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The Internet

Prompt #23: TECHNOLOGY – Number 11 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel series

Where would today’s travelers be without smartphones, GPS, iPods, iPads, or even the internet? Share one item of tech you can’t live without or tell us how technology has changed the way you travel.

I love technology.  It has changed travel for the better.  On my first international trip I had to pack a CD player and CD’s, enough books to get me through the time in the air and on the road, and a camera.  Today the CD player and CD’s have been replaced by my iPhone and the number of books I take has gone down since I have my numerous titles installed on my iPad.  I do have a lot more camera equipment and a laptop, but this is due in large part to my evolution as a photographer from using a point and shoot to a DSLR with the lenses and storage needs that go along with it.  I firmly feel that technology helps me to travel more enjoyably and to travel more intelligently.

The one technology that I could not travel without though is the internet.  On trips, the internet is my lifeline.  It provides a copious amount of information about a place very easily.  Maps, reviews and suggestions are all much easier (and more compact) to access than when you had to have a Lonely Planet guide with you for each destination.  Today you can log onto wikitravel.org and get great information about a place from a wide variety of people very easily, while other sites may offer specifically tailored information for your interests.

The internet is also crucial to travel bookings.  I no longer have to use an agent to compare properties and flights.  Instead I can do this quickly and easily, finding the best deal for my travel needs myself.  I can check on kayak.com what is available and at what price then go to tripadvisor.com to see if the lowest price is really the best deal.  I love to plan trips and with all of the tools on the internet available to me this is very easy to check out and consider alternatives.

The internet also plays a huge role in my communication while away from home.  It allows for inexpensive phone calls and email, making it far easier and far less expensive to keep in touch with my friends and family.  I do not need to find a postcard stamp and a mailbox, I just need wi-fi.  Skype makes it much less important to have an international calling card with you.  In short, without the internet, communication would be much more difficult and much more expensive.

The internet is a great addition to the lives of travelers.  It is important to let it go from time to time while traveling, to ensure that you are living life instead of living life online.  Without access to the internet, however, it would be much more difficult for me to live abroad, much more difficult for me to travel.

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Budget

Prompt #18: BUDGET – My sixth entry for the 30 days of Indie Travel series.

Every traveler has a budget; for some it just might be higher or lower than for others What’s your style? What do you spend very little on and what are you always willing to pay more for?

I am in a very fortunate situation. As an ex-pat, my company helps out with my housing expenses. How they have it set up, however, is that they have a flex account that can be used for a variety of expenses, including travel. I have a much less expensive house than many of my co-workers and as a result have a very large portion of my leisure travel paid for by my school. This, combined with spending more and more time working on getting the most out of loyalty programs has allowed me over the last year to travel at a bit higher standard than I have previously done. I have been working on gaining top-tier status for United and as a result have paid for most of my flights this year. I am collecting my miles and points so that I can continue to travel when I change jobs to one that does not cover as much of this as my current employer.

This year I have stayed at some really nice hotels. Some of these were splurges (Mala Mala Safari Lodge, Correntoso Resort in Argentina) while others have been through the use of points and promotions (Marques de Riscal Winery in Spain, Cape Town Westin). When choosing a hotel I want someplace that is in a good location. Wireless internet and a comfortable bed are pluses as well. But at the end of the day a hotel is a place to spend the night. If the trip is going well, I do not actually spend all that much time at the hotel, though it is always nice to come back to a luxury hotel.

One thing I am usually hesitant to pay for is transportation. I will often walk “just a little bit further” rather than take public transportation or get a cab. I feel that walking through a city is the best way to get a feel for the place, to understand the culture and vibe of the city. That said, I know I have spent a lot of time and energy walking instead of paying for a 3 or 4 euro subway fare. At the end of the day I am not sure if this strategy is worth it, but I continue to do it, even when spending the night at a luxury hotel.

Food is something that I do not mind spending a lot on. I enjoy a nice meal, especially if it is the local cuisine. I have gone out of my way to visit places with a well known restaurant usually with a price tag to match. That said, many of my favorite meals are those that I have had on the street, snacking on local fare at very low prices. When it comes to food, a higher price does not necessarily mean higher quality.

I like to think of myself as a budget traveler, but this is really not the case. I like the nicer things in life and especially when traveling I am not going to give up an experience or enjoyment to save a little bit of money…except when it comes to transportation which is just weird. I need to work on changing that and maybe cutting back in some other areas of my travel budget.

Ode to Weekends Away

I love vacation…or more accurately, I love travel.  Just getting up and going.  This could be as simple as a day away or as complicated as a multi continent weeks to month long itinerary.  I get excited for either one.  

This weekend was one of those times to get away.  With an extra day off school and the possibility of a double red eye flight, Bangkok was my home away from home this past weekend.  The weather was hot and rainy but just being in a different place, a different environment was a great break from what has already been a busy school year.

This was my first trip to Thailand but I do not think it will be my last.  The food was incredible, the massages were great and cheap and I barely scratched the surface of the tourist sites.  There were of course downsides, I am not a fan of hot and sticky weather and Bangkok’s traffic makes Beijing’s traffic situation look almost non-existent.  There were also times when we felt like we were being cheated but this is all part of the experience of exploring someplace new.

The travel schedule I have been able to keep has led to somewhat unrealistic expectations of continuous travel but it also makes me desire this even more.  Hopefully it can be sustained, but for now I have a big trip to look forward to in just more than two weeks!

Anticipation

September 4, 2011 1 comment

I realize that some people really hate the process of planning for a trip, the time spent online looking at different options for hotels, flights and activities. I, however, find the planning, the anticipation, to be one of the best parts about travel. As with any activity, sometimes the reality of being in a place does not match the vision in your head. There may be unpleasant smells, a building blocking the perfect view or you may even find that what you had wanted to see is no longer there. The opposite is also true, you may be blown away by the flavors and sights of a place in ways you had never anticipated. The reality is, that until you are there you will not get to experience a place. That does not keep me from trying.

I am very fortunate to be able to almost continually be planning my next trip. My job and responsibilities offer a lot of time off and a lot of opportunity to travel. Right now I am anticipating (and have planned) trips to three continents before the end of this year. Next weekend I am off to Bangkok, in October I am going to South Africa for a week and then in December I am going back to Bangkok (for school) and then home to the United States for a few weeks for the holidays. The planning, the hope, for that perfect trip is all part of the fun. The time spent looking at flight options, hotel locations and activities make my trips last far longer than the time I am in places. With each website visited and guidebook paged through the excitement builds. The memories that I bring back with me make for reminders of not just the places I visited, but also the time spent planning, the anticipation and the reminder that soon, I get to do it all over again.

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