Refuting Excuses

by Hank Wilson - on Oct 17th 2017 - No Comments

Written by Frankie Hogan

Author of Livin’: From the Amsterdam Red Light to the African Bush

www.livintravelbook.com

 

What’s stopping you? You sit at your desk at work or on the couch at home and close your eyes. You see yourself on a desert island or in a Jeep cruising the African savanna. A change. A dream. An adventure. But you haven’t done it, because . . .? Crickets. Just thinking of that place plants a joker’s smile on your face. Yet you hesitate. You let flashes of home and responsibility chip away at that grin until you’re back to looking like the Mona Lisa, wondering what’s for dinner. The fictitious excuses fly around your mind and give the road an unrealistic feeling.

The world has changed. Connectivity has shrunk the planet and brought the unreachable within arm’s length. The list of legitimate reasons not to go is getting as short as a Russian gymnast. In Livin’, I discuss recognizing and overcoming the flawed reasoning that hindered my own travel. I wrote the book to light a fire in others to do the same, but concentrated more on the world that’s out there. To help people get by their own inflated justifications, but didn’t focus on the excuses themselves. So what’s the old saying? “The first step is admitting you have a problem.” Let’s beat shit down the legs of some of these excuses.

DISTANCE

What is this, 1917? The world doesn’t move at Zeppelin speed anymore. You can walk out your door and get almost anywhere in the top six continents within one or two days. I spent sixteen and a half hours on a direct flight from New York City to Johannesburg, South Africa. North America to South Africa in less time than it takes to watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies. Think about how long that trip would have taken a hundred years ago. “It’s too far” lost most of its steam as an excuse when budget international air travel hit the scene.  This reason for not traveling is antiquated.

MONEY

This is the keystone of doubting Thomas’s house. Let’s go into this with the understanding that everyone’s situation is different. I’m not going to tell you everyone could afford every trip. I am going to give you some tips to weaken the money argument enough to make most trips attainable for paycheck-to-paycheck and middle-class folks.

The first tip for budgeting a trip is basic math: You can earn more income. Solve me more complex equations, professor. In the world today, if you have a car you can start working your own schedule with Uber or Lyft tomorrow for extra scratch. You can get paid for surveys or reviewing products online without even getting dressed. Fifty bucks here and one hundred there goes a long way toward a dream trip. When I first got to LA, I did some writing, acting, and audience one-day gigs on top of my nine-to-five, solely to save for trips.

The other half of the solution is to cut expenses. If you’re a night owl like myself, trimming three nights out per week down to one for a couple months saves hundreds. And you don’t miss much. The bar and your people will still be there when you return from India with a wild story and a smile. If you eat out or order delivery a number of times a month, cut that number in half. A steak dinner or pizza doesn’t stay with you as long as a week in Amsterdam will. Have a gym membership you barely use? Run in the park. Use that yoga mat at home. If you’re a sports junkie, going to one home game instead of three can fly you to Europe or Asia. That’s a trade I’ll make every time.

The other tip that beats at the money excuse like a coked-out superhero is using travel websites and budget travel. Travel package pricing has fallen through the floor, especially if you’re flexible with time and location. If you do your research and be patient, you’ll find deals that knock your socks off the side of your ass. I flew to Spain from New York for about $250 roundtrip. That’s less than a roundtrip ticket to LAX. My trip to China from LAX in Livin’ cost under $900 for over a week. Air, tours, and everything else was included. These deals are jaw-droppers, and they’re constantly out there. One of my favorite websites for domestic and international travel deals is Travelzoo.com. That’s a good place to get started. It all adds up. Put a few of these things together and you can see a wonder of the world or experience a culture you never have before.

TIME AND FAMILY

Who has the time? Working forty or fifty hours per week with two weeks of vacation is the norm. And some of that two weeks goes to a cousin’s wedding or a kid’s camping trip. Again, the time is there. You repeat to yourself that you don’t have the time as you plan your yearly family vacation to Palm Springs, Las Vegas, or the Jersey shore. You still choose the normal, forgettable vacation that zaps all of your vacation days over the international adventure because it’s more convenient and comfortable. When someone states, “you spend all your vacation days at Seaside Heights,” you defensively respond, “yeah, but the money.” You know this argument is shit. As we discussed, you can find trips to Europe or Asia for the same amount that you spend on your normal drive to insert-mundane-beach-town-here.  If you can wrap two vacation days around Labor Day weekend, you have more than enough time to fly to Peru and see Machu Picchu. An extra day at Thanksgiving can give you ample time to see the northern lights in Iceland. It’s there.

Traveling with kids is also growing more popular. I was in Cancun at a hotel on the strip on a deal I found. This is Cancun, a party staple. The hotel included a nightclub on site and two bars, but during the day, kids were running around like a Willy Wonka day shift. There were pool activities and bouncy houses blown up on the beach. And it’s not just Cancun. Three pre-teens joined my group tour in South Africa. Two teens were in Vietnam with us. Think of the stories these kids can tell when they get back to class. The point is, many groups and locations have found their family-friendly side.

AGE / HEALTH / COMPANY

Most people over thirty can give one or two examples of things they can no longer do that they did ten years ago. As you get older, that list bloats. But it’s not about what you can’t do. It’s about what you still can do. You know yourself. If you look seriously at your health, don’t start with declines or negatives. Smile at what you still can do. If your only excuse begins and ends with a number, you are shooting blanks. The average age of the people in the group tours I have been on is in the fifties or higher. I traveled to India with a woman who was seventy-four, and India was the seventy-fourth country she had been to. That makes me think, “What’s my excuse?”

