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Why I Love a Traveling Girl

I recently stumbled across a blog post by a young man bemoaning dating a girl who loves travel.  The post outlined the aggravating draw backs of having her being gone “all the time,” and always thinking about the next place she was headed.  Once I got done yelling at my computer screen, I started to write this post in my head.  Here goes:

Love Traveling GirlOne of the greatest pieces of advice my beloved grandmother, (who loved to travel by the way), gave to me was to marry a girl that you can sit across the breakfast table with for the rest of your life.   Somehow I followed this wise advice and found just that person.  Travel definitely played a role in why I asked Luci to marry me.  Travel makes you smart, interesting and sexy!  So what makes a traveling girl so great?

Are you a traveling girl….or love one?  Give us a follow on Facebook.

Smart Women Travel

The most dynamic and interesting women I have met in my life have been travelers.  Call me crazy, but travel really makes people interesting.  One great example is the Evelyn Hannon, the Jouneywoman.  If you haven’t checked out her blog, you must.  She continues to criss-cross the globe in search of adventure and fulfillment.  I hope she doesn’t kill me for saying this,  while she is advancing in years, it hasn’t stopped her from her mission to explore and discover.  Now she supports and encourages other women to follow in her footsteps.  What a great example.

Smart women travel.  One attribute that comes shining through with traveling women is their ability to delay gratification.  They are willing to scrimp and save for 6 months to spend two weeks in the Tuscan country side.  Sacrifice is a critical life lesson for relationships.  It is a cold hard fact: the best things in life take time and effort.  As poor newlyweds putting ourselves through college, we had to be creative in our travel destinations.  We both did internships in areas that had interesting places to discover.  Every weekend we would map out where we wanted to explore next ….on one tank of gas.  Traveling women find a way to make it work because discovery is so important to them.

Peru woman travelTravelers tend to be readers.  Another appealing aspect of finding yourself a traveling girl is they tend to be well read.  As many of you loyal Fighting Couple readers know, we do extensive trip prep.  This involves reading about interesting angles of our trip.    Yes, my traveling girl reads Frommers and Rick Steves.  But she also read, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” before we visited Savannah, GA or “1453” about the fall of Constantinople before visiting Istanbul.  The potent combination of reading and exploring makes living exhilarating.

Traveling Girls are Dreamers and Doers

The travel industry has marketing the dream down pat.  You are bombarded by these high gloss destination magazines of white sandy beaches and cool breezes blowing the palm trees.  They offer the eyes of the beholder an escape and a dream.  The thing about traveling women is, they see these dreams…then they make them happen for themselves.   One of the quirky things about Luci is that she wants a destination to look just like the dream.  We have a good laugh occasionally when we both say…this doesn’t look like the brochure.  On the other hand, we have visited places that we will never blog about because they are just that pristine and amazing and we want them to stay that way.  Traveling women make their own dreams come true.  For those of us that are lucky enough to love these women, we are invited along for the ride.

woman travelTraveling Women are Selfish?

Traveling women are intriguing to me.  While family is undoubtedly important to these wander lusters, they elect to leave home and family behind occasionally to focus on their own self-improvement.  Many mistakenly view this as selfishness.  Dive a little deeper and you see a person investing in themselves to be a better mother, wife, sister or friend.    How is this selfish?  Reaching out, and understanding the world around you is the exact opposite of self-focus.  Taking the education that travel can dish out: appreciating beauty, understanding diversity, experiencing first hand real poverty, making friends, learning the difference between needs and wants are all lessons learned on the road.  In turn these lessons are taught to our children.  How much more powerful is a lesson on valuing diversity to a child coming from a person that has visited the Soweto or Auschwitz?  Likewise a lesson on poverty having slept in a grass hut in Swaziland?

Travel is Hard

Traveling women know how to do hard things.  I am not naive enough to believe that  intercontinental travel is for everyone.  It is certainly not.   It is exhausting, it can be expensive, and certainly takes a lot time.  Travel at times means learning a new language, culture and adjusting to unfamiliar cuisine.  It means dealing with ambiguous situations.  The dangers of travel are real and common.  One of the dividends of travel is that it makes you stronger and helps you to exercise common sense and problem solving. How are we going to find the right train to Fontainebleau or how am I going to find my wife I left at the Louvre because I was hungry?  As you face a challenge, meet it head on and achieve your intended goal, you become resilient.  Would we have been bitten by leaches staying home and working in our cubicle?  Not likely.  Travel can be fraught with disappointment and difficulty.  At the same time there is something reassuring about getting yourself lost and working your way out of the situation.

woman beach thailandWhere Do You Find Them?

