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Monthly Archives: May 2018

Planning Big Trip

Before you start, you need a plan. I find planning my trips just as much fun as traveling. If you do your own planning, you can: keep the costs down, ensure your best interests are always considered, and have fun researching the places you want to visit. Costs are a personal thing and can vary widely. I am happy with inexpensive accommodation and transport, most of the time. With what I save, I can lash out occasionally. You need to form a personal budget and try to stick with it. For example, how much are you normally prepared to spend on accommodation per night?

When you plan your own travel, you can design it to meet your endurance. For example if your happy with sitting on an airplane for 16 hours non-stop great. If you are like me and can do no more than 10-hour stretches then this will be incorporated in your plan. For example, I have flown to and from Australia many times and I like to make the trip from San Francisco in three hops, one stop in Hawaii, one in Auckland New Zealand, and then Australia. I feel better when I get there and I get to have fun in Hawaii and New Zealand too; trade your endurance against your budget.

My experience using travel agents, airline ticket brokers, and tour companies has been very bad. I will not use them anymore. For example, I booked my last round the world air ticket on the Star Alliance web site. This was the least expensive option and had only one glitch out of all 16 flights I made. All of the flights (except one) left and landed at times of the day that best suited me. In addition, the ticket was still 50% cheaper than the ticket I purchased through a ticket broker for my other world trip.

The Internet is the way to go, but be careful with the site you use. Make sure you understand how they work. For example, Expedia.com is a good site to book hotels worldwide. However, be aware that when you book a hotel with them you have to pay upfront. My experience with getting refunds or changing bookings has been very complicated. When I booked my hotels for my Japan trip, I used a local web site called: JapanHotel.net. They do not require an upfront payment, they were honest and reliable, it was easy to make changes to my plans, and their web site was simple to use. I was anxious using them at first, as I had no previous experience with them. However, I did not have a problem. I have found this with every local web company so far.

I use Google Maps and Bing Maps extensively to plan my destinations and points of interests to visit. These two mapping sites have different things to offer. Google is great for locating hotels as it has a rating-system that I find works well. Whereas, Bing does a better job locating national parks and hiking trails.

Make sure you read the fine print on your airline ticket. When I flew from San Francisco to London, I was charged $30 US for my excess baggage. I knew I was over weight as I had to pack for a 6 months trip and I had to take ski gear, winter clothes, SCUBA gear, and summer clothes. What I did not know is that when you fly with Virgin Atlantic from London to Tokyo you will have to pay £45.00 per kilogram excess baggage. I could have left all my gear at home and just bought all new equipment with the money I had to pay in excess baggage charges.

Finally, I will not use tour companies again. They add to the cost, design the trips to suit themselves and not you, and they offer very little support if anything goes wrong. If you think, you should pay the extra money because you have someone to sue if anything goes wrong, forget it. Keep your money, do the work yourself, and use the money to have an even better trip.

About Flower Travel

Many parts of the world offer spectacular displays of floral beauty as commercially-grown crops or as wildflowers. For the do-it-yourself destination researcher, basing your itinerary on what’s blooming when means choosing locations that are known for their flowers–either their abundance or their uniqueness–and planning your trip around this blooming event.

Use Flower Crops as an Attraction on Your Trip

There is the beauty of fields of commercially-grown flowers that can stop even a floral ignoramus in their tracks. Lavender is a good example: lavender is grown all over the world, so if you miss the blooming fields in June in Croatia, France, the Channel Isles, England, and Washington State, you can still catch them in Japan in July, Tasmania in December, or New Zealand in January!

Flowers are a world-wide commodity. There are the tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths grown in Holland (April), Michigan (May), and Tasmania (October) for the cut-flower/bulb market. The florists’ roses bloom most of the year in Colombia and Ecuador. And the rose fields in Turkey and Bulgaria are the sources of the world’s supply of rose petals and rose oil–can you imagine the scented air surrounding those fields?

