Phuket Emergency Rooms: Part 1

20170404_172416

“…he starts telling them about our day, embellishing it so that it almost sounds fun. It’s how all good travel stories are born. Nightmares spun into punch lines.”
Gayle Forman, Just One Year

I’ve always had pretty good luck.  When something “bad” happens it always seems to work out, and it leaves me in a better place than before.  When it feels like the sky is falling and the world seems to be ending, it usually turns out to be nothing more than a gentle storm guiding me in a new (and usually better) direction. But when you’re in the storm, all you’re really trying to do is survive. You only identify it as a blessing once it passes.  As they say, hindsight is 20/20.  

If traveling has taught me anything, it’s that I am never lost in the storm; I am the storm. I happen to things more than things happen to me.  Perhaps that’s an oversimplification or a matter of perspective, but I’ve found that as long as I keep going, I’ll make it through.

During each trip, I never know what moments or experiences I’ll look back on and talk about months later.  Sometimes it’s the place itself.  Sometimes it’s the random friends I made at hostels.  Sometimes it’s a moment that left me thinking “Fuck, I can’t believe this is happening to me.”  

It has been a few months since I got back from my trip to Southeast Asia, which has allowed me plenty of time to reflect on everything.  The good, the bad, and the unexpected.  After a trip, people always want to hear the crazy stories.  Oddly enough, the stories from this trip I’ve been telling the most stem from the moments least planned and somewhat unfortunate.

Since returning, the story I’ve found myself telling more than any other focuses on myself, my stupidity, my giant flaw involving doors, and [my first?] adventure with foreign medicine.

Before we begin, a few notes:

  • On a scale of 1-10 (1 being sober as a bird on a Wednesday at 3 pm and 10 being in a coma from alcohol poisoning), I was a 2. However, that’s not to say I wasn’t a 7 earlier in the evening.
  • The hostel we stayed at, Lub d Phuket Patong, was huge (5 stories) and had an urban/modern vibe, meaning it was full of open spaces, large entry ways, and had a boxing ring in the middle of the lobby.  A very dangerous place.
  • Real friends ride with you to the ER, regardless of the time.
  • There are photos below, one of which may resemble a murder scene.  If you don’t like the sight of blood feel free to stop reading or skip over them.
  • Zoran isn’t good at catching people when they faint or doing doctor things when he’s “on vacation.”
  • Sometimes you really do get what you pay for

Now let’s begin.

I’d been in Thailand for 5 days, and Phuket for less than 16 hours, when it happened. The event that changed my entire trip.

After grabbing dinner with my friends and listening to Cam and Zoran discuss string theory and the future of AI, we went back to the hostel, eager to continue drinking, and all wanting to go out. Aside from Bangkok, Phuket is supposed to have the best nightlife in all of Thailand.   

20170404_220932

It started off like any other night…

After pregaming to the point of no longer wanting to go out (having reached level 7), I went up to the room to pass out, like a responsible adult, only to be shaken awake by Cam and Nick.  Neither were going to allow me to stay in.  After ample amounts of name calling and peer pressure I gave in.  The next thing I know, I’m on my way to a club called Illuzions with Zoran, Cam, and Nick (Priya was actually a responsible adult and stayed in).

Over the course of the next few hours, I had a couple tequila neats, showed off my super smooth white boy dance moves, and turned down a few invitations from some lovely Thai prostitutes.  By the time we returned to the hostel, I was basically sober (hence the level 2).  

Our room was up on the 4th floor, and was located on the complete opposite end of the building from the lobby.  To get to the elevator I would have had to walk through the lobby, kitchen/bar area, and pool area.  A walk long enough I wanted to avoid it if possible.

20170404_155334

Part of the hostel lobby

Earlier in the day when we dropped off our bags, I had noticed there was another elevator just a few steps from our room, although I had no idea how to get to it from the main level. Before we went out that night, I had seen Nick come out from a side hallway, and for some reason, I assumed that was the way to get to this other elevator.

As I made my way down the hallway, it led me outside the hostel.  I saw what looked like another entryway that would lead me back into the building.  Seeing as I now knew where I was going, I pulled out my phone to connect to the hostel’s free Wifi.  

Right as I hit the “connect” icon on my phone, I looked up, and walked head-first into a glass door.

The door completely shattered.

It sounded like a waiter had dropped a crate of glasses on the floor.

As I lay on the ground bleeding everywhere, I began yelling for Zoran (who just graduated from med school), knowing that he’d come help bandage me up, tell me it’s not so bad, and get to my room.

IMG_4984

It looks worse than it was

Before Zoran gets there a random guy staying at the hostel appears (drunk level 5) and attempts to help. He takes the shoestring from my formerly white (now blood red) Vans and ties it around my leg to “make the bleeding stop”. Apparently, there is a giant gash on the shin of my right leg which was the main culprit for the blood everywhere. He then takes a towel and tries to wipe the blood away. The main issue with this is that as he is wiping back and forth the skin on my leg is flopping back and forth.  Let’s just say it didn’t help to ease the pain I was in.
It was chaotic few minutes, to say the least. While all of this is happening I am still yelling “Z, Z, Z, help.”
After what felt like an eternity (though to be fair it was probably a couple of minutes) Zoran and Cam show up (Nick was conspicuously absent but more on that later)Cam’s first reaction was “holy shit Todd what happened” while Zoran’s was “Todd, are you kidding me, I’m supposed to be on vacation.”
I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand what the big deal was. As I’m laying on the cement floor outside the hostel I remember looking up at Zoran and Cam not grasping why they both had looks of genuine concern on their faces. When they told me they had called an ambulance and we were going to the ER I actually laughed and said “guys it’s just a cut; we need to stop the bleeding, find some bandages, and get me to my room. I’ll be fine.”
Cam’s reply “Mate, I can see the muscle in your leg, it’s not just a cut, you need stitches.”
Fuck me, right?
In true Todd fashion, my first thought wasn’t to worry about my leg, the pain I was experiencing, fear of foreign medicine, or terror at losing the rest of my trip. Each one of those took a backseat to “I don’t want to pay for the ambulance ride or a visit to the ER.” The main motivation for me wanting to “find some bandages” was to end up bankrupt in Thailand. I wasn’t trying to be tough, I was being my usual (and sometimes overly) frugal self.
After Cam assured me that my travel insurance would cover the cost I finally relented and agreed to go.
Quick Tangent:
If you’re going to travel somewhere, especially to the other side of the world, GET TRAVEL INSURANCE. I’ve written about travel insurance before and why it’s important. This was the first trip I had bought it and am really glad I did. In that moment knowing I wouldn’t have to pay for this out of pocket helped me to refocus on the actual issue, eg the fact that my leg wouldn’t stop bleeding.
Yes, they had to convince me to go to the hospital.
So at 4:30 in the morning we went for a ride.
17837680_10210917283440984_646404327_o

Real friends ride in the ambulance with you

They rolled me into a completely empty ER at the Patong Phuket Hospital. As I lay on the stretcher waiting for the doctor the other thoughts started coming into my mind. How bad is it really? Why did this have to happen? Is my trip over? It was hard in that moment to not feel sorry for myself and I won’t pretend for a minute that I didn’t indulge in a little self-pity.
While all these thoughts are coming into my mind I’m being asked about my medical history by a Thai nurse in broken English. Zoran and Cam were trying to do their best to help answer when another nurse shows up ordering them from the room. Apparently, “visitors are not allowed in the ER.” They both look at her and tell her they aren’t leaving me alone in a Phuket ER. She looks right at them, says ‘yes you are. It will take 15 mins.”
Without much of a choice they disappear and I’m completely alone.
20170405_035916
Apparently, in Thailand, 15 minutes really means something closer to 75. There I lay watching the clock trying not to think about what was happening to me. First, as I get a tetanus shot and then as they apply the anesthetic (kind of). I didn’t realize until they started the stitches that my shin wasn’t completely numb.
Quick tangent:
 
I’m not a tough guy by any means, but for some reason, I didn’t want to be the guy asking for more anesthetic. In my exhausted, shocked, and blood deprived state I thought it would make me look weak and be too big of a hassle. Coming from personal experience, please know it’s okay to be the guy who asks for more anesthetic. Yes, it’s worth the hassle.