The travel blogging world is dominated by women!   It really is.  Us guys are way too slow to value the education that can come from leaving the home port and discovering the globe.  Maybe we do travel but, we just don’t write about it.  Traveling women are easy to spot.  They are constantly posting pictures of food and interesting road signs on their social media sites.  Pinterest pages of “traveling girls” are cram packed with green Peruvian jungles, rolling Tuscan vineyards and Irish blessing memes.  Traveling girls have a twinkle in their eye when they talk about the next road trip they are planning.  Guys, go get them!

Candidly, finding a traveling girl has changed my life for the better.  Regardless if we are in remote Africa or climbing Machu Picchu as we explore together, I continue to be impressed with my bride’s passion for the new and unknown.  She chooses the path less traveled, and that has made all the difference for us.

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Putting the Boom! in Boomer Travel

We are excited to introduce you to the next traveling couple in our 7 Questions series.  Meet the traveling “Baby Boomers” Wayne and Pat of Unhook now.  Wayne and Pat truly but the “Boom!” in Boomer travel.  So here’s their story:  after owning a business, teaching at the university level, they rented out their home and are spending two years visiting 100 countries!  They invite you come along and see the world through their eyes!  Candidly, Luci and want to be like them when we grow up.

 

baby boomer travelHow to follow these two:

Blog:  www.UnhookNow.com
Facebook www.Facebook.com/PlanYourEscapeNow
Twitter:  @wdunlap

Lets get to the questions:

1) Over 100 countries visited? Wow! How has travel brought you together as a couple?

Wayne said: “Travel has greatly improved our lives together with a renewed outlook on life. Traveling with only a suitcase has shown us that we do not need stuff to be happy. Now we find much more important the people, friends, and new experiences in our lives. Our travel experience has changed our life. Together we love to have more adventures, romance, learning, having fun, laughing, and waking up excited about the day.”

Pat Said: “Choosing to run away with my husband and best friend has been the most rewarding lifestyle change one can make. Life without routines is inspiring and renews your playful spirit and love of life. It’s brought us closer together.”

1000Fights: You two are incredible! 

 

Riding elephant2) If you had to travel with someone else besides your travel partner, who would it be? (this person can be living, historical or mythical)

Wayne Said: “Marco Polo – He was amazing traveling to an unknown world returning 24 years later. He met Kublai Khan and inspired Christopher Columbus and others. As a travel writer, I am impressed that his book about his journeys became one of the most popular books in medieval Europe and had great impact.”

Pat Said: “Besides my husband, hum… I guess it would be my long time friend, Diane, who is a great artist and sees the beauty everywhere we go. She is so much fun and we laugh.”

 

3) What has been your favorite destination in your wanderings? Why?

Wayne said: “We do a lot of research before we take off so we have been pretty lucky in having most places have something special. With so many wonderful places in the world with such diversity of customs, food, history, beliefs, and architecture, it is difficult to pick just one favorite. So here are some favorites – Italy with its amazing culture, beautiful cities, history, cuisine, and diverse scenery; the Greek Islands for the people, astounding beauty of the ocean and white architecture, winding stone streets of the old towns, trellis-covered tavernas, and food; New Zealand with the amazing beauty and laid-back people; and Thailand for its warm people of Buddhist faith, amazing food, and architecture.”

Pat said: “I also loved China’s canal city of Suzhou and the very modern city of Shanghai in China blow us away. Uruguay is wonderful for its natural beauty.”

 

Hiking glacier4) If you had to eat one last meal, what/where would you eat?

Wayne said: “With the large diversity of great food around the world, best is hard to pick. Here are favorites that come to mind: food and cheese in France, free-range beef in Buenos Aires, fish head curry and chili crab in Singapore, sukiyaki and okonomiyaki in Japan, and the authentic version of fish and chips wrapped in newspaper in an English pub.”

Pat said: “I would add lobster from U.S.’s New England and lobster pizza in Bequia in the Caribbean Grenadines, real pasta in Italy, Greek food in the Greek Islands, and padang curry in Thailand. This has made me hungry.”

1000Fights:  Ok…we are hungry!

 

5) Looks like you have taken a number of cruises. What appeals to you both about cruises? Is there a line that you prefer?

