Advanced Travel Planning: Looking Ahead to January-June 2009

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Some of you have noted that I haven’t published any first-person travel adventures lately. I haven’t been to any crazy countries, slept in airports, crash-landed without a visa, etc.

Don’t worry – I’m not getting soft. I’ve enjoyed hanging out in Seattle, trying to make a living, get my book contract sorted out, and recover from a running injury that has bothered me for a while. The extended break has been good for me, but in January I’ll resume my adventures around the world.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been planning out my trips for the first half of 2009. I tend to change things around a fair amount, but as of now, here is what I expect it to look like from January to June. If it seems overwhelming, first remember that I’ve done this a lot – I certainly didn’t begin with itineraries as complex as the ones I’ll show you here.

And of course, I’ll chronicle each trip in more detail as it gets closer. Cool?


In January, I’ll head to Northeast Africa, flying in to Ethiopia, then heading up to Somaliand (not Somalia; even I am not that crazy), over to Djibouti, and hopefully on to Eritrea and back out after about 12 days of roaming.

My fingers are crossed on this one, because the Eritrean embassy in D.C. has not yet given me a visa. If I don’t get one, I’ll have to scramble to figure something else out, because I already have a flight booked out of Asmara, the capital.

Earlier this summer, I learned that the Kurdish (Iraqi) government checked out this web site before deciding to issue me a visa at no charge. They even sent me a “Welcome Chris Guillebeau!” message which made me feel like a minor celebrity, at least in Kurdistan. Perhaps the Eritreans will be similarly kind – guys, if you’re reading this, please help me out. You can keep the $40 money order that I sent; I just need the visa.



Assuming I get to Eritrea or at least get home somehow, in late February, I’ll head to Washington, D.C. for a conference, then fly out from there to Qatar to resume the Round-the-World ticket I began last year. That trip will take me to southern Africa – specifically Mauritius and Namibia. I also hope to take a side-trip to Swaziland and Mozambique while I’m over in that part of the world.

After I’m done there, the ticket takes me back to my usual Asian hub of Hong Kong, where I’ll need to figure out how to get back to the States for another four-week stay at home.


The Three Mysterious CountriesAPRIL

One month later, I’ll be back on the road to visit Haiti and what I call the “three mysterious countries” of South America. They are Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. If you haven’t heard much about them, don’t feel bad – that’s why I call them “mysterious.” I’m not sure I’ll solve any mysteries, but I’ll try to at least get there and back.


south-america-mapMAY AND JUNE

In May and June, I hope to wrap up the rest of South America, which for me includes Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, and Bolivia. I’m not sure I’ll get to all of them, but it would be significant to complete the whole continent, so I’ll give it a try.

Finally (are you getting tired of this?), I’ll travel to Jordan and then perhaps on to the Sudan. I say “perhaps” because Khartoum (KRT) is part of my current Round-the-World ticket, but I suspect it will be extremely difficult to get the visa. I hope I’m not disappointing anyone with this, but Sudan is not a place I am willing to attempt to fly to without a visa. As previously mentioned, I may be crazy but not that crazy.

If I don’t think it will work out a couple of weeks prior to departure, I’ll pay $150 to change the ticket – not really my preferred option, but also not the end of the world. If I have to drop Khartoum for now, I still have a couple of other options in that region that are less problematic for U.S. passport holders.

Planned Itineraries

For those who like these things, the itineraries for the trips are listed below. The parentheses are for transit stops, and the “x” refers to an overland segment.

Northeast Africa


By extreme travel standards, this is a fairly straightforward trip – all on Lufthansa, and the only complicated part will be the overland journey from Ethiopia (ADD) to Eritrea (ASM), assuming I get the visa sorted out. I also need to get to Djibiouti or Somaliland during the two weeks I’ll be away – preferably both, but nothing is for certain yet.


Mysterious Countries

The next trip looks like this:


The ??? in this one is due to the fact that I’ll need to fly to one of the three mysterious countries (again: Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana) and I don’t have that ticket yet. PAP is Port Au Prince, Haiti; and POS is Port of Spain, Trinidad – the jumping-off point to get to Guyana or Suriname.

(By the way, you can use this tool to find out what any particular airport code refers to, and the mileage calculator from the same site is also useful.)