Since I was too cool to ask for more anesthetic, I laid on the cot feeling the nurse work; knowing my skin was being stitched back together. After about 45 mins I heard the nurse who’d been working on my leg (who I know realize was a resident because why would you have your best doctors in the ER at 4 am on a Wednesday) call the doctor over to check her progress. I then hear “no no no” and the newly arrived doctor starts redoing the stitches.
Another 30 minutes goes by and she looks up at me and tells me that she’s done, with that cut.
15 stitches.
My right leg still had other cuts up and down from the falling glass. She offered to stitch up a few of the other cuts but I politely declined. Looking back, I should have let her stitch up a few of the other cuts. I have a few scars on my leg that I expect I’ll have forever. But like they say in Fight Club, “I don’t want to die without any scars.” Plus in that moment all I could think about was getting the hell out of the hospital.
I walked out the doors of the ER looking for Cam and Zoran. They are nowhere to be seen. I asked a Thai guy if he’d seen my friends and he told me they went home.
Just my luck.
Honestly, I wasn’t even mad. It was 5:45 in the morning. They were told 15 mins and it took over an hour. I completely understood why they’d have gone back to the hostel. I mean we did have plans to zipline later.
It was time for me to do the same.
I wandered around the hospital for another 10 minutes looking for an exit. I found it and a taxi driver outside. As I stood haggling on a price to take me back to the hospital I hear Cam’s voice yell out “Oh cunt, where the hell are you going”
Looking up in complete surprise to see Cam and Zoran at the hospital entrance. When I left the ER they were off having a “smoke break.” Zoran looks at me, shakes his head, and asks if I’ve paid my bill, got my pain pills, or my medication.
I hadn’t. I may or may not have been trying to leave without paying my bill being utterly terrified about how much this was going to cost. Not something I’m proud of, but I also wasn’t in the best state of mind to make decisions.
Zoran and Cam ushered me inside to pick up my medication, pain pills, and pay my bill. My heart stopped when I saw the number 3,510. Then I realized I was in Thailand not the United States and did a quick conversation. 3,510 Thai Baht is roughly $104 USD.
20170405_051707
An ambulance ride, tetanus shot, anesthetic and 15 stitches for $104. Needless to say, my mood lightened instantly.
We took a taxi back to the hostel, went up to the room (taking the main elevator), and find Nick asleep in his bed. As we close the door he wakes up asking where we’ve been.
Man do I have a story for him…
20170406_080729-1

Doorway -1 Todd-0

The best way to keep up with my adventures is to follow me on Instagram- Todds_Tales.

Stay Gold.

Advertisements

Southeast Asia 2017: Cliff Notes

IMG_5668

I’ve just gotten back to the United States after my month long adventure in Southeast Asia.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about my adventures more in-depth focusing on what I did, why I chose to do it, and what I took away from my trip.  But before I get to all that I thought it would be a good idea to answer the questions I get the most by giving a “Cliff Notes” version of my trip.  Below you’ll find a list of things and experiences that I enjoyed, why, and even a few pictures to give context.

Enjoy!

My Southeast Asia Favorite:

PlaceKoh Tao, Thailand

No explanation needed.

IMG_20170408_172435_793 (1)

A view worth the climb

City Chaing Mai, Thailand (though Seminyak Bali is a close second)

Chaing Mai is the type of place you go to in order to really absorb the Thai culture.   It’s over a 100,000 people but it feels a quarter of that size. It’s not known for clubs and partying but is does have amazing cooking classes, elephant sanctuaries, and national parks.  It would be my first choice if I had 12 months to spend in Thailand and could only stay in once city.  It’s a great place to really begin to understand Thailand, the customs, and the culture.

20170402_085649 (1)

Patel and her boys land in Chaing Mai


CountryVietnam.

 It’s what I imagine Thailand was 20 years ago before it became so popular with travelers.  Food is delicious, things are cheap, and locals are kind.  Hoi An, Sapa, Halong Bay, Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, and Hanoi are all incredible in their own right and completely different allowing for you to get a real feel for the culture and beauty without having to go too far.

IMG_5772

Vietnam has a habit of making you feel like you’re on top of the world

SnackJ-Bay from Nula Bowl in Seminyak, Bali

What can I say? It’s healthy and delicious.

20170428_092856

Seriously delicious

Drink Homemade Rice Wine in Vietnam

“Mot, hai, ba, YO!!”

20170415_165726

When you’re tour guide is pouring you shots you don’t ask questions

Lost Item– Silk Painting from Vietnam

Though I lost 3 pairs of sandals, my cell phone, a pair of vans, and my Ray Bans, it’s misplacing the silk artwork I bought on our way to Halong Bay that I’m still not quite over.

Restaurant-Bite Delight (Tapas Style Restaurant) Koh Phangan Thailand

Quaint. Intimate (holds maybe 15 people). Amazing food to share and incredible sangria.  It’s a great place to spend time eating, laughing, and just being with the people you care about. Carlos (the owner) will make you feel like family and you won’t want to leave.

20170410_193227 (1)

It’s even more adorable on the inside

DayElephant Sanctuary and Bamboo Rafting outside Chaing Mai, Thailand

After waking up at sunrise and riding in the back of a covered pick-up for over an hour into the jungle of Nothern Thailand we arrived at the Elephant Sanctuary.  We started by feeding the 3 elephants, then rolled around in the mud with them, before following them to the river to clean both the elephants and ourselves.  After we cleaned up, we hiked to a secluded lagoon with a waterfall.  After swimming and eating, we walked through the village learning more about the community as a whole which was really humbling. Finally, we arrived at a river and climbed on rafts made of bamboo; rafting down the river controlling the raft with our bamboo sticks trying our best not to fall off (emphasis on trying).  Hard to imagine a better Monday than that.

IMG_20170405_134205_411

Never had more fun getting dirty

NightHalong Bay River Cruise

Honestly, this was one of the hardest questions to answer.  There are plenty of nights that were unforgettable, but my favorite was the night we spent on a houseboat in Halong Bay.  We’d chosen to avoid the cheap, partying, backpackers houseboat because we wanted time to relax.  At least, that was the intention.  Somewhere along the way, that message got lost.  The next thing I know Cam and I are taking tequilla shots with two 67-year-old ladies from Switerzland (S/O to Freeda) and orchestrating the most random and diverse game of Kings Cup I’ve ever played in my life.  Follow that up by trying to squid fish on the back of the boat with Nick and Zoja and you have a night you’ll always remember.