Pat said: “As soon as I step on a cruise ship I get a sense of immediately being on vacation and leaving worries and routines at home. The experience is a playground for adults and a fantasy. Cruises can take you to many interesting places, you can do as little or as much as you like, and there is no need to move luggage around, wait in airports, or worry about finding accommodations and transportation. We like Holland American Line for its value-price cruises, good destination itineraries, and great service and food.”

Wayne said: “What surprises many people is that cruising can be an economical way to travel. Especially during less popular weeks, many cruises can be a bargain when you consider they are all inclusive including lodging, transportation, great food (and more food), entertainment, shows, movies, lectures, shopping, activities, dancing, swimming, work out and other recreational facilities, and a relaxing enjoyable travel experience.

We include cruises on our travel adventures for many reasons. First, we like to have some downtime to relax and plan our future travel. Also, we will take a cruise that goes to a unique area we are not sure we would be interested in spending a lot of time exploring. On one of our trips through Asia, we included a cruise out of Singapore to see some of Indonesia and Malaysia. Sometimes a cruise to a unique area will entice us to go back. Our passion for the Greek Islands was sparked by a cruise (on our honeymoon).”

 

Thailand girls6) If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

Wayne said: “We try not to live with regret or dislike. When it comes to world travel, we wish our government and news media would make less use of fear of the world when attempting to control people and sell media. You do need to use common sense and always be aware of your security but we learned that the world and the people you meet can be wonderful, generous, and lovely.”

Pat said: “I keep thinking about world peace. Everywhere we go people are kind, generous, and have the same problems we have. If people travel more, they will see that people around the world have more similarities than differences and hatred and war is not necessary.”

 

7) You knew it was coming… What has been your greatest travel fight/disagreement?

Pat said: “My intuitive sense of danger comes up once in a while that at first annoyed Wayne. We have never had any safety issues after traveling 100 countries together and he now appreciates the early warning system.”

 1000Fights:  Pat, you can travel with us anytime!  We need your talent!

Wayne said: “Spending all your time together for weeks can at times be overwhelming. I used to get disturbed when we would go to another shopping opportunity. So, we now occasionally split up and go your separate ways for a few hours or a whole day. This is great advice for couples. One might want to be active and explore while the other needs a rest and wants to read a book. One partner may want to go shopping while the other explores another museum or has a drink with friends. You can meet up later at lunch or dinner and will find your conversations lively as you share your adventures with each other.”

1000Fights:  Wayne, you and Mike are cut from the same cloth.

 

Wayne and Pat Dunlap are travel TV hosts (Plan Your Escape™) on the CW network and travel columnist for the Huffington Post. They have been fortunate to live their dreams and are members of the exclusive Travelers’ Century Club. In total, they have visited 100 countries and island groups on 6 continents as well as 44 U.S. states.

Thanks again to Wayne and Pat for sharing.  Please check out their blog at www.unhooknow.com.

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A Day at Bangkok’s Grand Palace

On the banks of the Chao Phraya River stands a 200 year old tribue to power and wealth of old Siam.  The Grand Palace is a must see for any visit to the Thailand capital.  First off, the Grand place is not simply one building, it is a entire village of palaces and temples.

Before you go:

Palace Thailand

Anyone planning on visiting the Grand Place must understand what The Grand Palace is and isn’t.  First off, the grand place is a holy place held in reverence.  Monks and priests live and work on the campus.  Certain areas are held with extreme revence.  People come to the Palace to worship from all over Asia.  The Palace is also a ceremonial home to the Royal Family of Thailand.  King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit Kitiyakara are the longest current serving monarchs in the world, and according to the Forbes list the King is one of the wealthiest individuals in the world.   Thai’s revere the King and disrespect toward him or the royal family is a punishable offence.   Needless to say, visitors to the Royal Palace should be prepared the conduct themselves in a proper manner.  Here are a few of the requirements directoy from the official site of the Palace:

Proper Dress in The Grand Palace for Visitors

Visitors are requested to be dressed properly and appropriately upon entering the ground of the Bhubing Palace. Thus the following dress – code (applicable to both ladies and gentlemen) will be strictly enforced:

1. Shorts, mini-skirts, short skirts, tight fitting trousers, as well as tights can not be worn as outer garments.
2. See-through shirts and blouses, as well as culotters or quarter length trousers can not be worn.
3. Sleeveless shirts or vests can not be worn as outer garments.
4. Sandles (without ankle or heel straps) can not be worn.
5. All shirt sleeves, whether long or short, can not be rolled up.
6. Sweat shirts and sweat pants, wind-cheaters, pajamas and fisherman trousers can not be worn.

