Lost in the Borneo Jungle: A Survival Story

What should have been a simple overnight excursion turned into a true battle of man vs. nature. Read his story below and learn how Seth Pevey survived three days lost in the Borneo jungle.

 

When one arrives at the dock, the only entry point into Bako National Park in Malaysian Borneo, one is generally greeted by monkeys waiting to steal cellphones, cameras, glasses, anything. Try yelling an exasperated “why?” at these wordless hoodlums and they will give a look that stands in for their obvious mantra: “This is the jungle and fuck you.” You get this message quite a lot once there, an odd refrain, though it isn’t on the brochure.

The staff does provide comfortable hostel-style cabins which are frequented by the infamous proboscis monkeys of Bako: creatures sliding around the porches with their noses hanging red and veiny and reminding one of a wine soaked uncle. The majority of guests wisely book these cabins in advance.

I booked one in advance.

But, when I arrived and saw the rows of manicured cabin lawns; witnessed the French family snapping photos of a cobweb a foot from a well maintained cement path; walked past the Chinese girls taking selfies next to the ranger station sign; I decided I wouldn’t settle for this empty simulacrum. Not me. I came to see the jungle damn it.

 

Heading Into the Borneo Jungle

The ranger looked tired and his eyes were from far away. “Take some food, and mind the tide,” he told me as he handed me a tent stuffed in a duffle bag. Maybe he was hung over, overworked, fighting with his wife, or just didn’t like the cut of my jib, whatever, I’d like to formally blame him for not stereotyping me enough.

A real Malay park ranger with his head in the game would have slapped me across the face and reminded me I wasn’t Jack London.

My destination was a secluded beach at the end of an 18 kilometer path winding though equatorial rainforest. I bought the following at the little park store: two one-gallon jugs of water, three boiled eggs, a cake of cornbread, and 2 bags of peanuts. The plan was to arrive at the beach around sundown, camp out, and return the next morning to catch a bateau back to Kuching, the nearest city. I pictured myself arriving at the beach after a leisurely five or six hours.

 

Starting the Hike

It was Borneo jungle alright, pure and green. Green and intoxicating and swallowing me up one step at a time.

The start of the path led up for an hour, up and up and clambering all the way.  At times I was climbing on all fours, finally up to a high plateau where the forest cleared, overlooking an isle studded South Asian Sea. I had not expected this kind of intensity when I started, but things seemed to be opening up and flattening out.

The plants were strange. Nepenthes lowii one rotting sign read on side of the path, referencing the pitcher plants which carpeted the ground, famous for making a living luring in flies with sweet smelling nectar until they slip and drown in digestive juices and slowly dissolve over the following days.

An hour passed, and then another. A fourth of my water was gone, and I’d only hiked about two kilometers. I braved on.

Sweat was pouring out of me, enough that the shirt I was wearing became heavy with it. I took it off and gave it a wring. It was like climbing a never ending flight of stairs inside of an enormous sauna during a Louisiana August.

The Borneo jungle loomed all around, more threatening now, like a happy bout of drinking gone sour and dark. Kilometer marker four passed, then five, and then a rest next to a waterfall. Some Germans passed and asked me if I was alright. They were going the other way, back towards civilization. When I told them my plan they smiled their wry smiles and said nothing. “Do you have any iodine pills?” a girl asked.

 

monkey in the Borneo Jungle

 

Running Out of Water

A few hours later at kilometer marker number ten I was out of water and starting to panic a bit. How have I possibly consumed so much? Two gallons gone and not even finished getting there? How will I make it back? Nervously I recalled something about three days. Is that right? Humans can live about three days without water?

I carried on; sweat pouring out of me, a garden hose left on to tinkle into the grass. Thirty minutes later I urinated something the color of Sunkist and realized my body was in trouble. What can I do? The sun was getting lower in the sky, and a troupe of boy sized monkeys seemed to be following me.

If I turned back, I’d be tromping through the deep dark Borneo jungle at night, jealous simians for company, and I’d never make it safely. I’d step on a snake or stumble into one of the many deep crevices along the path, I’d sink and be overwhelmed in quicksand.

I had to push forward.

I had to get out of the jungle and onto a pure tropical beach.

Every time I took a break, the largest alpha male monkey would swing down and look at me directly in the eyes, hanging from the canopy with a face like a disappointed gym coach. The path got rougher, and there weren’t many signs that the Germans, nor anyone else had been this far out in some time, no empty water bottles, no footprints or cigarette butts- just an endless tunnel of green that was now undulating up and down over jagged rocks and bicep-like tree roots.

What I wouldn’t have given for the reassuring sign of humanity, but there were none. I was in a part of the park that was seldom visited. Everything was sharp, jagged, piercing. A thousand thorns tore my arms and legs to shreds, and I started to bleed in places.

It was picturing the beach in my head, lovely, open and safe, that kept one foot moving in front of the other. Surely I could wave down a fisherman and ask for water at the beach. I remembered ‘air’ as the curiously contrary word for water in the Malay tongue, perhaps the only word I knew, but that wouldn’t help me unless I found Malaysians. However, they seemed to be smart enough to avoid this particular part of their otherwise lovely country.

 

Lost in the Dark

The sun went down at kilometer marker sixteen, leaving me two short. “Went down” is just an expression though. In reality it plummeted. I didn’t know it before, but at the equator, the sun has an on/off switch rather than the romantic dimmer of the temperate zones. From the time it cast its first orange hues, until total darkness, seemed to take only ten minutes. The monkeys overhead laughed at me and went to their suppers.

Two kilometers to go, and the blackest night you have ever seen. I pulled out my headlamp, happy with myself and reckoning that while I demonstratively had very little sense for being in this situation to begin with, I had enough to bring a light.

The Borneo jungle at night is scary. There are sounds of nightmares, things that howl from above and things that chortle from behind trees, long slippery things that squirm and dance against your skin and when you paw at them are incorporeal. A mental struggle ensued. I followed the blue blazes over rocks and through caves and then, in a canebrake, I lost them entirely.

I lost the path.

I darted around, at first making blind plunges in random directions. Realizing my danger, I calmed and tried to use my head. I made an ever widening circle in the suffocating cane, but no blue and friendly blaze beckoned me. Cane, in every dark direction, was blocking me in: tall, thick, and unassailable.

I was lost, lost in another country, lost in the Borneo Jungle, lost at night and without any water over ten miles from the needle in a haystack ranger station.  

This is the jungle and fuck you. You are not Jack London. He has a state park in California named after him, and you are going to be just some bones that give a couple of hikers a surprise. They will take a video on their smart phone most likely, maybe post it online (NSFW) and have a story to tell at the bar when they get back to Cape Town. That is, if anyone finds you at all.

I had a camera with me. For some reason I took a picture of myself with the flash turned on. I wanted to see what I looked like when I was scared. Then I called out for help as loud as I could in the empty and echoing blackness. Nothing. I wandered for another hour in the black sauna of the night, scared and imagining the shape of my moss covered bones.

 

Searching for the Beach

I thought about what to do, about all the camping trips I’d been on, books I’d read, Bear Grylls, things I’d heard about situations like this.

