We had an incredible Google+ Hangout on Saturday. With that, we also had a ton of unanswered questions. Scroll below to find some answers to the questions we missed. If you couldn’t make the Hangout, click the play button above to get started!
Sonjia, Cameron and Nate chime in on your unanswered questions below.
1. How would one go about seeking out the right travel partner? Sometimes we choose those we feel we mesh with the best then get to the destination and its a disaster. Also any advice on best time to travel to Greece?
Sonjia: Who do you have similar values with? Who likes to travel the way you like to travel, stay the places you like to stay, eat the kinds of things you like to eat, etc. The more you can find someone who has a similar approach to life, the greater the likelihood that you will get along while traveling. Having said that, things could always fall apart & disagreements ensue. That could happen with a married couple on their honeymoon! It’s about communication & setting expectations (.e.g. how will the expenses be split, what if one person wants to do something & the other doesn’t, etc.). And it’s also about flexibility. Things can & do go wrong while traveling. If you can maintain a flexible attitude & a determination to make the best of things despite the people & the circumstances, that will serve you in the short…and the long run! And remember how well (or not so well) that person traveled with you afterwards. In other words, don’t keep traveling with people you know you clash with while on vacation!
2. I have travelled to so many wonderful places. How do you get started as a travel blogger? What other careers are out there for people that travel a lot?
Cameron: The best way to start a travel blog is to start writing down the places you go and a few lines on your activities at those places. Consider the travel blog as you personal account of your experience, something that in 20 years you’ll read to bring back memories. Also, Use your travel blog as a way to process your experiences, at the end of each day set aside 15 minutes to review your notes and then wrote the memories surrounding the note.
Sonjia: There are a number of expert articles on the Web about getting started as a travel blogger and careers for people who want to travel. Be sure to spend some time just Googling those and reading some of what comes up. But right off-hand, at its core, blogging is about writing & sharing your perspective with the world. You don’t need a fancy platform to do that. Create a blog site (via WordPress, Blogger, etc.) & start blogging! Other travel careers can include things like auditors, language translators/correspondents, teachers, etc. You can also become an entrepreneur and create location-independent work that will allow you to work from anywhere in the world. Again, spend some time researching these on the Web, and I think you’ll be surprised at the options available to you.
3. What do you think about using airbnb.com for international accommodations?
Nate: Airbnb is a personal favorite of mine that I use frequently. For a more local experience, I typically stay away from hotels and find an apartment somewhere within the city center. The apartment owner, who provides their contact details once booked, can easily become your personal/virtual tour guide. They are quick to give you recommendations on where to go, what to eat, and most importantly, what not to do. They are typically always accessible throughout your stay. In Seoul, South Korea, the apartment owner waited for me until 3AM after being delayed at customs to ensure I arrived and settled in comfortably. In Ibiza, the apartment owner offered a free airport pick-up and rides to beach as needed since taxis were expensive. When selecting an apartment I recommended:
- Select apartments with more than three reviews
- Read ALL reviews to get a better understanding of the reactions from a diverse group of people
- Select apartments from owners that provide transparent details regarding the apartment and has a high response rate
4. Has language ever been a barrier in your travels?
Nate: No. I lived in China, in a very local community, for a little under a year and the challenges with communicating were minimal. However, it is a good idea to know the basics – Hello, thank you, Where is…, how much, etc.
Sonjia: Rarely. I speak only one language – English, but almost everywhere I’ve traveled, some or most of the Locals spoke English. I can only remember having true language barriers in 2 cities: Moscow and Madrid. Even then, you take it in stride & use sign language, gestures, pen & paper, etc. to communicate, which makes for interesting if not comical travel stories!
5. What sources do you rely on when trying to research trip activities?
Nate: I always start with TripAdvisor. I go through and look at the top 20 things to do. I check all the reviews and photos to see what sparks my interest. I also Google phrases such as “Best adrenaline rush activity in Costa Rica” or “Hidden gems in Paris.” A new tactic I recently adopted is creating forums on travel related sites, such as Trippy.com, seeking information for specific activities. You will be surprised how many responses you’ll receive in a short period of time.
6. Is it a good idea to travel with a tour group vs a solo arrangement? I’ve been researching tour groups and how can I find out about safety in the places I want to go?
Nate: It depends on the country/city. When I went to Cairo, I arranged for a tour guide for several reasons. Public transportation can be a nightmare – tour guides provide a vehicle. Navigating away from touristy places and immersing into the local community can be challenging – a tour guide can facilitate that. However, in cities such as London, Paris, or Rome, I do solo arrangements, as the adjustment and navigating process are a bit easier. My advice is to look at a tour company’s itinerary, and mimic their agenda… on your own. You can then go at your own pace and discover new things in-between.
Cameron: Group travel is certainly the safest method of travel. You’ll have a range of people in the group, planners, loungers, adventurers, and complainer. Make sure you choose the right crowd. To find the latest safety information go to Travel.State.Gov
Sonjia: People often think tour groups aren’t “authentic” & “negate” the local travel experience. I disagree, and think there is a time & a place for tour group travel. In certain regions & countries (for example, African safari, Alaska activities, etc.), it’s almost a given (unless you want to pay a fortune in single supplement charges). Additionally, for the person who is apprehensive about traveling alone from a security & companionship standpoint, a group tour might be the answer to your concerns. A standard Google search on the security/safety in a region will typically tell you what you need to know, but supplement that with conversations with people who have traveled to the country you’re interested in as well as people who live/have lived there.