20170513_152257

My one-night boat bar tab.

Activity– Surfing

I love the ocean more than most people.  I’m scuba certified, have worked on a cruise ship, and dream of a living by the beach.  However, with all that I’d still never learned to surf.  But you know what they say, when in Bali…

20170428_135739

Bali seemed like a good place to learn

ExperienceWhite Water Rafting in Ubud, Bali

Let’s be real.  Anything that is a water activity with beautiful Balinese scenery that gets my adrenaline pumping AND has dedicated pit stops for beers was always going to be my one of my favorite things.  It wasn’t even close.  I don’t regret getting out and swimming in the rapids (though once was enough) but I do wish I’d brought my camera.

DSC_0201

The Bintang Boyz.

Tour– Hoi An Cycling- Bike Tour

Biking around Hoi An was simply peaceful and enjoyable.  Hoi An is a really cool city that isn’t overflowing with tourists but has plenty of culture.  The surrounding areas are full of rice fields and farms with bike paths all around.  A few hours cycling through them will erase any worries you may have.  The bike tour also included rice wine, local food, and canoeing down the river at sunset.

20170415_160526

Rice fields and bike rides will cure all ills

Souvenir- Painting from Bali

The one thing I always bring back when I travel is something to hang on my walls.

20170503_175547

got to decorate with something, right?

TuneAlchemy- Willaris K

Can’t not move and groove to it.

Tour GuideRemmy with Hoi An Cycling

Remmy was super personable, loved to sing karaoke as we rode, poured us rice wine shots, and wore my Nebraska flag as a cape.  Needless to say, he won me over pretty quickly.

20170415_162002

Remmy loves Nebraska now

Place we stayedVilla Allamanda, Seminyak Bali

It’d be silly to go to Bali and not stay in a villa…

20170429_133100

Selfie: The Boys and the water buffalo

20170415_162151

Nailed It.

Best of Southeast Asia:

Sunset: Railay Beach, Thailand 

IMG_20170406_185447_861 (1) (1)

Not all sunsets are created equal

Best Scenery: Sapa Vietnam

If you would have told me that I’d choose a place in the mountains over a place near the ocean as the place with the best scenery before I left I’d have told you to lay off the rice wine.  But Sapa is incredible.  Located in Northeastern Vietnam near the China border it’s one of the most amazing places I’ve ever had the pleasure of going.  The mountains, rolling rice fields, and abundance of trees make you feel as if you’re on another planet.

20170418_151935

Pictures don’t even do Sapa justice

Nightlife-  Bali.

Whether you want to go to a club, chill by the beach, or drink on a cliff overlooking the ocean- Bali has you covered.  As I like all three of those things it’s my easy choice.

IMG_6185

Single Fin on Sunday is a must

Best Street Food–  Vietnam.  

I could eat Pho and Banh Mi every day forever.

20170419_172128

Pho=Vietnam

Photo of Nick Sleeping

Nick has the “superpower” of being able to sleep anywhere.  It became a bit of a running joke with our group to exploit his power for our amusement.  Cam most of all.

18297015_10211146992663571_1425870046_o

Kid would sleep through an earthquake

Beach- Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach – Ko Phangan

I may be a bit biased on this because this was the first beach where I could go into the water after my stitches, but it was clean, off the beaten path, and exactly what we were looking for.

20170411_172607

Other:

Place I would liveBali

While I loved Ko Tao and Vietnam I never felt I could live in either place indefinitely. Both had drawbacks to the lifestyle I prefer to live.  Bali, however, hits it on the head. After spending a week there I completely understand why so many people go and never come back.  It has a great blend of Western and Eastern culture. It’s a fairly large island to the point where it doesn’t feel like you’re isolated on an island.  Add in the views, surfing, nightlife, people, the amount of outdoor activities and take my word that coming home was harder than I thought it was going to be.

20170428_091820

Most Pleasant Surprise-  Exploring the Paradise and Dark Cave Phong Nha National Park and Caves, Vietnam

I expected to explore the world’s largest cave- it was on the tour title after all.  However, two things really surprised me.  The first was the Dark Cave.  You’re exploring the cave in complete darkness aside from the headlamp on your head.  Every step is difficult to navigate as the cave is wet and muddy.  You get to slide down mudslides and at one point in the cave, you’re in a pool of water where you quite literally float.  The second thing that really made the experience incredible was the fact that the caves are right next to a lake.  After exploring the caves we spent the afternoon zip lining, kayaking, and swimming.

20170416_110635

Most Underrated Experience that no one talks about– Doing a Homestay in Sapa Vietnam

I had no idea what to expect in Sapa.  My friend Liam told me it was his favorite part of Vietnam and something I had to do.  Which means I had to convince the group to do the homestay and they were wary at best. Best decision I made on the trip.  We spent our 3 days hiking in the Himalayas Mountains.  Our nights around a table eating, drinking rice wine (and vodka), and spending time together.  The village doesn’t have any nightlife and barely has electricity.  It was a great 3 days of disconnecting from the world and enjoying the company of close friends.

20170418_113649

The Fellowship preparing for our journey

Once was enough– Floating Village, outside Seim Reap, Cambodia

We bussed an hour away from our hostel in Seim Reap to check out one of the floating villages of Cambodia.  While it was a cool experience I don’t see the need to go back and do it again.

20170413_180918(0)

Scariest Moment– 4 A.M. ambulance ride in Phuket, Thailand 

Though crashing a scooter and almost drowning in Bali are up there.  The ambulance ride followed by spending over an hour in a Phuket Emergency Room at 4 am getting 15 stitches in my leg has to be the winner.  But what’s a trip without a few scars.

17837680_10210917283440984_646404327_o
Real friends come to the ER with you at 4 am.

Tourist Guilt “Had to”Angkor Wat, Seim Reap, Cambodia

Don’t get me wrong, it’s something everyone should see at least once in their life.   However, this was the only thing on the entire trip I felt obligated to see.  We went to Cambodia for 3 days literally just to make sure we saw Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples.  Huge and humbling the Angkor Wat compound was completely worth it.  Though I’d be lying if I said I preferred Angkor Wat to Ta Prohm.

20170414_055533

Unique Experience- Asia Scenic Cooking Class,  Chaing Mai, Thailand

My traveling goal going forward is to bring something back from my travels that enhances my life.  Learning to cook something new fits the bill.  Apart from learning something new, the cooking class we took was an absolute blast.  Learning how to make authentic Thai food while in Thailand was definitely a unique experience.

20170402_193011 (1)

Spontaneous Decision- Bali Swing- Ubud, Bali

After we finished white water rafting I saw a sign saying “Bali Swing” this way,  I explained to the group that I’d seen something like it on Instagram (looked amazing) and since we were right there we should check it out.  With no background on if it was even the same thing, we headed straight there.  So glad we did.  Check out the video on Instagram.

20170427_165148

Ballin’ Out Moment- Getting custom suits tailored in Bali

Yeah, I’ve got a suit guy.