One old adage kept popping up in my head. I’m sure you have heard it too. It goes like this: when you get lost in the wilderness, the thing to do is to head down. 

If you follow a downward slope, eventually you will come to a stream or a brook; the brook will turn into a river that flows to the sea. Follow that enough and you will find people because people love water. Any major river or ocean in the world will have civilization all up and down its glorious banks, the reasoning goes.

I figured heading down would at the very least lead me to the sea, which is where I had planned on being all along. I would be out in the open and that was all I wanted at that moment.

So I did that, reckoning if I just went down a bit I was bound to find a beach. I didn’t care what beach so long as it got me out of the terrifying blackness of the nighttime jungle. I found the nearest downward slope, and let myself start sliding down it, the weight of my tent filled backpack pushing me forward.

It was a mistake that almost killed me.

While the reasoning was sound, I hadn’t taken into account the terrain. I was sliding down the slope, loose gravel and dirt giving way under me. I shone my light ahead and all at once, in a flash of approaching death, noticed there was no ground.

Suddenly, I was on a precipice.

About three feet in front of me was a hundred foot drop, a cliff that lead down to an angry sea crashing against jagged rocks. In panic I started to scramble back up, but the backpack, and my position, made it difficult. I was being edged forward to die.

I could already feel what it would be like, my body flying through the moist air, crashing down into the sea and maybe breaking a leg. I would struggle to stay afloat for a moment or two; before I inhaled a few burning lungful of water and the waves dashed my semi-conscious brains out against the cliff face. Later I would turn up on some Indonesian fisherman’s boat deck, having been emptied out of the guts of a tiger shark.

I put my arms out at my sides and grabbed at nothing, at first. My left hand grasped a rock that gave way and tumbled down to where I was surely headed. Some loose vines tore at my right and I followed them up with my fingers until I managed to finally get a hold of a root.  The other arm grasped at a sapling, and I managed to pull myself up, the pebbles I’d unsettled splashing deep below me.

I scrambled, clutching at my racing heart, and managed the top of the hill. Then, as if by freak accident, through a clearing in the branches I saw a wide beach glistening in the moonlight. I found the North Star just to the left of it.

I had to get there. It was beautiful even from a mile away, and yet so far below me.

 

Risking Everything on the Rocks

Once I started to head in that direction the real danger started.

Remember those video games where the programmer has really run out of creative ideas, and so they just go with some platforms over lava? You test your skill jumping from block to block, knowing you have three lives to make it to the end. The way leading to the beach was just like that.

There were pillars of rock and they were wide and sturdy, but separated by caves of echoing blackness that I didn’t even want to imagine what was at the bottom of.

I went slowly, knowing one false step would see me plunge down into the maw of one of these caverns. Maybe I would survive the fall. Perhaps I would get trapped down in one, surviving for two weeks on a stalactite trickle à la Injun Joe. But no school children would ever read about it and no one would ever find me there and there would be no rock formations named for me in this alien place.

I had my camera holstered in a pack on my belt (which Americans would call a fanny pack, though the traveler learns not to refer to it in such a way, as it makes the Britons blush). At a particularly tight squeeze, I had to throw my weight back suddenly against a rock face to avoid tumbling.  When I did the camera ripped off and plummeted into the darkness, never to return. If some spelunker does find it in working order, I expect they will be confused.

Finally, after several hours of clambering over jagged rock, I could see the beach stretched out in front of me. But by now the moon had grabbed up the water. At high tide, the pathway down was a raging torrent of crashing waves; it was as if most of the beach had been swallowed up.    

 

beach in the Borneo Jungle

 

Desperate for Water

I was so thirsty, waiting there on the edge for the bosom of the sea to recede, that I started to lick the moss and lichen growing from the rocks. I found leaves on the ground with trapped rainwater and drank those. I even tried once to dig down into the ground in a silted spot to see if I could release any groundwater. But it wasn’t enough, and after a day of sweating my body cried out for more.  

I rested against a rock, and several hours later the tide receded and I could see the moon shining on a solid sandy path and a long strip of beach. I threw my bag down a ten foot drop and tried to shimmy my way down. Finally, I had made it.

Still no path back, but that would have to wait for the morning.  I set up my tent and had the first break from mosquitos all day. Then, I set out to find water.

I’ve never been so thankful to litterbugs in all my life. The receding tide had left a line of drift all across the otherwise unspoiled beach. There were bottles, dozens of them. Some had their caps still screwed on. Of those, most were filled with sea water, and one with some sort of motor oil I will never forget the taste of. But, after an hour of searching among the refuge, I had 3 bottles of palatable water and a coconut.

I drank the water until my stomach roiled in joy and then I broke the coconut open on a stalagmite and drank its sweet milk. Things were going to be ok. My worry receded and for the first time I noticed the beach.

Aside from a few pieces of trash, the place was astonishing. Palm trees and white sand glowing in the moonlight. The stars were a milky strip of brilliance across the tropic sky. My breathing slowed. I slept, hearing mudskippers slap into my tent flap, and hoping no saltwater crocodiles chose that particular beach for a nightcap.

 

New Day, New Problems

The next morning I scouted around and found the path again. Someone was watching out for me. Everything was indeed fine, and I reckoned I could be back by dark. I had one gallon of water and would be home soon… but for the rain.

It started to pour the big fat drops that give the rainforest its name.

At first I was thrilled. I pulled out my tent and stretched it out wide on the forest floor, letting it collect into a full puddle of water which I happily lapped up, and washed the caked blood and dirt from my arms and shins.

I could see the monkeys flashing away from me through the trees, going into their secret cubby holes.  And before I knew it, I was cold. It was a surprise when I started to shiver in what had been a baking hell up until that point. I found shelter under a cave and spent a few hours drinking from the stalactites and reading a copy of Dracula I had foolishly toted along.

Two hours or so later, the rain stopped.  It was already noon and I had barely gone a quarter of the way.  But, at least I was hydrated and cool. A new set of problems now made themselves known.

The rain had summoned the snakes.

I came to a sort of jungle ladder, of the kind used by tribesmen in those parts. It is basically just a log leaned up against a steep point, with little notches cut into it. Unless you are a mountain goat (or a Borneo tribesman), it is a guaranteed busted ass, but often less so than the alternative.

However, when I started down one particular ladder I noticed a golden band about halfway down. A hiss froze my progress, and I was looking it in the eye. I noticed the wide jaw and elliptical pupils that always signify poison glands. Later when I was back in the glow of the internet I would find a picture of it: Pope’s pit viper.   

I threw a stick at it but it only looked at me fetchingly, willing me to come closer and try that again. I jumped down the incline, avoiding the ladder, realized how close I had been, how well the snake had blended in and how it had remained motionless until I was upon it.

Again, a fantasy of death flashed before my eyes. I was bitten by a snake here, in the ankle perhaps, a day’s walk away from aid. The faster I run towards the ranger’s hut the more the toxin quickens through my veins. My foot swells up and turns black, I felt a wave of cold weakness and nausea wash over me and a coppery taste in my mouth. I can’t keep going so I lie down on the path, telling myself I just need a short nap to regain my strength. If I ever wake up again it is only for long enough to curse myself a fool as I stare up Borneo’s blurring jungle canopy.

