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Month: September 2016

Don’t Put Your Life On Hold For Other People

Don’t Put Your Life On Hold For Other People

Ahh life… It’s the one thing that nobody can ever figure out and get’s more and more complex as our society unfolds. This is a bit of a philosophical post, but it effects every single person on this planet and it really is worth discussing. For a while I’ve been thinking about my motivation for writing this article and my number one reason is to help other people. The second reason is so I can come back and reflect when life gets hard and I wonder if everything is going in the right direction towards finding true happiness and fulfillment.  You won’t find me being emotional very often, so enjoy it now 🙂

Remember there are no guarantees in life, only choices, and the choices you make today have the propensity to effect and change your life forever.  Make sure those changes are something that you want, and will lead YOUR life in a positive direction. Please don’t misinterpret my mission here, I’m not advocating selfishness, I’m promoting awareness so you don’t become a victim of somebody else’s selfishness.

 

life love hearts

Relationships

If you’re like me and most of my friends, you have at one point in your life, moved location to be with somebody. How did this work out for you? Are you still together? If you are you are definitely in the minority.  This situation seems so romantic at the time, but rarely does it ever work out.  If you look at the most extreme situations (like K1 Visa marriage, where people have moved countries to be with someone), it rarely ends in ‘happy ever after.’  Even if you are just moving towns it’s such a huge commitment.  You’re essentially leaving your friends, family and support network, your job and everything you know, to delve into the unknown. This puts a huge strain on everyone and creates an unfair power bias, giving the other person almost 100% control.  This leads to high incidences of physical and emotional abuse, and even the nicest person will feel stressed and trapped. If you really do want to do this be smart about it. Secure your own employment and housing, keep your own finances separate and have a plan B in place. Never give your power or security away to somebody else, because at the end of the day, the only person that really cares about you is YOU.

 

Traveling

life travel airportI missed out on a lot of my formidable years being stuck in an unhappy marriage with an abuser who wouldn’t allow me to travel, seek employment or even have friends. I couldn’t believe that I allowed myself to be controlled and bullied in such a way, but as a new immigrant with no money or anywhere to go, I was literally trapped. I can definitely say it was the worst time in my life, but looking back on it now, it makes me appreciate the freedom and success I have now all the more.

Travel is truly one of those things in life that you have to take advantage of when it presents itself.  There is not one traveling experience that I regret doing, ever! And I can’t say that about anything else in life. Travel at every single opportunity and never put it off. If you take any advice from this post, make sure it’s that.  Travel and do what makes you happy, and if your relationship is strong, it will be there when you get back, if not, then it wasn’t mean to be anyway.

 

Marriage and Children

They say that when people get married, its less about who they are with, and more about where they are at in life. This makes me cringe to be honest. I don’t want someone marrying me just because I’m the one he’s dating when he decides what he wants, and it happens All…The…Time… This situation might be fine, if you are also really wanting a family, but remember you reap what you sow in life. If you haven’t taken the time to build a proper foundation for marriage, be prepared to be very unhappy and have it end in divorce. Simple as that.

On the flip side of this, don’t ever allow someone to control your desires, happiness and future on their whims.  This happens to a lot of people and it’s particularly bad for women, as we have limited time to reproduce.  So many of us stay in relationships for years waiting for our partners to be ‘ready’.  That’s fine at 20, but at 30+ it ain’t funny anymore! Listen to the subtle hints people give you in general conversations, because they are trying to send you a message, and believe them!

If you have been in a relationship with someone for a while, don’t assume that the longer you wait for your partner to be ready for marriage and children that it will make them want a family even more, because More often then not, the reverse is true. Don’t ever, ever let anyone dangle the marriage and baby carrot in front of your face.  Give them a time frame you find reasonable, and if things don’t start progressing and materializing, tell them to go stick it and find somebody who you can build a mature loving marriage and family with. Do it before it’s too late.

 

life marriage dad-baby

Moving

We all have a dream location where we would love to live and most of us say “Oh, that’s where I’m retiring one day”  Yea, and 9 times of out 10 that doesn’t happen because we are too busy allowing others to chase their dreams and tagging along, hoping for some change and reciprocity. This leads to an unfulfilling life and resentment for others and it always surprises that people do this their whole life without once asking anything for themselves. I guess these people are very kind and unselfish, but also very stupid. Hey, if it makes you happy sacrificing every fiber of your being for your spouse, have at it. But you only have yourself to blame when you are sitting on your death bed saying “wow, i really wish i did that.”  Never mind about putting it off till retirement, start living NOW.

 

 

Job opportunities

I had a friend from Russia who was so beautiful. She was offered a job in Washington DC to work as a foreign translator for the
state department, and refused to accept it because her boyfriend didn’t want to leave California. Now she’s flipping burgers in a fast food joint. Who knows what she could have been by now..A diplomat? A Foreign Correspondent? An Ambassador?! The point is that she will never know because she put someone else before herself and paid the ultimate price. Don’t be like her. Accept anything that comes your way that’s better than what you have now and will lead to much bigger and better things in the future. Grab hold with both hands and leave behind anyone who is not willing to go forward.

Work on your own career and being the best you absolutely can, and you will be in a much better position to accept a relationship into your life and actually be an equal partner in it. Someone with Security, confidence, self-worth, education and a career is a much more sought after candidate then someone who lacks these qualities. If the relationship then turns sour and somebody doesn’t want to be with you anymore, oh well, you’re set up, you’re just fine, and don’t let the door hit their ass on the way out! Bye Felicia…

 

So that’s it, that’s my musings on the complexities on life and relationships with other people. Remember that human beings are inherently selfish and will continue to treat you however they like, for as long as you allow it.  Don’t be the one giving 80% to somebody who is only giving you 20% in return.  The key to this delicate dance is to find other like-minded people with similar interests and personality traits, that you can then align your life goals with and head towards a similar existence.

If all else fails, go off and do what you want to do and work on making yourself happy. Be the person you would envy if you somebody else, and live a life of #no_Regrets

 

Tips For Hiring A Rental Car

Tips For Hiring A Rental Car

Thinking of hiring a rental car for your next road trip, vacation or work travel? Check out these tips to get the best value for money, and make a wise choice for your personal needs.

rental car

Why hire a rental car?

