¨Drink heavily with locals whenever possible.¨
Fun Reads, Videos, Websites Quizzes, etc.
The following is a list of fun articles, websites, quizzes, etc. that I have come across. I recommend these resources heartily but I either:
- Don’t know where to put them elsewhere on my website; or
- Can’t find a good place to put them in the list of resources below.
In February 2020, I attended the San Miguel de Allende Writer’s Workshop, where I met Roberta Rich. She lives in both Vancouver and Colima, Mexico. I enjoyed talking to her and learning more about her experiences in Colima. (Not many Americans or Canadians either live or travel to Colima. I spent a week there in 2005 and liked it a lot). She told me she wrote this article about Love Motels in Mexico. One of the first signs that you are entering a large city in Mexico is the sudden proliferation of love motels. While Roberta frequented these hotels because she needed a place to stay with her dog, I have met several expats who stayed in these motels when they moved to Mexico. According to these expats, love motels provide a very secure to park a moving van.
I have developed two quizzes for the Fifty Plus Nomad community. I think they are both fun and informative and would love to know what you think
The Top Twelve Travel Advice Resources
- Amateur Traveler Podcast is one of the few sources for travel information to off-the-beaten-path countries. One of the first podcasts, Amateur Traveler often features interviews with people who are not professional travel advisors, including expats and more casual travelers.
- Anthony Bourdain. I am so sorry that Anthony Bourdain killed himself. Parts Unknown (you must pay to watch) and No Reservations were the only travel TV shows consistently worth watching. Bourdain always featured astute commentary, made from his unique voice, that was not afraid to be controversial. I have been to nearly every restaurant that he recommended in Montreal. The food was always outstanding. I love that his shows went to places that were genuinely off-the-beaten-path like Kurdistan and Liberia. Bourdain’s episodes on Mexico (Parts Unknown) and the US Mexico border (No Reservations) should be required watching for all Americans.
- Barbara Winter. Barbara Winter’s publications are an essential resource if you need to find a way to make a living on the road. Her materials are great at helping entrepreneurs find business ideas that match their personality and goals. She is also incredibly inspirational. I feel extremely blessed to know Barbara. I took her classes at the Learning Annex in 2003 and followed her ever since. She has been a mentor and I am sure that she can help you, too.
- Facebook is a vital source of information if you plan to stay somewhere for a while. Once I started to join expat forums in Merida, I discovered many cultural events, restaurants, and businesses I did not know about before.
- International Living is the behemoth for people looking to live outside of the US. In my opinion, it is often overly commercial and uses too many hard-sell tactics. That aside, International Living does have some excellent, hard to find information, particularly about places that are not on the map for US expats. They also have some outstanding writers and research. Above all else, International Living is an excellent source for figuring out where US expats might want to live.
- Johnny Jet is one of the best sources for travel tips for airline travel, credit card bonus offers, and traditional accommodations on the internet. The site does not have much information geared toward extended travel or off-the-beaten-path places or experiences, etc. Johnny Jet also features a lot of sponsored ties with travel providers.
- Journeywoman. Evelyn Hannon, the founder of Journeywoman, was one of the internet’s earliest travel voices. Until she died in 2019, her website was one of the most trustworthy places for travel advice on the internet. I had the pleasure to get to know Evelyn while I participated in Semester at Sea. She was as full of homespun advice and enthusiasm in person as on her website. Perhaps more than anyone else, Evelyn gave women the tools and courage to travel. I am glad that Journeywoman still exists after her death. It appears that while the site will be modernized, it will continue to keep Evelyn’s spirit.
- Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet guides are encyclopedic. Some of my favorite things about Lonely Planet include that they:
- Feature excellent listing of alternative travel experiences like volunteering and classes.
- Contain enough information so that you can stay for a long time in one place using their recommendations.
- Cover almost everywhere in the world.
- Have the best background information about the history and culture of their destinations of any guidebook series.
- Are well adapted to the Kindle format.
- Are even-handed and objective. Lonely Planet is diligent about avoiding any links with any of the businesses covered in the guidebooks.
- Moon Handbooks are similar to Lonely Planet; however, their guidebooks feature more of the individual author’s voice than Lonely Planet. Their guidebooks are a little less daunting and readable than Lonely Planet. They do not cover as many parts of the world. If I had a choice between the two guidebooks to use in North America, I would choose Moon.