Perhaps not your primary destination, the following places would still be worth a stop if you are in the neighborhood, so to speak: the commercial fields of narcissus on the Isles of Scilly; saffron crocus in Spain and Iran; coffee plantations in India, Costa Rica, and many other countries; and pink, opium poppies in Tasmania. All provide a delicate, sweet fragrance to the air. And although not a commodity, the cherry blossoms in Japan are certainly a commercial success for the tourism industry.

Add Wildflowers into Your Itinerary

Time your travels to view Mother Nature’s spectacular displays of ephemeral beauty: wildflowers. Everyone raves about the wildflowers they saw on their trip, but if you haven’t done your research, you might hear the phrase, “You just missed the flowers!”

Almost every place on the planet has wildflowers; many have become the source of our garden plants and field crops. A meadow, hillside, or other open space filled with a variety of wildflowers is a great memory of your trip; different colors, shapes and heights add another dimension to the natural landscape.

Wildflowers are not limited to summer in the temperate zones. Alpine flowers are also wildflowers that grow closer to the ground at the higher elevations around the world and can include what we call rock garden plants. Flowering plants such as the sea pinks of Portugal, rock samphire on the Isle of Wight, and the varieties of thyme growing throughout the Mediterranean bring color and interest to their native, harsh environments.

Marshes are another open space that provides a bounty of wildflowers. The marshes of Estonia and Jersey in the Channel Isles support orchids, lilies, and primulas. Bogs in Iceland hold beautiful cotton grass while those in Norway feature a variety of orchids. And pastel-colored water lilies sprout year ’round in the lakes and ponds of Vietnam.

Coastal clifftops and dunes also provide a habitat for some of our favorite flowers. The sea lavender of the Azores, foxgloves of the Channel Isles, portulaca from the Galapagos, and the forget-me-nots of Alaska are just a few examples of these now-common garden plants.

Use Unique Flowers as a Focal Point of Your Trip

Timing your travels to include the floral display at your destination can increase your enjoyment of your trip. You might be visiting San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and admiring the Spanish Colonial architecture, but it’s the blooming jacaranda trees surrounding the buildings and throughout the plazas that take your breath away. Or you are in Tokyo in April and come across the Kameido Tenjin Shrine covered with 100 wisteria plants on 15 trellises that were planted 320 years ago. At either location, the perfumed air and the lavender-colored light from so many purple flowers will create a scene (and a scent) that you’ll never forget.

In certain latitudes, some flowers bloom almost year ’round (bougainvillea, jasmine, orchids), so you can be assured of a good floral display whatever time you choose. In addition, these places almost always have some unusual flower that you can plan your trip around. Here’s an example: The ylang ylang plantations on Nosy Be, Madagascar, bloom most of the year, so enjoying their intense aroma and beautiful flowers would already be on your itinerary when you travel to the island to see the black orchid, which only blooms from December to January.

Here are three examples of planning your itinerary around viewing flowers that are known for their uniqueness:
1) If you want to see the silversword in bloom in Maui’s Haleakala Crater–the only place on the planet where it grows–you will have to be there between August and December.
2) You are on safari in Kenya in January, when the white tissue flowers cover the Masai Mara, and you have made sure you include Tanzania in your trip planning in order to see the original African violets in bloom (only between September and March).
3) If you go to Kunming, China, in the spring you will see the Plum Flower Festival, which is also during the Chinese New Year. While you are there, be sure to see the 500 to 800-year-old camellia tree at the Golden Temple in bloom–in February.

Use Flower Festivals as a Marker for Your Planning

Festival times are one of the best ways to determine the flora of an area. If there’s a festival for a flower, then its bloom time is fairly predictable. So a good marker in planning your itinerary is finding out the month a flower festival is held in your chosen destination.

Adventures in Miyazaki

The Miyazaki area is located on Kyushu, the southern most of Japan’s 4 main islands. The main city is Miyazaki City, population 350,000, and it offers a wide array of hotels, restaurants, and bars. There are many things to see and do in the region; you can visit the famous Udo-shrine, Aya castle, or the world’s highest suspension bridge. But when it comes to adventure travel, most people head to the ocean or the mountains.