 

Ready for Respite

I keep going, but now progress is slow. I’m worried that every vine may have a surprise curled around it, so I pick up a hefty walking stick to brush in front of me like a blind man.  The rain has stopped but in places it has turned the path to quicksand. Deep sucking silt comes up to my knees and beckons me to stay.

After a full day I’d only made it half way. I would have to sleep in the jungle.

That second night, I found the clearest, most open spot I could at the top of a hill.  The sky was visible, showcasing infinity. I realized by now that I would be ok. I also realized that there are an infinite number of worse ways to die than expiring out here with all this nature, free and traveling and self-reliant.

I lost my fear in that moment, with the darkness of the Borneo jungle circling all around me with its strange serpentine noises. I was a part of it and I slept one of the deepest sleeps of my life.

 

path through the Borneo Jungle

 

Making It Out of the Borneo Jungle Alive

The next day I made it back.

When I emerged from the jungle I was bleeding and haggard, my face was yellow, I was dehydrated and my skin breaking out in strange rashes. I’d been in the Borneo jungle for over 50 hours and for a good ten I was lost and scared.

When I walked out into the clearing of the ranger station, there were happy Europeans sunbathing on a beach, a local had a generator going and was making pineapple smoothies, and there were South Africans playing volleyball.

I bought a beer and a monkey tried to steal it. I widened my stance, threw my pack down on the ground, and made a whooping sound in his face to assert my dominance. The sunbathers looked up at me, puzzled. Clearly I had been in the Borneo jungle too long and the Chinese girls went flittering in another direction, away from me.

It was time to go.

I hosed myself off, applied some antiseptic to my cuts and bruises, and paid a fisherman to take me to a beach resort where I ordered the surf and turf and white wine and sat in a beach chair that evening turning over my experience in my head.

Perhaps I’d been a fool. Perhaps I had almost died. But I had seen what I’d come to see.

 

Looking for more like this? Read these 4 travel horror stories by bloggers who (barely) lived to tell the tale, or our own adrenaline-pumping adventure climbing 19,000 ft. up Misti Volcano.

 

Seth Pevey is a Louisiana native. He has worked as a teacher and journalist around the world, and now writes both fiction and non-fiction from his country home outside of New Orleans. Keep up with his work at SethPevey.com

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Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

4 Travel Horror Stories by Bloggers Who (Barely) Lived to Tell the Tale

We all have our own travel horror stories. However, they usually revolve around endlessly delayed flights or terrible food poisoning.

For these four travel bloggers, though, that’s not the case. Ania, Kevin, Greg, and Dan all found themselves in terrifying, and even life-threatening, situations while traveling abroad.

These travel horror stories will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. Read about what happened on their trips-gone-terribly-wrong and the lessons they learned below.

 

Kevin Visited Somalia… and Was Caught in the Cross-fire of a Terrorist Attack

It is true that my bizarre travels take me to places like Somalia. I spent five days in the notorious country.

One of the most surreal and eye-opening experiences was walking across no-man’s land from Ethiopia to Somaliland. As you walk from border to border there are no guards that can assist you, you are all alone. Well, if it wasn’t for the 500 locals swamping you trying to assist me to the unknown. The unknown where you could get shot in the head or kidnapped quicker than you can sip your bottled water.

So, what was I doing walking across this border? Unbeknownst to me, walking this border was the safe part of the country and I was about to leave it. I continued my trip deep in the lands of Somalia to Mogadishu, which never fails to impress, and it was here that I realized I was out of my depth.

One day I’m on the beach playing football with the local kids, watching the fisherman walk past with their large sailfish catch on their heads. Then, the next day I’m running for cover as a terrorist decided to blow up the market.

I was meters away from the scariest experience I ever wished to encounter.

I stood outside my guest house watching the locals go about their day and all of a sudden a big explosion happened before my eyes. As I stood there in disbelief, scared and confused, my guards grabbed me back into my guest house for a swift exit to safety. I had no choice but to exit the area, and it was demanded by my guards who were there for my safety.

It was a sad moment for me as I realized that not only was I close to death but others around me have just died. This is not an easy thing to digest. Naturally I worried for everyone’s safety and prayed the friendly residents of Mogadishu were ok, but sadly 51 people died from the suicide car bomber that struck the busy market that day. With the explosion ripping through shoppers, stalls, and vehicles, no one nearby stood a chance.

As I look back at the situation I always have mixed feelings, guilt being the first. Why guilty? I feel guilty from the relief that I’m ok, the relief that I didn’t explore that market that morning. Then I feel sad, sad knowing that so many innocent people lost their lives.

A lot of people in Mogadishu were so friendly and they didn’t deserve this. I wish I could have done more at the time to help the wounded, but for my own safety that was just not possible.

You can read more about Kevin’s trip to Somalia on his blog at Kevin’s Travel Diary

 

Ania Went Hitch Hiking… and Was Almost Kidnapped in a Foreign Country

After three wonderful days in a village lost deep in the Armenian forest, we decided to hitch-hike back to Yerevan. Everything was going smoothly, until this last car.

One car too much.

One car to turn our best travel experience into the biggest nightmare.

The driver, a young man, invited us for a cup of tea with his mother and that lulled us into a false sense of security. When I think about it now, he was acting weird all that time, perhaps we were just too tired or too naïve to notice it…

He was meant to give us a ride to the highway exit only but once he turned into a side road and aggressively sped up we realized that something was wrong. Alarmed and terrified, we asked him to stop the car but he refused to. We begged him. He started shouting at us and then he said he was taking us to his uncle’s so we can have some “fun.”

Have you ever felt a primitive, animal-like fear when your heart is thumping and your neck starts to sweat? I did.

So, Ania and her friend came up with a plan. A no-fail idea that many people have used to get out of situations they don’t want to be in: pretending they needed to go to the bathroom.

Somehow, he fell for it.

The second he stopped to let them out of the car, they quickly grabbed their bags and ran as fast as they could, screaming for help as they went. A car stopped and luckily both Ania and the driver spoke Russian. They explained their situation and quickly jumped in… but the other driver didn’t give up and began to follow them. Finally, the nearby people in the village had enough, surrounded the driver’s car, and sent him away for good. 

Even though it was a real nightmare I want to make it clear – the outcome for this story is obvious to me. Hitch-hike wise, always trust your gut feeling.

Read more about Ania’s world-wide adventures on her blog at The Wildest Tales

 

Dan Almost Died in Australia… and the Doctors Had No Idea What Was Wrong

I’d visited all these exotic countries over the past couple of years, from South America to Fiji, to North America and Far East Asia, and I’d got sick once.

Once.

And that was just the usual lurky you get from being around so many people in hostels. But this time, this time I knew it was something worse.

Rolling around in a hostel for days on end, sleeping, and hoping it would go away just turned it from bad to worse. Looking at yourself in the mirror and trying to convince yourself it’s the lighting in the bathroom that makes you look yellow is a real tricky thing to pull off!

The scary thing was when I tried to go to the bathroom and I couldn’t walk the two minutes it took. Like, physically couldn’t. I was only 28, what gives!

