What The Worst Golf Shot Teaches Us About Travel

Wandering Earl

The Worst Golf Shot

Stepping up to the tee, I was mighty nervous. I was shaking, I couldn’t think straight at all.

It was the first time that the coach of my high school golf team put me in the starting lineup. I was finally playing in a tournament between our school and the high school team of a neighboring town. No longer was I just a member of the worthless practice squad.

I positioned my feet and held the golf club firmly, but not too tight. I stared out at the stretch of green in front of me and took a few deep breaths. I bent my knees and then I looked down at the ball. It was my time to shine.

Well, I swung that club, I most certainly did.

And then I had to duck quickly, along with everyone else in the area. The ball had bounced right off a nearby tree and came flying straight back at us. It zoomed just over our heads and eventually landed about 40 feet behind me.

Terrible, terrible, terrible shot. Most likely the worst golf shot that anyone watching had ever seen.

With nerves rattling even more, and trying to brush off the embarrassment, I quickly settled in for my second shot. But, despite my powerful swing, I only hit the ball ever so slightly and all it did was plop two feet off to the right as a result.

My third shot actually went into the air, but it went right into the branches of another tree and dropped straight down.

I didn’t even finish 9 holes of golf that day. While the best golfers on our team finished 18 holes, I got through 8 before it was too dark to continue and I had to call it quits.

Disappointed was an understatement. During our practices each week, I usually hit the ball well. Nice and straight. I’d been practicing for two years.

But the one time I had a chance to shine, I blew it, in the worst of ways.

How it Relates to Travel

I tried too hard that day on the golf course.

And when it comes to setting off into the world for some travel, we often try too hard as well, with similar results.

We try too hard to plan everything. We try too hard to know every crime statistic, weather pattern, transportation option, hostel dorm room price, street food location, activity entrance fee, potential travel partner, toiletry that we might not be able to find overseas and we try to think about every possible situation that might arise and what kind of gear we might need for those situations…and much, much more.

We want to ‘get it right’.

And that’s perfectly understandable.

But sometimes, getting it right actually involves letting go. It involves stepping back from the thoughts that can actually hold us hostage at times. The thoughts that can put so much pressure on us, that turn our brains into such a mess, leaving us unable to concentrate on just doing what we stepped up to the tee to do.

I can’t tell you what was in my head when I made the world’s worst golf shot. The reason is that there were hundreds of thoughts flooding through my head at the time.

Do this, don’t do this, don’t forget about bending your knees, look straight down, move your right foot back, don’t hold the club too tight, don’t whack the ball, just swing evenly, nobody’s watching, a lot of people are watching, what if I hit the tree…

In the end, I didn’t swing that club. All of those thoughts jumping around my head tried to take control of my swing and, amid their battle, they forced the club down towards the ball. The result was terrible of course.

It’s the same with travel. All of those thoughts that we think are helping us will actually hurt us if we try to pay attention to them all. We can’t figure out everything there is to figure out about travel, we can’t plan everything (nor do we want to plan everything), we can’t remember every statistic, we can’t prepare for every situation. And you know what, they do sell Old Spice deodorant and Colgate whitening toothpaste in Thailand!

We just need to relax and swing. We just need to get on a plane or a bus or a train. That’s all we need to focus on…the main task at hand.

The rest will happen naturally. Your body and your mind will remember what it needs to remember. It will do what it needs to do. It might not be perfect from the start, but it won’t be a disaster.

Thinking too much is what can make it a disaster. It can drive a person crazy, to the point where the fun of travel is gone, where the doubts have crept in so much that we no longer think we can get out there and see the world. We just don’t think we have a good enough grasp on EVERYTHING that we need to know before we get started.

Again, relax.

If we don’t relax and let our minds be free, we’ll often hit a tree, then we’ll barely hit anything, then we’ll fall out of a tree and then we won’t even finish our travels because our coach will tell us it’s time to go home.

And then our coach will never let us travel again. He might even kick us off the traveling team.