Unless you have an older reliable car that’s super cheap to run and fix, I highly recommend hiring a rental for your next trip.  According to AAA. the average cost of running a vehicle (including gas, maintenance, insurance, depreciation, registration and tires), is $8,558 a year or 57c a mile, and goes up exponentially with the size and make of your vehicle.  This is just a basic figure and doesn’t account for anything that can and does happen when driving for long periods of time.  Hiring a rental car takes all the stress and worry out of car travel, and for $20-40 a day, it really is worth having piece of mind.

 

 

Search and compare on all rental car and travel sites.

 

First thing is first before you seriously start searching, clear your cookies folder.  This goes for ALL travel related searches.  As soon as these websites know that you have looked at something a few times they’ll jack up the prices.  I learned that the hard way last time I went to Dubai, I just thought it was because it was getting closer to the weekend but nope, they were scamming me through my previous search history.

Look on all rental car and travel websites and keep a note of the prices and what’s available.  Websites you wouldn’t normally look at for car rentals (like Priceline), actually do the price comparisons for you and offer reasonable prices.

 

 

Sign up at rental car websites

OK so this is an obrental car alamovious one but it really is worth while.  I always create a fake junk email account (mail.com is good because they don’t ask for a telephone number or any personal verification information), and I use that to sign up for as many travel service mailing lists as I can.  As long as you are not signing up for a credit card service, getting sent these emails is free and the coupons are worth it. Everything from hotels to car rentals, airport parking and flights can be couponed and discounted and you’d be silly not to take advantage of it.  Scan though the emails once a week and keep the ones that are of interest to you.

 

 

My favorite game

I’m sure I invented this but I probably didn’t, and it’s a sneaky thing to do, but print off 2 rental car coupons that say “Free Vehicle Upgrade”. Go inside and pay for your rental car with one coupon, then when you go outside and pick your vehicle, show the attendant your second coupon and tell them that you are eligible for a free upgrade, then walk over to the luxury grade vehicles.  This doesn’t work every time and it depends who’s working on the lot, but I have seriously gotten some awesome vehicles doing this including a V8 Camaro, a convertible mustang and a Cadillac. Take note of the attendants name and when you pull up to the gate to leave, tell them “such and such” said you could take this one. Haha! It really does work sometimes so give it a try!

 

Time of the year matters!

It really does suck that there is a HUGE price discrepancy between peak and off-peak times.  Iv’e gotten a car for under $100 a week in winter and in between seasonal times, and then had to pay $400 a week during school vacation times….Welcome to the travel industry…

Make note of all high peak and popular times and if you can avoid them or hold off your trip, then you’ll be much better for it.  Not only will attractions and roads be less congested, but you will save a bunch of money.

rental car mustang

Inspect your vehicle

I cannot stress this enough and once again, I learned the hard way. I was running late for a meeting and grabbed the first car in my category and took off. Little did I know that it had a huge dent in the passenger side door and when I went to return the vehicle, they said they had no record of it and I got lumped paying for repairs.  My insurance company was involved and I had to pay a $500 deductible. Now i don’t care how late i am, I go over that paintwork with a fine toothed comb.

 

 

Other useful tips:

-Don’t return late.  You will be charged a full 24 hours not part there of.

-Rent though budget brands.  I always do and never had a problem with good old Thrifty and Dollar. Alamo is awesome too.

-Don’t pay for extra insurance if your policy already covers rental cars.rental car gas pump

– Look at renting further out and organizing a pick up. Airports have surcharges.

– Always pump your own gas and return it full. Don’t trust them to add extra charges

– Don’t rent a GPS. It’s $10 a day extra and It’s always a good idea to bring your own or navigate using your smartphone.

– Pre-pay. This is hassle free and some companies also offer percentage discounts.

– Pay by the week even if you don’t really need all that time.  They often have cheaper rates for longer bookings. Do your research and change dates.

 

Yay! Now you know how to book a car, save money and get the most out of your Rentals. Enjoy your trip! 🙂

 

 

 

The Importance of Supporting Local Business And Why You Should Do it

The Importance of Supporting Local Business And Why You Should Do it

support local business

Supporting local business is something I am very passionate about, and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to voice my opinions on a topic we are all familiar with.  I never realized the importance of ‘Think local, act global’ until I started traveling on a regular basis. They say traveling is an eye opener and it sure was for me. Driving through local communities and seeing abandoned buildings that were once thriving businesses is extremely unnerving. Sure you could argue that it’s just the natural course of competing in a Global Economy, and casualties are going to happen regardless of the current economic or political sphere, but statistics on unemployment and national wage averages suggest something far more sinister. Things aren’t the same as they used to be. The disappearing middle class and thousands of jobs moving overseas means a very bleak future for a children unless we do something to change, and a small step you can do to help today is supporting a local business.

 

Help Somebody live their dream

Imagine owning your own small business.,..Wow! How awesome would that be!support local business dreams

Most of us lack the discipline to ‘Live the American dream’.  It takes extreme dedication and devotion to develop a skill set, come up with a business plan, save for a down payment, apply for a loan, scout a location, purchase equipment, hire the right staff, develop a customer
base and consistently deliver top quality products and services. Those who do make it a reality are far from living the perfect life and it’s definitely not a ‘get rich quick scheme. Getting up at the crack of dawn every single day to clean and prepare, working 90+ hours a week on your feet, and it’s literally years before you can take a small break or a vacation, if at all.  Most consider themselves lucky just to be able to support their families and it is better than working for someone else, but only marginally.

What can we do as members of the community to help? Simply go in to a local small business and buy a meal, or get your hair done, or your car serviced, or purchase an appliance. It really is that simple!

 

Reduce the power of multinationals and monopolies.

We all know the story of the David and Goliath’s. Huge multinational organizations creeping into the community, pushing out local businesses with their vast product range and cheap prices and small business really doesn’t stand a hope in hell of competing.  It’s true that these huge companies did start out as local shops, but these days, they are so far removed from their roots they are not even in the same ballpark.

They import huge amounts of products from overseas developing nations taking manufacturing jobs out of America, they push out local competition closing local businesses in America and in return they offer a few cashier positions and fill our landfills with cheap garbage.  This degrades our society and takes away our sense of local identity. This country was built on American intelligence, ingenuity and invention and the buck should stop here, but instead we give our power and money away to overseas nations which leaves us weak and vulnerable.  This is a bad situation now, and it’s going to be A LOT worse for future generations to come.

