How I Cracked Travel to Europe (under $1800 for 21 days in 13 cities)

9 11 2009

ab2So I just broke up with my boyfriend who told me the only reason we had to split was because if I didn’t like Italy or the things he did it would always be a problem.  Um, ok…Some Men are really good at making up fictitious and ridiculous scenarios. Nevertheless, I won a $1400 Final Cut Studio Software from one of his film festivals. Lucky, eh? Perfect consolation prize I say for being a supportive girlfriend ;-).  I had no use for it even though he did… So I Sold it soon after! Time to plan a trip.  Cheers!  I was only making $25,000/yr from graduate research at Georgia Tech and living in Atlanta. So how do you travel when you are strapped for cash and avoid debt at all cost. Count your pennies, travel really dirt cheap  and ask advice from an Indian guy 😉

The two keys to my savings:

  1. Fly in to London ($600). Most expensive city so I saved money by never staying there but traveling through it twice to see all the sites.
  2. Book with Eurolines Bus ($300 for 15 nights unlimited travel) I saved all my money by busing overnight except from Amsterdam to Rome(where I spend a day and a night)…It was beautiful to see the landscape and meet unusual people on the bus.  Otherwise, I woke up everyday in a new city, in a new country.  Perfect for me.

Eurolines is only for International Tickets at all times so the rest of the rules apply based on this premise:

  1. List your TOP cities before hand  but don’t worry about the order (you must be flexible but have priorites as tickets are not always convenient or available)
  2. BOOK Next ticket AS SOON AS YOU GET THERE….wait till they open if you must (you can purchase first ticket prior to entire trip)
  3. Go to further destinations first then work your way back just in case 15 days run out and you are not back in London
  4. Move on to next location if ticket isn’t available for days in a place you don’t really want to be….come back or not
  5. I recommend extra days in Rome, Paris, London, Munich, and French Riviera
  6. I took Day trips to Amsterdam, Prague, Brussels, Barcelona
  7. I traveled in early May (other off seasons would be even better) for less packed buses
  8. Traveled to French Riviera via train from Marseille…went to Nice and bused for 1 euro between there and Cannes, and Monaco
  9. If you are really cheap like me…. Make sure whatever you bring is something you can carry around all day.  If you are not sure you’ll need it, you won’t.  I would say the only thing I really needed was my neck pillow to sleep and something to keep me warm…ponchos can be useful if it rains, good shoes are always a must.)
  10. Cool trick: use only neck pillow case and stuff it with your socks and underwear…etc. Saves space, keeps things organized.
  11. I stayed with some friends too (tell people you are going…. you never know who knows someone or who is willing to open their house to you, and there is always couchsurfer.com) Good Luck!

Downside:

  1. Eurolines does not care about you…they will drop you off at 4:30 in the morning and you must wait for Metro and to book tickets…mornings were cold.
  2. No bathrooms (pee on the bus before they drop you off!!!)
  3. Sometimes where they dropped you off was not the same place to purchase tickets (but usually in a reasonable walking distance)
  4. If the bus was full (only once or twice in May) you had to master sleeping up straight (my neck pillow is my friend)

The other $800 was for museums, food, souvenirs, and the few cheap hostels where I stayed.  They ran about $16/night (sometimes with free food).

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Thoughts on East Africa

28 10 2009

My trip to Africa was not to  feel like a more enlightened “white person” so I could go back to the states and brag about how it has added meaning to me life or that I helped save a tiny village…. I hate phonies. It was primarily for personal growth and to learn about the world around me. Everyone has asked how was Africa? How was Africa? I wish I had finished putting my thoughts into this earlier but here are some short stories and thoughts:

“Idle Men, Laboring Women, Frolicking Children”

