A dozen tips for independent travelers

During my backpacking trip through Africa, there were so many moments when I though to myself, I’ve gotta remember this for the next time I travel.

Like most independent travelers headed for developing countries (independent = travelers who aren’t with a group and figure out accommodation and other details as they go), I knew to bring a money belt, invest in a pair of durable shoes and abide by simple food rules: boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it. But I learned a few more tricks along the way, ones you can use for your next travel adventure.

My tips for independent travelers:

Mom shows us how easy it is to use a stand-alone net.

1. Love your mozzie net. If you need a mosquito net, buy one that includes poles and sets up like a tent. (I use this Skeeter Defeater from Long Road Travel Supplies.) Hangable nets are useless when there’s nowhere to hang them.

2. Learn to Skype. Skype, a free service that allows you to make calls over the Internet, is the cheapest way to call home.  The drawback: for it to work well, you need a solid Internet connection, which can be hard to find in some developing countries. If you plan to Skype often, you may want to bring your own headset.

3. Be your own office assistant. Create sticky labels with addresses of anyone who deserves to get a postcard. You won’t have to carry an address book, and you’ll know you sent all required postcards when the labels are gone.

4. Buy visas along the way. It takes a little planning, but buying a visa in the country adjacent to where you’re going is usually cheaper than buying it from home and requires less paperwork. Just make sure there’s an embassy for country #2 in country #1, lest you get stuck without one. Also remember to ask about multi-country visas, which also can save you money.

5. Cipro for the sicko. Convince your doctor to prescribe several doses of Cipro, or Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic that treats bacterial infections — pretty much anything that forces you to spend your entire day squatting over the toilet. Since travelers often suffer from stomach bugs in developing countries, it’s smart to have this drug handy. Bring Bacitracin ointment, too, and use it; even small cuts become easily infected when you’re not at home.

6. Make room for music. Ditch something in your pack so you can bring lightweight, portable speakers for your iPod. You’ll use them at hostels, on the beach, everywhere you want to share your music with others.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Tips for blogging from developing countries

I don’t usually repost pieces that I write for other publications, but this one is particularly useful to travel writers:

10 Tips for Blogging from Developing Countries

It’s about how to keep your blog alive and healthy when your Internet connection isn’t. Posted at the Matador Network. Check out additional hints in the comments, too.

Traveler’s delight: video of Timbuktu, Senegal and more

I’m finally getting around to uploading videos from my backpacking trip onto YouTube; I didn’t have a fast-enough Internet connection to do this while I was in Africa.

My favorite: getting caught in a sandstorm in Timbuktu. Turn on your sound!

You can browse the rest of my videos, too: hear a mosque’s call to prayer in Senegal, watch the reaction of kids in a Senegalese village when rain falls for the first time that season, feel the pulse of an outdoor market in Ghana, or ride on the back of a motorcycle toward a Cameroonian village.

None of this stuff is edited; it’s all raw video. In some cases I think that’s the coolest stuff. I’ll be adding more over the next few days.

Does this inspire you to feed your wanderlust?

Alastair Humphreys: Make a living doing what you love

Figuring out how to make a living doing what you love is one of life’s biggest challenges. But Alastair Humphreys has made it happen — and he’s our guest today.

Alastair calls himself an “adventurer” — a title that makes me oh-so-jealous. He has biked around the world, an expedition that took him four years. Completed the Marathon des Sables, a 150-mile race through the Sahara Desert. Canoed the Yukon River. Walked across India. And more.

Alastair Humphreys: adventurer, author & speaker

Alastair, who lives in Britain, has written three books about his experiences. (He self-published, but one book has since been picked up by a traditional publisher.) Yet he makes most of his money through public speaking, giving motivational talks about his adventures and inspiring groups to challenge themselves. The reason I invited him here for a Q&A is because I think many of us could make money by speaking like he does, and I wanted to learn more about how Alastair makes that work for him.

Great to have you here, Alastair! You talk about making a living doing what you love. How have you managed to do that?

The key thing is to do what you love and do something interesting. Worry about the money-making afterward. I have managed to make a living out of traveling by:

a) doing interesting things
b) documenting them well (I hope) through my blog and books
c) working hard at marketing myself
d) doing a good job when people pay me to do something for them.

From this a positive reputation can slowly begin to grow.

What kind of audiences do you speak to? Do you seek out most opportunities or do they come to you?

I speak to a lot of schools and some corporate audiences. The talks come about through a lot of hard work, cold calling and occasional spamming! I seek out the majority of my talks. However, with time, I am now starting to find that some people come directly to me, mostly through the effort I have put into in making my blog good and current.

What do you talk about? How do you keep it fresh every time?

It depends what the client wants. The essence though remains the same: exciting adventure stories and good photographs. The relevant message varies, from geography lessons to religious studies to corporates wanting to learn what difficult really means, setting high goals, etc.

Alastair cycles in Sudan

Are you naturally a good speaker? If not, how did you learn?

I would say that I am naturally articulate. But I am not naturally self-confident enough to stand up and speak to large audiences. I have gotten used to this though. The knowledge that I am the world expert on my subject (“me”) helps give me confidence. And once an audience laughs in the right place you quickly relax.

I spend a lot of time studying other speakers and trying to improve. The TED talks are great for this. I have also started doing some Pecha Kucha talks — they are very unforgiving!

How do you know how much to charge? Did you start out speaking for free?

I started for free, and then crept my fees up over a few years until I reached a level that both the client and I were happy with.

You’re a big fan of print-on-demand. Can you tell us about your writing journey? Do you sell your books when you speak?

I had the usual round of rejections from normal publishers so I self-published my book. I sold it on my site and at talks (a large advantage I have over some POD authors). On the back of a few positive reviews a mainstream publisher came along and asked me to work with them.

The biggest difficulty of becoming an author is not writing, or even publishing your book. It is selling it. Marketing and distribution are so hard.

What tips do you have for authors looking to grow their audience, promote their books or make money by speaking?

Continue reading