135 Search Results for travel without a ticket

Survey Results: What I Learned from 250 of You in 34 Countries

Survey Results - from 34 Countries!
Globe by Bumblebee

Yesterday I met with a friend of mine who is going to live in the Sudan for at least the next year. She’ll be in Khartoum (the capital) half of the time, and in Darfur or South Sudan the other half.

A real-life aid worker! I used to be one of those, before I moved back to the land of lattes and 9-to-5ers. Those were the days, right?

Talking with someone who’s leaving the U.S. for Darfur (and is actually excited about it) was a good reminder of one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Whenever I find myself getting away from that persistent and urgent question, something always happens that reminds me of it again. Hearing from many of you through the survey last week was another good reminder. It caused me to realize, yet again, that I have a good thing going over here and I need to be extremely devoted to keep on improving it.

I’ll tell you more about that, but first, here’s how I did the survey.

I stopped the survey at the first 250 responses, because 250 is a good sample size and turned out to be quite diverse geographically. If you missed out, don’t worry – I’ll do another one after we get the site redesign up and running. Also, you can always write me or post a comment on any post.

Also, a note on surveys -- if you have any kind of business web site or even just a personal blog of your own, I highly recommend doing your own survey to learn more about why people come to your site, what they like best, and what you can improve on. I use SurveyMonkey for this – they have a free version, but the $19.95 monthly version provides many more options. Barring that, you could also do a manual version and sort the feedback yourself in Excel.

Who You All Are

OK, on to the information. In addition to the largest group of readers from the U.S. and Canada, I heard from people in all of these countries:

New Zealand, Germany, U.K., Netherlands, Russia, India, Belgium, Austria, France, Slovakia, South Africa, China, Bulgaria, Bahamas, Romania, Mexico, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia, Kenya, Argentina, Finland, Croatia, Liberia, Israel, Lithuania, Spain, Sudan, and Poland

Most of those responses came through in the first few hours. I knew from the site statistics that you guys are from all over the place, but it’s a different feeling altogether to hear from you.

I’m so glad you all are reading – thanks so much for being so cool.

On the survey, I asked a few open-ended questions and a couple of general, introductory questions:

What do you do during the week?

  • 62% Work for Someone Else
  • 32% Work for Myself
  • 17% Go to School
  • 8% Retired / Unemployed / Professional Surfer
I gave people an “other” field here, and got a range of responses. Several people said they currently work for someone else but were “working on changing that.” Someone just said, “Be awesome” – I liked that. Others are authors, programmers, stay-at-home parents, and an assortment of people who do more than one thing.

What do you enjoy the most about the site?

  • Personal Development and Lifestyle Design: 58%
  • International Travel: 22%
  • Entrepreneurship and Small Business: 20%

A number of you (at least 30) said that you like all three and did not want to choose between them. Sorry about that! Forcing the choice in the survey helps me to see the trends, but I don’t have any plans to change the general topics. Several people noted that they were originally interested in travel or entrepreneurship, but like how I incorporate those topics into personal development. Thanks – I do my best.

I have tried from the beginning to stake out a general marketplace of ideas without being highly-specialized. This was not necessarily a strategic decision, by the way – it was more just a reflection of who I am and what I wanted to write about. I am absolutely terrible at working on anything I’m not motivated by, so that’s why I write about unconventional living through several different activities.

A Few Highlights

Here are a few quotes from the survey:

Keep up the 'tough love' writing, don't go easy on us! I need a good kick in the pants most of the time!

Me too. That’s why I do it – for all of us who care enough to push beyond mediocrity.

I think more could be done on the topic of aiming big. Achievable is all good and well, but the best growth comes when you seek for something you fear may be impossible.

Well said. Thank you.

More interviews / case studies / specific details of how people are living unconventionally, following the recommendations in your ebook, etc.

Yes, we are reviving the profiles series soon and will be featuring more people.

As much as I love your long, thought-through essays, I'd love to see more short posts as well.

This is a tricky one. I like the way this person put it, because a number of people took one side or the other (“I’m glad you write longer, more thoughtful posts” vs. “The posts are too long.”) I’m thinking about finding a way to do a mixture of the two without compromising the style I’m getting comfortable with.

