Archives For Travel

me

I’m writing this 37,000 feet in the air en route from New York City to Hong Kong. I’m sitting in business class on Cathay Pacific with my wife next to me. I have so much room to type this. The bed lays down flat. I have a huge TV screen in front of me to keep me busy for the 15 hour flight. I’m so full from all the food. We’ll stay in Hong Kong for two nights then a couple days later we’re going to continue to Taipei, Taiwan and stay for four months.

I didn’t have to think twice about doing this. I didn’t have to ask a boss for permission for time off. I didn’t even pay more than $300 for these business class ticket.

I don’t share this to brag. I’m sharing to show you what is possible when you take 100% responsibility for your life.

All this didn’t happen by accident. I wasn’t handed this on a silver platter. I’m not an overnight success either. What I did was take control of my life and planned it to be this way. Was it easy? Not all the time. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

What was important was a change in how I perceived this dream. Instead of being jealous of other people’s lives, I thought “if they can do it, why not me?” Before I would think it wasn’t fair. Why were they happy and I wasn’t? Complaining to no one in particular never helped. It only dug me deeper into a hole of self pity.

So I changed how I looked at them. I understood that there were other people doing what I wanted to do. That’s why I knew it was possible. There were just regular people too. They weren’t rich. They didn’t have connections or knew exactly what they were going to do in life right out of college. These people early on were people like Pat Flynn and Chris Guillebeau for me. These were ordinary guys who I could relate to and were living their lives doing what they wanted and with much more freedom.

I always knew that I had more to me than what I had done. I know many of you feel the same way because you email me and tell me that.

What was missing was being so determined to make it a reality. I was waiting for a miracle. I was hoping someone would tell me exactly what to do and how to do it. I had this unrealistic imagination that I’d wake up one day with sudden clarity for my future.

After wasting most of my adult life feeling stuck, I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way in late 2010. Not even the pain of being a beginner, self doubt, failures, and impatience.

Over four years since I wrote a letter to myself to wake up and get busy living and I feel proud because I took 100% responsibility for my life and am enjoying the results from it.

Your dreams might be different, and that’s completely fine. What you and I have in common is a desire to enjoy life more. We want to do work that’s fulfilling. We want more excitement. We want more freedom.

I want you to be able to create that.

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Annual review

Take a moment to reflect on 2013

It’s that time of year again where a year is ending and a new one is about to begin. Before we look forward to a fresh start in 2014, let’s take time to look back at 2013.

Why should we do an annual review? 

We need to know what worked and what didn’t work this year. We need to make sure we do more of the right things next year. We also need to make sure we’re moving in the right direction and not backwards.

How can we make 2014 much better than 2013 if we don’t stop and give ourselves an annual checkup?

Chris Guillebeau asks himself:

  • What went well this year?
  • What didn’t go well this year?

This is a great place to start. Two simple questions that will get us thinking. If we need help jogging our memory, take a look at photos, blog posts, our journal, our Instagram feed, Facebook status updates, or anything that will help us remember what we did this year.

Think about what wins we had. It could be small or big. It’s very easy to forget about those, but it’s important to remember the wins. We get to see what we achieved and it gives us confidence to go for bigger wins.

Your Year in Review Worksheet

If you want to go more in depth in your year in review, I’ve created a free worksheet that has questions to help you review your year and plan for the next. By filling it out, you will learn a lot about yourself.

Download it, print it out and find a quiet time to complete it. Don’t rush through it. These questions will really make you think. Be honest with your answers. These are just for yourself.

If you find it that you don’t have much to write down, then next year make sure you consciously do more. It could be because you’re in your comfort zone too much. Make it a goal for next year to be stretch yourself and take more risks.

If you’ve never done a year in review, try it this year. You’ll learn more about yourself. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Don’t just fill this out and put it away. I encourage you to put it in a place where you can access it and refer back to it throughout the year. Because you need to remember the parts of your life you said you needed to eliminate or improve.

Download the worksheet now (right click to save)

My Year in Review

This will be the third time I’ve done a year in review.