- Nomadic Matt. Matt Kepnes, the founder of Nomadic Matt, has become one of the most respected sources of travel advice on the internet. I recommend several of his posts and publications on my site. I have also attended his TravelCon, a convention for travel bloggers, and used his blogging course to help me start my business. Keep in mind, however, when looking at his site, his audience is mainly budget travelers who tend to be under thirty years old.
- Rick Steves is one of the few travel guidebook writers that has been unafraid to have a one-of-a-kind voice. He taught millions of Americans how to travel comfortably in a short period of time and interact with Europe’s people and places. Yet, I don’t think his books are suitable for many Fifty Plus Nomads. His advice is not useful if you decide to travel outside of the major tourist areas of the most popular European countries. It is also of limited value if you plan to spend more than a week in one place.
Rick offers excellent advice outside of his guidebooks. In 2014, I went on his nine-day tour of Sicily. The guide was outstanding and the tour featured a lot of opportunities to interact with Sicilians in off-the-beaten-path places. His podcast provides a lot of excellent advice on traveling, even in parts of the world that his guidebooks ignore. Rick Steves’ memoir Travel as a Political Act is thought-provoking and explain his travel philosophy. His Europe 101 should be required reading for Fifty-Plus Nomads who want to learn about European art, history, and culture while traveling for extended periods.
- Smarter Travel website is an excellent source to find out about travel trends and issues. The site has a lot of sponsored content and can be a bit dry. I encourage you to subscribe, however, to be aware of changes in the travel industry.
- Other Resources—Tourist Boards, etc.
- National tourist offices are excellent places to get specific questions about a place answered. Still, most of their information focuses on people with unlimited funds and limited time. They are often swamped with requests for information and thus may not be useful. Sometimes the best tourist offices are from the most unlikely places.
- Subscribe to the Great Courses Plus before any more extended trip abroad. The Great Courses provide short versions (usually around 20 hours) of college classes about ancient cultures. I particularly like their courses on the history of ancient Egypt, India, and Mesoamerica.
Frequent Flyer Miles and Travel Hacking
- Nomadic Matt’s book How to Travel Hack and Get Free Flights and Hotels is the best guide to travel hacking available.
- The Upgraded Points website lists rules concerning the expiration of airline frequent flyer miles.
- Sign-up for the following email newsletters to stay updated on frequent flyer program, special airfares, deals, and offers: Airfarewatchdog • Miles to Memories • The Flight Deal • FlyerTalk • View from the Wing
- Take advantage of airline loopholes described in travel hackers´ websites and newsletters. The current hip loophole is United Excursionist Perk.
- LIfehacker.com discusses how to avoid penalties for credit card churning.
- The Free Frequent Flyer Mile website provides an excellent analysis of the affiliate offers to earn frequent flyer miles.
- I use Mile Method to get more travel industry loyalty points and other benefits. Trevor Wright runs Mile Method. I met Trevor at the Digital Nomad Conference. I will discuss Mile Method in future blog posts.
Airline Tickets and Airports
- See wikipedia for a list of budget airlines.
- Budget airlines I have flown and recommend: Interjet in Mexico; Easy Jet in Europe, Gol in Brazil, and Jetstar in Australia-
- Read Johnny Jet to learn how you can get “bumped” for an airline.
- The largest, and best known, round-the-world travel agency is Airtreks. Note: The Airtreks’ website allows you to play with different itineraries, and suggests destinations where you may be able to stop for free.
- Skyscanner is the best search engine I have found for finding flights because it includes budget airlines and displays the best flights (not necessarily the cheapest) first.
- The Upgraded Points website discusses how you also consult ITA matrix to find the best and cheapest flight.
- These two sites — The Flight Deal and Holiday Pirates — provide lists of handy flight deals from the US and Europe, respectively.
- Subscribe to the following to keep up with the airline rule changes: Smarter Travel and Johnny Jet.
- The three most common airline alliances are Star Alliance, Oneworld, and SkyTeam.
- Increasingly, countries require¨Proof of Onward Passage¨ before boarding a one-way, international flight. You can find out if you need ¨Proof of Onward Passage¨ from Goats on the Road.
- Global Entry passes ease the way through US Security, Immigration, and Customs.
