Vacations, Tips & Hotels - Travel Site

23 Reader Questions 23 Attempted Answers


Not every issue needs a long, drawn-out blog post to answer, so I like taking your questions now and then and helping solve some travel problems. So let’s take a break from our regularly scheduled articles for another round of Q&A!

A few weeks ago, I put a call out on social media for reader questions on travel, life, and anything in between. There are usually a few questions I’ve never answered before, weird ones about life, and just funny pop culture ones! Today’s blog post is my attempt to answer these questions. Some of them overlapped, so I trimmed the duplicates down, got rid of the really inappropriate ones (haha), and put the rest here. Hopefully, in answering someone else’s question, I’ll also be able to help you too.

What are your thoughts on train travel vs. flying between cities in Europe? – John

I love train travel in Europe. It’s scenic and relaxing, and the trains are way more comfortable than economy class on planes. It’s a lot less stressful than flying too. That said, it takes a lot longer, and tickets are often more expensive than some of the budget airlines in Europe.

I think it basically comes down to time and money (doesn’t everything?). For me, it depends if I’m in a rush. If I need to get someplace quick, I’ll fly. But, if I have time, a rail pass, or just find the ticket prices to be similar to flights, I’ll take the train over flying.

How do you feel about staying in hotels vs. Airbnbs? – Eric

I rarely ever stay in a hotel unless I am using hotel points, as I find them to be very expensive. I’d much rather be in an Airbnb, even if it is just for one night. I like the homey feel, the cheaper prices, and being able to ask questions of a local who knows the area. You make more friends staying with a local from a site like Couchsurfing than at a hotel. Here is a guide to Airbnb if you want more info on that service!

What are your thoughts on traveling to the European countries that have been hit by terrorist attacks? – Alexander

There’s nothing you can do to predict the future. Whether you go to a movie theater or club in the US or somewhere in Europe, you never know when violence will strike. Terror attacks occur randomly, so while I would be more vigilant, I wouldn’t let this change your travel plans. That’s what they want: they want us to cower in fear and be suspicious. I’d never let them control my life. (That said, I do avoid war zones.)

Do you have any advice on traveling solo? – Rod

That’s my whole website! Just click here to learn my best tips. This is the best starting point to learn the A-to-Z of planning your trip!

What was the transformative moment when you knew you wanted to make travel (and travel blogging) a career? – Dora

I’ve always described myself as an accidental travel writer. There was never a magic moment where I said, “I am going to do this.” But there were inflection points when I realized, “Wow, this business is growing. That’s cool. I guess I’ll keep riding this wave.”

How and when did you find that travel is your passion? – Jegan

I feel in love with travel on a tour to Costa Rica; it was the first time I was traveling as an adult. I loved the freedom and the sense of endless possibility. I just knew I wanted to keep doing it. Over time and a few more trips, it just became the only thing I wanted to do. I loved traveling and wanted to share that love with others.

When people say, “Go find your passion,” I always cringe a bit. It’s not like you can go out and just stumble upon it, like finding a lost set of keys. I think finding your passion is what happens when you end up doing something you love. If you talk to people who are passionate about their job, often it’s because they have been doing it so long that they are just good at it!

I love cooking. LOVE IT! But I’ve done it long enough to know it’s not my passion. It doesn’t make me feel the way travel does. I think you just have to explore your interests, and one day, one will have become your passion without your even noticing.

What are your thoughts on the Peace Corps? Have you met people abroad who are or were in the Peace Corps? What are or were their experiences like? – Jillian

I’ve never done the Peace Corps, but I think it is an amazing initiative. I was going to apply a few years ago after my first trip around the world. After I came home, I knew I needed to go travel again, so this was one of the things I looked into.

I’ve met many people over the years who have done it, and most of them have said it was one of the best experiences in their lives. Maybe someone can leave a comment here and share their first-hand experience.

Can we also use your blog’s Intrepid discount code with Geckos? – Geneviève

Sadly, it only works with Intrepid. You can get the 10% discount by clicking here.