7. How do you balance long-term travel, say a month to a year, with having a significant other? I’m a young college student who loves the idea of studying abroad for a year, but my boyfriend won’t be able to travel because of work, and he’s already expressed to me that he doesn’t like the idea of a long distance relationship. I don’t want to lose my relationship, but I don’t want to regret not seeing the world!
Cameron: Never let a relationship stand in the way of seeing the world. Period. Long distance, especially for only a month, is not that bad. As long as there is FaceTime and Skype and love, there shouldn’t really be a problem.
Sonjia: The most important thing is helping your partner to understand why you’re doing this, why it’s important to you. And to be perfectly honest, if they really care about you, they wouldn’t want you to miss this opportunity. They would want you to do this simply because it’s so important to you. Upfront communication on some key ground rules before you go is also going to be important (e.g. like how often will you try to see each other, will you switch off in making the journey, etc.). And while you’re gone, sticking to those rules (even when you’re tired or have other demands on your time) is going to be important..because your partner will be looking for the first opportunity to say, “See? I told you this wouldn’t work!” Long-distance relationships aren’t ideal for most people, but they CAN work – if BOTH parties are committed to making it work. But from my own personal perspective, there is no way I would miss out on studying abroad if the opportunity presented itself. It’s something you will regret for the rest of your life if you don’t do it. There are some things in life we have to do just for us, no matter how much we love the people around us.
8. What do you think about getting the Global Entry pass or TSA Precheck?
Cameron: Both of these are wonderful programs that save you 5-10 minutes max per trip. If you are a frequent traveller then I recommend, otherwise if you travel less than 10 times a year, save your money.
Sonjia: If you don’t have Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check, you need to get both. They pay back their cost many times over. Having said that, more & more people are getting “hip” to both of these time-savers so don’t be surprised when you come across a security line with more people in the TSA Pre-Check line than in the regular security line. It’s happened to me a few times, and I took full advantage of having the option to switch lines!
9. It seems a lot of folks have asked the pressing question about financing/saving for traveling….I guess I will ask the same + just one more: as a newbie, what are some fun ways to earn money WHILE traveling?
Sonjia: Consider ways to freelance your skills (e.g. Task Rabbit, Elance, Fiverr, etc) so you can get paid while traveling. Not only will you be using your talents to do something you’re passionate or skilled at, but you’ll be making money for it AND it will give you a chance to see if location-independent work and/or the entrepreneurial life is for you, either of which could give you even greater flexibility to travel.
10. A lot of people fear traveling alone. How would you combat the fear of getting somewhere and not knowing anyone or how to interact? On that same token, how do you put together an itinerary of to-dos once or before you arrive. What’s the best way to have a local non-“touristy” experience?
Sonjia: Research is everything – do your homework. Think logically about what your concern is, and then how do you address that concern. You combat fear by negating it, and you negate it by finding the solution for alleviating it. I keep a running travel list of countries I’m interested in and what to eat, see, and do once I get there (continuously added to when I come across something of note in a magazine/news/internet article, a television show, etc.). If you know you like beaches, try to hit one up everywhere you go. I like to go to spas, so I try to have a spa experience in every new country I visit. Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with “touristy” sights or activities, per se (i.e. You wouldn’t go to Paris & NOT see the Eiffel Tower, even though it’s “touristy). But if you like more of the local experience, go where the locals go, eat where they eat, shop where they shop, etc. Another common way is by staying in hostels or renting apartments/houses in neighborhoods.
11. What sources do you rely on when trying to research trip activities? For example, salsa night in ____.
Sonjia: Really, I use Google as a whole & look up adventurous & unique activities in the particular place where I’m going. I might also check out Tripadvisor to see what other travelers liked doing during their own visits. I also keep a running travel list – added to whenever I see something of interest in news/magazine/internet articles, on television shows, etc. At any given time, I can immediately tell you several places I want to go & where I want to eat, what I want to see, and what I want to do when I get there.
12. How long should you wait to book airfare?
Sonjia: Several months before your trip, put your fares on fare alerts and watch them for price movement. When you feel the fare is at its lowest, go ahead & book it. You’ll get a feel for what’s going on with fares via the alerts & get to know what’s a “good” booking price. If you book anything inside of 7 days, (typically) be prepared to pay a grip!
13. What are some of the best techniques for saving money for travel? What the best budget -friendly city (internationally)?
Sonjia: The simplest, easiest way is the best way to save money in general. Set up a separate account strictly for travel & have money direct deposited into it from your paycheck every pay period. As for budget-friendly cities, the Southeast Asia region (e.g. Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, etc.) tends to offer some of the biggest bang for the buck around the world.
14. As a women traveling alone, how do foreign men act towards you? Have you ever had any bad experiences?
Sonjia: For me, it’s never been anything but a positive or neutral experience. In many countries (such as Egypt, Turkey, the Emirates, etc.), the Local men actually love Black women! And in my observation, it often seems the more “Black-looking” a Black woman is (i.e. darker skin, natural hair vs. relaxed hair, etc.), the more embraced she is by foreign men, which can be a refreshing switch from how things sometimes are in the states!
Links mentioned in the live chat
Nate: Hotels.com for rewards program. 1 free night for every 10 nights booked. Once accumulated, the free nights comes in handy for last minute getaways.
Cameron: The most important travel site, which will give you the best advice about in country travel, safety precautions, and ways to prepare is https://www.travel.state.gov. Also make sure you sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive travel updates and warnings about the country you will be traveling or living in.
Sonjia Mackey: @mslioness2u // impossibleliving.me
Cameron Thomas-Shah: @CamTS7
Zim Ugochukwu (moderator): @zimism // zimism.com
Nate Chambers: @MrVagaabond
Jacob Tzegaegbe: @jtzeg
Danielle Pointdujour: @msdanid