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2017: The Year You Make Travel Happen

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daring travel sky dive
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions people make is to travel more. It’s right up there with eating better and going to the gym more.

And, like so many other resolutions, this one starts with the best of intentions and motivations but often fails.

When asked why, most people make up some reason involving time and money. They ran out of time, life got in the way, they forgot to ask for time off, work got too busy, they never saved enough, couldn’t find a cheap ticket, yada, yada, yada.

Tomorrow is the day to hit the gym, give up pizza, read more, or find that cheap trip to Paris.

But, when you dive deeper, you usually find people don’t follow through because they are too afraid to commit. They half-checked flights, looked up some hotels, and maybe even went to a bookstore to buy a guidebook. But when it came down to purchasing the trip, they hemmed and hawed and said, “Let me think about it a little. Maybe tomorrow.”

After all, change is hard. Getting out of your comfort zone is hard. It takes dedicated mental energy.

Turning a dream into a reality can elicit a sort of “ohh f%%k, this is happening” moment. There’s always a mix of excitement and fear. “Yes!” to doing it but also an “uhh, what did I get myself into?” feeling.

The second you buy your plane ticket, there’s no going back. You’re going. You’re locked in.

Soon you’ll be in a place you know nothing about, where you know no one, and (maybe) don’t speak the language.

The reality of that stops more people than you think from hitting “Book Now” because they aren’t sure they are “ready.”

Now, I know that you, dear reader, have a sense of adventure. You’re reading this blog, right? This is probably not your problem.

But time and/or money? These things probably worry you.

Someone literally asked me in an email last week: “Why do people still think travel is expensive?!”

When I read that, I screamed at my computer, arms flailing, yelling “Right? Why indeed? That is such a good question! I still can’t figure it out! It drives me insane!”

With all the blogs, magazines, apps, travel hacking websites, and deal sites out there, you would think the persistent myth that travel is expensive would have started to fade away by now. But it is still there. It’s hard to get rid of for the millions of people who grew up in the age of “travel = expensive hotel/resort vacation.” For the other millions in countries that are just getting the purchasing power to think about overseas travel, travel is very much still a luxury.

And luxury is synonymous with expensive.

However, there are travel deals all the time if you know where to look. 2016 saw some incredible cheap fares, and 2017 is shaping up to be no different. (There are some crazy $400 USD round-trip flights to Europe right now.) Additionally, the sharing economy has only grown in recent years, allowing you to bypass the old travel gatekeepers, and connect with locals for a cheaper trip.

So today, I’m going to get you somewhere in the world. I’m going to show you the secret to finding a cheap vacation so you can start 2017 off right and not back out of your resolution. Ready?

First, go to one of these websites: The Flight Deal, Holiday Pirates, or Secret Flying. Look for a cheap flight to a place you want to go to.

Second, book a flight. Lock yourself into a trip. Don’t worry about anything else. I promise you everything will work out. You can worry about a hotel, what to pack, day-to-day expenses, time off, what to do, etc., later. Those things don’t matter and there are many ways to cut those expenses! Worry about the logistics later.

Third, well, that’s all there is to it. There is no third.

Once you make the commitment by buying a flight, the rest is easy. Over and over again, I hear from travelers, “I was so worried about my trip. I built it up in my head so much and began to fret about all the ‘what ifs,’ but once I got on the road, it all fell into place and I wondered why I was ever worried at all.”

I know it seems scary to take the leap, especially when you are on your own. I know it can be unnerving to run out of your comfort zone. It’s basically this cartoon below, right?

The simple act of hitting “go” takes mental work!

But I’m here for you. This site is a virtual hand. I’m here to take the leap with you together. To be there to reassure you along the way, take away your fears, answer any of your questions, and provide support. (Plus, we have a whole community of people to help you too!)

How I’m Going to Help Make 2017 the Year of Travel

Today, I’m bringing back the case study project. I’m going to take five readers and help them plan their trip from start to finish. I’m going to help them each step of the way (as much as they need me to) and use their examples to show again that you don’t need to be rich to travel – or that you just aren’t limited to cheaper, developing countries.

To be one of those readers, you simply need to book a flight within 24 hours of this blog post going up. The first five people to do that and send me proof are in. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, where you are going, or for how long. SPOTS ARE FULL! THANKS FOR APPLYING!

Just email a screenshot of where you are going, as well as the following information: your name, phone number, and age; a short bio; the ideal budget for your trip; and anything else I need to know. (Please keep it to no more than two paragraphs.)

There are no fees or strings attached. I’ll work with you via email, phone, and Skype to create a plan and help you stick to it so you can travel sooner than you planned and for less money.

I’ll feature these case studies on the blog when they are done as a way to help and inspire others (so you have to be OK with sharing your story on the website).

If you want to go somewhere but have always been a bit too afraid to pull the trigger, do so today, and let me help guide you out the door.

