Need travel advice? Itinerary suggestions? Don't know what to pack?
Ask Erik with the form below. General kudos and/or comments are always welcome too.
I am a 25-yr old Brit, who has just returned from a 9-month round-the-world trip… The question I wanted to pose was this, how the hell do you manage to select which pictures to put into your slide show? I have a little over 6000… and I am having a little trouble deciding which ones to use. Secondly, what (if you don’t mind me asking) program do you use to create your slide shows?
I am currently using 3 different programs combined to make mine: Windows Movie Maker (though this really affects the quality of the picture), PowerPoint and PC paintbrush—basic I know, but have already made numerous in this way, and now that I am a little more than skint, I don’t really want to fork out big bucks for software that I have not seen the results of.
Thanks again for everything.
To answer your question, it was quite a task to filter down my photos. At the end of my big trip, I had accumulated 33,824 photos—and my ”Elsewhere” slideshow of the trip only uses 136 of them. How did I choose? It’s actually a gut feeling. When I quickly flip through a group of photos, only a very few make me stop and take a second look—perhaps because I’m jaded and have seen so much out there. Usually I stare at the photo with some sort of awe, and I feel it in my throat. Those are the ones that get chosen.
Think, most professional photographers shoot hundreds of pictures to get that ONE shot. Back when I was shooting film rolls, I only had maybe one “money shot” for every roll. Keep in mind that most really good photos in magazines are the results of filtering down from hundreds of shots.
For the slideshows, I used Macromedia Flash, mainly because I use it for a living and it’s second nature to me. If you are just trying to do it easily, the only thing I can suggest for the easiest way is to get hold of a Mac and iPhoto… you can simply drag the photos you want and click “Create Slideshow” and set it to music. It takes just a few minutes. Sorry, if that sounds like an advert for Apple, but that’s all I’m really familiar with.
Hope this helps, and thanks again for the praise!
I’m on the edge of finally getting the guts to say goodbye to work and leap into the world of around the world trip travel.
I have limited overseas travel experience and thought you might help me get started.
Question: have you ever tried to gain employment while overseas or did you take the trip for the pure enjoyment of it? I’m a journalist by trade and would love to work as a stringer for the AP, CNN, etc. If you have any experience with that I’d love to hear about it.
2. In terms of booking a rtw ticket what do you recommend in terms of trustworthy websites to deal with? or do you suggest booking with a local travel agent?
3. As an American are there countries you would avoid (excluding Iraq, Iran, South Korea, and the normal anti American venues)?
4. Are there restrictions on a rtw ticket? For example, are there limits to the numbers of countries you can fly in and out of?
5. Lastly, what countries do you get the most bang for your American dollar?
Thanks for your time,
General Assignment Reporter at WBNS (CBS-affiliate), Columbus, OH
Those are great questions. Let me answer them in the order you asked them.
1. I assume you are talking about my big 16-month RTW trip. No, I didn’t try to gain employment on the road, although as a freelance designer, I did had some leftover projects in the states that I worked on with my laptop in the earlier months of my trip (things left over from projects I’d started before departure). I did take the trip for the enjoyment of it, but also as an investment of travel experience for writing material. My blog not only entertains readers, but serves as my notes for future stories I may pitch later on.
As for being a stringer, I took a seminar with mediaBistro that touched upon that. Your best bet is to just go to the local news bureau, or a region’s big newspaper, and simply introduce yourself with your credentials. You’ll make contacts who can lead you in the right direction. Also, keep a news blog of what you see on the road; if you’re connected already in journalism channels, you can market yourself as a journalist out in the field with a unique insight—they may call you in for some stories. The key is to network as much as you can before and during your trip.
2. For my big RTW, I went with AirTreks.com, which is a really awesome service that figures out your itinerary, then gets you the cheapest tickets possible, even using agencies overseas where the prices of airline tickets are marked down. You use their interactive itinerary maker and build your dream trip and they figure it out for you. Eventually you get a call from one of their agents, and they talk about the different options you might have, based on deals they know.
Also, almost every airline partner network has their own RTW ticket option, and it’s a lot cheaper than booking flights individually. For example, check out oneWorld Explorer. There are restrictions of course, but if you plan things right, this is also an option. I’ve met people on the road who’ve done this who have raved about it.
3. Officially I’ll say yes, avoid places like Iraq, but don’t let travel advisories restrict you. Case in point, I was advised not to go to Nepal because of the political turmoil going on (and a bombing near the US embassy), but I went anyway and was fine. And it’s North Korea, not South Korea that is “forbidden” to us, although I’ve heard stories that tourism is starting to emerge there, provided you are escorted by an official guide. In a story I’ve heard, one North Korean guide told his client, “Please don’t stray away from me or else I’ll be shot.”
