Monday, December 24, 2012

Winter Doldrums

Hi folks, 

It being winter now, and 140ish days away from my trip, I've found that I'm in a bit of a "winter doldrums" state. I'm excited for my trip, but the immediate excitement of having bought the tickets, made sure my passport is good to go, and making sure I've got my money set aside (or will be set aside once I get the rest of it), most of that excitement has worn off. I'm left in the "concerned" state that's left over.
The concerns of "am I not planning enough? am I crazy for having done this? Am I even going to make it through this trip alive?" every little comment from friends and family are in my head because I'm into my winter break and have nothing better to think about. I've triple checked my flight reservation, my bus ticket is right next to me with my passport and extra copies. I've got my backpack ready to go, some little things packed in it already (extra bits and the dry-sacks, stuff I don't need for daily life). I think I'm just having too much time to think about the trip while actively trying not to think about it.

Right now, I'm looking at (hoping to have) about $2000 to spend for everything while I'm there. My transport in and out of country are covered already, bringing the total for the trip to about $3500 (1250 flights/bus, 250 insurance, 2000 in country money). I'm looking at $33-37 per day for accommodation and food and things to do. From what I've been told, this will be fine for Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam  I would LOVE to pick up a motorbike in Vietnam and ride from one end to the other, which I've also been told is doable, but I'd need to take some more money. either way, this is looking to be an amazing trip, and I'm just sitting here over-thinking things. 

In my personal life, I managed to get good grades in my university classes, so that's going well. I'm double majoring in Environmental Geology and Comprehensive Crisis Response with an idea of going to the US Peace Corps after graduation. This trip will be a good test of whether or not I can handle a headfirst dive into a culture different from my own while still leaving me a safety net of sorts. 

anyway, happy holidays or whatever doesn't offend you and may you find tranquility in the new year.
-An Effort in Tranquility  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Why I want to travel (some info about me)

I suppose now that this blog is over a year old, I feel I should start a schedule for updates and redefine the mission statement: This blog is my ramblings, gear reviews, and in the future, where I will post about my travels while I'm out adventuring. Right now, though, I'm going to go through and talk about why I want to travel and why it makes sense to me.

An Effort in Tranquility: what does this mean to me?

According to Webster, Tranquility is "Repose: a disposition free from stress or emotion."

Now, my blog is titled "An Effort in Tranquility" meaning I'm searching and trying to find tranquility. This isn't exactly what I'm searching for, though. I'm searching for a life that leads to the least stress and least worry. I hope for emotion, in any form. But I want to search the world and find where I happen to fit.

I've had some people tell me that I would find tranquility anywhere, through god, or religion, or something. Others have told me that I'm trying to live in a fantasy world and should settle down and have kids. Other students I attend university with tell me to "buy a car and go party or road trip" but those ideas sound boring to me (well, except for the road trip). Some things I've stated before, but need re-iterating, others are things that I've been more recently able to tell people. So, here are some insights into what makes me, me:

1: I've always been nomadic- I've never lived in one place for more than 5 years. Never. I count this as the same house/town. I did live in the mid-Missouri area for almost 7 years, but that involved moving around, small travels, and a year away at school. Living in one place for more than a year or two sounds intensely boring. After about 2 years, I usually end up feeling this deep desire to get away, sometimes causing physical stress. The idea of me living in one spot for the rest of my life and doing the same old thing all the time is as foreign to me as my idea of travel is to someone who's never moved.

2: I'm not religious- It's taken time to really admit this to people, because it's usually taken as an offense. I'm an atheist. I don't believe that there's an afterlife, or that I'll be rewarded for being super faithful, or that there's a supernatural being/spirit/deity watching and judging everything that I do. I believe that only I am accountable for my own actions and live by that principle. . I've lost people that I thought were friends because of my lack of faith/belief. This doesn't mean I wish to eradicate religion, or turn other people away. I've looked into many religions and have the same issue with the supernatural aspects. I've realized that some people need to have something to believe in, this isn't a terrible thing, but at the same time, it's often used as a tool to cause harm to others. I do realize that I'm traveling to an area where religion is a BIG deal, and I will respect that. I am fascinated by other religions, but I do not wish to join them.

3: I do not want children- I'm 24 years old. I'm one of the few members of my high school class that isn't married or has children. I've been asked repeatedly "when are you going to settle down and have some children?" My answer has always been a firm "never." I don't want children, I can't see myself having children, I can't really see myself getting married either. A good friend said to me "you need a girl that is part science geek, part nomad, and maybe part hippie." and I think that friend is right. I doubt I'd really "settle down" but maybe have a travel partner. But marriage or a life long commitment aren't my thing.. maybe when I'm 40? I have no clue. I'll find out later anyway.