I had never done one before 2011. Before I would just made a mental note of what I wanted to accomplish in the new year. 100% of the time I never achieved what I wanted.

Since I’ve been doing it, it’s helped me take a moment and appreciate what I’ve accomplished. It also helps me to count my chips and see how I’ve been doing. If I didn’t earn that many chips, I try and figure why.

I like to look back and reflect, and help me get started in the right direction the next year.

What went well in 2013

Travel

Singapore Airlines A380 Suites

I’m going to first mention travel because it was definitely the highlight of my year. Thanks to collecting points and miles from credit card bonuses, and taking advantage of a limited time offer, I booked an amazing itinerary. We went to Sydney for two week and Hong Kong for two weeks.

We flew from Taipei, but didn’t go the direct route to Sydney nor to Hong Kong.

We flew to Beijing, Singapore, Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and back to Taipei. Mostly in first class, some in business class, and once in economy.

I didn’t mind taking the long way one bit because we got to take more flights and more time in the premium cabins.

One flight we got to fly in Singapore’s A380 suites, which was a dream of mine since I first read about it 6 years ago. I never knew if I would be able to afford the outrageous price to experience it, but got a chance this year thanks to redeeming my miles.

I wrote a longer post about our travels so read more about it there. If you want to know exactly how I booked it and start collecting miles and points for your dream vacation, read this post.

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19,519 miles and eight flights

19,519 miles and eight flights

I’m ready to do this trip all over again in a heartbeat!

In early March we finished a trip that had been planned since last July. The day I booked the tickets I had no plan to go traveling anywhere. However word spread online that there was a great opportunity to book Singapore airlines with United miles. Judging by the number of blog posts travel hackers were posting, it was a big deal.

Waiting for the trip was the hardest part. I think I was more excited about the flying part than where we were going. I had flown Singapore Airlines before, but that was 10 years ago. It’s consistently ranked as one of the best airlines in the world. So I couldn’t wait to fly with them again.

I wrote in detail about booking so you can read that post to get the backstory. In that post, I wrote about going to Bali, however, we changed it to Hong Kong a few months later.

We had been talking about going back to Bali since we were there two years ago, but she suggested going to Hong Kong instead. She had never been there and it had been about five years since I had been. Plus she wanted to go visit her dad and stepmom who live in Zhuhai, China, which is just a hour ferry ride away from Hong Kong.

That’s okay with me, but on one condition.

NO WAY did I want to change our flight from Singapore – Tokyo on the way back. Why? That’s the flight we would be in the A380 suites. It has been a dream of mine to fly it since Singapore Airlines began flying the A380 in 2007!

I never thought I would get the chance to experience it cause of the cost. Even now it’s not cheap at all. New York to Singapore round trip costs $15,750 per person.

We got very lucky cause Singapore Airlines changed the plane on that route from the 777-300 to the A380. Since we were already booked in first class, that meant we would be in first class on the A380. First class in the A380 are the suites.

I wanted to know how much it would cost for the suites on this route so I checked online. It would be $8,949.44 for two seats. That’s just one way. If I divided that by seven hours we would be sitting on the plane, that’s $1,278.49 per hour.

Great value for 260,000 miles and $393.76!

So we could fly to the North Pole if she wanted, but as long as we were still flying from Singapore – Tokyo.

Before we start, I just want to say this anyone can do this. I’m not a millionaire. I’m just a regular guy who started to learn about this exciting world of travel hacking, and have amassed around 1 million miles and points to date.

In fact, there are much more experienced travel hackers who find ways to squeeze every drop out of every online deal. I have just squeezed it a few times, and have been enjoying the result that I have gotten.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Flying to Taipei

When I booked those tickets, I had it leaving Taipei because we would be back around Chinese New Year anyways. My wife wanted to go to Sydney during that week because her mom would be on vacation and she could go.

I used 240,000 Delta Skymiles plus taxes for both of us to fly China Airlines in business class from Los Angeles. To get to Los Angeles from Jacksonville, I just bought the tickets outright. Not worth spending points on it.