20170429_182042
Ballin’ out in Bali

Conversation- Seif explaining the Middle East to Nick (and myself)

One of my favorite things about traveling is getting to talk to people from outside the Midwest and outside of the United States.  Getting to hear their views on everything from life, to religion, and especially politics (American and World). My friend Seif was born in Egpyt and now lives in London.  After most of our friends went to bed in Sapa, he stayed up with Nick and I for hours explaining the different dynamics at play in that area of the world.  He answered question after question with complete honesty.  Not trying to make anyone good or bad just presented the facts as he knew them.  Anytime you can have a conversation with someone who has direct experience with something your best bet is to shut up, listen, and take it in.

Most Overrated- Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan, Thailand 

I enjoy it.  But this was as close to college spring break as we got on the trip.  I love Thai buckets and a good beach party as much as the next person, but to be honest I enjoyed the jungle party the night before more.  If you’re in Thailand it’s definitely something you should check out, but just expect PCB or South Padre in Asia with buckets.

IMG_5010

Reppin’ of Nebraska- Outside Hoi An, Vietnam

Water buffalo+Rice fields+Flag= Trifecta

20170415_161814

Random Discovery- LOVE sign- Koh Phangan, Thailand

20170410_183242 (2)

To keep up with my adventures follow me on Instagram Todds_Tales

Southeast Asia: A predeparture note on being ready…

wp-1490940726565.jpg

Today.  As in today, today.  As in right now.  

As I sit writing this on the plane from Kansas City to Los Angeles, it hit me full in the face, that the day has arrived.  Whether I’m ready or not, the time to feed my nomadic soul is here. I’m always amazed at how I can spend so much time counting down to something and then when it arrives be completely taken by surprise and unprepared.

This isn’t my first “big tip” nor will it be my last.  However, this trip is different for me.  I’ve spent the last couple of days really reflecting about my trip to Asia and why I feel so different about it.  

Usually, I can’t think about anything but the destination.

Usually, I’m getting ready to leave for months at a time.

Usually, I’m going alone.

But none of those “usuals” are true this time.  I’ve been so busy with work, redesigning my blog, and coordinating the trip I didn’t pay attention to how quickly the days were slipping by.  I’m pretty sure my friends and coworkers were more excited than I was- not fully understanding that my mind was on finishing everything I could before I left.  Some may even say that I wasn’t ready for this trip.

One of my many life rules is “have standards, not expectations”.  Since I first started traveling, people have asked me if I was ‘ready’ to go.  Which I’ve always found to be an absurd question.  It’s like asking someone “are you ready to have a baby” or “are you ready to get married’ or “are you ready to go away to college” you may think you are, but you can never be truly ready for anything in life that really matters.

Being ready implies you know what to expect and are prepared for it. That you have an idea of what’s waiting just around the bend, but that’s not what traveling is about and that’s sure as hell not what life’s about either.

The more I got the question the more I was reminded of René Descartes (the dude who said ‘I think therefore I am’).  Descartes was a philosopher and mathematician who had a theory about the human brain having a limit to what it can imagine and comprehend.  He’d tell someone to imagine an object with four sides (go ahead and image a thing with 4 sides).

Once they’d confirmed they could, he’d tell them to imagine a thing with a million sides (go ahead give it a try, I won’t judge you for failing).  Every single person would tell him they couldn’t do it.  

The predeparture part of traveling has always been like that to me.  Filled with a lack of expectations and readiness.  Afterall, how could I possibly be ready for something that I have never experienced?  That I can’t even comprehend?  We’re all limited by our experiences and until you go somewhere and do something there’s no way you can be ready for it.

I learned to approach my trips (and life) with that open mind and up for anything attitude.  It’s why ‘I don’t say no too much’.  That philosophy has led to some of the best moments of my life.  When you do something with an open mind, appreciate the little things, and don’t sweat the small stuff you’ll be amazed at the situations you find yourself in and the experiences you have.

All you can do is open yourself up to the new and exciting and that’s the reason so many people love traveling.  It forces us into situations we haven’t planned for and could have never imagined just a few days ago.  Traveling helps us to learn what we’re capable of by constantly keeping ourselves just a little uncomfortable.  Only through being challenged can we grow.

This trip is different from the ones I’ve taken before which means most of the experiences I’ve had before don’t really apply. I’ve been working instead of daydreaming about my destination.  I’m ‘only; going for a month and I’m leading a group of ten.  I’m even less prepared than usual.

So no.  I’m not ready.  But I’m going anyway.

The best way to keep up with my trip to Southeast Asia is to follow me on Instagram- Todds_Tales.

 

How To Travel: Travel Insurance

lee-key-119856

This is the fifth post in my “How To Travel” series. Before you read about why you need Travel Insurance you may want to check out “How To Travel: An Introduction” by clicking here, ‘Utilizing Credit Cards‘, ‘Ways to Make Money Traveling’ and “A Packing List for Southeast Asia”

I know what you’re thinking.  Do you really need travel insurance?  I’ve traveled quite a bit and never purchased it before. In the past, I didn’t think it was necessary.  I told myself that nothing bad was going to happen and was lucky enough that it never did.  However, if something had happened I’d have been in big trouble.  Had I damaged my ear drum while scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef or ended up hospitalized from dehydration after Tomorrowland it would have been 100x worse if I would have had to worry about hospital bills on top of everything else.
So why did I decide to get travel insurance before my next trip to Southeast Asia?
There are a lot of reasons to get travel insurance.  But for me, the biggest reason was it covers me if I get hurt while on my trip or any other medical emergency.  I’m not always the most graceful person and I have a habit of doing things before thinking them all the way through.  If I hurt my ankle exploring the caves in Vietnam or trekking in Thailand I want to make sure I can get the best medical care available.  Knowing that I’m covered if the worst happens allows me to continue to say yes to as much as possible.
Other reasons to get travel insurance:

You need to cancel your trip

What happens if someone gets sick and can’t travel, a parent dies, you’re required to work, or your house floods?

If you have travel insurance, you’ll be able to recover your out-of-pocket expenses for these covered reasons and more.

You miss your connection

You’ve planned a cruise but you discover the connecting flight to get to the ship is delayed. With the missed connection it looks like you will miss your cruise departure. How will you catch up to the ship?

Because you have travel insurance, you can take another flight to catch the ship at the next port-of-call. You’ll also have assistance services to help you arrange and pay for those travel changes.

Your flight is canceled

After attending the family reunion, you arrive at the airport to return home and are told tornadoes have canceled all flights through Dallas. Who will help you find a new flight to return home?

With travel insurance, you’ll have the money to refund the expenses of a new return ticket or to stay in a comfortable hotel.

A hurricane damages your destination

You saved all year for a summer vacation to Aruba, but a hurricane destroys the hotel a week before you depart. Will you lose all the money you worked so hard to save?

With travel insurance protection for weather damage, you’ll be able to recover your pre-paid costs. Travel assistance services will also help you arrange a vacation at a new location – one the hurricane missed.

You get sick or injured on your trip

You and your friends have planned a hiking trip to climb Machu Picchu since college. After your first night in Lima, you wake with severe stomach pains and a high fever. You cannot start your hike. Instead, you need emergency medical care – and quick.

With travel medical coverage, you won’t be paying a huge medical bill. You’ll also have assistance services –  in your own language – to locate a suitable medical facility and arrange transportation.

Your baggage is delayed or lost

You finally land at your destination.  Unfortunately, the airline made a mistake and your baggage will be delayed. Luckily you’ve got a change of clothes, but what about your other clothes, shoes, toothpaste, and personal items?

