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July 2017

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Strange Museums Around the World

There is really no “right way” to travel.

If you hang around the travel community a lot, you might start to hear some people talk about “real travelers,” “authentic experiences,” or passing judgment on someone else’s decision to go (or not go) to certain attractions.

But the truth is that there are as many ways to travel as there are people traveling.

Our travel confession? We aren’t really into museums, even though these attractions seem to top the must-see lists of many other travelers.

But the occasional museum does catch our eye – when it’s something so bizarre we can’t believe it exists. We have to see it for ourselves. Here are some of the strangest museums around the world we would love to visit:

The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum (Osaka, Japan)

Into noodles? Even the biggest enthusiasts might find this museum a little over the top. You’ll explore the many types of ramen sold over the years, including taste testing some of the selections.

The Mummy Museum (Guanajuato, Mexico)

In a small Mexican community, a strange discovery was made. Corpses were being exhumed from a certain crypt, only to find that a peculiarity to that region had mummified them all. The Museo de Las Momias now displays many of the creepy looking mummies.

Iceland Phallological Museum (Reykjavik, Iceland)

Ever wondered how the penis compares from human to animal? Here you’ll find 215 penises to size up and learn about. The museum’s founder says he became interested in penises as a kid, and he later began collecting whale penises as a hobby. When his collection grew, he turned it into a museum open to the public.

The Underwater Museum (Cancun, Mexico)

This museum is found in the ocean and can only be viewed by divers, snorkelers, or passengers in a glass-bottom boat. The sculptures were created and placed underwater with the hopes of spreading awareness about the preservation of clean oceans, marine life, and coral reefs.

International Spy Museum (Washington DC, United States)

As a kid I was very into Harriet the Spy, Nancy Drew, and other mystery novels. I dreamed of becoming a spy and having dramatic adventures around the world – so this museum definitely intrigues me. Not only are cool spy tools on display, visitors can role play in their own interactive spy mission.

Museum of Vampires and Legendary Creature (Paris, France)

This gothic museum was founded by a scholar who devoted his life to the undead and other occult subjects. You’ll learn plenty about vampire folklore, old protective superstitions, and the history of vampirism in Paris and beyond.

The Museum of Death (Bangkok, Thailand)

Finally, in our current home base of Bangkok, we have the Siriraji Medical Museum, also referred to as the Museum of Death. The most popular (and creepiest) part of the museum is the forensics exhibit, which displays the corpses of murder victims and executed criminals.

What’s the most interesting museum you’ve been to while traveling? Would be tempted by any of the museums listed above? Tell us about it in the comments!

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

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24 Hours in the Travel Life

Our story was originally posted on My Travel Moments, a travel blog that features travelling ‘oh shit’ moments.

When travelling, one day can pass too quickly. After anticipating something for so long, time often comes and goes faster than we’d like.

Unfortunately, travel has its dark periods too, and sometimes a mere 24 hours can feel nearly endless.
We experienced both sides of travel’s time-bending phenomena during our recent trip to Iceland.
On one particular morning, the snow was coating the streets, and we could hear a storm whistling through the windows.

We bundled up and scarfed down a warm breakfast, eagerly looking forward to our day at the Blue Lagoon.
It was the last day of our holiday, and we were going to spend it being pampered at the world’s most famous thermal pool.

On our way to the hot pools!

Our flight was early the next day, so we decided to save some money by not booking a hotel room for the next night. We’d just catch a few hours of sleep at the airport before it was time to board.

If the universe occasionally foreshadows trials ahead, maybe this was a sign: As we gathered our belongings, Kristin somehow managed to throw her phone across the room.

We swear it happened in slow motion, but we couldn’t move to stop it – and the phone soared right out our 3rd story window.

To say we are a bit addicted to our phones and social media is an understatement. We are bloggers, after all. Kristin was in a panic but the phone had survived by landing in a soft pile of snow. On with the day.

On our bus ride to the lagoon, we couldn’t believe our luck. The views were absolutely stunning covered in snow. We knew the lagoon was going to be cozy and surreal with this storm on our side.

Sure enough, it was heaven. We sank into the outdoor thermal pools, glasses of white wine in hand, and enjoyed many hours of relaxation as the snow fell lightly around us.

Before we knew it, the day had passed and the lagoon was closing. Warm and happy, we went back to the changing rooms to prepare for the next leg of our journey.

The Blue Lagoon was Perfect. 

Here’s where everything turned.

The unexpected…

We still had an open tab with the bar for our wine, so I started digging in my bag for my wallet.

Gone!

