My Best Tips for World Travel

TRAVEL TIPS

It’s now been 4 years since I sold everything and left the United States to travel the world. These are the best travel tips I’ve discovered along the way.

It all started when I took a one-way flight from Miami to Guatemala City, leaping nervously into the unknown and leaving much of my old life behind while embarking on an epic travel adventure around the world.

It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve learned a lot since I first left. To celebrate my 4 year “travelversary”, I’ve decided to share a collection of my best and most useful travel tips to help inspire you to make travel a priority in your life.

Feel free to share your own best travel tips at the end!

1. Patience Is Important

Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control. Life is much too short to be angry & annoyed all the time. Did you miss your bus? No worries, there will be another one. ATMs out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Sometimes freakouts happen regardless.

Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.

2. Wake Up Early

Rise at sunrise to have the best attractions all to yourself while avoiding crowds. It’s also a magical time for photos due to soft diffused light, and usually easier to interact with locals. Sketchy areas are less dangerous in the morning too. Honest hardworking people wake up early; touts, scammers, and criminals sleep in.

Favorite Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Laugh at Yourself

3. Laugh At Yourself

You will definitely look like a fool many times when traveling to new places. Rather than get embarrassed, laugh at yourself. Don’t be afraid to screw up, and don’t take life so seriously.

Once a whole bus full of Guatemalans laughed with glee when I forced our driver to stop so I could urgently pee on the side of the road. Returning to the bus and laughing with them gave me new friends for the remainder of the journey.

4. Stash Extra Cash

Cash is king around the world. To cover your ass in an emergency, make sure to stash some in a few different places. I recommend at least a couple hundred dollars worth. If you lose your wallet, your card stops working, or the ATMs run out of money, you’ll be glad you did.

Some of my favorite stash spots include socks, under shoe inserts, a toiletry bag, around the frame of a backpack, even sewn behind a patch on your bag. Oh, and make sure you have a good travel banking system setup too.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Meet Local People

5. Meet Local People

Make it a point to avoid other travelers from time to time and start conversations with local people. Basic English is spoken widely all over the world, so it’s easier to communicate with them than you might think, especially when you combine hand gestures and body language. Learn from those who live in the country you’re visiting.

People enrich your travels more than sights do.

6. Pack A Scarf

I happen to use a shemagh, but sarongs work great too. This simple piece of cotton cloth is one of my most useful travel accessories with many different practical applications. It’s great for sun protection, a makeshift towel, carrying stuff around, an eye mask, and much more.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Observe Daily Life

7. Observe Daily Life

If you really want to get a feel for the pulse of a place, I recommend spending a few hours sitting in a park or on a busy street corner by yourself just watching day to day life happen in front of you.

Slow down your thoughts and pay close attention to the details around you. The smells, the colors, human interactions, and sounds. It’s a kind of meditation — and you’ll see stuff you never noticed before.

8. Back Everything Up

When my laptop computer was stolen in Panama, having most of my important documents and photos backed up saved my ass. Keep both digital and physical copies of your passport, visas, driver’s license, birth certificate, health insurance card, serial numbers, and important phone numbers ready to go in case of an emergency.

Backup your files & photos on an external hard drive as well as online with software like Backblaze.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Take Lots of Photos

9. Take Lots Of Photos

You may only see these places & meet these people once in your lifetime. Remember them forever with plenty of photos. Don’t worry about looking like a “tourist”. Are you traveling to look cool? No one cares. Great photos are the ultimate souvenir.

They don’t cost anything, they’re easy to share with others, and they don’t take up space in your luggage. Just remember once you have your shot to get out from behind the lens and enjoy the view.

10. There’s Always A Way

Nothing is impossible. If you are having trouble going somewhere or doing something, don’t give up. You just haven’t found the best solution or met the right person yet. Don’t listen to those who say it can’t be done.

Perseverance pays off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told what I want isn’t possible, only to prove it wrong later when I don’t listen to the advice and try anyway.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Smile & Say Hello

11. Smile & Say Hello

Having trouble interacting with locals? Do people seem unfriendly? Maybe it’s your body language. One of my best travel tips is to make eye contact and smile as you walk by. If they smile back, say hello in the local language too. This is a fast way to make new friends.