South America

The trip to Bolivia and elsewhere looks like this, tentatively:


Here I will be resuming last year’s Round-the-World ticket from Miami (MIA). I’ll need to buy separate tickets to and from Seattle, but that’s how I break up my trips to only be away from home for about two weeks at a time.


A Colorful Array of MoneyHow Much Does All of this Cost?

I could go on about the flights for a while, but hopefully the above information gives you a good overview. If you have specific questions, post them in the comments and I’ll respond. For now, I’ll address the most frequently asked question I get about these kinds of trips: how much does it cost?

First, read this about priorities and how it all started. I don’t own a car, I have no debt, I didn’t take out a sub-prime mortgage when you could get one at 7-11, I spend about $150 a year on clothes, and so on. I honestly believe that most people (at least, those in Western countries who read this blog) who want to travel can find a way to do so. It may require you to make changes or sacrifices, but inertia is a much greater hindrance for most of us than lack of money.

That said, it does cost money to do this kind of thing, so it's only fair to give you the specifics.

Ethiopia & Beyond

I used Star Alliance Frequent Flyer miles for the first Africa trip, round-trip from Seattle. It took a big hit to my United balance (120,000), and I now have only 60k left. On the bright side, I got the flights I wanted, it’s in Business Class (important to me for long-haul and back-to-back overnight flights), and it would otherwise be fairly expensive to purchase a ticket to that part of Africa. The taxes were also cheap -- just under $150.

Cost: 120k Miles + $150 in taxes
Countries: Ethopia, Eritrea (hopefully), and presumably a side trip to at least one additional country in the region

Qatar & Beyond

My Qatar Airways ticket, another Frequent Flyer award, was 90,000 miles and $391 in taxes – and I’m also trying to add a free stopover to Yemen or Kuwait.

I didn’t have any Qatar Airways miles (I’ve only flown with them once, and I credited it to United), so I transferred points from American Express Membership Rewards into ANA Airlines (Japan) to book the partner award. It sounds a bit convoluted, I know, but it wasn’t that difficult in practice.

Cost: 90k AmEx Points + $399 in taxes
Countries: Qatar to resume another ticket, Yemen or Kuwait (side trip)

All of the South America stops, as well as the second trip to Africa (Mauritius, Namibia, Jo’burg, etc.) are part of my OneWorld Round-the-Word trip. This will also take me on to Hong Kong at some point in the early summer. That ticket was about $5,000, and I’ve received tremendous value from it. I have no idea how much it would cost if I were to try to book everything with round-trip flights – certainly several times more than what I pay when I effectively buy the flights in book with the RTW ticket.

Cost: Roughly $350 per country, prepaid last year
Countries: Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Hong Kong, U.K. (transit only)

The only “cash money” flights I need to sort out now are the entry and exit flights to the three mysterious countries, the flights within Northeast Africa, and the occasional cross-country trek to Miami or New York. Those will probably be a few hundred dollars each.

Cost: Variable, but usually $200-400 each
Countries: None, but allows me to come home and take side trips

After I complete all the trips mentioned above, I’ll start running out of prepaid flights, so I hope to begin at least one more Round-the-World ticket in the early summer. This one may be back on Star Alliance since I've earned more than 200,000 miles with OneWorld in 2008, and therefore don’t need to worry about elite status with them for a while.

I'm not 100% sure of what I'll do about the ticket, but whenever I sort it out, I’ll let you know exactly what I decide and what the next monster itinerary will be.

Well, You Asked for It

One request I’ve heard several times now is for more detailed travel planning notes. I have a question for you in return: is this progress? Is this the kind of thing that you guys want to know?

I cover even more travel planning details in the original Discount Airfare Guide, and I’ll be coming out with a more advanced Travel Ninja report soon… but I’m also happy to post information like this on the site whenever it seems like a good fit. As long as you give me good feedback, I’ll keep doing it.

Also, remember that next month we’ll look at my version of lifestyle design and annual planning. This includes travel planning, but also creating a structure for work, fun, learning, and more. I always look forward to doing the review in December, and this year I’m looking forward to sharing the process with you as well.

If you have any questions or feedback about the 2009 travel plans, simply leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!