I will take your hand and we will leap together.

– Matt

P.S. – Looking for another way to kick start your new year? Over at the forums, we are doing our quarterly Travel Action Challenge, where you win prizes (like a $100 USD Amazon.com gift card) !

P.P.S. – If you would like to help underprivileged students travel more, we’re currently fundraising for a group of students to go volunteer in Ecuador. Help us reach our goal, change someone’s life by exposing them to the world of travel, and get some travel swag in the process. It’s a trip win!

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Travel

Explore the Magic of Florida’s Glowing Waters

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Whether you call Florida’s Space Coast home or travel there for business or pleasure, be sure to set aside time to explore the splendor of Florida’s glowing Indian River lagoon. When you participate in a late-night tour in a clear-bottom kayak courtesy of A Day Away Kayak Tours, you’ll experience firsthand the beautiful, mind-boggling effects of dinoflagellate bioluminescence — water flashing blue and green and illuminating literally beneath your feet. It’s something you simply don’t want to miss.

What is bioluminescence?

If you’ve ever spent time in the summer as a child trying to capture fireflies in a jar, you know what bioluminescence looks like. It’s that flash of light that may last but a second or for several seconds. According to the Smithsonian Institution, bioluminescence is created by a living organism as a result of luciferin, a chemical compound reacting with oxygen. Unlike other sources of light, it generates little heat and is therefore considered a cold light.

What organisms cause bioluminescence?

We’ve mentioned fireflies already. And some fungi also cause bioluminescence. But most bioluminescent creatures including some species of fish, jellyfish, worms, sea stars, and even sharks find their home in the ocean. The spectacular bioluminescence found in the lagoons of Florida’s Space Coast is created by dinoflagellates, miniscule single-celled organisms in the algae family that are typically found in marine plankton.

Why do they glow?

According to National Geographic, there are many reasons why some organisms glow. For example, some squids will use their bioluminescence to confound their attackers. The sudden flash creates a deer-in-the-headlights frozen reaction to predators giving them time to quickly slip away. And the brittle star, a type of sea star will detach a bioluminescent arm so its predator will chase after it leaving the main body of the star to escape. (It’s little matter to the brittle star as it will grow a new arm in its place.) Other sea creatures including worms and small crustaceans use their bioluminescence to attract suitable mates. Earthbound fireflies use it for the same reason.

Dinoflagellates flash blue light whenever the water they are in is disturbed, including when hungry fish swim by — or when curious kayakers paddle through. Scientists believe their response works to distract predators while also attracting the kind of prey those predators might prefer to dine on.

Where can bioluminescent waters be found?

Bioluminescence can be found in Jamaica, the Maldivian Islands, and other warm water ecosystems, but you don’t have to go nearly so far to experience the beauty of bioluminescent plankton. The Indian River lagoon on Florida’s Space Coast and the Banana River near Cape Canaveral provide amazing kayaking opportunities to enjoy this magical experience.

When is the best time to see the glowing water?

Dark, moonless nights anytime between the months of May and November are good, but if you want a truly fiery night, July and August are prime time. You can experience this extraordinary phenomenon from a traditional kayak, observing glowing droplets of water as they swirl from your paddle, or you can immerse yourself in the magic completely with a clear-bottomed kayak and perhaps catch a glimpse of a graceful manatee as it glides below you.

The choice is yours.

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Travel Vaccine Checklist: What Vaccines Do You Need for Your Upcoming Trip?

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Are you planning on leaving the country? Before you depart, it is a good idea to check in with a travel clinic for a pre-travel consultation to see whether or not you require any vaccinations or booster shots. 

Give yourself plenty of time because the full effects of immunizations can take anywhere from four to six weeks to manifest, and some people may require more than one dose. 

You will, of course, want to ensure that you have had all of the standard vaccinations that are recommended for daily living in the United States. If you take precautions against these diseases at home, they won’t be as dangerous for you when you go to other places where they are also found. 

What Else Do You Require, Exactly? 

The vaccinations you need are going to be determined by your destination. 

Check to see that you are up to date on all of the usual immunizations, including for COVID-19, measles-mumps-rubella, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, chickenpox, polio, hepatitis B, and the yearly flu vaccine. 

Hepatitis A vaccination is a must for travel to most of the world except Western Europe, North America, Japan and Australia and New Zealand. A typhoid vaccinations is also recommended for many tourists destinations. In addition, other specialized vaccinations may be recommended depending on where you are going. For instance, you are required to get vaccinated against yellow fever if you are intending to travel to particular regions in Africa or South America. 

However, if you are traveling to places like Canada, Japan, Australia, or New Zealand, as well as Western Europe, it is quite unlikely that you will require any destination specific vaccinations. 

In the event that you want to go to a region of the world in which contracting malaria is possible, your physician will prescribe you medication to ward against the disease. Although it is not a vaccination, you will need it in order to defend yourself. Make sure you take all of your anti-malaria medication, including the pills that are prescribed for after you return home. 