The point above saying “strictly” enforced is just that.  You will be turned away of not dressed appropriately.  Security is tight.  Of the many sites we have visited, this is only rivaled by the Vatican.  We are going to insert our opinion here, we are the Fighting Couple, it is our nature.  We couldn’t help but overhear complaints about the rigid guidelines as we were in line to enter by other tourists.  Frankly, this disappointed us.  Showing respect by the clothes you wear is appropriate.  The rules are clearly posted and advertised.  Prepare ahead and you will be fine.

We recommend getting there early.  The audio guide that is offered for a fee is actually very helpful in understanding all of the many structiures withing the compound.  We are going to highlight some of the key things to see within the Palace. Frankly, there is so much to see and expiriance, this is just a few things that we found interesting.

Budda

Many religious statues line the halls of the Palace.

Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

Grand palace tower

Temple of the Emerald Buddha

 

Chinese man beard

Many Chinese statues adorn the Palace grounds. These were actually used a ballast on ship trading between Siam and China.

Lotus

Many gardens small and large decorate the courtyards.

Asian rooftop

Even the rooftop eves are ornately decorated.

 

The Grand Palace   We made the mistake of only allowing a morning for our visit.  very bad idea.  There is so much to see and take in.  Allow the better part of a day to really experience the Palace grounds.  Photographers are going to find a new angle at ever turn.  Thailand truly holds so many great adventures!  There are many low cost airlines that fly into and out of Bangkok.  Book yours today and enjoy your visit!

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7 Questions with Traveling 9 to 5

In our continued quest in introduce you to some of the best traveling couples, this week’s installment is one of the best.  Meet Caroline and Josh of   www.traveling9to5.com.   This duo, after working in the corporate world decided to sell (almost) everything they owned and travel the world for a year.  Their fun blog captures the ins and outs of travel as a couple.   One interesting fact about Caroline, she is a professional “cart wheeler”.  Check out her cart wheeling board on pinterest!

Give them a follow:

couple traveling1) How many countries visited between the two of you?

We have been to 18 countries between the two of us and have at least 7 left to visit this year. All of our international travel has been together. We are that cheesy couple that met in high school and got married right after college traveling together since we both had passports.

2) If you had to travel with someone else besides your travel partner, who would it be?  (this person can be living, historical or mythical?.)

He Said: I would travel with Chris Guillebeau from the Art of Non-Conformity. I’d probably still be at my old job if it wasn’t for his blog and inspiration.

She Said: I would travel with Matt… the dancing one. I love to dance, more specifically I love to dance badly. His videos still make me laugh and inspire me to keep traveling. I haven’t met him yet, but he seems as if he has a good time traveling, adventures to new locations and has some wicked dance moves.

couple at cooking school3)What has been your favorite destination in your wanderings?  Why?

He said: Thailand. Especially Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It’s the only country on our trip that we’ve been to  more than once. I absolutely loved the people, the food, the noise and the energy of these cities. We met so many great people and enjoyed so much good FOOD.  I can’t wait to return.
She said: Botswana. I have never fallen in love with the sky and the stars as much as I did in Botswana. Camping in the middle of nowhere lends a certain peace while at the same time is scary as &@*% considering there are wild animals creeping in every shadow. The colors of the sunset and sunrise are incredible, the terrain is constantly changing, the people you meet are so unique… I could go on forever!

4)  If you had to eat one last meal, what/where would you eat?

He said: I’d have Vietnamese pho ga (chicken soup), fresh french bread and butter, my mom’s buffalo chicken mac & cheese, a fillet mignon with sauteed mushrooms and finally, some homemade chocolate chip cookies. I’d make sure to have some Thai desserts too, so Care could eat off my plate. :)

She said: Do I have to limit the number of courses in the meal?
I would start by jumping on the first flight to Thailand .
I would pick up a fresh coconut smoothie from Pa’s stand at the Chiang Mai Gate night market.
Next, red curry from the small shack in Chiang Mai
Finally I would end with my three favorite Thai Desserts:
Mango Sticky Rice – a BIG serving of it with lots of coconut milk and fresh mangos.
Mochi Balls covered in coconut with brown sugar and more coconut in the middle
Coconut pudding balls from the street
HEAVENLY!

