Coachella Camping Hacks

Camping at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival in Indio, California is often labeled a rite of passage for first-year festival attendees. The party does not end the second the last band leaves the main stage every night; there is something kinetic about the rowdy crowd. Campsite dance floors blast music hours after the venue locks its gates for the night, and other campers who are too wired to sleep re-cap their day and plot a schedule for the next one. This either sounds like a very good time, or a turnoff to those who only go to Coachella to see their favorite bands live.

Entering the venue

Entering the venue

So why, for five years (going on six) have I camped out rather than get a hotel? The answer is pretty simple: the camping community is welcoming and the benefits of not having to take a shuttle or drive to the venue every day makes the choice a no-brainer. Camping allows you to roll out of bed when you want, catch an afternoon nap, grab snacks or drinks of your choosing and it grants you the ability to slap a burger on the grill whenever you want. To me, camping at Coachella is not just a rite of passage, but also a way to improve your festival experience. Read on to help get the most out of your camping experience, and so you don’t spend your days waiting in line to take the shuttle into town to buy the essentials you forgot to bring. Continue reading

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Self-Diagnosing on the Road

Tara Putting on a Bandage

Tara putting on a bandage after a minor motorbike mishap in Laos.

When you take a short vacation from work, you typically wouldn’t visit a doctor during your trip unless a serious matter had to be addressed. Long-term travelers, however, can’t wait months until their return to seek treatment or a doctor’s opinion. They have to find care on the road or risk that a small issue might turn into a larger one. But even if they have health coverage, the hassle of navigating through their plan’s fine print coupled with trying to find a trustworthy physician in a foreign country discourages some from seeking help.

If you recall, when Mike and I were planning our trip, we divided tasks according to our individual strengths. It was my responsibility to find travel insurance that would also provide us with good medical coverage, and I took this job very seriously. We ended up buying 13 months of insurance through STA Travel, with coverage administered by CSA Travel Protection. There were a variety of reasons this insurance won out against our second choice, but one very nice inclusion was that a one-time payment of up to $1,000 could be applied toward your first in-network physician visit during your coverage period. Naturally, we didn’t want to waste that $1,000 by going to the doctor for the common cold or something that would only use a small portion of that monetary offer. But we’ve also never been the type to run to the doctor for every ache and pain anyway. It would be better, we thought, to put the $1,000 toward what would be a more expensive doctor visit, like to treat a broken ankle or – heaven forbid – something major. Continue reading

5 Gifts for the Travelaholic in Your Life

The holidays are here, and if you haven’t already thought about gifts for the travelaholic(s) in your life, we have you covered! These items are bound to fuel their travel addiction and help make any aspect of their away-from-home adventures more enjoyable. If you have other interesting gift ideas to share with your fellow travelers, please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Safe travels and happy holidays!

1. Hooded Travel Pillow

This is the product we would have invented had we not seen it online first. It eliminates the need for an uncomfortable eye mask and is therefore the perfect neck pillow for travelers who want a little shut-eye in transit.

Hooded Travel Pillow

Hooded travel pillow in action. Photo courtesy of BustedTees.com.

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5 Challenging Exercises for Travelers

Fethiye to Olympos cruise

Mike relaxing during a cruise we took in Turkey. Definitely not dreaming about exercise!

Even for the most diehard gym-goers, exercise during a vacation seems like punishment. It’s typical to leave your routine at home and fall into a relaxed hypnosis, only to awaken a week later on your return flight.

While this is normal and completely understandable, Mike and I couldn’t fall into that habit during a 14-month trip. Can you imagine how much weight we would have gained if we skipped exercise, stuffed ourselves silly and binge drank our way around the world? Instead, Mike miraculously lost more than 35 pounds! People mostly react by saying, “Well you walked everywhere, didn’t you? And with those heavy packs…” But Mike’s weight loss didn’t even start when we were lugging our bags around in Europe. It happened once we hit Asia. We still walked around a lot, but transportation is so cheap in Asia that it’s silly to walk from the train station to your hotel at high noon when a taxi costs the equivalent of $2 USD. Often times, losing weight doesn’t have anything to do with the 15 minutes per day you spend with a bag on your back (just ask Mike). It has to do with what you eat, how much you consume and – even though you don’t want to hear it – exercise. Continue reading

9 Confessions From Two Travelaholics

When we first started our round-the-world trip, our equipment was new(ish), our bags were over-packed and we were nicely groomed. My how things have changed! Tara continues to wear thin-as-cardboard flip-flops that have a penny-sized hole in the right heel. And Mike’s shaggy mane hasn’t seen scissors since the beginning of 2012. Instead being off-put by these things, we’ve made jokes out of what we refer to as our “lowest lows.” Such as: When will Tara’s shoes just fall apart? How long will Mike’s hair grow by the end of our trip?

Tara's Worn Out Shoes

Tara’s worn out shoes.

We started to make a list of the not-so-normal things that long-term travel has done to us – the things we usually keep to ourselves. It is such a humorous list that we thought, “Ok, maybe we can share this with our readers.” So in honor of our 13-month travelversary, here are nine confessions that we have kept to ourselves until now. We hope this gives you a chuckle and a little insight into life on the international road:

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Budgeting for Myanmar

5,000 Kyat Bill

5,000 kyat bill

Before leaving Thailand, we did as much research about Myanmar as possible. We have not heavily researched a country this much in many months, and it was mostly because there is an air of mystery surrounding in-country costs.

Tourism in Myanmar is growing at an exponential rate each year, and prices are increasing with it. Johnny may have visited in November 2012, but by May 2013, hotel prices increased around 50%. That might not be a problem in other countries because credit cards are accepted or ATMs are widely available. But in Myanmar, many expenses can only be paid for in crisp, unmarked U.S. dollars (hotels, flights, entrance fees) that you must bring into the country. You cannot just walk into an American Express Foreign Exchange and withdraw dollars. That kind of convenience does not exist there, yet. Therefore, you must have a budget in mind before entering so you can withdraw clean USD outside of the country.

ATMs in Myanmar are a very recent addition, but they only dispense the local currency, kyat (pronounced “chat”). With kyat, you can pay for things like food, taxis, clothes, toiletries, and local and long-distance buses. Before ATMs were installed, travelers had to exchange USD for kyat on the black market (now there are also exchange bureaus). But that used to be the only way for foreigners to obtain kyat. Continue reading

Can You Drink the Water in…

Cold Water in India

But is it potable?

We don’t travel with guide books. They add too much weight, take up precious space and buying a new one for each country we visit would cost too much. Sometimes we read the ones left behind in guesthouses, but mostly we look to the Internet for a few important answers. Before arriving in a new country, we always look up the following information:

1) the local currency and exchange rate
2) what the tipping etiquette is
3) any local customs or important cultural differences
And, super important:
4) can you drink tap water without getting sick?

This last question has become very important to us. Being in constant travel mode between very foreign places has caused us to miss certain things, and ice on a very hot day is one of them. Sometimes, if you can’t drink the local water, you can’t have ice, a smoothie or diluted juice. But other times, like in Malaysia, ice is made in factories and purchased by local establishments. Thank you, Malaysia! But we wish you the best if you attempt to drink ice water in India.

Obviously this is very important information to be prepared with. Here’s a breakdown of countries we spent significant time in during our trip and whether you can drink from the tap.* Some of them may surprise you:

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