All of my money, bank cards… All gone. I suddenly remembered putting my wallet in the bus seat’s pocket. It’s weird how we react in these moments. I was mostly consumed with grief that I had lost something I’d owned since I was 16 years old.

Kristin’s concerns were more practical. First, that we couldn’t pay our bar tab. Second, that we couldn’t pay for our transportation to the airport. Third, that we’d just lost a huge amount of cash that we absolutely had to have for our next few weeks in England. Finally, that the last bus to Reykjavik was leaving in 20 minutes. We had very limited time to find solutions to all these problems.

We will always be thankful for the customer service at the Blue Lagoon for handling our situation with such compassion. They covered our bill for us, tracked down the bus where we’d left the wallet, and helped us make arrangements to pick the wallet up once we were back in Reykjavik.

We were saved, but stress levels were understandably high.

What was the last thing we wanted at this point? A night without a bed. But that’s exactly what was waiting for us.
Especially when that plan also fell to pieces.

By the time we were back in the city, wallet in hand, there were no more buses to the airport until morning.
Instead of spending our homeless night in a relatively comfy airport (with cushioned seats and a working heater), we slept in a cold, uncomfortable, drafty bus station.

We settled in for a long wait in the middle of a fierce blizzard – had we really been thankful for this weather just a few hours before?

When we finally arrived at the airport, our muscles were screaming, our faces were sore from the cold, and we hadn’t slept a wink.

We were a little overexcited to finally be in a warm building, but that euphoria was short lived.
Because remember that blizzard? Of course, it had delayed our flight.

Worse and worse

It delayed our flight for SIX HOURS.

The delay was so long that we missed the bus we had nonrefundable tickets for in London.

And by the time we finally reached that beautiful, coveted, blessing of a bed in Northern England, we had been awake for 36 hours straight.

In the morning, we reflected on the day before.

And we concluded that we genuinely love the adventures that make up our travelling lives. The world can throw any disaster at us, and we’ll still want to explore its every nook and cranny. We are addicted to the thrill of mixed emotions, and we’re fascinated by how much you can really experience in just one day.

The result? A great memory!

Here’s the truth: the best parts of travelling are those moments when you think ‘WHY?’

You won’t remember many details from seeing the famous Blue Lagoon; you’ll remember every slow second of the night you slept in a bus station during an arctic Icelandic blizzard. They create your most hilarious stories and you will laugh about them for years to come.

If you have any amazing stories of your own we’d love to hear them below.

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

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Anna Maria Island – Insider Information from a Local

A few things have happened this week that made me think of home.

First, Facebook thoughtfully reminded me that it has been 1 year since I moved to Thailand, and 2 years since I arrived in Guangzhou, China. Which also reminded me that I haven’t actually been stateside for 2 years now.

That might be a bit too long – I’m coming for Christmas! I promise!

Then I found out that my hometown’s manatee, Snooty, passed away.

As I was telling Simon about Snooty, I was aware that mourning a town manatee is not particularly a normal thing, but my hometown is not always the most normal place.

Although I am hoping to spend the rest of my life abroad, I do really love where I am from. I did not run to the other side of the world because I thought Anna Maria was boring, or because I didn’t like the people there, or even because I thought I’d find somewhere better (just different – I always want different).

And if you are traveling in America, I wouldn’t hesitate for second before recommending Anna Maria for a Florida island experience.

Want some insider information from a local? Here you are:

Let’s start with the manatees!

Anna Maria is in Manatee County, and it’s not difficult to spot our love for the giant sea creatures we’re named after. Snooty, the manatee mentioned above, has been our county mascot since 1979, and any child who also grew up in the area has celebrated his birthday and had a sleepover next to his aquarium.

Manatees are an endangered species, but they aren’t uncommon in our waters. Many houses (including plenty of vacation rentals) are on canals, so you can see these gentle beasts right from your backyard. Look for their noses coming up to surface – they are mammals so they rise up frequently to breathe.

A manatee sighting in my backyard

If you aren’t staying on a canal, going out on a boat on the bayside of the island can also bring you up and close and personal with a manatee. Make sure you drive slowly and carefully – manatees are hurt too often by propellers, and you will notice that we post many signs warning boaters to keep our manatees safe.

Enjoy some Old Florida charm.

Along with love for our manatees, we are also proud of our efforts to preserve Old Florida culture. It has always been important to the island’s residents and local government to keep our community authentic and different from the bigger popular beach towns. We want to be a quieter, homier, old-time alternative to Miami, Panama City, or Daytona.

To start with, you won’t see sky-high hotels lining the beaches. Laws prevent buildings higher than three stories anywhere on the island. You also won’t see too many franchises – most stores are locally owned and designed with Old Florida architecture as the inspiration.