One of the last big hang-ups of travel is company. I love the solo traveler experience, which I get into in the book, but if you’re someone who needs a group of family or friends to reach the location you’ve dreamed about for decades, I’ll leave you with this little line from Livin’: “I learned from experience that if you wait for friends to be ready to travel, you’ll never get there.”

 

Now is the Time to Do Something Extraordinary!

by Hank Wilson - on Oct 6th 2017 - No Comments

by Tam Warner Minton, author of All Fish Faces

Getting over the surf was a new in tofo was a new experience with

 

Several years ago, I watched a documentary that prompted me to reinvent my life. The documentary was about two marine biologists living in Tofo, Mozambique, studying Manta Rays and Whale Sharks. I was captivated by the Mantas…I had never seen one while diving or snorkeling before, only through binoculars on the surface of the water. Having already had some experience with Whale Sharks, I was also extremely interested in their ecology. The scientists, Dr. Andrea Marshall (aka Queen of Mantas) and Dr. Simon Pierce, were studying these species, which at that time were so abundant in Mozambique waters. (Sadly, the populations are now significantly impacted by unsustainable fishing practices). Their organization was Marine Megafauna Foundation (www.marinemegafauna.org) and the documentary was BBC’s Queen of Mantas.

I wanted to do something constructive, I wanted to contribute to helping the ocean and its animals. I began searching for dive trips where I could do some volunteer work, even to just do fish counts and surveys. All Out Africa (alloutafrica.com) had a program working with Whale Shark Identifications and fish population counting in Tofo, Mozambique, helping with the whale shark program I had seen on the documentary! I thought, why can’t I do that? It was for adults, not a high school or college program or a gap year, but volunteering for adults. My family had a few reasons they did not want me traipsing off to Africa by myself, and I suppose there were some good reasons among them, but I made the decision to go. I booked my trip.

It appears crazy, absolutely nuts, to pick up and head off to Africa for six weeks by yourself, to live in an unpopulated area where there are no doctors, and the closest thing to a town, Inhambane, was at least an hour away over roads with potholes the size of Volkswagons. There was no Decompression chamber in case of getting decompression sickness, known as “the bends”. The closest one was in Johannesburg. Not a hop skip and a jump away. The message? Don’t get sick.

So off I went a midlife woman with a passion for diving and animals, off on my very own adventure. It was the best gift I ever gave myself. I was tested physically (I’ve had two back surgeries and have a few other physical issues), emotionally, and mentally. There were times, especially at the beginning, when I thought there was no way I would be able to do it. The experience empowered me and made me understand my abilities and my strength in an entirely different light. The trip was challenging, the environment both exhilarating and disturbing, and certainly the living standard was not what I was used to. I have been fortunate to lead a privileged lifestyle, but after my journey through southeastern Africa, I came to realize that one should have no complaints as long as there is fresh water to drink, food to eat, and a roof to keep out the weather. To say it was eye opening and life changing is an understatement.

My wonderful housemates in Mozambique during a game of spoons

Diving in rough water was a new experience because the currents and surges off of Mozambique are strong. The water is cold. I was used to the warm, clear waters of the Caribbean. It took me a few dives to get comfortable, and my first two dives were pretty awful. But, I adapted. I learned, and I kept at it no matter how inadequate I thought I was. I stayed in a house of volunteers, sharing a bathroom with the house and a bedroom with a roommate, and ended up with some great friendships. I was the oldest one there, most of the volunteers being Europeans in their twenties, but we came together in our love of the ocean and its life. I have seen these friends since the trip, we keep in touch, and we have enjoyed diving together in other locales.

The volunteers were amazing people

Since that time, Summer 2012, I have been on several citizen science expeditions (trips spent assisting scientists in research) and volunteer trips. I have traveled all over the world meeting new people and making new friendships while contributing to our knowledge of the ocean and its animals. I have been to Thailand, Ecuador, the Yucatan, Bali, Komodo National Park, Raja Ampat, the Great Barrier Reef, St Lucia, and Mexico. Most of my adventures have taken place with Andrea Marshall’s Ray of Hope Expeditions as I have an affinity with Manta Rays. I have been diving in the three large oceans, the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. I may travel solo, but once I arrive I meet new friends who share my passion. I’m never lonely when I travel alone.

Have you ever wanted to do something you thought was “out there” or just downright crazy? Do you have a desire to get out into the world and make a difference? There are volunteer programs all over the world for adults. Most of them have nothing to do with scuba, and there are plenty of them on all continents. There are so many opportunities, and in some cases, for little cost. I have some advice for you: be bold. Why not look at it? Eco-tourism, volunteer tourism, or citizen science will take you to places you’ve never even dreamed of.

You want to do something? Not even participating in science, just going off on your own? Do it now. Tomorrow is promised to no one, and in midlife who knows what is coming next?  Do something extraordinary for yourself, you won’t believe how empowered it will make you feel, and how it may change your perspective on life! It certainly changed mine, and for the better.

About Tam Warner Minton

Tam Warner Minton is the travel blogger, writer, and photographer behind the adventure travel blog, www.travelswithtam.com. She has traveled to all seven continents and is an advocate for citizen science, the environment, and getting out of one’s comfort zone. An avid scuba diver, Tam goes on many ocean research expeditions and is an amateur underwater photographer. Her book, ALL FISH FACES, introduces amazing, colorful underwater creatures many have never seen before, but are crucial to our oceans. Showing kids of all ages the amazing life beneath the waves is the way to preserve our oceans for future generations! Partial proceeds benefit the Marine Megafauna Foundation.

 

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