You can’t expect everyone to just walk around with a big stupid grin on their face. That’s your job. Usually all it takes is for you to initiate contact and they’ll open up.

12. Splurge A Bit

I’m a huge fan of budget travel, as it lets you travel longer and actually experience more of the fascinating world we live in rather than waste money on stuff you don’t need. You can travel many places for $30 a day with no problems.

That said, living on a shoestring gets old after a while. It’s nice (and healthy) to go over your budget occasionally. Book a few days at a nice hotel, eat out at a fancy restaurant, or spend a wild night on the town.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Keep an Open Mind

13. Keep An Open Mind

Don’t judge the lifestyles of others if different from your own. Listen to opinions you don’t agree with. It’s arrogant to assume your views are correct and other people are wrong. Practice empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Embrace different possibilities, opportunities, people, suggestions and interests. Ask questions. You don’t have to agree, but you may be surprised what you’ll learn.

14. Try Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing.org is a large online community of travelers who share their spare rooms or couches with strangers for free. If you truly want to experience a country and it’s people, staying with a local is the way to go.

There are millions of couchsurfers around the world willing to host you and provide recommendations. It’s fun and safe too. Expensive hotels are not the only option, there are all kinds of cheap travel accommodation optionsout there.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Volunteer Occasionally

15. Volunteer Occasionally

Make it a point to volunteer some of your time for worthwhile projects when traveling. Not only is it a very rewarding experience, but you’ll often learn more about the country and its people while also making new friends.

There’s a great site called Grassroots Volunteering where you can search for highly recommended volunteer opportunities around the world.

16. Pack Ear Plugs

This should actually be #1 on the list. I love my earplugs! Muffle the sounds of crying babies, drunk Australians, barking dogs, honking horns, dormitory sex, natural gas salesmen, and more. A traveler’s best friend. These are my favorite earplugs for comfort & effectiveness.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Don’t Be Afraid

17. Don’t Be Afraid

The world is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. Keep an eye out for sketchy situations but don’t let that be the focus of your whole trip. Use common sense and you’ll be ok. Most people are friendly, trustworthy, generous, and willing to help you out.

This goes for women too. I realize I’m not a woman, but I’ve met plenty ofexperienced female travelers who agree.

18. Get Lost On Purpose

If you want to see the parts of town where real people live & work, you need to go visit them. The best way to do this is on foot — without knowing where you’re going. Write down the name of your hotel so you can catch a taxi back if needed, then just pick a direction and start walking.

Don’t worry too much about stumbling into dangerous neighborhoods either, as locals will generally warn you before you get that far.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Eat Local Food

19. Eat Local Food

Think you already know what Mexican food tastes like? You’re probably wrong. Taste a bit of everything when you travel, especially if you don’t know what it is. Ask local people for recommendations. Eat street food from vendors with big lines out front.

I’ve been very sick only twice in my travels. Don’t be scared of the food.

20. Say Yes Often

Be impulsive and say yes when someone randomly invites you to meet their family, try a new activity, or explore a place you didn’t know existed. It’s these unexpected and unplanned situations that add spice to your travels and always turn into the best stories later.

Accept the kindness of strangers when you travel — you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Slow Down

21. Slow Down

Please don’t try to cram 6 countries into 6 weeks of travel. All the good stuff happens when you really take the time to explore. You’ll learn about activities that aren’t in your guidebook and meet people who are eager to show you around.

I can honestly say that NONE of my best travel experiences happened within the first few days of arriving somewhere. Spend more time in fewer places for maximum enjoyment.

22. Keep Good Notes

My memory for details sucks. When I first started traveling the world 4 years ago, I didn’t keep a good journal, and now I’m regretting it.

Information like the names of people I met, conversations I had, feelings about a new experience, or what a particular town smelled like. If you ever want to write about your travels, these details are handy.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

23. Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Challenge yourself to try things that normally give you anxiety. The more you do this, the more that anxiety will fade away. Not a hiker? Go on more hikes. Have trouble talking to strangers? Talk to everyone. Scared of weird food? Eat the weirdest thing you can find.

The reason this works so well while traveling is because everything is already so different, what’s one more new/uncomfortable experience?

24. Don’t Plan Too Much

I cringe when readers ask how many days they should spend in a particular country or city. The truth is I have no idea what you’ll enjoy or who you’ll meet. I thought I’d rocket through Nicaragua in a week or two, but ended up living there for 4 months.