 

Prices really are reasonable

There is a common misconception out there that going to a non fast-food restaurant to eat is expensive, but it really doesn’t have to be.  I’m not talking about these ‘organic, vegan, luxury, gourmet specialty places that you need to sell your car just to buy lunch, unless of course it’s for a special treat, I’m talking about local diners, deli’s, bars and restaurants that rely predominately on local traffic to pay the bills.  Most of these places offer lunch and dinner specials and work out to be the same or cheaper than fast food. I normally go and buy a sandwich for $3.00 and a drink and it’s great. You’d be hard pressed to find a fast food meal for under that price.

It’s not just food either, you if look around you will find a myriad of local products and services with extremely competitive pricing. Don’t just take the easy way out because it’s more convenient. Spend the extra few minutes to get better products and services and help out your local neighbors.

 

support local business

Healthier food options

It’s no secret that fast food is just nasty, notoriously bad for you and chock full of preservatives.  It’s also a known fact that people who consume a high amount of preservatives and pass away, don’t have the same rate of normal human decomposition. Gaaa! You are what you eat and if you eat preservatives you become preserved yourself. How weird and gross is that!

Instead of opting for chemical junk, east something made by hand at a local eatery. Your body will thank you, in this life and the next 😉

 

 

Small business, big pride, better quality

Some of the best food I’ve ever eaten have been at these cheap hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon diners littered around the country and that’s no lie.  Think about it like this, you have somebody who is constantly told by family and friends that their food is fantastic and they should open a restaurant AND they do AND now you get to eat it! yummy yumm!

Business ownership brings with it a huge sense of pride and self worth and it truly does shine through in the end product. These are the people who get up at 5am in the morning and prepare everything by hand for the day, they are not pulling frozen junk off the back of a truck, and some even source produce locally so it’s a double win for everyone.

Local business owners also tend to care more about the little guy.  There has been occasions where my car has broken down and a local mechanic has worked with me after hours to get the issue resolved quickly and cheaply. Good luck getting that kind of service at the dealership!

support local business

Try something new

Because small businesses don’t have set menus and don’t have to answer to franchisers or ‘higher-up’s’, they are more willing to experiment, listen to public opinion and deliver.  They offer specials every day so you can try a new meal with little risk, are more open to take substitution requests and genuinely want to please.

They take the time to research the local demographics personally and cater to you specifically. It’s one of the few last strong holds wh
ere creativity can flow undeterred. Caramel Lavender Latte and rose water cake? hmm try it, you may love it! 🙂

 

Meet new people

This is a worthwhile part of supporting local businesses, you get to know and even become friends with business owners.  It’s so reassuring to know that if something breaks down you know someone personally, who will come and help.  As a single person this is extremely valuable to me.  When i first moved to this community i took the time to go around and introduce myself to local businesses i knew i would need assistance from and it’s paid off extremely well.

I also enjoy meeting business owners when I’m on the road.  They are invested in their communities and usually know the history well and offer good suggestions for things to see and do in and around the local area.

 

 

Feel good about helping the community

I’m all for capitalism and free market economy, but I’ve never been a greedy person. I believe that we need to once again give room for the little guys to compete in a fair and open marketplace and our communities AND country will be much better for it. How do we do this? By supporting locally made products and local businesses.

Know that when you support local businesses you can feel good inside. You are helping grow and develop somebody’s dream, and allowing them to support their families and communities.  In turn  they are providing you with a great meal, a well maintained car, personalized services, and a reasonably priced commodity. Whatever your needs are please look at local businesses first, for your community, your nation and the future of our children.

Thank you for reading 🙂

support local business handshake

 

Why I Don’t Write Online Reviews

Why I Don’t Write Online Reviews

Let’s talk about online reviews. We are so very fortune these days to have the internet. It’s such a great resource and virtually everything can be looked up and researched from the privacy of our homes, but in my opinion, some websites take advantage of the public’s generosity for their own financial gain and offer little in return.

This is something I’ve been pondering for a few years and in this post I will discuss the Pros and Cons of writing reviews for products and services, and why this might not be the best use of your valuable time….Yes, there are more Cons Than Pros…

 

PROS –

Tips help people:

OK so I admit that on occasion I have made good use of the ‘tips and tricks’ people have posted on review sites about particular businesses.  Tips such as opening/closing times, addresses and basic information about products and services. It’s a great resource when emotion and personal opinion is taken out of the equation and people just stick to the facts, but unfortunately that’s not typical human nature.

 

Good for overseas travel:online reviews sarah sorge

One thing I do notice when I research my overseas trips is that there is not a lot of information online, even for high tourist areas. So in this instance, the very little reviews about hotels and restaurants is quite valuable.  You will be lucky to find maybe 1-5 user reviews on Trip Adviser, and a couple on booking websites and I actually do read them because there is a lot more at steak traveling to another part of the world with different standards and cultures and not knowing where the hell you will end up. In This instance however, I do prefer to read online blogs.  These people are usually experienced travelers and restaurant goers and have intelligent things to say and unbiased tips to give.

 

 

CONS –

Takes up too much time:

So on one of my typical road trips I stay at 20 hotels, eat at 60 restaurants and visit 40 museums and amusements. So that’s 120 reviews I would have to write after every trip if I was serious about giving fair feedback for everything I’ve seen, done and ate.  That’s a HUGE time investment.  I have a home life like everybody else and that’s just too much to ask of anyone.  There are people on Yelp who actually eat out every day and write reviews every day.  If that’s your idea of recreational fun then have at it, but I can’t help but think that time could be better spend learning, traveling and bettering yourself.

 

Little to no rewards:

There really is little to no rewards for the vast amount of time spent writing reviews.  Sure some booking websites offer discounts after writing 10 or so, but how many actually make use of it?  Look the only people benefiting from writing reviews is the websites themselves. It’s true, human psychology suggests that people are much more likely to buy a product that has a lot of reviews and more positive reviews than negative, regardless of what they say, and that means these sites get to sell more products and drive in more traffic.