Group Travel Options
- Tours are available for a wide range of group sizes. I was on an Intrepid Tour of Turkey with only three other people; and a Marina in Mexico tour in 2017 to San Luis Potosi, Mexico with six other people;
- I attended a Global Exchange Reality Tour of Haiti (eight participants) and the US-Mexico border. Global Exchange’s tours feature discussions with local non-profit leaders, students, and government officials about the politics, economics, and daily life of these countries.
- I have been on, and enjoyed, Caravan Tours which feature large buses (with 40-50 participants) visiting a new place every day.
- Many Road Scholar tours in the US and Canada spend five or more days all in the same place and feature talks by professors, exclusive musical presentations with local artists, and visits to many unexpected places.
- Overseas Adventure and Intrepid Travel make an impressive effort to integrate local experiences through meals in locals’ homes and farms, market visits, trips on local buses, etc.;
- On a Seasons of My Heart food tour, I visited very humble homes in rural Oaxaca, Mexico, where locals cooked regional specialties.
- The best trip I ever took was what I call a ¨pseudo¨ cruise: Semester at Sea. Semester at Sea provides undergraduate college students the chance to visit many different countries while taking classes for credit aboard a cruise ship.
- Holland America is the best cruise ship for discovering a bit about your destination. The ships are small (1000-2000 people). And, they integrate their destination into their voyages through academic lectures, local entertainment, and offering local specialties on their menus. Holland America also usually has a well educated (though somewhat older) clientele.
Some of my favorite travel experiences have taken place aboard cruise ships including:
- The Norwegian Epic‘s incredible Broadway style shows: Priscilla: the Queen of the Desert, Burn the Floor, and my favorite- the dinner-theater: Cirque Epicurean.
- Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Sea‘s terrific broadway show: Saturday Night Live and their impressive skating spectacular.
- The beautiful design, decoration, activities, and excellent cuisine on Celebrity’s Constellation and Holland America’s Eurodam
Volunteering and Learning Vacations
Some of my favorite volunteer and learning vacations include:
- Watching turtles lay eggs; learning about rural Mexican life; hanging out with fun young volunteers; and consuming way too many tequila shots as a volunteer in Colola, Michoacan, Mexico (Volunteers for Peace);
- Being spoiled rotten as a teenager as a Youth for Understanding exchange student in Yaizu, Japan;
- Studying French and French culture in a beautiful gite (apartment) with my private guide and language teacher (Parfum de France) in Fontevraud L’Abbaye, France;
- Staying in a beautiful, spacious room in Siena, Italy; eating copious and tasty home-cooked meals, and learning basic Italian quickly- (Saena Italy–one of the best-organized language schools I’ve attended) ; and
- Living in a beautiful large room (with my bathroom) in a 15th-century apartment in Venice; polishing up my Italian, and getting to know this spectacular city through the eyes of locals. (Venice Italian School)
- Visiting poor parts of the city on tour. I learned a lot from my visits to slums in Rio de Janeiro and Mumbai.
- Learning about the sociology of Mexico’s new age center Tepoztlan and Gay and Lesbian issues in Mexico while improving my Spanish and exploring the local area through the terrific CILAC-Freire language school in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Some of My Favorite Touristy Experiences
Here are some touristy experiences that I loved much more than expected:
- Tourist attractions around Cancun. I particularly loved the Xoximilco and Xcaret amusement parks. Moreover, my favorite Cirque de Soleil show is La Joya. La Joya is a resident show at the Vidanta resort in the Riviera Maya. It is Cirque de Soleil’s only dinner theatre experience. (The theatre is much more intimate than the other Cirque show and the food is truly innovative and tasty). I also really enjoyed the Jolly Roger, Cancun’s Pirate Cruise.
- Rio Carnival’s incredible floats, costumes, and music at the Sambadrome. The Carnival- which lasts six to eight hours a night for four nights- is called justifiably¨the Greatest Show on Earth¨.
- The Calgary Stampede. The fireworks, art displays, animal shows, parades, and festivals are some of the best I have ever seen. Calgary also takes on an inimitable festive and warm atmosphere during the Stampede.