Head to Pine Avenue if you really want a taste of Old Florida. You’ll find plenty of local shops, a small history museum, and a historical church. The avenue dead ends at the ocean, where you’ll find the city pier, built in 1910.

The Historical Anna Maria City Pier

How to find a quiet beach:

During tourist seasons, our tiny roads are often at a standstill and the beaches are packed – at least the beaches most tourists know about.

If you want a more peaceful beach day, I’d recommend you head to the northeast region of the island. There won’t be signs (or parking spaces) for these beaches, but if you look carefully you’ll see a few nearly-hidden paths between houses that will lead to beaches that are almost always empty.

At the northern tip of the island is Bean Point, a beach named after George Bean, the first permanent resident on the island. He believed it to be the most beautiful place on the island. Despite this, it rarely draws a crowd. Probably because it is not obviously marked, there isn’t a parking lot, and the waters aren’t very safe to swim in because of strong riptides. But it’s the perfect place to quietly watch the sunset.

A few more quick tips:

The entire island is actually a bird sanctuary. One reaction I’ve heard from every visitor is that they love all the different birds they see – some are beautiful and some look like something out of a horror movie, but we have quite a variety.

Skip the rental car. There is a free trolley that regularly circles the entire island.

It is also easy to rent a bike or a golf cart (which you can legally drive on all island roads) for your trip. Biking is very common, and most businesses have bike racks.

Bring your pets! Many businesses and accommodations are pet-friendly. It isn’t uncommon to see small dogs with their owners inside stores or at outdoor restaurants. But don’t bring them to the beach – you might get a fine.

Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach, but they’ll enjoy our canals in a kayak!

October is the best month to visit. It is still warm enough to enjoy the beach, hurricane season is quieting down, and tourists are few and far between – this also means hotels and vacation rentals are cheaper.

Tourist season is late February through April, when most schools in America are on spring break.

The island is also busier in winter because of our “snow bird” community. A snow bird is a retiree who keeps a winter house in Florida, but lives up north during the warmer months.

Don’t discouraged if your beach day suddenly features a huge thunderstorm. Rain usually comes and leaves very quickly. Seek shelter for a few minutes, and you’ll most likely be able to carry on your day.

For breakfast, head to the Rod and Reel Pier or the Sign of the Mermaid.

For lunch or dinner, I recommend the Anna Maria City Pier, The Waterfront Restaurant, or The Sandbar.

It’s your turn – tell me about your hometown! If I came to visit, what would be your top tip most tourists wouldn’t know?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

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Where Can £89 Get You in Southeast Asia?

At this point in our life, we spend most of our time in Asia. We are currently based in Bangkok, and during many of our holidays we tend to end up in another Asian country.

They say you don’t really notice how much a culture has affected you until you leave, so who knows what might be the cause of any reverse culture shock when we do move on, but for now we’re going to guess that one of the hardest adjustments we’ll have to make is having to pay “normal” prices for things again.

A Christmas Train Ride

Let’s start with a story. This happened last December, when we were back in England for Christmas. At this point we had both been living abroad for some time and we were probably taking the easy cost of living in Thailand for granted.

We’d already spent way too much money on only a few days in Iceland, even leaving us homeless for our final night in a drafty bus station. We couldn’t wait to get to England and make our way to the cozy home of Simon’s grandparents.

Our train tickets from London were already reserved and paid for, so it should have been a straightforward and painless journey with no extra expenses. Except after our sleepless night, a blizzard postponed our plane by about six hours.

So we missed that train, and had to pay for another. The second train cost £89 each. Keep in mind this is only a one-way ticket for a journey of about an hour and a half.

This arctic blizzard was the cause of the £89 payment. 

So Let’s Compare

When you convert £89 to baht, the currency used in Thailand, it equals 3,877. This is substantially more than we each spend in a typical week, even eating out every night and going out on the weekend.

We were horrified to watch that much money disappear on something so small – to the point where we still discuss it today. It has almost become a game – how much can you get in Thailand for the cost of a short train ride in England?

Let’s Play

Get ready to be shocked! We’ll start with flights, which you would assume to always be more expensive than a train. (All prices were found on Skyscanner.)

A return flight from Bangkok to Phuket is £67 – the train ride was only one way and it was still £22 more.

A return flight from Bangkok to Yangon, Myanmar is £37. So you could go there and back twice and still not pay as much as a train ticket in England.

A return flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia? £46

A return flight to Hanoi, Vietnam? £53

A return flight to Singapore? £55

A return flight to Hong Kong? £78 – for six hours of flight time, compared to that hour and a half on the train.

