beautiful.

But this was plaster-your-face-to-the-windshield beautiful!

We saw elk and bear (though luckily  not while camping).

We relaxed in the Banff hot springs.

We hiked the trails around Lake Louise.

And I even took a dip in the 35° F, glacier fed Moraine Lake, mostly because everyone said I wouldn’t do it (peer pressure…it works every time)!

Every part of this trip was incredible, and it was made all the more special because we were able to do it with 5 of our best friends, representing 4 different countries.

How We Did it Cheap:

  • Camping is always a fun and cheap option.  Even in amazing parks like Banff, we paid less than $30 per night per campsite.
  • In Vancouver, we stayed at the HI-Vancouver hostel, which was right in the heart of downtown.

#9 Bourbon Street For a Bachelor Party

A look down Bourbon Street

A look down Bourbon Street

Too close for comfort?

Too close for comfort?

Sure, it sounds cliche: going to New Orleans for a bachelor party.

But there’s a reason for that, and it’s because it rocks!

Seven of us traveled to New Orleans (four of us flew for free using the Southwest Companion Pass) and rented out an AirBnB place on Frenchman Street for an extended weekend.

It was about a 10 minute walk to the jazz clubs on Frenchman or the French Quarter and Bourbon Street and cost only $150 per night for the entire house!

New Orleans itself was a complete blast, but not just for the reason many would imagine for a bachelor party.

While we certainly spent some time drinking Hand Grenades, we also went on a swamp tour, saw a few jazz shows, went on a historical walking tour, and got invited to an awesome tailgate at the Superdome prior to the Saints-Falcons game.

In a town with so much to do (not to mention eat and drink), it’s impossible not to have a blast!

How We Did it Cheap:

  • Broken record alert:  4 of us flew to New Orleans for $10 each using the Southwest Companion Pass.  It rocks!
  • AirBnB is awesome for finding cheap (and cool) accommodations, especially for large groups.  I use it all the time.
  • The bus to/from the airport is less than $4 and will drop you right near the French Quarter. WAAAAY cheaper than a taxi.

#10 Driving 18 Hours to Tampa

The reward after a crazy trip.

The reward after a crazy trip.

The sign that started it all in Savannah.

The sign that started it all in Savannah.

Picking up a puppy in Richmond?  Sure, why not!

Picking up a puppy in Richmond? Sure, why not!

Out of all my travels this year, the trip to Tampa was definitely the craziest.

What?

How was Tampa, of all places, the craziest?

I wrote all about the adventure here, but long story short, I presented at a conference in Tampa and only had 30 hours of notice.

Instead of flying, Heather and I drove (for various reason explained in the longer post) and had some (mis)adventures, such as spending an extra night in Savannah thanks to a 2 for 1 margarita deal and picking up a toy poodle in Richmond.

Again, the entire story, as well as a goofy video starring yours truly, can be found here.

How We Did it Cheap:

  • We used Choice Hotel points to stay at Suburban Extended Stay Hotels for two nights (only 6,000 points/night).
  • We eschewed the big name hotels downtown Savannah, which were charging $120+ and stayed at the Inn on Ellis Square, which was only $79 and just as nice.
  • Tequila Town in Savannah offers an incredible “buy 1 get 1 free” special on margaritas basically all the time and offer you free chips and salsa.  Since margaritas are only $4 anyway, and strong, you may end up spending the night!

I was fortunate enough to have some absolutely amazing travel experiences in 2013.

None of these would have been possible had I not taken advantage of the cheap travel tricks I’ve learned over the past 5 years.

If you’re interested in continuing to learn all about how to travel more while spending less, make sure to sign up for the Extra Pack of Peanuts newsletter, and receive a free copy of my “Become a Frequent Flyer Millionaire” series.

What were your best travel experiences of 2013?  And what were some of the best cheap travel tricks you used to get there?

How 2 Funerals Have Reshaped My Beliefs on Travel

Globes

In the past week, I’ve attended two funerals.

One death was unexpected, while the other was known for a long time.

One was married with a large family, the other was single.

Both were in their late 50’s, early 60’s.

Both were heavily beloved, with over 300 people showing up to at each funeral.

And both hadn’t traveled very much.

In fact, I’m fairly certain that neither had ever been out of the country.

As funerals are wont to do, I began to think about my own life.

The natural take-away and assumption would lead you to believe that I thought:

“life is short, so take every chance you can to travel and see the world, because you never know when you won’t have that chance.”

Well…not quite.

I’m as a big a proponent of traveling as the next person.

Heck, I run a website devoted to it and a host a podcast where I interview some of the world’s greatest travelers!

But for me, travel is the easy part.

It’s easy for me to be in a new country, full of exciting new people, having my senses bombarded with new sights, tastes, and smells.

To wake up excited every morning.

To be content to just wander around the streets, looking for adventure.

To live every day to it’s fullest.

To feel alive.

That’s easy.

What isn’t easy is being home.

I get restless.

I get antsy.

I get agitated much more quickly.

I get jealous of emails from readers who are going on their next trip, and think “why isn’t that me?

I stare at google maps for hours, wondering what a country looks like from the ground, wishing I was there.

And by doing that, I miss A LOT.

old-world-map

You see, the purpose of this post IS what you assume.

It is “Carpe Diem”.

It is “seize the day”.

But that’s MUCH different than “Carpe Diem…when in another country.”

Or “seize the day…when traveling”.

I am extremely blessed to have a wonderful family and wonderful friends.

When I’m home, I live in an area that has every single convenience I could ever want.

It also has as many opportunities to explore as any other place in the world.

I’m 2 hours from one of the world’s largest cities.

I’m 3 hours from the nation’s capital.

I’m 45 minutes from where our country was founded.

I’m 15 minutes from one of the most famous spots of the Revolutionary War, a place George Washington slept.

And yet, day after day, I pass through these areas, rarely pausing to enjoy them.

Rarely letting my sense be overloaded.

Never allowing that same sense of amazement and wonder that I have when I’m “really” traveling.

And that’s a shame.

And it’s all my own fault.

It’s not the place I live.

It’s not the surrounding circumstances.

It’s nothing other than my own apathy.

I have absolutely nothing against being filled with wanderlust.

Nothing against staring at maps and thinking “I want to go there” to every place imagineable.

And certainly nothing against actually doing it.

I’m incredibly blessed to have been able to see parts of the world that the two people who passed away never saw.

I’m blessed to know that I’ll be able to see many, many more in the next few years, and that I’ll be able to do it for almost free.

But what I need to realize is that when I’m at home, when I’m “sleepwalking” through my day (as I recently mentioned on my latest podcast), that I’m wasting a day.

A day that I have on this Earth that I’ll never get back.

Both of these people never left the country, and yet they lived incredibly fully, enriching lives.

They weren’t upset about not being able to see the Great Wall.

Instead, they were busy making their lives, and the lives around them, as exciting and enjoyable as they possibly could.

So, instead of seeing these days at home as just an inconvenience between trips, I need to start seeing them as an opportunity.

To explore, anywhere and everywhere.

To connect, with friends and family.

To enjoy, cherish, and revel in.

It’s time to start living EVERY day to the fullest.

Whether I’m traveling…or not.

Whether I’m in Calcutta….or Collegeville.

The Philippines…or Philadelphia.

A hostel….or home.

“Carpe Diem…wherever you are”

“Seize the day…EVERYDAY”.

What life events have reshaped and shook your view on travel?  How did you change afterwards?

If this post has struck a chord with you, I ask that you please share this on Twitter and Facebook.  I think many people can benefit from hearing this message (I know I sure did).

(Photo courtesy of Brett Jordan, Ivan McClellan)

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