We dropped off the planet again for a while but we’re BACK! We have tons of new things in store for our online store, Top Knotch Gear, including new cords, new gear and an entirely new Ladies Line of survival bracelets and gear. In addition, we’re working on a new book that’s all about our paracord projects! (Due to hit shelves in early Spring 2013.) Now that the shaved ice season is slowing down, we’ll be back to posting about budget travel, adventures, fun things to see and do around the world and our favorite, Travel Tip Tuesdays! For now, here’s a great thing we stumbled on the other day – posted by HostelBookers (a fantastic site for booking clean, safe and inexpensive hostels around the world). We’ve been guilty of a few of these (largely #3). What about you?
We’re back! After a brief hiatus to handle a family emergency, we’re back in Florida.
This week’s Travel Tip Tuesday is all about how to save money WHILE TRAVELING. So you’ve already hit the road, you’re on an adventure and you want to be sure you stay within your budget. The tips below will help effectively budget your money and not go broke while traveling.
How to save money while traveling:
Forego fancy restaurants – Utilize the local markets and vendors to make your own food or eat the street food (which is MUCH cheaper than restaurants, usually). That being said, you’ll want to navigate street foods carefully and have anti-diarrhea pills handy.
Save the souvenirs – My first trip to China, I bought 3 tea sets (I’m an impulse buyer) without factoring in that China was only the first stop on my itinerary. The lesson: Buy souvenirs and ship them home or stick to smaller items that you can easily put it your pack and carry with you (jewelry, magnets, etc.)
Tipping – An easy way to save money while you’re traveling is researching local customs to see if tipping is necessary. In the U.S., we tip for everything but in some cities in China, it’s rude to tip. Do the research and you may be able to save a chunk of change.
Taxi Troubles – If you can get around without using a taxi, do it. If you can’t, try to negotiate the fare before getting in. (If you’re a woman, fight hard. There are many countries that will try to take advantage of you if you’re a foreign woman).
Exchanging Money – Exchange money for the currency you want BEFORE you get to that country. Don’t exchange at the airport and if you use a kiosk, don’t forget there are fees. I like to use ATM’s… but watch out… there are international and bank fees that apply to ATM’s, too.
Tours and Tickets – This is my weakness. It’s so tempting to book every boat charter, snorkeling trip, zip line and caving tour out there but these activities will drain your bank. Set a budget and stick to it. Or investigate what the tours do (where they go, how they get there, what’s included) and do some of the same activities on your own.
For more tips and tricks to saving money while overseas, check out AirTreks Travel Blog.
Being a vegetarian in China was particularly difficult for me on my first visit. I should have known I was in for a hard time when on the plane, my choices for a meal were beef, chicken and fish. Oh dear. Well, maybe the actual country of China will be different, I thought. I armed myself with phrases like, “No meat” and “I don’t eat any meat” in Mandarin before my trip, thinking I would avoid any misunderstandings. Not quite…
Once I arrived at my hotel (I met a group that I was teaching with and we all stayed at the hotel together), this was our dinner – very elaborate and beautiful but not very veggie-friendly.
For a long time, I lived off of steamed white rice. When I felt like splurging, I’d find a Pizza Hut (Pizza Hut is among one of the many food chains that can be found in Asia), otherwise, I found these great “digestive cookies” that tasted just like graham crackers with about 300% more fiber. They were tasty.
Later on in my trip, I learned that a good way to communicate vegetarianism is to tell people you’re Buddhist or that you want “Buddhist food” or “monk’s food” since most Buddhist monks are vegetarian and do not eat meat. This trick only worked about half of the time. I think the Chinese were more confused as to why a white person would say she is Buddhist…. just another culture speed bump.
Other food oddities I found in China:
These were beside the fish tanks at a seafood restaurant. I suppose you select the frog you want to dine on and they’ll sauté it right up for you! Never seen anything like this before.
One night in Tianjin, my teaching group went out to eat at a Korean restaurant. I’m not familiar with Korean food or Korean culture – I’ve only had layovers at the Korean airport – but from what I understand, this was the Korean version of Chinese hot pot. Yes, that’s tofu in there… along with just about any kind of meat you can think of. I wasn’t a fan of this dish but it made for some interesting pictures. My fellow teacher friends really enjoyed it!
It doesn’t take much to know that authentic Chinese food is nothing like the Americanized version of it. Many vegetable dishes I came across in China were served in a clear, gelatinous “glaze” – salty and very slimy. You won’t find this at Panda Express.
I enjoyed exploring the local markets so I could better understand the culture of Chinese food. There were some very strange things I found at the markets, things I was not used to seeing as an American or as a vegetarian.
The red bricks on the left, I thought, were some sort of veggie-infused tofu. It had a similar texture and looked like it was a soybean relative. After asking a vendor, we found out that the “red tofu” was actually curdled pig blood.