What would be the best step to take for a 21-year-old who really wants to travel but doesn’t have enough money? – Alyiah

I’d go work overseas. You’re 21 and probably fresh out school. You have your whole life ahead of you! Get yourself a working holiday visa for New Zealand or Australia and get a job over there. Or go teach English overseas! There’s no reason why you have to have a certain amount of money. Just go with the money you have. There’s nothing holding you back at the moment. The world is your oyster.

Here’s an article on how to find work overseas and why being broke is the best time for you to travel.

I have three questions: What do you do for health insurance? Do you have a favorite credit card? What phone service do you use? – Susan

When I travel, I use World Nomads as my insurance provider. They are my favorite insurance company (and in my opinion, the best out there). I’ve been using them since I started traveling and highly recommend them. (When I’m home, I have coverage here in Texas).

For credit cards, I love the new Chase Sapphire Reserved. There’s a high annual fee but the rewards and travel credit make the fee worth it. For phone service, I use T-Mobile — but if you are going to be out of the country for a while, it’s better to get unlocked SIM cards as you go. It will work out cheaper than T-Mobile, and you can just top off as needed.

Do you have any advice for those who want to start a travel blog? – Ali

Sure, I have a ton! I would simply start with these two blog posts because they are more robust than any quick reply I write here. Here are the links:

How to Start a Travel Blog 9 Ways to Become a Successful Blogger

How do you keep costs down when traveling to expensive countries? – Liza

It’s easy to save money in Thailand but a lot harder to save money in Switzerland or Norway or Japan. Traveling to those countries on a budget takes a lot of work. Sometimes, you just can’t do it (I’m looking at you, Bermuda!). On the other hand, I think expensive countries are sometimes easier to travel to because locals, who face high costs, have invented smart ways to stay on a budget. It varies from country to country ,but for the most part, when I’m in an expensive country, I drink less, cook more, eat cheaper (not so healthy) food, take local transportation, and look into the sharing economy more: Couchsurfing, ride-sharing, meal-sharing, and everything in between. You have to get more creative, but I believe 99% of the world can be visited on a budget. It all depends on how much you’re will to do what you need to do.

I traveled Europe for a month and got pretty homesick toward the end. Do you ever get homesick? What would you recommend for those who do? – Jacob

I get homesick all the time. I’ve met many people who have too. In fact, I’ve met many people that have gotten so homesick, they’ve gone home. There’s nothing wrong with that.

There’s a certain flow to travel. A lot of people get homesick right away, but for most people, it’s around the 3-4-month mark and then again closer to the year mark. These milestones are when you seem to become more untethered your past, and for many people, that feeling makes them want to retreat back into their familiar bubble. They feel themselves changing.

But I say you should just power through it. It’s natural and will pass. Embrace the change! Since this feeling so often relates to travel fatigue, I say sit down, relax, enjoy the city you are in, take a deep breath, and then move on when you’re ready.

Are visas a big issue for you, if you’re in the middle of a trip outside of the US and you decide to go to a country that requires a visa? – Carl

You can get visas as you go. While some nationalities are required to get tourist visas in their home countries, for the most part, all you need to do is get the visa from the local embassy or consulate in the country you are in. There’s no magic to it. Need a Vietnam visa while in Germany? Head to the local Vietnamese embassy or consulate and apply (making sure you have all the appropriate documents). That’s about all there is to it.

Is it safe to travel to the US at this juncture? I have a long-term tourist visa but now I’m scared with the hate crime reported by the media. – Kanian

This question makes me sad, and I feel I could go on forever about it. For starters, the media always reports the stories that are negative. “If it bleeds, it leads” is why you think hate crimes are rampant and American conservatives think Muslim terrorists are everywhere and Paris is burning. Everything is always so negative all the time.

But the US is a country of 350 million people with great diversity. While there was a slight uptick in hate crimes after the election, the America that existed before Trump is still essentially there and is filled with good people who care about other people. That has not changed. Look at all the marches that happened against the travel ban. Just like I would say you have nothing to fear by going to Europe, you have nothing to fear by coming to the US.