More step by step advice would be great. I love action steps!


Maybe more real world tips on running your own business


Specific outlines of how you plan out so many trips at once

A big request was for more detailed planning resources, especially for international travel and solopreneur world domination. Thanks for asking. It seems some of you guys like knowing all the details about how I do what I do, so this is part of the plan.

Lastly, I enjoyed this request:

Free beer! Just kidding.

Well, if only you hadn’t said you were kidding…


Please note: at least 200 out of 250 responses said something very interesting or helpful. If I haven’t mentioned it here, please know that I have read (and re-read) all your comments. In fact, I didn’t ask for email addresses in the survey, but I wished I could have written most of you back personally. If you’d like, feel free to write me on the contact form to say hello or ask a question.

Survey NotebookImprovements and the Road Ahead

More and more, I feel a sense of responsibility to continue moving onwards and upwards with this project. When I started nearly 10 months ago, I thought that I’d write mostly about my travel adventures and the goal of visiting every country. I’m still committed to that goal and am looking forward to making more progress in 2009, but the focus has definitely shifted to something much bigger.

This is due in large part because of you and your input, and for that I’m grateful. I have learned a great deal along the way, from successes and setbacks alike. If I haven't always gotten it right, stick with me. There will be more learning and personal ass-kicking involved along the way.

In response to the more personal information that it seems people enjoy the most of all, I’m also going to stretch myself a bit in this area.

For example…

  • I’ll tell you exactly how my new small business is doing, including actual revenue and expense figures

  • When I travel, I’ll tell you exactly how I do it (specific itineraries and tips), where I stay, and how much money it costs

  • My next non-commercial manifesto will be called 279 Days to Overnight Success, and it will detail how bloggers and other solopreneurs can create a new, full-time career in social media in less than one year

  • I’ve earned 140,000 Frequent Flyer Miles in the past few weeks through an interesting experiment, and I’ll show you how this worked and how you can do something similar

  • So far I have at least 75 invitations to visit readers whenever I stop by their cities. I would love to do more of this, and we may try to plan group meetups if there’s enough interest

Last but certainly not least, after the site redesign is done (see below), I want to find a way to make a few experiments more interactive. It will be fairly low-tech – I still write with a pen and notebook most of the time, after all – but the goal is to provide more accountability for everyone who says they are going to travel somewhere, start their own business, or do something entirely different.

Disclaimer: This is a Work in Progress

In short, creating the content for this site and everything related to it is going to be my most important priority for 2009. I am really excited and think about it for several hours a day.

At the same time, however, I want to be very careful not to promise too much. One of the things I heard from several people, especially those who have been reading for a while or who have purchased an Unconventional Guide, is that I underpromise and overdeliver.

That is exactly what I want to hear. I am well aware that trust is hard to gain but easy to lose – and I prefer to keep it.

There is no shortage of ideas for how to take this to the next level – podcasts, more photos, more videos, and so on. These (and others) are all good requests, but I want to make sure whatever I do is going to help those of you who spend your time following the journey. I also have to make sure I can keep up with whatever I start, and if I stop doing something, of course, I’d better have a good reason for it. Otherwise, you have long-standing permission to kick my ass.

Site Redesign

As mentioned, we are almost ready to set up the new site design. Someone asked, “Why change the design? It’s nice, subtle, and works well enough.” Yes, it is nice and subtle – and that is what’s wrong. In the survey, someone else gave the answer better than I could put it myself:

Forgive me if I sound crazy. You write about a robust and vibrant life. The layout of your site seems dull. Just doesn't seem to reflect who you appear to be.

You’re not crazy -- you are correct, and that is the crux of the problem we’re addressing. Stay tuned. I know there are many designers and web gurus out there who read this site. Once we upload the new structure, I’ll be looking for your input and critiques.


Thanks (again) to everyone who took the survey last week. 34 countries! Wow. I'm amazed, and incredibly humbled. Thanks as well to everyone (many more than the 250) who takes the time to read the Art of Nonconformity every week. I have a lot of work to do for all of you.

The next part of the work will come on Friday, when I’ll tell you all about Round-the-World plane tickets – how I use them to travel to 20+ countries a year, how you can buy your own, how to optimize the itineraries, what to watch out for, and so on.

