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Sailing Solo – 8 Reasons Why It’s OK To Be Single And Travel The World

Sailing Solo – 8 Reasons Why It’s OK To Be Single And Travel The World

freedom hit the path sailing solo
I’m Free!

 

 

It’s true, marriage isn’t for everyone. I’ve been there, done that and hated every minute of it. I spent the whole three years chained to a 200-pound man-shackle, miserable, unhappy and longing for adventure and freedom. Looking back now I can’t believe I even stayed for that long. Yes marriage does work for some people and I know many happy couples who stay together for the long haul. Like anything worthwhile in life marriage takes Commitment and work. These things I would rather devote to myself and making my own life better. Sounds selfish? Maybe it is, but human beings ARE inherently selfish, and I refuse to spend my life catering to others and devoting myself to their happiness at the expense of my own.

I am here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being single, there is nothing wrong with traveling and riding solo, and there is nothing wrong with living your life for YOU.

 

 

  • Relationships aren’t for everyone 

    camels sarah sorge sailing solo
    I prefer the company of camels

Gone are the days when people had to get and stay married in order to survive, and no one could be happier about that then I! As an avid history buff I shudder every time I read books on the plight of our forefathers. I’m so grateful that we now live in a world where we can be self sufficient and have the option to be single if we choose to. Some people just aren’t cut out for relationships due to mental or environmental factors and there’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t ever feel guilty for stepping out of the mold and putting yourself first, and learn how to be happy and content when you look at your reflection in the mirror. Spend your time and money on you and put yourself first, because no one else will.

 

 

 

  • Children aren’t for everyone 

Ok I’m just going to come out and say it. The world is over populated and we are killing our planet. That aside, I’ve never been able to comprehend why people give up the best years of their lives to take care of a child that might have none or very little contact with them in the future. I have many friends that work in nursing and you know who looks after the old and infirm? Most of the time it’s not the children, it’s paid cared workers in hospices and retirement homes. Everyday my Facebook page is littered with complaints from my friends with children and they are so grateful just to get a solid night’s sleep! ridiculous. You know what I’m grateful for? That I just booked a ticket to Europe for the summer. Te He He!

 

cute baby hit the path
Gorgeous but not for me

 

  • Happiness really is the most important thing

You know when you were a kid and your mother would say to you ‘I don’t care what you do, I just want you to be happy’. I never understood what she meant until I reached adulthood and became burdened down with ‘life’… The stress and worry that happens to all of us. Now I would give almost anything to go back to my carefree adolescence. The next best thing? Keeping my life as simple and uncomplicated as possible and working on my own personal happiness. what does happiness mean? It’s whatever you derive the most enjoyment from. It’s different for everyone and it’s important to find it and work on it daily.

 

skydive hit the path
I can do this because nobody depends on me if i die!
  • Freedom is the best

Only people who have lost their freedom, truly know and appreciate what it means to have it. To me it’s the ability to live on my own, travel wherever I want, eat and workout whenever I want and not have to compromise or appease others. I am a self confessed commitmentphobe. In relationships I feel stressed and trapped and immediately start looking for a way out. I just don’t like it despite my many efforts to fit into the ‘mold’. People are constantly asking me why I’m single and the answer is always the same. Because I choose to be and because I’m happy this way. Don’t allow anybody to put you down or make you feel bad because you choose to be single. No there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you, so don’t fall for that insult. Yuck.

 

 

  • Do what suits you

I’m 36 and after 20 years of being sexually active and having relationships I think I know by now what works for me and what doesn’t. What I personally like is to be single most of the time, have the freedom and option to date and meet interesting and fun people and throw in a few short-term relationships for that occasional comfort factor. I was raised an only child so I prefer my own company to that of others and what I enjoy most is the excitement of the initial phases of dating and then I get bored and go back to being single. That’s what I like to do and I’ll continue to do it until it doesn’t work for me anymore. Look inside and find out what really works for you and enjoy living your life.

 

  • Keep an open mind

Whatever lifestyle your choose to live it’s so important to keep an open mind and allow yourself to change, develop and feel. You might enjoy being single right now, but you also might meet someone in the future you really have a connection with. If you close your mind off to the possibilities of dating then you might be missing out on the next phase of your life and something that was really meant to be. Also be open to change. That’s one thing that travel does for us, it puts us in situations and opens our horizons to different experiences. Keep the attitude and insight you get while traveling, and use it in your everyday life. After all, life in itself is an adventure, don’t spend it with blinkers on.

 

freedom hit the path
What I’d rather be doing!
  • Rely on yourself and not others to validate you

You don’t need someone around to constantly validate how much of an awesome amazing person you are. You already know it, or should know it, so save yourself the unwanted baggage and drama and start believing in YOU. I like to keep my mental state at a constant calm level. I don’t like the ups and downs that relationships offer and I don’t like the uncomfortable feeling I get during conflict. I think back now to the games and emotional abuse that the power struggles in relationships bring and it makes me shudder. What a complete waste of time and energy that I could have spent bettering myself, not trying to validate myself in others eyes.

 

Keep on trucking!
Keep on trucking!
  • Never give up on your dreams

This happens to almost everyone at some point in their life and it’s so destructive and counter intuitive. When you give up your dreams to placate and satisfy others what you are doing is losing a part of yourself. We spend our lives building our personalities and desires so why do we give everything away on the hopes of having a relationship with someone? It stems from our biological need to be partnered, wanted, accepted and loved. Well you don’t have to be a victim of this trap. Love and chase after yourself and you own dreams. Never give up on something you want and live your life with no regrets. You will be grateful in old age if you have lived a happy and self-fulfilling life.

 

I hope this helps all of you who have ever felt guilty about being single and putting yourself first. Don’t allow others to accuse you of being selfish, when the alternatives are just as egotistical and rapacious. It’s your life, live it how you want and enjoy.

sailing solo sarah sorge
Crazy and Free!
How To Vacation with Your Lover Without Killing Each Other – 10 Tips

How To Vacation with Your Lover Without Killing Each Other – 10 Tips

This vacation planning article is inspired by and dedicated to my wonderful friends Tony Amos and Rita Cristoph who have traveled to over 27 countries together and counting. It’s a blessing to see their pictures and smiling faces, and they encourage me every day to get out and explore the road less traveled.

