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Top 5 Credit Card Signup Bonuses for Miles & Points: February

Every year I earn well over one million Frequent Flyer miles and points. About 250,000 of them come through actual travel, and the rest come through travel hacking: the art of seeing the world on a budget.

One of the easiest ways to earn a lot of miles all at once is through credit card signup bonuses. This post contains the best current card offers as of Wednesday, February 4. If getting every card from this post, you'd earn 215,000 points or miles. Happy travels!

In this edition:

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“In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart”

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From The Diary of Anne Frank:

"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.

I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

Part of why I believe this too is that the alternative is too depressing to consider. So what happens when people hurt us, or when someone else does something to us that's totally unexpected? I guess we have to think about context, try to see it from their perspective, and so on.

And even when we’re wronged, I think we have to have grace. Again, what’s the alternative To refuse grace only hurts us in the end.

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My Favorite Part of the Qatar Airways A380 Flight Was the First Class Lavatories

I joke about this with my friends: “Oh my God, travel is so hard. Sometimes the Business Class flights attendant brings still water instead of sparkling! Sometimes the hotel forgets the chocolates on the pillow during turn-down service!"

That’s why I was so excited about the A380 on Qatar Airways. As soon as I boarded the flight, I was impressed right away. The cabin is gorgeous, the seat is fantastic, and from the way I was greeted I could tell that the service would be flawless.

Qatar-A380-first-class-bathroom And it was. Still, though, I've had many experiences like that. These days I’m earning and spending more than one million miles a year (more than 2 million last year, actually), so if I’m flying more than three hours, I’m almost never in the back of the plane anymore.

Much of the time, I go through life jaded. But not on this flight—and you know my favorite part? The washrooms.

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Just Add Venture: Mohammad Khan’s Story from Lahore, Pakistan

This is a reader story. (Read others or tell us yours.)

We're taught that sitting in a classroom or reading a book will make us knowledgeable—but all the way in Lahore, Pakistan, Mohammad Khan didn't find that to be true. Mohammad decided to change how he experienced the act of knowing. Here's how he explained it:

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Years ago, I thought accumulating information was the same as possessing knowledge. But even with all the information I had, my life didn’t reflect what I knew. Information was boring. I needed a reason to do something. To fight the boredom, I discovered thinking “Who knows?” and “Why not?” were very useful weapons.

It all started with a seemingly simple challenge: to travel to any one destination in the world within the next year, paid for purely with income made online. Why not try? Eight months later I cashed a $1,700 check and spent 11 days at a beachfront hotel in Thailand with my wife.

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Lessons from Don Miller: Success Is More Difficult to Manage than Failure

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Don Miller is the kind of guy that I implicitly trusted the first time I met. Not to psychoanalyze too much, but in general I’m not a very trusting person. I believe that most people are good, but I don’t necessarily trust a lot of people. With Don, though, I felt comfortable discussing personal stuff right away.

After a lunch meeting, he wrote me an email with more advice. I asked him if I could share part of it, and he agreed. Maybe it helps some of you, too? Here's Don:

"Rapid success is much more difficult to manage than failure, I believe. It's just like walking a tight rope. I think the thing is, success changes you radically, but nothing around you from the old life changes, so now you're a different person and to some degree larger than the small walls you've been living in.

But it's all a bunch of tricks and lies. What matters in the end is taking the folks who loved you early with you into the new life as gingerly as possible."

Check out Don's book, Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy.

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6 Discoveries from Near and Far: Volume XXX

Things I found on long walks in foreign cities, or perhaps when someone posted them on Twitter.

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To Write a Great Story, Start with a Real Struggle

I appreciated this illustration on unconventional storytelling from Tom Gauld:

092082E1-DC5A-4463-A4DF-71D15799F53E When talking about adventures, I often relate the plot outlining of blockbuster movies and video games. What if the synopsis of a big summer movie was "So and so had to save the world from evil... and then they did?"

We'd think, "That's it?! How did they save the world ... what happened along the way? Did they lose something and have to recover it? How was the hero changed throughout the journey, and what was different at the end of the story?"

Challenge is the essence of adventure, and struggle is the root of any great story.

In fact, sometimes the struggle is the entire story. If the struggle is good enough, we're willing to overlook anything else. Why did the aliens invade the earth? Who cares—we have to defeat them!

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This Brand-New “Habit Journal” Helps You Keep Track of What’s Most Important to You

We've all heard it takes our brains 21 days to form a new habit. This new journal, currently being crowd-funded, does exactly that—keeps you on track while you form new daily habits, with these habits eventually leading you to conquer big goals. Here's how it works:

  • Choose a goal
  • Write down the daily habits that you think will help you achieve that goal
  • Plug those habits into your daily tracker pages
  • At the end of each day, take 5 minutes to reflect on how you did
  • Review at the end of each week, then repeat until the month ends
Seems pretty simple. But like a lot of simple systems, it may have the power to create real change. Check out the video:

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Watch This Pan Am 747 Take to the Skies (Or At Least the Ground) in the Ultimate 1970s Recreation

static.squarespace.com Air travel has changed a bit over the past few decades—and mostly for the better. Back in the day, an average transcontinental airfare would run you at least $1,500 in today's dollars, compared to $400 or so now. Yikes.

