Category Archives: Smart Travel

Pride cometh before the fall – ignore my last post

Sick as a dog... like the blanket?:)

Some of you saw this coming: Swiftly on the heels of our most dramatic culinary adventure last week – eating raw durian (a fruit) and sticky rice – I was hit like a sledgehammer with the most violent food poisoning I’ve had since college. I mean it was brutal, out-of-both-ends stuff requiring Tarzan-like leaps out of bed to the facilities.

Oh, the irony

Even in my miserable state the irony of it all was too funny. In my last post I had confidently declared Thai street food fair game and now here I was, the ever-present occupant of my bathroom.

One thing was for sure: there was plenty of time to think. Plenty of time to analyze what had happened. Was I wrong to have taken the risk of eating Bangkok street food? Should I swear it all off?

A lesson

As much as my stomach was telling me never to eat Thai street food again, my brain knew better. This was a lesson in restraint and commonsense (the gooey fruit had been festering in a lukewarm milky substance for hours without refrigeration and I really should have known better than to think I could handle it). It was not grounds for a drastic retreat to peanut butter sandwiches for the balance of my stay in Bangkok.

My default MO is one of at least slight overconfidence. Often it pays off – I attempt challenges, assuming things will work out and then they often do. But occasionally you just end up loosening your bowels.

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Bjorn Karlman

Bangkok, Thailand


How to Eat Thai Street Food

OK, yes (as I admitted a couple posts ago) we are eating food from the Bangkok street stalls. And we haven’t gotten sick yet. The food is unbelievably delicious. But there are a few things to remember before you head to your first food stall:

Be brave!
Yes, it takes some courage to start eating food cooked by the side of the road in a foreign country. But this is one experience you need to have. I have simply never had such good, inexpensive food. You can get a great meal of Thai street food for $1.50. So be brave, walk up to the food stall serving the food you are most dying to eat, point at what you want and you will be well on your way to enjoying a genuine, Thai experience.

 

Eat cooked food
To ensure a decent level of hygiene, only eat food that has been cooked in front of you. The heat will kill the bugs. Steer clear of raw fruit or veggies (at least for the first few days while your stomach adjusts) as they may be washed in water that has not been purified. The locals can handle it but be careful here.

Living life dangerously! We are bad examples. We had raw fruit smoothies within our first week in Thailand... not generally a great idea but an expat friend talked us into it:)

Try new stuff
There is amazing range so don’t be afraid to branch out. We have been experimenting a lot with different dishes. The first night it was pastries, an omelet, spicy chicken, basil, rice and a fried egg. Since then it’s been a bit of a free for all. Curries, soups, stews and an embarrassing array of desserts. There is endless variety so there is no excuse not to indulge your inner foodie.

I'd like.... everything.

Skip Monday
A lot of Thai street food stalls close on Monday so you may want to stay indoors for your meals as the work week starts… Eat at the mall instead. In fact, a lot of the popular street stalls have their own branches in Bangkok malls (which stay open.). I’ll dedicate an upcoming post to the malls here but let me just say right now that they are so large they really should issue customers GPS devices.

The water issue
To avoid spending all night on the throne, stay away from tap water in Bangkok. It is not fit for drinking. However, restaurants that serve water generally serve purified water so you are typically OK having some.

To drink or to suffer curry burn... that is the dillemma.

Go with the crowd
There is safety in numbers when it comes to Thai street food. Hit up the busy stalls. They are busy for a reason and can be trusted more than the ones that get less traffic. This is one time it is absolutely appropriate to bow to peer pressure.

Have you had street food in Thailand? What did I miss? Feel free to add to the list in the comment section.

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Bjorn Karlman

Bangkok, Thailand


With a little help from my friends – Bangkok with the hookups

blast from the past... my friends from the good old days in the Philippines

The mist of confusion lifts when you make friends in a new city. Everything becomes easier.

Lucky

We headed to an English-speaking church in Bangkok this weekend hoping to meet as many people as possible.  Because we had taken the wrong route to the church we got there super late. So instead of actually going to church we started talking to those outside.