Now let’s look at domestic flights from within these countries.

In Vietnam you could fly from Hanoi to every other major airport in the country including Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, Dalat, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City for cheaper than that train. Ranging from £43 to the most expensive we found to Ho Chi Minh City for £80.

In Cambodia, a flight from Siem Reap to its other major city, Phnom Penh, is £31. For only £4 more than the train prices in the UK you could make this journey 3 times.

And we had to throw this one in – the cheapest flight from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Indonesia comes up to only £12. You could make that journey 7 times and still have £5 to spare when compared to our train.

Moving on to Other Trains

Let’s actually compare the train in England to train travel in Southeast Asia.

The best available seat on a train from Malaysia to Singapore, which takes roughly 7 hours, is only about £11 one-way/£22 return. To put that into perspective, for the cost of our England train, you could go from Malaysia to Singapore and back four times.
http://www.malaysia-traveller.com/Kuala-Lumpur-to-Singapore-Train.html

If you want to get from the top of Thailand (Chiang Mai) to the bottom (Hat Yai), you would take two trains, with a stop in Bangkok. The total for your trip would only be £63 and you would be traveling for over 24 hours.
http://www.thailandtrainticket.com

The most expensive bed seat on a train from the top of Vietnam (Hanoi) to the bottom (Ho Chi Minh City), a 26 hour ride, is around £69. You can basically tour the whole country for £20 cheaper than that train in the UK.
https://vietnam-railway.com



Other Modes of Transport

A VIP bus from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia is only £21. https://www.travelertick.com/destination/bangkok-to-siem-reap

A bus from Hanoi, Vietnam to Luang Prabang, Laos, totaling 25 hours, costs about £38. https://www.travelertick.com

Singapore’s so small, only a simple metro and bus ticket would enable you to see most of the sights. A 3-day pass can be purchased for about £11. http://thesingaporetouristpass.com.sg/

We even totaled up a train and bus route from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam across most of Southeast Asia to Yangon, Myanmar, totaling over 36 hours – the final cost? About £58. For this journey, you would cross 4 countries: Vietnam, Camdodia, Thailand and then into Myanmar.
https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Ho-Chi-Minh-City/Yangon

Finally, we had a look at the cheapest overland route from Bangkok, Thailand to Beijing, China – a trip that would take 4 days and 8 hours. It would only come to £113. Just £17 more than that shitty one and a half hour train journey from London to Doncaster, United Kingdom.
https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Bangkok/Beijing

Travel around Southeast Asia for next to nothing. 

So for those at home who are always saying “how can you two afford to travel so much?” – here’s the answer! We aren’t rolling in money, we just don’t need much to travel in many parts of the world.

We absolutely recommend Southeast Asia to anyone who wants to travel the world with a limited budget. It’s gorgeous here, fun, and the prices are affordable.

Tell us – were you surprised by any of these prices? If you had the £89 we spent on our train ticket, how would you choose to use it?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

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Short-Term Travel vs. Living Abroad

In less than a week, an important anniversary is coming up for Kristin. It will be two years since she packed a couple bags, boarded a plane, and moved to China.

Kristin’s first view of China from the plane.

Simon also celebrates his anniversary every year in November.

While these are the dates we left our home countries for a long-term life abroad, we each had several short-term trips beforehand, and we continue to take short trips now – ranging from 3 or 4 days to a couple weeks.

We believe strongly that travel is always a worthwhile, character-shaping experience, whether you are gone for days or years – but the two experiences couldn’t be more different.

If you are considering which one (if not both) is for you, here are a few thoughts to consider.

Short-Term Travel

There are very few things more exciting than stepping foot off the plane at the start of a holiday. Everything is so new and fresh! And one of the most positive aspects of short-term travel is that this feeling keeps – your wonder and curiosity isn’t going to go stale. Your brain actually functions differently in a foreign environment – it’s even been compared to falling in love. You become hyper-aware of every little detail and the smallest things are exciting, creating a state of euphoria.

Loving everything about Oman!

Also like falling in love, short-term travelers have a much easier time overlooking differences in culture that might start to nag them if they had more time to settle in. The rose-colored glasses stay on for the duration of the trip.

On the other hand, short-term travel can become intense and exhausting quickly. If you have a travel companion, you are probably with them most hours of the day. With limited time to experience the culture around you, you might not be giving yourself a lot of down time or space to process everything you’re experiencing. We are nearly always ready to head home and just do nothing for a day or two when We finish up a short trip.

Living Abroad

To start with, living abroad is not really traveling, and the expectation that it will feel like an exciting adventure each day is only going to lead you into disappointment.