Related Entries:

Travel Hacking in an Unfriendly Enviornment
What I Talk About When I Talk About Travel (a Travel FAQ)
28 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Traveling
Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel Around the World


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Daily Gratitude and a Short Survey

I try to live with gratitude every day, so I don’t have anything especially important to say about the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday that takes place tomorrow. Have fun! Eat pie! Try not to fly domestic! The rest of the post is for my regular readers. If you’re new or just come through once in a…

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How to Get from Here to There

Image by TaberAndrew

As per the usual protocol, today’s essay is about travel -- but it’s also about choices, because your choices will take you where you want to go.

Last week I asked about Your One Place. This site attracts a lot of diverse people, including some who don’t travel much at all. But my theory was that even the non-travelers have somewhere in the world they’d like to see before they die.

I think I was on to something. Here are some of the answers readers shared:

Matthew: Island hopping on a sailboat Daniel: The moon (or Ladakh in northern India) Dwight: Bicycle tour of North America for a year Coral: Macchu Pichu, Peru Reese: Tuscany Mike: England, Tuscany and Sitges (Spain) Justin: Tuva Tee: Any of the northern fjords of Iceland Kazari: Kenya PizzaDream: Greece on a Mediterranean cruise Kiri: somewhere in Asia, maybe southern China Jen: South America, or maybe the Trans Siberian Railroad Frugal Bachelor, Graham, and JKG: Antarctica The Wyman: Australia Jessica: Vegas Jody: The moon Kat: Patagonia Kristian: Turkey Michael: Japan NewWorldYankee: Mauritius and France Katherine: Lake Victoria Gretchen: Ireland Alan: Nepal Mogs: Socotra, Yemen Linnea: Florence, Italy Robyn: Egypt, and after that, Pompeii and Herculaneum Chris N.: Alaska Crystal: Buddhist statue tour of Asia Danny: Iceland Guiness: Bhutan

Others sent emails: Chile, train from Moscow to Beijing, “somewhere in Africa,” Lithuania, more votes for Alaska, etc.

My take: all good ideas. Nice job, everyone. I am not one to hold anyone back from heading off somewhere, and I heartily endorse anyone going out of their comfort zone at any time. Here’s wishing you good luck with the $2 savings funds and bon voyage.

BUT… before we all pack up, I have to rain on the parade a little. Sorry about this, but it will be worth it in the end. The thing is, I learned a long time ago that everyone has a dream, but most people never take action on it.

This is true with travel, work, life – pretty much anything. Everyone has a long list of things they’d like to do or places they’d like to go, but for most of them, the list remains a list.

What’s wrong with dreaming? Nothing, at least by itself. If all you want to do is dream, then dream away.

If there’s a problem, it’s that many of us want more than the dream. We actually want to go to the one place on our list. Accomplishing this, or any goal, is not usually that difficult, but it won’t happen by itself.

At some point you’ll have to make some choices. The choice of giving up $2 a day doesn’t seem that much, but sooner or later, you’ll probably want the money for something else. You’ll get busy, like everyone does, and time will go by.

sign-confusionThe Dream and the Realization

I started a limited consulting service recently. I only do two sessions a week, and I don’t schedule anyone who I don’t think is a good fit. This decision comes from my own healthy paranoia that I want to make sure I can really provide good value to someone who pays me.

As I was talking with Sike the other day (just like “Mike”, but with an ‘s’) I realized that my motivation for doing this was to help people avoid getting stuck between the dream and the realization. Sike is a very motivated young guy (just 23 years old) who is worried about doing what everyone expects him to do next year when he finishes college. His parents have one idea about his future and he has a completely different one. It sounds like he’ll be just fine.

After talking with Sike, I went out to have drinks with Dave and Breanne, AONC readers and new friends who happen to live in my Seattle neighborhood. They talked about their own choices and how their perspective had shifted over the past year. Dave was on track to be a CFO in corporate America when they decided to quit their jobs and travel through Latin America for six months. Coming back to the States recently for an indefinite time, Breanne said they felt conflicted over returning to “the American dream” after having learned so much more about the world.

I told them the same thing I told Sike: it’s probably a good sign that you’re concerned about that. When you feel no tension over living an unremarkably average life, that’s when you should worry.

As I said, turning your dream into a goal is not necessarily difficult, but you will need to make some hard choices at some point.

Back to Your Place

If you played along and selected a place (it’s not too late), you’re going to need to make an effort to keep it in your mind over the next three years or however long it takes you to get there. Your goal doesn’t need to be constantly in focus, but it needs to at least be in your peripheral vision.