We asked all the questions that the language barrier had kept us from asking earlier in the week:

“Are there any good apartments around here?”
“What’s the best way to navigate Bangkok?”
“What are some cool charities that we could volunteer for?”

Luckily they had lots of answers and ideas. We started exchanging numbers with people and jotting down suggestions.

Blast from the past

And then it got even better. “Hi Bjorn!” I looked up and in front of me were some childhood friends that I had grown up with in Philippines.  One of them worked in Bangkok and this weekend the whole family was visiting from the Philippines.  I couldn’t believe it! The relief at seeing familiar faces was immense. We were automatically invited for lunch and then a potluck for dinner.

Want a job?

By the end of the day we had two work opportunities and some info on an NGO (non-governmental organization) for which we could volunteer. Both work opportunities required fluent English – one was for office work for an international company, the next for English language teaching in one of the leading Bangkok universities.  The breakthroughs were mind blowing.

just looking at this Saturday night potluck pic makes me hungry again....

Bottom Line: the 80/20 Principle

This experience really drove home what is commonly called the 80/20 principle.  Here’s how lifestyle design blogger and bestselling author, Tim Ferriss puts it:  “80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs,” or, “80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time.”  This has definitely been true of our time in Bangkok so far.  All our time spent reading and hunting for info did not produce anything near the results of a handful of conversations with the right people.

Nowhere was this more true than with our Bangkok apartment rental efforts:

We had spent hours online, pouring over Bangkok apartment listings. We had painstakingly narrowed down our search to the options that fit our budget. We spent a lot of time looking up locations on Bangkok Maps. In all the time we had spent so far we hadn’t even gotten to calling any of the landlords up (I was dreading doing so because I was anticipating a mountain of language barrier problems.).

One conversation on Saturday made all the difference. “I’ve got a great, cheap apartment that I think could work,” said the husband of one of my childhood friends. He then hooked us up with one of his friends that negotiated an amazing deal.

It was humbling to realize that this one conversation had produced far better results than our hours spent wading through online listings. The Bangkok apartment our friend found us cost $130/month (less than half of what we had budgeted). It was in a safe area and right next door to a friend.

Do-gooding

Our next major priority is finding some nonprofits to work for. We will be pooling the suggestions we get as well as visiting a few different organizations. We will be giving all recommendations submitted on this blog special preference so please submit your ideas in the comment section.

Please leave a comment with your suggestions. Know of a good Bangkok-based orphanage? An after school program? A program working to prevent underage human trafficking? We don’t need pay. Just an interesting project. Have a think. Maybe you can help us….

Looking forward to hearing from you…

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Bjorn Karlman

Bangkok, Thailand


My mouth is burning!! Our first night in Bangkok

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Health paranoia be dammed, the first place we went to eat on our first night in Bangkok was a street stand. And then we hit a second stand. And then a third. The food was great!

We didn’t want to get too crazy on the first night so we had decided to try out options that we could walk to from our hotel. The first stand had these amazing coconut and pineapple pastries, the second had the best spiced omelet I’ve ever tasted and the third had a seating area so we sat down for a plate of spicy chicken with basil, rice and a fried egg.

Unbeatable

“Until you’ve eaten on a Bangkok street, your noodles mingling with your sweat, and your senses dulled by chilli, exhaust and noise, you haven’t actually eaten Thai food,” said the Lonely Planet guide book that we had downloaded. I have always loved Thai food but the book was right, Thai food on the street was a totally different, multi-sensory experience.

The spice level of the food was predictable. But the flavors were so enticing you couldn’t put your fork down. Jammie put it well, “My mouth is burning but I just can’t stop eating!” It was so amazingly good.

“What other city has such a full-flavored, no-holds-barred, insatiable, fanatical approach to eating?” asks the guide book. I’ve just landed but I am guessing the answer is “none”.

Unbelievable prices

At the local prices, the dishes tasted even better. Yes, we had done our research and yes, we knew that the prices were extremely low by American standards but the feeling of eating a whole meal for 50 baht ($1.60) was amazing. We may end up doing a lot less cooking here than we expected…

Language barriers and scams

The language barrier at first, was worse than we had expected. We had basically no Thai to offer and they had little English. But then sweet relief came as they called someone over who spoke decent English. And that is the beauty of the Thai approach. They make it easy on their visitors.