Anyway, stop thinking too much and just go travel.

Is over-thinking preventing you from traveling? Did you ever overcome this and finally get out there into the world?


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Interview With Budget Travel Expert Nomadic Matt

Wandering Earl

Nomadic Matt Interview

Many know him, some might not. Perhaps some of you follow his blog or have at least seen it.

I remember when I heard about this Nomadic Matt guy back when I was starting out and I kept hearing about him for years without really ever interacting with him. Last summer I finally met him in person and since then, we’ve hung out a couple of times, most recently at the end of May while at the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) conference in Spain.

Here’s the deal. Matt has been blogging and has been involved with travel for a long time. He’s worked on numerous projects, written books and is even working on creating a charity organization that will help underprivileged youth experience the benefits of travel. Travel is his life.

His book “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day” had its second edition released this year, and for $8 bucks on Amazon, it’s a solid investment for anyone looking to really cut costs while traveling.

So, back in May at that conference, while eating some sandwiches at a food truck in Lloret de Mar, Spain (yes, they were so good that we each had to eat more than one), Matt and I got to talking and because we both focus on budget travel for the most part, we agreed to put up a little interview with him on my site.

It’s just a quick, light and hopefully useful chat…

Interview with Nomadic Matt

Who are you, sir?

My name is Matt Kepnes and I’m known as Nomadic Matt. I’ve been traveling the world since 2006. I grew up in Boston and worked in health care after college. Fun fact: I’m also a certified high school history teacher! After a trip to Costa Rica in 2004, I fell in love with travel. I never traveled a lot growing up so I didn’t know how great it was until this trip. I loved the freedom travel enabled me to have. Every day was Saturday. The following year I took a trip to Thailand and after meeting five backpackers one day during that trip, I became very jealous of their lifestyle. But meeting them showed me that I didn’t have to be tied down to my job and that I didn’t need to be rich to travel.

After that trip, I went home again, finished my MBA, quit my cubicle job, and, in July 2006, set out on an adventure around the world.

My round-the-world trip was supposed to last a year but I didn’t come home until eighteen months later. Realizing I absolutely loved travel, I decided to head overseas again and that’s when I started my website, Nomadic Matt. I’ve been traveling and writing ever since.

So budget travel expert…what regions of the world offer the best value?

I think the best overall budget region in the world is Southeast Asia. You get amazing value for your money there. Everything is relatively inexpensive. Some other good places for budget travel: India, South Korea, Eastern Europe, and Central America. If you are budget traveler and low on funds, those would be the best places to go.

Earl: Southeast Asia is great and of course, I’m a huge Eastern Europe fan too!

Name a mistake that you think new travelers tend to make…

Most new travelers over plan and mis-budget their money. When you are new to the road, you tend to plan out your route in great detail and pre-book hostels, hotels, and flights. And that makes sense. When you’re home thinking about your trip, planning it out makes it seem more real but in travel, less is more and it is far better to just go with the flow. Pick a general route but leave the details to work themselves out along the way. You’re going to change your plans when you hit the ground, I can guarantee it, and learn what you like and don’t like as you go.

In addition, I’m always amazed at how often travelers run out of money. There’s so much price information online now that you can find out how much everything costs. Do a little research beforehand and get an idea of the costs you’ll face and then create your budget. Don’t go in blind.

Earl: It’s definitely difficult to avoid planning when you first start out. But if you talk to as many long-term travelers as you can, I think you’ll find that almost all of them will advise against planning too much. It’s something you learn very quickly once you begin.

What’s your biggest budgeting mistake that others can learn from?

I make mistakes all the time but I would say my biggest mistake, one I never made twice, was not factoring in currency changes into my budget. Currencies move up and down all the time and I should have been smarter about this when I first started out with my around the world trip in 2006. I made Australia my last country on that trip and when I was doing my pre-trip budgeting, one US dollar got you 1.30 Australian dollars and I calculated my budget based on that. By the time I actually got to Australia, their dollar was on par with the US dollar. I had 30% less money because of this and, with no wiggle room in my budget, had to cut a lot of activities out of my trip.