Arriving in your new country often starts off rough. You might feel the same excitement of the short-term traveler on arrival, but those feelings are also mixed in with competing pangs of insecurity and stress. Where are you going to live? What’s your new job going to be like? How long until you’ve made some good friends? How do you set up new bank accounts, phone service, and insurance? Where’s the closest grocery story?

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, and dealing with all these little details in a country that has slightly different expectations and etiquette than your own will likely lead to some culture shock.

But culture shock is only temporary if you let it run its course. With time, you’ll find yourself feeling an attachment to this county that you never felt during your short-term travels. You will develop genuine friendships with locals. You’ll feel comfortable, familiar, and at home as you walk the streets. You’ll start to roll your eyes at some of the cliche and over-the-top travel advice given about your city.

Bangkok is home now.

This new county has become a part of you – and this is where the cultural identity of an expat is a bit strange. Here is how someone explained it to me before I moved abroad: you can never 100% be a part of the new culture you’ve moved into. But after awhile, you won’t really fit 100% into your home culture, either. The expat community becomes its own “third culture,” but it’s a small one.

Finally, you’ll reach the most comfortable stage of living abroad – but for those with the travel itch, it may also be when you start to get bored. Nothing feels foreign or challenging anymore. You have a routine. You always know what to expect. Where’s the adventure?

At this point, you may choose to move on, and here’s where we’ve experienced the final difference between a short visit and a long-term stay: your memories when you leave.

When only spending a week or two in a country, memories are pleasant and light-hearted. But after setting up a home, as temporary as it was, it will always tug on you in a way that is more bittersweet. Continue with this life, and you’ll find you are always homesick for many places. It’s a deeper experience, but a more painful one.

For those of you who also lived abroad, can you relate? How do your experiences compare to ours? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

Want to know how We do it?

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When Travel Sucks

If you find yourself reading through a few travel blogs, browsing travel hashtags on Instagram, or flipping through your traveling friend’s Facebook albums, you might be lead to believe something that’s simply not true.

You might think travel is all breathtaking photos, adventures, and happiness upon happiness.

It’s mostly like this, but not always!

To be perfectly honest, travel sucks sometimes. You’ll probably find yourself confused, lost, or bored. It can also be frustrating trying to figure out a culture that isn’t your own. If you aren’t careful, being in a foreign environment can make what would normally be a mildly annoying situation into seemingly one of the biggest ordeals of your life.

Many first-time travelers are shocked by these moments, and maybe they swear off future trips, or share their exaggerated thoughts with their friends, or convince their friends to swear off future trips.

Before you get ahead of yourself, let’s look at travel in a more rational way – a way that doesn’t idealize anything or let easily-stirred negative emotions take over.

Many complaints we hear about the traveling lifestyle can also apply to your home life. Let’s look at some examples:

Sickness

You might not be perfectly healthy during your holiday, just like you have probably unfortunately fallen ill at home for Christmas, your birthday, or another special occasion. Poor health does not choose its victims based on their schedule or their location. It’s terrible if you are sick while traveling, but it could have happened at home just as easily.

Don’t let it put you off traveling because…
No matter where you are, you’ll have access to doctors and hospitals if needed. If you are really concerned, opt for travel insurance (which is incredibly cheap) instead of avoiding traveling altogether.

Crimes and Scams

Every city has a few off-putting stories about tourists who fell into some common scam and ended up parting with some of their money or valuables. Unfortunately, crime is everywhere. And we mean everywhere – including your hometown! It’s so sad when this keeps people from traveling, because in most cases they are actually safer abroad than in their familiar communities in the U.K. or the USA. You just need to carry yourself with a little confidence while traveling – people who are obviously confused and foreign might be seen as easier targets.

Don’t let it put you off traveling because…
Crime is everywhere. You leave your house at home and you could be mugged the second you step on the street. The truth is that crime is a lot worse in the UK and USA when compared to many other countries.

Journeys and Transportation

We really do understand this one! We hate every form of transportation, too. There is nothing fun about planes, airports, buses, or taxis. Some travelers romanticize their 40-hour bus ride through the mountains or 2-hour song tao journey across Myanmar because it was so “authentic.”

NO. We aren’t going to sugar coat it for you. Both of those experiences will be brutal.

But transportation is a part of life. Staying at home will eliminate long stretches of it, but we think people are getting a little dramatic when they let long distances stop them from traveling. It’s just one day of your life. How often have you wasted days binging some TV show? But in exchange for this wasted day, you’ll get to see the world.

Don’t let it put you off traveling because…
Transportation is a necessary evil – it gives you access to the best sights and experiences in the world.