4. On AirTreks, the only restriction is that airline inventory is only available a year from now. i.e., If you want to book at flight for October 2008 before October 2007, you can’t, simply because it’s not available yet. On the other RTW ticket deals, they all have their own specific restrictions and you should take note of before decided to go for it.
5. Most countries in Central America, South America, Africa and southeast Asia provide the most bang (no pun intended), where you can live comfortably on as little as $15/day, including lodging.
Erik - I have really enjoyed your blog and find your slide shows positively inspiring. My husband & I are planning to take 2 years off as a career break to travel in Asia and S. America. I’m an amateur travel writer and I’d like to find an outlet for some of the writing I’ve both done in the past, and intend to do on our long trip. Do you have any advice for getting started? How did you go about getting your first articles published? Thanks a bunch.... Becky
Well what I’ve learned on my journey as a travel writer (which I’m still trekking along on) is that it involves a series of many, many baby steps. No one is going to be the next Bill Bryson overnight—he has several books out, but after decades of “paying his dues.”
What I’ve learned from travel writer/editor Jen Leo (http://www.writtenroad.com) is that one of the most important things in legitimate travel writing is “name building.” Once you build a name for yourself, you can use it to land better gigs. And the way you get your name established is by writing and submitting as much as you can to get your name out there—but start small.
Many travel zines like BootsnAll.com and Destination Elsewhere are perfect venues for you to submit and hone your craft; it’s easier to get something published by them, especially since they don’t pay. (That’s not to say they accept everything they get; you must be able to show some sort of writing panache.) From there, you’ll have clips that you can use, when you approach bigger publications—magazine columns, local and national newspapers. It also helps to network with people; I got my big break getting into the New York Post by taking a class with the deputy travel editor at the time, and got my foot in the door—although ultimately it really boiled down to the fact that I’d written a pitched a piece that they enjoyed and found relevant to their travel section.
Anyway, with more and more clips under your belt, you can pitch features, and ultimately book proposals. By that later stage, you’ll have honed your writing craft in the process of getting there; you’ll know what works, what doesn’t, and how to speak to the different audiences. That’s also an important thing; publications hate when you “write for yourself;” you need to write to an audience—specifically, their audience.
Keep a blog during your travels; use it to hone your craft and STICK WITH IT. I’ve gotten many emails from aspiring travel bloggers trying to make one as stylish and detailed as mine, but mid-way they write me, “How did you do it? How did you do this EVERY day?” They usually start to slack off about a month in. The mantra I had in my head to avoid slacking off was words of wisdom from a comedy writer friend of mine: “You become a writer when you write because you HAVE to, not because you want to.” Daily blogging like the way I did on the road (and writing in general), requires a real discipline if you’re serious about it—you’ll realize this when you start doing it—but if you hang in there, you’ll have something you won’t regret. Plus practice makes perfect, and it’s perfect practice.
Hope this helps! Good luck!
Erik, really dig the travel blogs. Very entertaining during the work day. Your round-the-world blog inspired me to do a trip through S America, unfortunately not nearly as long: 4 months. But my job promised to hold my position for me while I was gone. So not a bad deal. My question: do you have a recommendation for travel insurance? I’m thinking you had to have had something pretty decent to okay an evacuation from Everest. Is it cheap and worth four months? All of my travels to this point have been two weeks at a time (typical) so I never bothered with it before. But I’m including a trip to Antarctica (again, inspired by the blogs) at the end of the trip and want travel insurance that will cover it in case it gets canceled.
Thanks for any info you can provide, and keep up the blogs!
For years when I got this question, I recommended the Atlas plan, sold at BootsnAll.com, which is what I used on my big RTW trip. It was easy; completely done over the internet—you fill the form online, then it generates an ID card for you to print out with your ID number on it. When you need to file a claim, it’s all policy numbers anyway, and I had one from the card. It was dirt cheap too; I paid only about $400 I believe for the year or something like that, and when I had to renew for additional time over twelve months (the maximum length of coverage), I simply went on-line in Kathmandu and bought another policy and printed it out with a new policy number.
(On a sidenote, I think it’s interesting that, from the insurance company’s point of view, I was a random new policyholder who bought insurance in Kathmandu, only to have a helicopter rescue claim within a week of it’s starting coverage date!)
I’ve looked up the Atlas plan on BootsnAll and they no longer sell it; which is sad. I don’t know if it’s because of a behind-the-scenes business decision on BnA’s behalf. but Atlas still exists on their own site:
I’ve entered in dates to get a sample quote and I see that prices are twice as much as when I last used them. With that said, you could probably weight the pros and cons of different and cheaper plans, made easy on BootsnAll:
One thing to look for is theft coverage; many policies are for travel health only, and do not cover theft—I found this out the hard way when I got mugged in Cape Town and my Atlas plan did NOT cover my losses. I’ve heard the insurance plan at STA covers theft and its a pretty good deal, for the extra money.