Earl: Good lesson. I now set up alerts on my phone for any countries I plan to visit in the near future in order to keep track of the exchange rates to avoid such a situation.

Nomadic Matt

Any memorable experience that puts a smile on your face every time you think about it?

After ten years of travel, I’ve had a lot of great adventures. My days are often filled with so many activities and experiences that are definitely memorable. I would say my favorite was when I spent a month on an island in Thailand back in 2006. A small group of travelers and I spent a month on Ko Lipe, which back then was very off the beaten path. I lost my flip flops the first day I was there so just went barefoot for an entire month. I loved every day I was there and it is by far my favorite travel experience. I know it’s not a crazy story. I’ve kept my travels pretty tame but this was such a memorable time.

Earl: It’s always amazing to me how being isolated on a tropical island, with very little in terms of possessions or signs of the modern world or even money, is such an enjoyable experience. Some of my own favorite experiences also involve being on remote islands. It’s proof that a simple life can certainly bring about real happiness.

What’s the most frightening incident you’ve experienced while traveling?

I almost drowned in Fiji. I was learning to scuba dive and on my second dive, my dive partner kicked the regulator out of my mouth. We were far under and I panicked a bit but I was able to put the regulator back in and breathe. I sat there for a while breathing in and out and calming down before I surfaced. To the credit of my instructor, he was on top of the situation very quickly and made sure I was safe.

Earl: While that doesn’t sound enjoyable at all, I do like to point out that rarely does someone’s ‘worst experience’ involve something that couldn’t happen anywhere. I always stand by my belief that the world is actually much safer than we tend to believe!

Any countries you don’t have a desire to visit again?

Vietnam. I just didn’t like it there. I know lots of people who love it but I had a horrible time. I thought the people were abrasive, rude, and always tried to scam me and my friends. I have no desire or plan to ever go back.

But that’s just my experience. I know people who hate Paris (I think they are crazy. Paris is amazing.) so I would never say don’t go somewhere. Always check it out for yourself first because we all have different experiences of course.

Earl: Good thing you added that last paragraph. I wouldn’t have put this interview up if you didn’t mention that!

In your book, you talk about traveling for $50 per day. That number – $50 – seems high. Why do you focus on that amount?

A lot of people get stuck on that number. Depending on your point of view, it’s either too much or too little. But the first thing to remember is that it is a daily average over a year long trip and it includes pre-trip expenses such as gear and insurance as well as flights. I think when you look at it that way, the number is not so high at all. You aren’t going to spend $50 a day every day – some days will be more, most will be less and it will depend on where you are going. If you are going to Norway, $50 is a good number. If you are going to India, that’s way more than you’ll need!

But more than being just a number, it’s a philosophy. The book is designed to be a guide to budget travel but it is full of real tips and tricks that are actually useful for travel on any budget.

Earl: Like you said, advice on how to budget your travels can always apply to anyone. We are always looking to save money, no matter how much we can afford or want to spend. If I can travel to a country and spend $800 for a month, I’d of course also be interested in learning how to have the same experience for $600 if possible.

Nomadic Matt Book

What is the simplest method you know for travelers to save money?

I think the best thing people can do to save money when they travel is to be flexible. The difference of a day can mean the difference of hundreds of dollars. When you are flexible with time and place, you can capture the best deals that come up. For most people, they can’t be flexible on both so be flexible on at least one because if you have to go to Paris on a certain day, you are paying whatever the listed price is. There’s no magic bullet in travel and there are only so many ways to lower expenses. Sometimes the price is the price.

So I recommend people be flexible when they can. If you’re dead set on Paris, go when it is cheapest. If you can only travel during two weeks in June, go to where it is cheapest. This approach can really save a ton of money in the end.