With coverage for delayed bags, you can relax. The service hot-line will help you recover your bags. You’ll also be reimbursed for the essential items you need to start enjoying your trip.

Or, you are required to speak at a business conference in Las Vegas, but somewhere in transit, your baggage is lost. Your presentation is tomorrow, how will you get ready in time?

With coverage for luggage that is lost, stolen, or damaged, you’ll be reimbursed for new clothes and personal items. You’ll can even get reimbursed for a suitcase so you can take your new stuff home.

Your passport is lost

You are at a conference in London, and you realize you left your passport at a local restaurant.

With coverage for lost passports, you’ll have help expediting the process of replacing and paying for a new passport.

You need an emergency medical evacuation

You and your daughter have planned a summer tour of Mont-Blanc, but high in the mountains your daughter is overcome with dizziness and a dangerously high fever. She needs immediate medical attention. How will you get her to safety?

With medical evacuation coverage, you can arrange safe transportation to a medical facility. Medical evacuations typically cost tens of thousands of dollars, but with trip insurance you won’t break the bank.

Your travel company files bankruptcy

You’ve planned a two-week honeymoon cruise to Alaska, but a week before the trip you see on the news that your cruise is canceled due to financial default of the cruise company. How will you recover your money?

With trip insurance that covers financial default, you’ll be able to recoup your expenses. With the help of assistance services, you’ll be able to reschedule your cruise as well.

You need emergency assistance services

You and your parents have planned a trip to their home country, but on your way, the train is canceled for mechanical repairs. You don’t speak the language. Who can help you locate alternative transportation?

With travel insurance you’ll have emergency assistance services. The service agents will recover your non-refundable fees, then locate and pay for transportation to get you where you want to be.

I recommend getting yout Travel Insurance from World Nomad (that’s where I got mine).   World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials. Even if you run out of travel insurance or leave without it, World Nomads can cover you. World Nomad helps you to travel smarter and safer.
In the end, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Packing List: What to Pack for Southeast Asia

crew-59382

One of the most overwhelming parts of traveling is packing. What do you need to bring on a trip across the world?  How much is too much?  What if you forget something? Packing for a long trip can be really stressful if you’ve never done it before.

When I tell people I love to pack they always look at me like I’m crazy.  I enjoy the challenge of packing.  It’s an exercise in thinking, planning, and minimalism which are three things I enjoy most.  How much do I really need to survive?  Do I own anything I can’t live without?  

One reason I love backpacking so much is because it helps me to declutter my life and remember how little “stuff” I need to be happy. 

Most people have a tendency to overpack.  They think about a billion different “what if’ scenarios and try to accommodate each one. It may seem obvious but keep in mind that when you’re backpacking you’re responsible for carry however much you bring on your back.  The more you bring the heavier the bag.  

As a fairly in shape and big guy ( 6’ 4’ 200 pounds), I have the luxury of being able to carry more weight without it exhausting me as quickly as it would others.  This allows for me to bring a few extra items that may not be a necessity for my trip but more of a luxury (hammock and camping blanket etc).  

Three things I always keep in mind when packing for any trip are:

1.Where am I going?

2.When am I going?

3. People live there.

Where Am I Going?

This first one is pretty obvious.  A trip to Iceland requires a different packing list than a trip to Bali.  When going somewhere it’s vital you take into consideration that country’s customs, temperature, and lifestyle.  Regardless of where you plan on going there are plenty of resources that explain what to expect and how to act.  Once you’ve done your research use the knowledge to make a list of what is appropriate and necessary to bring with you.  For example, tank tops, shorts, and sandals are not appropriate attire to wear when visiting temples in Southeast Asia which means you should bring pants and closed toes shoes.

When Am I Going?

Again this may seem obvious but do your research on weather patterns throughout the year.  When is winter?  What’s summer like?  A place like Vietnam has two different seasons: dry and wet.  Are you going in the dry season or should you be prepared for monsoons throughout your trip?  Does it get really cold at night when the sun goes down? The weather during your trip will have a big impact on what clothes you need to bring with you.

People Live There.

When people overpack it’s because they think they need to bring everything with them for every possible scenario.  They don’t seem to realize that people live there and function every single day.   It may not have the most recent style or your preferred brand of something but odds are if you forget something you can buy it while you’re gone.  Instead of over packing with stuff you “may” need, leave it at home. If you do need it, buy it abroad.  It will save you room and you’ll bring home some souvenirs with a story.

Okay, so what’s on my packing list for Southeast Asia?  I’ve split my list into different categories based on use of an item and where I store it.  Keep in mind, that when I’m not on a flight EVERYTHING (including my daypack and everything in it) can fit in my Dueter 65 L backpack to make for easy transportation.  You really don’t want multiple bags to carry and move when getting in and out of taxis, trains, tuk tuks, or ferries.

img_2088.jpg

In my Deuter Transit 65 Travel Pack

Tops:

Tank Tops- 5
T-Shirts- 6
Button down- 1
Cotopaxi Windbreaker
Pullover/ Quarter zip-1

Bottoms:

Shorts-4
Pants-1
Boardshorts-3
Underwear and compression shorts-7
Socks- 10

Shoes:

Sandals- 1 pair
Nike Running shoes- 1 pair
Vans- 1 pair

Hats:

Serengetee 5 Panel Globetrotter
Outdoor Research Sun Hat

Won’t Travel Without:

Double Camping Hammock
Cotopaxi Kusa Blanket
Microfiber Towel
Grid-It Organize
Eye Mask and Ear Plugs
Combo Lock
4 Combo Master Lock 653D
LED Headlamp
Hydration bladder (Daypack has hydration sleeve)
Selfie Stick (believe it or not it comes in handy when everyone wants to be in the picture)
Travel Power Strip
Portable Wireless speakerMosquito Repellent
Converter

Toiletries:

Toothbrush
Toothpaste
Comb
Floss
Glasses
Contacts
Contact solution

img_2086-e1488746692761.jpg
In My Carry-On: the 
Cotopaxi Del Dia Daypack Daypack

Macbook Air and charger
Passport
Ray Ban Sunglasses
GoPro HERO4
Headphones
Charger
Power Bank
Kindle Fire
Notebook/Journal
Collapsible water bottle
Portable External Hard Drive
Canon PowerShot SX280
DJI CP.PT.000731 Spark Palm launch, Intelligent Portable Mini Drone, Alpine White

So there you have it, my packing list of clothes and accessories for a month in Southeast Asia.  During April 2017, my whole life will be packed into a 65L backpack and hauled on my back, trudging through the excitement Thailand, hiking the gorgeous countryside of Sapa, and hammocking on the beaches of the Island of the Gods.

One last thing note.  I plan on packing light and getting rid of a few items (if need be) to make sure I have room to bring back a few souvenirs from my trip.  I have a tradition to always bring back a piece of art to hang in my house after every trip.  I’m excited to see what I can find in Southeast Asia!

After my trip, I’ll come back and update the list to let you know what I could have left behind and if there was anything I wish I’d brought with me.

What items can you not travel without?

