William Least Heat Moon

“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.”

—William Least Heat Moon
Born 1939, travel writer and historian

Quick Tip: Don’t Advertise Valuables

You’re a good vigilant traveler. You’ve packed your bags and secured them with a TSA approved lock to protect its contents. It’s all good, right? Keep believing that if it makes you feel better, but everything I just described could actually make you more of a target for theft. To begin with, locking your bag only provides you with a false sense of security. Unless you’re one of the few remaining travelers who still have hard-sided luggage with uniquely keyed locks on the latches, you’re probably more vulnerable than you think. If you have a bag with a zipper, it doesn’t take much to get into your bag and not even leave any evidence that it happened, all it takes is a ballpoint pen. By placing a lock on your bag, you’re telling thieves and unscrupulous baggage handlers there’s something worth stealing in that bag, even if there isn’t. But you also don’t want to just leave it unlocked and risk a zipper becoming accidentally opened or someone putting something in your bag. So what can be done? Continue reading

Yusuf Islam

“…But take your time, think a lot
Think of everything you’ve got
For you will still be here tomorrow
But your dreams may not

It’s always been the same, same old story
From the moment I could talk
I was ordered to listen
Now there’s a way
And I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go”

—Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Father & Son
Born 1948, singer, songwriter

Join Us to Explore Tibet, Bhutan & Nepal

If you’ve ever wanted to visit Tibet, Bhutan or Nepal, here’s your chance. We are organizing a trip of a lifetime and we’re inviting you to join us as we explore this fascinating area. The tour is 16 days from April 5, 2016 to April 20, 2016 and is timed to coincide with the Rhododendron Festival in Thimphu, Bhutan from April 18 to 20.

Monks headed to morning rituals in Lhasa.

Monks headed to morning rituals in Lhasa.

You can join us for the entire tour, just Tibet, or just Bhutan. You can also extend your trip on either end with a tour of Beijing, extra days in Shanghai, or a tour of other areas of Nepal. Our plan is to arrive in Shanghai a couple of days prior to the train departure to see the city. Flights are available from Shanghai or Beijing to Lhasa, but we recommend the train to see some of the spectacular scenery along the way and for additional time to gradually acclimate to the altitude. The train is also about half the cost of a flight.

We are using a very reputable Nepal-based tour company that I have used before. I’ve been negotiating with them and have managed to get the cost down substantially from my first estimate. The current estimated cost of this entire tour is about US$159/day/person or US$2,550 per person for the entire land portion only based on double occupancy. Your final cost will depend on how many people we will have, how much of the itinerary you include, and any extensions you might make. You’ll also need to arrange the follow transportation:

  • Shanghai to Lhasa train trip, about US$250/person
  • Roundtrip air to Paro, Bhutan, about US$450/person
  • Open-jawed airfare from your U.S. city to Shanghai or Beijing and from Kathmandu back to the U.S., about US$1,500/person.

Our tour company may be able to help with the train and flight to Paro. If you can use award travel for the airfare, now would be a good time to use it. The entire trip paid without using award mileage, will be about US$4930/person, including your Chinese and Nepali visa, not including incidentals and tips. If you’re interested in joining us, check out our itinerary and get in touch with us soon, as we need to finalize our arrangements. Continue reading

Quick Tip: Have Blank Pages

Our passports were stolen almost 4 years ago when our house was burglarized. Since passports are good for 10 years and we knew that we would be doing a lot of traveling, we requested the larger passport with more pages. A normal passport has 28 pages with 17 blank pages available for visas and entry/exit stamps. The larger passport has 52 pages with 43 blank pages. That may seem like a lot, but when traveling to countries such as China, they will use one full page just for their visa and most of another one for entry/exit stamps. Continue reading

Top dozen RTW travel planning resources

We have been planning our trip since 2003, and actively saving for it since 2006. Travel planning is equal parts fun and frustration. It’s exciting to make plans and to see a trip coming together, but it’s also a lot of work researching your destination, arranging transportation and lodging, and determining how long you’ll need in order to do everything you planned. You become a project manager, event coordinator, location scout, travel agent, and financial planner all at once. The last time I went on an extended trip overseas, I didn’t have a lot of the tools and web sites available today. Travel planning is a bit easier these days now that the Internet can provide so much information. Here are the 12 tools that I use extensively for our RTW trip planning.

Google Sheets

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.30.03 PMSpreadsheets may be a bit antiquated, but there’s no quicker way for me to determine travel dates and keep all those destinations straight. If you have a lot of destinations, it can become tedious to keep track of where and when you’ll be somewhere. I originally set up an Excel spreadsheet with destinations, dates, approximate costs, and visa requirements back in 2003 and have updated it frequently. It became the basis of our savings goal. I recently transferred the spreadsheet to Google Docs and keep it updated online now. The format hasn’t changed much since I first created it. The dates are automatically calculated from the initial starting date. I enter the number of nights we plan to stay at a destination and the spreadsheet calculates the arrival dates for all the following destinations. It becomes a dynamic, ever-changing master document that is invaluable for advanced planning. Unlike other online tools, you can add or remove columns for whatever you want to track. Continue reading

Clifton Fadiman

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”

—Clifton Fadiman
1904-1999, intellectual, author, and editor

Tibet: Closed!

closedImagine my surprise when the tour company sent me an email where the first sentence began with, “Tibet is closed…” My first thought was scam, but I decided to do a little research and to my relief and disbelief, Tibet is indeed closed to foreign travelers EVERY year for the months of February and March. Really. This closure isn’t advertised, nor can you find it on any official websites. In fact, if you call and talk with someone at the Tibet Tourism Bureau, they’ll tell you that Tibet has never been closed to visitors.

A little background: The closure is a result of civil unrest that occurred in March 2008 when certain sensitive anniversaries are recognized. Specifically, Tibet Uprising Day occurs on March 10th to commemorate the armed uprising that occurred in March 1959. The uprising resulted in a violent crackdown in Lhasa and the Dalai Lama fleeing to India on March 30, 1959, where he has been in exile ever since. Because of these anniversaries, the Chinese government closes Tibet and I’m sure the official reason is for public safety. However, I suspect the government is also trying to give Tibetans less of an audience by keeping out anyone with a camera. Continue reading