Practice Run

Wednesday night Jeff and I returned from our Christmas trip to Louisville. And while we hadn’t planned on it, we ended up having a bit of a practice run (and I do mean that literally) for our upcoming RTW trip.

As anyone who has traveled before knows, things don’t always go according to plan. You can research all you want, make only the wisest and most well-thought decisions, and yet, something can still go wrong. Planes are late. Traffic jams occur. Strikes happen. You fall ill. Your luggage gets lost. Your dream destination actually turns out to be a nightmare.

One of the biggest lessons the road teaches you is that you can’t control everything. Life happens. And sometimes life is messy. Patience is required. A sense of humor is mandatory. “Being Zen” is something I’m working on–learning to let go, to accept things as they are, to not get my panties all in a wad over things I can’t control. (Does anyone else hate the word panties like I do? If that wasn’t a common phrase, I would have opted for the much more dignified term underwear.)

So anyhow, back to Wednesday night. In order to make the most of our holiday, we’d booked an evening flight back home.–8:20 p.m. to be exact. It was a direct flight on Southwest to BWI. Once at BWI, we would use public transportation to get back home. Now public transportation isn’t necessarily the most efficient way of getting around but we opted for it because A) it’s free for us thanks to the commuter benefits we each get through work, and B) it’s better for the environment. Also, public transportation will be our primary means of travel on our trip so we might as well get used to it. With our flight scheduled to arrive at 9:45 and with all our luggage carried on, we shouldn’t have had any trouble making the 10:20 bus. This bus would take us to the Greenbelt Metro station, from where we would take the Green Line to Gallery Place, at which point we’d switch to the Red Line and ride it to our stop, arriving at home right around midnight. If we missed this bus, well, um, uh… But wait, who cares, we weren’t going to miss this bus. We had plenty of time. Heck, maybe we’d get lucky and the plane would be early and we’d make the 9:40 bus. We had a great plan.

Well, we all know about those best laid plans of mice and men. Yeah, that’s right, they often go awry. It started off with a 10 minute delay. No big deal. But the 10 minute delay stretched and stretched and stretched until it was about a 30 minute delay. Our plane was late arriving because of other delayed connections in Chicago, and then we had to load and get the luggage onboard and all that jazz. Now, I’m all for airlines holding a plane for a few minutes for passengers delayed by another flight–we all know how much it sucks to miss a connection–but I can’t say it didn’t make me a bit frustrated. Just like that the 35 minutes we had between our plane landing and our bus leaving was down to single digits.

But what could I do? We grabbed seats in row six, the closest to the front we could get, and just hoped for the best. No amount of arm flapping would make the plane go any faster. When we landed, luck seemed to be at least a little bit on our sides. We had 15 minutes. And it looked like we were headed straight for gate A1, which would have popped us out right by the airport exit. But at the last minute, we turned, and started rolling further and further away from the exit, all the way to the gate at the very end of the terminal. To top it off, another plane was blocking the way, so we had to sit idle for another couple of minutes before we could get to that far, far away gate. The anxiety level was high, I admit, and I had to physically stop myself from checking Jeff’s watch every few seconds.

As soon as the plane was at the gate, we hopped up and prepared to get our butts and our bags off the plane, down the terminal, and onto the bus. But, oh no, not so fast. The people in the front row decide to take their sweet, sweet time getting off the plane. Which is all fine and dandy unless you’re blocking the entire freaking aisle so no one can disembark. Courtesy, people, courtesy. If you’re not ready to go, keep your butt snug in its seat until everyone else is off. Then you can mosey your way off the plane at your own chosen speed.

Eventually, of course, we did make it off the plane and started running like madmen through the airport, swerving around slowpokes and those families who are apparently only able to walk in a horizontal line that spreads across the entire terminal. My heart was racing wildly and I was breathing like I’d just climbed Mt. Everest, but I felt like I was running through water. I wasn’t going anywhere fast. Let me tell you, even if your luggage is on wheels, hauling an extra 30+ pounds plus a shoulder bag is not easy. At this point, it’s save yourself, so I yell to Jeff to go on without me. Naturally, he’s a bit faster, and I’m hoping that if he can get to the bus, he can get the driver to wait the extra minute or two it will take me to get there.