See you then!


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35 Hours from Kampala to Dar es Salaam

Kampala, Uganda Taxi Park
Image of central Kampala by CG

A few years and many trips ago, I learned that it is usually better to travel by land whenever possible. I love flying, and I even love hanging out in big airports for hours, but it’s true that the experience of flying from one place to another often isn’t always that different wherever you are in the world.

When you travel overland, however, you’ll almost always meet people and experience life as it’s seen through more natural perspectives. When I have the choice, I usually try to fly into one country, travel overland for a while, and then fly out of another airport at least one country away.

I did this in Jordan two years ago, flying into Tel Aviv in Israel, traveling overland between the two countries and then throughout Jordan before leaving from Amman. I did it again a couple months later by taking a series of buses throughout the Balkans, including an overnight bus through Albania. I thought these experiences would prepare me well for an even bigger trip that took in the summer of 2007. For the most part, they did.

Taxi Park - Kampala, Uganda
Incredible Taxi Park - Click to Enlarge

My trip began in Kampala, Uganda, where I visited one of the largest taxi parks in the world and spent some time with local NGO workers. After a few days sightseeing, I bought a one-way bus ticket to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania via a number of other cities along the way. The ticket cost $54, and the journey was expected to take 31 hours.

I showed up at 12:30 for the 1:00 p.m. departure, but I didn’t see a bus anywhere. I sat with all of the other passengers for two hours, waiting for the appearance of an elusive bus. It finally arrived close to 3:00. In a way, I didn’t mind the delay, because another passenger told me they were fixing the tires. Not having good tires is a major cause of road accidents in Africa, so better to be late with good tires, I thought.

Uganda to Kenya

After the delayed departure, our trip began well enough. Every seat on the bus was taken, but there was no overcrowding and no one standing. I was also the only Westerner for the entire trip, which definitely helped with getting a more natural perspective of East Africa. After we got out of Kampala, the driver’s assistant passed out ice cream samples to each passenger, a nice treat after not eating lunch.

For the next four hours, nothing much happened. I had hoped to use a big part of the trip for reading and writing, but the roads were far too bumpy for that. We rode along through Eastern Uganda until arriving at the Kenyan border directly at sunset. Border stops are rarely boring, and in Africa, they are often highly disorganized and corrupt. At this one, though, all the formalities went about as well as could be. I paid $20 for a transit visa, as I had expected, and headed back up the road to the bus after receiving the necessary clearances. The whole process took less than half an hour, complete with an amazing dust storm that I tried to capture in a couple of quick snapshots.

Kenya Dust Storm!Kenya / Uganda Border

We had roughly seven hours more until Nairobi, where we were scheduled to arrive at 3:00 a.m. for a two-hour stop. Mid-point through the journey, the bus broke down. I wasn’t thrilled about this, and neither were the other passengers, but after a while the engine started up and we were underway again. We arrived in Nairobi sometime around 4:30, waiting at the bus station for a couple of hours, and got back underway just before dawn.

At this point my memory gets a bit fuzzy, because I had only slept an hour or two during the night and wasn’t feeling well from all the bumpy roads. I think it was about three or four more hours when we arrived at the next border, this time between Kenya and Tanzania.

This stop was also fairly efficient—we were through within 45 minutes. There were a fair share of “helpers” who tried to offer their services to me (to change money, expedite the visa process, etc.), but after I declined a few times they stopped asking.

Waiting in Arusha, TanzaniaWaiting in Arusha

Waiting in Arusha

Back underway and a couple more undetermined hours later, we arrived in Arusha, a Tanzanian city in the north of the country. We were told that we had to change buses, but no other bus was around. I spent the time in the transit area writing postcards from Kampala and eating peanuts, which in addition to two Cliff Bars I had brought from Seattle and the ice cream 24 hours earlier were my only food. I wasn’t really hungry, but I was certainly tired.

A new bus finally arrived two hours later. We were all relieved to transfer our bags and hop onboard, but there was just one problem: five other passengers had joined us at Arusha, and they had seat numbers for seats that were already occupied by those of us who had started way back in Uganda. Thankfully, I had already taken my seat when the mistake was discovered, so I didn’t have to worry about standing up for the remaining nine hours.