- Taking ¨behind the scenes¨ tours of all four Disneyworld parks in Orlando for a week which showcased:
- How Disney manages the animals at the Animal Safari Park;
- The shops where Disney designs and cleans their uniforms and costumes:
- The nursery where Disneyworld sculpts its iconic topiaries: and
- Some of Epcot’s excellent, ethnic restaurants. (The Les Halles restaurant at the French Pavillion has the best French food outside of France!)
Other Valuable Travel Resources
Shared Economy Companies
Some of the best-known, sharing economy travel players include:
- Couchsurfing. Hosts offer to let people stay in their homes for free. Guests reciprocate by sharing their lives and cultures with their hosts. Couchsurfing has nearly 14 million travelers and 400,000 hosts around the world.
- Airbnb – Airbnb connects homeowners with renters. The renters spend their vacations in a private room offered by individual homeowners through Airbnb. Airbnb charges a fee for connecting the owners and renters.
- Uber and Lyft. Uber and Lyft developed highly successful computer apps that match customers with a privately owned taxi service. Each Uber and Lyft driver owns his car and is a freelance contractor for the company.Uber and Lyft receive a share of the taxi revenue to run their businesses.
Visas and Passports
- See here for more details on US passport requirements and here for Canada.
- Always check to make sure a visa is required or not before travel. Check for US citizens the Country Information Pages on the US Department of State website. (Consult here for Canadians).
- In Fall 2021, US and Canadian citizens will be required to get Electronic Travel Authorization to go to most European countries. Here is a map of the Schengen area
- Go here for Electronic Travel visas to Australia for US and Canadian citizens.
- There are many companies online that will help you get a visa. I have had good luck with Travel Document Services and I-visa. I would encourage you to consider using their services, especially whenever you: 1) are going to visit several countries.; 2) are applying for a visa by mail but will not be at your home address; 3) are applying for a visa for a country that is well known for its bureaucracy (mainly India, Russia, and China); 4) need to get a visa quickly; or 5) want to make sure that your application is complete before submittal.
- The interbank conversion rate is what financial organizations receive when they exchange foreign currencies. You can find the interbank rates in the currency converter section of oanda.com and xe.com.
- Do not use any ATMs on the streets in Mexican resort cities or near European tourist sites that have signs that say you can withdraw US dollars. Typically, you will be charged 12-15% additional fees on these withdrawals. In Europe, these ATMs are associated with Euronet. Read here for more details.
- It is not that easy to find bank accounts that do not charge a foreign exchange fee for ATM withdrawals. Schwab, and a few other financial institutions in the USA and Canada, offer accounts that rebate international ATM fees. Usually, to be eligible for these accounts you must maintain a high account balance (usually around $25,000). If you plan to do a lot of traveling, these bank accounts can be a godsend. Check out this post from the Points Guy for details.
- After looking for a while for an excellent book on packing lightly, I found Pack Light: Quick and Easy Tips for Traveling Everywhere with Exactly the Right Stuff by Karen McCann.
- I also have found some handy packing tips in Tips from the Cruise Addict’s Wife by Deb Graham.
- A backpack or duffle bag is usually not advisable for Fifty-Plus Nomads because they are too hard on our bodies. If you do choose to use a backpack, read Nomadic Matt’s book Travel Under $50 a Day
A Few Fun Websites
- To make a map of all the places you have traveled during your lifetime, visit Travellerspoint.
- Check out Stanley Ploeg’s Travel Personality Inventory to learn how your personality affects how you travel.
Check out my About Me page for my list of recommended travel memoirs, music, movies, and my travel personality.
- I have had the pleasure of meeting Mexico Cassie and enjoy reading her posts about living and traveling in Mexico both at her website and on Facebook.
- While I have not been on either of the tours yet, I know Bob Caskie of Bob’s Maya World Tours personally and am impressed by his knowledge and passion for all things Mayan.
- Although the tours are too expensive for my budget, I have heard great things about the Mayan Exploration Center. I also have completed a very engaging and complete course on Mesoamerican Culture through the Center’s founder, Dr. Ed Barnhardt, offered by Great Courses Plus.
- The best guidebook to ANY country is the People’s Guide to Mexico. Unfortunately, it has not been reprinted since 2011. It covers everything from the uses and preparation of the foods you find in Mexican markets to how to drive in Mexico.
The following are two great sources for information about expat life in Merida:
- MID City Beat (Excellent information about events in Merida)
- Yucatan Living (Information about news affecting the expat community)