Eventually I did make it back to my bed, my heart racing like I’d finished a sprint, and then I passed out. Oh, I knew something was ever so wrong.

Grabbing a taxi with my friend to the hospital at that time truly saved my life. The words from the doctor rang through my ears “It’s a good job you’ve come in because a couple of days more and…”

I was in hospital for two weeks, and the doctors had no idea what was wrong with me. It was a tricky time as it could have been ANYTHING, all these possibilities like cancer, etc. were getting talked about and it was a proper nervous time for me – especially once I told them all the countries I’d visited!

Finally, after every test possible on my blood, the only thing it showed was a small virus that normally is so harmless you don’t even get the common cold from it!

But somehow, it made my white blood cells attack my red blood cells and destroyed them – nearly all of them.  However, once I had blood back in me and the doctors knew what happened, tablets were able to stop it and slowly over the next weeks and months I got my strength back.

It can happen to anyone, even if you think you’re out of the woods, so to speak, with the “dangerous” countries. It can even happen in the countries you thought would be safe and sound.

My advice is if you’re feeling unwell, go to the hospital after a couple of days if you don’t start to get better. No amount of money you save not going to the hospital is worth your health!

Read more and join Dan’s own pursuit of happiness on his blog at I Am Dan Elson

 

Greg Summited Mt. Kilimanjaro… and Then Fell Off

In 2012 I was part of a group that climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. We reached base camp at the end of the fourth day and went to bed at 7 p.m. Then, we were woken at midnight to begin the final ascent and get to the top at sunrise.

Having reached the top, the plan was to descend back past base camp to spend the night. Up until then I’d had a good appetite and had been drinking lots of water, but I lost my appetite during the final climb and was also extremely tired.

Pretty soon into the descent I passed out mid-step and went tumbling down the gravel path.

I have no memory of this, my friends helped fill in the gaps. I cracked my head and got lots of cuts and scratches on my face and one side of my body, but luckily didn’t break anything. Three teams of six guides helped stretcher me all the way down – they call this the ‘Kilimanjaro Express’.

I woke up a couple of times on the stretcher before quickly passing back out. When we got to the bottom an ambulance took me to hospital where I had stitches. I was released the next day and was quite sore for a few days, but otherwise fine.

It’s a fun story to tell, but I always make sure to remind people that I did reach the top!

Greg Bortkiewicz

 

Travel isn’t always fun and games, and these four travel horror stories are proof that sometimes things can go terribly wrong. Life is definitely an adventure, and traveling to new countries can amplify the experience. Luckily, Kevin, Ania, Dan and Greg all made it out ok and lived to tell the tale.

 

PS want more crazy travel stories? Read about my dangerous ascent up 19,000 ft on Misti Volcano, or get a peek into the like of my  friend Jordan, who travels the country and lives full-time in his Prius.

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Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

In Defense of the “T” Word: When Did Tourist Become So Negative?

At some point, the word tourist became an insult.

Article upon article has been written on how to travel the world without acting like one. Just a quick Google search has plenty of sites shaming tourists, calling them cheap, loud, drunk, and more.

Even Rick Steves, the famed travel writer, wrote an article called “The Ugly Tourist (and How Not to be One)” in which he divides visitors to Europe into two classes.

As you can guess, the “bad” one is, “those who view Europe through air-conditioned bus windows, socializing with their noisy American friends.” If you do any sort of tour or don’t hang out with random strangers that you meet on the street, you’re clearly traveling wrong. You are (dare I even say it?) an ugly tourist.

Oh, and god forbid you want to take a photo. Apparently, to Rick, “the worst ones have selfie sticks.” If you’re traveling alone, forget about taking a cute pic of yourself because if you whip one out you’ll quickly be labeled as a narcissist and that dirty “t” word again!

Outside of the internet, I’ve met countless backpackers on my trips who offhandedly dismiss destinations, cities, and even entire countries as too touristy. For full effect, make sure you imagine this being said with a tone that indicates they’re clearly above the base location, and definitely won’t be adding it to their to-do list.

Is there anything more ignorant and close-minded than that?

In defense of the tourist, the Oxford Dictionary defines one as “a person who is travelling or visiting a place for pleasure,” and Merriam-Webster states that a tourist is “one that makes a tour for pleasure or culture.” By these definitions, a trip to seek enlightenment with the monks in the Tibetan Mountains is just as touristy as a spring break vacation to an all-inclusive resort.

If you’re not one of the few exceptions, like an expat working in a foreign country, I have some very, very bad news for you: you’re a tourist.

Call yourself a backpacker, call yourself a traveler, call yourself a digital nomad or a million other names, but the facts are that you’re a tourist when you travel in a new country, and being a tourist is not bad or wrong or anything to be ashamed of.

I travel full-time and some of the most amazing places I have ever seen are solidly of the tourist persuasion: Machu Picchu in Peru, the Great Pyramids in Egypt, and pretty much the entire city of Florence, Italy. Sticking to the off-the-beaten-path destinations would mean missing out on the best that almost every country has to offer, and the truth is that touristy places are often popular because they’re cool, unique, and worth visiting.

There’s plenty of touristy things I love to do that the internet vilifies.

I hang out with other Americans I meet, don’t speak every language fluently when I visit a new country, and I almost never choose to do a homestay to “immerse myself with the locals.” ‘Cause you know what the locals are doing? Going to work from nine-to-five, then coming home to watch Netflix.

Sometimes… I even eat fast food. Honestly, whether you choose a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant or an international chain, it doesn’t matter. Your travel experience is no one else’s to judge as wrong or right.

However, even though I’m a tourist there are still plenty of things I don’t do when I visit new countries. like insult local customs or expect everyone to speak English.

You know why I don’t do these things? Because I’m not a dick. My behavior in other countries has nothing to do with being a holier-than-thou traveler, and everything to do with being a decent human being.

There’s a wrong way to be a human, but there’s no wrong way to travel.

As long as you are kind, thoughtful, and open-minded, you do you. Take a bus tour, or renovate a bus and get off the grid. Wait in insanely long lines at famous restaurants, or do a homestay and learn to cook the local cuisine.

Explore somewhere new the way you see fit, enjoy your travels, and please stop using the infamous “t” word as an insult, because it’s not.

 

Agree? Disagree? Think I’m totally wrong? Comment below with your thoughts!

You may also like The Truth About Traveling Full-Time

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Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

Travel for Free with the Beginner’s Guide to House Sitting

Bob and Fara aren’t your average forty-somethin’ couple. While most are busy with the day-to-day lives of raising kids and keeping their career afloat, for them that’s not the case.

In 2017, they found themselves singing a familiar refrain that is all to common amongst long-term travelers: “I quit my job, sold everything, and hit the road.”

Ok, it wasn’t quite as simple as that, but you get the picture.

Then, they made the mistake of starting their travels in Scandinavia where they immediately blew through their budget. After that, Bob and Fara quickly made their way to greener (aka cheaper) pastures in Eastern Europe and started searching for ways to save money so they could travel longer.

That’s when they discovered house sitting.

Bob and Fara have learned a lot as they navigate the wonderful world of house sitting jobs and snag free accommodation across the continent. Now, they’re here to share their expertise with you in the complete beginner’s guide to house sitting!