 

Doing other peoples work for them:

Yup, you are doing other people’s work for them literally for free and they are sitting there reaping in the rewards and profits. It’s their business and their responsibility to sell products and drive traffic to their sites, not yours,and yet you are being used specifically for this purpose.  It’s free marketing, free advertising and free labor.  Do they give you a percentage of the profits for spending the 30+ minutes to takes to write a detailed review each time? nope. Do they even ask buyers if there has been a particular review that has influenced their purchasing decisions, and then offer you a reward or compensation for that? nope.. Sorry sucker, you’ve been had, and thanks for playing along!

 

Review sites are biased:

Not only are they getting your labor for free they are taking your intellectual property and using it at whim however they see fit.  It’s true, they edit your posts, especially the negative aspects and then rank your review based on what marketing strategy they have figured out works best for them.  For example they will put the more positive/favorable reviews up the top and taper down to the negative ones, and review sites like Yelp will actually hide your review in a section they call “Not Recommended”. Wow really? who are they to say that your review is not as informative or important as somebody else’s?

Take my review of them now for example, there is no way in hell they would allow me to publish any of this on their websites. Why? Because they are on a good ride and don’t want people knowing the truth.  Our job is to shut up and keep writing those reviews!

 

online reviews beach resort

 

Review sites have far too much power:

Uhuh, a group of dudes have registered a web domain to create a review based site and a couple of years down the line they now have to power to hold every single restaurant, hotel, local business and major conglomerate in the palm of their hands.  These review sites literally hold the public’s purchasing power at ransom and toy with it at will.

Not only are they unfairly biased towards businesses, but they pick out favorite writers with their “Top Reviewer” and “Elite Status” programs that basically say, “Thanks for conforming and doing what we want of you all this time and we are now going to tell the world that you are truly one of Santa’s little friends”…..

They also send out their favorite businesses marketing materials that say “Find us on this website” and “like/review us on …”.  This serves 2 purposes. It let’s people know that this restaurant is one who complies with what the review sites like, AND it gets people to link back to the website to write more reviews and generate more profits, hits and power! sneaky sneaky but I’m onto you…..

 

Businesses offer bribes:

This is the main reason I stopped writing reviews. Sites like Yelp say that businesses can’t pay to have reviews put on or taken off BUT, companies do contact reviewers privately and offer bribes and incentives in exchange for positive reviews. This happened to me a couple of times on the odd occasion when I did write a less than glowing review. The company would contact me and say “Hey we are so sorry you didn’t enjoy your time with us, here’s a $25-50 gift card for you to come back and then wrote another review.”  Now if I was that type of asshole, I could probably get at least 2-3 free dinners every week. I’m not even kidding.

So this made me think, just because I refused to take part in this, doesn’t mean that others haven’t done it and I know for a fact that they have! so what’s the point then, if all these review sites are a hodgepodge of real reviews, negative ones, biased ones and paid ones?  How can you tell whats real and genuine and what’s not? oh that’s right you can’t….Back away, not today, sexy lady!

 

 

Open yourself up to attack:

If you write a review that someone doesn’t like, or their experiences varied greatly to yours, then be prepared for a barrage of hateful assault. Guaranteed you have experienced this to some degree if you are active in the review community, and who knows who these people are. They could be randoms, friends and relatives of the business owner, or even someone working behind the scenes. It’s extremely unnerving, embarrassing and makes you sit there and think “Why even bother writing reviews in the first place?” Yea…. just don’t….

 

Anyone can write a review:

Let’s discuss the actual quality of the reviews themselves.  Anyone can write them. Anyone can create an account (or multiple accounts), and crap away to their hearts content.  Far too much credit is given to some person who may have not even patronized a business at online reviews keyboardall. There are some people who look for trendy new restaurants or services with high traffic and create fictitious reviews simply to get noticed. This is just one example of many ridiculous unjusts that go on in the world of online reviewing.

 

 

Some people are negative about everything:

There are some people out there that really, really, really, need to get laid.  It’s takes a “special” kind of person to sit there for hours behind a computer screen spitting out hateful negative rants one after another, but believe me friends, they exist. This ties into the fact that anyone can just say anything they want online with little to no consequences.

Fortunately these people are pretty easy to spot. Just click on their user name and you will notice all their other reviews and also extremely negative. Just write these off and whatever you do, don’t give them any attention. No feeding of the trolls allowed!

Here is a general rule of thumb.  If you want to take reviews into consideration, look at the 3 and 4 star ones.  These people are usually mentally stable and are trying to offer a fair and reasonable review, while still making a point to list any potential downfalls.

 

People are spiteful:

Along with negative sad sacks the world is also full of spiteful, childish, vindictive people who will make it their life’s work to destroy anyone for the slightest infraction, and review sites are the perfect breeding ground for this type of unjust behavior.  This is why reviews, particularly negative ones should be taken with a grain of salt and don’t let them stop you from doing what you want to do.  If you are unsure then go and see it for yourself. The worst thing that can happen is you don’t like your food.  We eat over 1000 meals a year. One is not going to make any difference and you don’t ever have to go back. Sure, money is important and we don’t like to waste it, but a few dollars is not worth ruining someones life over.

 

You can ruin someones business:

This is the sad part of online reviewing. people don’t actually realize how powerful their words are and can have a huge hand in destroying peoples lives and businesses.  The online world is like high-school and can foster an environment of groups, cliques and bullying.  Some review sites allow you to add friends and form groups and this in turn can cause people to act with impunity and mob mentality.  Word travels extremely fast and it doesn’t take too many negative comments before it starts having a huge negative impact on someones business.

online reviews restaurant

People rate low for 1 bad experience:

This is the one thing that shits me the most about online reviewing. You get a person that goes the a business over 40 times, and then one day they don’t receive the typical service they are used to receiving and then they go online and write a scathing 1 star review.  Absolutely ridiculous and stupid! Sure, feel free to mention the one off bad experience in the overall review, but take ALL your visits into account and review it as an average, not a one off. We are all humans. We all have bad days and we are not machines. If you are receiving one bad experience, talk to them first and try to resolve the issue in house before making it known for the whole world to see.

Now is a good time to go and re-read all of your reviews and if you have something was said in spite, anger or extreme negativity, then seriously consider changing it and taking the higher road.