Soon I’ve lost sight of him, as I run, run, run what seems like miles and then pop out into the cold and dash madly in front of the incoming traffic. Thankfully no one runs over me. I spot Jeff. And then I spot the B30. It’s barreling right past him. Shit.

But, wait, the bus makes two stops here at the airport. We have one more chance. We just have to make it all the way to the other side of arrivals faster than the bus can get there and load however many passengers are waiting. No problem, right?

And so once again, we’re off. This time we don’t even bother making our way over to the the sidewalk, but dash along right on the edge of the road. It’s a long curve, and I keep expecting to see the bus stop up ahead, but it’s always just a bit further. Finally, I spot it, and it’s there. The bus is there. Still loading. Again, I tell Jeff to go on ahead, and he takes off, running as if his life depended on it. As he nears the end of the bus, the doors shut. The bus is ready to depart again, without us. But before it can pull away, Jeff charges to the doors and bangs on them until the driver re-opens them. I, about 20 yards behind, hustle up while he stalls on the stairs. As the bus lurches away into the night, I pay my fare.

Today I’m still trying to catch my breath.

But we made it.

On our RTW trip, I know they’ll be times when we aren’t as lucky. At some point, we’ll run as hard as we can only to be left panting, hands on our knees, staring at the tail lights disappearing down the road. I can only hope that this won’t happen too often and that when it does, we’re Zen enough not to let it ruin our trip for long and savvy enough to figure out what to do next. Even if that’s just sitting and waiting for the next bus to roll up.

Spreading the Holiday Cheer

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our loyal readers (and lurkers)! Yes it’s a day late, but the big day is always a little busy. All in all, it was a grand day with family and friends. Santa must’ve adapted to the internet age and reading our blog, because we got a number of things to help us on our adventure. Sporks, duct tape, silk sleeping bags, a gorillapod, and a new compact digital camera all found their way under the tree at the Dowell’s (I’ve always been amazed at how Santa can find you even when you travel). In other exciting news, we now have corporate sponsorship to go gorilla trekking! Good news gorillas! Thanks mom!

In keeping with the spirit of the holidays, we’ve been putting a bit of money toward our charities of choice. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that we tend to support organizations that are effective in assisting the developing world. We want to share three of them that we strongly support with all of you: Populizing the nobel winning Grameen Bank (another great organization) microloan style of developing world investment, this organization allows you to loan money to entrepreneurs in places as far ranging as Tajikistan, Uganda, Bolivia, and Samoa. Most loans are about $1000 over about one year, though the brilliance of Kiva is that each loan is put together by many lenders loaning $25 each. And the best part is you get your money back (without interest naturally), so you can then send it to another entrepreneur in need a year down the line. We have recently completed our first two loans (a co-op in Ecuador and a soap maker in Sierra Leone) and have reissued the money to a restaurant in Uganda and a shopkeeper in Afghanistan, and added a beauty salon in Nicaragua and a general store in Peru). The site has a lot of social aspects, and you can easily track the progress of your loan and see it at work. The link up there is a referral link, but we don’t get anything else out of it other than the satisfaction of knowing how many people sign up and donate through us.

Doctors Without Borders: Most likely you have heard of Doctors Without Borders. This Nobel Peace Prize winning organization provides health care to those who most need it: people affected by wars, disasters, or simply lack of access. The doctors, nurses, and other professionals have the courage to give up everything and put themselves in harm’s way, and no regard is paid to politics, religion, or other such factors. The need for medical care is the sole determining factor for where Doctors Without Borders goes, and often they’re the only people to go to some of the world’s most needy and dangerous places.

Charity Begins: An organization that we’ve had contact with in the past that coordinates delivery of aid supplies to developing countries. You can help by donating goods, delivery time, or money. We plan on being couriers for them when we travel, so even if you’re not headed anywhere, maybe you can donate something for us or other travelers to transport. Check their website for a list of desired items.