By the way, you don’t owe it to me or anyone else to do this. You do, however, owe it to yourself.


Many will dream. A few will go.

Which group are you in?


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In Defense of Multitasking

Image of Mac Multitasking by WilliamHartz

Question: Are you the kind of person who works on more than one thing at a time? If so, you’re a multitasker, and depending on who you talk to, you may get the sense that you should feel guilty for a bad habit.

It’s hard to find defenders of multitasking these days. I asked about it on Twitter last week and heard mostly negative comments. “Multitasking is a myth… it slows down your productivity… drains your focus” and so on. It all leads me to wonder --

Am I the only one who enjoys multitasking? Should I feel guilty for doing a lot of things at the same time?

The web is full of multitasking critiques. Most of these entries contain a similar argument: when we try to multitask, we’re not able to focus on more than one thing at once, so we continually shift back and forth between different tasks. Every time we switch between tasks, we lose the time it takes us to change gears and refocus. Then, before we get fully immersed in the new task, another distraction comes along to pull us somewhere else.

How We Work

The problem is that multitasking is simply how many of us have shifted our styles of life and work over the past decade. There may indeed be some negative consequences as a result, but I think there are also benefits. Instead of reverting to a practice of "one thing, one time," perhaps it’s better to find a way to adapt to changing technology and lifestyle patterns.

You can always turn off the PDA or close down the browser, right? If you can’t, that’s a self-discipline problem, not the fault of multitasking. I confess to having that problem from time to time, but I also tend to get a lot done over the course of an average day.

I read a great book recently called The Power of Full Engagement. In some ways, it was another case against multitasking, but the authors spent much more time presenting an alternative model of work. The model highlights energy management instead of time management, something which I’ve always found to be an anomaly. (You know, how we can’t manage time.)

By focusing more on our energy (how we feel, what we’re capable of at any given time, and so on), we can schedule projects and tasks according to our own individual capacities.

Multitasking Tips

If you’re like me and enjoy keeping a lot of balls in the air, perhaps some of these tips can help:

  • Every day select two “most important” goals. These goals should become more important than all the other work you like to do. You can still multitask, but make sure these two things get done even if nothing else does

  • Make technology serve you instead of the other way around – if you struggle with learning a new tool, give up on the struggle (maybe the tool is not right for you)

  • Use multiple monitors – I do most work on my laptop, but I also have my desktop running at the same time. I keep mind-maps and another browser window open on the second monitor

  • The project and task list are the most important. Work off this, not all the other things. You can have Twitter or Gmail going, but keep the list in front of you too

  • Add several breaks into your schedule. I stop for 10 minutes every hour and do something completely unrelated to work. I read magazines, go in another room, walk around, etc.

Multitasking with Beer and Phone
Who Says Men Can't Multitask? (Image by SM)
Maybe It’s Just Me…

How do you like to work? Are you against multitasking? Do you think it hurts or hinders your productivity? Feel free to tell me I’m wrong...


For More Reading (External Links)

Think You're Multitasking? Think Again
I Don’t Multitask
LGE Performance Institute
The Art of Multitasking (Fast Company)


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What to Do When It’s Not Working Out

Image by SladeGibbs

From countless encounters with failure, I can tell you that not everything works out the way you hope it will. If you keep trying, you’ll get where you want to go in the end, but there will undoubtedly be many stops along the way where you encounter a dead-end.

First, how do you know when it’s not working out?

Here are a few signs:

  • You approach the project with neither excitement nor dread. You just don’t care.

  • If it's a group project, discussions and planning become circular. People say the same things they said last time, and the time before that. There is plenty of conflict, but little resolution.

  • You feed off crisis. The crisis drowns out everything else. When you have no crisis, you invent one or just wait for another to arrive.

  • Most importantly, NOTHING EVER CHANGES. This kind of thing doesn’t usually get better on its own.

That’s pretty much how you know it’s not working out. So what do you do? The good news is that your options are limited. Specifically, you have only three:

1) Do Nothing
2) Quit
3) Change Something Major

Option #1: Do Nothing

Doing nothing is the most common response when confronting apathy. You suck it up and live with it. You keep going through the motions, dutifully showing up without actually doing much. You attend the meetings, wondering more about what kind of cookies will be waiting on the table than what will be on the agenda.