 

1. How do you find house sitting opportunities?

There are two different ways to find house sitting jobs while traveling.

Membership Websites

Our primary sources are two paid subscription websites that pair homeowners with house sitters:

There are numerous other websites out there, but these are the two which we have had the most success with.

In our experience, a homeowner will post an opportunity to the site with the important info (dates, approximate location, expected duties, photos of the property and pets, etc.). Then a house sitter can apply for the ones that interest them.

Many house sitting platforms are also set-up for a house sitter to post their availability (dates, locations, pet/maintenance experience, etc) and have a homeowner contact them when they have a need. However, we’ve never received any leads in this way.

Word of Mouth

As we meet people on our travels, it often comes up that we are house sitting as a way of financing our trip. Sometimes these chance encounters turn into leads. For example, Fara had met a nice Croatian woman through a knitting Facebook group and, before ever meeting her in person, she had connected us with one of her friends who needed a last-minute pet-sitter at the same time we were in Zagreb. Homeowners from previous house sits will also contact us when they or someone they know have upcoming trips planned before posting the opportunity to one of the house sitting websites.

We hope these word of mouth and repeat customer leads become a more significant percentage of our house sits in the future.

 

2. How much do you get paid?

Since we are traveling on tourist visas, we don’t have the right to work in any of the countries we visit and can’t legally charge for our services.

With that being said, there are still plenty of extra perks.

Financial Benefits

All of the homeowners we’ve house sat for offer us free lodging for the duration of the sit and often extend it to a few days before and after they are gone. Often we are left with at least basic staples with instructions to make use of anything that will spoil while the homeowner is away, including anything in the refrigerator, pantry, cellar or freezer.

We’ve been traveling primarily with a rental car, but some homeowners will let us use their vehicle while they are away as well.

We use a bit of fuzzy accounting when figuring out how much we make house sitting. If you look at it as money not spent on lodging, food and transportation it can easily amount to $50-100/day that stays in our travel fund during the duration of the house sit.

Travel Perks

There are several intangible benefits we receive by house sitting.

We get to “live like a local” for a little while, sometimes in a part of the world we would otherwise never consider traveling to. The homeowners we have met have all been wonderful people, who love travel, and warmly welcome us into their homes despite being practically complete strangers. We’ve taken part in local festivals that foreigners rarely attend, and finally, we get to be around animals without having to figure out how to travel with our own.

 

3. What responsibilities can you expect during a house sit?

Before every house sit we meet the homeowners in person and prefer to spend a day or two with them running through their daily routines with the pets and other responsibilities. Most homeowners have a detailed manual with all the important information for the house sitter, but it is not a replacement for hands-on interaction. I guess a very trusting homeowner may do everything electronically, but it would be counter to our desire to meet and interact with the locals.

Most of the house sitting opportunities posted (and the ones we’ve experienced) include caring for the homeowner’s pets. The most exotic pet we’ve cared for so far has been chickens, and we had to collect and eat the eggs.

Most of the homes we’ve cared for are at least partially heated using a wood burner, so in the winter there could be some chopping and bringing in the firewood and tending to the fire.

In the spring and summer there could be some light gardening and yard maintenance or tending to a swimming pool.

At the very least a house sitter should be expected to keep the house at least as tidy as the homeowner left it to them.

We’ve seen house sits posted that included duties such as tending farm animals, keeping an eye on contractors making improvements to the home, or even helping to run a hotel or bed & breakfast… We’ve declined to apply for such “opportunities”, but they may appeal to others.

 

4. How much flexibility does house sitting require?

Flexibility can be defined many ways when it comes to house sitting. You are dealing with two private parties (homeowner and house sitter) who are operating under a mutually beneficial agreement, so anything is possible.

It has been our experience that dates need to be a little flexible which is why we prefer to build in a few days on either side of the homeowner’s expected departure and arrival just in case of some last minute change in travel plans. We’ve never had a homeowner cancel on us, but it can happen. We know of some house sitters who draw up a basic contract in case of cancellation to recoup some costs associated with such an event.

During the house sit, Murphy’s law dictates that something will happen you are not fully prepared for. This is just a fact of life and successful house sitters are flexible enough to handle these cases in stride. Pets may gets sick, but the homeowner should leave you with contacts for veterinary care. Something in the house may break or stop working, but our own homeownership experience has taught us to fix what we can and call an expert for what we can’t. This flexibility is part of the job description of a house sitter.

When talking about locations, flexibility will open up many more opportunities for the house sitter. A significant number of house sits tend to be located in rural areas or small villages with limited access to public transportation, restaurants, and shopping. Even when an opportunity is found in a major city, it will likely be located in the more residential areas, away from the central tourist districts.

In the off-season, house sits can be more easily found in what would be considered a vacation destination. It is also worth noting that the more popular a destination or season is, the more competition there will be with other house sitters.

 

5. How many house sits have you done and how many are set up for the future? 

We’ve completed five house sits since last December which is when we got serious about using house sitting as a form of lodging. The shortest duration has been a three or four day weekend and the longest was two weeks not counting the time we stayed before and after the homeowner was gone.

These have taken us to rural Ireland, London, the Pyrenees in France, Zagreb, and Lake Balaton in Hungary. We have confirmed sits upcoming in Transylvania, back in Croatia, and Luxembourg and at least a couple others we are in the process of negotiating the final details.

Every few days Fara is finding new opportunities to apply for that will fill in the gaps between the upcoming sits.

 

6. Can you give me an estimate on how much time and money you invested to land each one?

Money: We currently have memberships on five different house sitting websites which cost approximately $30-120/membership/year. 

Time: I tend to just read emails that have been sent to us by the house sitting platforms.  

For example Trusted House sitters sends me two emails a day (morning and evening) based on the sits they have received in that timeframe before made public on their website. The email is organized by country and alphabetical so I can quickly scan to see if there are any sits in countries that we are near or plan in the future to be in or close to.  

On a weekly average I might spend 30 minutes looking at these house sitting emails. If I see something listed in one of the emails that looks like it might fit our needs I will send it to Bob for his opinion and if he thinks its a good fit then he will let me know and I apply for the sit. Bob keeps track of our Visa dates for permitted time within a country. So often he will have to run a calculation to determine if we have the available time to do that sit based on the Visa situation at that time.

There have been three sits that we had to turn down based on inadequate Schengen Visa time although we would have loved to perform the sit.

 

7. What does a typical process look like from the first application to getting the job?

After submitting an application the ball is almost entirely in the homeowner’s court, so there is a lot of waiting on our part. If we don’t hear back within a few days and it is a house sit we are particularly interested in, Fara will follow up with the homeowner to show interest and prompt a response.

At this point the application will go one of two ways. The homeowner will give us a “no” response (and a continued lack of response we also take as a “no”) or they respond to schedule an interview.

The interview is typically over video chat, in some cases it will be entirely via email, messenger or text, and in one unique case we were in the same general area as the homeowner and scheduled an in-person interview at their home.

This interview is as much for us to interview the homeowner as it is for the homeowner to interview us and in our experience has always ended with both parties agreeing to continue with the house sit.