5)Seriously, on your site there is a tab titled: Exercise!  What’s up with that?

He said: You’ll have to ask her. :)
She said: This one is my fault. I was a personal trainer with Equinox back in Chicago. I promised my clients that I would keep up with my own workouts and document them along the way. I am a bit of a health/fitness junkie. So most of our adventures are hiking, walking, cycling, anything to get the extra exercise in!  Traveling and exercising isn’t easy, so I carry a jump rope everywhere I go and focus on a lot of body weight exercises. Many more travel workouts are on the way!

woman doing cart wheel

Caroline-The Cart Wheel Queen!

6) Josh, loved your post on “retiring” at a young age.  Tell us about
how and why you made this decision.

He said: (Caroline actually wrote this post!) Americans make a big deal out of retirement. It is seen as a phase of life that is to be feared and endlessly prepared for. That you should sacrifice everything now so you can hopefully enjoy your life when you are old. Instead I think it should be embraced as a positive change of direction. You can experience a “mini-retirement” way before your 60s. For us, it isn’t retirement in the traditional sense. It’s opting out of the rat race and choosing to live a life that fulfills us. We will still work, and we’ll still work hard, but we plan on working for ourselves and writing our own life story instead of having someone else write it for us.

couple wearing slicker7)You knew it was coming….What has been your greatest travel fight/disagreement?

She said: Our most recent argument was over Josh’s top notch driving abilities. We recently drove ourselves through Botswana and Namibia in a 4×4 Toyota Hilux. Prior to arriving in Africa, Josh hadn’t driven anything in a long time bigger than a motorbike. We got in our new home, a HUGE diesel 4×4 truck and he suddenly is Mario Andretti. He is driving over tree trunks, whizzing around cars and plowing through 3 feet of sand. I am terrified, and do what any strong-minded wife would do…I become the backseat driver that no one wants to have. I yelled out when it looked like we were going to hit trees or were plowing through thorn bushes and insisted he slow down as he tried to jump the potholes on the endless gravel roads in Namibia.
He said: It was awesome. I’m just trying to keep us from crashing into elephants, and Care keeps yelling, “Left…LEFT!” … I have no idea what this means. We both got pretty fired up over how we should warn each other to watch out for something in the road, which is a pretty dumb argument, but we were so mad. It was just a stressful drive with animals coming from every direction, but I was an awesome driver.
She said: LEFT means “look to the left, we are going to crash into a tree”. We had a $2,000 deductible, we shouldn’t be driving the huge truck like we are on a race track!He said: I had to drive fast enough to not get stuck in the sand, unless we wanted the added adventure of digging ourselves out of the sand while looking for hungry wild animals.

She said: This is why we left this argument in Namibia. :)

1000Fights:  We love it!  I think that this is the very first time we have had a fight in the post!  Impressive!
Seriously aren’t these two a kick?!
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Krabi for Couples

Picture this setting: A sleepy beach town stuck in slow motion.  The sun drifting below the horizon throwing pinks and orange streaks across the water and sky.  Walking hand in hand along the golden sandy strip of beach with you lover.  A light ocean breeze comes across the water.  Behind you, a thick lush jungle wraps the town like a warm comforter.  If you believe that this paradise simply sounds too good to be true, you have never been to Krabi, Thailand.

Thailand BeachesKrabi is  located an hour south of Bangkok, Thailand via airplane, or a stunning 2 hour boat ride from Phuket.   Phuket is a great base to visit the entire area.   If you are looking for holidays in Phuket start here.   More about incredible Phuket in a future post.  The Krabi area offers beach of choice: Koh Lanta, Ao Nang, Koh Pi Pi, Railai ect.  We stayed in Ao Nang and highly recommend it for its food, access to boats, and quality yet affordable accommodations.

What to do

Make your visit to Krabi the ultimate quest to find the perfect beach.  The night before your adventure, head into one of the small grocery stores along the main road in Ao Nang.  Load a basket with some of your favorite picnic items.  Don’t forget your favorite beverages.  You will need some water as well, as it was not readily available at many of the beaches we explored.  Step one:  head down to the beach area in the early morning (early = 8 a.m. on vacation for us).  Step two:  approach at least two, preferably three of the boat kiosks along the water front and ask for the 4 to 5 beach private long boat tour.  Don’t go cheap and book a boat with a bunch of other people…the price is really not that much more, and going out as a couple is so much more fun.