My advice is to pick a starting point, 1 or 2 must-do activities, and an ending point (or not). Then just let the universe determine the rest.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Pack Less Stuff

25. Pack Less Stuff

You don’t need 1/2 the gear you think you do to travel anywhere. We’ve all done it. It’s a right of passage for travelers to slowly become better at packing less. My first backpack was 70 liters packed full, my current bag is only 38 liters.

As a full-time vagabond, everything I own fits on my back. If you’re not sure about packing something, you don’t need it. It’s also possible to buy most things at your destination country if you discover you need them.

26. Listen To Podcasts

Podcasts are awesome. It’s like creating your own personal radio station and filling it with shows and music you always want to listen to. I never thought I’d actually look forward to a 10 hour bus ride. But with podcasts, it’s possible (well, as long as the seats are comfortable).

Time will fly by as you listen to incredible storytelling, fun music, or interviews with experts. Here are some of my favorites: This American Life, The Moth, RISK!, Radiolab, Smart Passive Income, and Electro-Swing.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Treat Your Body Well

27. Treat Your Body Well

Travel can throw your body out of whack. When you’re moving from place to place it’s difficult to maintain a workout routine, and many of us slack off. Or we don’t sleep enough. Or we eat too many cupcakes. I’m guilty of not flossing my teeth.

Remember to be nice to your body. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthy, use sunscreen, and exercise often (check out this bodyweight routine, no gym required!). And, yes, flossing too I guess.

28. Stay In Touch

Remember to call your family & friends from time to time. Maybe surprise them and go old-school by sending a postcard (it’s in the mail, Mom!). Travel isn’t lonely, far from it. You constantly meet other people. But many of those relationships are fleeting. So maintaining a strong connection with the people who know you best is important.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Get Off the Beaten Path

29. Get Off The Beaten Path

I know it’s cliché, but you should still attempt it. Seek out interesting and unusual places that don’t see much tourism. Many memorable travel experiences have happened to me in areas that are not easy to visit. By all means travel to popular sites, but don’t rule out other locations just because they’re not on the tourist trail.

Although please realize that just because an area is remote or dangerous doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a life-changing experience.

30. Travel More

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the past 4 years, it’s that many people back home love to tell me how lucky I am while making excuses why they can’t travel. It’s too expensive. They can’t get time off work. Who will feed their pets?

When I suggest solutions to these “problems”, they still don’t take action. Why? Because they’re often hiding behind the true reason: they’re scared.

Unfortunately most people who wait to travel the world never do.

You don’t need to sell all your worldly possessions and become a homeless vagabond like me. Just get out there more than you do now. Start with a weekend in a different state. Then maybe try a week in the country next door.

The new car, remodeling project, and iPhone can wait. If you truly want to travel more, you can make it happen. Career breaks are possible. You have friends who would love to watch your pets.

It’s a big, beautiful, exciting, and fascinating world out there. Explore some of it now, rather than later. ★

 

Via My 30 Best Travel Tips After 4 Years Traveling The World

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Starting a Travel Blog

Travel blogging has taken me around the world over the past 4 years. Want to start your own? This detailed guide will show you exactly how to start a travel blog.

I receive more email asking me how to travel the world or how to start a travel blog than anything else. I know, I get it. Seeing constant photos from my adventures in your Facebook or Instagram feeds makes it look like a dream job. I can’t lie. It is.

After all, I get paid to travel the world! It’s pretty sweet.

But travel blogging isn’t easy. Far from it. I rarely share the huge amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into making this lifestyle possible. Well, that’s about to change.

Ok. We’re gonna start with the basics. If you’ve already been blogging for a while, make sure to read my more advanced post about the secrets of professional travel blogging.

How To Start A Travel Blog

Starting your very first travel blog is actually pretty easy. If you follow my guide, you can have your own blog up and running today. Now keep in mind the following advice is for people who want to take travel blogging seriously, as some of these steps require spending money.

If you aren’t quite ready for that yet, you can always start a simple travel blog for family & friends on WordPress.com. It’s totally free!