 

8. How do you make sure your house sitting requests stand out from the rest?

Fara tries to tailor each application to the homeowner rather than just sending a canned, boilerplate request.

Adding personal touches such as relating past experiences with animals to the homeowner’s pets or showing knowledge and interest in the location they live in makes a difference. We try to emphasize that our story is unique in that we’re neither twenty-somethings straight out of university nor retirees enjoying their twilight years traveling.

Above all else, we try to portray ourselves with as professionals with many years of experience from owning and caring for our own homes and pets.

 

9. What surprised you the most about house sitting? Is there anything you wish you knew before you started?

The most surprising thing for both of us is how much we needed to treat house sitting as a business with us as a service provider and the homeowners as clients.

We went into it a bit naively thinking that we’d make our travel plans and pick up house sits along the way. This resulted in only rarely finding opportunities we were even available to apply for. It wasn’t until we changed this mindset and made our itinerary flexible enough to accommodate going where the house sitting opportunities were, that we were successful finding and landing house sits.

If we had known what we know now, we would have also built up our house sitting resume before embarking on our long-term nomadic trip. Without a history of successful house sits, it took the right homeowner to be willing to select an apparently inexperienced house sitter.

 

10. What has been your favorite house sitting experience so far? Would you recommend it to others that are interested?

It may sound a bit like a cop out, but it would be impossible to pick one favorite experience as they are all memorable for different reasons.

The Ireland house-sit was exhilarating because it was our first sit and everything was brand new. Despite us not really having a clue what we were doing, the homeowner is willing to let us watch her pets again later on this year.

In France we took part in their Carnivale celebration where we were the first Americans anyone could remember being in attendance.

The pets we took care of in Hungary now occupy a special place in our hearts. We went back a few weeks later to pick up something we left behind and they were all ready for us to stay and take care of them again.

We love this “job” and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone wanting to experience real life in a foreign place.

 

The Beginner’s Guide to House Sitting

Hopefully these 10 questions and insightful answers from experienced house sitters can help you understand the process and the perks a bit more. House sitting while traveling can help you save some serious cash and extend your trip longer. Use this beginner’s guide to house sitting to get started and the explore your options today!

Read more about Bob and Fara’s travels on their blog at Can Do Latitude and simplify your travel plans with their Schengen Visa calculator.

You can also explore more ways to extend your travels with the Working Abroad Series, where you’ll find guides to teaching online ESL classes, working as an au pair, getting a job as a flight attendant, starting a digital marketing business, landing a full-time position teaching in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, breaking into freelance writing, or even working on a yacht!

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Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

78 Full-Time Travel Tips To Take On The Road With You

I love to travel.

If you’re reading this article, you probably do too.

When I left the country for the first time back in 2013, I had no idea what to expect. By the end of my two-month experience teaching in Belize, I knew that I wasn’t going to be getting a job and living in the U.S.

Since then, I’ve lived, worked, and traveled in over 15 countries. I’ve learned a lot during this time about what to do (and not do), and I’d love to share some that insight with all of you.

 

On Money

1. Be smart with your money. A lot of people think, “Oh. I’ll keep spending because I’ll never be back in this place again.” If you do that too often, you’re going to run out of money fast. Sometimes, the best nights and the best stories happen without spending a cent, so consider getting off the beaten path before you blow your budget.

2. Make money while you’re traveling. We’ve been able to travel full-time for two years now because we work as freelancers while we go.

3. Set a clear budget. Know your budget, and stick to it as much as you can.

4. Use cash. Money feels a lot more real when it’s physically disappearing from your wallet. It’s a lot easier to overspend when it’s just one more card swipe rather than a trip to the ATM.

5. Save. A lot of people who travel full-time don’t make money a priority, but you should do your best to save money every month. Caring about retirement is cool.

6. Don’t worry too much about what other people or employers might think. People might tell you that extended travel is a bad idea, but we’ve been able to pay off our loans, save money, and advance our careers while traveling. The amount of remote workers is going up every year, and people are much more open to working with them than you may think.

7. Be wary of anyone asking you to pay a deposit. If you give one in a foreign country, you’re just asking to lose a bunch of money or spend time arguing trying to get your money back. Even more so if you don’t speak the language.

8. Don’t trust someone just because they’re from your country. We thought we could trust a landlord in Colombia because he was American, but he was the worst one we’ve dealt with.

9. People will do just about anything to get as much money out of you as possible. If they seem like a hustler, they are.

10. Airbnb is great for protecting yourself from scammers in the rental industry. You can read reviews, rent from trustworthy people, and have a third-party mediator.

11. You get significant discount on Airbnb the longer you rent. We almost always get at least 20% when we rent for a month.

12. Take pictures of your apartment when you arrive and when you leave. If there’s ever a dispute, you’ll have evidence.

13. Know the tipping expectations. If they don’t tip, then don’t tip. If they tip, then tip.

14. Make sure you have an emergency fund. When you inevitably f*ck up and need to buy a new flight ASAP or drop money on something serious, you won’t have to worry about charges going through, over drafting, or anything else.

15. Always have a credit card on hand. If you can’t have an emergency fund, a credit car is the next best thing to ensure you’re never stuck someone you can’t get out of. They buy you time and are also necessary for some car rentals and other international purchases.

16. Separate the important stuff. Both you and your partner should have debit and credit cards, so if one of you gets pick pocketed or loses their wallet it’s not the end of the world. If you’re traveling alone, leave a second debit and credit card in your apartment when you go out to avoid being stranded without cash or access to your accounts if something goes wrong.

 

On Packing

17. A deck of cards almost always comes in handy. There’s a ton of different two-person games to play, and it’s a great way to hang out with people you don’t really know.

18. Invest in sturdy boots. We do a lot of walking when we’re traveling, so I always bring a good pair of walking shoes with me.

19. Always bring a portable charger. No one wants to choose between photos of an exotic destination or music on the ride home. portable chargers are cheap and one of the most important items if you don’t want to be stuck staring into space on a bus, train, or plane.

20. Pack a headphone splitter if you’re a couple. Great for watching tv/movies or listening to music/podcasts together, especially when one person’s phone inevitable dies.

21. Don’t overpack. Pack everything you want, then remove half before you leave. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

22. Limit your luggage to one on your back, one on your stomach. We go with a big backpack and a small backpack and always have everything we need.

23. Packing a speaker is a great idea. I use my portable speaker all the time.

24. Consider a portable projector. Your apartments might not always have a TV, so look into portable projectors if you want something bigger than your laptop screen.

25. Always travel with an extra outfit in your carry-on bag. If your luggage is lost, you can at least feel fresh the next day when you start the miserable hunt to get it back.

26. Never put anything valuable in a checked bag or under the bus. Laptops, cameras, cellphones, and passports should all be in one bag that’s in your sight at all times.

27. If you’re sleeping in a bus, train, or air terminal, wrap the straps of your bag around your arm or leg before you pass out and get robbed.

28. Practical above all else. A cute sundress may look amazing, but jeans and a black tee will be appropriate for more events and seasons. Every article of clothing counts. If you don’t wear it in the first month, donate it or throw it out.

29. They don’t really wear shorts in a lot of countries. Americans love shorts. A lot of other countries don’t. Unless you’re going to be on a beach, skip them on your packing list.