Absolutely loving that “authentic” Myanmar song tao. 

Cleaning and Shopping

Here’s a side to our glamorous traveling life that never makes it to Facebook – grocery shopping, cleaning, and other chores. If you are staying abroad long-term like us, it’s not going to be all adventures, all day, every day. You’ll develop a routine similar to one at home, and it will include picking up a new bottle of shampoo on your way back from work, putting in a load of laundry, and mopping the floors. (Although we should admit that we are lazy bastards and hire a cleaner to take care of some of those tasks for us.)

Don’t let it put you off traveling because…
Not every moment needs to be (or can be) thrilling! If you had visions of a non-stop adventure abroad, you’ll likely feel disappointed when those expectations aren’t met. But don’t let that disappointment send you home. The reality is different, but still absolutely worthwhile.

Meh to cleaning!

A Few Smaller Concerns

Bills – Yes, if you decide to reside somewhere for longer than a month, you’ll probably have to cover the cost of electricity, water, and internet. You might even choose to buy or rent a car or motorbike if public transportation is lacking. That said, depending on where you are, the bills will probably be much smaller than they were back home.

Childcare – While based only on observation, there are so many families traveling now. We see them on social media and walking around every day in real life. Having a kid doesn’t mean you can’t travel. Every country has kids! It’s an obvious fact, but give that some thought. It means that whatever you need for your family, you’ll find it. Your family will be fine – probably even better because of their time abroad.

Insects – A lot of warm countries get a bad reputation for huge bugs rivaling the ones in our worst nightmares. Kristin grew up in the Southeast region of the United States, and she’s yet to encounter anything worse than what she dealt with back home. But if you’re used to a cold climate like Simon, get ready for the mosquitoes! Don’t worry – it’s rare to get a disease from the bugs in the main tourist trail cities. If you’re going somewhere more remote, check if you need any shots or medicine beforehand.

Travel isn’t always a smooth, fun, or exciting ride. In our experience, the high points come more frequently than the low ones, but you have to be prepared for its frustrating or boring moments. Don’t become disillusioned or discouraged. Travel is always worthwhile in the end.

Don’t be put off! It’s usually brilliant!

Travelers – have we missed anything? What do you wish you had realized before you set off on your journey?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

Want to know how We do it?

Click here for a FREE guide.

Is Traveling a Lonely Lifestyle?

Travelers often hear a question that goes something like this:

“You have such an exciting life – but don’t you get lonely being so far away from home?”

And many people mention this as a big reason why long-term travel isn’t for them – they would just feel too alone out there in the world.

So – do we get lonely?

A table for one in Cambodia

Of course we do! But we also felt lonely sometimes back home. You can be lonely abroad, in your hometown, around you family and best friends, or alone in a tiny hotel room. No lifestyle will leave you immune.

Kristin is an introvert who is perfectly happy to spend days alone (although she loves her friends, too). But Simon is definitely a very social person who needs a good group of friends to be happy.

Does that mean only Kristin is suited for long-term travel? Absolutely not! It doesn’t matter which personality you have – you can create the life you want when you’re traveling.

In other words, it’s definitely possible to have a solo trip that stays solo if you are in the mood for quiet introspection (although most solo travelers we’ve met claim they have less alone time abroad than they did back home).

It’s also possible to make friends right away and share your adventures with them. Boarding the plane alone doesn’t mean staying alone for the duration of your trip.

We’ve made some of the best friends we could ever ask for while traveling and living in foreign lands. We also met each other!

Traveling together is rarely lonely!

The truth is you are much more likely to find travel companions (romantic or platonic) somewhere out in the world, already traveling – not at home. You just have to go!

So how will you meet these friends abroad? There are many ways:

– Hostels are typically very social environments where solo travelers come together, even if you book a private room instead of a dorm.
– Tours can also be a place to meet new people.
– If tours aren’t your thing, try classes or clubs instead. (Hiking groups, book clubs, and yoga classes can be found in many major cities.)
– If you are willing to work or volunteer during your trip, you’ll connect with the rest of your team.
– You can sign up for several travel websites and apps that connect travelers looking to meet new people.
– There are also many Facebook groups for travelers or expats.
– Tandem language exchanges can connect you with locals who want to practice their English.
– If you’re single, some people have actually made good friends while traveling thanks to Tinder or other dating apps.
– Sometimes fate can step in! We’ve made friends on planes, waiting in an auditorium, sitting in a coffee shop, enjoying a community hot tub, and lying on a beach.

This list isn’t exhaustive, so just know there are always ways to meet people. You don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to be.

But, unfortunately, no matter how many friends you make, you will still be lonely from time to time.

