Category

Uncategorized

Building Global Competence Without Traveling

Building Global Competance

Life Nomading Introduction:

You don’t need thousands of dollars to travel the world to become globally competent. A travel blog and tour company telling you that you don’t need to travel the world seems counterintuitive. However, at Life Nomading our passion for travel is driven by our desire to understand different cultures, bridge gaps between people of different backgrounds, and forge into the darkness that is uncertainty.

Story by Oliver Crocco:

Global competence is often times a pleasant side effect of traveling the world or living abroad. It gives you a rare perspective of looking from the outside in at your own country and culture. Having that perspective to view things in your own country from a different angle will make you more relatable and help drive successful relationships with diverse people in your life and career.

What about people who don’t have the privilege to travel internationally or work abroad?

Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP talks a lot about the importance of respect, and authors of Being Global, Unruh and Gabera write that to become a global leader requires a “do-it-yourself mind-set.” So here are four ways I’m learning to help foster respect for other cultures by intentionally seeking out global experiences at home.

Connect with refugees in your area

After college in Spokane, WA, my housemates and I volunteered with a refugee resettlement organization and housed refugees from different countries for 1-3 months at a time. Over the course of the year, we had a family from Bhutan, several individuals from Eritrea, and a man from Iran. We would pick them up from the airport, help them get settled, and teach them how to get around town. Most of them could not speak English or knew basic things about America – like that we flush our toilet paper. Still, they loved sharing their culture with us and were grateful to be in the U.S. One of the members of our house even opened a thrift store business in Spokane (Global Neighborhood Thrift) and employs dozens of immigrants from all over the world. There are powerful ways to volunteer with local refugee organizations or big INGOs like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and it can be extremely rewarding.

Find a popular second language in your area and begin learning some words and phrases

For many of us in America this might be Spanish but it could also be Amharic (Ethiopia), Mandarin, French, etc. Then, when you meet someone who speaks that language, do your best to speak a few words of their native language with them. It is a humbling experience to fumble through and perhaps botch a foreign language – even just “hello” and “thank you.” I recently learned how to say “thank you very much” in Amharic (betam ameseginalehughn) considering the amount of Ethiopians in D.C. There is a community-building energy that comes with doing so, and I believe it demonstrates a level of respect that we need more of in our globalizing world.

Attend cultural events

I live in Washington, D.C. so there is absolutely no shortage of cultural events to attend. From the Thai Temple in Maryland (Wat Thai D.C.) to the Embassy nights and ethnic restaurants, there are many ways to engage with other cultures. This is obviously not true everywhere in the U.S. but there are more and more ways to interact with others cross-culturally popping up. In 2014, I went to the Saudi Arabian Embassy with a Saudi classmate. He has since become one of my best friends and we have had countless deep (and sometimes tough) discussions about culture, religion, and global leadership.

IMG_6449

Go out to lunch, coffee, or even ask to be mentored by someone in your organization who has a different cultural upbringing than you. 

In Caligiuri and Tarique’s 2012 article “Dynamic cross-cultural competencies and global leadership effectiveness,” the authors discuss having a mentor from another country as one of the indicators for cross-cultural competency. I am sometimes wary of mentoring relationships because of the power distance inherent in them but I like the idea of seeking out relationships with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds in your organization. My mentor, colleague, and friend, Dr. Maria Cseh, is originally from Hungry and I’ve learned a lot about Eastern European culture (and much more!) from our many discussions.

Summary

Even if we work on global teams, have multiple international assignments, and speak other languages it does not mean that we will become globally competent. We must always push ourselves to be curious about our global surroundings wherever we are in America or abroad. It requires a humble willingness to learn and see things from other perspectives.

The reward? A certain richness and color to life – and a global sense of belonging.

Best Slacklines For 2017

Leio Mclaren | Slackline | Group Trips | Life Nomading | Best Slacklines 2017

If you’ve never done slacklining before, then let me tell you that it is a stimulating activity and has several health benefits associated with it. It is a fun sport that is portable, easy to setup, and a ton of fun. Buying a slackline can get tricky though due to all the different types of slacklining styles and rigs available. We have broken down the best slacklines for 2017 by all the different styles, to save you the hassle.

If you are a beginner slackliner, we covered that in a previous article which is a good starting point.

What are the different styles of slacklining?

As mentioned before, there are many types of slacklining with new styles popping up every day. Here is a quick snapshot of the styles.

Walklining

Walklining is your standard slacklining. It just involves the basic act of walking across. While some may apply style and small moves into this type of slacklining it is nothing like trick lining, which is more active and involves more bouncing.

Tricklining

Tricklining is about busting out sick moves. It includes all sorts of tricks from spin moves to jumps and even flips. Thanks to the elasticity of the band, trickliners will alternate many times from landing on their stomach, knees, and feet. Tricklines are usually bouncier and made of a more elastic lining.

Waterlining

Any style of slacklining over water is considered waterlining. Any type of slackline can be used for slacklining, but there are specific waterlines. A waterline is specifically designed to resist the wear and tear that can happen to the line due to water.

Longlining

Longlining is the act of slacklining with a very long slackline. Most slacklines are 25-50ft, while longlines are around 100 feet or 30 meters. It can involve all other types or styles of slacklining, as long the line itself is long. Due to the length, longlines usually have less tension and sag a little more as you walk on them. Due to this, fewer tricks are done on long lines but a popular move is swaying back and forth which is called surfing. The one downside to a

The one downside to a longline is that a ratchet rigging system typically cannot work, so you will have to manually rig it using a pulley system. This pulley system is more difficult to setup and not recommended for beginners

Highlining (Airlining)

Highlining can be done with any type of slackline. Due to the height, it is typically done with a pulley rigged longline. This is for daredevils and thrill seekers. With a highline, it is always recommended to have a leash and harness in case you fall.

Comparison Table of Best Slacklines of 2017

Below we compare the key features, rigging type, and price in an easy to read table.

