Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Check out my travel tips. You won't be disappointed!
Tip #1:Walk 
I’m a big fan of the long and leisurely full-day walk. Some of the best moments I've had traveling are those I've spent wandering in the streets. Walking long distances allows for an entirely different and thoroughly enjoyable kind of sight-seeing. Walking allows you to view things from a more local, street level perspective and it is less hectic, expensive and tourist-and-vendor-ridden than taking a vehicle from landmark to landmark or paying for a tour.  When you only have a few days in a place it doesn’t get much better than that. Forget tours, pull on your walking shoes and hit the pavement!
Note: Bikes and scooters also offer lots of fun exploring opportunities.
Tip #2: Don’t Trust People
Sorry, but we really can’t trust people while travelling. I learned this the hard way.  Not 10 minutes out of our hostel in Bangkok and we were approached by a seemingly kind and friendly man. He noticed that we were trying to find our way to the city's Grand Palace with a map (maps = stupid tourist). He quickly explained to us that it was a Buddhist holiday and the Grand Palace wouldn’t be open to the public until 3:00 that afternoon. He circled and marked a bunch of places on our map to visit in the meantime. He hailed a Tuk Tuk for us and bargained with the driver for a good rate.  We were wary at first but figured we could trust him as he didn’t ask us for money and was seemingly unrelated to this Tuk Tuk driver. Well, needless to say, we were duped. While we did have fun on the very cheap Tuk Tuk tour of the city we were taken to very expensive tailors, jewelers and travel agencies that we didn't necessarily want to visit. As it turns out, these places pay some sort of kickback to the people who funnel tourists to them. If the tourist buys something the Tuk Tuk driver and the kind gentleman who lied about the Buddhist holiday get paid. Granted, there are nice people out there and getting in with the locals is the best way to experience a new place but these people usually want nothing to do with tourists. Be warned: if you do decide to trust someone don't be disappointed when you discover they have ulterior, money-making motives.
Note: You can usually trust other tourists!

Tip #3: Be Ridiculous While Bargaining 
I love to bargain. I bargain just for the hell of it, even if I don’t really want what I’m bargaining for. It's such fun when you purchase an item at the price you want to pay!  My advice, offer no more than a quarter of the seller’s asking price and stay firm. They will drop their price a little. When you refuse the new price they will act like you are crazy and insist the item you want is worth a lot more than what they are offering. When you refuse again they may try to guilt trip you. They will tell you how badly they need the money to live and feed their children. Remember, you are not responsible for their lot in life, you are not crazy and the item you want probably isn’t valuable. Make sure to ask yourself how important the item you are bargaining for is to you. Is it really worth paying more than your offering price to have it? Probably not. If the vendor is really hard nosed try the “walk away” tactic. Just say, “I’m sorry, I can’t. Thank you for your time,” and start to walk away. Many vendors will give in at this point and sell you the item at the price you first suggested. At this point you’ve won the game and get to walk away with a hilariously random hammock. Congratulations!
I don't really want a hat that bad.
*Note: If you badly want or need the item in question be lenient with your price. Sometimes, it really is worth it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Define "Explore"

My enthusiasm for this blog dwindled over the last year for several reasons. Mostly, I was busy with work. I wasn't traveling, which meant I wasn't exploring. Since I wasn't "exploring" I felt I had nothing to write about.

I quit the job that was eating up all my time and took up teaching, a line of work that allows me to travel more and, in turn, blog more. I went to Thailand and blogged about it. I was excited to be traveling and writing again, but soon after traveling to and blogging about Thailand I realized I once again had nothing to write about.

Then I phoned home and spoke with my Dad.


Dad wanted to know what I've been up to these days and if I'm enjoying teaching. I explained to him that I am enjoying but am not sure if teaching is something I want to do forever. He responded, "That's fine! It's important you explore these things now so you can figure out what you like and what you don't like."

"That's it!" I thought.

It suddenly dawned on me that exploring is more than traveling, sight seeing and making an honest (albeit naive) attempt at cultural immersion. Exploring, I grasped, has many meanings. Namely, figuring shit out about and for myself! Making decisions, taking risks and trying new things...

At that moment I realized I have loads to write about.


And so, the Amateur Explorer marches on. From here I plan to write about what I do, think and come to terms with on a day-to-day basis in addition to writing about my sporadic travel adventures. Perhaps this means my blog will serve as more of a personal diary than an informative blog, perhaps not. Whatever the case may be, I hope my blog continues to hold your attention, my dear reader, and inspires you to tune into your own personal explorations.