This is the fourth post in my “How To Travel” series. If you like what you read you may want to check out “How To Travel: An Introduction” by clicking here, ‘Utilizing Credit Cards‘, and ‘Ways to Make Money Traveling’

Every single product recommended on this page is something I personally use, and none are paid placements. Some of the above are affiliate links and I will earn a percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my site running – so thanks in advance for your support!

How to Travel: Ways to Make Money Traveling

 

heidi-sandstrom-120382

This is the third post in my “How To Travel” series.  To read “How To Travel: An Introduction” click here or check out ‘Utilizing Credit Cards

The biggest issue I hear when I talk to people about traveling is that they can’t afford it. Some people truly believe that traveling is a hobby that only depletes a bank account and that’s what stops them from seeing the world.  What a lot of people don’t realize is that if you want to travel bad enough you can find a way to make it happen.  There are countless opportunities out there for people who not only want to travel but also want to make money while doing it.

When I decided to start traveling after college I was clueless.  I had grown up in Nebraska. Gone to college in Nebraska.  Got my first real job in Nebraska. Nebraska was really all I knew at that time.  When you know you want to make a change and decide to leave everything you know behind where do you start?  I knew it was time to leave but had no idea how to make that happen.

I ended up Googling “Travel Jobs” and quickly found that if traveling was my new goal there were plenty of ways to help me do that.  I applied for as many of them as I could.  Cruise ship worker, Au Pair, TESL, resort worker, etc. A lot of the opportunities out there may seem unconventional to some, but a life of travel and change is anything but conventional.  I decided that working on a cruise ship was the perfect blend of everything I wanted.

Before I left to go work on the cruise ship I had countless people look at me and say ‘wow I wish I could do that.’  My answer was always the same. You Can.  Sure there are times when it’s a lot more challenging of a life than working a normal 9 to 5 but finding a way to pursue your passion is also incredibly rewarding.  With a little courage, flexibility, and the ability to think outside the box there are plenty of ways you can not only see the world but get paid to do so.

I realized that it’s not usually a lack of desire that holds people back but often times a lack of knowledge about the different opportunities available. Below is a list, originally written by a friend of mine Wandering Earl who’s been traveling the world since 1999 and making money while doing it.  He lists out 42 different ways you can make money while traveling (keep in mind this is just a fraction of the opportunities that actually exist!)…

Teach English – Job opportunities are all around the world and in many cases, you don’t need to be certified. You just need to be a native speaker. Check out eslcafe.com, send in a few applications to schools in South Korea, Japan, Thailand or dozens of other locations & you’ll be surprised at how many interviews you land.

Sell Timeshares – If you were born to be a salesperson, then head to Greece, Thailand, Mexico, the Caribbean or any other major resort area and you can find work selling timeshares. These resorts want salespeople who can relate to their potential customers, so they prefer to have Americans selling to Americans, Italians selling to Italians and so on. The earning potential is huge in this line of work.

Resort Jobs – If selling isn’t your thing, resorts all over the planet often hire staff from other countries for a variety of positions, such as front desk, restaurant or the activity/entertainment department.

Work in a Hostel – Hostels are often looking for new staff who are willing to work some hours each day, either at reception or cleaning or maybe both, in exchange for a free bed each night. Not a bad way to save money at all.

Online Freelance Work – Whether you have a background or interest in web design, programming, illustration, writing, marketing, consulting, legal work, engineering or able to do any type of admin work, you should definitely look at websites such as Elance.com and Odesk.com. These are platforms that connect freelancers with people and companies who need work done. Even if your background is in something else, have a look anyway as there is freelance work to be found in dozens of different fields.

Act in Films & Television Overseas – Head to Mumbai, stand on a street corner in the Colaba neighborhood and before long, an industry scout will ask you if you want to act in a Bollywood film. You won’t make millions, but you’ll be on the big screen.

Working Holiday Visas – Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Ireland and Singapore offer these to foreigners, generally those who are between the ages of 18 – 30. If you’re in that age range, the working holiday visa might just be your best option to make money and travel. It allows you stay in a country for up to one year and in some cases, to apply for and work in any position you want. Yes, it is a sweet deal and one incredible way to earn an income while being overseas.

Fruit-Picking – Get out into the sun, grab a basket and start picking fruit. Such an option is quite common for travelers/backpackers passing through Australia and the pay can include payment per kilo of fruit you pick, room, board or any combination of the three.

Travel Blogging – It’s not easy to earn a big income with a travel blog. The amount of time/effort required to do so is much more than most people imagine. But if you’re looking for some extra cash to help fund part of your travels, while keeping the world informed of your adventures, starting a travel blog might be your answer. (Have a look at the useful Travel Blog Success course if you’re serious about earning money from your blog and for inspiration, see my list of fellow travel bloggers out there.)

Any Kind of Blogging – You don’t have to start a travel blog just because you’re traveling. Whatever your interest may be, that might be the kind of blog you should start. There are always opportunities to earn some money no matter what you choose to focus on.

Affiliate Marketing – Making money this way is definitely possible even though the competition can be high. But if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to a couple of months worth of research, you’ll find your niche and hopefully a steady paycheck. If you don’t know much about affiliate marketing, have a look at Affilorama.com, which offers an excellent series of free lessons to get you started.

Selling Goods Online – Found some cool product that you think others would be interested in? Have your own handmade product you want to sell? You could set up a website or a shop on eBay or any other type of online sales outlet and start selling. Your success will depend on many factors but again, if you’re willing to learn how to get your goods in front of the right people online, even a few sales each week could potentially keep you on the road.

Day-Trading – It may not be for everyone, but there are people out there earning a living and traveling as a result of their day trading efforts. One in particular is Marcello from WanderingTrader.com.

Housesitting – Who wouldn’t want a free place to stay? While you typically won’t get paid, if you don’t mind looking after somebody else’s house while they’re away, this is a great option. I know many people who just hop around from house-sitting gig to house-sitting gig, essentially avoiding accommodation expenses for years. Gigs can be one week, one month, one year or anything in between. (Jess & Dani from GlobetrotterGirls.com and Pete & Dalene from HeckticTravels.com are the experts when it comes to house-sitting!)

Work Remotely – There’s no rule that states you must quit your current job in order to travel. Perhaps your position allows you to work remotely and all you need to do is speak with your boss in order to make the adjustment. Head down to a place like Playa del Carmen, Mexico and you’ll find foreigners everywhere who are doing just this, able to make money and travel wherever they wish.

Haircuts – Choose a popular hostel, put up a sign (ask first!), charge a reasonable amount and off you go. I remember meeting a traveler who was doing this in Zagreb, Croatia and she was making $40 USD per day by advertising in 3 hostels. She would cut hair for a month, then travel for a month and repeat. Not bad at all.

Massages – Follow the same idea as above but offer massages instead! I’d sign up for sure after a long day wandering around a town or city.

Bartending – There are bars in many towns and cities that pay ‘cash in hand’ to travelers who can work a bar and are willing to stay in one spot for a while. Bars connected to hostels are often your best bet.

Cafe/Restaurant Work – The same goes for cafes and restaurants. If you’re in a popular backpacking destination, just ask the hostel staff if they know of any cafes that hire travelers. Sometimes you’ll find a local classifieds/coupon traveler-oriented magazine lying around the hostel as well. Flip it open and many times you’ll find restaurants advertising for help.