Then there were things like this in China:
And one of our favorite local hot spots in Tianjin was this place – Yummy Food.
Yummy Food served things like veggie pizza…
and chocolate-covered banana pancakes!
Some things came across felt just like home. (Although, I’m totally a Jiff girl.)
While other things made me more ill than I have ever been in my life.
My first visit to Shanghai was a disaster, on many levels. I’m convinced everything went downhill when my peanut butter was confiscated at the airport. We met up with a friend of a friend and he graciously gave us a tour of the city. He raved about this little restaurant that served noodle dishes and told me I would surely find a vegetarian dish on the menu. I had read things and heard from other travelers, DO NOT EAT THE STREET FOOD, which usually goes for any country. But, I was not in a position to be picky or high maintenance for our lovely host, so I sucked it up and crossed my fingers there wouldn’t be any “aftermath.”
In hindsight, this sign is hysterical and seems to foreshadow ….
This was the dish that, morning after, made me wish I was dead. I had the worst food poisoning of my life – vomiting + diarrhea + dirty squat toilets = most miserable time of my life. The morning after I ate this, I boarded a bus with some friends to go to Hangzhou for the day. My stomach gurgled and bubbled, my intestines rumbled and my throat hurt from puking so much. At one of the bus stations, I broke down and cried in the bathroom (again over a squat toilet) – wishing that I could teleport back to America into my cozy bed at home.
Luckily, by the time we arrived in Hangzhou, my “illness” had subsided and I was feeling better. There were more odd foods along the way but this time, I had a new appreciation for Chinese food. And sometimes (for me anyway), it’s better to just observe the foods and appreciate their uniqueness. Like these:
I will always enjoy my overseas adventures with food – particularly as a vegetarian. When we take our trip around the world, we’ll likely modify our diets to include meat or at the very least, fish. Not only will it make traveling easier but it will allow us to enjoy more of the local cultures if we can experience their cuisines. I’m sure one can circumnavigate the globe as a vegetarian but I’m not sure I’m the vegetarian to try it. If you have any tips, advice or suggestions on either foods to try or places for foodies like us to visit, please let us know! We’re up for [just about] anything!
Here’s to never-ending adventures with food. Happy eating!
These are words that my girlfriend and I live by. These words drove me to teach English and dance in China, explore southeast Asia, try new foods, move to Florida to open a shaved ice business and to plan a trip around the world.
If you are ever in doubt or are on the fence about traveling, JUST GO. If you can’t decide on a new adventure, JUST GO. And if you want to explore the world, JUST GO.
Just today, CNN Travel posted an article from the Lonely Planet on how to plan a trip around the world (RTW). We’ll summarize the main points from the article:
- Book a RTW ticket stopping at major airports (because the more obscure locations cost more)
- All travel must be completed in a year and no backtracking with a RTW ticket
- Think about what you want to see, do your research and consider weather in your plans
- Cost of the RTW ticket is based on total distance and number of stops (number of countries)
- North America and Europe are the most expensive while Asia and South America are the cheapest
Overall, the article isn’t bad for as vague as it is. It’s a good start for anyone who has ever considered doing a circumnavigation. For us, these tips are a little too broad. We want to leave our timeline open and we hope to use other means of transportation (freighters, walking, boats, bikes, etc.) And who knows? Maybe we’ll end up living in Hong Kong for a couple of years while we’re abroad – we don’t know. But we want to have the world at our fingertips – everywhere to go and all day to get there.
Another HIGHLY RECOMMENDED resource is the Rough Guides book to your First Time Around the World. It’ll give you more info on RTW flights, budgeting, weather, etc. – a more detailed version of CNN Travel’s article. Check it out!
Here is one of our new paracord bracelets! It’s tied with a square knot (similar to our good luck knot) and isn’t as thick as a standard survival bracelet… making it ideal for smaller wrists and ladies – although, we can made dude-ish ones, too! We have a couple more knots we’ll debut over the course of the week, so stay tuned!
Want to see what other cool stuff we make? Visit our online store!
I’m from Michigan and September’s from Pittsburgh – we know snow and we know ice… or so we thought…
Below are pictures from the Harbin Ice Festival in Harbin, China. For those of you who aren’t up to speed on your geography, Harbin’s roughly 800 miles (1,242 km) northeast of Beijing. The summers are mild – roughly 70 degrees F – and the winters are COLD – in the negatives – so it makes the perfect place to have an elaborate ice-carving festival. Until now, we admit, we had never even heard of Harbin, China. But CNN Travel (an addiction of mine) did a great slideshow on the ice festival and it’s now on our travel bucket list! Check it out – it’ll blow you away! Tunnels, castles and buildings were carved from whole pieces of ice – it’s amazing! If anyone has ever experienced this festival, we’d love to hear from you about your experiences!