Archive for July, 2008

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I’m Going On Tour!

July 30, 2008

Mraz on stage

Kinda, sorta.

My travel philosphy, which I think I’ve shared a few times, is to do what I can with what I have. Or maybe, go where I can with what time I have off and what my budget will allow. Sometimes you get to do your dream vacation abroad, and sometimes that’s just not possible, but it doesn’t mean you have to sit home, full of regret and Doritos.

I was hoping to make a big, multi-national trip across the Atlantic at the end of the year. It was going to be scheduled around holidays and fireworks and parties with friends in foreign places. It was going to be a Bobby Dazzler of a trip, and I was psyched.

But then my travel companion flaked. And then it looked like getting that much time off was going to be difficult. And then the friends who I had planned to visit said they may or may not be around when I was going to be in their area.

Rather than sigh a big ‘Oh, woe is me’, I decided to reconsider my options and see what else I could pull together with little notice. I talked to friends in Florida and Seattle, people I haven’t seen in far too long. And then, in a pretty little twist of fate, my favorite singer announced his fall tour dates.

In about six hours I pulled together four trips to four different states over four different weekends. I’m going to see about a dozen friends, lots of new sites, new restaurants and parks and bars and shops and hopefully some good chocolate places.

Granted, I had the advantage of some disposable income (let’s hear it for being single and childless!), but I’m also going to put a few miles on my car, take advantage of some friendly couches, and cash in on some rides to and from the airport that I’m owed. I’ll also have a nice chunk of frequent flier miles added to my account when all is said and done.

So what do you have that you can use? Family and friends in exciting locations? The loan of a house, car, or cabin? A really good student airfare? Put all the pieces together, and maybe you’ll come up with a few days of your own prime vacation time.

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Keep In Touch Around the World

July 29, 2008

If you plan to do a lot of traveling, hitting more than one country or maybe even more than one continent, look into getting an international cell phone (or “mobile” if you want to be English about it).

When you’re traveling for a short time you can get by with email and phone cards, but if you travel far and frequently, having a phone that works everywhere and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg can be a lot more convenient. Besides all the time you’ll save shopping for calling cards and punching in long codes, it will also save you the hassle of figuring out how to get in touch with the people you meet and travel with while you’re on the road if you have a permanent number.

Say you meet some Italian hottie at a backpacker bar one night. You want to get together at the beach a few days later, but how are you going to organize anything if the only way you can find each other again is by stalking each other’s rooms and hostel lounge areas? It’s just not a smooth way to operate.

ISIConnect has been providing student backpackers with communications tools for years now, and they can get you a good deal on a phone that will work for your travel habits. Note that I didn’t say that the phones were super cheap, but if convenience is important to you, then this would be a great investment.

To learn more about how international phones work, start with ISIConnect’s Buying Tips.

Happy chatting and traveling!

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Castle Hostels and Hotels: Fancy Living at Student Prices

July 24, 2008

Carbisdale CastleAs long as you’re traveling, meeting new people and jumping into new experiences, you should make the most out of every night by staying somewhere that will offer you more than just a place to sleep and a warm-ish bathing opportunity.

Even on a student traveler budget, you can stay in some very swanky places. The castle in this photo right here is just one of them, but not a bad one to start with. Carbisdale Castle in Scotland has the usual bunk beds and dining area, but it also has a collection of fine art, a statue gallery, and some rooms that may be a wee bit haunted. If that interests you, ask to stay in The Spook Room.

Also in Scotland is Loch Lomond Castle in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and Rua Reidh Lighthouse (which is a lighthouse and not a castle, but still very cool and only £10 for a hostel bed).

Stahleck hostelIf you’re sticking to the continent, no problem. Germany, Italy, and Switzerland have castle hostels as well, all affordable prices. Jugendherberge Burg Stahleck in Germany (pictured here) is located above the wine-grower’s town of Bacharach in the Loreley Valley and beds start at £17.40 a night. For more German castles, visit this page and do a search using the handy “Castles” checkbox option.