Starting a Travel Blog

Adventure & Independent Travel

1: Choose A Good Name

My first travel blog was called YearAroundTheWorld.com. Do you see the super obvious problem with that name? Well I didn’t, not until 3 months later. I was backpacking through Central America, blogging about my experiences and having a great time — when I suddenly decided I wanted to travel for longer than a year. Shit! What do I do now?

Make It Short & Memorable

Your travel blog domain name should be relatively short, easy to type, easy to spell, easy to remember, and easy to share. I recommend brainstorming by writing down a bunch of words you think will best describe your blog. Adventure? Food? Culture? South America? What do you want to write about? Who are you? What is your passion? Write everything down and start playing with different combinations of words. Try using a thesaurus. Ask your friends for advice & suggestions.

Avoid Hyphens & Numbers

This can be difficult to do these days, but it helps to avoid using hyphens or numbers in your domain name because otherwise you’ll be forced to explain it to someone. For example:

POTENTIAL READER: “You have a blog? Cool! Where do I find it?”

YOU: “Oh, it’s called expert hyphen vagabond the number 100 dot com.”

As you can see, this type of domain isn’t the greatest for word-of-mouth marketing, which happens to be the best kind of promotion.

Avoid Overused Words

Avoid trademarked company names or words that may be overused in the industry. Sure, you can pick something like Nomadic Bob, Adventurous Wendy, or Wandering Clarence. But domain names like that won’t stand out very much in the travel blogging niche, because those ideas have already been taken by others who are much more established than you.

You’ll have better luck in the long-run with something more original.

Think Long-Term

Think good & hard about choosing your travel blog’s domain name, because changing it later on isn’t easy (or fun). Be careful not to pigeonhole yourself either. If you call your blog Twenty-Something Travel like my friend Steph (sorry Steph!), what happens when you turn 30? Branding yourself correctly is pretty important in the business of travel blogging.

I was thinking long-term when I eventually changed my travel blog’s name toExpertVagabond.com, because at 3 months in I was hardly an expert. Yet I was passionate about becoming a professional travel blogger, and knew eventually this would be perfect. I’d just have to grow into my new name!

2: Hosting For Your Blog

What the heck is hosting? It’s not as confusing as it sounds. Most websites need to “rent” space on the internet. A place to store all your blog’s data, files, and photos so that people around the world can easily access it when they type in your domain name.

Hosting can be pretty cheap. I recommend new travel blogs get hosting withBlueHost. They offer quality hosting for a low price ($6.95 per month for 12 months) and customer service is good too. Plus they give you a free domain name!

Personally, I use WP Engine these days. But it’s not cheap. I pay over $100 a month for my hosting. When you get to a certain level, it’s totally worth it.

But if you are just starting out, BlueHost is a better option.

Part 1 – Click on the green button that says “get started now.”

Hosting a Travel Blog

Getting Started

Part 2 – Pick a plan.

Hosting a Travel Blog

Pick Your Plan

Part 3 – Check to see if your blog name (domain name) is available.

Hosting a Travel Blog

Choose a Domain Name

Part 4 – Add Extra Features

Most of these you don’t need. However I do recommend Domain Privacy Protection. Otherwise anyone can look up who owns your site, giving them access to your mailing address, email, and phone number. It’s worth the extra few bucks to block that from happening.

Hosting a Travel Blog

Installing WordPress

3: Installing WordPress

You’ll want to set up a self-hosted WordPress account. This means the WordPress software resides on your hosting company’s servers, not on a free WordPress.com account. What’s the difference?

  • Your website is “MyTravelBlog.com” rather than “MyTravelBlog.WordPress.com”
  • You own your data and have full control
  • You can sell advertising on your site
  • You can install plugins & custom themes
  • You can use Google Analytics tracking (important)

Yes, you want to use WordPress too. Not Blogspot, not Blogger, not anything else. WordPress is the king of blogging, and probably always will be. Most professionals use WordPress, even major brands like the BBC & Katy Perry. Installing WordPress with your BlueHost Account is super easy.

Click through the simple installation process on your BlueHost cPanel. When it asks you where you’d like to install it, choose your new domain (ex: http://MyTravelBlog.com).

Once installed, you’ll be able to log into the WordPress dashboard with your new username and password. Welcome to the club! You now have a travel blog. That wasn’t too hard, was it? But wait, there’s more!

