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Evolving

It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you. – F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is something that I’ve wanted to discuss for a while merely because after every time we get back home from traveling, parts of us have evolved. Occasionally it is tough to put into words exactly how we’ve changed but after some time, it becomes clearer. Personally I don’t think that this is a conversation that most people have but should. We all talk about where we want to go next, what we crossed off our bucket lists but we don’t discuss how we have changed because of these magnificent experiences. Whether you notice it or not, something in you changes when you are immersed in different culture and stepping outside of your comfort zone. I think that people who have left for an extended period of time can relate to this compared to those who haven’t left. [I don’t know the word for this feeling – if there even is one. I figured that there would be in Swedish because they seriously have a word for everything!] Each and every time I leave something else in me ignites and a door closes. Those who travel all share the same compassion and even though we can do it differently, we all speak the same language. Between myself and Jeff – this is our bare minimum list of how we’ve changed these past few years thanks to our travels.

Attitude

We’ve seen some things on our travels… had some experiences that were tough to swallow. But there are people out there who have been through literal hell and back yet have the brightest smile on their faces each and every damn day. This is what has changed me the most. When you spend time with people who are poor and live a happier life than most people you know, it’s hard to find a new normal. [I think this is the toughest to explain without coming across as a huge bitch to everyone I know…] It’s no secret that we take for granted living in such a developed country that we literally joke about “First World Problems.” After you are exposed to poverty in third world countries or war stories or any other horrifying situations that actually happen still to this day, it takes a while to process. For example, your friend can be talking about her drama with her boyfriend and all you’re thinking about saying is “Really Becky – people are still coping with birth defects from Agent Orange and they weren’t even in the war.” I know for myself I’ve pushed myself away from my friends for a while because I kept comparing how majority of these fixable problems weren’t that important in the broad spectrum and was being disrespectful to their feelings. But once you’re shown the reality of what other people’s daily lives consist of, I’ve learnt that it only makes me human to show empathy towards these situations. I’d be more concerned about myself if it didn’t affect me.

Patience

Travel is not always the perfect Instagram shots and luxury hotels. It can be, lost baggage, delayed flights, long line ups, culture shock, language barriers, accidents, illnesses… you get the idea. But at the end of the day, that is all part of the experience. Traveling has taught me to just be patient. Every trip will highly likely not go as it was planned. You will experience frustrating, hair pulling moments, but you come to realize that is what you unintentionally signed up for. Island time is a thing and it is used in majority of places you will go. If you are a punctual person, you will learn to know that it is not the end of the world if your driver is 20 minutes late. As mentioned before, I am an OCD planner. But I have come to terms with no matter what my plan is, things will go wrong and I need to go with the flow.

Money

Once you step into a country that is reasonably inexpensive to travel, you will never spend your money back home the same way again. Whenever we go out for a meal and spend $70, all we think about how that is a few nights at a hotel in Vietnam. It’s a vicious cycle that is hard to break! With that being said, we’ve cut back on a lot of social outings because we would rather put that money towards our next trip. That again is a vicious cycle because we are always saving up for that next trip! By limiting ourselves to nights out at the bar or dinners with friends, we’ve watched a lot of our friendships dissolve. A lot of relationships are honestly built off of going to the clubs every weekend and once you’re in a different place than that friend, sometimes you lose touch. Our priorities have changed and we’ve found which of our friends support that and we will never be able to thank them enough!

Quality over quantity

Tying in with the money section – being frugal and money conscious is something that neither of us ever did. I mean, we both knew how to stretch our money in university to be able to eat and go to the bar on the weekend… but now we have learnt that somethings are worth the cash and others aren’t. When you travel there’s nothing worse than shoes that don’t fit, hostels with bed bugs and food that you shouldn’t have ate but was convenient. Those new hikers that are like walking on air but are more expensive than the ones that will probably fall apart half way through hiking season – worth that extra money. A five star luxury private tour that gives you literally the exact same experience as a 3 star just with a little more comfort – not always worth it. Balancing out experiences/products that you know will benefit you in the long run can take some practice, but it is certainly worth finding the balance.