 

Unrealistic expectations:

Ahh yes, don’t you just love the people who pay $40 for a hotel room and expect a night at the Grand Hyatt. Haha it always makes me laugh and it’s such a #first_world_problem.

In all seriousness though, yes, you do have the right to a clean room, clean bed, a functioning bathroom and the right to feel safe, but please be reasonable and practice some common sense. If you expect more than the bare basics then pay more. I’ts as simple as that.

 

cultural differences:

As an immigrant myself, I absolutely agree that if you are going to live in America, you need to conform and adjust to the American lifestyle and customs, but in all fairness, 5 years in America is not going to erase 40 years of living in some third world shit hole. We all know the saying “hard to teach an old dog new tricks”, and a certain level of cultural understanding and leeway should be given when dealing with someone who is not from this country.  What you might perceive as rude and inappropriate, might be perfectly acceptable to somebody else and if you are going to put yourself in direct contact with ethnic people, then at least be mature enough to have an open mind and practice a bit of cultural discretion.

 

Out for the world to see:

Just because you think your review is the funniest, most awesome prose ever written, doesn’t mean that your employer or potential employer will feel the same way.  You see in order to bolster the claim that review sites are real and genuine, they will try and get as much personal information from you as possible. This includes asking for your full name, telephone number, email address, pictures, online verification, likes, dislikes, everything. Now of course you can put in fake information, but you will be very surprised at how traceable the information you put online really is.  Sites like Amazon and Yelp have an extremely high ranking and often appear first in search results so its not hard to find your information if someone wants to look for it. Remember everything you put out into the world has the propensity to follow you for life.  Be very careful with what you say and the information you put out there.

 

Google now has better statistics:online reviews google

I’m so pleased that google and other search engines are now adding personal details about businesses out for everyone to see.  They have upgraded their databases to include basic information about local business such as address and phone numbers, opening hours, busiest times to go and easily accessible menus.  I’m hoping this saves a lot of people from having to click into review sites and being bombarded with nonsense information and extreme biases.

 

Forced to sign up to read reviews:

Most of them now force you to sign up just to READ the detailed reviews. This is so they can turn around and say to any potential buyer or advertiser “Hey we have X amount of subscribers, so our website is worth so much more than our competition, and you should compensate us handsomely for that.”

So this basically means that helping people is NOT their agenda here.  We are all just there to build up their branding so they can get top dollar for their web product in any potential sales deals.  It’s a smart, cunning business model, and i commend anybody for creating a profitable business out of thin air, but using people in the process is unethical and not the way I do business. I would rather write reviews and articles myself, help people as much as I can and if that turns profitable then great. If not, then i hope people can get some use out of my writing efforts.

 

 

Thank you for reading.  The most important thing to take away from this is that everybody experiences things differently. Everybody has different expectations and just because somebody else doesn’t like something doesn’t mean that you will feel the same way.  Take your life for example.  Not everyone will like your house, not everyone will like your cooking, or the car your drive, or the clothes you wear. See my point?

Go out and experience life for yourself and don’t worry about what anyone else has to say. The most important thing is that you are happy.

I’d love to hear your opinions on writing online reviews.

online reviews global economy

 

*I’m not affiliated with any websites and everything mentioned in this posting is a true and accurate representation of my experiences in the world of online reviewing.*

12 Reasons To Take A Road Trip

12 Reasons To Take A Road Trip

road trip sarah sorge

Hmmm so perhaps this should have been my first post….

The reasons to take a road trip are pretty much the whole premise for this blog AND my life over the last 5 years, but better late than pregnant (never).

Yes why travel? and why take road trips in particular? This is a personal question and everyone will have different answers, but these are my reasons and I hope they inspire you to get out and take a trip for yourself.

 

1. Can Be As Long Or As Short As You Like

It’s no secret that America is way behind Europe and Australia as far as getting per-year work vacation time.  By looking at these statistical averages, you can see that some countries get over 35 days a year and yet we get a mere 13.  This means that people are busy and our vacation time is at a premium.  The good thing about road trips is they can last anywhere from a few hours to a lifetime.  You can plan everything down to the last minute before you leave, including your chosen route, how many hours per day of driving, daily stops to museums, cultural sites and restaurants, and where you will stay for the night.  This is a huge time saver and allows you to enjoy every bit of your vacation.road trip sarah sorge mountain road

2.  Road Trips Are Cheap!

Yup, all it costs is a tank of gas and you have yourself an awesome adventure. You don’t even have to buy food, you can bring your own snacks, sandwiches and drinks. Buy a small cooler, fill with ice and you have everything you need for a day on the road.  There are also tons of free activities to see and do and road trips are 100% customization, they can be as cheap or or as expensive as you want to make it.

 

3.  Step out and see your own town/state/country

This part of life I have always had trouble understanding, and my last trip to rural Texas brought home the fact that some people just don’t travel! One of the old guys doing a tour at a local Air and Space Museum was born 8 miles away from where lives today and has never been anywhere else. It’s unbelievable to me and it’s not just an American problem, I have friends in Australia who are the same and I’m sure it happens in all countries. I originally thought people’s lack of travel experience was purely financial but it’s not, they go out and buy new cars and homes.

So what gives? What’s this all about? Is it just a lack of desire or pure laziness? I assume most people say to themselves “Oh, I’ll do it some day”. Well, in the words of Credence Clear Water revival: “Well, I’m here to tell you now, each and every mother’s son, That you better learn it fast, you better learn it young, Cause someday never comes…”

Get out there and do it, see your city, your state, your country and the world at EVERY given opportunity.  We live in a time of great transportation, do it for yourself, you only have one life and everyone should have a ‘I’m always down for an adventure’ attitude.

road trip sarah sorge globe

 

4. Can be done alone or in groups

I really can’t decide what’s better, traveling alone or with others. I’ve had some great times either way. It’s fun to travel with other people because you get to share the experience and you have someone to talk to and help with navigation etc, but it’s also an enlightening experience going it alone. You get to lean about yourself and do exactly what you want to do, no compromises.

 

5. You are in control of what you want to do

This is one of the great things about road trips, the agenda you set for yourself is yours. You are not on an organized tour with pushy people telling you where to go and what to do.  If you want to drive all day you can, if you want to spend the day walking around a new city exploring you can. It’s completely up to you, and whether or not you choose to plan the day down to the last minute, or wing it and go with the flow, is half the fun!