Maybe sometimes you’ll feel a little homesick. Remember that your friends and family will always be on the other end of the phone and will always be excited to see you when you return home. You haven’t lost anyone. The people who really care about you will never treat you differently, even if you aren’t around as much. You’ll pick up right where you left off.

Also remember that sometimes you’ll have an easier time creating close bonds than others. Occasionally you’ll meet people right away who you instantly click with, but most friendships take a bit of time. If you’re planning to stay in one place for awhile, don’t get discouraged if you don’t find a best friend right away. Enjoy your new acquaintances. Keep an open mind about everyone. Let it happen naturally.

What has been your experience finding friends abroad? Have you ever experienced loneliness on a trip? How did you handle it?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

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Things Travelers Hate Hearing When Returning Home

As infrequent as they may be, we love our visits back home. Living abroad is exciting and fulfilling – exactly what we want from life – but of course every traveler misses the friends and family they left behind. Seeing them again is always a fun reunion – but back in our home countries, there are a few things we always hear that we’d rather not. Whether it’s a question we don’t know how to answer, or a statement that just couldn’t be farther from truth, here are the top things we dread hearing.

You’re so lucky!

There are a lot of misconceptions that those of us who travel or live abroad can only do so because we are so privileged. The truth is that we didn’t win some random prize. No one handed us a plane ticket or a job on a silver platter. We are out in the world because we chose to be here, and we did what was needed to get here. People who say we are “lucky” could have made the same choices – and they still can!

Of course we do realize we are privileged in some ways, mostly because we are native English speakers and there is a high demand for us worldwide as teachers, but this sentiment is usually shared by a fellow English speaker. (Note that we’ve also met many expats who aren’t native English speakers but have still found jobs abroad.)

You could easily be here too.

I will be over soon to see you!

If only this was true! How many friends have claimed they will be having their next holiday here? It’s such an exciting idea for us – we’d love to show off the foreign communities we’ve made our home. But in the combined 7 years we’ve been abroad, only one friend has ever shown up. So we’ve become a bit cynical to this promise now – we aren’t getting our hopes up.

When are you coming home for good?

Many people assume that this is just a little phase we’re going through. We don’t view our time abroad as a gap year. It’s not a detour that leads back to the life we had at home eventually. We have started careers and lives abroad and we can’t see ourselves giving that up if we can help it. There are almost 200 countries out there to see, and each one offers a completely unique experience. How could we ever quit this?

When are we coming home? Never.

“The Real World” or “Normal Life”

These phrases are always referring to Western English-speaking countries, and it’s honestly just a tad arrogant. No culture and no life is more “real” or more “normal” than another. Some people see our time abroad as one long frivolous holiday. In reality, we are responsible adults with meaningful careers, bills to pay, people who rely on us, and good life-long friends who care about us.

As teachers, we really feel this is the best choice for our careers. There are endless opportunities for us around the globe, and many offer more respect, better working environments and a higher quality of life than what teachers receive back in our home countries.

Meanwhile, back in the “real world” we could barely pay rent with a teacher’s salary, and jobs are scarce.

When are you going to settle down?

What exactly does “settle down” mean, and why does everyone have to do it? We are perfectly happy “settling” for a year or two at a time, and then moving on to a new, amazing opportunity. We aren’t interested in owning property, cars, or boxes and boxes of meaningless possessions. And we certainly aren’t dreaming of the day we can tie ourselves down to one place indefinitely. Again – the world is so big! We want to experience it all, and we’ve found a way to realistically achieve this.

We’re pretty settled now 🙂

Are you running away from something?

No, we are running toward a million things, and we don’t understand why everyone else isn’t joining us. From our perspective, our “running” is perfectly healthy and normal, and we’re concerned about the people who seem to be hiding from something. But maybe we just all have different interests and goals for our lives – and that’s perfectly fine.

This kind of accusation doesn’t usually come from a friend or family member – it comes from someone we’ve only just met, and who seems to have a very narrow-minded view of the world. If we are running from anything, it’s probably people like that.

Shouldn’t you be spending this time building your career?

We ARE spending this time building our careers. Not only are we working full-time in our chosen field, living abroad can show future employers many characteristics that they are looking for, such as independence, open minds, communication skills, and a willingness to embrace and overcome challenges.

We have been building our careers since we first met.

You’re wasting the best years of your life.

We just couldn’t disagree more. Yes, these are sure to be some of the best years of our lives, and we wouldn’t spend them any other way – exploring the world, regularly having adventures and a party or two.

Aren’t you getting too old to travel now?