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Anonymous

Tony Amos and Rita Cristoph - vacation planning
Tony and Rita

 

In my opinion there is nothing more fun then taking a trip with your love. It’s you and them against the world, exploring new frontiers, learning about each other, building a bond and creating new memories. Like anything worthwhile in life is does take hard work and patience, but if you follow these tips and keep an open mind, your can use your vacation time to build a stronger bond with your partner, and improve your overall relationship for the better!

 

  • ORGANIZE FINANCES BEFOREHAND 

Urgh the ugly subject of money. It’s embarrassing to bring up but it has to be done. When vacation planning, discuss who is paying for what and when and stick to it. You might choose to split the costs evenly, pay proportionately to your means/income, or simply divide costs. One person pays for tickets, and the other for hotels for example. Make sure that you are both saving towards the vacation or have money put aside for it and talk about the financial needs often. Money is a subject that causes many arguments, so plan ahead to avoid the stress!

 

 

  • BE IN A SECURE RELATIONSHIP

Most people don’t think about this, but going on vacation can make or break a new relationship. It’s important to know someone well before agreeing to go anywhere with them. You are going to be around this person in close quarters for days on end. This includes sleeping, going to the bathroom, showering and eating. If you haven’t done all of these around your partner yet, a vacation is not the time to introduce them to your toilet habits, or ability to make small children cry with your snoring!

 

vacation planning

  • EXPLORE SOMEWHERE NEW

While it’s fun to bring your partner back to your hometown and introduce them to your 50 aunts, uncles and cousins, save this for the holidays. Pick a vacation destination that you both really want to go to and haven’t been before. Half the fun is exploring somewhere new, being out of your element and enjoying the unfamiliar together, If one partner is familiar with an area and the other is not, it can cause different expectations and an uneven travel experience.

 

 

  • BOOK ADEQUATE ACCOMMODATION

In my romantic youth I used to think that as long as you are with someone you really like, you can sleep on the floor and be happy. Umm NO. Having a little bit of luxury and adequate sleep, is the key to having an enjoyable vacation. Sure, some couples are quite happy to go camping, or slum it in a backpackers, but in my experience, the more comfortable you are and the less stress you have physically and mentally, the better. This is your vacation, enjoy it and have a little bit of what you don’t get everyday at home.

 

vacation planning cruise

  • CONSIDER TAKING A CRUISE

Cruises are a great idea for people looking for some time away together. They offer different lengths and destinations, can be relatively cheap, include food, you have your own room and privacy and offer day stops at exotic destinations. All the stress of finding accommodation and restaurants everyday is taken out and you are free to relax and enjoy each others company. Bare in mind that some cruise companies will take one credit card for use while on the boat so make sure you discuss extra expenses ahead of time.

 

 

  • PACK LIGHTLY AND BE LOW MAINTENANCE

A vacation together with your significant other is no time to be a diva or a divo and pack your entire collection of Mac cosmetics or colognes. Keep essentials to a minimum and resolve to the fact that this person will see you without make-up or a shower, looking wretched, sweating, possibly drunk and enjoying life. This is especially true if you will be carrying your luggage with you a lot and going from place to place. No it’s not cool to ask him to carry your stuff. Pack light, have an appropriate carry bag and handle it yourself.

 

 

  • PLAN TO DO SOME THINGS ALONE

For some reason I always hook up with guys that need or want to take naps. No they aren’t old men, that are men in their prime who believe that a vacation time is sleep time. Now there is nothing wrong with that per se, if that’s what you like, but it’s not for me and it drives me mental. When I’m on vacation I want to experience everything and it’s go go go! I always bring a bathing suit and workout shorts with me and when this happens, I go and amuse myself for a few hours and burn some calories.

 

vacation planning being alone

  • USE THIS TIME TO OBSERVE YOURSELF AND YOUR PARTNER

It’s so true that travel can make or break a relationship, and it’s also true that a lot of couples use a vacation as a marriage test run. Travel puts us in all kinds of situations that not only test our comping skills, but also how we deal with problems and interact with others as a whole. You can tell a lot about a persons character by how they deal with stress or disappointment and we can also learn a lot about ourselves. Maturity and entitlement have a lot to do with how we cope. Use this time to look at your relationship and decide if this person has qualities you really seek in a partner.

 

 

  • LEARN TO HAVE PATIENCE

As any good wife will tell you, picking your battles is key to mutual respect and a happy partnership. As mentioned above, travel is stressful and fear of the unknown and inadequate sleep can cause us all to lash out and overreact. Sure if something your partner does really irritates you then speak out and say something in a constructive manner, but avoid being snappy, blowing up and taking your frustrations out on your partner. Understand that they are people too and are probably also stressed or tired.

 

 

  • HAVE YOUR OWN MONEY AND A PLAN B

I know I say this all the time but it’s so true. Money is security, food and a bed for the night, especially when you are traveling. Take it from me, I know how important this is first hand. I have traveled with others before and felt uncomfortable or been involved in conflict and have had to step out and get my own hotel room and transportation home. I wish it never happens but it does. Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Accidents also happen on the road and it’s wise to have alternative options available. Just plan for everything.

 

So there you are! I hope these tips help you and your partner to plan and enjoy a wonderful vacation filled with fun, romance and adventure. Go create some memories together!

vacation planning lovers - hit the path

The Pros And Cons Of Guided Tours

The Pros And Cons Of Guided Tours

Guided Tours is a topic I often debate with fellow travelers, and it really does depend on who you are, where you are and what you are doing. It’s no secret that my personal preference is to travel alone, meet local people and make use of their hospitality preferably for free. Partly because I’m a cheapskate, and partly because in my opinion, you get a true taste of the local culture by fully immersing yourself in a destination and stepping outside your comfort zone. Nothing says ‘learn to walk’ like being dropped in a strange city and having to find your own forms of sustenance and transportation. The unpredictable is what turns me on, but I understand others prefer a more structured/scheduled approach to travel. Let’s

divine leaders  - hit the path
Na na na na na Leader!

face it, the only way you’d get me on a guided tour is if I was in North Korea on a state mandated tour bus, while I sucked down Kimchi and conveniently avoided taking pictures of ‘the great eternal leader’. But for everyone else, let’s press on….

So without further ado, here are the pros and cons of going on guided tours! Woohooo!

PROS:

 

  • Everything is already planned and ready to go.

For those of you who like to know where you’ll are going, what you’ll be doing, what you’ll be seeing, where you’ll be staying and what you’ll be eating, guided tours are for you. The good news is most tour agencies have full itineraries to view and feature several online reviews from previous travelers with tips to make your vacation experience a good one. Make use of this pre-planned information and make your vacation a customized and memorable one.