Scam alert: If you are in Thailand and are quickly befriended by someone who speaks good English, don’t linger too long. A common scam involves someone that dramatically breaks the language barrier, speaks great English, claiming that their son or daughter is studying at a university in your country.

They disarm you with charm and a really convincing knowledge of your country. This kind of behavior is not normal among the average Thai so watch out for it as you may end up getting suckered into unwanted purchases or other awkward and financially burdensome situations.

Where to live?

Well, we’ve slept all night and neither one of us is sick so I guess we have lived to see another day. (I suppose taking pepto bismol before we ate didn’t hurt either…)

Now we are on to the apartment hunt. We have identified about 20 apartments that we are interested in – all costing $200-300. We are going to head out and visit a few today and we’ll be soliciting some advice from some expats over the weekend.

Have any suggestions for an apartment? Let us know in the comments.

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Bjorn Karlman

Leaving on a Jet Plane for Bangkok Today

Let's hope this little gem never comes in handy...

Today is the big day. Our upcoming 11 hour and 5 minute flight to Bangkok has us feeling all jittery.

Here’s what we have planned for our first few days. (I’ll let you know if the real thing actually works out the way we thought it would.):

Arriving in Bangkok

pic by Facebook user "BANGKOK" - click pic for url
Pic via Facebook user "BANGKOK" - click pic for url

The fact that I am in a different country typically hits just as I am walking out the doors of the airport. We plan on getting a taxi straight into the part of the city where our hotel is. As much as we’d love to be cheap and take the bus to the hotel (approx $5), a taxi costs $10 or less and is way quicker.

Hotels – Here’s a site (or app) worth using if you aren’t already: Booking.com. I first came across it in Oxford when I was hanging out with Jammie, my sister and some close friends in Blackwells, the largest bookstore in town. I compared what we found on Booking.com to some other hotel sites and the accommodation listings in some travel books and in the end the winning hotel had the following:


1)  A very solid average rating out of 2000 reviews.

2)  Gorgeous rooms with all the amenities

3)  Gym / hot tub / steam room

4)  Fitness center / Private theater / international restaurant

5)  LAST AND BEST:  We got four nights for a very reasonable $57, so $14.25 per day.

Will the actual experience live up to how the hotel was advertized online?  Look for my review in a soon-coming post:)

Apartments – This was a tough one.  We only want to spend $300 or less on our longer term housing in Bangkok. You can pretty much get anything you want in Bangkok – from shack to palatial – it is all there. We have been researching apartments options with a blend of excellent price and location (we want something fairly centrally located) and excellent natural light.  There are a lot of apartment rental sites for Bangkok and many are in English as there is such a huge expat population.  We haven’t decided on anything yet.  We will visit a handful of apartments in person in the first few days following our arrival.  Then we will make the decision in person.

Food

Jammie and I with my sister and her husband chilling at a Thai restaurant in Bath, England earlier this week


It was all I could do not to put this at the top of the post. We are so excited about this part since we both love Thai food.  I’ve been doing some research on where the best spots to get Thai food are.  What I’ve been finding so far is that the best eateries are often not the upscale joints catering to wealthy tourists.  Often the hole-in-the-walls are best.  We will shamelessly be soliciting suggestions as soon as we land.

If you have any good ideas for where to go in Bangkok for the best of the local cuisine, let me know in the comments.  There’s nothing like a personal recommendation!

Making Friends  – Currently we have a handful of friends living in Thailand, none of which are Thai.  Our plan is to hit local churches, Rotary (business networking) clubs, Toastmasters (public speaking) clubs, Chambers of Commerce and the Swedish, Filipino and American embassies as we kick off our round of networking.

Do you know of anyone that could be helpful in terms of finding worthy nonprofits for which we could volunteer?  We are looking for ideas.  We would be good for tutoring, writing, fundraising and English-based PR work.  Let us know if you think of anything.  In an upcoming post I will share some info about a Thai-based anti sex-trafficking nonprofit that we will be volunteering for in our quest for savvy, global do-gooding.