Best Slacklines of 2017

ProductKey FeaturesSlackline TypeRigging TypePriceBuy Now
Slackline Industries Baseline
Slackline Industries Baseline | Lifebnomading | Adventure Travel

  • Made using low-stretch polyester, making it easy to walk

  • Tree protection included

  • Certified by German Technical Inspection Association

Walkline / BasicRatchet$$Buy Now!
Gibbon Slacklines Surfer


  • Comes with a safety lock pad

  • Longest ratchet slackline: 98 ft

  • Can also be used for tricks

  • Great Customer Service

WaterlineRatchet$$$Buy Now!
Slackline Industries Trickline
Trickline | Slackline | Adventure Travel

  • Trampoline style webbing

  • Certified by German Association for Technical Inspection


TricklineRatchet$$$Buy Now!
BC Primative Slackline Kit


  • Tree protectors included

  • All parts for a primitive rig

  • 1" webbing

LonglinePrimitive$$$$Buy Now!

Closer Look at the Top Slacklines

Below we have a more in depth look at each product.

Best Trickline – Slackline Industries Trickline

Trickline | Slackline | Adventure Travelhas a high amount of reviews and is extremely easy to set up, taking no more than 10 minutes. Moreover, it is universal and can be used by kids and beginners – basically any one interested in walk lining. If you are a beginner looking for a quality baseline that takes the least amount of time to set up, Baseline is the right choice for you.
Buy Now!


Best Waterline – Gibbon Slacklines Surfer

Gibbons Slacklines are the highest quality slacklines available in the market and are known to be the most-bought slacklines in the world. The Gibbons Slacklines Surfer, for water lining, is fairly easy to setup and has high durability. Their customer support is quite responsive and they also have a slackline app for your mobile. Though it is quite expensive, it will provide great value for money in the long run. If slacklining is more than just your passion, go ahead and make the investment! Surfers would especially love this slackline!
Buy Now!


Best Walkline – Slackling Industries

The Slacklines Baseline has a high amount of reviews and is extremely easy to set up, taking no more than 10 minutes. Moreover, it is universal and can be used by kids and beginners – basically any one interested in walk lining. If you are a beginner looking for a quality baseline that takes the least amount of time to set up, Baseline is the right choice for you.
Buy Now!


 

Best Longline – BC Primitive Slackline Kit

The BC Primitive slackline is a good beginner primitive rig slackline that comes at a reasonable price. While rigging will take more time, and may be more difficult the result is more versatility. If you want to run your line shorter or longer it’s easier. It is a more manual approach that works best for longlining. It is the most expensive of all the slacklines we mentioned, but one of the best primitive slackline setups on the market for the price.
Buy Now!

Summary

Now that you know all the basic types of slacklines available in the market, it will be easier for you to make your decision. If you are new to the field of slacklining, you should opt for the Baseline, as it caters to the needs of the beginners. However, if you’re tired of simply walking on the rope and are looking to perform some new tricks, the Trickline will be your best bet! So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and defy the laws of gravity!

Image sources: Featured image by Leio Mclaren – Unsplash.

Review: Bella Vista Cloud Forest Reserve

Somewhere up in the mountains not too far from the small town of Mindo, Ecuador is an amazing cloud forest. We stumbled upon it during our motorcycle tour just a few weeks ago. It was a worthy stop, and the proprietor was excellent. The video below is narrated by the owner himself – he is the David Attenborough of Ecuador.

What is a Cloud Forest?

A cloud forest is a moist subtropical climate that has persistent cloud cover. Think rain forest, but with less rain and more clouds. Aside from an epic cinematic feeling while walking through it, minimal pesky insects. Due to the elevation, there are typically no mosquitos, this is the case at the Bella Vista Cloud Forest Reserve.

How to Get There

If you have your own transport and are coming from Quito- you are likely going along the highway to Mitad del Mundo / Calacali / Mindo / Los Bancos on the route which is called Colectora Quito-La Independencia. Quito-La Independencia is one of the highways in Ecuador, and it it will be represented on google maps with the number 28 (E28). You can also take a bus route. Several tourism companies also provide transport if you want to make things easy.

You can also take a bus route and several tourism companies provide transport if you want to make things easy.

Self-Driving Highway route:

Bellavista Nature Reserve

If you type in Tandayapa on google maps and route yourself there, it will get you 80% there. The rest of the route is literally off the maps.

  1. Head towards La Indepencia / Mitad del Mundo / Calacali / Mindo on Quito La Indepencia.
  2. At km 52, there is a turn to the left just after the bridge. Follow this road past “El Paraiso del Pescador” and straight through the village of Tandayapa. Climb uphill to Bellavista. Total distance from the main road 12 km.
  3. At km 62, there is a turn up to the left, which takes you along the ridge 12 km to Bellavista. Follow the signs all the way.

Public Transport / Bus Route:

  1. Take any bus to Nanegalito from Terminal Microregional de La Ofelia in north Quito. Any bus heading for Mindo, Los Bancos or Puerto Quito passes through Nanegalito.
  2. In Nanegalito, ask any pickup truck for a ride up to Bellavista. It costs about $15 price for the ride, not per person. *See the bus schedule – for a bus to Nanegalito.

Activities

There are a ton of activities nearby the nature preserve, and there to keep you busy. From epic views to serene nature – it’s all there.

Humming Birds

Humming Bird at Bellavista Nature Preserve

For a small fee, you can watch the hummingbirds at Bella Vista. I imagine if you spent money on other things this fee could be waived, that happened to be the case when we were there. We purchased a tour hike and he allowed us to take photos of the hummingbirds for free.

Hiking

Bella Vista Cloud Forest | Life Nomading | Adventure Travel

A plant we learned about on the hike – It’s called a poor mans umbrella.

You can go for a hike at the cloud forest reserve on your own or with a guide. The guide is just a little extra – which was well worth it as the experience is much better that way. The guide told us about all the plants, wildlife, and the history of the cloud forest – quite the story!