I am planning my trip to Europe currently and would like to know how you handled the proof of future travel that countries require for visas. – Kim

Assuming you’re from a developed country, they will never check. They’ll never say, “Let me see that flight/bus/train ticket.” Well, the UK and Ireland might because those countries are strict, but no one else does. Outside of those two places, I rarely ever have proof of onward travel (and it’s usually the airline that asks), especially if I’m traveling long-term. It’s a risk I’m comfortable taking.

But if you’re not comfortable with that risk, you can simply buy a refundable plane, bus, or train ticket to get you past border control. When you get into your destination, just cancel the ticket.

For other non-Western nationalities, you usually need a visa ahead of time and to get it, you’re required to have proof of onward travel anyways.

I would appreciate advice about hot springs and thermal baths in the USA. Thank you. – Helena

I’ve never been to one in the US and don’t know of any. For questions like this in general, Google is usually the best resource. When I ever I am looking for the “best in….”, I usually turn to Google.

Which of your destinations, if any, have most challenged your values as an American? – Nomadic Planet

I don’t think anything challenges my values as an American. Many places challenge my values as a human, but nothing ever made me question my American values. I don’t think a country has much to do with values. If anything, traveling has made me appreciate the greatness of America — but also that there are many things we have to work on.

What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything? – Jason

42.

Why don’t you organize trips with your followers? – Jorge

Actually, this year I am going to start doing group tours again! Check this post out to see all my 2017 tours!

Is Costa Rica safe? What is the best way to find a good travel buddy? – Wendy

Yes, it’s very, very safe. I have no safety concerns about that country.

To find a friend, there are a lot of places to do so. Check out this article where I list a ton of ways to meet people when you travel.

Any tips on how to travel with a dog? – Sally

I’ve never traveled with a pet, but these resources are really good and can help you plan your trip:

Dog Jaunt How to Travel With Your Dog The Lonely Planet forums as well as our forum too.

Where do you get your hair done? – Raimee

I’m glad you asked. I love my hair. It’s completely on fleek. I’m glad you like it too. I get it done when I visit NYC at this cheap barber on the west side of town. I think he does a good job for the price. Then again, I have a simple haircut, so I’m not sure how he could screw it up. Not like this one time in Taiwan, where they accidentally shaved my entire head so quickly I couldn’t protest in time. I was bald for a solid month. (No, I won’t be putting a picture of that online though!)

Photo credit: 1

P.S. BIG NEWS! This year I’m relaunching the Nomadic Matt group tours. You can come travel around with me and other community members! I’ll be doing four over the course of the summer. You can find out more about them and sign up by clicking here.

How to Find Work Overseas 15 Ways to Earn Money When You Travel


How much money do you need for your trip?

$1,000? $2,000? $5,000? $50,000?

I’ve estimated that a yearlong trip around the world will cost you an average of $50 per day. That includes day-to-day expenses, flights, gear, insurance, and everything in between. (It’s why my book is called How to Travel the World on $50 a Day!)

For most people, the thought of saving thousands of dollars to travel the world — or just travel at all — is a daunting prospect. While there are many ways to save money and travel on an ultra-tight budget (less than $50 a day), for some, there’s no amount of spending cuts or saving tips that will help them save enough. (Of course, to me, being broke is the best reason to go travel but that’s another story.)

Reading articles on how people saved [insert some crazy amount here] for travel (and how you can do it too!) can make you dispirited. “I could never do that,” you say. “Sure, those people saved tens of thousands making minimum wage, but I can’t even afford food.” All those articles on travel blogs, Elite Daily, Buzzfeed, and the like do people a great disservice — and are sometimes unrealistic.

I admit I’m guilty of this too. I’ve highlighted those folks and have often talked about how mindsets just need to be changed. I’ve said, “You can save all this money too” — without also saying “but if you can’t, it is OK because there’s another option.”