The real beauty of the area lies in its natural environments. The Pacific Ocean is never far from view, and the southern highways meander through quaint fishing port towns, nestled between the crashing waves and the deep greens of thickly forested mountains. And when it comes to mountains there are some big ones! The Ebino plateau has several peaks that are worthy of a climb. The fact that one is an active volcano just adds to the intrigue.

Surfing in Miyazaki
The jewel in Miyazaki’s crown for adventure enthusiasts is its waves. The whole area has great surfing, from Nobeoka in the north, right down to Nichinan. Surfing can be done all year round, but you have more chance of finding big waves between August and October because of the Typhoon season swells. The water is also nice and warm at this time.

If you need surfing equipment in Miyazaki you will have no trouble finding it. The local population is mad keen on surfing and surf shops dot the highways and cities.

The main spots for surfing include Kizaki-hama and Aoshima near Miyazaki city, and further north you will find an active surf scene at Kanegahama and Okuragahama. All these spots are beach breaks with a sand bottom. They are good for all levels of surfer and you will often find large crowds of surfers here, especially on the weekends.

For more skilled surfers who want a challenge, they will want to try the Nichinan area which has numerous reef breaks that produce powerful waves. If you aren’t familiar with the area or the lingo it can be a bit tricky to figure out which spots to go to, so if you want to make sure you get the best possible waves, contact Typhoon Surf Tours. They can arrange a 10 day surf adventure for you.

If the surfs not good in Miyazaki there are also plenty of other adventures to be had. The mountainous terrain has many fun hikes, ranging from easy to challenging, and the many rivers create some tranquil swimming holes for a cooling dip. Of course there are many Onsens (hot springs) as well if you prefer a hot soak.

Kayaking and Scuba Diving opportunities also abound in the clear waters of the south, and several operators can take you out for a day on the sea.

Whether you’re a surfer or not, summer is a great time to be in Miyazaki. Why not escape the urban areas and cool down beside the ocean? Those chasing the big waves will want to come in September or October.

Both JAL and ANA have many daily flights to Miyazaki Airport from most major cities across Japan. It is about 1.5 hours from Tokyo.

This will depend on your budget. Miyazaki city has several business hotels for around 6000yen per night, the Aoshima and Seagaia areas have some more luxurious options. For those on a tight budget, try the YHA in Miyazaki city.

To pack as much adventure as possible into your trip, you will need a car. The train system will not get you far off the beaten track. Rental cars can be arranged at Miyazaki Airport. To find your way around you might need a good map. Stop by the Miyazaki International Centre in Miyazaki City and they will help you out.

Long Term Travel

Where to Go

After working in a cubical and day dreaming about traveling around the world, most people already have a pretty good idea where they want to go. It’s a personal choice and there are amazing places to see and experience all over the globe. If you intend for your systems to pay for your travels, the main factor in deciding where to go is your budget.

How Much the World Costs
These numbers assume a few things. Firstly, you travel slowly (no more than one out of every four days). Second, you stay in clean, basic accommodations. While it’s certainly possible to rent a $3 room in Cambodia, most people mature enough to run a business want a little more comfort. We’re talking rooms with a bathroom, hot water, shower, towels, a bed, and a TV… but not much else.

The prices below are for two people and include food, room, laundry, toiletries, visas and overland (usually local) travel:
o Southeast Asia: $50
o UK and Ireland: $100
o Australia and New Zealand: $80
o South America:$55
o Africa: $60
o Western Europe: $90
o Eastern Europe:$65
o Indian subcontinent:$40
o Japan: $90
As you can see, expenses can be very reasonable, far more reasonable than what you may be currently paying back home. However, you will want to travel somewhere that your systems can afford.

You can escape home faster and live better if you visit third world areas such as Southeast Asia and India. Though we’ve visited the UK several times, my wife and I are still a long ways away from living it up in London! There’s another more powerful reason for going third world initially: a new perspective. Chances are, if you’re reading this you are probably raised in the Western world. When you board that plane, you will no doubt be ready for a change, and the transition from first to third world will be as eye opening as the transition from worker to entrepreneur.
All in all, their calculations have been fairly close to my personal experiences.