Bird Watching

Yep, bird watching. You may not be 50 years old, and your 401k might not be stacked. However, you still have time for a little bird watching. When you find a rare bird – you get some weird sense of accomplishment. Binoculars can be rented on site.

Tandayapa Bird Lodge

Very nearby is the Tandayapa Bird Lodge, it should just be a 20 minute drive. Here you can do bird tours. Ecuador is a big bird place apparently. For $165 (Summer 2017) you can also stay at the lodge. This includes 3 meals.

Accommodations

When it comes to accommodations you can stay at the Bellavista Reserve itself or about 30 minutes away in Mindo. The reserve itself has destination worthy accommodations.

Staying at the Bella Vista Cloud Forest Reserve Hotel

Bellavista-cloud-forest-reserve

When it Waking up on top of a mountain with insane views of a cloud forest is a special thing. That does come at a higher price – around 135 dollars for a nicer room. While 135 dollars is not a lot for a hotel, it’s more than a hotel in Mindo. It does include meals, however. The hotels in Mindo can run as little as $35 a night, but this will limit you to a day trip to the cloud forest. You can also talk to them about their budget accomodations – they have shared rooms at much lower rates.

Hotels in Mindo

  1. Dragonfly Inn BnB – for just $49 (Spring 2017) a night, and it was an excellent place. They provided secure/gated parking for our motorcycle and the manager even woke up at 5 am to give us our complimentary breakfast. This place has impeccably clean rooms and there is a calming stream that flows out back. You can hear it in the morning as you wake up, and late at night as you are drifting asleep.
    Dragonfly inn BnB | Mindo | Group Adventure Travel
  2. Mindo Lago – for $73 (Summer 2017) a night you can stay in the scenic eco-lodge. They even have a little paddle platform which you can have dinner on in their restaurant.
  3. El Abrazo del Arbol – This hotel is another boutique hotel. It has an awesome water feature. Yep, I just said water feature.
    el abrazo del arbol farm | Ecuador | Eco-lodge | Lifenomading | Adventure Travel

Our Overview

The Dome where you can stay at the Bella Vista Cloud Forest Reserve.

When it’s all said and done – the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve gets an A+ from us. It is a very reasonably priced activity that is tons of fun. The hikes through the cloud forest are beautiful and refreshing (little to no mosquitos). The proprietor is on-site often and has a wealth of knowledge he will share with you. Also, the dome rooms at Bella Vista are some of the coolest we have ever seen. We highly recommend the Bella Vista Cloud Forest Reserve!

Why You Should Absolutely Travel After a Breakup

travel after a breakup

I’ve traveled to over thirty cities in three different countries in the last six months. When I started this traveling adventure in January, it came fresh off of a break-up.

Yep, you heard me right, a break-up.

For the one person reading this that has never experienced a breakup, this is a moment in anyone’s life where they realize that everything they were accustomed to for the last year or so is now completely GONE.

Breakups are blinding and can leave a temporary and for some, a permanent hole in your soul that you most desperately want to fill again quickly.

If you’re not off filling the void by hooking up with anything that walks by, then typically your next go-to vice could be traveling.

It makes sense. Traveling can really leave you to your own thoughts and reflections and provide a new lease on life that may be a bit more healthy than “Netflix and chilling”.

Breakups aren’t bad reasons to travel.

I mean ask any Life Nomading team member and we will cheer you right along, ideally to Bulgaria (shameless plug). However, I think it bears a little reflecting on the intentionality of travel and the expectations out there for what you will get out of your adventures as you search for that “missing piece”.

You’ll get out of it what you put into it

Just like most things in life, you’ll have a shitty time traveling if you don’t make an effort to push yourself and step outside of your comfort zone. You want this life-changing experience, but if you aren’t willing to work on your travels you’ll have nothing but photos of you drinking frozen daiquiris on the beach somewhere.

And that doesn’t help you in re-discovering who you are as a single person.

You’ll Re-Learn How to Be Awestruck

Movies have done a poor job setting our expectations with travel (and most everything in life to be honest).

I know when I started traveling continuously for the first time, I remember stepping into that first new city ready to be mind blown and waiting for the Walter Mitty theme music to begin playing as I walked down the jetway. However, it just doesn’t happen that way. Unless of course, you are literally playing the Walter Mitty playlist as you step off the airplane.

Be patient, this is a process of re-learning how to be awestruck.

I’m not a religious guy, but I do think that you can’t force yourself on the universe in this way. You just have to be patient, be open to any experiences, and just let the life happen on your travels. Awe-striking moments will happen, I promise.

Your Perspective Will Be Worth Its Weight in Gold

When it comes to breakups it’s easy to get into this weird phase where you only see things in a certain way. You get self-absorbed and feel like the world is ending.

News flash. It isn’t, and travel helps you get over that real quick.

How? Well by giving you so many perspectives on life and environments in such a short amount of time that you can’t help but accept that your problems are just a small drop in the world of millions of people around you.

You’ll Learn to Be Single

travel after a breakupDuh, right? But seriously, its a new territory for you and you don’t understand it yet.

Well, guess what, when you travel solo you learn real quick. The more important thing is that, not only will you learn to be able to laugh at yourself and enjoy quiet moments by yourself, but you will also begin to learn who could fit into your life in the future.

Traveling when single gives you the time to gather up all these global perspectives, bundle it up in your brain and come to conclusions about what priorities, values, and morals actually matter to you and thus gives you the patience to not force a new relationship until you find someone that slides into those respective slots.

Breakups are terrible. There’s no way around that, but travel can help.

The beautiful thing about travel is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. The way you go about it is, and always will be, unique to you.