OK, gotta wrap this up as my sister and her husband are coming to pick us up for our airport ride in under an hour.  If you have any other tips for navigating the first few days in Bangkok, let us know in the comments.

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Bjorn Karlman

Forgotten Concert Tickets, a Towed Car and Freezing Rain – Another London Disaster

In the freezing London rain after losing my own jacket....

It’s not that we weren’t listening to your comments a couple posts ago.  But we’ve had another disaster and we haven’t even boarded a plane for our year of savvy, global do-gooding.

This past Wednesday, Jammie, my parents and I got in our car for the 1-hour drive to London for a family tradition.  The tradition is going to a Christmas concert at Royal Albert Hall (one of the best-known concert halls in Britain).

“You’ve got the tickets, right?’

The car was filled with excited pre-concert banter as we drove out into the rainy winter night.  This was Jammie’s first experience of Royal Albert Hall and we were going to see the quintessentially English, Choir of King’s College, Cambridge – probably the best-known boys’ choir in England.

All was fun and games until my mom turned to my dad, “You’ve got the tickets, right?.”  He didn’t.  My mom fessed up that she had forgotten to grab them on the way to the car.  Our healthy time buffer evaporated immediately.  We were 20 minutes into our journey and it was time to find an exit and turn back.

Just made it!

Celebrating that we arrived on time!!

 

After a quick turnaround at the house we sped back into the rain and headed for London.  My dad dropped us outside Royal Albert Hall with 5 minutes to spare.  Jammie, my mom and I legged it to our seats.  We had made it on time.  It was a Christmas miracle.  And the hall was a beautiful as always.  The concert was great and the choir was in top form.

 


The amazing Royal Albert Hall

 

Picture with Choir Boy

But then things started to go downhill.  As soon as we started to make our way out of Royal Albert Hall, Jammie saw one of the choir boys (pictured below).  She made me go up and talk to him and ask if we could have our picture with him.  He agreed.

But here’s the crappy part: there was nobody to take the picture.  So I had to take it.  And there you have it:  I stuck my neck out and in return I get to be the photographer instead of having a brush with fame. That would have been fine were it not for the fact that a few years ago the same thing happened when Jammie and I spotted Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, and the same thing happened… I got to take the picture:)

Who's missing??

So, where’s the car?

And here come’s the worst part of the evening:  After our (their) picture with the choir boy we headed out into the rain again for the ride home.  We hustled over to the street where my dad had parked the car.  No car.

My dad thought that he had the wrong street so we walked some more.  But Jammie was in heels so she and I were sent to a cafe while my parents looked further for the car.  By about the time we took the picture below, we got the news that the car had been towed and that my parents had been picked up by a police car that was taking them to the towing yard.  The car cost over $600 to retrieve….

Killing time after the concert...

 

Freezing in the rain

The car retrieval process was not only pricey, it was slow.  We FAR outstayed our welcome at the cafe and then ended up rushing from one semi-dry/warm spot to the other.  It was so rainy that we ended up switching jackets so Jammie could have mine which had a hood.  The picture below is one of the last we took before switching jackets:)  And then I spent the rest of the night in the super-snug female jacket at the top of the post…

Putting a semi-brave face on a very cold night in the streets of London...

All’s well that ends well…

Luckily we got picked up by my parents soon after.  A toasty car ride on the way home dried us off and provided a happy ending to the unsought-after adventure.
Next week, Bangkok!!

Stay tuned next week as our year of world travel begins in earnest.  We fly to Bangkok midweek.  We’ll keep you posted.  If you have any tips for cheap apartments in Bangkok, let us know… we are going to be checking out a lot of them over the next two weeks as we pick where we will live for our first 3-month stint…

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Bjorn Karlman

How Do you Beat the Fear of the Unknown? Suggestions Anyone?

Jammie in a helicopter right before we got engaged on a snow-capped mountain top in Northern California. I was super nervous:)

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” This was a question Jammie and I asked ourselves over and over again as we planned the biggest move we had ever made. We were planning to give up perfectly good jobs during a horrible economic time and an even worse hiring environment.