To answer your overall question, yes, I recommended getting travel insurance. It’s relatively cheap (especially compared to actual non-travel insurance), and it comes in handy, especially if you are going to be doing “extreme” things.
Hope this helps!
[I’m] on Day 200 [of your TGT2 blog] thus far and I am thoroughly enjoying it; sometimes while reading in my office I laugh out loud and my coworkers look at me like I am an idiot.
I have a question, which can be considered uncouth by some, but curiosity begs it to be asked: “How much did this trip cost?” I am in the midst of planning my RTW journey and am trying to get a ballpark of a year to year and a half trip. Did you do anything specific to get to a target save amount or just pick an arbitrary number and say “that should be enough?”
I would appreciate any advice you can give. I appreciate the “insiders view” you are giving the rest of us travelers to possibilities and places we otherwise may not have thought of.
All the best.
Glad to hear you are laughing out loud, reading my blog in the office. The next time your co-workers look at you like you’re an idiot, just forward them an email attachment of a picture of my diarrhea—then they’ll stop thinking you’re an idiot and perhaps something else…
To answer your question, the amount of money needed for a big year+ RTW trip really depends on your destinations and travel style. The final figure on my personal 16 months around the world was about $30K, but it didn’t have to be. The general rule of thumb is that about a thousand bucks should cover a month, but that is only an average. You can get by comfortably in India on the cheap for just $300/month, but a place like Japan will probably exceed $1K (unless you’re lucky enough to have a place to crash). You can keep the average by mixing up and pacing your travel destinations between the cheap and the pricey.
Your travel style is also a factor; if you’re on a budget (I’ll assume you are), you’ll probably go the cheap backpacker route, with hostels, dorms, and public transport. It’s a great experience and you meet so many people. I’ve actually graduated to what British and Australian journalists have recently been calling the ”flashpacker”—a backpacker who travels with his/her gadgets and spends a little more cash for comfort and privacy on occasion.
If you are going on the cheap, keep in mind that you are out in the world to experience something else (I should hope you are), and that the backpacker clique that goes from Irish pub to Irish pub, or hangs out in the same hostel drinking every night for weeks at a time, isn’t exactly a worldly experience. Use your money wisely and budget accordingly; I’ve actually met backpackers on the road traveling to Tanzania, but had no money budgeted to actually go into the wildlife parks—can you believe that? That sort of defeats the purpose of being there, huh?
Anyway, hope this answers your questions. Glad I could inspire.
I have just run into your blog in the last two weeks and I was fascinated by it, and into [the] BootsnAll travel site, and found a 20-day Land of Inca - La Paz to Lima. My question is, me and my husband are on our early 50’s. Do you think we will survive the 4-day Inca Trail walk?
The answer is really about how fit you are. I did the Inca Trail in 2001 in a one-week package tour with Amazonas Explorer, and I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly the most in-shape one in the group, even though I was one of the youngest (at 27)—I was always in the back of the line with the stragglers (not that we were rushed or anything). In my group there was a 69-year-old British woman hiking it with her daughter, and she was always ahead of the pack—even with a shoe on one foot and a sandal on the other for a day (I forget why).
So age really isn’t a factor at all. Sure, you’ll survive the Inca Trail if you are determined to do it; just take your time, and heed all suggestions to rest and hydrate to prevent altitude sickness. I see the tour starts in La Paz and doesn’t get to the Inca Trail until about six days later—which is definitely a good thing since you’ll have roughly six days to acclimatize to the higher elevation of the Andes, without straining yourself hiking yet. Part of the reason why I was so slow on the Inca Trail was because I only had a day of acclimatization in Cuzco before I rushed off to the Inca Trail.
I’m a long-time reader of your blog and was hoping you could help me with my future travels. I noticed that you backpacked Europe when you were younger. I am backpacking the majority of Europe this summer from June-August. To get from city to city, I will be purchasing the Eurail youth global pass. What advice can you give to a first-time backpacker who is traveling alone? i.e. packing, flying, train reservations, traveling within each city, finding the great things to see, etc. I was planning on bringing my laptop with me to keep in touch and do research. How did you bring yours with you without having it stolen?
Any help would be greatly appreciated. Hope to hear from you!
You are smart to get the Eurail pass; remember to get it here in the States before you go because they are only available to non-EU citizens. Once you have it, you can pretty much take any train you want (sans local Metros). Also, depending on the train, you can pay a little extra for sleeper cars, which helps on long overnight trips—plus you pay for a place to stay AND go somewhere, saving you time and money.