Travel within the budget you have, not the budget you wish you had. If you can’t save X, who cares? Just do the best you can with what you have. I think what gets lost in all those articles is that no matter how much money you save, that number is good enough. It’s not all or nothing.

I recently talked to someone who saved $5,000 for his trip. It took him close to a year to get there. Instead of giving up his dream, he simply decided to go to Central and South America. This part of the world is cheaper and his money would last longer. Moreover, he decided to do some volunteering to help cover his costs. He’ll go as long as his money lasts, but he’s still going!

If you don’t have as much money to travel as you want, consider option B: working overseas. Leave with what you have and then find work along the way to keep your wallet flush with cash — and keep you traveling.

It’s an option not enough travelers consider. Many people know about it but few actually do it.

But it’s not as hard to do as you might imagine.

Working abroad is a unique and wonderful experience. It provides new insights into a country. It exposes you to a different culture. And it allows you to learn a new language, meet new people, and get a new perspective on the world. It’s an experience not many people get a chance to have. I worked in Thailand and Taiwan and it was life changing. I learned more about myself during that time than I did at any other point in my travels.

Finding work overseas is an informal process, and if you remember you are looking for a job rather than a career — and stay flexible — you’ll be able to find work anywhere. Whole economies and industries are built around employing travelers. (Heck, I don’t think the Australian economy would survive without the labor backpackers and travelers provide!) Many of the jobs will be unglamorous and hard, but they will allow you to earn enough money to keep you on the road longer.

Here are some examples of jobs that are easy for travelers to get and often don’t require a long commitment:Teaching English (or any language!)

Guy teaching studentsThis is the easiest type of job to get for native English speakers. Teaching jobs are incredibly abundant around the world, especially in Southeast Asia. Really, when in doubt, find a teaching job. They pay well, the hours are flexible, many many countries offer huge bonuses, and some schools will pay for your flight over. I saved over ten thousand dollars by teaching in Thailand. I’ve had friends pay off their student loans by teaching in South Korea. There are a lot of online resources for potential teachers, but if you’re interested I wrote a huge digital step-by-step guide on how to get a job!.

Not a native English speaker? Teach your own language. There’s a language school out there for everyone, especially in big international cities! You can also use websites like iTalki to teach people your native language online (if anyone wants to teach me Swedish, let me know!). You can do this from anywhere in the world and you don’t need any special accreditation. Sign in, talk, and get paid! (Benny Lewis from Fluent in 3 Months is a huge fan of the site — and he’s the best language expert I know, so it must be good!)

I taught in Thailand and Taiwan: not only did I have a fantastic time being an expat, I also learned a lot about myself and living overseas, and made enough money to keep me on the road for years. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.Get seasonal work

ski instructor with studentsMove with the seasons and work in ski resorts, as a camping guide, on boats, in bars or restaurants, whatever. There are many options — wherever there’s a big tourist season, you’ll find a big demand for temporary labor. Make sure you get to your destination well before the season starts to secure a job — if you show up mid-season, all the good jobs will be taken. Ask around at hostels in the area and they will be able to point you in the right direction!Do freelance work online

girl doing freelance workIf you have a background in web services, design, programming, or anything tech, a website like UpWork is a super way to find virtual work as you travel. There’s a lot of competition, but if you build up your portfolio, you can get a lot of work over time. I have a friend who gets all her freelance consulting jobs from UpWork and it pays her enough so she can keep traveling. If you don’t have tech skills, you can still start a profile and find clients for a variety of research-based and virtual assistant jobs.

Task Rabbit, Outsource.com, and Fiverr are three other sites for finding online work.Work on a cruise ship

people gathered on a cruise shipThis option is an excellent way to earn good money while getting a taste of the world, gaining some solid work experience, and networking with people (both fellow crew and passengers) from around the world. Many of the easy, low-wage jobs usually go to people from developing countries, but there are many other jobs available to choose from.