 

  • Local guides and translators

The greatest hurdle to cross when traveling is overcoming language barriers. I speak Arabic and English and I still have problems communicating! I hate to admit it because I do preach tolerance and multiculturalism, but it really bothers me when it takes sign language and 30 minutes just to order lunch! Have no fear, tour guides provide you with a translator and potentially a free pass into places you might not have the opportunity to go on your own. Life is so much easier when you’re with a native speaker.

camel tours  - hit the path
yes, you can even tour by camel!
  • Transportation and Airport pickups

Transportation is always something that gives me anxiety when I travel. It might seem easy to get a ride from the airport, but in reality it can be a nightmare. I wish I had all the money back that I have had conned out of me by taxi drivers, and it’s not just them, hotels will charge upwards of $20 for an simple airport pickup, even in the poorest of countries. As mentioned above, public transport is also unreliable and there’s no denying that hiring a tour company takes away all that stress and worry and allows you to focus on enjoying your vacation.

 

  • Good for people with limited time

Let’s face it, most Americans only get 2 weeks off a year and since time is of the essence, booking a guided tour with a strict timeline is a good option. Vacationing alone takes a lot of time to plan and things don’t always go the way we hope. If you don’t want to be inconvenienced by unreliable public transport and have no flexibility on time and dates, let a tour guide company figure it all out for you. You get to see a selection of local attractions and don’t have to waste time finding food and accommodation.

  • Included meals and hotels

Because tour guides are booking for large groups, then often get good discounts on food and accommodation. A lot of them offer 4 star hotels and good quality local dining options. Oftentimes lunch is not included, so that is an extra cost to be aware of and also there is limited options available. You either eat at the same restaurant with the group or pay for your own meal somewhere else.

guided tours  - hit the path
Nom Nom Nommm

 

CONS:

 

  • Not a lot of opportunity to meet locals

As I have mentioned in my other posts, meeting locals people is truly the cornerstone to a wonderful and memorable vacation. I believe that everybody has something to offer and teach, and putting myself in positions to learn from others has allowed me to be an open minded and well educated individual. Being on tour does not allow for a lot of social interaction with people other then the translator and tour coordinator.

 

  • Can’t get a taste of local culture

While it’s good to see the top local attractions in a city, that’s where it begins and ends for tour companies. Attractions are a must for any traveler, but what I enjoy the most about my vacations, is the option to stroll down the streets, talk to new people, eat snacks and even just to sit down at a local park and appreciate where I am for a minute. Take it all in and do it in my own time.

 

guided tours bus  - hit the path
Nicer then my own transpo….
  • Can be rushed and time limited

Having everything taken care of on a trip can reduce stress for some, but for others it can add to it. Going on tour means early mornings, scheduled meals, set allotments of time at different places, and a huge sense of rushed uneasiness that I would call anything but fun. Yes tour guides do a great job at squeezing in everything in the shortest amount of time, but be aware of the schedule ahead of time and if it’s not your thing, opt to go it alone.

  • Stuck in a group

This is something I don’t do well with and it’s no secret that I’m not a huge people person. I spend most of my home time in my mountain cabin alone 7000 feet in the air. The people I have in my life I choose to associate with, and remember on a tour you have no choice of who’s on your vacation. You might get lucky and blend in with an amazing group of people. You might also get stuck with a bunch of louts and loudmouths that could make your holiday a miserable hell. It’s the luck of the draw and you have to personally weight the pros and cons on what you are willing to tolerate and what you won’t.

 

  • Hidden costs and fees

This is double edged sword that a lot of people aren’t aware of when they book a tour. A lot of companies (especially the budget ones), will charge extra for day excursions and added on services that are not included in the original price. Also some tours expect extra money for tipping and alcoholic beverages. Just because you are quoted $1200 for a 10 day tour doesn’t mean that’s all the money you will need. Bring extra cash with you, you don’t want to have to miss out of an additional experience because you were not aware beforehand.

guided tours  - hit the path
Ohh Santorini

Which Option Is Cheaper?

I put this as a separate category because it really does depend on where you go, for how long and what you plan on doing. International tours often include airfares which are cheaper than those you could book for yourself so that’s a plus, but you might also be paying for attractions you really have no interest in seeing, and meals that you just won’t eat. Accommodation is also something to consider, and these days there are many options for discount travelers. Shop around for all vacation ideas and see what’s best for you.

 

Before booking a tour look at the itinerary, read the reviews and ask as many questions as you can in order to make an educated decision on your next vacation. It’s your dime and your time, make it as memorable as possible and above all else, enjoy yourself 🙂

yes, don’t be like Sarah
10 Reasons To Visit The USA, ASAP!!!

10 Reasons To Visit The USA, ASAP!!!

I’ve been chipping away and brainstorming this post on reasons to visit the USA for a while. Not only is it a critical piece of my entire blogs identity, it also speaks to my cultural spirit and reason for living the last 10 years of my life. I don’t have children, I have travel and a connection with the country I now call my home. As a proud citizen and resident, I invite you to come and see America the way I see it, as an amalgamation of cultures with a fierce independence and a determination to always be a place that allows people freedom and a reason to dream.

 

flag - visit the USA

 