You should also take precautions against getting bitten by mosquitoes if you are going to be traveling to a region where mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever or Zika, are prevalent. Vaccines against these diseases may not currently exist. 

If you go to the “Travelers’ Health” section of the CDC website, you will find out just what you need to bring with you to your destination. You are able to search depending on where you are going as well as any unique requirements that you may have, such as whether or not you are pregnant or take medications that have an effect on your immune system. You may also be going somewhere with limited access to medical care if you are going on a humanitarian mission or to provide assistance following a natural disaster. In addition, the website provides a “healthy travel packing list” tailored to the specific nation that the user would be visiting.

As you prepare for your trip, make an appointment with the travel health experts at Travel Bug Health or visit their website to learn more: https://www.travelbughealth.com 

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Travel

Warning: Don’t Get Scammed on Vacation

Scammers, criminals and lowlifes await you on vacation; so if you want to stay safe, avoid these popular scams. Don’t be a victim to immoral people all over the world who are waiting to swindle you out of your hard earned money. Tourist are conned and stolen from every day in every possible way imaginable. […]

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Scammers, criminals and lowlifes await you on vacation; so if you want to stay safe, avoid these popular scams. Don’t be a victim to immoral people all over the world who are waiting to swindle you out of your hard earned money. Tourist are conned and stolen from every day in every possible way imaginable. I’ve had some of these happen to me so everyone is susceptible.

Common scams:

Pick Pocket

This is number one for a reason, it happens all the time. Why do people not take care of their valuables? First rule of traveling: NEVER keep your wallet in your back pocket!

Simple rule but so many people fail to follow it. I carry a traveler’s wallet, it slings over my shoulder and I keep it under my shirt. The pickpocket would have to literally take my shirt off and only my wife and doctor have that privilege.

Women keep your purse under your jacket or double wrapped around your wrist. Ladies, your purses are a huge target and pickpockets can plan their attack from any angle.

Pickpockets run all sorts of scams to get your attention away from the fact that they are taking your wallet. Here are the most common pickpocket scams.

The Bump

This is a great diversion, since you are physically being bumped; all your attention is being diverted to the initial strike. While you are being bumped, your wallet is skillfully being taken out of your pocket or purse. When in large crowds or small areas pay extra attention to your loot.

Misdirection

This is usually a two-person scam. The first criminal is somehow stealing your attention while the accomplice cleverly snags your goodies. The misdirection can be anything from asking for directions or trying to sell you something. As long as they break your concentration and you are sidetracked, they’ve already won. Again, an easy way to avoid this widespread trick is to keep your wallet or purse safe.

The Spill

Pickpockets will clumsily spill something on your clothing and while they haphazardly try to clean it up, they are expertly pilfering your stuff. So, if some stranger spills coffee on you, DON’T let them help you clean it up. They will not only get coffee on your fantastic pea coat, but they will be spending your cash in no time flat.

Taxi Scams

The Overcharge

This is the most common one and happens everywhere, even in your hometown. Taxi drivers can spot a mark from a mile away and will exploit your naivety for their benefit. I’ve had this happen to me a few times and its more common than you think. The cab driver will either take you on an extremely long route or flat out overcharge you. They think you have no idea where you are going and they are probably right. The key is to ask someone knowledgeable that you also trust how to get somewhere and how much it should cost. The airport has many officials that should help you and your hotel concierge will provide you with all the help you need.

Wrong Change

This scam isn’t just relegated to cabbies, any shop or restaurant employee will try this scam on you. Image for a second that you are in a foreign land and you are unfamiliar with the currency or exchange rate. You simply try and pay for something and the clerk gives you change, how e=on earth are you supposed to know what’s right? This is a tough nut to crack, but a little pre-planning and homework should fix this. It helps to actually know what the currency is and how much the exchange rate is. It isn’t hard work to find these things out. Here is a handy currency converter you can use for free.

An additional nugget of knowledge: Never get in an unmarked cab, these illegal taxis will scam you, guaranteed.

Other Popular Scams

Free Jewelry

Never trust anything that seems like too good of a deal. If a person tries to give you free jewelry, food or really anything, it’s probably a scam. They will give you the free thing then immediately demand money for it. When you at first don’t pay, they will make a huge scene and hope that this makes you pay. The key to staying safe is simple, never take anything from anyone.

Overly Aggressive Woman

This is an age-old scam, send an attractive woman to hit on a guy, she gets him to buy her drinks and then something happens. This is where the narrative changes; the woman drugs you, a man comes up pretending to be her boyfriend or she pickpockets you. Any of these are no good and can easily be avoided by being smart. Nobody wants to wake up with his or her kidneys gone or their passport missing.

Scammers are out there everyday trying to get over on someone, flip the script and be one step ahead.

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