These are words I read from the Dark Star Safari as I was experiencing it around me. I’m sure he writes it better so if you want to know more just read his book about his travels from Capetown to Egypt. Why does he say “idle men, laboring women, frolicking children.” First I got the jist that most of the men just don’t like real work. I came to Africa with the opinion that of course Africa needs help, food.  Now I truly believe, You can not help those who do not help themselves. As we drive along the bumpy road men are passed out face first on the ground. What are they doing? Probably passed out drunk. Women are walking the streets carrying 50 pounds on their head with a baby strapped in a towel on their back while men are doing nothing. Kids are running about dirty, shoeless half the time, and completely unattended. Why is this? Their parents fathers are drunk and their mothers are either working or infected with HIV and dead because their husband slept around and infected them. This is told straight from a friend I made over there, who hates his father, his mother was dead and his grandmother raised him. I am not saying they are all like this obviously but if you are going to help you need to get to the root of the problem. And, I am not saying if they are in a crisis like a natural disaster or water shortage you don’t help people. Otherwise, only education will help.  There was plenty of food and resources but without parents willing to work and provide for their children there will be hunger no matter where you go….that is just the way it is. Food is not the problem… people are.

Christianity

When I went through Malawi I had a weird conversation with the oldest African man outside his house about how Malawi is a friendly country because they are a Christian country. This was probably the poorest country we stayed and also the friendliest. I am by no means an advocate for religion but if it gives someone hope when they have nothing to hope for is it worth it? Sometimes I think maybe so. But what if it is really causing them to have blind hope for a distant future and thus be stagnant about their current predicament.  Is being ignorant to reality or truth worth the happiness and contentment it may bring some people for the moment? I don’t know you will have to answer that for yourself. They are a peaceful country and one makes me question why this is when nothing but the worst is happening around them. Many of their family member, parents are dead from HIV and many of them are starving and survived a serious drought. A simple water bottle made a young boy run off like he had the “golden” ticket.

The Smell

 Half of the people had a very strong, strong odor. It was pretty consistent. One person I traveled with gathered that it was probably because they were not getting enough water and their kidneys were excreting odor. I thought it may have been the food. And, I am sure it had to do in part to their bathing habits but… At the end of this trip it may have been my imagination but I started to smell like it. So either my clothes and everything was just soak in the odor from playing with children or I started to smell bad too. I thought it may have been the addition of curry to most of the meals but that was just a crazy Morgan hunch. And maybe it is my imagination but it seemed to linger quite a big after the trip :-/

Dinner at the Locals

A small group of us were invited to dinner somewhere in the village. We stayed at the campsite on the beach and walked with one of the merchants into town for at least 45 minutes.. He went to buy a few things from the very nonexistent market. A girl on the side of the road selling something green. And a few small tomatoes. He asked us if we wanted to sample the rotting fish. We were not sure if this was a joke but I don’t think it was. The fish were covered in flies, hundreds of flies. We tried to give a polite no and continue on. We headed back off the road onto “something” of a trail through shrub and haphazard gardens. We arrived at a few houses constructed from clay and straw roofs, maybe some were aluminum. Our host was a younger guy and so we ended up at one of the smallest homes not much bigger than 200 sqft with 4 rooms. He asked us to wait in the foyer. He came back through the old wornout sarong that was hung in the doorways with a bamboo mat for us to sit on the floor. We chatted briefly then he headed out the back to chop up fire wood. The food was prepared in a small structure (hut) separate from the house. I have an excellent video of his female “landlord” making the food. He had a young baby girl and wife and was taking care of this nephew for whatever reason I can imagine. He had two women, both not his wife prepare the food. It seemed almost as if they were friends but I didn’t understand the social reasoning behind it. The best I got was that when he paid to rent the house it came with a cook so his wife wouldn’t have to. This cook may have been cooking for the whole area, it was not quite clear. We ate with our hands and the mealie-mea (doughy to gather the messier foods).