The agenda? Speaking of that, there may be a written one somewhere, but there is no driving force. Remember, it doesn’t usually get better on its own.

Effectively, you stop all pretense of caring what happens. When I worked in Africa, we used to call this “checking out.” Someone would be coming to the end of a long time in a difficult job, for example, and they had lost their motivation. They had “checked out.”

“Can we ask Steve to do this?”

“He’s checked out.”


Time to move on to the next guy, because when someone checks out, it’s hard to get them back. If you're the one who has checked out, see the next two options.

Option #2: Quit

When you quit, you walk away as quickly as possible, consequences be damned. You’re in the wrong job, on the wrong team, working on the wrong project, pursuing the wrong goal. Or maybe you’re what’s wrong – but either way, you can quit.

If you start to feel guilty about it, or if someone questions you, you can give the age-old response: “Lots of other people are doing this too.” This response seemingly justifies any behavior, from smoking to discrimination or whatever.

But sometimes, option #2 may be your only choice, if for no other reason than to retain your sanity. When it comes down to that, I think hanging on to sanity is worth whatever guilt you feel for quitting. And if you were the problem to begin with, well, maybe things will be better for everyone else after you leave. You never know.

Option #3: Change Something Big

If you can’t stand the status quo and don’t want to give up, this leaves only one option: something must change. It has to be something significant; even outsiders should be able to look and say, hey, this is different.

Change is the lifeblood of innovation and the salvation of complacency, but beware: no one really likes change, and that’s why it can hard to introduce something that is significantly different after apathy has set in.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, however.

What can you change? Ideas include:

  • The reason why you do this thing to begin with

  • The way in which the goal is measured

  • The group leader (if this is an independent project, see Option #2)

  • The format of the meetings

  • The responsibilities of everyone who is involved
Apathy is easy to diagnose but hard to treat, so there is no guarantee that Option #3 will work. For guarantees, do something easier.


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Your One Place

Your One Place - Mount Fiji, Japan
Fields to Mount Fuji, Japan by jlhopes

Here’s a fun game to play: think about one place in the world that you’d like to visit someday. You don’t have to make a long list, just think of one single place.

Even including people who don’t travel that much, most of us can think of somewhere we’d like to see before we die.

There are a couple of easy rules for this game:

1) You only get one place

2) It has to be somewhere you haven’t been yet

Those are the only rules; the rest is up to you. It can be a city, a country, an island, or a continent.

You may already have an idea of where you’d like to go, but if not, there are plenty of options out there. Look at a globe or a good map if you need help deciding.

Once you have your one place, it’s time to bring it closer to you, and bring you closer to it. You didn’t think this would be strictly theoretical, did you?

The 3-Year Deadline

If your one place is on your “someday” list, let’s give it some kind of deadline, even if it’s far in the future. How about three years? Do you think that you could find a way to visit your one place sometime between tomorrow and three years from now?

Most of us can probably move that deadline up to two years, one year, or maybe even sooner. But to keep it fair, we’ll use three years as the outside limit.

I’ve been to a lot of places in the world, and I’ve found that even the furthest destinations on earth usually cost less than $2,500 to get to and back. Most of the time, it’s a lot less—there are many countries I’ve gone to for less than $100—but for planning purposes, we’ll use the high end.

Even using the most extreme example—a $2,500 destination and three years to save for it—you will only need to save about $2 a day to get the funds for your trip. You’ll even have enough left over for meals and duty-free shopping!

(By the way, I realize that many people in the world live on less than $2 a day, but most of them won’t be reading this essay. My writing is for those of us who are pretty well-off.)

I use this example to prove that money isn’t what prevents many of us from going somewhere we’ve always wanted to.

Instead, most of us stay where we are because of inertia more than anything else. Even if you’re not ready to quit your job and go off the grid, you can probably do one thing to prepare for the visit to your one place.

The Next Action

To start the preparation, take the first single action you need to take to plan your trip.

You don’t need to buy a ticket or anything else. Just go to the bookstore and check out the travel section. Read the travel guide for your place in the café. If you prefer, look for books about your one place at the library, or ask someone who has been there to tell you about it.

Just do something.

And then you can plan the next thing—set up your three year, $2 a day savings fund, mark off a block of time far in the future, look for a travel companion, or whatever you need to do.