After a lot of arguing and the unsuccessful mediation efforts of the bus company’s employees, a woman stood up and addressed everyone. “Brothers and sisters in the Lord!” she began. “We are all Christians, so let us find a way to solve this problem!”

So far, so good, but some guys in the back were laughing and not listening to her, so she commanded them to “Shut up in the name of Jesus!” It was one of the most interesting social interactions I’ve ever been a part of. For better or worse, the evangelist was able to resolve the problem by acquiring some extra makeshift seats from the bus driver. Before we left Arusha after waiting far too long, she led the whole bus in a prayer for the journey. Even the Muslims supported a Christian prayer for a safe road journey to our final destination.

Kenya to Tanzania

A lot of other things happened along the way, but as we hit the 24-hour point, I was pretty exhausted. I vaguely remember running my hands through my hair and seeing them completely covered in red dust. I remember a collective bus stop for bananas, which looked nice but I couldn’t buy any because I didn’t have any Tanzanian currency, and I remember waking up after sleeping for three straight hours to find our bus about an hour out of Dar es Salaam. By then, it had gone well over the 31 hours we had expected to travel, so when people said we were an hour away I could hardly believe it.

We arrived at the Dar es Salaam bus station close to midnight the day after I had left Uganda. I stepped off the bus for the last time and walked to the gate where I navigated the usual throng of taxi drivers all shouting for my attention. Choosing one and negotiating a price of $8 (it was late at night and a fair distance away) to take me downtown to change money and then to a hotel near the port, I finally arrived at the beautiful sight of a hotel check-in desk shortly after 1:00 a.m. They had one last room available, which I was quite happy to accept sight unseen and without even considering the cost.

Before I feel asleep, I took two full showers in an attempt to shake off the dust from three African countries and 35 hours in a bus. For the next week, however, my shoes would set off a mini dust storm every time I put them on or took them off. When I finally got home two weeks later, my bags still had Kenya’s dust on them despite my best efforts to clean them with washcloths during my next two stops.

I decided to consider it evidence of an achievement that had personal meaning to me, even if other people might find it incomprehensible. I also decided that I wouldn't necessarily want to do this again... but I’m really glad I did it once.


Related Articles:

5 Journeys to Cotonou, Benin
The African Dichotomy of Hope and Despair

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Unconventional Guides:

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

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United Airlines and the Case for Value

I read an interesting article about Applebee’s last week. Personally, I don’t like Applebee’s or its numerous imitators – not eating burgers, chicken tenders, or something they call “riblets” kind of limits the menu of the average Americana-themed restaurant for me – but I enjoyed the analysis of how these kinds of places are trying to survive in an economically challenging environment.

My favorite part was when the CEO was asked why Applebee’s and IHOP (also owned by the company) don’t have healthier choices on their menu. People are more health-conscious than ever, right?

“What people want and what they say they want are different,” she said, and as much as I wanted to disagree, I couldn’t.

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Art and Money

Art and Money
Image by Jblndl
Lately I’ve had a lot of reasons to think a lot about the relationship between Art and Money. There's a lot to say about that subject, and we'll cover it from different angles over the next few months. To kick off the series, here's a quick story from the archives of unhappy people on the internet.

Andrea Scher writes over at Superhero Designs, where she also sells homemade jewelry and does commercial photography. For five years and counting, she’s provided regular inspiration for a hyperactive community of women, fellow artists, and self-proclaimed superheroes.

So anyway, last week Andrea announced that she would be doing a site redesign, and the new site will include a few spaces for sponsors in the right column. This is the normal protocol for full-time bloggers – build a community, write for free, and have some advertisers on the right-side that help pay the bills. That’s not my plan here, but I have no problem with people who do it that way.

No big deal, right? Well... in the comments section of an otherwise tame blog, a few people felt like the world had ended. Here’s what some of them had to say:

  • “it is not right to put an ad on your beauty. it is not healthy for everything to be for sale. this is a cultural sickness.” -kelly

  • “I really never thought I would see ads on your Superhero Journal. I won't read it anymore because I am tired and sickened by the selling of America. You can paint it and dress it in pearls but that's what this is. ADS. Ads. ads. I feel so sad.” –penelope

  • “i am opposed to advertising impacting every aspect of our existence and I wish more of us would keep boundaries around our creative space and say ‘this is not for sale!’" -katie

Someone even compared Andrea to a cocaine dealer and email spammer – yes, seriously. It reminded me of this article in my favorite non-newspaper, The Onion.