Being a White Girl in Africa

Was it safe? Well for me..hmmm… Mostly. I was on an overland tour most of the time so I felt fairly safe. However, I had a few big scares to say the least…Nairobi and Zambia. Zimbabwe felt fairly unsafe at the time as well.. the government was in shambles and people were extremely intense in their begging tactics. It seemed Malawi was the safest country… our tour guides let us wander the town freely, visit, make friends, eat dinner, drink at the “local” bar which was no bigger than a 10 by 10 room a mile away on a beatin trail. I sat on the bar and it was lit by a single candle because the power was out (very normal occurrence). Zanzibar was also very safe and cool to meet other interesting white people if this was your intent…. Tons of white hippy types hanging at the market square on the south side. Also, Kendwa Rocks is probably the coolest bar on the North Shore and a must go place (we swam to this bar but you can lodge there).

Conclusion

I have so many other stories and I could probably write a 1000 page book on this if I wanted to but I just won’t. So what have I learned from Africa: (1) Africa is not all about HIV, Starving Children, and Animals. It is a Beautiful Country and the Most Amazing shock for me were the stars. Sometimes the unexpected is the more rewarding experience. In the U.S, you never see even a small fraction of all the stars, galaxies I saw in the sky. Look at my pictures, you will mostly see what I mean. I felt like I had experienced “Heaven on Earth”. (2) You can’t help those who aren’t willing to help themselves. Of course if a much richer person is giving you a hand out you will take it and feel no sympathies, you will also take it for granted like it is chump change to them. The hand that feeds will keep on feeding. Yes people are poor, they allow this. Half of them are pretty content with the way they are living, they know of no different and everyone else lives the same. Otherwise, the men are LAZY and half the time corrupt and you won’t find one person who would try to debate to me otherwise. This is not a resource problem, this is a cultural problem and I am sure they will change with handouts unless they were taken away and they felt they had no other way. Otherwise, they just don’t care, are happy…. some do feel helpless to their corrupt governments and people (but honestly, I work the Intelligence Community, our government is not all peachy keen…there are people involved).

Back in America

My first impressions upon coming back to the U.S. was “Wow, look at all this shit. How did it get here?” ..particularly since I arrived in NYC. This was probably the biggest eye opener of all…COMING BACK.  Home looks so different when seen through different eyes.   I looked at a simple 4-legged chair differently.  Life was so simple back in africa. You had the clothes on your back and maybe a pot to cook in. I miss that…I really packed nothing, and traded anything I didn’t need anyways, including underwear. 😀

Sorry if it is not perfect grammar or spelling… I don’t have time for perfect.  You read it!  I will have other posts on Africa…advice, more fun less serious topics, how to, anything you want to know in the next posts?





21 Suggestions for Success in Life

24 10 2009

21 Suggestions for Success by H. Jackson Brown….

  1. Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.
  2. Work at something you enjoy and that’s worthy of your time and talent.
  3. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
  4. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
  5. Be forgiving of yourself and others.
  6. Be generous.
  7. Have a grateful heart.
  8. Persistence, persistence, persistence.
  9. Discipline yourself to save money on even the most modest salary.
  10. Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.
  11. Commit yourself to constant improvement.
  12. Commit yourself to quality.
  13. Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.
  14. Be loyal.
  15. Be honest.
  16. Be a self-starter.
  17. Be decisive even if it means you’ll sometimes be wrong.
  18. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life.
  19. Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.
  20. Take good care of those you love.
  21. Don’t do anything that wouldn’t make your Mom proud.

http://www.21suggestions.com/





50 things you should be doing to be Productive in your Life!