Building it out step by step, one action at a time, will help you get to your one place. It won’t just be a dream anymore. You’ll make it real, and in three years or less (probably a lot less), you can be wherever in the world you’d like to be.

Help Wanted

If you did this exercise or at least thought about it, where is your one place? Feel free to share your answer with everyone else in the comments below. If you’re going to really plan for making it happen, post up your next action as well.


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Now Open for Business (A Limited Consulting Service)

Image by Mag3737

By popular request, I’ve decided to begin a limited consulting service to help those who want help from me. The key phrase for this is limited, because I want to keep my focus on the free writing I do for everyone.

It will not be cheap, and I can only help with specific things – so if this doesn’t apply to you, feel free to skip it. On Friday we’ll do Travel Hacking part II, next week more on Doing What You Want, and so on. Stay tuned.

For those who are interested, here’s more info.


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7 Beautiful Places in the World

La Gomera, Canary Islands
Image of La Gomera by Leo-Seta

On a bus into downtown Seoul from ICN airport a couple years ago, I chatted with a French-Canadian guy who was interested in my travel experiences. He asked me a question that has always stumped me: “What is your favorite country?”

I never know how to answer that one, because I honestly have no idea. When I started traveling years ago out of a search for something indefinable, I think I expected that somewhere along the way I would find the perfect place. As long as I had that expectation in mind, I was continually disappointed throughout the journey – or if not disappointed, I was certainly unfulfilled.

Since then, I’ve heard the “favorite country” question countless times. Now that this site has a fairly broad readership, I do interviews for other blogs at least once a week. Whenever the interview is with a travel-related site, I can always count on that question coming up.

My favorite country… my favorite place... hmmm.

Somewhere along the way, I decided that I simply don’t have one favorite place in the world. There are still a lot of countries left on the list, and of course many places in the countries I’ve already visited that I haven’t been to, but as of now, I’m no longer expecting one clear favorite to emerge.

Instead, I’ve developed a larger perspective, where I have not one but several favorite places in the world. Maybe it’s a cop-out, but I think it’s also a reflection that many of us enjoy different things about different places. No single destination is the best.

Here are some of the most beautiful places I’ve been to since I got serious about travel.


ohrid, macedonia
Image by Ewa
Ohrid, Macedonia – In the summer of 2007, I toured the Balkans by flying into Sarajevo (Bosnia) and out of Belgrade (Serbia). In between I took the long way around, traveling around through Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. In Macedonia I stopped for three days in the small town called Ohrid. I loved it.


Image by Slack12
Cape Town, South Africa – On this I am fairly conventional: Cape Town is my favorite city in Africa. I have good memories of spending three weeks there in 2006. I usually return to Jo’burg at least once a year for transit, but I haven’t been back to Cape Town yet. I miss it.


Image by d70focus
Pacific Northwest (U.S. and Canada) – Hey, I live here now – but I can still count it, right? I love Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland. I haven’t spent hardly any time at all in the interior part of the region, so I can’t comment on that yet. But here on the coast, life is good. I like the culture, the coffee, and the nature.


Image by Leo-Seta
La Gomera, Canary Islands – I’ve been to Tenerife at least six or seven times (I lost count) in between sailing from Europe to West Africa over the course of several years. It’s not a bad place to go, especially if you’ve been hanging out in Sierra Leone for six months before you visit. But one time Jolie, me, and a couple of friends took the ferry off to La Gomera, a much smaller and less inhabited island an hour away. We rented a car and drove on every road of the island, climbed to the top of the mountain, and watched the ocean.


Image by FDVG
Faroe Islands – North of Scotland and technically governed by Denmark, I spent five days in Tórshavn, the capital. I flew in from London via Iceland and almost didn’t make the connecting flight due to it departing from a different airport. (I had no idea until I was on the plane.) Once I finally made it, the Faroes were as breathtaking as reported.


Image by RahelSharon
The Old City in Jerusalem – I wasn't sure what to expect before I went, but this is one place that lives up to the hype. Wow. I enjoyed visiting the Western Wall and walking through the streets at all hours. It’s definitely worth a trip, especially if you are Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.


Image by NM
Damascus, Syria – Even better than Jerusalem, but naturally more difficult to get to. As a U.S. citizen, I had a hard time getting a visa to Syria, but when I finally made it to Beirut, Lebanon, getting over the border by land was easy. My stop in Damascus was fairly short, and I wished it had been longer.