 

7. Offers time for reflection

I love my reflection time and for some reason, going on a road trip really gets the cobwebs out and the mind ticking in overdrive.  I’ve come up with some of my best inventions while behind the wheel of a car,  Like the tobacco flavored lip gloss for people trying to quit smoking, the ice cream coffee creamer and the dildo with a built in MP3, sound system and voice recorder, so you can hear your love interest whispering to you, or just keep the beat to Wu Tang Clan while you’re getting busy. 🙂 *Patent Pending!

 

road trip sarah sorge ok corral8. Step into history

I’m a HUGE history fan! It’s the one thing that really gets me going in life and a major motivation for my road tripping adventures.  I make it a point to see as many historical sites as I can even if I have to drive hours out of the way. There are some extraordinary things to see and do and you could even be living close to a historic site and don’t even know it. I’ve traveled to the same area three or more times and still not seen everything there is to see.  Make it a point to investigate history no matter where you are, you will not be sorry.  You cannot appreciate the future, or even the present until you step back into the past.

 

9. Try different foods 

Sick and tired of going to the same restaurants over and over again? Go on a road trip and experience more!  Part of exploring somewhere new is also getting a taste for the food. You would be surprised at how many regional food variations there are just in the United States alone and every area seems to have a different take on the American classics.  My personal favorite is going to all the BBQ places places in the south. There is one drawback though, you’ll find your new favorite restaurant and then have to drive 500 miles to get to it again! Haha oh well, an excuse for another road trip!

 

10. Meet new people

Some of the most memorable experiences on the road have been meeting new people. You could be huddled on the side of the road together looking at bears in Yellowstone, or outside a restaurant in the desert discussing the meal you just ate, it’s all super fun!

Make it a point to strike up conversations. You could meet people from a different country and share travel tips, or talk to a local, they always have the best advice on where to eat and what to see. I’ve discovered quite a few hidden gems just by talking to locals.  Despite the wonderful things you see, it’s the people you meet that you will remember the most.

 

11. Learn about your likes and dislikes

On my travels I have found that I don’t like staying at certain hotel chains and I don’t like eating at certain restaurants. I do however have a new appreciation for deserts and I just love taking the back roads and looking at farms and rural communities.  There are so many things I didn’t know about myself until I stepped outside of the box and opened up my mind to new experiences.  Experiences that only travel can bring about.

 

road trip sarah sorge el-paso

 

12. Makes you appreciate what you have in life

This usually happens when I get lost and end up on the wrong side of the tracks.  For those of us who live in con-tempo casual USA, it’s quite a culture shock to witness the poverty that exists just outside the gates of the middle-class realm, but believe me friends, it’s there.  Not only does it make you think about the class structures within society, it sure makes you appreciate what you do have even more.  Many of the things we take for granted in life are pure luxuries to others.  For this reason alone, travel is one of the best mind-opening experiences you can have and well worth the time and effort.

 

So these are 12 good reasons to step out and take a road trip as soon as possible. Even if you have to go somewhere for work and only have half a day free, make a point of getting on public transport and touring around, or just visit a museum for a few hours. You will never regret taking that time out for your own mental development and life enjoyment.

What else motivates you to travel? 🙂

road trip sarah sorge cigar indian

 

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION – PART 6 – Saving Money On Bills!

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION – PART 6 – Saving Money On Bills!

Bills!! Welcome to the last and final installment of the ‘How to afford a vacation’ series, and here are more providers that expect a chunk out of our paycheck every month and how to save on them.

 

ELECTRICITY –afford your electricity bill

Here is an industry that sees many changes happening now and in the near future with solar and wind energy becoming more popular. Some argue that it means steeper electricity costs for those of us who still rely on the grid, because somebody has to pay for the maintenance and upkeep on the lines and power stations, but I don’t know.  Here in Southern California we get a green energy rebate twice a year which virtually makes my bill only $8-10. Ha! I wish it was like that all the time! For those months that we have to pay through the nose, here are some budget friendly tips.

In Extreme Temperatures:

Try and suck it up. I know it’s so hard. I hate being uncomfortable too, but resist the urge to take the easy way out. Using climate control is like eating at a restaurant. At the time you’re all for it and want everything on the menu, then when its over you regret having to pay the bill.

In winter wear as many clothes as you can, this is the cheapest option by far. If you have a fireplace shop around and purchaseafford your electricity bill a cord of wood.  It might cost a couple hundred bucks upfront but is much cheaper than electric options. I normally do this for the really cold days and for the rest of the time I make do with an electric blanket and I sit upstairs in bed working and watching TV. It’s certainly a lot cheaper to warm one room compared to the whole house.

Last winter I was up in my wood cabin 6,700 feet up and a tree fell on the power lines. I was without all electricity for 3 days and it was extremely tough. I had to cook food on an open fire like a cave woman and I kept myself blissfully warm and unaware by being drunk most of the time trying to warm my stomach with brandy. You don’t realize how much you appreciate modern conveniences until your neighbors tree takes them away. It did teach me that I can survive and so can you.

 

In Summer wear minimal clothes and keep your house well ventilated. Purchase a water spray bottle from the dollar shop and keep spraying your body with water when needed. It really cools you off and it’s essentially free.  You can also fill it with rose water, Aloe Vera juice or cucumbers to make it therapeutic.  Air conditioning is super expensive and only use it if really needed. Try keeping it on for only a few minuafford your electricity billtes at a time to take the heat out of the air and switch it off.

As an Australian I think I’m a pretty good authority on extreme heat. I remember days when the roads were so hot they would take the skin off your feet and it was hotter in the swimming pool than it was outside.  We would also turn everything into a Popsicle. fruit and drinks were kept in the freezer and eaten frozen (grapes and juice boxes were my favorite). My grandmother would also load us in the car and take us down to the shopping mall….Why pay for electricity when you can use somebody else’s.  Keep spraying yourself and if it’s impossible to sleep at night strip off and keep a fan on low circulating the air.