Time to get on the water!  You will pay your bill which should range from $50-75 for the entire day.  Then they will direct you to a truck that will take you down to their boat launch.  Board your craft and off you go!  The boat drivers typically speak enough English, Swedish, German, or Japanese to make basic communication possible.  The driver takes you from one small island to the next in you quest for the perfect beach at your leisure. The sand is as white as sugar and the water is warm, about 80 degrees. Luci hates cold water so it was perfect for her!  It will be a day, that you will never, never forget.  Take a look at some of these pictures:

Thailand Beaches

 

Thailand Beach

Thailand Beaches

Thailand Beaches

 Would you like to see more lucious pictures of Thailand?  Give the Fighting couple a follow on Facebook.

Where to stay

One of the great things about Krabi is the big “monster” resorts have yet to arrive. (This is a very good thing.)  What you will find in terms of accommodation varies in quality and correlating price.  There is everything for basic hostel type with shared facilities to self-catering cottages.  We elected to stay in two different bed and breakfasts.  Our priority was price and comfort.  Staying right on the beach wasn’t a big deal to us.  Both locations were a short 3 minute ride to the water and both places had their own shuttle AKA pick up truck.  Not a problem.

Krabi, Thailand

Phu Pi Maan

Phu Pi Maan–  Despite the poor choice of  name…this resort is really wonderful.  The resort offers free transport to and from town.  It is really easy.  We also liked being off the main drag.  Rooms were clean and large.  Beds are a bit hard, but we are softies from the states.   One of our favorite parts of this place is the pool.  It is a split level with makes it perfect for couples.  The owners are devout Muslims so alcohol in any form is not available for purchase.  Don’t miss June and Jane’s Massage just down the street, great massage for a great price. We paid $50 for  two hour massage and scrub for the two of us! A clean facility and nice people!

 

Krabi Thailand

Phu Petra Resort

Phu Petra-The best service we had in Thailand was at this superb little resort a couple minutes from town.  Much like Phu Pi Maan, free transport was offered to and from Ao Nang.  Phu Petra is a little more upscale, with its huge suites and setting at the base of stunning limestone cliffs.  Breakfast is included in the price and is more than adequate. You’ll have your choice of made to order omelets, meats, fruits and fresh juices.  The front desk is a fountain of knowledge on the area and can make just about anything happen for you.

 

What to Eat

Krabi ThailandKrabi is seafood mecca!    We did struggle to find traditional Thai in the area. It’s definitely a tourist zone!  Load up on the good traditional Thai fare in Bangkok.  We did find the perfect seafood grill.  Perched on the side of a small hill overlooking the city is the Lae Lay Grill.  This place is so good that we ate there twice during our stay!  (This is unusual for us, we typically like to explore a different place every night.)  So yes, it is that good.  We love the open kitchen as you walk in.  They take their food prep serious!  Service is above average, and the quality of the food is high.  The best part is of course the view of the ocean that the place offers.  Try the rice cooked in a pineapple and the seafood platter.  We ate there our last night and we were speechless watching the sunset.  (the Fighting Couple speechless?  We didn’t think this was possible.)

Krabi, thailand

The warm waters of Southern Thailand are truly meant for couples.  Take the challenge to find the perfect beach!  Southern Thailand has so much to offer!  Stop dreaming and make it happen!

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10 Things to Know for Your First International Trip

We put together a little cheat sheet for you folks who are attempting your first international trip.  These little hints are the sum of all our knowledge from visiting a couple dozen different counties on 5 continents.  These are the things that we wish we would have known, but were painful lessons learned out on the road.

1)Roll with it

Ok, this is your first trip abroad.  You happen to be the type A, planner type.  Take a chill pill!  Regardless of how planned you are, things are going to be different than you expect.  Roads don’t exist that are clearly on the map!  This is a really good thing.  Experiencing another culture, another language, and another environment makes you a better person.  You can understand and cope with differences better after your return.  You become more deep as a human being.  Just to recap, things are going to be crazy.  A lot of things are going to come at you fast.  Savor every moment!

2)Speak the Language

If you are a loyal 1000 Fighter, you know that we always harp on this.  It is so critical in order to really get to know a new country, you must, must, must know some of the language.  You by no means need to be fluent.  Its better if you are not.  You do need to know enough to engage in a small conversation without relying on your native tongue.  Our goal is always to know enough to chat up a taxi driver for 10 mins.  Know how to talk about the weather.  You don’t need to conjugate every verb, you need to know how to ask a kid their name, and how old they are.