  1. Its like SIX countries in one! To say the very least, the USA could be comfortably divided up into six countries all culturally, environmentally and geopolitically different and distinct. You have the South-West, North-West, Mid-West, South-East, North-East, oh and then Texas, which technically could be divided into two because its vastly different from east to west. No other continent can compete with our different landscapes and regional variations.
  2. Everything you could ever want is here. We pride ourselves in having the best of everything no matter what you are into. Now you might argue that we don’t have the best skiing or the best food etc, but when you put everything together, no other country can offer you what we can. Sure other countries have ski slops 2 hours from the beach, but a Disneyland as well? Unheard of! 🙂
  3. National Parks. Americans realized early in the piece, that in order to preserve natural beauty, certain areas who display distinct and beautiful flora and fauna, need to be cordoned off and preserved for the benefit of future generations. No matter if you are into mountains, beaches, deserts, or just wide open plains, the American National Parks system has something for you! National Parks are always a great place to start off your vacation planning. Aim to add a few of them into your holidays and enjoy a real untouched American experience. national parks - visit the USA
  4. Great Highways. There are many engineering marvels that I truly admire about America, and the Interstate Highway system is one of them. Thanks to the forethought of President Eisenhower, we have an elaborate yet coherent system of controlled-access road infrastructure running east and west and everywhere in-between. It’s something that all of us here take for granted, but America wouldn’t be the awesome place it is without it. It’s not until you go overseas and see what other countries have that you actually admire and appreciate it.
  5. Great food. Thanks to post world war II industrialized food production techniques, America has a really bad reputation for producing chemically infused, plastic, boring food, but that’s not the whole story. The real food you find cooking in peoples homes and in diners and restaurants is something to be treasured, and the best part? Every region has it’s own distinct specialties that are truly unique and local to that area. These regional fares are even more varied these days with the influx of multiculturalism. Everything new and old is fused together to make every dining option imaginable. Broaden your mind and include a little bit of everything in your vacation meal planning and you will be better for it.Southern food - visit the USA
  6. Friendly people. I’ve never felt at home anywhere like I have in America. Even in urban places that have a terrible reputation for rudeness and bad manners, I’ve always encountered kind people who are willing to take their time to help me without question. Forget what preconceived notions you have about the American population as a whole and come and experience it for yourself. It’s great to know that when you’re traveling, help is available at every turn, all you have to do is ask.
  7. History and Attractions. Ok… So America might be way behind Europe as far as history is concerned, but what we do have we fought mighty hard to keep, and for that we have a strong and proud tradition we love to share with the rest of the world. My favorite part about traveling America is all the living history museums and reenactments. It’s one thing to go to a museum, it’s quite another to step back into time and amerce yourself in yesteryear. We can’t move forward into to future until we acknowledge and respect the past.
  8. Great for kids. Great news for parents, America is very kid friendly. In fact whole industries are built around providing your children with a great vacation and memorable experience. Of course Theme Parks are the obvious contenders here, but everything from child friendly restaurants, to easy transportation and accommodation, ensure that no matter what vacation option you choose to take, there’s something available for everyone. theme parks -visit the USA
  9. Affordability. What I love about traveling America is that some places still are dirt cheap to visit AND live. While It’s true that some cities on the East and West coasts require you to take a second mortgage out just to visit, the Midwest and South are completely budget friendly and affordable. You can still get a hotel room in this country for $20 and a meal for under $2. No matter what your budget, there’s options for everyone. No excuses for not getting out there and seeing this great land!
  10. Sense of Community. There are not many countries you can visit in the developed world still have such a strong sense of community. Even in this technological age where communication is largely digital, Americans still band together and form strong bonds within their geographical regions. This is most evident during times of crisis when people extend help and generosity to others, but even during the day to day, I always feel a huge sense of acceptance and belonging. Everywhere I have lived and traveled here I have felt welcomed and wanted. This is the reason I chose to become an American, and this is the reason I choose to stay.

 

small town USA

 

So, after much thought and deliberation these are my top 10 reasons to visit America. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you here soon!

Feel free to share your American vacation stories and what you loved most about your visit.

 

Accommodation: Hotels Vs. Airbnb Vs. Couch Surfing – Which one is best?

Accommodation: Hotels Vs. Airbnb Vs. Couch Surfing – Which one is best?

So you have a big trip coming up and are unsure of what’s right for you? With the advent of new accommodation options a whole new world of possibilities has opened up. New destinations with previously limited accommodation options are now more accessible and within anyone’s budget. Lets’ look at the pros and cons of each so you can decide for yourself what is right for you in your next destination.

 

HOTELS

The classic and in my opinion, still the best option out there if you have the money. Nothing beats a nice comfortable hotel room.

 

Accommodation - hotel options and logos

Pros:

  • Privacy – If it’s peace and quiet you are after then hotels are for you. Granted you get the odd experience with noisy people humping in the next room, or being put facing a busy street, but for the most part, hotels offer the best in comfort and convenience.
  • Breakfast/room service – Sometimes food is really hard to find when traveling. If you come in late, don’t feel like hitting the restaurants or are a busy professional, eating at the hotel is a good options (although quality varies from place to place).
  • House Keeping – Unless you live with your mom or have a very accommodating spouse, all of us spend our lives cleaning and doing laundry. It sure is nice to have a freshly made bed and clean towels to come back to.
  • Front Desk/Concierge – We take this for granted when staying at hotels, but it’s really nice when checking in and out, and if any problems arise, to have someone there to address issues right away.
  • Safety – This is my number one concern anywhere I go. I try to live my life as worry free as possible, but having somewhere safe to sleep is a blessing. Many hotels have security, card key systems, safes and dead bolts. They all equate to a safe place for me and my belongings.

 

Cons:

  • Expensive – Of course there are all kinds of hotels/motels in all budgets, but there is no debating that hotels take up the majority the travel budget. The more remote the location the more expensive the options are and it is based on the socio-economic situation in that location.
  • Impersonal and sterile – Most hotels do a good job of decorating their room with the intention of comfort and convenience, but they lack character and personalization. Most are set up to optimize profit and little offer the creature comforts of home.
  • Hard to meet people – I have a saying…”The more expensive the hotel, the harder it is to meet people,” (I know, I’m such a poet!). Let’s face it, if you stay at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, I seriously doubt you will be invited by Sheikh Mohammed to come and hang out for dinner. I’ve met some amazing friendly people staying in hostels and dive hotels, and absolutely no one at the high class establishments… It’s a trade off.
  • Scarce in some places – The more remote the place, the harder it is to find hotels AND the more expensive it is. It’s always a good idea to look at the other two options before making a decision.

 

Tips: 

Unsure of how to book a hotel for the best price and in the best location? Look at: 10 tips for booking the ultimate hotel room

 

 

AIRBNB

AirBnb is a relatively new concept where people list their homes on a website database for people to rent. Options include a full house/apartment, a private room or shared accommodation.