 

On Travel

30. Don’t get caught up trying to see everything. When I first started traveling, I felt like I had to see and do it all. You just have to accept that you can’t see everything so that you can actually enjoy yourself.

31. Try not to say no too often. I find myself turning things down too much at times. I try to remember that I’m traveling to see and try new things.

32. Don’t romanticize traveling without a plan. It might sound adventurous and fun, but in reality it just means wasting hours at a coffee shop trying to figure out your next steps. We typically have the big stuff (i.e. accommodation) planned before we get somewhere.

33. Don’t rely on tour agencies to give you the facts. In a lot of countries they are willing to sacrifice your wellbeing to make some money.

34. Don’t rely on ratings alone for restaurants and businesses. Read reviews even if a rating is high because TripAdvisor has become less reliable over the years, and sometimes the average or bad reviews paint a different picture.

35. Take pictures of the mundane stuff. Beautiful landscapes are great, but snap some of your meals and partner and new friends you meet… those are the ones that will bring back the most memories in years to come.

36. Don’t be afraid to haggle, but don’t be a dick about it. Negotiation is expected in a lot of countries, so get comfortable doing it. Just don’t push it too much if it’s not a significant amount of money.

37. Don’t give to kids. Parents use them as beggars all the time, and though it’ll tug at your heartstrings it’s better in the long run not to support it. If you really feel terrible about yourself, find a reputable organization you can donate to instead.

38. On Airbnb, always verify that you’re actually renting an entire apartment and not sharing it. People list shared apartments as entire apartments all the time. Really read the description, and send a message to clarify before your book.

39. If someone seems like they don’t really know how to use Airbnb, don’t rent from them. If they struggle with the tech, they’ll probably struggle with providing a good experience.

40. Don’t buy too many souvenirs. They take up space and will usually fall apart or be thrown away the minute you get home.

41. You can find a lot of good information in Facebook groups. In more popular cities, there’s almost always an expat group of some sort where you can ask more specific questions.

42. Four full weekends is almost always enough time in one city. We typically stay in each city for five weeks, and it’s enough to enjoy a mix of visiting the big sites and getting off the beaten path.

43. The internet isn’t always right. Sometimes I show up in a city where everyone says you can’t drink the water, and it’s perfectly fine (looking at you, Sibiu.) Or, the media will sensationalize a culture (like Dubai) and we’ll show up to find that it’s way more normal and relaxed than the online articles make it appear.

44. When you start planning a trip, dedicate a gmail folder to it and move all confirmation emails directly to the folder. Then, when you’re traveling it will be much easier to find the one you need in the moment.

45. Before you set out on the next leg of your journey, screen shot addresses, phone numbers, and tickets or bar codes. You may find yourself without service or internet, and having the essentials safe on your phone can be a godsend.

46. Popular digital nomad destinations aren’t always the best. Medellin is praised as one of the best, but I’ve preferred almost every other city I’ve lived in to it. Do your own research, and don’t lock yourself into one place for too long.

47. Check tourism boards and ticketing websites for every city when you arrive. There’s often plenty of cool festivals, shows, and events that you’ll never hear about otherwise.

 

On Transportation

48. Always, always, always know the visa rules for every country you’re traveling through. We lost a lot of money because we didn’t know that we needed a visa to transfer airports in India on a layover. Don’t make a mistake like that.

49. Pay attention to whether your driver seems drunk. After a tuk-tuk driver almost drove us all off the side of a mountain one night, we’re much more careful about adhering to this rule.

50. Downloading movies and shows from Netflix to your phone is one of the best forms of entertainment. I used to only use music and podcasts, but now movies and shows are my go-to for long trips.

51. A Spotify subscription is worth it. We pay $10/month, and it’s 100% worth the money to have access to downloadable music and podcasts.

52. Being on the plane overnight is better than being in the airport overnight. After spending a night in the Mexico City airport, I’ll do whatever I can to avoid it again. If you have to travel overnight, try to at least be on a flight.

53. Sometimes it’s better to spend a little bit of extra money on transportation. The more I travel the more I realize it’s often worth it to pay a little bit extra for comfort, speed, convenience or all three.

54. Always let someone know if you’re getting off the bus at a quick stop… otherwise, there’s a very real chance that your bathroom break could end with you getting left behind in the middle of nowhere!

 

On Day-to-Day Life on the Road

55. Stay active, and sign up for gym memberships when possible. Unlike the US, most gyms in other countries don’t require craze fees and contracts. I always sign up for a month-long membership when I get to a city, and it helps keep me healthy and sane.

56. An endless vacation may sound like fun but even that comes with problems. Stick to a routine and stay productive. It will keep you from spending too much money, drinking too much, or getting traveler burn-out.

57, Buying groceries and cooking at home is cheaper and healthier than eating out. Going to restaurants regularly can be tempting, but try to cook at home during the weeks and save the meals out for a treat on the weekends.

58. Make an effort to look good. When you work from home and live out of a suitcase, it’s easy to get sloppy. Dressing nice can make you feel like a totally new person… even if it’s just for a trip to the grocery store.

59. A lot of medicines are widely available and significantly cheaper in other countries. You can usually find what you need in a pharmacy and get it over-the-counter without a prescription.

60. Project Fi is a decent worldwide phone plan, and there are ways to use it without having a Google device. I pay around $23/month for texts, $0.20 per minute for calls, and $10/GB of data on my iPhone. I believe it’s only for Americans at this time, but other countries have better phone plans anyways.

61. Sprint’s customer service sucks. We had them for over a year and didn’t have many positive experiences with them… but the Open World Plan for traveling in Latin America is still the best and cheapest option out there.

62. Apple products can be difficult to find at reasonable prices. I paid $90 for a $20 charger when I was in Mexico. Consider bringing an extra if you’re going somewhere that doesn’t typically carry Apple products.

63. Your apartment or hostel door will get stuck. And you’ll be left wondering how you’re going to get in when it’s late at night or freezing outside. Luckily pulling the door toward you as you unlock it will solve the problem and get it open again 98% of the time.

 

On Making Friends

64. Do your best to meet new people. If you’re traveling with a partner, it can be easy to fall into your comfort zone. You have to make an effort to be social. People won’t just come up to you and ask to hang out, but if you initiate a conversation 99% of the time you’ll make a new friend.

65. That being said… there’s a difference between going out of your comfort zone, and being uncomfortable. Some people just suck to hang out with. If you get a bad feeling, don’t be afraid to leave the situation.

66. If someone makes it a point to tell you they’re a “traveler” and not a “tourist,” stay away from them. They’re often d-bags.

67. Volunteering at local nonprofits is a great way to meet people and feel good: You might have to do some digging to find opportunities, but it’s a good way to learn about the community.

68. Not every silence needs to be filled. I’ve noticed a lot of solo travelers tend to overshare because they don’t want the conversation to stall. Let it flow naturally and don’t try to control it, and it may end up on some great unexpected topics (or, just people asking you if you voted for Trump for the millionth time).

 

On Food

69. What’s everyone else ordering? If everyone at the restaurant has fish, don’t get the burger. Also, don’t be afraid to point at someones meal and ask the waiter what it is.