Review: Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental – Self Guided Chocolate & Cloud Forest Tour

Bike-stop-quito-ecuador

Memorial day 2017 for most people meant burgers and brews in a close friends backyard. Memorial day for us was 8,000 miles away on the back of a motorcycle surrounded by clouds on top of a mountain. We heard that purring through the mountains of Ecuador on a bike was a bucket list item people take months or years to commit to – we signed up just a month before we left.

Minimize the Risk. Maximize the Adventure

Many people thought we were insane when we told them we were spending Memorial day on a motorcycle driving through the clouds atop a mountain in Ecuador. In the end, they were crazy for not coming with us!

We did the Self-Guided Chocolate & Cloud Forest tour, and it was life changing! It sounded insane and dangerous, but it didn’t feel like it. That’s because Freedom Bike Rental provided us with all the tools, and resources we needed to have a fantastic trip. No trip like this is without risk, but Freedom minimized all the known risks to make us feel as safe as possible.

Ian-Ecuador

The route is excellent, and all the stops are pre-populated into the GPS they provide you. The scenery is beautiful, and there are a ton of great stop off points. The roads are so much fun to drive on; around every winding turn and each beautiful overlook are backdrops any car commercial producer would die to get a shot of.

The Gear

Quito, Ecuador

As part of the self-guided tour, you get almost all the equipment you could need. From clothes to tech it’s all there. Below is a gear list.

Provided Gear:

  1. GPS – A nifty Zumo + Garmin GPS that charges while driving via the motorcycle. It comes preloaded with all the points of interest.
  2. Pants – Standard motorcycle pants to protect you from the pavement and the elements
  3. Gloves – Standard motorcycle gloves.
  4. Helmet – Many helmet options that were are all high quality, and DOT approved. Several helmets also included GoPro mounts.
  5. Motorcycle Jacket – Great multi-layer motorcycle jacket. A jacket with multiple layers ensures you can match the elements without losing the protection from the body armor.
  6. Emergency Equipment – This included a replacement tube, air compressor, and a first aid kit. They have a 24-hour support line and a mobile mechanic, but they provide you the tools to do it yourself if desired.
  7. Lockable Cargo Boxes – Depending on the bike model, multiple removable and lockable cargo boxes.
  8. Bungee Cords – heavy duty bungee cords to tie down additional load.

Optional Gear:

  1. Video Camera – You can rent a GoPro or a  Garmin VIRB HD camera for only $10/day.
  2. Tank Bag – A bag that mounts on the motorcycle tank $5/day
  3. Communication Headsets – A Uclear communication headset to communicate with other riders for $5/day.

For a full list of the optional add-ons and exact models check out their website. All in all, each add-on was very cheap for the value provided. For example, a GoPro costs hundred of dollars so having access to one for a few days at less than $50 is a bargain.

The equipment is great, but the tour itself is excellent. In 24-hours we saw and experienced what the average person does in a few weeks.

The Tour Stops

We obviously won’t cover every single one of the 17 stops that make up this tour. However, we picked out our favorites to provide a sufficient overview and story.

Virgin Del Camino Overlook

The overlook is one of the first stops along the tour. Whether you are religious or not, it’s recommended to pray for a good ride here. When we found ourselves looking hundreds of feet down over a daunting ledge from a motorcycle, we became religious REAL QUICK. Anyways, the Virgin Del Camino Overlook is one of the best parts throughout the tour to grab photos, so have your camera ready.

Guagrapamba Waterfall

Guagrapamba Waterfall

The waterfall hides in a scenic valley. The hike to get there is pleasant and eye catching. It’s no Victoria Falls, but it’s on the route and easy enough to get to which makes it worth your time. The waterfall is great, but the hike there rivals the beauty of the waterfall itself.

The Bellavista Cloud Forest Preserve

Humming Bird at Bellavista Nature Preserve

The Cloud Forest where the Bellavista Nature Reserve sits is breathtaking. Driving into the fog on a dirt road in the mountains has a strong cinematic feeling. I half expected a bunch of orcs to come storming through the fog at any moment. At the Reserve, you can hike, learn a ton about the forest, and stay in one of their rooms that has a breathtaking view of the mountains.

Bellavista-cloud-forest-reserve

The Bellavista Cloud Forest Preserve has an incredibly knowledgeable owner and the operator by the name of Richard Parsons. He is an Englishman who is referred to by some as a walking BBC documentary. If he is around while you are there pick his brain as much as possible, as he is extremely knowledgeable about the cloud forest and travel in general. He built the Cloud Forest from the ground up.

While we traversed through the cloud forest, we stumbled upon some spectacular views and this beautiful swing that went right over a massive drop down into a valley. It was a surreal experience, but it is not for the faint of heart. Taking a spill off the swing could have put a monkey wrench in our vacation experience. As they say though, no risk no reward.

The Small Town of Mindo

Mindo-Ecuador

Mindo is a small town north of Quito, Ecuador that has a population of just a few thousand people. While the tour is self-guided and we could choose our pace, following Freedom Ecuador’s advice and staying a night in Mindo is the right move.

For $15 we had an excellent steak with a Club Cerveza. If you want a night out, there is a small Karaoke bar called late night bar. They have drink specials and seem to be relatively accustomed to foreigners.

We stayed at the Dragonfly Inn BnB for just $49 (Spring 2017) a night, and it was an excellent place. They provided secure/gated parking for our motorcycle and the manager even woke up at 5 am to give us our complimentary breakfast.

The Butterfly Garden

The Mariposas de Mindo Butterfly Garden in Mindo is a rare experience. It is a small café and garden where you can enter a netted area filled with over 1200 butterflies and moths. There is also a small restaurant and hotel here. If you are lucky, a butterfly might just land on your hand!

The Chocolate and Coffee Tour

The El Quetzal Restaurant and Chocolate Factory is delicious and informative. We didn’t make it in time to see their detailed tour that shows the age-old process of making chocolate from bean to bar, but we enjoyed a delicious mocha coffee. The tours run all day 10am-5pm every day on the hour. The coffee and chocolate are incredible, as promised.