Airbnb - Hit the Path

Pros:

  • Can be cheaper than a hotel –  If you are a single traveler and willing to share a room you can find accommodation in some places for as low as $5 a night. If all you need is a bed for the night it’s a good option.
  • More amenities – The great thing about AirBnb is the possibility of renting out a whole house or apartment. This means a kitchen and a full size bathroom and laundry facilities. If you are after that ‘home away from home’ experience, this is for you!
  • Live like a local – A lot of hotels are in commercial or industrial areas and you don’t get to experience the life of a local. Airbnb offers the opportunity to live the urban or suburban life and everything that comes with it. Local eateries, people watching, it’s all there and offers a far more personal experience.
  • Discounts on longer stays – This is why I love Airbnb. Most hosts offer a considerable discount for weekly and monthly guests and it can be less than half the per-night value. It’s definitely the best option for long term stays.
  • Meet new people – If you are staying in a home with a host

 

Cons:

  • Legalities – A lot of apartment buildings and gated communities don’t allow “subleasing”, but people do it anyway. Hosts will often ask guests to keep their identity a secret, or pretend they are family members in order to sneak them into the building. This is the last thing you want to deal with after paying good money for accommodation.
  • Security – The main problem I have with AirBnb is the security issue. You have no idea who has access to the apartment and who can just come in whenever they please. Also previous guests can make copies of keys and come back whenever they please for whatever reason. This worries me a lot.
  • Ads are Misleading – After looking at booking.com for a hotel I decided to switch over to Airbnb and low and behold the local hostels/hotels are advertising a ‘private room’. Yea, they fail to mention that the private room is situated in a very busy motel/hostel. Nice try and it happens everywhere.
  • Check In Problems – Since there is no 24/7 concierge desk and you are dealing with private people, you really have to coordinate your times well. If you are coming in early or late this can be a problem. Another common problem I find in the tourist areas is that most of the hosts live in the city and have the key to a house 3 hours away! This is very inconvenient is you are booking last minute and this method of reservation requires a little bit of planning and forethought.
  • Hosts can be greedy –  Like any marketplace website where people can name their own price for their goods and services (such as Ebay), people can get greedy and prices get way over-inflated. It’s always a good idea to e-mail hosts first and make them an offer, all they can do is say no.

Tips:

The AirBnb website charges a lot of money. In a typical transaction they charge the guest an additional 6-12% service fee, and then the hosts typically get hit with a processing fee to cover credit card transactions etc. To avoid this you can do a little snooping and contact the host privately on Facebook or LinkedIn. A lot of people will mention names of their house/bed and breakfast in the ad. For example, ‘Mountain luxury retreat’. If you do a quick search for this + the location, you might even find a webpage and can make a direct booking/reservation.

 

COUCHSURFING

A relatively new online platform linking budget travelers with generous hosts around the world. This accommodation is free and can range from a couch to a single bedroom or maybe a whole apartment if you have a busy and generous host. It also offers an opportunity for travelers to meet up with locals for meals and sightseeing. In theory it’s great, in practice, well…decide for yourself…

 

Couchsurfing - Hit the path

 

Pros:

  • It’s Free! Yay! – This is the ultimate in budget travel and popular with younger generations. You might be asked to help out with household chores or offer language help in exchange, but ultimately, it’s free.
  • Free tour guide – A lot of locals on CS are interested in meeting new people, making new friends and showing them the best their city has to offer. This includes tourist attractions and great local food. This information is invaluable when traveling.
  • Invitation to local events – This is something you don’t get in a hotel, an invitation to a local wedding or festival. If you want to really live like a local, this is the way to do it!
  • Home cooking and family life – They say the best local and traditional food is made in people’s homes. A lot of hosts live with their families or nearby, and are usually happy to invite you for a family dinner. This is also a great way to get a firsthand account of familial structure, social interactions and local culture. There is a reason international travel hosts on TV always visit a local host family for a real first-hand account of food and customs.

 

Cons:

  • Safety –  This has been a huge concern since the beginning and rapes and crimes do happen. Misunderstandings, cultural mishaps and assault are a far too common occurrence for my comfort level.
  • Unmet expectations –  There are a lot of people on CS that use it for the explicit purpose of a free hook up. Women get chosen more often over men for the explicit purpose of a possible sexual encounter.
  • People are unreliable –  they cancel last minute and you MUST have a back up host or plan. Unfortunately this is human nature and has been a real problem. Always bring enough money to cover a hotel if need be and if you get a free couch for the night then great, you save a few dollars. but never be left with no other options.
  • popularity –  cities such as Paris and NYC are extremely hard to find a host in. You are competing with many other hopefuls and if you do find a host in an expensive and popular city, consider yourself very lucky!
  • False Advertising – What people offer might not necessarily be what you get when you arrive. (i.e people lying about sleeping arrangements). There have been a few accounts where people have been asked to share a bed with the host, or even taken to a hotel room! sleazy…
  • Privacy and Rules – You are in somebody else’s house and must follow their rules. This includes what times you can come and go from the property, if there is a curfew, and what is expected of you as a guest. Always talk with your host first and come to an pre-arranged agreement.

 

Tips:

See my post on CouchSurfing for a true and accurate account of the pros and cons of free accommodation.

 

 

Here are the three major accommodation options available both domestically and internationally. Some you may have heard of and some you may not, all have good and bad points about them and all offer a different depth of cultural integration and comfort. Pick what’s right for you and your needs, and if something doesn’t feel right at any time, then have a plan B and bounce!

Be safe and happy travels.

 

Couch Surfing – Is it really worth it to be a guest or host?

Couch Surfing – Is it really worth it to be a guest or host?

couch surfing

 

Couch Surfing…It’s the latest craze, and the promise of traveling the world for very little money is appealing to all. Accommodation is a huge expense on any trip and unless you have family or friends to stay with, you will undoubtedly be spending a small fortune on a bed for the night. Couch surfing is an online community linking travelers with people willing to take them into their home for free in exchange for company, language help and the promise of cultural enlightenment with a new friend.

The program is not without problems and here we will examine the pros and cons of being a guest and a host, and you can see for yourself if the Couch Surfing community is really something you would like to be involved in.

Being A Host

Pros:

  • Meeting new people. I think this is the number one reason why anyone would open up their home to a stranger.
  • If you can’t afford to travel or don’t have the time, hosting international guests is the next best way to get a cultural experience.
  • Patriotism. Some people are proud of their heritage and want to show their country off to the world.
  • Being a nice person. Knowing how expensive travel is and trying to pay it forward.

Cons:

  • Having strangers in your home is a HUGE risk.
  • It’s not free for hosts. Guests use electricity, water, do laundry and then you have to figure out the food situation.
  • It’s a huge time expense. Most people expect you to spend time with them and show them around.
  • They are using your house and belongings and damage does occur.
  • There have been a few reported incidences of theft.
  • Some guests have no intention or interacting and have even invited other people back to the hosts home.

 

Being A Guest

Pros:

  • A free place to crash! what could be better?
  • Meeting new people and making new friends.
  • Free tour guide and first hand knowledge of the city and culture.
  • If you are lucky your host might offer free dinner or breakfast.
  • Language help if you are into learning the hosts language.
  • Invitation to local festivals/weddings/family functions etc.