70. Sometimes you just need a little taste of home. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing McDonald’s or Starbucks every now and then, and you shouldn’t let anyone shame you out of it!

71. Don’t complicate things. When you try to change an order or ask too many questions with a language barrier, things will just get more muddled. Accept that you just probably won’t know what’s happening or what’s coming about 50% of the time.

72. Mentally prepare yourself now to pay exorbitant prices for peanut butter. That’s just how life works now. Oh, and you’ll never, ever, ever find grape jelly outside of the US.

73. One meal out is almost always enough. Split it and tell yourself if you’re still hungry, you can order more food after… I promise you’ll never need to.

 

On Common Sense

74. Keep your hands on your pockets in crowded areas, especially when you’re transitioning off a bus in a crowded area with a lot of bags. I got pick pocketed once, and now I’m always super careful.

75. Pat yourself down whenever you’re getting out of a cab before letting them drive off. We’ve left THREE phones in cabs. Now we always pat ourselves down and check that we have everything before letting the car drive away.

76. Always put your pictures/videos in the cloud. It’s easy to download the Google Photos app and directly upload all of your photos at the end of each day. After losing every picture from three weeks in Thailand when I got pick pocketed on the last day, I back everything up.

77. ALWAYS check the meter before the taxi starts driving. Too many drivers will start it with the last fare still running, or won’t turn it on at all and demand a crazy price at the end. If there isn’t a meter in your taxi, check the estimated trip price on Uber before agreeing to one with the driver, and always confirm a final price before you get in. Actually, just avoid taxis when you can, but be extra careful while in them if you can’t.

78. Learn the emergency number for every country you’re in. Hopefully you won’t need it, but it’s important to be aware that it’s not 911 everywhere.

 

Unfortunately, I’ve learned many of these travel lessons the hard way. DON’T be like me, and take these 78 full-time travel tips to heart before you pack your bags and hit the road.

Of course, If you have any tips or tricks that I missed, let me know in the comments!

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

5 Tips to Furnish A Rental Property (from a Full Time Airbnb Dweller)

Hey guys. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you own a rental property and are ready to post it on Airbnb. That means we have a complicated relationship. I love you, I fear you, and sometimes, I even hate you (I’m sorry!)

Why?

I’m a full-time traveler and have lived in Airbnb apartments and short-term rentals for 16 months now. Oh, and I move to a new one every single month.

That means I’ve seen the inside of A LOT of properties recently. Some good, some bad, and some just plain ugly.

Lucky for you, I’ve decided to vent my frustrations in a helpful post on how to furnish a rental property straight from someone who is actually living in them.

I know most people who rent your place are just passing through, but the digital nomad movement is on the rise. Using these ideas will make your rental property more appealing to long-term renters, who always have an eye on the reviews looking for small details like these.

So, without further ado, here are my five biggest tips to furnish a rental property that every guest will love!

 

cute kitchen

 

1. Live In It

It’s so simple, it hurts. I’m honestly surprised more hosts haven’t actually spent time eating, working, and cooking inside their own properties.

Welcome to a week in my life. During it, expect episodes like: getting all prepped to make that new Pinterest recipe, only to realize you don’t have a grater.

Or, a situation in which: you unpack a suitcase full of clothes only to realize there is not a single storage space for them (yes, this has happened to me more than once).

The list goes on and on.

Honestly, this is really the only tip you need to quickly learn exactly how you need to furnish your rental property. However, I know most of you just don’t have the time or energy to do it so I’ll continue with the rest below…

 

2. If You Want a Clean Apartment, You Need to Provide Cleaning Supplies

Fun fact (or is it?): the only host who complained about the apartment being dirty when I left was also the only one suspended by the Airbnb security team because his messages to me were so unhinged.

Well, the reason his apartment wasn’t spotless when I moved out wasn’t because I already paid a cleaning fee, and it wasn’t because I lived in it for a month rather than the usual two or three days (although, I feel these are both valid reasons…) it was because he didn’t provide a single cleaning supply! Not even a broom!

I’m more than happy to take your apartment through a weekly clean on my own because I’m not an animal and don’t want to live in my own filth. But, that requires a couple spray bottles, a mop, and maybe an old rag or two as well. Stock a cabinet with cleaning supplies and if your next tenets are anything like me your apartment will be sparkling when they move out.

 

3. Your Kitchen Needs More Than You Think

I have never once moved into an apartment that has spices in the kitchen. Never. My garlic powder budget has become like $60 a year and counting. A basic spice rack would seriously be a godsend for cooks like me, who often get stuck using salt only for weeks… so boring.

While you’re in the kitchen aisle, you should also buy a corkscrew (even though I’m now a pro at getting wine bottles open with a bobby pin and a spoon, contact me for more details), chip clips, a pitcher, a grater (clearly I’m passionate about shredded cheese), and a large pot with a lid (this is rare for some reason). Also, any sort of coffee maker is required (please don’t make me consume any more instant sludge), and Tupperware and aluminum foil are very appreciated as well.

Finally, take a moment to honestly evaluate your counter space. I’ve been in more than one Airbnb with so much random stuff on the counters that I’m unable to actually cook. Get rid of it, and cook a meal or two in the kitchen to make sure it’s fully stocked and usable.

 

 

4. Consider the Small Stuff

You would be surprised by how many apartments I stay in that don’t have a single lamp. When my choices are overhead lights or nothing at night, it’s hard to relax in the apartment.

Other furnishings that have been seriously lacking in most rental properties I stay in include hangers in the closets, coasters so I don’t destroy your tables, and a full-length mirror. Also, please put a trash can in the bathroom. I’m sad that I even have to ask.

Another great tip is to never furnish a rental property with anything white! This freaks me out!

The one I’m in now has white sheets, white towels, a white tablecloth, and a white throw blanket on the couch. I mean, it looks nice, but there’s literally no way I’ll get out of here without accidentally destroying something, and I would really prefer not to do that.

If you really wanna be a stellar host, include details like converters, charging cords, travel-sized shampoo and conditioner so I can shower before I go out shopping for the basics, and a card with the wifi password prominently displayed. Small things like that make me feel like a human again when I get into the apartment after 30 hours of traveling, and are much appreciated.

 

5. Throw Out Everything Decorative

Decluttering is all the rage right now, and it’s something every Airbnb host should accept deep, deep, into their hearts.

Things I’ve had to move/hide/stash when I moved into new apartments include: vases with dried flowers, framed personal pictures, candles, a very large, very strange decorative tree, musty books, an endless supply of knick-knacks, and once an entire table set for 10 in a one-bedroom apartment… just, why?

I don’t have much stuff, but I still need space to put it. If you truly insist on sharing your decorative taste with your guests, then at the bare minimum make sure they have an empty set of drawers for clothes, and a shelf or clear counter space in the bathroom. That’s all I ask!

 

Use These 5 Tips to Furnish Your Rental Property

When I’m looking for my next Airbnb, reviews are my best friend. Just a few positive words from another digital nomad who spent weeks in your apartment will automatically move to the top of my list.

So, take some time to furnish your rental property with a new eye, and full-time travelers around the world will thank you!

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Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

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