23 10 2009
  1. Keep discovering who you are: Get engaged in self discovery by knowing your passion, temperaments, skills, abilities, finding out your purpose………
  2. Observe Some Me Time: Give yourself some me time. It must be all about you for a little period. Create time for yourself. It’s not being selfish.  Do things to make you happy.
  3. Avoid Making Comparisons: Avoid making too many comparisons with other people (friends, family etc).Remember we are individuals with different backgrounds, upbringing and each one of us is unique in our own way.
  4. Face Your Fears: Face your fears knowing, it only becomes a problem, when you can’t stand up to the pressures that come your way.
  5. Think: Stop for a moment to think. Think before carrying out any actions. Think before you speak. Think about yourself, friends, family, work….. As Christopher Robin (Winnie The Pooh) would say ‘Think Think Think’.
  6. Develop your skills: Don’t be satisfied with the level of skills, talents and abilities you possess. There is always room for improvement and personal development.
  7. Plan: Give your life some order and structure by planning. It helps to have a routine in certain areas of your life. Plan for your present  and the future.
  8. Implementing Your Plans: It’s not just thinking or planning alone.  You also need to implement your strategies. Take positive actions that would have an impact on your life/future.
  9. Doing something new: This is slightly different from the tip above. This involves you taking risks, being open to challenges, trying out new ideas, stepping carefully away from your comfort zone….
  10. Sharpen Your Brain: Solve some mathematics, crossword puzzles, brain training games etc.
  11. Set Targets: Set realistic targets for your life and strive to attain them.
  12. Pursue Knowledge: You can gain constructive knowledge through several avenues such as the media (newspapers, television, radios…), blogs, books, schools, friends, colleagues etc.
  13. Work on your vices: Work hard in replacing your bad habits, character flaws, negative thoughts, low self esteem etc. with positive ideals.
  14. Stop Talking: At times you need to keep quiet and listen to your thoughts. Try as much as possible to think before talking. Be careful of the things you say, when you say it and how you say it. I am not sure it’s cool being a TALKATIVE.
  15. Start Listening: Spend some time listening to people, understanding how they feel. You can also listen to various inspirational speakers to motivate you for the day.
  16. Use Your Imagination: Have a creative imagination. Imagine a bright and positive future ahead of you.
  17. Energy drainers: Weed off people, activities that drain your energy levels.
  18. Improve your physical appearance: Go for a new look. Get a new hairstyle. Look beautiful or well groomed.
  19. Keep A Diary/Journal: Your dairy could serve as a journal of your thoughts. Cultivate the habit of scribbling your thoughts on paper.
  20. Show Love: Spend time showing love to people. You could be nice, care for them, help the needy, buy gifts/presents………..
  21. Ideas: Come up with useful ideas for yourself, family, blog or business etc.
  22. Difficult Tasks: Develop an interest in resolving difficult tasks.
  23. Domestic chores: Enjoy spring cleaning and doing your own laundry. It could be fun at times.
  24. Start a business: You could start up a small business to gain your independence, fulfil your ambitions, and create an additional source of income.
  25. Get A Job: Go out and search for jobs. Don’t sit at home idle. If you are not happy with your current job, start looking for another.
  26. Work: Work Work Work !!!! There are little/no more opportunities for lazy people. Work at home, on your blog, profession, job etc. Display a high level of excellence in what you do.
  27. Lunch Break: The tip above said work,work, work!!But don’t neglect having a lunch break at work.
  28. Delegate or Outsource. Learn to delegate or outsource certain jobs/ responsibilities. It will allow you focus on other important things and save you so much time.
  29. Avoid Gossip: Being involved or listening to gossip is a big time waster. There are so many other productive things you can do with your time.
  30. Budget Your Finances: Spend some time planning your finances, repaying your loans, credit cards and working towards living a debt free life. It’s essential you have a monthly budget, allocating funds to things that are of high importance.
  31. Go shopping: I am sure the ladies will love this one lol!!! (My wife does). There is always a burst of excitement, pride, happiness, an increasing level of confidence, fulfilment associated with shopping and from experience it could raise one’s energy levels because we feel good about it.(Warning: Good practice is spending within your means, buying what is necessary and what you can afford.)
  32. Spend time with your children: Children need to understand family values, build good character, know that their parents will always love, support and care for them.
  33. Spend time with your spouse: Our spouses need time & attention too. Go for dinner, sight seeing etc. Do things together. This promotes better communication, understanding and builds healthier relationships.
  34. Meditate: Take time to meditate. It refreshes you spiritually and mentally.
  35. Sleep: Sleeping replenishes your strength after various activities in the day. It puts you in the right frame of mind and recharges your batteries.
  36. Relax: Go for a holiday, participate in several leisure activities. Take time out to rest/relax your body, mind, muscles etc. Go for a massage, spa treatment, aromatherapy………..
  37. Exercise: It is important you stay in good shape by exercising as often as you can. Apart from the healthy benefits, you would feel attractive, secure, confident and in shape.
  38. Walk: Take long walks. Spend time alone walking and reflecting your activities.
  39. Medical Check up: Go for regular medical check ups with your doctor.
  40. Eat Healthily: It is important you eat healthily and have balanced meals each day. Don’t forget your fruits!!!! Eat with moderation and watch what you eat.
  41. Study(Read): Spend time studying, reading and carrying out researches on various subjects. For you to become an authority in any subject, you’ve got to study hard.
  42. Hobby: Start a hobby. It could range from supporting your local football, basketball or baseball team to having pen pals, building….
  43. Get An Academic Qualification: I think it’s important you place a certain value or importance on boosting academic knowledge by going to schools, colleges or the university.
  44. Contribute to the community/society: Serve your community or borough. Volunteer your spare time to do something positive for the community or society. Sponsor various charity organizations.
  45. Cook: Spend time cooking. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s very exciting if you cook with your spouse and before the men start acting too macho for their boots, remember there good male cooks such as Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and my humble self laugh!!!.
  46. Spend Time with Friends: Have fun with your friends. You need friends for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual support. Friends are there to encourage you, make you laugh, challenge you and admonish you when necessary.
  47. Date: If you are ’single and searching’ go out on a date. Stop staying at home alone and go out on a date!!
  48. Networking: Establish positive networks with people of various fields, backgrounds, professions etc. Carefully join constructive groups on facebook and twitter.
  49. Go On  A Facebook/Twitter Strike: It wouldn’t cause any harm abandoning facebook/twitter in a day. Curb your addiction to social media. I am not jealous of those who have large followers on twitter or friends on facebook (I joined 2months ago lol!!!) but it’s important to exercise moderation in what you do. 
  50. Switch off the television/computer/mobile phone: Yes switch them off!!!(When necessary)  We are so engrossed in them. Switch off (silent) your phones, in order to get goodnights sleep, shut down your computer, and turn off the television because they could be a source of distraction.