The Dream

For what? The open road. The grand experiment. One year, four cities (all starting with “B” – Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Bombay (Mumbai)), three months each.

As explained a couple posts ago in “We Have Quit Our Jobs to Travel the World”, this was a very deliberate choice. A conscious lifestyle 180. We had wanted to do it for a long time but every time we got close to doing it, we backed out.

When we finally took action and decided to just go for it, we still struggled with our fear of the unknown. How would all this turn out? Would we be OK? Was all this a mistake? These were tough questions with no good answer.

The Ultimate Disaster

To avoid future ulcers, we decided to picture the ultimate disaster, the worst case scenario and decide how we would deal with that. We figured that picturing the worst-case scenario might be the best place to start.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7d/Question_opening-closing.svg/200px-Question_opening-closing.svg.png

Source: Wikipedia

Here were some of our doomsday scenarios:

1) We tell everyone we are doing on our trip and then for some reason, we can’t leave California – it’s super embarrassing and we have to tell people the trip is off.

2) We quit our jobs and some major unforeseen expense hits and we end up broke, crying in some abandoned Bangkok alley.

3) We get some horrible disease far away from home without access to the medical care we need.

4) We realize that instead of being an incredible epiphany and the amazing lifestyle design experiment we had envisioned, we hate our new life and decide we have made the worst decision ever.

Even putting those scenarios in writing was difficult!

Fear-setting

In spelling out our doomsday scenarios, we were actually following some good advice from lifestyle design blogger and bestselling author, Tim Ferriss. He calls it “fear-setting”.

In his first book, The Four Hour Workweek, he says that before taking off on his own transformational trip he asked himself “Why don’t I decide exactly what my nightmare would be – the worst thing that could possibly happen as a result of my trip?…”

Tim says “As soon as I cut through the vague unease and ambiguous anxiety by defining my nightmare, the worst-case scenario, I wasn’t as worried about taking a trip. Suddenly, I started to think of simple steps I could take to salvage my remaining resources and get back on track if all hell struck at once.”

What he also noticed was that on a scale of 1 to 10 “1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life-changing, my so-called worst-case scenario might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4″ whereas his “best-case scenario, or even a probable-case scenario… would easily have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life-changing effect”.

Discovery: the Positive Potential FAR Outweighs the Chance of Disaster

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looking at the bright side...

 

Jammie and I found the same to be true in our situation. We could rebound from all the above worst case scenarios, regroup and be OK in the long term. Sure, each of the above would be a major setback. But if we responded strongly to any of our doomsday scenarios, we would probably recover. Just because there was risk involved did not mean that we should avoid going on the trip.

And the positive potential was huge: we would fulfill our dream of traveling, living and working internationally while doing some good for other people.

Even better news was that the chances of us achieving the positive potential of our experimental year were far greater than the chances of our worst-case scenarios taking place. Put this way, deciding to go on our 1-year trip was a far easier decision. This just had to be done.

What’s scary is staying the same –

The only genuinely scary thing would have been to do nothing. To let more years pass on the hamster wheel without aggressively pursuing the dream. By giving in to the feeling of unease about change, that vague fear of the unknown and unfamiliar, we would have given up on a chance for something better in life.

How about you? How do you handle the fear of the unknown? I am sure Jammie and I could learn from you. Leave a comment with your best tip for beating the fear of the unknown.

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Bjorn Karlman

 

We Screwed Up – Five Tips on How NOT to visit London

You’d think I knew better than this… I did, after all, spend six years of my life living near London.

To start our year of “savvy”, global do-gooding, Jammie and I headed out for our first big touristy trip to London yesterday. It was a train wreck.

This is how it all went down, summed up in 5 tips on how not to visit London.

Here goes: DO NOT:

Do it on little sleep

... yawning on the WAY to London...

Jet lag is a terrible thing. Since we got to England a few days ago, we’ve been waking up at random early morning / middle-of-the-night hours, not being able to go back to sleep.  Then fatigue has hit like a sledge hammer in the middle of the day. It is seriously frustrating. This said, we headed to London anyway, determined to get the most out of the experience. As the picture proves, I was already yawning on the 1 hour train ride to London. It was downhill from there.