Those are our favorites, and we’d love it if we’ve convinced some of you to support them as well. But we’re always looking for great causes, so what are some of your favorites? Who do you think does great work in the world (or even your local neighborhood)?

Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems

Originally I was planning on expanding on what Theresa said in her latest post, just below this one. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out, it’ll make you realize how affordable a RTW trip can be with some planning. But reading through it, I realized she already pretty much covered what I planned on saying. To sum it up in one sentence, it’s very financially doable.

So I thought I would give you a little insight into what we plan on doing financially while we are traveling. I know that this isn’t the sexiest of subjects, but it’s a pretty necessary component to traveling. It is a very different financial world abroad than it is here in the US. Both of us, like most people our age, are creatures of the modern financial world. Our preference for using credit cards is met by almost ubiquitous acceptance of them everywhere from parking garages to the corner deli (we, of course, pay them off every month, and we get some great rewards from it). We rarely carry cash. Our salaries are directly deposited. We dabble in the stock market. A lot of these things are going to change when we go on this trip (starting with the no more salaries part).

There are a few main goals we have financially while we are traveling:

1. Maintain a reasonably sized pool of cash that will be on our person.

Our travels will be mostly in the developing world, where cash is most definitely still king. Credit cards and other forms of electronic payment are by and large not accepted, at least outside of major cities, where even there they are mostly confined to pricier hotels and restaurants. For daily usage, we will need to be carrying cash.

2. Keep enough funds for our entire trip in savings with easy access.

One thing that has become pretty easy to find (again, in most major cities) are ATMs. That is how we plan to maintain the aforementioned cash pool. We also want to avoid ATM fees and while earning as much interest as possible, and fortunately, a number of checking and savings accounts have started to offer this features. We probably will open a Fidelity high yield checking account that seems to meet all of these requirements (I’m sure other companies have similar offers, but we have been happy with our previous experiences with Fidelity).

3. Minimize the number of credit cards we carry and minimize foreign transaction fees we pay

As I said, there are not many places to use credit cards in the developing world. They have their moments of extreme usefulness, however, so we will carry a few cards (a primary one and two backups) with us and use them when we can. We do have too many credit cards; this stems from me applying for cards for a myriad of great benefits — this has also contributed to our frequent flyer mile collection. So we will cancel or consolidate many of these that we will not use. Some cards are better than others when it comes to travel because there are extra fees added on for foreign transactions. There is a standard 1% fee that Visa or Mastercard adds, and the issuer of the card (ie Chase or CitiBank) usually adds an additional 2% charge. Even with these fees added, credit cards still offer the best exchange rate … banks and currency exchanges will charge heftier fees. Some card do even better though. We will be using almost exclusively a Capital One, that not only has no fees of their own, but they refund the 1% Visa fee, and our card pays 1.25% back, for a total savings of 4.25% on everything we charge compared to an average card. Another useful card to carry is an American Express card, because although they are rarely accepted outside the US, they have travel offices in many larger cities accessible only to members that can be very helpful. You can find the foreign transaction fee policies for most credit card companies here.

4. Simplify our investments and long-term cash.

Like I mentioned, we dabble in the stock market. This is not something we are going to want to think about at all during our travels, and a lot can charge in a year. Just think back to how hot real estate was at the beginning of the year compared to now. So we want to change our investments into something simple and safe. We’ll be selling most of our individual stocks and putting some money into some safer mutual funds and CD’s, but I won’t bore you with any more specifics here.

I think we’ve all had our share of finance for today. But with this simple set of changes, we will have easy access to cash, the best value from our credit, and won’t have to worry about our money for the trip or for afterward. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

Money, Money, Money, Mo-ney

Money. We all want it. We never have enough of it. It’s the root of all evil. It’s the means to making great things happen. It’s essential to this trip we’re soon to take. And it’s something everyone wants to know about, though not everyone is ballsy enough to ask about. So we’re just going to go ahead and address it straight on, Miss Manners and etiquette rules about not talking about money be damned.

I think a Q & A format works best for this, so that’s the approach I’m taking.

