India is a funny place. It can be both indescribably beautiful and hell on earth – often at the same time. It’s polluted, difficult, engaging and breathtaking. About ten years ago I spent six of the best months of my life there. At the end, I was so frustrated I swore I’d never go back. Considering our recent escapades, I guess the universe means to hold me to that promise.
I recently wrote how my girlfriend’s non-European passport has made it difficult for us to stay in the Schengen long-term. As we had to leave again and since we’d already spent two years in South America, we decided to try India this time around. I mean, like I wrote in my portfolio, I travel not just because the world is beautiful, but also to better understand human nature.
And India is different. It’s a world apart. I mean, while the rest of the world has embraced indoor plumbing, the Indians have to resort to publicly shaming people to get them to use them. I know, right?
But to get in you need to get a visa. I bet you can see where this is going.
Continue reading Why I hate India And Why You Should Care
No, they won’t ask you for an onward ticket out of the country every time you cross a border. I spent most of my twenties traveling without an onward ticket and never had a problem. Of course, my twenties were a decade ago and the rules do seem to have changed (or maybe I was just lucky). Now they will ask you for an onward flight on occasion – particularly if you have the ‘wrong’ kind passport. For me, I’ve been asked to prove I’ve got a ticket out far more often since I started traveling with my Central American girlfriend.
And when they do ask you and you don’t have one because you haven’t yet decided where you’ll go next, that can be a real problem. For example, when checking into a flight to Costa Rica they wouldn’t let me get on the plane without an onward ticket. As there was only an hour left before boarding, I had to run around like a maniac trying to get something that would satisfy them. In the end I managed, but not before getting seriously stressed out (and paying a bomb). And that’s not what I enjoy doing just before getting on a plane.
For that reason – and because getting an onward ticket of some kind before I travel is easy as pie – I now always make sure I have something.
Continue reading How to get an onward ticket easily, cheaply (and even for free!)
All pictures by Bianka Ibarrra
The forest through the trees
The regular road was blocked. Every time we had to drive to the hospital where my father was recuperating we had to take a detour over the Feldberg. What a majestic mountain.
There is this valley near Oberursel which has been taken straight from an artist’s mind. Higher up, between the evergreens, the clouds did battle with the view; swirling, obscuring and sometimes revealing. In those moments, when we saw the landscape below, it didn’t feel like we were looking across the landscape. It felt like you were looking across worlds.
And then there are the sunsets from the top.
Isn’t it funny that at the very moments when we most need to stop and appreciate, are the times it’s the most difficult to do so? We only took this one picture. The rest of the time we barreled on through, barely looking up from internal little worlds.
Continue reading 9 Of The Best Photos From Our Travels And Their Stories
Machines beep. Green and yellow lines wiggle up and down on monitors. My father’s glazy gaze meets us from where he’s nestled in a web of tubes filled with bodily fluids that run the same red, green and yellow. When we ask him how he’s feeling he gives a waxen grin. “No more pain. But the colors keep changing.” The painkillers seem to be working, then.
Even though it’s weird to hear my 70-year-old father giggle like a schoolgirl, it’s better than last night. Then he’d told us it hurt so much he wished he could kill himself. That’s not something you want to hear anybody say; let alone your father.
It was good we came. Even if you do feel absolutely powerless as you sit there, your presence does make a difference. I know. He told me so. That’s quite something for my dad, who showed affection in my younger years with a leg pat or a hair tussle and a smile. To have him take your hand and voice his appreciation means something.
Yes, even if he’s high as a kite.
Continue reading Coming Home And How To Survive Reverse Culture Shock
“It’s been incredibly hard to teach them conservation,” The caregiver tells me. “The local people don’t get it. ‘Why should we conserve?’ They ask me. ‘Our ancestors have been living like this for centuries and the jungle always provided.’” And on one level that argument makes sense. The Amazon did provide.
Of course, on another level, the argument doesn’t. Their ancestors didn’t kill half as many animals and so the jungle had the opportungropuity to replenish itself.
That changed. The reason? A mixture of innovation and traditions.
- Technologies like guns and motor boats allow the people of the Amazon to travel farther and kill more effectively.
- Medicine allows more people to survive, even while their ideas about how many children they should have hasn’t changed.
- Tourism and technology offer new ways for people to earn a living. But of course, those people (and the tourists) still need to eat. So hunters – many of who still believe the jungle is infinite – go out more often and kill more animals.
All this is causing an unprecedented strain on the environment. Animals that were common only a little while ago have disappeared. Plenty of guides told us how alligators, sloths, and monkeys used to live on the edge of town only a few years before. The only animals we saw while there were insects and monkeys. And we only saw the latter because we visited a sanctuary (where I met the caregiver who explained all this to me).