Earl: This is exactly what I would have said too and I think many long-term travelers agree with this. The more you plan, the more you’re stuck in those plans, and when a different experience or better deal pops up, you’re not able to take advantage of it. It’s okay to plan a little but as you travel, I think most people realize just how important being flexible truly can be.

When it comes to saving money on travel, what’s the biggest difference between when you started and today?

It’s a lot easier to find good deals today. When I started, information was scarce. Now, there are so many blogs, deal-finding websites and travel apps, that travel has never been easier or more accessible. When I started researching my first trip back in 2006, I remember finding one website on backpacking Europe that helped me plan my trip. Now, there are hundreds of websites about every country in Europe that can help plan your trip. Before, if you wanted to find a good flight deal, you would have to spend hours searching routes and carriers. Now, there are websites like holidaypirates.com, theflightdeal.com and airfarewatchdog.com that alert you about deals. They have teams of people doing all the work so you don’t have to do anything but see what deals exist every day. It’s really never been a better time to travel because of all these deals and all of the information that you can find so easily, all of which will help you save money in ways that travelers couldn’t before.

Earl: Ever since I signed up for theflightdeal.com, I’ve wanted to book flights almost every week. For those living in the US, there are some unbelievable deals out there that you probably won’t hear about without an alert from this website. A good example from the alert email I received today: $555 USD roundtrip from Chicago to St. Petersburg, Russia. Who’s coming with me?

For those who aren’t familiar with Matt’s stuff, you can find him here:

NomadicMatt.com

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

Any other money-saving tips you’ve picked up on your own travels? Any questions for Matt or about saving money while wandering the world?

Travel Products & Websites Worth Checking Out

Wandering Earl

Travel Products

The year that is 2015 has brought me into contact with what seems like a higher-than-normal number of travel products, travel-related websites and travel services that I never knew about before. From all sorts of travel communities to compact hammocks to online postcards to oddly-shaped travel pillows that actually seem to make sleeping on airplanes even more uncomfortable, new things are popping up in my inbox every day.

If I were to remember them all, the list would be quite extensive.

But just like I forgot to pack my suit pants last week while traveling to a family event on the other side of the country, by this point, I have forgotten many of the websites and apps and products that I’ve come across this year.

That leaves just a handful of things that I do remember, travel-related things that have stayed in my memory probably because of their usefulness and/or the fact that they offer something unique that really caught my attention. As a result, and as you’ll see below, this is some stuff that I would recommend checking out because you never know what might help enhance your travels.

Here’s the short list:

Clothing Arts

A few times over the years I’ve mentioned that I personally do not like, or even understand, the concept of ‘travel clothes’. I’ve always just worn normal clothes when I travel and have never had any problems or faced any situations where I wish I had some specially designed clothes that are made with travelers in mind. And while I still don’t wear travel clothes all the time, I do have to admit that after trying the shirts and pants from Clothing Arts, I found myself feeling a little more comfortable about the idea.

Adam Rapp, the CEO of the company, is about as passionate about his clothes as any CEO has ever been about their product, and when you have that kind of excitement behind the product, the result is often going to be quality. The Pick-Pocket Proof Adventure Travel Pants and the Travel Shirt, which are what I now own, are high quality indeed, as well as comfortable and actually sharp looking in my opinion. You would never know these are clothes designed specifically for travelers and they can therefore be used in all sorts of situations, from informal to formal. I’ve actually worn the shirt while walking around the beach in Spain and I’ve worn the same shirt while at a formal dinner in Istanbul as well. And not a single person commented that I didn’t fit in! The pants are similar, not your normal travel pants at all.

Clothing Arts - travel shirt

The benefit of these clothes is that they are designed to protect your money, wallet, passport and other valuables without affecting design or comfort. There are pockets inside of pockets, hidden zippers and zippers inside of zippers inside of pockets. But from the outside, you don’t see any of this and they just look like normal everyday clothes. When you put your money and phone inside these theft-proof pockets though, there is no way anyone is going to take them from you. Not a bad bonus to good looking clothes.