Starting a Travel Blog

Pick A Good Design

4: Get A Professional Theme

Your new WordPress blog comes with a couple standard “themes”, or designs for your site. While this is ok for playing around in the beginning, if you want to take this seriously and eventually make money with your travel blog, you’ll want to buy a professional design. Don’t worry, they don’t cost too much, and they’ll improve the look of your site big time.

I’ve changed themes a few times over the years, but the current one I’m using is called Hardy by ThemeTrust. I’ve tweaked it a lot using my background in web-design though, customizing how it looks & acts.

Travel Blogging How To

My Travel Blog Plugins

5: Add Some Plugins

You can think of WordPress plugins as third-party apps for your website. They give your blog additional features. Most plugins are free, some you have to pay for. You can download new plugins in the “plugin” section of your WordPress Dashboard.

Here’s my recommended list of plugins to install with your travel blog.

  • Akismet – Protects your blog from spammers leaving comments on your posts. Not perfect, but probably the best one out there.
  • WordPress SEO – Very important plugin for optimizing your articles for Google search, plus integrating Google Sitemaps and Analytics.
  • Easy Social Share Buttons – Nice social media sharing buttons for your articles.
  • WPtouch – Makes your travel blog mobile friendly.

There are others of course, but these will get you started.

Travel Blogging Social Media

Learn How to Use Social Media

6: Embrace Social Media

I hope you love social media. Because if you want to build a successful travel blog, social media addiction is a requirement! Learning how to master social media is a whole different topic, one that I cover a bit more in my post onhow to become a professional travel blogger.

Here are some good social media tips from my friend Jodi too. Try to keep your social media handles the same across all channels! Otherwise people will get confused.

Social Media Accounts

Starting a Travel Blog

Travel Blog Success

7: Join Travel Blog Success

Like anything in life, if you want to get good at something, investing time & money to be trained by professionals works wonders. The same is true for travel blogging. When people ask me for travel blogging tips, my first recommendation is to join Travel Blog Success.

You can read my full review here.

Why? Because becoming a professional travel blogger, as in someone who makes money with this, is far more difficult than it looks.

You need to learn how to build an audience. You need to learn how to use social media. You need to learn how to market yourself. You need to learn how to work with brands. You need to learn how to implement SEO. You need to know all kinds of stuff that you probably don’t know anything about.

Starting a Travel Blog

Just a Typical Day in the TBS Community!

Learn From The Best

Can you learn everything on your own? Sure. But let me tell you from personal experience, it takes a long, long time. As in years. With plenty of frustrations & wasted effort along the way. Fortunately there is a shortcut…

Learning exactly what works, and what doesn’t, from professional travel bloggers who are making it work, is HUGELY helpful.

I can’t explain SEO to you in an email. Fortunately there is a whole lesson dedicated to mastering SEO (and many other topics) on Travel Blog Success. Plus a very active & helpful community FB page where all the top travel bloggers chime in with answers to your questions each and every week.

If you want to become a pro, this is the best investment ever.

Travel Blogging

Travel Blogging Work Break in the Philippines

8: Start Blogging!

Now it’s time to begin creating content for your travel blog. When you first start out, I recommend publishing new articles at least 3 times per week. But don’t be sloppy about it, take your time and craft excellent blog posts that have impact.

What should you write about? Stuff you (and others) are interested in!

Are you traveling right now? Share your favorite parts of the country, fun things to do there, crazy travel stories, beautiful photo essays, video tours, food recommendations, and more. Write about many different topics to find your personal blogging style & voice, to see what resonates with others.

Are you still planning your travels? You can write about that too. Share the different ways you are saving money for travel, a bucket list of activities you want to try, or write about places you’ve already visited. Share your favorite travel movies & books. Write about your packing list. Go exploring locally. Create useful & entertaining content. The possibilities are endless.

Read other travel blogs, leave thoughtful comments on their articles, and link to other blog posts from your site where appropriate. At first your only readers will be family and friends. But that’s ok! We all started like that.

It takes time to build an audience.

Travel blogging isn’t as easy as it looks, and you shouldn’t expect to see any large benefits from it for at least a year, probably longer. That’s one full year of blogging on a regular basis, paying for everything yourself, and putting in at least 10 hours a week (most professional bloggers work 30+). Yes it’s a dream job, but it’s still a job that requires hard work.

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