http://www.aweber.com/b/1fLYo





Why do we do what we do, How can we do it better

21 10 2009

“Action is [Decisions are] not about resources, it is about resourcefulness”

“Emotional fitness, psychological strength…that’s what it is about”

It is not about desire, it is about needs. 6 needs:

  1. Certainty (uncertainty) “How many like suprise? Bullshit, we like suprises we want…all others are problems.”
  2. Significance
  3. Connection
  4. Love
  5. Need to Grow
  6. Contribute beyond Ourselves




Stuff White People Like

21 10 2009

List by the guy who wrote Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander. @ stuffwhitepeoplelike.com.  I put his commentary in on a few of my favorites about me or people I know :-p

  • *#128 Camping
  • *#127 Where the Wild Things Are
  • #126 Vespa Scooters
  • #125 Bob Marley
  • *#120 Taking a Year Off
  • *#118 Ugly Sweater Parties
  • *#115 Promising to Learn a New Language
  • *#114 America
  • *#113 Halloween
  • *#112 Hummus
  • *#111 Pea Coats
  • #110 Frisbee Sports
  • *#108 Appearing to Enjoy Classical Music
  • *#106 Facebook
  • *#103 Sweaters
  • #101 Being Offended
  • *#100 Bumper Stickers
  • *#99 Grammar
  • *#98 The Ivy League
  • *#97 Scarves
  • *#96 New Balance Shoes
  • *#93 Music Piracy
  • *#91 San Francisco
  • *#89 St. Patrick’s Day
  • #88 Having Gay Friends
  • *#87 Outdoor Performance Clothes
  • #84 T-Shirts
  • *#83 Bad Memories of High School
  • #82 Hating Corporations
  • *#81 Graduate School
  • #79 Modern Furniture
  • #76 Bottles of Water
  • #75 Threatening to Move to Canada
  • *#72 Study Abroad
  • *#71 Being the only white person around
  • #66 Divorce
  • #64 Recycling
  • #62 Knowing What’s Best for Poor People
  • #61 Bicycles
  • #60 Toyota Prius
  • #59 Natural Medicine
  • #58 Japan
  • *#51 Living by the Water
  • *#50 Irony
  • *#49 Vintage
  • *#48 Whole Foods and Grocery Co-ops
  • #47 Arts Degrees
  • #46 The Sunday New York Times
  • #45 Asian Fusion Food
  • *#42 Sushi
  • *#41 Indie Music
  • *#40 Apple Products
  • #35 The Daily Show/Colbert Report
  • *#34 Architecture
  • #33 Marijuana
  • #32 Vegan/Vegetarianism
  • *#31 Snowboarding
  • #30 Wrigley Field
  • If one would like to meet a lot of white people, one of your best bets would be to go on a Snowboarding trip. Snowboarding is the practice of skiing sideways on one ski. White people love snowboarding as opposed to basketball or football because there is a sense that it is an alternative sport outside of the mainstream. Also too many ethnic people are skiing now. White people enjoy activities that cost a lot of money and require expensive clothes. Even though pro snowboarders make far less than football or basketball players, it is an activity that is exclusive to those who have money. Below are some of the prerequsites for snowboarding