This book by Wandering Earl (who worked on a cruise ship) is a great place to get started.Under 30? Get a working holiday visa!

cubicles in an officeWorking holiday schemes allow people under the age of 30 to work abroad. These programs tend to be used mostly by gap-year travelers, students, or young adult backpackers. Most of the countries that offer these programs are English-speaking Commonwealth countries such as Canada, England, New Zealand, and Australia (under 35 now). The visa application process is pretty simple, and the visas are usually issued for one year. Typically, the visa comes with the stipulation that you can’t work in one place for more than six months.

Most of the working holiday jobs you can find are typically service or low-wage office jobs. Most people become office assistants, laborers, bartenders, or waiters. The pay is not always great, but it’s enough to live off of and usually will give you a little extra money to save for traveling.

For these jobs, you’ll need to bite the bullet, fly to these countries, and look for work when you land. While sites like Gumtree have some listings, you’ll find the majority of work when you land. Many companies specialize in placing travelers. And hostels usually have job boards and can offer a lot of assistance in finding work!Be an au pair

a young woman taking care of a babyLove kids? Take care of someone else’s! You’ll get room, board, and a weekly paycheck. You’ll have to be around a lot to watch the kids, but you’ll normally get the weekends off and some vacation time to explore the country! These are some popular websites for finding au pair jobs:

Au Pair Au Pair World International Exchange Go Au Pair

This is also a good article about what being an au pair is like.Work in a hostel

people checking in at a hostelHostels are often looking for staff to work the desk, clean, or show the guests around town. You can often trade a few hours of cleaning for a free bed. Even if you aren’t getting paid, but just getting free room and board, it’s still a way to save money. When you aren’t spending, you’re saving! Moreover, these jobs can often be for as long as you want — a day, a week, a month… whatever you want and they need.Become a scuba diving instructor

scuba instructor diving with groupIf you are a certified diver and want to become an instructor (additional classes may be needed), there are dozens of huge scuba destinations around the world where you can easily find work (including Thailand, Cambodia, Honduras, the Caribbean, and Bali). You can find jobs just by going there and asking around.Use your skills!

man preparing foodUse your existing skills and talents to find work. Teach people how to play music or how to dance, cut hair, offer business consulting, cook for people — use whatever skills you have to find a job. Don’t be shy. Be creative! Websites like Craigslist and Gumtree are two places to advertise your abilities and find work. Where there’s a will, there is a way!

Creating your job is one of the easiest ways to get a job. Somewhere at the destination you are going is a person who wants to learn the skill you have. Teach them. Get paid.Become a bartender

bartender performing tricksBars need bartenders. So you’ll find plenty of bars that pay cash to travelers looking for work. Bars in party destinations or at hostels are the best places to start looking, as they often have a high turnover and the work can be steady. In countries that have working holiday visas, these jobs also often go to travelers. I’ve also seen bars in Southeast Asia and Europe hire travelers under the table to do work and pass out fliers. It’s not a lot of money but it’s enough to cover some meals and drinks.Work in a restaurant

waiter serving customersIn that same vein, waitstaff, busboys, and dishwashers are always in demand, since people come and go from those jobs very frequently. These jobs are easy to get, especially in popular backpacking and party destinations, as well as large cities. Again, in countries that have working holiday visas, travelers become the backbone of the service economy and jobs can often be easy to get.Do volunteer work

woman picking fruitWhile these jobs don’t pay, you’ll save money on room and board, which will keep you on the road longer. Plus, you’ll be doing something good. Win-win! You don’t have to spend a lot of money with large global organizations in order to volunteer; those companies just end up keeping a large cut for themselves for “operations.” Instead, when you arrive at a destination, find volunteer opportunities where your time (and money) can help the most. I also highly recommend the website Grassroots Volunteering; it’s the best site for finding small-scale, local volunteer initiatives. Additionally, Workaway.info and WWOOFing are other good resources to find volunteer opportunities.Be a tour guide