Clothing Arts: www.clothingarts.com

WorkingTraveller.com

Many of us have heard of workaway.info and helpx.net, websites that allow you to find opportunities around the world to work in exchange for room and board. WorkingTraveller.com is a new addition to this concept and it operates a little differently.

First, the database of opportunities is huge. Just check out this map and you’ll see what I’m talking about: Work Search Map

Working Traveller

Second, the opportunities on this site range from volunteer to work exchanges to actual paid positions. So now you can find paid work as you travel. You do have to create a profile and sign up of course but the normal membership, which allows you to access almost all of the features, is completely free. I haven’t used the site myself in terms of finding work, but I have spent a lot of time reading through it all and communicating with the founder. And with the number of opportunities on there, it seems like it would a no-brainer to add this to the list of websites to visit when trying to find ways to extend your travels, volunteer, do some work exchanges or earn money using the skills and knowledge that you already have.

WorkingTraveller.com: www.workingtraveller.com

Minaal

On the Minaal website, the first thing you see is a question: “So, you live on the road?” That pretty much sums up the thinking behind the sleek carry-on backpack they’ve designed. And a year or so after they first came into existence, I finally decided to try one out for myself. This backpack really is unlike any other I’ve used and as a result, it took some time for me to get comfortable with its design and ways to pack it up. Eventually, I did figure out how to maximize its lie-flat packing system and since then, this has been an excellent pack.

Minaal Carry-on Backpack

It has a capacity of 35 liters, can easily be taken on a plane as a carry on, has a very sleek design, comes with a rain cover, is super comfortable to carry, the straps can be zipped away and it keeps your stuff very well organized. I don’t think I would be able to use the Minaal as my only backpack as I wander all over the place at this stage, as I do need a little bit bigger pack these days, but for trips up to a couple months in duration, this thing is as ideal as it gets since I can take it with me anywhere and it will never be a burden. For those who truly embrace the minimalist style of travel, this could definitely be the only pack you would ever need as it is designed specifically with you in mind.

Over on their website they have a great deal of information about the product, as well as videos that show how different travelers have used the pack. Worth checking out if you are looking for a new under-40 liter backpack. At $299, it might make you jump at first, but when you consider this will probably be the only pack you would need for a long, long time, it will quickly sound much more reasonable.

Minaal: www.minaal.com

Telecom Square

Over the past couple of years, I’ve mentioned Telecom Square a few times. It’s a mobile wifi hotspot that I’ve been using every now and then. And while the company provided me with a device to test out, the reason I mention them is because I have been repeatedly impressed by how reliable this hotspot has been in countries all over the world (it works in over 90 countries). Wherever I am – India, Israel, Italy, Indonesia – I just turn it on and within seconds I have a solid internet connection.

Telecom Square mobile wifi hotspot

I can take it with me wherever I go (it’s smaller than an old flip phone), several devices can connect to it at the same time and one charge lasts about 5 hours of solid internet use. Yes, it is on the pricey side, about $12 USD per day for a single country device, so it’s not for everybody. (There are a variety of plans and they do have long term discounts that can knock it down to about $8 USD per day.) Some travelers really require reliable internet all the time when they are moving around and don’t want to worry about finding a secure connection everywhere they go. If that’s you, a mobile wifi hotspot could suit your needs quite well.

Telecom Square: www.mobilewifi.telecomsquare.us

FlipKey

FlipKey is Tripadvisor’s version of Airbnb, and they happened to get in touch with me earlier this year, offering me a chance to try out their service. So I did try it when I went to Italy back in April. The apartment I booked in Florence was amazing, two minutes walk from The Duomo and everything else I could possibly want to be a two minutes walk away from. The interior design, especially the high ceilings and massive windows made me feel as if I was in an Italian palace, even though the apartment was only two bedrooms. I loved the apartment and it was a fair price for the four of us that shared it, compared to booking hotel rooms.