Website Design – Know how to build simple websites, or even more complex ones? Start your own business and look for clients online, through family & friends or even overseas. Staying at a hostel in Turkey that has a crappy website? Tell them you’ll completely improve their site for $50.

Teach Musical Instruments – Piano? Guitar? Flute? Glockenspiel? Whatever you can play, chances are there are people all over the world who want to learn as well. Advertise in local online classifieds or put up signs in busy areas, such as gathering places of college students, and you just might have a few classes lined up before you know it.

Teach Any Language – English isn’t the only language people want to learn. Speak French, Spanish, German, Italian, Mandarin, Arabic or anything else? Look for jobs or set up your own classes by advertising at universities or popular hangouts such as cafes.

Teach Dance Classes – Again, put up some signs around town, find space in a public park and teach others how to get their tango on. You could also work out a deal with a restaurant/bar where they pay you to hold a class at their location because it will bring them plenty of extra business.

Dance Around the World

Teach Yoga – You could do the exact same thing as above with yoga or any form of exercise!

Construction Work – If you have construction experience, or you can fake it, this is one industry that tends to hire people for short-term work while paying them ‘under the table’. As a result, this makes for a great option for travelers looking to earn some quick cash.

Au Pair – The situations vary but you’ll get room, board and a weekly paycheck for helping take care of a family’s kids, allowing you to explore the country you end up in during your free time as well.

Scuba Diving Instructor – Are you certified? If so, there are dozens of great scuba destinations around the world – Egypt, Mexico, Thailand, Australia, Hawaii – where you could find work. Talon from 1Dad1Kid.com has done just this in Central America.

Tour Escort – Many international tour operators, especially those such as Indochina.com that offer budget tours around the world, hire tour escorts to accompany each group. The pay is on the low side and you usually must sign up for a 1-2 year contract, but the benefit is that you get to explore parts of the world without spending any money at all, while gaining some great work experience in the process.

Sell Your Art & Crafts at Local Markets – There are markets in many places where foreigners can rent a stall and sell their goods. Usually these are markets that are geared towards tourists and other travelers. As a result, there are many people who follow the market circuit, bouncing around from market to market all year round, selling their hand made crafts, artwork, clothes from India or other goods that are in high-demand.

Photography –For those who know what they’re doing with a camera, it is possible to try and sell the travel photos you take. You could set up your own ‘shop’ on sites such as SmugMug.com and you could try and sell your photos to a variety of travel magazines and to companies that have stock photography collections.

Travel Writing – If you’re a decent writer, there are opportunities out there to write about your experiences and the destinations you visit and then have those articles published on websites or online magazines. It’s not an easy business, but if you can get a couple of articles published and start to establish yourself, your articles might soon become sought after.

Corporate World – Maybe you want to live overseas but you want to have a proper career or are looking for a higher paycheck. Well, there’s nothing stopping you from applying for corporate or other long-term jobs around the world. China has a growing number of opportunities for foreigners, Singapore and New Zealand are very popular and several countries in the Middle East are home to thousands of expats living and working for companies there.

Cruise Ship Employment – I always recommend this option as an excellent way to earn good money while getting a taste of the world, gaining some solid work experience and networking with hundreds of people (both fellow crew and passengers) from around the world. Not a bad list of benefits.

Cruise Ship Employment

Work on a Yacht – Sometimes they pay, sometimes they don’t, but if you look at websites such as DesperateSailors.com, you might find it hard to turn down an offer to work on board a yacht or sailboat, especially one that will spend a few months in the Caribbean or Mediterranean or perhaps even head across the Pacific.

Travel/Tourism Industry – This won’t ensure that you’re on the road all the time, but a job in the travel industry at home might be perfect for some. A steady paycheck, plenty of good networking possibilities and if you end up in the right position, you’ll just have to travel as part of your work. (Work in Travel is a great resource for anyone interested in working in this industry.)

Edit English Signs/Menus – It might sound silly but there are travelers out there earning decent money by wandering around touristy areas all over the world and getting paid to correct the English spelling/grammar on signs and menus of businesses that try to attract foreigners. I met one guy in Thailand who would charge $10 for his editing services and he would have approximately 20 clients per week. Not a bad way to earn $800 bucks per month.

Busking – Do you have some kind of talent? Maybe you don’t have talent but you’re more than willing to have people laugh at you, especially if they’ll throw their spare change in your hat. Many, many travelers are playing guitar, juggling, dancing and singing their way around the world. It may not be legal in some places though, so be sure to check the rules.

Volunteer Work – In most cases, this won’t pay, but you’ll have an unforgettable experience while usually saving money on room and board, which is just like getting paid! You don’t have to spend a lot of money with large global operations in order to volunteer as there are local organizations in every country that would love to have you. One good website is GrassrootsVolunteering.org.

Work Exchange – Just check out the listings on HelpX.net and you’ll be ready to pack your bags today. If you’re willing to work a few hours each day in exchange for room, board and sometimes, some extra cash, there is no shortage of opportunities. There’s also WWOOF.org which focuses on organic farm work.

Be Creative! – One of the best examples of this involved a female traveler I met in Central America who had funded over 6 months of travel by using a very simple business model. She would hop from beach town to beach town, contact several local tour operators (who usually offered snorkeling and scuba diving trips) and then worked out a deal. In exchange for bringing them business, she would receive a good commission. Each day she would hang around the hostels and travelers cafes and recommend the tour operators she was working with. Let’s just say she was doing very well. So put on your thinking cap, brainstorm some ideas and don’t be afraid to get creative!

I really do hope that this has helped you realize that you can make money and travel, that earning money on the road is not as impossible as you once thought. If it were impossible, there certainly wouldn’t be so many people, from countries all around the world, traveling and working as they explore this great planet of ours.

Of course, there are many more ways to earn money while traveling as well, so if you have anything you’d like to add or share, please leave your thoughts in the comments below. The more opportunities we list, the more we can help each other!

How To Travel: Utilizing Credit Cards

lqid5psbdfe-tim-trad

This is the second post in my “How To Travel” series.  To read “How To Travel: An Introduction” click here.

After reading the title of this post you’re thinking ‘what do credit cards have to doing with traveling?”  That is a fair question as most don’t know to make the connection.  Credit card debt is a serious issue which is why there is so much negativity and fear out there about them.   But here’s the thing, when chosen properly and used wisely credit cards give you rewards points which come in very handy when traveling.

Like most people, I hate paying for things.  If I can find a way to do something and not pay for it I’m all about it. My biggest reason for not doing something is simply not wanting to spend the money. I’ll walk instead of Uber and I’ll cook instead of eating out. But at the end of the day most things in life aren’t free which means I’m constantly spending money.  Everyone has their preferred method of payment.  Some say cash is king.  Others prefer debit cards.  And I hear there’s still a subculture of people that actually write checks  (not making that up). What do each of these people have in common?  They’re completely missing out on the rewards.

A Quick Warning:
Before we get too far, let me say that the advice below only works if you are aware of your finances and responsible with your credit cards.  I treat mine like a debit card and pay each of them off at the end of every week.  Yes, I pay mine off weekly.  Which may seem OCD but it keeps me from ever living beyond my means.  The reason credit cards have gotten a bad reputation is because people think having one gives them an excuse to buy whatever the fuck they want.  It doesn’t.  It’s imperative for you to understand your budget and finances before you get a credit card.  If you decide to get one after reading this post don’t change your spending habits but simply enjoy the rewards.  You’re doing all of the work already (spending the money) you might as well get something out of it.