Continue reading The Myths Of The Noble Savage And The Inevitable March Of Progress (And How They May Destroy Life As We Know It)
Colombia has become the Digital Nomad Mecca of Latin America. So it was obvious we had to go spend some time there. But, as I’m always skeptical of very popular places (okay, I wanted to stay at the beach), we didn’t go to the actual epicenter. That’s in Medellin for those who haven’t kept their fingers on the Digital Nomad pulse. Instead, we chose to spend two months in Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast.
So what did we think? Here’s the short version:
In comparison to Granada in Nicaragua I’d say the city is worse but the surroundings are better. Don’t get me wrong, the city itself is alright. Still, it’s places like Palomino Beach, Tayrona and Minca, which tip the scales. So why not go stay at one of those awesome places? Convenience. Santa Marta and the nearby Rodadero have fast internet, as well as plenty of supermarkets, cafes, and restaurants. Services are stable, with power outages being few (for a developing country). All that is less true in those awesome places. And since Santa Marta is only at most a few hours away from them, it’s a great place to set up shop.
So there you go. If you were planning to skim the article, that’s about the gist of it. Thank you for tuning in. For those that wanted a more elaborate answer, follow me.
Continue reading Freelance Abroad from Santa Marta, Colombia
We don’t understand ourselves that well. The more time the behavioral sciences spend studying us, the more judgement errors they find. For example, Daniel Gilbert spends a whole book on how bad we are at figuring out what makes us happy.
At the heart of the digital nomad life resides a similar misconception. We have an inborn need to belong and be part of a community. And yet many people seek out this life to be free and unattached. They don’t seem to realize that when a need goes unfulfilled it ends up dominating your mental landscape. (Try locking yourself in a room without seeing anybody for a week if you don’t believe me). And when a need goes unfulfilled it ends up leeching the color and enjoyment out of everything else.
Yes, I did cover this at length in why most digital nomads fail. Don’t worry. I’m not going to get into that side of it again. Instead, today I’d like to discuss the other side of the coin. If we have an evolved need to belong what advantage does our community give us? To paraphrase Mont Python, what has the community ever done for us? And why if it is so meaningful, do so many of us fail to recognize it for being as important as it is?
Continue reading Why It Is So Important To Be Part Of A Community
There is so much going on when you’re living on the road that it can be hard to stay productive. That can be stressful. At the same time, it’s not all bad news. In one regard, the road gives you a huge advantage. It allows you to easily crush your bad habits.
How so? Because many habits are at least in part linked to things and places. For example, seeing the balcony might cue you to smoke. Similarly, when you pass that doughnut place where you know everybody, the call to go in can be irresistible. When you’re on the road, all those external signals fall away. This makes it easier to shed those nasty unconscious subroutines that you’d rather get rid of.
Continue reading How To Easily Crush Your Bad Habits On The Road
Hey, I get it. You want to get in on the digital nomad life. Who doesn’t? Travel the world, see some beautiful places, wake up to the sound of waves and make money all the while. It’s living the dream (and yes, that’s still true even if you disregard the myths or the disconnect). But that can soon turn into a nightmare if you can’t avoid digital nomad scams.
I even get why that happens. People get so excited they lead with their heart instead of their head and end up leaping before they’ve looked. That’s dangerous. There are sharks in these waters.
I talked to Pieter Levels from Nomad List about this. “Getting a digital skill is ruthlessly hard,” he told me, while “building a business takes years.” In our instant gratification society, many don’t want to wait that long. “So they try to find a shortcut.” And that’s where the scammers come in.
In effect, it’s another version of the get rich quick scheme, but this time with swaying palm trees in the background.
Continue reading What You Need To Know To Avoid Digital Nomad Scams
I can’t count how often I’ve heard people say they can’t become digital nomads because they don’t have the money. They seem to think they need a wad of cash before they can hit the open road. The truth is, you don’t actually need that much. I switched over to being a full-time digital nomad with only a few thousand in the bank.
Of course, I’ll immediately admit that it would have been nice to have had a bit more. It’s a useful buffer in case things go wrong and sure makes things less stressful.
The thing is, for most people the money isn’t a goal. It’s an excuse. They say, ‘how can I ever live that way when I don’t have any money saved up?’ And then don’t take any steps to actually save up.
Quite frankly, it’s ridiculous to let yourself be held back from a dream because of money – especially when you need so little! As you’ll be making money on the road, six months or a year of dedicated saving will give you enough seed money for this lifestyle.
Continue reading How to Easily Save Money For Your Vagabond Existence