4:  I'm afraid of not living my life to it's full capacity- I'm currently in the beginnings of working towards a geology degree. I love geology, I really enjoy the classes and labs, I am fascinated by rocks, minerals, plate tectonics, formations, etc. I'm afraid of the degree tying me down. I'm afraid that working on it will put me in a place where I am required to live in the same place, doing the same thing. I've been told that this shouldn't be the case, but at the same time, I still want that freedom. I know that I could change to an English major with a random minor, or go for something outdoorsy  but the job prospects on that front don't leave me with much of a fallback. What I hope for is to complete my B.S. in geology and be able to do short term work that pays well enough to travel, as well as traveling for work. I want to look into teaching English abroad because it sounds interesting and I receive very good grades in my writing and language classes (despite this blog probably being an editors nightmare).

Anyway, just some (wall of text) details about me. In the future, I'm going to try out a bi-weekly update schedule (or at least once a month, more as I get closer to my departure). so, this post is being written on the 30th of September, but should post on the  of 1st of October  So, if you're reading this before October 1st, then I probably messed something up or changed my mind (which happens a lot)

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Alright, I officially am making progress for my trip to South East Asia, and I've got great news:

I've bought my flight tickets to Bangkok! That's right, I've finally done it. It's official, I WILL be traveling this coming summer.

I kept track of prices for awhile and stumbled upon a price war going on between domestic carriers and the asian carriers. Tickets were all sitting at $1500-$1800 round trip, which was putting a big strain on the tight budget that I will have available. My goal was to buy my tickets for under $1200 total for the flights only, what I noticed (through other bloggers pointing this out to me) is that when buying a ticket from the mid-west US, the price is between 1/3 to 2/3 more expensive if you pick up a connecting flight.

Flying from Kansas City: $1500-$1800+
Flying from San Francisco: $1070 (this is the ticket I bought)

I'm planning on picking up either a budget ticket ($230 or less) or a greyhound ticket (currently $230) for a separate round trip to drop me right in SFO or the city in general with plenty of time to get to the airport and time to maybe couch surf a day or two before leaving on the return leg.

I'm leaving May 8th and returning July 10th. My flight transfers in Tokyo (I ended up flying Delta airlines because I wanted to save $200.. might bite me in the bum, but maybe not) and, sadly, I arrive in Thailand around midnight local time. So I'm thinking of relaxing for awhile at a coffee shop or something. (thanks wanderingEarl for that pointer).

So I have my ticket, my passport, backpack, and some of the clothes I want to take. I'm looking into getting my shots here, though I found I can get them at the red cross (aka snake farm) in Bangkok for MUCH less (have heard around $100, which is WAY better than several hundred). So that's where things stand, New backpack update soonish (busy with school, so updates come second, apologies).

Feel free to comment with questions or comments!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A long time coming

Alright, Yet another update. This time, though, it's a bit of explanation.

First off: No, I didn't go anywhere over the summer. Other than moving to the small town where my university is located. I spent the last year taking classes at a small college that didn't cost me much and working to save money for my trip. The end of the school year came along and I was getting everything finalized for my move back to university and my mother discovered that she had cancer. again. I ended up staying and spending a decent bit of money on helping out her and one of my brothers. She lived with me and I was driving her 2 hours away to the doctor twice a week and after all was said and done, I had maybe $800 left after everything. Obviously not enough to go anywhere. Add that to the near tripling effect that happened to fuel prices causing flight costs to skyrocket (pun semi-intended). I was pretty much stuck. I bought a small bike to get me around town while at school and replaced my phone and that pretty much ate through the rest of my savings.

Fast forward a little bit to now, classes start tomorrow and I'm enrolled for 13 credit hours. My mother has moved in with her boyfriend and I've got a room mate to make rent easy. She's mentioned paying me back a portion of what I spent so with my grant/loan refund coming I should have enough to take a trip this coming summer.. about 8 ish months away.

I'm going to be buying my flight ticket to BKK once I find a price that isn't $1800+ (hoping for closer to $1200, which i've found a couple times). Hopefully getting that mid-september, at which point i'll be set for my way there and back and just have to save the rest.

With luck, I'll have enough money to go for most of the summer and have a budget of around $40 or so per day. From what i've heard so far, that's decent for a budget backpacker, I'll find out when I get there, right?

It's one of those things that I need to do. Once I'm finished with school, I hope that I'll still be able to travel. I plan on saving everything after next summer's trip for when I graduate and liquidating the rest of what I have so I can be easily mobile. I want to find a career outside the USA because I feel that there's too much out there that I won't get to experience and I want to see as much as I can.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Alright, I’m back from my overly long hiatus. UPDATE TIME!

So, back in November of last year, I hit a funk. I had been working very hard at a job that I didn’t really enjoy too much to save money for my trip. Add to this my transportation issues that cropped up off and on, plus school, family, sickness, etc. etc. etc. With all of the things piled up, I managed to get myself in a sort of depressed state, but still managed to save money.

Fast forward to March of 2012, I was fed up with missing class because I didn’t have my own transportation. I ended up taking my savings (around $2000) and bought a motorcycle. Long story short, I should be selling the bike this coming weekend and I’ll have the money for my summer trip again.