Money Saving Tips

These are some tips I’ve learned from both working as a travel agent and personal experience. There are many, many ways to stretch your budget:

o Purchase tickets ahead of time, or last minute. So many people lament over rising flight costs, when they should have bought the damn thing months ago and saved a bundle. Here is my rule of budget travel: purchase tickets ahead of time if you know where you want to go, purchase last minute if you don’t. For example, there is currently a special discount flight to Hungary from San Francisco for three hundred dollars, last minute. Did you plan on going to Hungary? No, but when the opportunity arises, you should take it.
o Slum it, then go all out. My wife and I cycled across Ireland without breaking the bank, and yet we stayed in quality bed and breakfasts (including an old Irish castle). How did we do this? Simple: for every one night in a great location, we camped two nights. Once we arrived at our room for the night, we cleaned up and had a good time. The next morning we showered and hit the road. Following this approach you only miss a shower for one day at a time…
o Change your drinking habits. One of my largest grievances with budget travel writers is their silly notion that you should sacrifice a cold beer in the name of saving money. There are far better ways to save a dollar while you’re traveling. What you should avoid are bars. You can drink cold beer or local spirits for cheap from bottle shops (or oddly enough, 7-11’s). I found myself contemplating buying a can of Guinness in Thailand for more than it cost back home! True, it was an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day, but come on…

Health: Avoiding Problems

Vaccinations

You need to start getting some of your vaccinations at least two months before departing on a trip. Several inoculations require three or four visits, spaced two to three weeks apart. Here’s a short list of the most common vaccinations required (or highly recommended) for global travel:
o Hepatitis A and B. (if possible, get the combined vaccine)
o Japanese encephalitis
o Polio, diphtheria and tuberculosis
o Rabies
o Tetanus
o Typhoid
o Yellow fever

Malaria

While there is no vaccination for malaria, there are a number of anti-malarial tablets you can take to help combat the disease (though none of them is 100% effective). Check with your doctor to see which prescription is right for you. You can also learn more at www.malaria.org.

To get these vaccinations, visit your local travel clinic or speak with your physician. If you’re currently employed, check if your benefits will cover vaccinations. I was able to save over $700 on vaccinations thanks to the health insurance provided by my previous employer. Talk about a severance package!

Food
When it comes to food, I follow a few simple rules:

1. Eat at restaurants with a lot of people and high turn over. It probably means the food is fresher.
2. Eat cooked food. Try to avoid any raw vegetables and raw fish. Fruits and vegetables that you can peel are a safer option. Consider bringing vitamin tablets if you’re not getting enough fruits and vegetables.
3. Don’t over eat. If you stuff your face with contaminated food, you’ll feel a hell of a lot worse than if you ate a smaller portion. The only two times I’ve been sick abroad were shortly after a three or four course meal at a high end steakhouse.

Water

Depending on where you travel, you might need to bring a water purification system. I use The Steripen Adventurer UV purifier. The same size as a screwdriver, this wonder tool can purify one liter of water in one minute using an ultra violet light bulb and lithium batteries. Though it isn’t cheap- retail is about $130- the Steripen is both lightweight and effective. Keep in mind it doesn’t work with ice, a common cause for getting sick among travelers.

If you’re planning on buying bottled water over seas, keep in mind that many merchants refill used water bottles with local water and resell them. If the plastic seal is broken- and it often is – you probably don’t want to drink it.

Traveler’s Diarrhea

Traveler’s diarrhea claims 30-50% of tourists abroad within the first two weeks, and is often accompanied by vomiting. In other words, don’t be surprised if you’re leaking out both ends… it’s natural. The best thing to do? Take over the counter anti-diarrheal medicine or antibiotics (rather than something that just plugs you up), drink lots of water, lay low and let the good- or bad- times flow. Symptoms should clear up within a few days. Any more than that, contact a doctor.