There were no budget airlines, and—shocking—there were no Frequent Flyer programs where average people could earn large amounts of miles and effectively travel for free. Still, a little nostalgia never hurt anyone (or does it?).

In another example of people who devote an incredible attention to detail, I loved seeing how a collector and a photographer recreated an entire Pan Am flight experience, down to the tiniest experiences like the precise menu, baggage tags, and even the dress code of passengers who were recruited to join in for the unconventional journey.

Take a look for yourself:

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Walking the Te Araroa Trail : Kylie Lang’s Quest

This is a quest case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

I love New Zealand, and when I heard the story of someone who set out to walk the length of both main islands, I had to hear more.

Kylie-Lang Introduce yourself.

I am a New Zealander who until recently led a pretty standard life as a coordinator of an online sports mentoring program. A few years ago, I got it into my head to walk the length of New Zealand—all 3058 kilometers of it, following the Te Araroa Trail. When I told my husband, he was concerned about me going alone, and that’s when the quest got a theme: Not Alone.

I’d walk the length of New Zealand, but with a revolving cast of people the entire way. And we’d raise money for The Mental Health Foundation as we went.

Why did you decide to undertake your quest?

I believe people need to talk more. So much gets bottled up in our heads. We ponder, overthink, and make thoughts worse, until we talk them out. I handle situations better knowing someone else has heard about it.

Both my father and brother committed suicide—and I know I need to share those experiences and hear about others who have been in the same boat in order to make sense of it all. So why walk? Well, exercise clears my head and helps keep negative thoughts away. Walking and talking seem to go hand in hand.

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The Insane World of Underground Bike Messenger Racing

File under: I had no idea this was a thing.

This mini-doc on the world of “underground bike messenger racing" might seem a little slow in the beginning, but if you stick with it you'll be like, “Holy @!*%! I can’t believe they did that!”

Even if you don't like the concept, consider the below quote, taken from about nine minutes into the video. It can apply to a lot more than illegal bike racing:

"There are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations, in this traffic, all these vehicles stuck idling in my way. You get to decide how you’re going to see it. If you really learn how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred—on fire with the same force that lit the stars."

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There’s a Good Reason Why We Keep Repeating the Same Mediocre Experiences

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I loved this story from a reader in response to why I enjoy the routine of visiting a hotel that’s consistently bad:

"Years ago my in-laws would drive me crazy by complaining about the food at a (now defunct) restaurant chain that they would unfailingly stop at numerous times when traveling from Pennsylvania to Florida each year. It was a major topic of discussion; how not-good the food was, service was terrible, etc. But the food wasn't bad enough to stop them from going back to the chain (and same locations) year after year. I asked them why they went there at all when all they did was complain and when there were probably so many local restaurants they could try along the way.

They finally came up with the answer "We know what to expect."

As you have said, it's easy to get into a rut. Some ruts are good, some not so much. I try to remember this story anytime I find myself sliding into a rut. It doesn't always work, but at least I've made a conscious decision and then I can't complain however it turns out."

I also always visit the Waffle House whenever I'm in the southern U.S. But of course, the Waffle House isn't mediocre. It's amazing!

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Traveler 1, Jet Lag 0 (For Once)

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You, traveler, know very well what jet lag is like. For a period of several years, you were essentially jet-lagged two weeks every month. “Jet lag is my favorite drug,” you said, repeating the great line by Jacques Cousteau.

But you knew then, just as all travelers come to know, that real jet lag is a bitch. Contrary to the suggestions of well-meaning people who took a trip once and thus claim to know all about the world, jet lag is unpredictable. When it arrives, there’s no magic bullet to stop it from claiming your days and nights for as long as it wants.

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The Modern Day Swiss Family Robinson: On the Road with Sheralyn Guilleminot

This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

Sheralyn Guilleminot didn't want to run the risk of never getting around to traveling the world. She and her husband Paul took to the road as a young family, home-schooling their sons while experiencing life in Southeast Asia. Here's their story.

Sheralyn-Guilleminot Tell us about yourself.

I've lived most of my life in Manitoba, Canada. It's where I grew up, got married, and worked. My husband Paul and I wanted to travel the world, but it seemed impractical. Once we had our two boys, though, I felt like there was never enough time to spend with Paul, with our family, or to indulge in being myself. And I didn’t see an end to being pulled in too many different directions. Something had to change.

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