Cons:

  • Safety. This has been a huge concern since the beginning and rapes and assaults do happen.
  • Unmet expectations. There are a lot of people on CS that use it for the explicit purpose of a free hook up.
  • People are unreliable, they cancel last minute and you must have a back up host or plan.
  • popular cities such as Paris and NYC are extremely hard to find a host in.
  • Discrimination, women are chosen over men by hosts of both genders.
  • What people offer might not necessarily be what you get when you arrive. (i.e people lying about sleeping arrangements).
  • You are in somebody else’s house and must follow their rules.
  • You might be asked to help out with household chores or pay for things that were not originally agreed upon.

 

 

 Tips, Observations and Concerns:

 

  • At the time I’m writing this there is no host or guest verification processes. Yes you can get ‘verified’ by the Couch Surfing site, but this is just a way for CS to make $20. In the past week I have opened 5 profiles in 5 major cities and have been inundated with requests to host and come and stay as a guest with no verification and nobody knowing if I was even a real person or not. This is extremely scary and my advice to that is, do as much research as you can about people before agreeing to meet. Reviews can also be fabricated by friends and family, so don’t base your opinions solely on those.
  • You might not be the only one they are hosting at that time. You might be in a house with 3 other couch surfers. I must be getting old, but to me that’s just weird. May as well go stay in a hostel if that’s your thing.
  • I hate to be judgmental, but I really worry about the mental sanity of people who have tons of references and make CS into a permanent lifestyle. What’s their motive for doing all this for free? Are they so lonely that they need to open their house to complete strangers and act like a taxi driver/tour guide? no disrespect, but it just seems like really odd behavior.
  • Unfortunately a lot of men use Couch Surfing as a way to get free sex. They prey upon the vulnerability of women being in a strange country in a strange house and use that for their own sexual gratification. Don’t believe me? check this opportunist out then: How to seduce naughty couch surfing girls.
  • For the aforementioned reasons, if you are a single man with no verification or references, you will have a really hard time finding a host. Men usually prefer women for the possibility of a ‘hook up’, and the women will choose other women for security and safety reasons. I’m not sure what the gay/lesbian scene is like on CS, but I’m sure it’s the same across the board.
  • Crime is real my friends. There have been countless reports of rape, stabbing, assault, theft etc resulting from CouchSurfing. People are under the misguided assumption that because CS is a legit website, and these people who join have agreed to abide by the terms of service, that it’s safe and it’s just not. If fact it’s the perfect breeding ground for problems. Strangers + vulnerability + unmet expectations + the possibility of alcohol = absolute disaster. Now I’m not saying everyone is like this. There have been countless wonderful examples of human kindness and generosity, but your safety should be your number one concern.
  • Don’t expect reciprocity. Just because you host someone doesn’t mean you will be hosted back someday. A lot of these travelers live in remote areas of the world, live with family and/or simply are not interested in hosting for whatever reason. If you agree to host, take it for what it is, and don’t expect a new best friend, a place to stay or even to stay in touch. Some do and some don’t.
  • Be wary of scams! Six times now I have been asked to buy expensive electronics (laptops, GoPros, PS4’s etc.), and told I would receive payment as soon as I arrive. Really? Ummm NO.
  • Expectations. Nothing is free in this world right? and this goes for CouchSurfing. You will often be expected to help out with household chores, provide food/drinks, give language help or whatever it may be. Now this might be perfectly fine for some people, but if you really can’t be bothered, your better off paying the $50 and staying in a hotel.
  • Along with worrying about the motive of some of the hosts, I seriously wonder about the motive of some of the guests. I’ve received requests from people offering to buy me dinner and drinks in exchange for crashing on my couch. Now I’m no math expert, but if they can afford to buy me a $50 dinner they can afford a hotel.
  • On a positive note, If you use CS as a place for just hanging out and meeting locals it’s fantastic! Chances are these people have experience with foreign guests and cultures, know where all the good tourists spots are and the best places to eat. That kind of knowledge is invaluable and it’s free! Make use of it and meet up with locals wherever you go.
  • Host availability is solely dependent on location. You might have a real hard time finding a place in Paris or New York City, and no trouble at all in countries that have been a little bit cut off from the tourist track as of late, such as Iran, Egypt and Turkey. Most of these people are longing for tourists and interaction from foreigners.
  • Before traveling, look at the Couch Surfing community at the place you are going. CS is totally accepted in America and Europe, but some countries, especially in the middle East and Asia, operate on a whole different dynamic. Some Arabic cultures don’t allow outside guests in their homes and having an unmarried/unrelated male or female in your house is totally forbidden. To some people, a person who travels alone and is unmarried is seen as loose or slutty. Also remember that some cultures haven’t caught up with the women’s liberation movement and by accepting an invitation to stay. you just might be getting more than you bargained for!
  • Before agreeing to stay with someone, you really need to sit down with them and come up with a plan. Some hosts will expect you to be with them 24/7, and others will hand you the keys and walk away. You really need to be on the same page as far as what’s expected or it can cause a lot of animosity and unmet expectations. Communication is king. Let people know of your plans and find someone who is on the same page.
  • Some people are just unreliable and don’t care about anyone else’s situation. They will cancel the day you arrive, leave you standed at the airport or train station, come up with a million excuses for their behavior and there is nothing you can do about it. You are not paying for a room and there is no contract or obligation to carry out the intended agreement. If you are like me and expect to have an itinerary and a place to stay when you arrive, have a plan B. Urgh! Being stuck in a foreign country with nobody you know and nowhere to stay makes me want to cringe!

 

So this has been my experience with couch Surfing so far. A good option for some, a not so good option for others. I would love to hear your experiences and if I have left any points out, please feel free to add them below. 🙂

How To Survive Saudi Arabian Airlines

How To Survive Saudi Arabian Airlines

saudi arabian airlines

Hi all!

This is a guest post from my friend Kat Collins who is currently working as an engineer in Kuwait and has flown Saudi Airlines a few times to come and see her family back in Los Angeles. There wasn’t much information online about Saudia so I thought this would be a good place to
start for those considering those cheap air tickets they always offer. Is it worth it or not? well, see for yourself….

You fell for the affordable ticket price and the promise of a short layover at King Abdulaziz Airport…Oh boy! Well, let’s see what you are in for and if flying Saudi is a good option for you!