Turkish Breakfast

3)Just Try It

This little nugget of advice applies on so many levels.  Lets start with the food.  As you departing on your first international trip, you are going to see menus that look Greek even if you are in China!  When you walk into the food establishment, glance around,  pick out something that looks interesting and give it a try.  Why not?  (If your are in Cusco, Peru- give the guineu pig a try!) You have never been on balloon flights UK?  Follow rule number 3.  Just try it!   The beauty of experience days is stepping outside your comfort zone.

4)Ask a Lot of Questions

Luci is a real pro at this.  It is her reporter background.  Regardless if we are on a plane, in a museum, taking a nature tour, or just in a cab, she is always pumping anyone that will listen for information.  Why?  Frankly, you don’t know what you don’t know.  There may be another bigger unknown waterfall just around the corner.  There may be a cheaper place to buy your souvenirs just down the road.  The taxi driver might have a brother that runs a better tour.  All of these things have happened to us.  Only because we asked.

5) Follow your instincts

Traveling internationally, trust your gut.  One of our fave couple travel bloggers: Y Travel Blog recently did a post on safety tips for single female travelers, in this article Caz says: “Trust your intuition.  It always knows best. If something doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. There is a reason why you get that unsettled feeling in your stomach when you meet that strange person on the beach.  Don’t freak yourself out by imaginary monsters, but definitely pay attention to those little messages our animal instincts give us.”

If you are in a place that doesn’t fell right, leave. Common sense kinda stuff.  We must say, be careful of situations where your instincts are dulled: “see drinking too much barley pop.”

6)Smile

We give you permission to forget every other one of our hints in this post, please don’t forget this one.  This is the most powerful hint to traveling abroad.  The smile is the universal language.  Attempt to speak Turkish,  compliment them on their beautiful country and then grin ear to ear.  Your feeble attempts at communication  will be supplanted with the power of the smile.  If you are struggling figuring out the exchange rate and what all of the multi-colored monopoly money means…flash a big toothy grin.  No problems.   Smile at everyone.  Give the little children you pass on the street a warm smile, the old man in the chair in front of his flat a big one as well.  The returns from this small gesture will pay huge dividends.

7)Be Prepared

The old boy scout motto applies to international travel.  If you are going to the Amazon, buy some medical evacuation coverage.  If you are going to Tahiti and you only wear a certain sun tan lotion, bring it.  Think through things on a couple of levels.  Put your money in a couple different places.  Another couple of our travel friends, Cam and Nicole have a great story about this!  “How I got robbed by a Thai prostitute on the streets of Bangkok.”  Cam shared this story with us when we were up in Vancouver, BC this summer.  We are still laughing.  The moral of the story is always be prepared!

8) Don’t Follow the Other Tourists

It is soooo tempting when traveling abroad to do what everyone else is doing.  But didn’t your mom warn you about doing this?  If not, we are!  Don’t go on a tourist bender.  If you are prepared, and follow the other tips above, wander out of the norm.  See the undiscovered sites.  Are they still out there you ask?  YOU BET THEY ARE.  Will you get lost?  We sure hope so.  Some of our best moments traveling are when we get lost.  Be a leader, not a follower.

9) Show me the Money

Every place you go, you are going to need rupees, pounds, yens, or coconuts…Be prepared.  Exchange some cash at the airport.  Have a couple different flavors of credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, and something else.  Anywhere you go, money will flow.  Have some.  The law of travel we have found that is that ATMs are never close, and they are finicky.  Having cards from different banks is literally a lifesaver.

10)Pack Light

We really hate to put this one in.  How can we preach something we don’t practice? Mike is the all time worst packer.  He packs a ton.  He is a child of the 1980s so he has to match the seasons, with clothes for every event, restaurant, and setting.  Don’t follow his example!  Here’s why it is so critical that you follow this suggestion.  Luggage is heavy.  On every single international trip we have taken, we have ended up walking long, long distances with luggage.  It WILL happen to you.  If you pack heavy, you will be tired.  Good decisions are rarely made when tired.  Especially if you are traveling as a couple.  You can always buy more clothes when you get there.  In fact, this is a really good idea.

So that’s it!  Our 10 ideas that will make your life a little easier making your first trip abroad.  Now go and book those tickets.  After you come back, please share with us the lessons you learned!  We would love to hear your ideas and suggestions.  Just leave us a comment below.  Bon Voyage!

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