The Pululahua Crater

Pululahua-Crater-Ecuador

The Pululahua Crater is a dormant volcano that sits north of Quito. The Caldera is 5km wide and filled with beautiful greenery. If you have free time, you can even stop and do horseback riding in the bottom of the crater.

The Crater was the best or second best part of the trip. We parked our motorcycle for free just in front of the small, unassuming entrance. Just around the corner is a beautiful lush green crater that has a small town right in the middle of it. A fantastic view seemingly tucked away like this is quintessential Ecuador. At every turn, you are surprised with a view so spectacular it seems to rival the one you saw just moments ago.

Conclusion: Ecuador Freedom’s Cloud Forest Tour is Daring and Beautiful

The Freedom Bike Rental Self-guided Chocolate & Cloud Forest Tour is a once in a lifetime experience. The Freedom Bike Rental company is well organized and kind. The whole process exceeded our expectations! It was risky, but in the end, the only time we almost laid the bike down was when a few tiny dogs chased us – they felt bigger in the moment :).

If you are on the edge of taking up a daring adventure – just go! Walking around Los Angeles at night or driving through rush hour traffic can be more dangerous than a motorcycle tour through Ecuador. We can’t wait to go back to Ecuador and rip through the mountains, but this time we want to make it all the way to the beach! If you are unsure take a peek at the video below that pushed me over the edge and convinced me that I absolutely had to go!

Note: All views expressed are our own and we were NOT compensated by Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental.

Image Sources:
All Images are taken by Life Nomading unless otherwise stated.
Cloudforest – Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, Dragonfly Bnb – Bed and Breakfasts Europe, Chocolate Tour – Rodrigo Buendia., Mariposas De Mindo – Tripadvisor

Comments questions or concerns tweet us @lifenomading.

Part 5: Adventures in Sumatra, Indonesia

Himbit arrived at our house un summoned, per usual, around 8am. It was time for the cookout. This cookout was different  than your typical BBQ, because we were capturing the chicken and killing it ourselves.

Couping the Coop

This was actually our second day attempting the cookout, because yesterday Himbit had been unable to “capture a chicken” While this is rural Indonesia, it isn’t 10,000 B.C; This is not the time of hunter gatherers. From our perspective we we’re now under the assumption that the chicken was being stolen. Nonetheless, a chicken was “captured” on day 2. 

Harrison (my travel partner) offered to kill the chicken. We held it down, and Himbit instructed him to look to the sky and speak a few words in Batak. Batak is a local variation of the Indonesian language. Harrison spoke words of thanks to the earth for the food. Himbit explained this as paying respect to the chicken’s life being taken. Finally, the deed was done and the cookout began.

De-feathering a chicken in Tuk Tuk, Indonesia.

De-feathering a chicken in Tuk Tuk, Indonesia.

While moost vegetarian or animal lover readers may be offended by the process of killing a chicken and/or the lack of respect for animals – I completely refute this. This process made me respect animals and the food served at my table more than I ever have. In the western world, we are washed clean from this. It is something we do not often see, and we feel as though the food just magically appears at our tables.

The cookout was an amazing time, and the chicken was the best chicken I have eaten to this day. It was battered in a mix of herbs, spices, and finely ground nuts. 

Grilling in Tuk Tuk, Indonesia

Grilling in Tuk Tuk, Indonesia

Farewell

The barbecue winded down and we played music for the last time. Tuk Tuk, Indonesia had changed us. The music, the people, and the unrivaled natural beauty we’re amazing. We both knew this experience would never be forgotten. We said goodbye to Himbit the following morning. He drew a small map of the island and wrote a note for us to remember the experience. We gave him a tip for all he had done for us that last couple days. Himbit served us well as a friend, and a guide. He played great tunes, and I hope one day he gets to meet Kid Rock (basically his music hero).

Farming in Tuk Tuk, Indonesia

To this day this Tuk Tuk, Indonesia and Lake Toba remain one of my fondest memories. What is your fondest travel memory? If you don’t have one I encourage you to make one. Go out and see the world. Take what you have learned home with you. Change your outlook. Grow.

Do you have any questions, or comments? please comment below or tweet me @marekjmichalski.

Part 4: Adventures in Sumatra, Indonesia

We woke up early in the morning after a long night of singing and drinking. We had a bit of a hangover and a lot of excitement. It was an amazing experience so far, but we we’re less than a full day into our 4 night stay on the Island of Tuk Tuk.

Up the Mountain with Himbit

Himbit kinda just showed up at our villa (didn’t even need to call him) and gave us a ride back to his house to pickup some scooters we we’re renting from him. We grabbed the phone number of his friends from last night, and a barbecue was on the books for the next day.

Grab the scooters and hit the road. Around the island, up the mountain, down a hill, and through the farmlands we went. Away from the tourist villas and over to the other side of the island.

Kids were walking home from school. Oxen were plowing fields. It was so different, but familiar at the same time. Parallels were everywhere.

School Children in North Sumatra, Indonesia

Kids walking home from school in North Sumatra.

Life here is more simple. There is no rushing of cars, people aren’t walking around half cocked, and everyone is easygoing. In the fast paced and connected world we live in these days life can be hypercritical. We feel so busy. We feel overwhelmed. It’s all analyzed under a microscope over social media, through data, everyone is hypersensitive.

Kids in North Sumatra

Biking around Indonesia we stumbled upon some construction; It’s a family affair.

At 23 years old I finally learned that abundance had nothing to do with wealth, or the minutia that occupied my daily worries. Passion, family, music, and relationships filled the people of Tuk Tuk to the brim.

The Rain

About halfway up the mountain in the middle of the lake, we figure out why no one is here. It’s rainy season, and a torrential downpour is on the way. We snapped this photo just before we headed inside a shanty on the edge of the road.