tour guide leading groupUse your love of travel to work in travel! Tour companies are always on the lookout for new tour guides. This is more of a “real” job than the rest, but it’s a fun (though tiring) means of employment. The pay isn’t great, but you get your expenses paid while on the tour and get to meet people from all over the world. Companies that often hire travelers are Busabout, Kiwi Experience, New Europe Walking Tours, and Contiki. (Note: these jobs often require a long-term commitment.)Work on a yacht

a luxurious yachtIf you love the water, work on a boat (and forever be singing “I’m on a Boat” by Lonely Island). Yachting jobs are surprisingly easy to get without much experience (though it helps), and you’ll be able to sail around while doing so. One of my readers did it so she could see the world. You can find jobs on the following websites:

Jobs on Yachts Superyacht Jobs The Crew Network

Note: Positions are long-term, and you’ll be required to get a STCW 95 certificate, which covers all basic yacht training, including fire and water safety training.Take whatever you can find

woman holding cashYou can always trade your labor for pay. There are a lot of short-term jobs around the world, jobs that you can get on the fly. If you’re willing to work a few hours each day in exchange for room, board, and extra cash, you will always find something you can do. Here are several incredible resources for finding jobs as a traveler:

Craiglist Gumtree HelpX.net Workaway.info WWOOFing

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For those who want to work abroad but aren’t interested in any of the above, finding work is a bit harder — but not impossible. For older travelers or travelers with a skill or master’s degree, you probably want a better-paying, more traditional job relating to your skill set. You can find them, but it takes a lot more time.

In the European Union, visa rules require companies to give job preference to people within the EU before they hire someone else. In Asia, most companies want a foreigner to be able to speak the local language.

Finding “good” jobs requires more work and a lot of networking. While there are some job boards (see below) that can help, getting a more traditional job overseas requires you to either get contacted by a company or building your network and pounding the pavement when you get there!

Some steps you can take to find a job overseas:

Search job boards before you leave. Contact expat groups before you leave (and when you arrive). Attend their meetups. Create a LinkedIn profile. Bring copies of your résumé, recommendations, and any other professional certificates. Make business cards. Go to as many networking events as possible. Apply for jobs from local job boards.

You can find good jobs, but it is not easy. I’ve had many friends who have decided to stay in cities longer and, as they built up their social network, they’ve found traditional jobs.

Here are some resources for finding jobs overseas:

Council on International Educational Exchange Work Abroad Program – It offers students and recent graduates short-term work permits for Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Ireland, Canada, and Costa Rica. The Council also offers advice and support, but it is your responsibility to find a job. Alliances Abroad – Guarantees paid work placement before your departure and organizes accommodations. BUNAC – Offers work-abroad programs in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Peace Corps – A US governmental program that places people around the world. Open only to US citizens. Volunteers get a stipend and money at the end of their contract. The program also helps pay off student loans. US State Department – Has a good list of job placement websites. Go Abroad – This site also has a list of available jobs from around the world. It’s geared towards younger travelers.

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Whether you are going to teach English, wait tables, bartend, sit in an office, work at a hostel, or land a high-paying job in your field, working overseas is something that will change you forever. Living in a different country is a unique experience not many people get to have. It teaches you a lot about yourself and your perceptions of the world. At the end of the day, that is what travel is about.

Don’t let money woes get in the way of travel. If you are creative and flexible about what you want to do, you will find work. Remember you aren’t looking for a career — you’re just looking for work. When you are flexible in what you want to do, there will always be work available to help increase your travel funds and get you to the next destination. You can worry about a career when you come home!

Don’t worry bout saving a lot of money for your trip. If you can’t, just get out there, find a job, work overseas, earn money, and then explore the world longer!

P.S. Looking for another way to kick start your new year? Over at the forums, we are doing our quarterly Travel Action Challenge, where you win prizes (like a $100 USD Amazon.com gift card)!

P.P.S. If you would like to help underprivileged students travel more, we’re currently fundraising for a group of students to go volunteer in Ecuador. Help us reach our goal, change someone’s life by exposing them to the world of travel, and get some travel swag in the process. It’s a trip win!