For castle hostels in the Netherlands, start with Kasteel Westhove. And if you’re more of a chalet person, then the Chalet Martin in the Swiss Alps is for you. Beds start at £12 a night and you can’t beat the view.

The only downside to castle living is that after staying at one, you’re going to want to leave your usual dorm-style accommodation to the commoners.

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Become a Travel Magazine Intern

July 21, 2008

Learn more about publishing and keep your finger on the pulse of the student travel industry at the same time by working (for a wee stipend) at Student Traveler Magazine. It may not have the scope and reputation of Lonely Planet, but they are much closer to the kind of travel action you’re interested.

Student Traveler covers topics like study abroad, volunteering abroad, hostels, language schools, teaching English abroad, and everything else you need to know about traveling on a student budget.

Internships begin September 1st in the Los Angeles area. Learn more about the positions on their Craigslist posting.

Good luck!

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Make Friends With Bill Bryson and CPRE

July 17, 2008

I super love Bill Bryson. He’s a wonderful author, a charming man, and probably one of the most good-hearted people on Earth. If more people showed his consideration for the planet, curiosity for other cultures, and appreciation for the life experiences that travel can give you, we’d be a much happier, healthier, friendly group of humans.

Now, through the power of Facebook, you can join Bill Bryson’s “Let’s be kind and do good things that help our countrysides and landscapes rather than crap on them, shall we?” team.

Oh, and that’s my slogan, not his. I don’t know that he would use the word “crap” in a team motto, although when I saw him at a reading in Boston a few years back, he did begin his talk with a more powerful four-letter word. Ah, how I enjoy his witty blended English-American sense of humor. 

Bill Bryson's African Diary

Bill Bryson's African Diary

Anyway, Mr. Bryson is currently working with the Campaign to Protect Rural England. It’s the kind of thing that locals usually get involved with, but just because you live in Toledo or Calgary or Perth doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care. What if you want to go visit rural England some day only to find it’s all been torn up and paved over? I imagine it’s the same way non-Americans feel when they visit U.S. National Parks and find them to be more smoggy and full of litter than the brochures make them look.

Which reminds me, you should read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. Also, Down Under. Also, Notes From a Small Island. And of course, Bill Bryson’s African Diary, which benefits the non-profit CARE organization.

All other Bryson books are excellent as well, so read them too. Then loan them to your friends. Viva la Bryson revolution!

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10 Student Travel Adventures Under $999 Each

July 15, 2008

Turkey

Go Greek on the islands of Mykonos and Santorini. Explore the old Ottoman Empire and indulge in a Turkish bath. Choose from abseiling, sea kayaking, moutain biking, and bungee jumping in South Africa.

What do all these trips have in common? They’ll all cost you less than $1000 (not including airfare, sorry), and they all offer you more than a typical tour does.

Push your limits and take your passport somewhere it’s never been before!

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Travel for Change With Student Non-Profits

July 14, 2008

Volunteer Abroad

There’s an article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle about student groups in the S.F. Bay Area who have lanuched very successful fundraising programs to help those in need.

Some projects focus on providing assistance to their own communities, but some take a more global approach. Students at Bay Area junior highs and high schools have traveled to Thailand, Nepal, Kenya and other countries to see how their money is being put to work for good.

They’ve built schools, dug wells, purchased livestock, and donated bicycles to needy families. Maybe even more importantly, they’ve become their own goodwill ambassadors, sharing a spirit of hope and unity with strangers all over the world.

The article talks a lot about how this generation – your generation – feels more empowered to reach out and make a difference. The world gets smaller and smaller as technology and travel make it easier to learn about places that used to be a mystery to all but a few academics and explorers.

So what can you accomplish? Check out the One Dollar for Life organization. Learn more about the projects they’ve taken on and how much they’ve accomplished. Join in by holding your own fundraiser, or start a project of your own.

If you want to help, but prefer a more structured voluntourism project, visit Volunteer Abroad to find a destination and project that suits your interests.

No matter where you go or what you do, the rewards you’ll get from a volunteer travel project will stay with you for a lifetime.