Update: Before I published this post, I asked on Twitter for other recommendations. Here’s what I heard in the initial replies:

Itpodcast: Cathedral cove, NZ. recently featured in Narnia: Prince Caspian

zoewesthof: Merzouga, Morocco and anywhere in Galicia (Spain)!

obsalah : Petra in Jordan, one of the 7 wonders of the world (the new ones) not much known kind of hidden away

eighteyes : Canyon Dechey, Sighisoara -> Romania, Mono Lake, Lost Coast

theo_chiari: Québec City

ElasticMind : White Desert, outside Bahariya Oasis, Egpyt

Earl52 : Hatteras Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. Absolutely remarkable.

melissamcd: 2 of My Favorite Places: Camp Leaky (Tanjung National Park, Borneo); Bonaire National Marine Park

amoir : I adore ShinSekai in Osaka. ShinSekai is Japan at its most accessible, alive, vibrant, humble and real.

rose_w:The drive from Fairbanks, AK to the Artic Circle, desolate, breath taking and cool to say you've been there

krippl : Puerto Pinaso, Mexico. Better known as Rocky Point.

TheGirlPie: We LOVED our month at Ein Bokek at the Dead Sea in Israel in 10/01. No one else would though... it was beyond dead.


I’ll add to my list as I keep traveling. Early in 2009 I’ll be heading to a big part of Africa that I’ve never visited before – the region around Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. In the spring I’ll resume my OneWorld Round-the-World trip with visits to Haiti and South America. After that, I’m not sure what comes next.. but my journey will still be far from over.

But wait, what about you?

A couple weeks back I told you about 9 Overrated Tourist Destinations (and 9 great alternatives) and asked for your feedback. Is the Grand Canyon more than just a Not-Bad Canyon? Is Dublin worth visiting? I don’t think we ever came to a consensus, which isn’t too surprising considering how passionate people can be about travel.

Well, here’s your chance again – what would you add to the above list of beautiful places? Is there anything you’d take off? Let me know.


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A Short Note on the United States of America

Photo courtesy of Atlanta-Journal Constitution
Spelman College, Atlanta - Courtesy of Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Last night, I had an unrelated essay about work all ready to go. It had nothing to do with the election, and since I figured everything else you’d read today would be about that, better to do something else.

But at 9:30 last night, I changed my mind. To post that other essay up this morning would be completely irrelevant. I’ll have to save it for next week, OK?

I’ve been in more than 20 countries this year, and almost without fail someone ends up talking to me about the U.S. election. Nine times out of ten, it’s not me who brings it up. I kid you not, nearly every conversation I’ve had follows the same storyline: we love America, but not your president. Why does America have to be so combative with the rest of the planet? So on and so forth, from Egypt to Mongolia to Latin America et al.

The next part of the conversation shifts to a young, first-term senator from Illinois, who the entire world has been fascinated with for the past 21 months. Almost everything I hear is favorable, but it usually comes out in a resigned way: “Of course, you’ll never elect him” is the most common way of putting it. From continent to content, I heard variations on that theme over and over this year -- America could never elect Obama because he doesn’t look like all the other presidents.

Well, yes we can.

As soon as the A.P. declared that Obama was the winner, I started flipping around to a bunch of world news sites to see how the election was covered elswhere. I checked the BBC, the Guardian, the South China Morning Post, Frankfurter Allgemeine, the Globe and Mail, Le Monde, and Le Figaro.

At the last French site I saw a reader poll: “Are you ready to vote for a black president in France?”

35% of respondents, I was sorry to note, actually said no. I realize that web site polls aren’t very scientific, and I also know the domestic politics in France are much different than those in the U.S… but still. 35% of people will actually tell you they won’t vote for a president based on his race? I guess there was a time you could say that about America, but last night proved that those days are over.

Anyway, the point of this short commentary is that I’m not a partisan hack. I’ve never belonged to any party or given money to any candidate. In 2004 I didn’t even vote, feeling somewhat apathetic as I was living overseas and uninspired by both candidates. This time, I voted for Obama because I believed he was the right choice for America, and for the world at large.