 

Saudi Airports

king abdulaziz airport - Saudi AirlinesSaudia has 3 main Airports. Their largest hub is King Adulaziz in Jeddah, and then there’s King Khalid in Riyadh and King Fahd in Dammam. I have only been to King Adulaziz in Jeddah so i’ll give you a rundown of the layout and what it’s like. First of all this is the most bare bones basic airport I’ve ever been in. There is very little amenities and very little space and consists of a duty free shop that’s mostly perfumes, a Baskin Robbins and 3 small cafes serving sodas, sandwiches and coffee. There is no tobacco or alcohol sales and no smoking rooms! The layout is open with only 3-4 terminals. When you arrive the men will be shuffled in one line and women will be taken through a private room and patted down by female attendants.

There is a prayer room, but people use it to sleep in at night. The toilets are very inadequate and there’s only one facility for hundreds of passengers. It might not be a problem at some times of the day but at others its a nightmare with people waiting a long time and floors covered in paper, water and urine. I have heard rumors that there is going to be a big airport renovation project starting soon and I really hope that it’s completed and contains more amenities to cater for the increasing number of Saudia passengers.

Also, there is no gangway/tunnel walk though onto the planes. You are picked up downstairs by a bus and ferried to the plane where you have to walk up stairs to board. It’s old school and dated. I felt like a 1960’s housewife on vacation for the first time.

 

Safety

Before writing this article I looked extensively at Saudia’s accident track record in comparison to other popular airlines and it’s actually quite good. The accidents reported in the last 20 years have been very minor and have resulted in very few casualties. There was one huge accident over India in 1996, but it really wasn’t Saudi’s fault and they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everything else since then has been small technical difficulties that happen to all airlines at one time or another. They are at the bottom of the list for the JACDEC Airlines safety ranking, but in all fairness, so are some of the well known American Airlines so….Take that for what it is. I never felt unsafe or in danger at any time.

I’m not an expert on aviation but in my opinion the pilots are quite good. On several occasions the landings were so smooth I didn’t even realize we had landed yet, and that’s always a positive indication of a skilled well-trained pilot.

 

 

The Fleet

Nice enough but most are a little dated. They use the Boeing 777 fleet for their long hauls and an Airbus 330/A320 for their short hauls around the middle east. 777’s have only 2 engines compared to 4 engines on the 747’s. The seating is 3 x 3 x 3 with first and business class up front but on the same level. Also, don’t bother trying to get a pre-allocated seat, every time I get moved to another seat anyway.

Another feature that might be an eye opener to western travelers is the prayer area at the back of the plane. That’s right, a whole area allocated for prayer time. Out of respect for other religions don’t walk through there, especially with shoes on. They also play a special travel prayer wishing everyone a safe flight and make an announcement when going over the top of Mecca.Boeing 777

Plane bathrooms were always clean and maintained on long hauls. Paper, Soap and even cologne was provided for free. Short hauls are packed with people and I never bother going to the toilet then, I know it’s going to be crowded and smelly.
king abdulaziz airport - Saudi Airlines  saudi arabia

 

The In-Flight Services

I was actually quite surprised by the vast collection of movies, music, games and entertainment on the 777’s. The movie selection contained everything from American classics to Chinese kung fu and Bollywood, to a huge selection of Arabic movies, Quran readings and modern and classical music. They also offer games like space invaders and solitaire, and in-flight WIFI for a price, but I don’t know if it is working.

They hand out a care package filled with an eye mask, ear plugs (u will need these), socks and a toothbrush/toothpaste. This is a really nice touch considering most airlines only offer this to their business class passengers. You will also get the customary wet towels and head phone set.

 

The Food And Drink

This is going to be a bummer to some people but there is absolutely no alcohol...AT ALL! If you are like me and usually use airline alcohol as a free sleeping aid forget it and bring sleeping pills instead.

As for the food, it was quite decent but nowhere near as good as the Asian airlines. If you like chicken and rice, then you’re in luck! I had that at least 4 times in one form or another. This is served with a salad, bread and some kind of cake or dessert. It’s all halal and perfectly edible. Nothing caused me any intestinal issues.

Breakfast is usually a cheese plate,  omelette, waffles or Ful Medames, and here’s something us westerners haven’t seen since 9/11…Real metal cutlery! On long flights a drink and snack table is set up in the very back of the plane and I was quite surprised at how regular and professional the meals service was. I was never hungry and you even get fed dinner on a short 2-hour flight. That doesn’t happen in America anymore…

 

saudi arabian airlines - food service

 

The Cabin Crew

I’ve saved the worst for last and unfortunately this issue takes away all the positives for me, and it stops me from ever booking another flight with Saudi Airlines again. The flight attendants are horrid, lazy, selfish wench’s that make everyone’s flight an absolute mystery. I wish this was an exaggeration and these issues only happened to me, but after reading many online reviews, it’s unfortunately a very common complaint and it’s seriously something Saudia needs to take action against if it wishes to complete with the top airlines in the middle east.

So this is what happens on the long haul flights. The flight attendants get knowledge ahead of time how many seats have been purchased, and then they come in and take over WHOLE ROWS! I’m not kidding. On every long haul flight they take most of  rows in the middle of the plane while the paying customers are squashed in like sardines all around the edges. It’s unbelievable and I’ve never seen anything like it on any airline.  Not only is this inappropriate and unprofessional, the cabin crew turn away paying passengers when they ask if they can lay down on the center rows and sleep. So we are all made to sleep sitting up in a single seat, while they recline in the lap of luxury on a whole row.

The ironic thing was these flight attendants weren’t even on duty, they were just getting a free trip to Los Angeles and Dubai on my dollar, that’s what upsets me the most. We’re just paying for an expensive shuttle service for Saudi Airline employees, and NOBODY cares about passenger comfort or satisfaction. This is why I’ve never bothered to complain directly, several other people have over the years and nothing has been done.

 

Final Words

So there you have it, the good, the bad and the really ugly. I’ve tried my best to provide you with a fair, unbiased and reasonable review, and it’s up to you if you decide to take the risk, or pay the extra few hundred and go with a more professional and customer service focused carrier. If you want my personal advice, Saudia is ok for short trips under 4 hours, but for long hauls, save yourself the abuse and book with someone else.

thanks for reading!