Religion and Politics

Now this is two subjects you never want to bring up! We both grew up going to youth programs after school but nothing to the extent where we practiced religion in our homes. As we got older, we stopped going and didn’t really look back. I’ve never been a fan of religion that is pushed upon you but after traveling to other countries and was immersed into their culture/religion, we both gained respect for other religions. While traveling we’ve sat in on Buddhist Monks afternoon prayer and Galungan in Bali which were a couple of our desired experiences. Sitting on the outside looking in at how blissful people are in their religion and sharing their beliefs with us has become one of our favorite experiences while traveling. You don’t need to be religious to understand faith. And for politics… I think the easiest way to say this, after you are in a country that went to war on itself because of their government, it becomes tough to take people seriously when they criticize our current government. Enough said.

Work Ethic

If our bosses read this – I apologize profoundly! I’m kidding but this is what we struggle with quite often. When we talk about traveling to people who are older than us and have established a good career and family, they often tell us the same thing; “I wish I traveled more when I was young!” [If we had a dollar for every time we heard that – I’m sure we could spend a month in Thailand!] But it breaks our hearts. We’re in a society that is has a timeline that consists of, get an education, start a career, buy a house, get married, have babies and possibly live a life that you aren’t fully happy with but you wanted to do it right. And if you step outside this so called norm, people think you are nuts. Currently, we are that irrational couple that got married and don’t want to buy a house to settle down in but use that money instead to travel the world. Some people pat us on the back and wish us the best of luck while others grill us about ‘how could you put our careers on hold to pursue something so insane and unsafe?!’ This is one of those “to each their own” moments. All we know is that we aren’t promised the future so in the meantime we want to fulfil this burning desire in our souls! We intend to live by our mantra as long as we feasibly can – “You can always make money, but you can’t make time.”

There’s a lot more that I simply cannot put into words at this time. Plus I’m sure that after our next trip this list will continue to evolve. Each experience we have will help us grow and learn things that you cannot be taught in school. What have you noticed that has changed within yourself because of your travels? Anything that we share? Leave us a comment below to share your thoughts!

As long as we keep traveling, we will keep evolving and we cannot be happier.

Till next time,

xo A

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Planning A Route

Whether it’s planning a meal, what to clean in the house or my personal favourite..a trip, my whole life is revolved around plans. I’ve made 1, 3 and 5 year plans, our entire wedding had a weekly plan (it was a destination to be fair) but being honest, planning is what keeps me sane. Now I’m not going to toot my own horn but each of our big trips, we’ve had people actually tell us that our routes were very clean and organized and made sense. To me, that was the ultimate compliment. I can spend hours deciding what to do and where to go, bec
ause it makes sense looking at a map but in real life, knowing that it actually works is the ultimate goal!

How to Start

Figure out a timeframe. Only have a weekend? Pick a city to explore. Got a week, maybe do a resort trip. A month, a couple of countries that are close together. You never want to rush a trip so be realistic. Do you really want to spend up to 25 hours of travel time each way to only have 4 days? Or would you rather go somewhere closer and enjoy those extra days? In the end the decision is based upon your schedule and budget.
Once you figure out your time frame, pick the destination. You finally have a long weekend free to go check out New York City! Or you are able to convince your boss to let you take a month off and so you can jet over to South East Asia. Keep in mind, it doesn’t matter where you go, it will never be long enough!
Next up: Research. Google. Instagram. Blogs. Get an idea of the major sights you want to check out. But be open to allowing some change along the way. You can have a perfect itinerary planned out and the weather can end up being shitty, you could get an unexpected sickness or your friends you just met could tell you about this awesome place you must to check out. You literally never know what can happen. So have a general idea of what you want to do, but keep an open mind and have fun with exploring new options.
This is my favourite part. I’ll use the example of our honeymoon trip we did. We booked flights into Hong Kong and knew we wanted to go to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. From there we spent countless hours on Instagram and reading travel blogs finding other neat places to go to. Once we found a place we knew we wanted to go to, on google maps we searched where it was and saved it to “Starred Places” the map. Below is an example.

VietnamRoute

From there, the map showed all the places we for sure. It ended up being a circle because we bought a round trip flight from Hong Kong because it saved us a ton of money. We chose to fly from Hong Kong into Hanoi, go down the coast of Vietnam, head from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh in Cambodia and fly back to Hong Kong from Siem Reap. Within the areas we wanted to go to, we also star the attractions we want to check out. Here’s our example in New York City.