The shanty was a coffee shop on the top of the mountain. It looked like a rigged up store that someone might have in their garage. It sat on the side of a cliff, and every few minutes I glanced around to make sure the building wasn’t starting to turn into a disintegrating toboggan.We grabbed coffee, and like one does at Lake Toba, played the guitar. Literally every business on the island of Tuk Tuk must have a guitar. The building inspector must check that their is a guitar; it’s a requirement to open your business.

We waited for over an hour and the storm didn’t wain for a moment. It was time to face the rain. Two hours up the mountain was still two hours down. There was no rain gear. We drove right through it and nearly froze to death.

After getting back to then villa I raced to a hot shower. We looked forward to the barbecue, and the warm day that would hopefully await us tomorrow. Find out what happens next in Part 5.

Do you have any questions, or comments? please comment below or tweet me @marekjmichalski.

Best Inflatable Paddle Boards 2017

Top Inflatable Paddle boards 2017

Paddle boarding is more than just something you rent on vacation. It is one of the most thrilling water sports of all time! Which is why we reviewed the top inflatable paddle boards of 2017.

When you merge surfing with kayaking, it gives birth to paddle boarding! Let’s first learn a bit about its history. In the 1940s, Hawaiian surfers used paddles to tweak their wave catching. However, it took the form of a leisure activity, about 10 years ago, in California.

Paddle Boarding in Hawaii. Image: Aditya Siva

Paddle boarding has been exploding because it offers several health benefits, including a full body workout, which aids in improving your cardio fitness and flexibility; all these benefits and more, whilst playing with water and enjoying nature. Worth it, isn’t it?

Thanks to the ever-growing technology and advancements, we now have the option of inflatable paddleboards, making it extremely convenient for paddle-boarders to carry them around.

Here we have compiled the best inflatable paddleboards for your convenience.

Comparison Chart of Best Inflatable Paddle Boards 2017

ProductKey FeaturesPriceBuy Now
Tower Paddle Boards
Adventurer SUP
Tower_paddle_adventure_SUP
• Made of Military-grade PVC material, which makes it highly durable
• Includes a 3-piece adjustable fiberglass paddle.
• Easy to carry, as it is 9’10"

$$$Buy Now!
Sportstuff 1030 Adventure
Stand-Up Paddle Board
Sportstuff_Stand-Up_Paddle_Board
• Comes with large anti-skid Eva pads for secure footing
• Package includes all the important accessories
• Certified frustration-free
$Buy Now!
Vilano Journey Inflatable
Stand-Up Paddle Board
Vilano_Journey_Inflatable _Stand-up_paddle_board
• Made using PVC material with Korean drop-stitch construction
• Comes with a removable carry strap and backpack
• Has Comfortable diamond groove traction for grip and Stainless D-rings
$$Buy Now!
Bestway Hydro-Force
Stand-Up Paddleboard
Bestway_Hydro-Force_Stand-up_Paddleboard
• Has one removable middle fin to improve directional stability
• Suitable for beginners and intermediate paddlers
• Has a built-in carry handle, making it easier to transport
$Buy Now!
Aqua Marina Vapor Inflatable
Stand-up Paddle Board
Aqua_Marina_Vapor_Inflatable_Stand_up_Paddle_board
• Includes a honey groove EVA anti-slip footpad
• Has a stainless steel D-rings on the tail for safety leash, and extra ones to attach a Kayak seat
• Designed specifically for beginners
$$Buy Now!

Product Summary of the Top Inflatable Paddle Boards 2017

Now that you have a good comparison of the key features, lets dig into the details of the top inflatable paddle boards. Below we take a closer look at the pros and cons of the inflatable paddle boards up for review.


Tower Paddle Boards Adventurer

Tower Paddle Boards AdventurerThis Paddleboard is one of the most expensive but highly reviewed paddleboards available in the market. They are not only highly durable, but also extremely rigid, with a weight limit of up to 350 lbs. Also, it comes with a 2-year warranty, which means that it is going to last you a long time – making it worth the price!
Current Pricing and Details


Sportstuff 1030 Adventure Paddle board

Sportstuff 1030 Adventure PaddleboardIt has large anti-skid EVA pads that secure the paddler’s foot, providing optimum protection. They have a maximum capacity of about 250 lbs., and are super convenient! Also, it comes with a Mesh backpack, allowing you to keep all your accessories together. In our opinion, it is a great all-rounder paddleboard!
Current Pricing and Details


The Vilano Journey Inflatable Paddle board

Vilano-Journey-Inflatable-Stand-PaddleThis is made using a high grade PVC material, which makes it highly durable. It provides excellent grip and has an anti-slip deck pad that makes it comfortable for paddling all day long. More so, it has a bungee on the front deck for storage needs. What more could one ask for?
Current Pricing and Details 


The Bestway Hydro-Force Paddle board

HydroForce-WaveEdge-Inflatable-Stand-PaddleboardIt is the cheapest option you will find in the market, whilst also being highly reviewed. It is extremely easy to use, which makes it the best inflatable paddleboard for beginners. If you are looking for a cheap option but don’t want to compromise on the quality, this is the paddleboard to go for!
Current Pricing and Details


Aqua Marina Vapor Paddle board

Aqua-Marina-Inflatable-Stand-up-PaddleThis is neither too expensive, nor too cheap. It comes with a magic backpack to keep your supplies in one place and allow you to carry it conveniently. Also, the inflated drop stitch chamber on the paddleboard offers comfort and stability, and is ideal for newbies.
Current Pricing and Details


Review of the Top Inflatable Paddle boards on the Market

After having reviewed all the best inflatable paddleboards, you can now easily make your decision regarding which paddleboard is the most suitable for you.

If you ADORE paddle boarding, and find that it is more than just a hobby for you, invest in the best and go for the Tower Padle Boards Adventurer SUP. However, if you are short on your budget but still want to experience the thrill, we would recommend you to go for the Bestway Hydro-Force Paddleboard. Paddle boarding, if done right, can provide you with the most thrilling experience of your life! So dance with the waves, enjoying nature in its purest form!