Other power usage tips:

Do a walk though before bed every night. Make sure everything is turned off and unplug things you are not using regularly.  Remember everything that’s plugged in is receiving a small current. This goes for computers, kitchen appliances and personal care products.  When going away on vacation unplug everything. If its for an extended period of time switch your power off at the mains.

Start using energy efficient light bulbs. We don’t really think about it but we use lights for hours and hours every night and it can add up. Also clean/replace your air filters and if you are not a complete transient like me, think of upgrading your fridge and washer/dryer to a newer more energy efficient model. It will pay for itself in savings before too long and it also pays to only use dishwashers/washers and dryers when you have full loads to do.

 

WATER –

 

when I first came to the states I was completely shocked at how much water was being used. everything from households to landscaping. I remember seeing lush green grass over here for the first time in many many years. I took off my shoes and reveled in feeling it between my toes for hours. While it’s all fun and nice to look at it’s incredibly wasteful of one of our precious resources, one that we all need to survive. I’m using to living in the depths droughts and after a while it becomes second nature to turn taps off and only use exactly what you need.

I also don’t like wasting money on bottled drinking water, what a scam that is! I brought a Brita filter jug
and use a recycled bottle to drink out of. It tastes better and cleaner than most commercial brands anyway.afford your water bill

 

Landscaping: If I owned a house I would definitely get fake grass. It costs a bit to purchase but saves so much money and time. no watering, no mowing, no hassle, its awesome!

Also plant dafford your water billrought resistant plants and succulents. I know they might look boring but some of them flower and offer great design characteristics. Experiment and have fun, you could also grow medicinal plants like aloe or edibles like prickly pares.  If you can turn your landscaping into something you can eat or utilize, all the better!

 

 

 

Toilets: Not many people in this country make use of low-flow toilets. They really are helpful and make complete sense! Not every trip to the throne requires a full flush. If you don’t want to or can’t invest in a new toilet, then fill up and cap off a half gallon bottle of water and put it in the cistern. This will trick your toilet into using much less and then thinking it’s full.

showers: I’ll tell you a secret. I really don’t like bathing or being clean and only shower 2-3 times per week and less in the winter. It might be my English blood, but I’m like a puppy that stands there with my head down whimpering and crying the whole time. I just have soo many things to wash and clean and shave, it’s so tiring. I pretty much have it down to a science now, get in, get it done and get out. Time yourself if you must but really, there is no reason to be in there for more than a couple minutes.  You can also keep a bucket in the shower with you and use it to water your plants.

 

BANKING AND FINANCE –afford your credit card bills

Examine your statements: This is the time to really sit down and look at all of your monthly expenditures.  My neighbors recently looked over their finances and discovered they are still paying hundreds per month in online services and subscriptions they haven’t used in years.  Granted these people aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but you’d be surprised at how many things can slip through the cracks when you aren’t paying attention to them, and these companies are certainly going to keep taking as long as you let them, especially the ones who use automatic billing in their fine print upon signing up.  This is basically a license to steal money from those who don’t keep an eye on the bottom line and banks are also guilty of taking hidden fees and services out of your accounts.

The good thing about online banking is the transparency aspect.  You have instant access to view all of your transactions for the month anytime you want and make full use of it.  Check it every few days to make sure no one is drawing on it that shouldn’t, and if you do see unusual behavior then contest it immediately.

Credit:  Yup we love using credit and it’s so easy to forget that this money DOES have to be paid back. Please don’t feel bad if you have been caught up in credit card debit at one time or another in life.  It’s happened to me and it’s happened to many good people and some of the situations behind it, like being laid off or having an unforeseen health problem or emergency, are understandable.  Of course other people are just irresponsible, but no matter what, try and avoid getting caught up in it at all costs. My mother always said “If you cant afford it, chances are you don’t need it”, And she’s right. Most things in life we can live without.  If you are in debt call around and try and get a consolidation.  It might not save a huge amount of money, but only having to pay back one bill helps and stops the urge to ‘Take from Peter to pay Paul’. Credit card interest charges are HUGE and Pay it off as soon as you can and stop using it until you are well in the clear again.  If you can’t learn how to use credit responsibly then simply don’t have it.

Have a good look at what cards you do have, what are costing the most money and what ones your really don’t need.  It’s flattering to get offered a new credit card, but if you don’t need it don’t accept it. Look at what services you need in your life and what you don’t. For example, if you travel a lot, look for a credit card that not only offers good rates, but also frequent flyer miles and hotel discounts.  You may as well be getting some perks out of it.

 

afford your credit card bills

Debit: I have a friend who is a compulsive gambler.  She wont come directly out and admit it, but after years of being yelled at by friends and family, and finally realizing she could have paid off her house, brought a new car and gone on several vacations by now, she’s starting to finally see the error in her ways.  She now takes action to curb her spending habits whilst still enjoying her vices.  One of these ways is leaving her debit and credit cards at home.  This is an excellent tip. If you are going out and you know you will be in a place of temptation, or consuming alcohol, take a set amount of cash with you and leave everything else at home.  That way you are not using more than you’ve allowed yourself and not putting on financial strains that you will later later regret.  Just make sure you have enough money to get home.

 

I hope you have enjoyed the 6 part ‘How to afford a vacation’ series and can get plenty of ideas and practice use out of it. Remember you and only you are responsible for your finances and if you don’t keep on top of your money, nobody else will. Make being responsible and conservative a part of your daily life and be sure to teach your children the value of a dollar and how to save for their future. It’s a very unstable world and who knows what will happen in times to come. Making small steps to hold on to what you do have now is rewarding in itself, and will help towards having a happier, more comfortable and more stable home life.  Save now, enjoy your vacations, and here’s to a great future.

cheers and thanks for reading! 🙂

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION -PART 5- Saving Money On Transportation

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION -PART 5- Saving Money On Transportation

Saving money on transportation

Hmmm transport. We all need it, and it all costs us money one way or another. Some of the best days of my life were back in 2003. I was attending Sydney University and I lived in a cheap flat 2 minutes off the subway line and 10 minutes from downtown. While the apartment would not be my choice of living standards these days,  not having to need a vehicle was a very freeing and cost effective way to live. I would buy a weekly student pass for the Sydney transportation system and walk everywhere. I was super fit and had access to the whole city for a few cents per day. It was only ever a problem for grocery shopping, so I would have to go to the shops a couple of times a week.