Train reservations are recommended, especially in the summer months, and in a lot of cases they are required—don’t let this scare you; a day in advance should be good enough in most cases. Make sure you carry a current Eurail schedule book with you; it will be your bible on the rails. As soon as you figure out when you want to go somewhere else, look it up and make a reservation at a train station to hold a seat. There are popular trains that are booked weeks in advance by locals (Paris directly to Barcelona for the weekend, for example), but there’s always an alternate way via other cities; you’ll use your train schedule to figure it out. The alternative way is fun too; you’ll see things you didn’t expect. On a train ride from Amsterdam to Barcelona, I went via Geneva and Basel—the latter a city I hadn’t really heard of, but had some really good sausages in a local market and a kickass zoo.
Flying is always another option. With all the budget airlines nowadays, it’s sometimes cheaper and faster than taking a train—but then again, you’ve already paid for the train with your Eurail pass, so you might as well use it. Train travel is awesome and if you have time, so take the train; you see more of the country as it whizzes by, plus you’ll meet many people on the way, locals and other travelers. Speaking of which, when you’re traveling solo, you never are alone really (even on a trip around the world) because there are hundreds of other travelers going solo, who you’ll meet up and befriend along the way—sometimes for a short ride, sometimes for weeks.
Pack light. Everything you need should fit in a big backpack and extra stuff in a daypack. Reuse and reuse stuff as often as possible. On my big RTW trip, I only carried two pairs of pants that I alternated back and forth—both converted into shorts for when I needed. Plus they were made of quick drying fabric, for quick overnight washes if they get stained or too smelly.
Getting around a city is easy too; Europe isn’t in the middle of nowhere after all. In fact, in some cities they are more advanced than cities in the States. Mass transit is pretty efficient. Just keep asking yourself, “How would a resident get there?” and figure it out. Chances are, getting from place to place is just an easy train ride away. And if you’re a walker, there’s no shame in walking—in fact, you’ll see more than the regular tourist stops. In fact, I recommend walking for as much as you can stand it.
As for how to find a great thing to see; the hot spots will become obvious to you (the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, etc.) because you’ll see big big tour groups there—not that I’m knocking them; these attractions wouldn’t be attractions if they didn’t hold some sort of significance in the first place. Just make sure the hot spots aren’t the only thing you seek.
And as for your laptop, you don’t really need to bring it (and its added weight) if you are just going to “keep in touch and research” since everywhere you go there will be an internet cafe. In Europe they aren’t as common as they are in developing nations (where internet cafes are on almost every block in a city), but if you are staying in hostels, chances are they will be right next to an internet cafe if they don’t already have one themselves. If you are bringing your laptop to hold pictures, etc. that is understandable, just don’t announce to the world you have it. (People won’t steal what they don’t know is there.) I traveled with mine around the world and kept it very discreet, only using it in places with minimal people around. Whenever it was out of my sight I kept it locked in a PacSafe travelSafe 200 safe (you can get it online somewhere since PacSafe doesn’t make that size anymore), which I kept in my backpack and locked to a bed rail at all times. Most hostels in Europe have lockers for you to use, which is good—use your own locks for those when you can.
Anyway, hope this helps. Happy travels!
SOME FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
(SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO ASK AGAIN)
Q: So, what’s your favorite place in the world?
A: Well, that’s a loaded question, and it really is the single most asked question I get. That’s like asking, “So uh, what’s your favorite movie?” You’ll probably agree that it’s hard to say because there are so many good ones to choose from out there, and you really need to categorize them to pick your superlatives. I’ve already done this, and you can read about it here.
Q: Where in the world do you really want to live?
A: Well, at least for now, the answer is New York City — that “Big Apple” that many people have a love/hate relationship with. Sure it sucks sometimes, but you really can’t beat its energy; it seems like everyone is in New York city to “make it,” and that ambition and drive is infectious, albeit tiring at times. New York really isn’t a classic American city like Chicago is; it belongs in the sisterhood of world cities, with its huge international culture. Over a hundred countries are represented in New York, and it’s most evident in the many cuisines you can choose from for a meal. It’s almost as if to say that when you live in New York you don’t have to travel the world because the world is already right there, crammed on a tiny island (although I still highly endorse getting out of the city and seeing the world). I grew up in New York and its suburbs and can’t imagine living anywhere else that isn’t as multicultural; my core of friends growing up were Filipino, Jamaican, Iranian, Jewish, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Indian, Puerto Rican — just to name a few. I also like the anonymity you get in the big city; aside from the three times I’ve been recognized on the street by strangers, people usually just leave me alone. In New York you can be as happy or as bitter as you want to be without bothering anyone.