If used properly, credit cards can help you secure a free flight to anywhere in the world.  I booked my flight from Melbourne to LAX in May ($875) for free with my points.  Thank you Chase!

Once you’ve decided you’re responsible enough for a credit card (or two) what’s next?  You need to figure out which credit card is best for you based on your spending habits and your goals.

What you buy most and what you want to do with the rewards you earn will dictate which credit card is best for you. I only got a credit card to help me travel.  Which means I found the ones that help me do that best. To be honest, I was pretty pissed I didn’t get one in college to start earning points even sooner.  Bali would have been a nice graduation gift.  

There are a shit ton of credit cards out there, but only a few for people who love to travel and travel often.  Below is a list of the credit cards I have along with a few card highlights.

Barclay Arrival +

-2x Miles on all purchase

Earn 50,000 bonus miles as a sign up bonus (after spending $3,000 in 3 months)

Get 5% miles back when cashing your miles in for a trip

-No foreign transaction fees

-$89 fee (waived the first year)

Discover IT

-5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter (currently gas stations and wholesalers)

-1% cash back on all other purchase

-Matches your cash back total at the end of the first year

-0% APR on balance transfers

-FICO Credit Score on each statement

-No Fee

Chase Sapphire Preferred

-Earns 2x points on dining and travel, including expenses like food and grocery delivery services, tolls, Uber and more

-1 point on everything else

-1:1 Point Transfer to other airlines

-No Foreign transaction fees

-50,000 sign up bonus points (spend $4,000 in the first 3 months)

Chip and Signature Technology, which provides better security and wider acceptance when traveling overseas

-$95 annual fee (waived the first year)

Chase Freedom Unlimited

-1.5% cash back on everything

-$150 bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months

-0% APR for 15 months from opening account

-No Fee

I know what you’re thinking, no, you don’t need 4 credit cards.  I have each of mine for a different reason and use them strategically to maximize the reward points.  But I’ll give you the same advice I give everyone when I first start talking credit card strategy.

Establish your goal and timeframe.

Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  

20170213_192629.jpg

For example, if your goal is to go to Prague next year the best thing you can do is get the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You then start working toward spending $4,000 in the first 3 months to get the 50,000 point bonus giving yourself a free flight to Prague.  It sounds like a lot of money, but if you actually examine your finances you’ll find it’s not hard to do.  If you use the Chase Sapphire Preferred for ALL of your spending those first 3 months you’ll have no problem reaching the required spend and cashing in on the rewards points.  If you’re worried that you won’t be able to spend $4,000 here are a few ways I’ve found to make it easier (and cheaper) to do:

-Whenever you go out with friends/family pick up the tab and have them pay you back via     Venmo, Square, cash, etc
-Put all your bills/utilities on your credit card (cell phone, health care, gas/water etc)
-Plan a trip and put all the expenses on your Chase credit card
-Wait to make a ‘big purchase’ until after you get your card (furniture, car, etc)

You’ll get double the points on anything travel (uber, taxi, RV rental, trains, flights, etc) and restaurant (anything food related not counting grocery stores).

If you travel for work this card is perfect for you.  Your company will take care of the required spend for you.  A lot of my friends have the Southwest credit card which is fucking stupid.  Yes, you get 2x the points when booking a Southwest flight, but guess what, you get the same amount of rewards points booking a Southwest flight using your Chase Sapphire Preferred.  You can transfer points to basically any airline 1:1 which means if you want to switch between Southwest, Delta, or American you can.  You’re not stuck with one airline if they don’t have your flight or a different airline has it cheaper.  You simply transfer your Chase rewards points to whatever airline rewards program you prefer allowing yourself more options.

Quick Note on Strategy:  I recently got the Barclay Arrival + credit card because I wanted to have at least 50,000 points for next year since my trip to Asia used all my Chase points.  I’ve set up my system so I can rotate ‘main’ cards each year racking up the points and alternate the spending of my points.  This way I always have enough for a free international flight.  For example, I have 63,374 Barclay points that I’ll use next year when I go on my next trip and in the meantime I’ll start saving up Chase points again so in 2 years I can use those.  

I had to spend $3,000 in the first 3 months but I didn’t have any big purchases coming up and didn’t want to buy something just to meet the required spend (you should not change your spending habits to meet the required spend).  I looked at my finances and realized that I could pay my rent on my credit card.  I usually Venmo my landlord at the start of each month.  $450 from my bank account to his.  For a 3% fee I could charge my credit card.  I wasn’t wild about adding $13 to my rent each month but it meant instead of spending $3,000 in 3 months all I had to spend was $1,611 which is all too easy to do.  Every time you spend money you have to learn to think “this sucks, but how can I get rewarded for this.”  

Pro Tip:

I strongly suggest not opening more than 1 card at once to start with.  It’s best to open one card at a time and dedicate your spending on that card until you’ve reached the amount needed for the sign-up bonus.  

Last quick note on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, it’s impossible to not feel like a baller when using this card.  It’s sleek, enabled with chip security, but more importantly it’s heavier than any card I’ve ever held.  When I use my card (especially abroad) and the cashier takes it from me they look at me with a ‘who is this guy and how can he afford to use this card’ look which I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy just a little.

For more information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred check out The Points Guy, 5 Additional Benefits, and NerdWallet

OK, you’ve met the required spend for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  What’s next?

20170213_192707.jpg

Get the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

There’s nothing fancy about the Chase Freedom Unlimited nevertheless it’s effective.  While the Sapphire Preferred is boom or bust (2% or 1% cash back) the Freedom Unlimited does nothing but consistently get on base with its 1.5% cash back on every purchase. I won’t go into too much detail but if you’d like more information check out NerdWallet and The Points Guy.  

While you should still use your Chase Sapphire Preferred card on any travel or dining purchase ($500 in 3 months is super easy to do) everything else should be put on your Freedom Unlimited card to maximize your rewards earning.

The best thing about having these two cards? You can combine the points you’ve earned on each card into one account.  

Since the Chase Sapphire Preferred is an “elite” tier Chase card you’re allowed to pair it with a lower tier card.  Meaning everything you buy will get 1.5% or 2% cash back.  It makes earning rewards points a lot easier when you can alternate these 2 cards to maximize your points earned by combining them.

The Freedom Unlimited sign up bonus is 15,000 points ($150) if you spend $500 in the first 3 months.  For those who aren’t great at math, that’s 65,000 Chase points just by getting these 2 cards and meeting the spending requirements.  You’d be hard pressed to find a place in the world you can’t get to with 65,000 points.  If you’re not interested in using your points to travel you can also get cash back, gift cards, etc.  65,000 points is equal to $650 in cash back rewards to use however you want.

Points on Points on Points:
Chase gives out bonuses for Referring A Friend. 10,000 points for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and 5,000 points for the Chase Freedom Unlimited.  If you learned anything from this post and are interested in being my ‘referred friend’ leave your name and email below!

Even if you decide the two Chase cards aren’t for you I hope this post has helped you understand how rewarding using a credit card can be.  Spending money is a lot more enjoyable when you’re getting some of it back and putting it toward your next adventure.

Few things beat exploring the world for free.