As much as I love America, the public transport system is not one of it’s greatest achievements. Unless you live in the north east, chances are you need a vehicle to get around. These days like most of you I am weighed under by the huge expense and responsibility of car ownership. Ha I know it’s funny, writing a road trip blog and secretly hating my vehicle but it’s true, I long for the days to be free of this burden again.

 

save money on transportation

Repairs –
One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was buying a fancy European car. Just driving into the dealership, I know right away I’m going to be out of pocket at least $800 for any minor problem and I have to have savings in reserve specifically for this. Boy I wish I had known this rule a couple years ago but my number one advice to anyone is buy American made, or at least a good quality car that’s very popular with cheap parts and super cheap to fix. Here are 8 examples to look at. You will thank me when you only have to pay $200 instead instead of $1200 in parts and labor. Here are some more tips when faced with a broken down vehicle.

– Ask friends and colleagues who have a similar car, who they go to and who they trust to fix their car for a fair and reasonable price. Word of mouth is   so important and mechanics take pride in their referral rates.  If you’re not happy, chances are they will cop flack from your friend as well.
– stay away from the dealership unless u are under warranty or there is a specific problem needed to be fixed by them specifically.
– Go and get a second or third opinion if something doesn’t seem right.
– Just like my hair salon tip, go to a not so trendy area. You might find a gem of a mechanic out in the burbs, as he doesn’t want to pay high rent costs       in the city.
– If you need to replace a specific part, ask your mechanic how much it would be to buy the part yourself (new or second hand), and then just pay for the labor to install it.

 

Insurance –
Another necessary evil. I pay my insurance fees twice yearly and it’s by far the most dreaded bill. I absolute dread it because it’s so expensive and It feels like it’s just money down the drain. Of course it’s handy when we need it, but when we don’t it feels like a total waste. There are a few ways to ensure that we only pay the bare minimum, and cover our butts enough to show Mr policeman we are good responsible members of society.

– Consider only paying for liability. The general rule of thumb is: if you car is worth $4000 or under, then it’s perfectly asave money on transportation and insurancecceptable (and significantly cheaper) to only do 3rd party coverage.  This will virtually cut your bill in half, but remember, if you have an accident and it’s your fault, your vehicle is not covered. Who knows though, this might encourage you to be a better driver 😉
– If you do have a newer vehicle and opt for fully comprehensive coverage, consider raising your deductible. Sure it’s nice to only be out a few dollars in the event of an accident, but again, the odds of you specifically causing an accident are very low if you are diligent and responsible. think about increasing your deductible to $500 or $750 to save on your yearly insurance costs.
– If you are a good driver, call up your insurance agency and remind them that you have been accident free for over 3 years, you are the only driver, you don’t drive much and whatever other reduction you can get. It’s important to keep on top of this and have an individual policy tailored just for you.
– Shop around. This can be a real pain as most companies want to know the ins and outs of a ducks ass just to give you a quote. They will ask for your name, address, email, phone, vehicle age and brand at the least. If you want to get quotes  anonymously set up a new email, give your neighbors address, don’t use your real name but give the right vehicle information. Haha. Also, if you find a better deal but like your insurance broker, call your agent and tell them about the quotes you have and ask if they will match it in order to keep your business.

 

Lease Vs Loan Vs Own – 

Lease –

I remember when I first came to this country. I was so excited to be part of American consumerist culture I raced out and got a lease on a brand new Subaru WRX.  It was an awesome car and I thoroughly enjoyed it, only problem was the lease cost $360 a month plus a sizable signing payment. I diligently kept up the payments and after three years I had to hand it back and had absolutely nothing to show for it.  All that money spend for nothing.  I had the option to purchase the car for $15,000, but i was so upset with the whole process i walked away. It was a fun time, but I would never do it again, and I would never recommend others doing it, unless of course your employer is making the payments.

If you do decide to lease a vehicle, here are some other things to bear in mind.

  • There is a mileage limit. If you drive a lot this is not a viable option
  • Any minor scratches or wear-and tear-charges can be added at the end of the lease period.
  • If for any reason you can no longer continue with the lease, it can be very expensive to get out of.

 

Loan –

Loans are typically more expensive than leases and it just adds another humongous bill to your life. Its not uncommon to pay over $500 a month for a commodity that is depreciating by the day. You can use the same saving money tactics as you would with a mortgage. Pay it off as quick as you can, refinance, make extra payments etc. I don’t recommend loans but I understand it’s some people’s only option. At least it’s ‘yours’ at the end of the day and you are free to sell it whenever you want. Just be smart and sensible about it.

 

buy –

This is by far the best, smartest and cheapest option out there. A Mechanical Engineer friend of mine recommends buying the newest car you can afford as this cuts down the likelihood of potential mechanical problems. Buy a good quality second-hand vehicle for cash and you’re done!  These days car dealers are ready and willing to negotiate and you can pick up a really good deal.  If at all you are not happy with the quality or treatment you receive from a dealer then just walk away. Plenty more options out there and it’s important to have a good relationship with these people for any problems that may arise.

I paid cash for my car, and despite the mistakes I made with the make and model, I’m super happy I don’t have an extra bill to pay every month!

 

 

Remember at the end of you day, you and only you have to be happy with your choices.  Don’t buy a car to impress other people, that just attracts superficials you don’t want in your life anyway, and don’t fall for fancy marketing and sales techniques.  These people are employed to sell vehicles, and they don’t particularly care who you are as long as they make a sale.  You are the one who is responsible for purchasing, insuring and maintaining your car.  It’s a harsh world and bad things happen to good people.  You couldsave money on transportation be the nicest guy or girl ever, but miss a couple of payments due to being laid off, sickness, or any other unforeseen event and all of a sudden you are deemed irresponsible, unreliable and undesirable. This reputation will follow you for YEARS and will be extremely hard to shake off, and who cares? Nobody. These companies really expect you to pull money our of thin air! It’s really scary and reinforces the fact that you need to do your research, plan accordingly and live within or below your means.  The smallest drum beats the loudest.  Some of the most well-known billionaires drive an old car and live in a regular family home. Save your money, work on being an amazing person, and let other people do the boasting for you!

Happy driving!

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