My current itinerary is in development, but I’ll probably fly to Cancun, MX in a few weeks (looking between mid-june and july 1st and returning around august 1st – 8th. I’m going to sell a couple more items to make sure I have enough money for the duration of the trip, but I’m going to do it. I’m going to take my trip like I originally planned. It’ll be a bit of a rush to get everything finalized, and the trip will be a tad shorter, but It’ll still be pretty awesome, I think.

I know that I want to see the big volcano in Nicaragua, I want to go out to some tiny island and walk its’ circumference, and I want to possibly see the panama canal, I’ve heard it isn’t spectacular, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it.

More to come in the next few days as I put things together and get my tickets bought.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Horizons

I've been going over the numbers again for my trip and I came to a stunning realization..

I'm behind in my savings and not able to save as much per month as previously planned.

Add in to this is the shortened time period available, and I recognize I *might* need to change destinations... AGAIN. As it stands, Thailand is simply outside my upcoming budget. With the very expensive flight, the immunizations, a move to a different town to return to university, and a lack of a cash buffer like I originally planned, It's just not a feasible option at this time. Now, I'm not removing it entirely from my options, however, I am putting together a list of destinations that can fit into a 45-60 day trip.

The criteria:
  1. must be $1000 or less for a round trip ticket from the US (MCI or STL airports)
  2. Cannot be a country that shares a border with the US (no canada or mexico, unless mexico is only part of the trip)
  3. Prefer somewhere across the ocean, but if that's not possible, see bullet 2.
  4. Also prefer there to be a language barrier. I want to learn a new language and the best method is immersion.
  5. I need to be able to live on $50 or less per day as a low-mid range budget.
  6. (optional) Prefer somewhere slightly off the beaten path, or with options to see places that most non-backpacker tourists would avoid. Also would like to see the shoulder season or off season. Though it isn't a problem if its main season, I just want to see what the real life is like in the areas I visit.

I'm currently considering a trip down to Cancun, Mexico as a starting point for the Central America backpacker circuit. I'd catch a bus to Playa del Carmen, stay there a few days, maybe a week, and would then go through central america to Panama and catch a flight back to the US. Though I'm open to plenty of other options and ideas.

Since the price of a plane ticket to central america is cheaper by a power of 10, ($180 vs $1800) It opens up more options for travel within the region along with leaving more money available to do things. Plus I'll be able to set aside any remaining money when I return home. This option also opens up the winter/christmas break for a short trip unless I save every penny for a euro-venture the following summer. Once I graduate from NW, I'm going to take the trip to Thailand (if I don't do it this summer) and make my way through the area, hit up a few other countries, australia, etc. My ultimate goal is to make a full circumnavigation of the world by the time I'm 30, on top of traveling as a lifestyle.

In the off chance that I'm able to afford the trip to Thailand, I'll still leave it for later. The average suggestion from other backpackers and long term travelers is to leave it for when I have the time. I'm also looking into a short trip over winter break, maybe buck the trend and go north instead of south. That or grab my brother and some friends and take a short jump down to mexico, possibly baja. That's something for later though, right now I'm working out the summer trip and making sure I have everything set.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Japan Tourism board to give away 10,000 flights

According to various news outlets, the Japan Tourism Board is giving away 10,000 free round-trip flights to aid in bringing back their now suffering tourism. Since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident have caused people to have fear of traveling there. Myself? I'd TOTALLY go to Japan if my flight were covered free of charge. My reasons for not going to Japan on my current trip idea are only because the yen to dollar ratio isn't the greatest, and prices are a bit higher in general.

My plan was to make it to Japan when I have a larger/better income and savings. Though, now I completely plan on applying for one of these free flights as soon as the application system opens up. Yes, I realize that the chances of me actually winning one of these special trips is slim to none, but even so, that's better than my chances at a free flight if I don't apply, right? The conditions are that you have to post pictures and write about your experience in country either during your trip or after. Hmm, isn't that what I'm doing with this site anyway? YES INDEED!

To be honest, I'd love to travel to Japan, climb mount Fuji (its an easy-ish trail) It's actually on my bucket list of things to do before I die. I'd hit Tokyo (of course), then probably Mount Fuji, I'd actually be thrilled to go see the areas affected by the tsunami. I'd also like to see your standard "touristy" things: sumo wrestling, a bunraku show, things like that. I'd like to see the blend of the traditional Japanese style mixed with the newer age. Overall, if I were to win a free flight to Japan, I'd change my travel plans to go there next summer instead of Thailand. I'd just delay the Thailand trip for the following christmas break or following summer.


Alright, this is just a quick update about the free flights to japan thing that's in the news. I've been very busy with school lately, so my post on the "tourist day" in columbia, mo has been a long time coming. It's coming though, I promise!

what do you think about the Japanese Tourism Board giving away 10,000 free flights? Will you apply? feel free to comment below.