How to Solo Female Travel Like A Boss

Traveling alone is an amazing experience, especially as a solo female. So pack your bags ladies – your dreams await.
While traveling alone may make you nervous, it’s totally worth it! The first step may be the hardest, but it is also the one that will spur you to make deep connections, experience the true ‘you’, and (I believe) become a better woman.

Why You Should Try Traveling Alone

Want to raise some eyebrows? Tell someone you want to travel alone as a female. Expect to immediately hear concerns about your safety.

Society doesn’t like a deviation from the status quo.

You know what I’m talking about: the traditional path of a college degree, marriage certificate, and birth certificates. For some of us, for you, for me; we want a little more. It’s not that those things don’t have merit or that they don’t provide happiness. For those of us whom the allure of travel is undeniable, the idea of settling down runs counter to our dreams.

Kayaking in Pai, ThailandKayaking in Pai, Thailand

Are you still not sure if this sounds like you? Let me tell you the three biggest reasons that traveling alone appealed specifically to me: freedom, self-exploration, and energy. When you travel alone, you don’t have to answer to anyone or explain your actions.

This results in control over doing the things that you truly enjoy (like spa days). This self-reliance, coincidentally, forces you to test the waters – sometimes literally. Once you start to focus on yourself, you find a certain energy. If you are naturally empathetic like me, stress or worry about others’ lives slowly drips away. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes.

One question you should expect to get more than any other as a solo female traveler: “Don’t you get lonely?”  And, my answer is a resounding “Absolutely not!”  Traveling solo is one of the best ways to meet people. Reflecting back on my experiences, I find I was more open and more approachable because I didn’t have my social safety net to find comfort in.

I was constantly meeting interesting people either from my hostel, tours or locally. I can truthfully say I never felt alone. If my newfound travel friends were getting a bit needy, and I needed some ‘me’ time, there was nothing obligating me to hang around anyone I didn’t momentarily want to.

If you’ve got to this point, I think this female solo travel thing is for you. Here are my top ten tips for how to solo female travel successfully as a young woman…

Do Your Research

Knowing what to expect when you step off the plane and feeling prepared will put you at ease before a solo trip.

From the weather, the local currency to safety tips, there’s an abundance of information out there make your trip better.  For international travel, start by entering your destination in the U.S international Travel page to find passport/visa requirements, safety information, local laws/regulations, and required vaccines.

It’s also a good idea to sift through blogs, forums, and social media because you can find a ton of great information from travelers who’ve been there. They can provide you with the positives and negatives and overall advice on almost anything you need about the destination. One resource that is extremely helpful is TripAdvisor forums. Travelers are constantly reviewing and answering forum questions to give the most up to date information.

When you have a specific activity in mind, be it sightseeing, scuba diving, or just bumming it on the beach, it’s a good idea to research your options beforehand that way you’re not spending precious vacation time trying to figure things out!

Additional information that is valuable to know prior is reliable and safe transportation modes, areas in the city to avoid and most importantly, the cultural etiquette of the respective country.

solo female travelImage: Unsplash Annie Spratt

Blend In

As a solo female traveler, it’s necessary that you avoid attracting too much attention to yourself.

It is crucial to know the social etiquette especially when it comes to what to wear. If the country you are visiting has women that dress conservatively, do the same, as this will help you to avoid being singled out as a potentially vulnerable target. The last thing you want to do is draw any unwanted attention to yourself or come off as offensive to the local culture. This also includes avoiding outfits that scream “TOURIST!” Warding off the pickpocketers and scammers is the goal.

You can keep your fanny packs at home!

No matter where you are or how confused you might be it’s important to always walk with confidence.

Even when you’re completely lost try not to appear as confused as you are. As a woman traveling alone appearing confused can attract the wrong kind of attention and put a target on your back.  Nobody starts out as a wonderfully confident solo traveler. As you become more comfortable finding your way by yourself and making your own choices, your confidence will grow. Don’t confuse cockiness with confidence; if you are in danger ask for help.

Cruising down the coast of Vietnam.Cruising down the coast of Vietnam

Be Aware

Being aware of your actions and surroundings at all times can save you from some major mishaps.

Be mindful of what information you give to strangers. Avoid saying you’re alone or exactly where you’re staying. You don’t have to be paranoid that everyone’s out to get you just use your best judgment and exercise common sense.

When traveling internationally, read up on topics of conversation to stay clear of in particular countries. You don’t want to offend anyone or put yourself in a dangerous situation because of something that you said.

Scuba Diving in ThailandScuba diving in Thailand!

Keep Your Valuables Hidden

Pickpocketing is a huge problem in a lot of countries.

To not fall victim to this crime avoid flashing your valuables in public. Be mindful of the attention you are attaching to yourself when pulling out your phone on the streets or carrying your camera around your neck. It is also smart to keep these possessions in your reach at all times, along with key documents such as your passport, visa, and wallet.

When you are traveling solo, you lack an extra pair of eyes on your belongings. Crossbody bags that zip or latch-up are recommended. And always keep it in front of you!

Ask For Help

There’s no way to be fully prepared, especially if you’re in a new country. Anytime you’re traveling, especially solo-traveling, you can expect something to go awry.

That’s why it’s important to have a plan B. Unfortunately that doesn’t always work out either. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Whether it be other travelers (which have surely gone through their own struggles) or the locals, someone will be bound to help you.

Book in Advance

You finally arrive at your destination… and now what? Even if you don’t have a strict travel itinerary and time frame, it’s always best to book your first couple nights beforehand.

You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you can’t find a place to sleep before you get the lay of the land. Go into your trip confident and stress-free knowing that you have somewhere safe to stay upon arrival. In addition to peace of mind, booking your accommodations, flights, and tours beforehand is typically cheaper and again, won’t waste precious travel time on research and planning while you are there.