I think I was a little bit too excited the morning of our flight to Taipei because we got to the airport too early. We still had to wait 30 minutes before we could even check in.

IMG_1205

The flight from the west coast to Taipei is a solid 14 hours. Sitting in economy is tough on my whole body and mind for that long. I’ve done it more times than I can remember though, but it’s nice to fly with more comfort.

So I was really looking forward to flying in bigger seats, bigger TV screens, better food, and more intimate service.

China Airlines Business Class

 

It was my wife’s birthday the day we flew, so I told her this would be her birthday present. She was pretty happy with that idea. We had good food, great service, had so many movies to choose from, and got some good sleep. It was nice to get off the plane and not feel achy and tired.

Taipei – Beijing – Singapore – Sydney

After two weeks in Taipei, it was ready for our big trip.

When I booked this ticket back in July, something hit me that I found so funny. A direct flight from Taipei to Sydney takes 8 hours. I’ve done that flight once before in 2008.

The flight I booked would take a total of 28 hours and 40 minutes. That included a 8 hour layover in Beijing. Talk about taking the long way to Sydney! I’m glad my wife didn’t yell at me for wanting to spend so much time flying and waiting in airports.

The longer way meant more flights and more airport lounges to enjoy, so it was a great trade off.

China Airlines Lounge Taipei

China Airlines lounge

We started the day in the lounge in Taipei. Food would be a theme these next 29 hours. It felt like we were always eating.

Air China Business Class

Air China Business Class

The first flight was on Air China in business class. This was a two cabin plane with no first class. So business class is like first class here. Service and food was good. Nothing spectacular. Wasn’t a full cabin at all. This was just the warm up for the next two flights.

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How to fly for free using travel hackingOne Sunday back in July, I booked two tickets that would have cost more than $20,000 total, but only paid $362.80. I’m also flying first and business class to Sydney and Bali on one of the best airlines in the world, including one flight with our very own suite.

I can’t wait!

You too can be flying for cheap and even in first class if you want. I’ll tell you how in this post.

Booking this ticket was one of the more spontaneous things I’ve done. That morning I had no plans to book a ticket, but by the end of that day, I had two tickets for next February.

However, I had begun preparing for this kinda of opportunity just about a year ago when I found my favorite new hobby.

If you’ve ever thought about taking your dream trip or traveling the world for free and in style, you’re going to love this post.

Cashback = Not the best deal

I knew about earning miles while flying as long as I’ve been flying, but didn’t know too much about earning it from credit cards.

I’ve had credit cards and I thought I was getting a great deal getting 1%-5% cash back. I thought if I spent $1000, getting $10 was awesome!

Better than nothing, but not maximizing the opportunities out there.

Last year, I started reading about people booking free airline tickets, often in first and business class, all over the world with points from huge credit card bonuses. Trips that would have cost thousands of dollars. That’s the type of award I wanted to get. Not cash back.

I love to fly. I like just being in an airport. I get exciting knowing I’m flying somewhere.

However I’m not a millionaire, so I can’t pay full price for first class seats. I had learn more about travel hacking.

I realized I used my credits cards often, but instead of cash back, I could be getting so much more out of them.

That’s when I began to learn the world of collecting points and miles and I’m loving it.

My First Airline Credit Card

Last year in August, I signed up for my first airline credit card, the Alaskan Airlines card that gave me 40,000 points and a certificate for a companion ticket for only $99. I just had to be approved to get the benefits.

That means I could book a ticket anywhere Alaskan Airlines flies and my companion ticket would only be $99! That ticket could even be to Hawaii! Who wouldn’t love to go to Hawaii for $99?

That’s the kind of deals airlines are giving away if you sign up for their credit cards.

Since then I’ve signed up for eight more credit cards, done mattress runs and have earned easily over 500,000 airline and hotel points which I have used to redeem for free hotel night and airline tickets.

In July, Eleanor and I went to California for 10 days and 9 nights. We started in Santa Barbara and drove the Pacific Coast highway to San Francisco. We spent four nights on the road and then five nights in San Francisco.