NYCRoute
After we created this map we could see that we wanted to spend one day in Lower Manhattan, another around Midtown and lastly Central Park.
By developing a general route on where you want to go, I find that it saves you from the guessing game. It eliminates the possibility of forgetting about something that you actually wanted to do or see. It also cuts down on transportation costs. I can’t imagine if we wanted to go to the Statue of Liberty the same day as a walk in Central Park. I mean it is absolutely do-able but in the end costs more on transportation which also takes up time. One thing that everybody agrees on – being stuck in traffic is the absolute worst!
Well that’s the ins and outs of how we like to plan our holidays! Right from the timeframe, where to and what to do. Take the time to do some research so you aren’t spending time trying to find stuff to do while you are there, but don’t do too much that you aren’t even excited to do it anymore. Sometimes we get so caught up in the internet we forget to live in the moment and just enjoy it.
If you have any other suggestions on your planning process, I would love to hear them! Leave a comment below!

Tips for Setting a Budget

One question we get asked a lot is how do we afford to travel? There isn’t a simple answer to this, but we’ve created something that works for us. What works for us might not work for you, but it can give you some ideas! One thing to remember is there are different types of traveling. Backpacking on a budget, mid-range that crosses a bit of frugalness with #YOLO and then the luxurious option. Once you figure out what type of travel you want to do, you need to create a plan to get you there. [Unless your bank account already allows you to do whatever you want.]

First things first, pack a damn lunch. Spend 2 hours on a Sunday or Monday to get groceries and do a meal prep. I cannot begin to tell you how much those weekly trips out for lunch add up. [Okay my Tim Horton’s addiction costs me roughly $30 a month, which I KNOW I shouldn’t be doing but I can’t stop. Send help.] Jeff worked it out that our lunches cost around $1.80 a day, which is way better than eating out daily and far healthier as well.

Secondly, dinners. Limit yourself to eating out for dinner. I don’t think that most people realize how much eating out costs. They’d rather see the $15 – $45 a day go towards food than the $120 grocery bill once a week due to convenience. In addition to lunch meal prep, we also make freezer meals that are easy to pop into the crock pot or oven when I get home from work. This frees up a lot of time and is also cost efficient.

Recently we took a long hard look at all of our expenses to try to cut back some costs since we are saving up for long term travels. By doing so, we got rid of our gym memberships and purchased Beach Body on Demand and some free weights to use at home. Of course there are people who definitely prefer the gym over home workouts, but this is something that we are really enjoying. There are copious amounts of workouts to choose from so it never gets repetitive.  Let’s be honest, we Netflix and chill a lot more than we should, so cable didn’t make sense.  After cutting the cable, I didn’t realize how many people do not have it anymore. There are countless different options out there and they are less expensive. [Check out AppleTV, Android Box or Kodi.] Lastly, we both have work phones and a personal phone. We decided to get rid of one of our personal phones and just use the work phone. It’s more convenient to carry around one phone and cuts back one phone bill, which in Canada, they are the worst. In total, we have saved $200 a month. That’s over 2 grand a year. That might not seem much too some people but in reality, that’s more than enough to purchase a flight for two people! When you have travel on the brain, every transaction you make you’ll think of how far that money would go in another country. If we spend $30 on lunch, we think about how that’s one night at a nice hotel in Bali. Or when I splurge on a Kate Spade purse, that’s a trek to Machu Picchu!

Once we have funds saved, we create a general idea of where we want to go and what are the must do attractions that I’ll cry if we don’t do.  For instance, when we went to Vietnam, we knew we wanted to go to Ha Long Bay, Tam Coc, Cu Chi Tunnels and spend time on a beach. Research the cost of all of these attractions, average cost of hotels and food, flights, a realistic time frame of how long to be gone for with a little bit of wiggle room for transportation and unexpected costs, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to spend. Some people book their vacations around what flights are on sale. Once we decide on a destination I research the lowest cost of airfare and set a tracker on Google flights and watch it for a bit. Don’t book too late though or you’ll end up paying double at times.