Assume that an Indian buffet is exactly what you need to power through

We could barely walk after this buffet

Our first stop was an Indian restaurant with a respectable buffet spread for 6.98 pounds ($11.30). We were hungry so we attacked the buffet like our lives depended on it.

The combination of heavy starches (potatoes, rice, breads), curries and other rich sauces about knocked us out. We staggered out of the restaurant near Euston station in north London already feeling defeated. As we walked past a hotel on the way back to the Underground (tube) station, I sooo wished we were staying there because I was already dying for a nap.  A bad start indeed.

Think you are in a marathon

Super exhausted at Harrods

England is not a cheap place to travel. Our train tickets cost us a combined price of 38 pounds ($62). So we were absolutely determined to get our money’s worth. So much so that we were planning to see as much as physically possible before taking the last train home at 11:50 PM.

This kind of marathon approach would have been exhausting even if we had been sleeping well and lived in London.  In our sleep deprived state and with the added travel time to and from the city, it was torture.  By early evening (around the time the above picture was taken at the world-famous department store, Harrods), I was ready to fall over.  And I knew I still had another 5 hours to go….

Settle for crappy places to nap

Jammie taking a 45-minute nap at a cafe in London's Tate Modern

There comes a time when you have to take a nap.  For Jammie this coincided with our arrival at one the world’s premier modern art destinations, Tate Modern.

Tate is amazing as it is the most visited modern art gallery in the world.  Instead of standing in awe of the huge, renovated power station that houses Tate, we found Jammie the first warm bench available: in the foyer of the main cafe.

This turned out to be a horrible decision as there was constant foot traffic, the bench was hard and the lighting was anything but conducive to a nice nap.

After her impressively long, 45-minute nap we found several superior sleeping options in various galleries with padded seating.  But by then we had the added pressure of squeezing seven floors of gallery into the hour and a half we had before closing time.  Needless to say that did not happen.  We barely covered sections of the top and bottom floors.

Think you will get out of Hamleys without taking ridiculous pictures

We did not want to leave London without visiting Hamleys, the largest toy store in the world.  This place was amazing.  We went to the flagship branch on Regent Street which gets 5 million visitors a year.

We forgot how tired we where and became kids again, playing with remote controlled cars, looking at random stuffed animals and taking pictures with these awesome Royal Guards.

If I had been under 10 it would have taken forever to get me out of that store.  It was truly amazing.

But it was late and after checking out a few more shops we’d had enough.  We abandoned our plans to take the last train home to my parents’ place and instead took one that left an hour earlier.  We were asleep in no time and it is a minor miracle that we didn’t miss our stop at Bracknell station.

Over to you – have any tips for us as we visit London again next week?  I mean, apart from getting some sleep…:)

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Bjorn Karlman

How to tell family and friends you are leaving the country for a year

Guess what?

As my wife Jammie and I have just gone though the process of telling employers, friends and family that we are leaving the country to travel the world and do service projects for a year, I thought this would be a good time to talk about what worked and what didn’t. So here’s a list of dos and dont’s for spreading the word before you hit the trail:

DO

Hustle – Don’t take forever. If need be, schedule your important conversations. Make sure you get in-person conversations with anyone in your inner circle that is close by. Call loved ones that are far away. These critical conversations should not take more than a few days. Everybody else can find out via email. So as to protect privacy and avoid undue snooping, Bcc everyone so that people can’t tell who else is getting the email.

Sequence – The order in which you have your conversations is critical. At work, tell your boss and any other management first, THEN send out the “dear colleagues” email. Get the order wrong and you will look clueless and unprofessional.  With family and friends, start with your inner circle first.  Get that wrong and you’ll have some hurt/mad energy to fend with.

Keep it lightYou have thought a lot about your big move. You thought through all the pros and cons. You’ve agonized over all the details. You’ve second guessed yourself, gone back and forth. In the end, your transformational trip (rightfully) triumphed over the idea of more time on the hamster wheel. But most people don’t need to know all this. Keep it light. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel and do some good.” Nuff sed.