Kat Collins. xx

Saudi Air Flight Attendant
This selfish flight attendant turned away 2 paying customers who wanted to lie down and sleep, and then proceeded to sleep herself for 12 HOURS. I didn’t even know that was humanly possible!
Saudi Air Flight Attendant
Selfish Lazy flight attendants

10 Tips On How To Make The Most Out Of Any Trip

10 Tips On How To Make The Most Out Of Any Trip

beach hit the path 10 tips

Part of being a content, joyful, well adjusted and mentally sound human being is to try and find the happiness in whatever you are doing.  Some people are naturally gifted in this, and others (like me), have to make a conscious effort to stomp the negative thoughts and enjoy being present in the moment. It’s easier said then done, but since we only get one life, it’s important to make the most of every given opportunity. Remember next time you are complaining about having to go somewhere, some people never get the opportunity to travel at all!

Being an adult means having to do things we don’t normally want to do, and this goes double for travel! Having to go somewhere due to a work commitment or family obligation can be a real pain. Not only does it require a lot of effort and expelled energy, it also takes us away from the things we need to do at home and our normal obligations and daily routine which can cause stress to a lot of people.

Never fear! If you have the right attitude and know how almost anything can be fun and worthwhile. Now some of these options are time permitting and location specific, but follow as many of these 10 tips as you can to make the most boring obligation into a fun vacation you will remember for a lifetime!

 

Come with an open mind and positive attitude

This is so true. As we get older we get set in our ways and inhibit ourselves from enjoying activities that 10 years ago we would have jumped at. Don’t be this person…. Keep your mind open and young and ready to embrace every change and challenge that comes your way. Your mental attitude will 100% effect how you will interact with others and how you experience events. Make a conscious effort to live in the moment and make the best of any situation. remember it’s not going to last forever, so do your best to suck it up and focus on things that you will enjoy.

 

Post on social media

social mediaYup, there is one positive to social media after all. No matter how much you dread an upcoming trip, post about your experience on social media. No matter where you go or what you will be doing, guaranteed one of your friends (or maybe even a complete stranger), will be completely jealous! It doesn’t matter if your going to your aunt’s funeral in Baltimore, or being deployed to Afghanistan for 6 months, someone will be jealous.

It’s amazing how much a “wow that is so cool! i wanna see it one day” message from someone, will make you totally rethink your current situation, and allow you to appreciate where you are in life. Remember there are people in the world who would LOVE to have your bad days!

 

Do a tour of the city/area

When you fly into a destination and go about your business, you really don’t get to fully comprehend where you are in the world. Every time I fly somewhere to do a road trip, or arrive in a city, I always spend the first few hours driving around the whole vicinity. I usually start in downtown and circle outwards until reaching farm land. It’s so awesome to see the gradual change from urban to rural, and it really makes you get to know the city and the layout and appreciate it for what it is. Make note of the different styles of architecture and town planning, religious and social buildings and houses. Seeing the differences of how other people and cultures live, is truly something wonderful and educational. If you don’t have a car jump on public transport, or if it’s affordable, ask a taxi to take you around.

 

exotic food

Try the food

The second thing I always do is try the food. Not only am I usually starving at this point, but food is such a great way to experience a location.  I make
a real effort to source out a local specialty and give it a try. Even if you are only travelling a few towns over you will notice a slight regional variation of your favorite foods. Not only is it fun, but it also gives you ideas to mix up your usual routine diet at home. Diners and BBQ joints are usually a great place to start.

 

Talk to people

Like it or not, the world is full of people and part of being in the herd is interacting with others. When you are out and about strike up conversations with locals and other tourists. They usually have information on what to see and do and where to go. You will find that no matter what country you visit, 99% of people are nice, honest, hard working and very friendly. If I have asked for help or tried to talk to someone I am met with respect and kindness everywhere, even when there is a language and cultural barrier. Always have an open mind when interacting with others and give them the same courtesy as they give you. P.S the world is very small and you may even bump into someone you know or have mutual friends.

 

Do the top 5 tourist attractions

Before you go somewhere look on tripadviser  or google and see what the top 5 most popular attractions in that area are. You’ll be surprised at how many things there are to do even in small rural areas. Many times I’ve pulled into a one horse town and realized it was a major hub or gateway in years gone by. It’s so wonderful to know ahead what’s available and go and experience it. It might be something as simple as a local museum, but it’s something you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience, and all education is worth while.

Take photos 

When you tour the area and go to restaurants and local attractions take lots of photos. Post them on social media, show your friends and family, get people involved and make the most of it. If you go somewhere with a positive mindset and enjoy your time, looking back at the photos will keep that good feeling alive. I don’t just take pictures for my friends and blog readers, I take them for myself, so when I’m old I can look back and reminisce on the fun that I had in my younger days.

 

Buy something

perfume bottlesI’ve never been one to fall into the whole souvenir trap, but everywhere I go I like to get a small memento. This is purely for remembrance purposes and it means absolutely nothing to anybody but me. Personally I’m driven by my sense of smell and the ability scent has to trigger my memory, so if I go somewhere exotic or out of the ordinary I always by a local perfume and the smell instantly takes me back. For extra good feelings try to link your souvenir to your hobby. If your a quilter or knitter, buy a local fabric or yarn. If you like geology, collect an unusual rock or specimen, gardening, buy some seeds for local flower and vegetable varietals….you get the idea.

 

Book a nice hotel

It’s amazing how a little bit of personal luxury can turn a mundane, boring or unpleasant trip into an enjoyable vacation. Every time I go somewhere I’m not looking forward to, I book a nice hotel and it’s amazing the difference a big comfy bed, a nice shower and yummy breakfast can have on my morale. This is a particularly great option when visiting family. It gives you personal space, something to look forward to and a conflict resolution method….retreat! Also, If you are traveling on business, use points to change or upgrade your room/hotel and enjoy the luxury you work so hard for.

5 star hotel

Go on a date

Obviously this is not an option for everyone, but there is no greater morale booster then a potential new love interest. If you are free and single, use apps like Tinder and get an early jump on local prospects. Let’s face it, we all like romance and it’s one of the greatest motivators in life. Even if nothing becomes of it, meeting new people is always fun, and if you have a good attitude towards dating and don’t have any agendas or expectations, you will have a good time regardless.

If you are married or partnered, organize a dinner with an old college chum, work colleague or childhood friend. It’s always good to network and keep the lines of communication open with others, you might actually need them one day.

 

Wow that was a long post. It was super fun to write and I hope you can get some use out of the 10 tips to travel happiness. Here’s to a good life and good experiences!

sarah sorge hit the path

 

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

 

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