I’m not a kool-aid drinker either. The economy is seriously messed up, we’re fighting two wars, and a lot of things are broken. I don’t believe that any one person, even a president, can undo all the damage that has been done. I have friends who are far more liberal than me, and I suspect they’ll be disappointed when Obama governs from the center-left as he has pledged, and not the far-left as some people believe.

If you’re reading and you had a different preference in this election, I respect your opinion. This platform is not really about politics, and those of us who choose to be unconventional have to be willing to embrace ideas from different perspectives.

As I said, I’m no partisan hack. I watched Senator McCain’s concession speech and thought it was very gracious. Where was that guy during the campaign? The one I saw last night was like the old McCain, the one respected by moderates and even some progressives. Good for him.

I wish Senator McCain (and his supporters) the best. But I’m pleased that my country made the choice for Obama yesterday. As our new President-Elect said last night, “That is the true genius of America – that America can change.”

Yes we can!


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Site Update: October 2008

Fremont, Seattle
Image of Fremont (Seattle) by SlightlyNorth

Greetings once again from Seattle, Washington. This past month saw the launch of a new product, the regular set of essays and posts, and a chance for me to catch up on a lot of things at home due to not traveling anywhere.

Each month I look back at what’s happened with in the previous month. If you’ve missed some articles, you can catch up here.


LIFE – I wrote about How to Fight Authority (and Win), The Link between Security and Complacency, The First Day of Your Life

WORK – I wrote about Working from Anywhere on the Planet, How to Create an Incredibly Convincing Satisfaction Guarantee, Trust and Authority, Affiliate Marketing That Doesn’t Suck

TRAVEL – I wrote about 9 Overrated Tourist Destinations (and 9 Great Alternatives), Travel Hacking in an Unfriendly Environment, 35 Hours from Kampala to Dar es Salaam


Wow – for the first time since February, I had no international travel this month! Instead, I stayed at home… but I was busy with a lot of writing and preparation for future projects.

The "Working for Yourself" Launch

On October 8, I launched my second information product, the Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself. By all accounts, the launch was a success. I sold 100 copies in the first 24 hours, and dozens more in the days following.

I now have a low-key, high-value affiliate program that pays 51% commission for a few carefully-selected partners who wish to offer my products for sale to their readers or customers.

If you have a blog, other web site, or newsletter list and are interested in learning more, read this here and then contact me.

What’s Coming Next

Travel – Like September, I expect to stick to a 20-mile radius over the next month, and my passport is safely tucked away in the filing cabinet. Rest assured that I’ll be dusting it off for some good trips in early 2009. I recently booked a Lufthansa awards flight that flies into Addis Abbaba (Ethiopia) and out of Asmara (Eritrea). My goal is to travel throughout the region, including Djibouti and Somaliand - but for now, I'm home in Washington.

Essays - The thrice-weekly essays will continue to be posted each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

This month I’ll write about the following topics, among others:

  • The Hidden Messages of Passport Stamps

  • Travel Hacking Part II

  • The Power of the Amateur

  • The first-ever AONC Writing Contest

I hope you enjoy my writing, and I always welcome your feedback.

The Next Unconventional Guide

My next Unconventional Guide will focus on advanced travel strategies, including Round-the-World travel and Awards tickets. I’ll detail exactly how I fly almost anywhere for an average of $300 per flight and go into

It will be a follow-up to the first product, the Unconventional Guide to Discount Airfare. Stay tuned for the preview in about two weeks’ time.

Audience Participation

You can participate in the development of this project in several ways:

Leave a comment at the bottom of any essay. Feel free to add to the discussion at any time, and include a link back to your own site if you have one.

Join my newsletter announcement list or add me to your RSS reader.

Follow my real-time updates on Twitter.

Send other feedback. Use my contact form here to tell me what you think so far.

Tell your friends, or tell the world by submitting my essays to StumbleUpon or other social networking sites.

I appreciate the time you spend here. Don’t forget to change the world the way you think it needs to be changed.


Catch up on Previous Updates Here:

September 2008 (Seattle)
August 2008 (Seattle)
July 2008 (Karachi)
June 2008 (Amsterdam)
May 2008 (Vancouver)
April 2008 (Syria)
March 2008 (Los Angeles)
February 2008 (Seattle)


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Unconventional Guides:

Working for Yourself: Creating Personal Freedom
Discount Airfare: Surviving Stress and Maximizing Fun

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