FlipKey

As for the FlipKey experience, well, it wasn’t the easiest. Most of the apartment owners I contacted would either tell me to visit some other website to make the booking (where they didn’t have to pay fees I assume) or the apartment they had advertised wasn’t actually the apartment they had available. Despite having 1651 listings in Florence for under $150 USD per night, it took quite a while for me to find an apartment that I could actually book on their site that was exactly what was advertised. With that said, the reason I mention it here is that I guess it’s worth looking at FlipKey if you do plan to do the apartment rental thing while traveling since the more options you have the better. And as is the case with anything, you could very well have a completely different experience on the site than I did.

FlipKey: www.flipkey.com

Travelers Box

I literally slapped myself on the forehead when I first saw a Travelers Box kiosk next to my gate at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. “Such a good idea!” was all I could think. You’re leaving a country and you have some local currency, bills and coins, in your pocket that you no longer need. Now, instead of buying a tacky $22 “I Love Milan” hand towel at the airport gift shop, just to use up the money, you can deposit that money into the Travelers Box kiosk.

Travelers Box

When you do, you can choose to have the money sent to any of a long list of possible places, such as your Paypal account or Skype account or Amazon account and on and on. There are over 35 options for you to choose from. The money is converted into the currency of the account, Travelers Box takes their cut and the rest is all yours to spend once you get home. And it takes less than a minute to do this. Awesome, awesome idea and I think this will really take off. Right now, the kiosks can be found in only 7 airports in Turkey, England, Italy and Republic of Georgia but they plan to have over 30 more airports around the world added by the end of the year. Keep an eye out for them and soon enough you won’t have to waste your leftover currency when you travel.

Travelers Box: www.travelersbox.com

Roomer

It’s an interesting idea – buying hotel rooms from people who can no longer use them. When someone can’t go on a planned trip but they’ve already booked their accommodation, they can now sell the hotel room on Roomer and travelers can purchase those rooms at a heavy discount. The seller doesn’t lose all of the money they spent to book their room, the buyer gets a great deal and everyone is happy. Of course, the only way this system will really work is if there are a ton of people using the site and re-selling their rooms or else the supply of rooms being re-sold will be too low.

Roomer Travel

I recently used the site to book a room for myself and my mom on our recent trip to Oregon, but there weren’t any hotel rooms being re-sold in any of the destinations we were heading to. However, if there aren’t any rooms being re-sold, Roomer also has a normal hotel search engine and I did find a great deal on there for a three night stay. So it worked out in the end but I would have loved to find actual discounted rooms from people who couldn’t use the rooms they had already booked. Hopefully the offerings will grow and this will become easier to do. Definitely a site worth paying attention to.

Roomer: www.roomertravel.com

Allett Wallet

I’ve used money clips, strange rubber contraptions, normal clips and all kinds of wallets, but usually, after a short while, I stop using these money organization things and just throw my money and cards into my pocket without anything keeping them together. So, when I saw the Allett Wallet offerings, I thought that the same would happen. But, as a sucker for money and card organizing contraptions nonetheless, I decided to give this one a try too. It’s now been about 6 weeks and I’m still using it, and I have a feeling I’ll be using it for a long time.

All-Ett Wallet

Its beauty is in its simplicity as they say. The one I chose is the Nylon Sport Wallet and it has three simple pockets – one for the bills, two slots for cards – that’s it. The key is that this wallet is super thin. Even with 10 bills and 10 cards in there, when I put it in my pocket, it’s barely noticeable and I can barely feel it’s even there. That made me a big fan.

This wallet is also super tough which is important when traveling all over the place, and it also only costs $14.95, a decent price point I’d say. There are several other styles and materials to choose from as well.

Allett: www.all-ett.com

They can also be found, with reviews, on Amazon.

That’s the roundup. Those are the travel products and travel websites that have caught my attention recently.

I hope you find some of them useful and as always, if you do try anything that was mentioned, please let us know how it goes in the comments below!

Have you already used any of the above? What was your experience? Any other cool travel-related websites, products or services you want to share?