  • *#28 Not having a TV
  • *#27 Marathons
  • *#26 Manhattan (now Brooklyn too!)
  • *#24 Wine
  • *#23 Microbreweries
  • *#19 Traveling
  • White person travelling can be broken into two categories – First World and Third World.

    First world is Europe and Japan, and man, this travel is not only beloved but absolutely essential in their development as white people.

    Every white person takes at least one trip to Europe between the ages of 17-29. During this time they are likely to wear a back pack, stay at a hostel, meet someone from Ireland/Sweden/Italy with whom they have a memorable experience, get drunk, see some old churches and ride a train.

    What’s amazing is that all white people have pretty much the same experience, but all of them believe theirs to be the first of its kind. So much so that they return to North America with ideas of writing novels and screenplays about their experience.

    Upon returning home, they will also find an affinity for a particular beer or liquor from a country they visited. They use this as an excuse to mention their travels when at a bar. “Oh, I’ll have a Czechznlishiyush Pilsner. You see, that was my favorite beer when I was travelling through Slovenia and the Czech republic.”

    The second type of white person travel is Third World. This is when they venture to Thailand, Africa or South America. Some do it so that they can one up the white people who only go to Europe.

    But like with Europe, white people like to believe they are the first white people to make this trip. As such, they should be recognized as special and important individuals.

    That’s right, by going to a country, riding around on a bus or train, staying at a hotel or hostel and eating – they are doing something important for the world.

    If a white person shows up in your country, you can make them feel fantastic by saying how you’ve never seen a white person before, and that you are amazed by their iPod – “a device that plays many songs? impossible!”

    They might give it to you, then you can sell it for profit. Repeat as necessary.

  • *#17 Hating their Parents
  • #16 Gifted Children
  • #15 Yoga
  • *#14 Having Black Friends
  • #13 Tea
  • *#12 Non-Profit Organizations
  • It is a known fact that white people make up 95% of non-profit organizations.  They can’t get enough of them.

    They like working there for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that it gives them a sense of self importance.  This is important so that they can tell their friends and parents that they are “helping” society, and not just working to make money.

    But the sweet side of non profits is that you are paid a competitive salary for your field.  So you can be working at a non-profit and still make six figures, and you don’t have accountability or pressure.  Again, like most things with white people – you can’t lose!

  • #11 Asian Girls
  • #8 Barack Obama
  • *#7 Diversity
  • *#6 Organic Food
  • *#5 Farmer’s Markets
  • #2 Religions their parents don’t belong to
  • *#1 Coffee




  • First Armless Female Pilot and Other People Who Can’t, But Who CAN!

    21 10 2009

    People Don’t Give Up On Your Dreams, Don’t Give up On Life… Watch these People 😀

    The Story behind Team Hoyt http://www.teamhoyt.com/