Theth, Albania

The other morning as I dug my tennis shoes out of a bag in the rental car, I wondered how my shoes fit in my suitcase three weeks earlier.  I don’t buy souvenirs, so it wasn’t an issue of decreased space or increased luggage.  It’s just somehow the things that magically fit before had been so shuffled and rearranged that nothing was in place anymore.

This is a perfect analogy for how it feels to go home after 3 weeks of traveling throughout the rather rustic Albania.

I was starting to get used to living in Austin as a home base.  Things were starting to fit into place.

And now my metaphorical shoes are strewn across the floor of a metaphorical rental car…

Maybe it’s a testament to how much I enjoyed Albania.

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How your travel blog design is working against you

As a graphic designer, I feel embarrassed that my blog has had a very mediocre design for the last years.  To be honest, it’s kind of like the interior designer whose house is a clutter of unintentional and mis-matched furniture, or the chef who opts for a mac n cheese dinner over risotto when cooking for themselves.

The truth is, my blog is mostly a recreational endeavor, so it doesn’t get the intentionality a good design requires.

But last week I finally invested an evening redesigning this blog. And in doing so, I unearthed a vice that’s effecting probably every travel blogger out there.

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Music streaming abroad

In my pre-travel-is-free days, my flight routine used to include lots of pensive journaling as I looked out onto a cloud landscape and listened to my favorite iPod playlist.  Those were the days when I actually used to own music…

Over the last five years, the frequency with which I purchase music has gone down to almost zero.  (With the exception of my twin sister’s brand new album of course.) I don’t even pirate music anymore.  I haven’t had a functioning iPod in years.

This is of course because the plethora of music streaming options now available make it so easy to listen to music without owning it.

But music streaming isn’t as impressive once you leave the US.  When we first started traveling nomadically, there was a bit of a learning curve in finding which music services worked and where.

In this post, I’ll try to list the actual number of countries (using a pretty liberal definition of “country” in some cases) for each platform, and order the list from least globally available to most.  By the end, you’ll see which service we used as our ultimate default.

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Is it better to be an expat or a nomad?

Recently I did a tally of all the countries Drew and I have visited together, and which countries we’ve spent the most amount of time in. I think Drew has some ideas on how to analyze this information in interesting ways, but until that happens, the project has unearthed some interesting thoughts of my own, particularly as I compare my experiences as a nomad with Drew to my pre-Drew travels living, studying, and working in Northern Ireland.

I’m looking at this as a sort of comparison between living internationally as a nomad and living internationally as an “expat”, (or rather, like an expat, since my experiences were in the study-abroad context). The real comparison is between living an international but stationary life, and living an international but nomadic life.

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Forgive me, but this post has nothing to do with travel, and is probably too personal for a travel blog, but I have never been one for under-sharing.

Have you ever witnessed someone becoming amazing at something?  Where you can remember the first moments when the spark of something extra-ordinary appeared?

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Nomads no more…

Almost a year ago Drew and I found ourselves in one of those lulls, sitting in the InterContinental Istanbul lobby with our roller bags at our feet. We were stuck between a late checkout and a much later flight with time on our hands.

As we often did, we began brainstorming new business ideas, a red flag for restlessness if I’ve ever heard of one.

In that conversation, we accidentally came up with a business idea that derailed our nomadic life. It has obsessed us ever since and as Drew announced last week, we have to go for it and give it our all. So after more than 3 years of nomadic life, we did the unthinkable and got ourselves a home. (Calm down, we’re just renting.)

We are nomads no more.

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Central/Eastern Europe & Turkey Travel Photos- My serendipitous candid photography hack

WARNING: This post is going to make photography buffs cringe.

As many of you know, I dropped a hard drive about 6 months ago and lost travel photos spanning 15 countries, three continents, and 6 months. I’ve already done enough public, online whining about it, so that’s not what this post is about. 

Instead, this post is about a quirky little hack I stumbled upon in trying to scour through my videos to reclaim some stills from those destinations.

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Packing is not the same as re-packing

I have a pet peeve that I know is totally trivial and shouldn’t annoy me, but it just does. It’s essentially this: for some unexplainable reason, I have always been kind of annoyed by “how to pack” articles that include the  little bit about “rolling instead of folding” and things like that. I know, I know, it’s totally trivial. I warned you.

But today, I finally discovered why these articles annoy me.

As I was glancing over this infographic about packing efficientlty (HT: TravelBloggerBuzz), I realized that these articles are annoying to me because all the little details that are helpful for packing more things into your bag, are actually unhelpful for unpacking and repacking frequently, a necessary part of pretty much all of my travels.  In other words, these tips may be great for someone who needs to pack once, unpack once, and then stay put somewhere for a long period of time before repacking and heading home.

But for someone hotel hopping, it’s just not helpful. At least not in my opinion.

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The myth of the “off the beaten path” destination

While checking out some of the (non miles and points) travel blogs that I follow this morning, I realized how hard it actually is to travel somewhere that is actually off the beaten path.

In surfing through About Me pages and blogrolls I realized how many of the “off the beaten path” destinations are more realistically, “second on the beaten path” destinations. Places that casual vacationers may not squeeze into a two week trip to Europe, but people backpacking for a longer stretch of time likely will.

For example when we traveled to Slovenia, I had just barely heard of Ljubljana, the capital, and had never really heard of Bled. Still, somehow, (through Drew’s research most likely,) we ended up in Bled. It was the dead of winter so there were hardly any tourists and the place had this magic floating about in the form of low-hanging clouds. Everything was shrouded in mist, mysterious and completely novel. I felt like we’d found that hidden gem of a place.

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Destination superlatives

I have always wanted to do a “travel superlatives” post to honor some of the most defining features of the 60-ish destinations we’ve seen so far.  I mean, I don’t know how many times Drew and I have been bored on a bus or walking down some foreign city streets frivolously exchanging our various judgements of the places we’d just seen and how they compare to other places we’ve seen. 

For some reason it has always been one of those running conversations that just pops up at random times.  Perhaps you and your travel companions have had these little “superlatives” conversations too?

So finally I decided to get these little thoughts into a post. I know some of you may disagree with my judgements and opinions, or some of you might be offended when you find your favorite country slotted into an unfavorable slot, but remember, these are just my opinions. If you don’t like them, you can make your own opinions. Nice how things work out like that.

Where it makes sense, I’ll add little stories or notes. Otherwise, I’ll let the lists speak for themselves.

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