DON’T

Forget people – I know it is hard to remember everyone as you make your round of announcements. But be as deliberate as possible about this. Make a list of everyone that should know. Follow the above instructions RE in person and email communication. Then hit the social networks. This should cover most people.

Overthink – It is easy to overthink who to tell and how. My wife Jammie and I were nervous about telling her dad about our plans. Would he approve? What would he say? How do we even bring it up? In the end, we just went for it. We said we had an announcement. He thought Jammie was pregnant! When we delivered the news, he got into it and was super excited. We could have skipped the agonizing.

A final word. Once you get started, spreading this kind of news becomes easier and more polished.  So make it easy on yourself by taking a “rip off the bandage” approach.  Good luck.

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Bjorn Karlman

We have quit our jobs to travel the world!!

 

We’ve never done anything this huge: My wife Jammie and I have turned in our resignation letters, quit our jobs to travel the world, write and do service projects for 12 months. We have picked four major world cities – Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Berlin and Mumbai – and we are going to spend three months in each. We are ridiculously excited.

Why are we doing this?
Years ago we started planning for this kind of a move. We had always wanted to live and work internationally, to get involved with international humanitarian nonprofits. We did not want to be stuck in one town or country working office jobs for the rest of our lives. We had always wanted to free up our location and really live the tag line for CultureMutt: savvy, global do-gooding.

Why now?
This huge step was easy to put off. We had already put it off twice. Twice we had told ourselves that we were going to take the bold leap to travel and work oversees. Twice we backed out.

It took a dramatic, late-night conversation with one of my closest friends to finally decide to activate the plans we kept postponing for a “better”, “more convenient” time.

“You are young and you have so much to offer!” my friend, shouted in my ear over the din of a rowdy San Francisco lounge. “Why are you playing it safe as if you were middle-aged with a mortgage and kids?! You are selling out! This is the time to go for your dreams and take some risks. If you fail you can rebuild but if you succeed you will be living the dream. Do it!!”. That conversation was the final push I needed. Within days we decided to finally act on our plans and go for our dreams 100%.

How can we afford this?
How are we paying for 12 months of international travel and living without jobs? For starters, we picked very affordable cities that we had either lived in, visited or at the very least, researched. Then we put aside enough of our savings to cover the basics of tickets, rent, food, etc. For any additional expenses we will make money the way both of us have in the past: through freelance writing, consulting and teaching. The beauty of making money using these methods is obviously that you can use them to make money anywhere in the world.

Why Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Berlin and Mumbai?

Bangkok  – We both love Southeast Asia. And there is no Southeast Asian capital with quite the same dynamic mix as Bangkok. The food is amazing, the country is beautiful and we already have a non profit that works to prevent sex trafficking that we are going to be volunteering for in Thailand.

Buenos Aires – I spent four amazing months studying Spanish in Buenos Aires in 2005. Weeks before leaving I was already missing this awesomely stylish city. The tango dancers in the streets, the amazing artistic scene and the roar from the “futbol” stadiums are unbeatable. Also, on the volunteering front, I have friends in Argentina that are well-connected to some education and healthcare nonprofits for which we would love to work.

Berlin – The buzz about Berlin as a European youth culture and arts capital is well-deserved and growing. Not only do we want to sample this but we want to establish relationships with some of Berlin’s emerging, young entrepreneurs. Young creative minds have descended upon Berlin in droves in recent years. This a city on the move and we want in.

Mumbai – Mumbai is India’s biggest, baddest city. It is also home to Bollywood, the second largest film industry in the world. Put simply, we want connections within this industry. They could be very helpful in our quest for savvy, global do-gooding. So far we have some friends who have worked in Bollywood. We aim to make more of them. We might even land a cameo:)

When does this all start?
After Christmas in England with my family, we fly to Bangkok in the first week of January, 2013. There starts our series of four, 3-month world city relocations. This is happening!

There – now you know. Wish us luck and if you have world travel tips for our gap year or any specific advice on navigating our four world cities, leave them in the comment section.

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Bjorn Karlman