Make sure you know what type of traveler you are as I mentioned earlier. To recap, read some blogs or ask Google what the average cost of airfare, accommodation, transportation, food and attractions are of the area you want to go to. Remember that places like South America and South East Asia are going to be incredibly less expensive compared to Australia and Europe so plan wisely. $2,000 might get you two weeks in Australia but if you are canny it can stretch about two months in Thailand.

There you have it. Our mess of a way that we are saving to travel. We’ve only been to seven countries together, but we are making it work with a lot more in store! We want to know how you are saving as well! What do you do differently than us? Have these tips inspired you? Leave us a comment below!

-xo A

Operating a Scooter for Dumbies

Saving costs on transportation while travelling can be difficult. It all starts with your comfort level and what you are willing to do to save on this unavoidable cost. Public transit in some countries can be very limited and confusing. Paying for taxis/Uber/tuk tuks can get expensive, however it is the most convenient. Hiring drivers from local companies, airports or hotels are the most expensive option but also the most effective form of transportation from point A to point B in your travels. We admit, we can be lazy and tired and just want to get from the airport to our hotel so we grab whatever we see first.

The cheapest form of transportation I have experienced (mainly in various South East Asia countries) is renting a scooter. We’ve paid anywhere from 5-8 Canadian dollars a full day. During your travels you’ve probably seen people covered in road rash due to scooter accidents.. don’t let that defer you from trying them out! It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows when I first jumped on a scooter to take my wife for a little rip. I never got a tutorial and to top it off we were told “There are no helmets on Nusa Lembongan!” This is one of those moments where the safety standards shock you.. But hey, the locals make the scooter look like clown car! You never know how many people they can fit or objects they can cary. It should be an Olympic sport to be honest!

Getting Started on the Scooter

Here I am, on a small elevated island off the coast of Bali with terrible infrastructure, tons of hills and turns. The hotel manager hands me keys to what seemed to be his personal scooter. I fired it up, went for a test spin and almost crashed the thing. Got back on, figured out what I did wrong and made a mental note of how not to do it again. How my wife hopped on the back trusting that everything was going to be safe is out of my knowledge. In the end, I almost killed her once that day (so she says but it was just a small scrape on her leg) but the views you get, and freedom to go where you want, when you want is absolutely priceless. We look forward to renting a scooter because we have found some of the most incredible views that we wouldn’t have come across if we were to walk or take a driver.

So here’s my advice if you’ve never operated the beautiful piece of equipment.

  • Start somewhere small. Don’t let your first experience be in Kuta, Bali or Hanoi, Vietnam. You will for sure never want to jump on one again!
  • Ask for an automatic scooter, this will make your experience 10x easier.
  • Be confident! Know your route before you go if you have somewhere specific to go or be okay with getting lost.
  • Make sure to find out the location of the horn, turn signals and lights. The person renting you their unit will want it back the way they left it to you, so do not be afraid to ask for a little lesson.
  • Always ask where the closest gas station is because no one wants to be stranded on the side of the road in some foreign country. Aside from gas stations in the cities, in Bali and Vietnam the petrol was in 1.5L water bottles found on the side of the road. You can purchase one for a couple of bucks to refuel if you don’t see a gas station.
  • Remember, in some countries helmets are optional. If you do not have that luxury just take it easy and don’t do anything crazy and you’ll walk away without a scratch (hopefully).
  • Be mindful of other drivers. You probably aren’t used to this type of hectic traffic with no order. So keep your eyes focused in front of you and try not to worry too much about what’s happening behind you.

Alright, here you are driving down the road with the wind in your hair enjoying the views. Do not tense up on a bike it will make it harder to drive, especially if you have a passenger. It’s always good to team up, like getting your passenger to shoulder check for you, because it may be absolute mayhem and you do not want to take your eyes off the road. Be aware that some other drivers will cut you off. But remember that’s how they drive in their country and you need to adapt to their ways. You also need to take in account where you can park these things. Some places is a free for all, while other places you’ll need to pay. Do not think that it’s a little bike and you can just leave it anywhere.

If you’re like me, where you don’t get to operate a scooter often you will absolutely love it. My wife has to tell me to turn it around cause I will literally drive for days. So folks, remember the first few rules on what to do if you are a noob like me renting a scooter for the first time and you’ll be fine.

Grip it and rip it.
– J