Age just has nothing to do with it. Why make decisions about what you can and can’t do based on a number? We are healthy, we are not neglecting any of our responsibilities, and we are not making decisions we will regret later on. We know what we want, and there’s no real reason to slow down – except that traditional society thinks we should.

Don’t you miss your family and friends?

Yes, like crazy! But it works both ways. They could always come over and see us. It is also so easy to stay in touch, and we know the people who really care about us love what we’re doing and are proud of us for living our lives to the fullest.

How can you afford it – surely your money must run out?

We have jobs! I suppose acquaintances or new people we meet assume we are backpacking, but there are actually so many different styles of long-term travel. We have a steady paycheck, a 1-year lease on our condo, and we are living and working and paying bills just like everyone back home – although our bills are actually fewer and cheaper. We have more money to spend abroad than we ever did back home.

Saying nothing

Sometimes it’s not what is said, but what is not said. More experienced travelers once warned us this would happen, but we were still so surprised when it actually did. It’s strange to talk to someone back home who seems determined not to mention our time abroad at all. Maybe it’s just because we are such travel fanatics, but before we started traveling ourselves, we were always fascinated by those who had experienced any other corner of the world, asking them all sorts of questions and eating up their stories. Not that we are expecting that level of obsession, but if we listen to someone’s stories about gardening and the local housing economy, surely they can feign some interest in our lives too.

We’re not stopping the adventures any time soon!

We’re not saying everyone wants to travel, or even that everyone should travel. We all have our own interests and passions, and as long as you are pursuing them, you have all our respect. We know our choices are a bit unorthodox. We aren’t following the typical life path most people embrace. We only ask that people keep an open mind and consider that we have thought this through and are making the right choices for ourselves.

Fellow travelers – have you heard these statements or been asked these questions before? What have we missed? What was your reaction?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

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The Conspiracies and Obscure History of Vatican City

Vatican City isn’t a normal place.

To start with, it is technically its own country – despite only being a mere 110 acres with a population of about 1,000. But it does have its own post office, railway station, radio station, and, of course, a rich and influential story. It has certainly earned its prominent place in European History. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in its unique power.

The conspiracies swirling around Vatican City are honestly mind-boggling, especially when they stray from the typical power plays and corruption you learned about in history class. From aliens to time travel, we want to discuss some of the strangest and most obscure legends we found.

Does extraterrestrial life exist? According to many conspiracy theories, the answer lies in the Vatican’s secret archives, which some claim detail an encounter between the Vatican and an alien society that wants to help Earth’s impending energy crisis – unfortunately they are afraid to reach out publicly because of our overly violent nature.

Are we alone?

And if that seems far-fetched, get ready for this strange rumor: Also hidden away in those strictly confidential archives? The secrets of time travel, and proof that time travel has already occurred to change history in dire situations. Apparently this powerful technology is owned and restricted by the Vatican, but it has been borrowed by both American and British governments in times of need.

From forgiving sins to defying the laws of time, the Vatican is rumored to have a lot of power.

Of course, we can’t forget about the secret, strange, or scandalous lives of popes throughout history.

Pope Stephen VI was so opposed to his predecessor, he dug his body from the grave, dressed him in his papal robes, and shouted horrible accusations at him before tossing him into a river.

John XII transformed the Vatican from holy grounds to a huge brothel, in which he was the center of the sinful activity. Eventually his wild life caught up with him when he was killed by a jealous husband who found him in bed with his wife.

There is also a 9th century pope appearing in several historical texts that many people believed to secretly be female. Now referred to as Pope Joan, legend says she entered the priesthood with the encouragement of her lover, quickly advancing in rank because of her intelligence and spotless character. Her lover was her greatest weakness and ultimately her downfall. Their secret was uncovered when she became pregnant, giving birth one morning as she rode her horse. She was executed within days.

The legendary, probably mythical, Pope Joan

One last papal story: Pope Paul II. He was not very popular during his reign, as he was always trying to wear a very fancy tiara and apply rogue to his face despite the objections of everyone around him. He met an untimely death, supposedly caused by eating too many melons. He may have been a bit materialistic and vain for a pope, but no one can say he didn’t live life on his own terms.

There’s no denying that behind the walls of Vatican City lies the inspiration for countless conspiracies, mysteries, and speculations of secrets and scandals. This is why, for such a small city-state, there seems to be endless histories to explore. Its influence stretches to the strangest of places.

Have you ever visited Vatican City? What interesting facts (or pseudo facts) did you uncover?

 

TRAVELERS OFTEN GET ASKED HOW WE’RE ABLE TO FIND THE MONEY, TIME, OR COURAGE TO GO ABROAD.

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