We only paid for one night in a hotel the whole trip.

The other nights I used hotel points I had earned to redeem free nights in different hotels. We stayed at the Hyatt Santa Barbara, which was right across the street from the beach. In Monterey, we stayed at the Marriott with views of the ocean.

In San Francisco, I used points to stay at the Radisson at Fisherman’s Wharf. When I checked in, they upgraded us to a room with a courtyard view and standing on the balcony, got a view of Alcatraz.

How we booked the Radisson Alcatraz for free

I can almost swim there

The last two nights, we stayed at the Le Meredien in San Francisco. Since I have gold status with Starwood, I got upgraded to a room with a view of the city and bay. Two nights there would have been $900. I used points from signing up for their credit card. First year no annual free.

How to booked the Le Meridien San Francisco hotel for free

View from our room

I added our hotel stays and we saved at least $2,000.

I’m definitely not an expert in this area. There are many more people out there who know the system better and how to maximize the number of points they can get.

However, I learned enough to be able to get free hotel stays and airline tickets and I know you can too.

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Do you have a dream of traveling and working anywhere with a laptop and an internet connection? Maybe you want to live overseas long term or bounce from country to country? Maybe you want to be  your own boss so you can travel whenever you want.

If being location independent, a digital nomad or a suitcase entrepreneur is your goal, then here are 35 photos to inspire you to make your goals a reality.

Each of these photos makes me want to get on a plane tomorrow and see the world! I hope these photos inspire you as well.

Planes landing on beach

(Yes it’s real) Watch planes land by the beach by Adrian Durst

Golden Gate Bridge

Marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge by Stuck in Customs

London Eye View

London Eye by jurvetson

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In a few days, we will all be starting our monthly long journey taking so many flights. It’s going to be a mini-hotel room for a lot of us some nights. Others will be flying more times than they have ever the last few years combined!

Here are some tips that will help you stay comfortable on the plane so you can focus on relaxing.

1) Drink lots of water

The pressurized cabin is a dry environment. Humidity levels can be less than 20%. Your skin will be dry. Your body will be as well and then more prone to catching viruses. Everything I’ve ever learned about making traveling better is to drink lots of water. Avoid alcohol or soda with caffeine cause it acts as a diuretic and dehydrate you more. Once in awhile is okay but make sure you drink water in addition to it.

2) Keep your hands clean

I don’t want to know how dirty things are in an airplane. People touching it all day everyday and who knows how dirty those people are. Keep hands away from your eyes and mouth. Wash your hands regularly. Use a towel to open the bathroom door. I’m keeping a small bottle of hand sanitizer for the whole month. It will be my good friend.

3) Take a Walk and Stretch

With all the flying we are doing, we will be spending hours at a time on an airplane. If you’re flying 3-6 hours, it’s a good idea to get up and walk up and down the aisle once an hour. Stretch. Sometimes in the back of the plane by the galley there is room to just stand if you are tired of sitting. You want your legs to get good circulation.

4) Eat light

It’s tempting to eat a big meal on the ground and then get on the plane and just let it digest for the new few hours. Because such foods can cause fluctuations in blood sugar and leave you feeling bloated and achy, be wary of them. Don’t go overboard on the free snacks JetBlue provides. It will be tempting to I know.

5) Remove your shoes

Make sure your socks and shoes smell good first! When you’re in the air, your feet will swell up from the pressure. Taking them off will feel much more comfortable. Easy slip on shoes would be helpful.

6) Wear loose clothes

It’s going to be a long flight and you want to be comfortable. Tight pants and tight shirts should be kept at home way in the back of the closet. Dress comfortable and you’ll appreciate it.

7) Get sleep when you can.

Traveling between different time zones is really going to mess up our internal clocks. Getting as much rest as possible is going to help when you arrive in a city and hit the ground running. Get some ear plugs, or listen to some music to help you sleep.

These travel tips are a good foundation to making every flight a comfortable one. Please add more in the comments before if you have a great tip!