Really, putting an ad on a blog is as bad as selling cocaine? It seems that the hyperbole of the internet takes over in full force with some blog commentors, who strangely enough don’t usually provide links to their own blogs.

Of course, most people aren’t that silly. There were dozens of positive comments posted on Andrea’s blog supporting her decision, with 95% of the people expressing their appreciation for all of the free inspiration she continually brings to her community. In the end I have no doubt that she will benefit more from the exchange than if no one had complained at all.

But most of us tend to focus on – and worry about – the complainers who want to hold everyone down to the level of average.

I talked to someone from San Diego the other day and mentioned the singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, who lives there. “I really like his music,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “Although now that he is all famous and everything, he no longer plays coffee shops, so I don’t like him as much.”

You hear this kind of attitude a lot about musicians. Now that he can afford to have a house and buy health insurance for his family, Dave Matthews sucks. Coldplay was cool before they started selling out arenas, but now they are the band everyone loves to hate.

(The funny thing is that Coldplay’s new album has been #1 for weeks in most countries that track record sales… so if everyone hates them, who is buying the album? Hmmm.)

When you are a starving artist that lives by donations, that’s cool too. But when you become successful enough that more people want to appreciate your art, all of a sudden you become the target of jealousy and resentment from less successful people.

Unfortunately, it’s not only the critics who feel this way—some artists have a similar complex of their own that holds them back.

I usually end up meeting artists whenever I travel, and I've noticed that some (certainly not all, but a significant minority) seem to have a fear of letting money come anywhere near their art. They think that selling something, anything, is the same as “selling out.” They worry that people will criticize them if they decide to go commercial – and as we can see from Andrea’s recent experience, they’re probably right.

Paradoxically, by not taking the next step in their art, they are severely limiting themselves. Bill Cosby said once, “I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

Being 100% non-commercial is safe and easy – no one can complain, because you work for free. To take it up a level, you have to enter the marketplace.

My Upcoming Cocaine Dealership

Talking about Art and Money is not a hypothetical discussion for me. I won't be putting ads on the site because that’s not really my style, but as I have said from the beginning, I have no objection to people earning money from their art form.

With that in mind, I’m creating a series of Unconventional Guides that will be offered for sale here on the site. The guides will feature 100% practical information focused on specific topics related to Life, Work, and Travel. In the guides I’ll explain exactly how I travel around the world, pay relatively little for airfare, earn money without a job, and so on.

More importantly, I’ll explain how you can do the same, or even better—how you can use the strategies to do whatever it is that you are interested in.

The first report is called the Unconventional Guide to Discount Airfare and will launch on Wednesday morning. I’m pretty excited about it. In 31 pages of specific strategies and tactics, I’ll tell you exactly how you can become your own travel guru and pay a lot less for plane tickets than virtually everyone else out there.

Of course, the guide will be professionally designed, include free updates for life, a complete satisfaction guarantee, coffee refills at Starbucks, etc.*

(*The coffee refills may not happen. But everything else will.)

I already know that some people will love this. I get emails every day asking for this kind of information, and I spent a lot of hours writing the Discount Airfare guide. I'll be surveying the readers who purchase it to determine which guide I should write next, and to keep it as accessible as possible, I'll price the guide a lot lower than market value.

Other people won’t love it or just won’t need the information, and that’s fine too – that’s why it’s a paid product, so that those who can benefit from it will buy it, and those for whom it is not relevant for can sit it out. No problem. Assuming this guide is well-received, I’ll be making more of them, and maybe something else will be a better fit for you. Or maybe not, and that’s also OK, because my writing on the site will always be free.

But if someone thinks I’m as bad as a cocaine dealer for selling products that improve people’s lives, well, they’ll just have to think that, because I could probably not convince them otherwise.

For everyone else, I hope you like it. I’ll see you on Wednesday with more details about the guide, and an order link for those who are interested.


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Site Update: February 2008

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Distracted By Sweden

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