To avoid any mishaps, keep a copy of your booking confirmation numbers just in case something goes wrong. Consider consolidating all your information into the TripIt app. TripIt syncs with your emails and instantly creates a master itinerary for your trip that includes your flight info, confirmation information, emails, locations, and contact information. Among other awesome features, you will automatically get mobile notifications if a flight is delayed or canceled.

Be Prepared

No matter how much you research and plan, eventually you are bound to experience a few unforeseen complications. When you’re traveling alone you don’t have the luxury of having someone to fall back on when disaster strikes. It’s important to have a backup plan for your backup plan. No trip is perfect (unless of course, you’re Beyoncé) so come ready.

As a female solo traveler, travel insurance is one of the most important things that you can purchase for an international trip. Travel insurance can cover everything from doctor visits, lost/stolen baggage, to cancellations or trip delays.  World Nomads Insurance is one of the most reliable travel insurance companies and covers all of your basic needs.

Along with having a copy of all your information somewhere online, also carry around a hard copy of your passport and travel insurance information in case of emergencies.

Natural infinity pools in Oaxaca, Mexico
  • Download Essential Apps that can help your trip go a little smoother. Maps.me is one of the most useful map apps because you can use it without having Wi-Fi. Whatever map app you use, be sure to download offline versions before departure. It’s also always good to have an app like Airbnb or Booking.com to book accommodation on the fly if need be.
  • Learn a few phrases in the local language for basic needs, like directions and how to ask for help. Not only will it help you during everyday activities, but it can also help you to avoid being ripped off. Many locals show more respect to visitors who make the effort to learn some of their native languages. For on the fly translations download the Google Translate app. It has a database of over 103 languages, can translate images, and work offline.
  • When it comes to your money, prepare a plan A, B, and C. What if you get pickpocketed or the ATM eats your debit card? The last situation you want is to be alone with no money or access to it. Unless you can breakdance or play the accordion on the side of the street, keep some emergency cash and an extra debit/credit card hidden. Also, don’t forget to make your bank aware of the countries you are traveling to beforehand to prevent them from freezing your accounts!

Let People Know Where You Are

While you’re off adventuring don’t forget to check in with your loved ones back home. Post pictures and send updates leaving a trail of where you are.

If constantly checking in isn’t your thing use the Find My Friends app so your friends can…..well…find you.

If you prefer to be in constant communication with home, purchase a SIM card so that you have internet access. This allows you to call and text your loved ones with either iMessage, WhatsApp or Viber! Be sure to unlock your phone before you leave, as this can take a few days to process and is more difficult once out of the country.

It’s also always a good idea to let the staff at your hotel/hostel know that you are traveling alone. Give them a quick update on when you intend to come back from a day of exploring.

In the case of an emergency, it’s always a good idea to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment program. It’s a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad to enroll with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The embassy will contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.

beach solo travel

Post on social media so people know where you are – Instagram your way to safety!

Be Mindful Of Where You are At Night

This is common sense, but as a rule of thumb, wherever you are you should be cautious about walking around alone at night.

Research what the safest and most reliable form of transportation is and spend the extra couple bucks on it to get yourself back home safely. Especially if you’ve been drinking!!

Don’t be Scared

It’s important not to let fear get the better of you and prevent you from exploring everything this world has to offer. This time in your life is about you – and you will be a much stronger, more independent person because of it.

The ways in which travel betters you as a person greatly outweigh any of the difficulties you might face.

Travel is a life-changing experience and one that anyone who wants to experience absolutely SHOULD. I hope these tips make learning how to solo female travel easier. And helped you make your decision a little bit more certain if you are still in that stage, or if you’ve already decided and are soon to be on your way, a little bit safer and a little bit easier.

Hanging on a ledge at the Horseshoe bend in Arizona.

 

Do you have any questions or comments? please comment below or message me on my Facebook. Like the article? Find more at my personal travel blog Catchmeifyoucam.

Part 2: Adventures in Sumatra, Indonesia

Samosir Village

We woke up at 8 to catch the 9am ferry. Everyone was up so early; the market was in full swing. What had been dark and deserted the night before now was filled with vibrant colours and shouting.

Parapat, Indonesia

The fruit stall at the market in Parapat, Indonesia

The Ferry to Samosir

We were playing a guitar out front and eating some fried rice for breakfast. We caught the attention of a guide, and musician, Himbit. He joined in on our jam and we began singing some nonsensical melody.

Nothing in Indonesia seems to leave on a consistent schedule. Before we realized it , the 9am ferry left at 8:55. Himbit said “I saw it was about to leave but I didn’t want to interrupt the awesome jam!” It felt like we would never get to Tuk Tuk, and we really wished our jam would have been a little less “awesome” so Himbit would have told us the boat was leaving.

A half a day on the plane, 7 hours in a car, and a night in the grimy, yet character filled, Charlie Inn had still left us one boat ride short.

Landing on Tuk Tuk

We caught the next ferry, and Himbit went over with us. We were apprehensive. Did he want to befriend us or take advantage of us – what was in it for him. 

The cottage was finally before us. We jumped off the dock. Finally. Paradise.

A fisherman lifts his net just off the boat dock on Parapat.

Small Batak houses, lush greenery, and palm trees lined the translucent blue lake. We grabbed food at the restaurant and talked with the Dutchman who owned the estate.

After some swimming, the night finally winded down.  We looked on the lake as the moon’s reflection shimmered on the water.

In the distance we heard faint singing in harmony echoing off the lake. It was beautiful, and unlike anything we had ever heard. I looked at Harrison and said “Do you hear that?” Harrison responded, “Yeah, where is it?” I responded, “I don’t know but we are about to find out.”

I convinced Harrison that we would spend our night following the music, and see where it lead us. Music found it’s way into everything at Tuk Tuk, and we were about to learn first hand. Find out what happens in Part 3: Adventures in Sumatra.

Do you have any questions, or comments? please comment below or tweet me @marekjmichalski.