Q: How much does a one-year trip around the world cost?

A: Well, we haven’t taken said trip yet, so I can’t give you a final number, but I can give you an estimate. The estimate has many sources: guidebooks with their suggested daily budgets, the costs given by other travelers who have taken such trips, and our own personal experience traveling and living abroad.

First off, there is no standard amount for what a trip like this will cost. One major deciding factor is where you plan to travel. Traveling around Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and other highly-developed first-world countries is going to cost you a lot more than traveling around the developing world. For example, in Egypt, we ate steak kebabs for $1 and stayed in a nice hotel with pool and other amenities for $7. In Paris, the same would have cost us between $10 and $20 for the food and over $150 for the hotel. In Egypt, over the course of an entire week, we spent under $200 per person, and that included all food, train, taxi, and bus trips, admission to museums/the Pyramids/Temples, etc., hotels, a felucca ride on the Nile, a snorkeling trip in the Red Sea, souvenirs, etc. In Paris, $200 could easily disappear in a day.

On our RTW trip, we will be traveling almost exclusively in the developing world, which means that our money will stretch rather generously. (Also, as most of you are probably aware, the dollar is plummeting in value thanks to the current economic situation in the U.S. This does not have nearly as much of an effect in the developing world, however, for multiple reasons: the first being that many Third World currencies are tied to U.S. dollars, the second being that costs are so low to begin with in these countries that increases in costs are relatively small for American travelers.)

A second factor that determines how much a one-year RTW trip costs is your style of travel. If you want Western-style accommodations and food and opt for planes over trains and buses, your costs will be high. If, however, you seek out local lodges, eat where the population eats, and don’t mind long-distance overland travel, your costs can be quite low.

We actually prefer (gasp) the second option. We believe this is how you best understand a place. We don’t travel to recreate our own lives in another place, but to experience others’ lives as they live them everyday. That’s not to say that every once in a while, we won’t splurge. But let me be clear that for us splurging won’t mean a night at the Hilton, it will mean spending an extra $5 to get air conditioning when it’s 100+ degrees outside (and inside). Truly, everything is relative.

So, to answer the question, Jeff and I estimate that we will spend under $30,000 on our one-year trip around the world. This is just over $82 per day for the two of us. This is less than we spend in a year at home.

Q: How are you able to afford this?

A: To clear up any speculation: No, we are not trust-fund kids. No, we have not won the lottery. No, we do not have ridiculously high-paying jobs.

So how can we do it? Simple. We made it a priority. Some people want nice cars. Some people want large houses. Some people want to eat dinner out every night. We want to go on a trip around the world. So that’s what we plan for, save for, and invest in.

Jeff is currently in graduate school, although we are fortunate that his program provides him a real honest-to-God salary. I work for the government, making under $50k (well under, if you must know). We live in the Washington, D.C. area, which has a high cost of living. We manage, however, to save my entire salary every year. This is how we can afford this trip, and at the same time, be in a position to come home with enough money to pick up our lives without major changes.

So, how do we save so much? To begin with, we’re both naturally very conscientious about money. We’re savers, which means we’re going along with our natural impulses, not fighting them. This starts us off on a good foot. Secondly, we’re not into luxury. We don’t care much about cars, high-end clothes, fancy dinners out, or luxe hotels. Thirdly, we’re not especially social; we’re not the type who need to be out on the town every night. Jeff might go out for a beer after work every now and then, but we’re not regulars at any watering hole. Given the choice, we’d rather have friends over for dinner and game night than go out for dinner and a movie. We seek out free festivals. I snag free tickets to movie premieres and theater performances. We love to hike, bike, and go to the parks.

We also budget, which I think is key to saving money. We all know how easy it is to blow the $20 in your wallet and not have any idea of what you spent it on, so we keep track of all of our income and where it goes. We plan out menus for the week and then shop carefully and cook regularly. We take our lunches to work. We don’t buy a coffee every day.

For some people, this might sound like no fun at all. For us, it’s no big deal. Even if we weren’t going on this trip, we’d still be like this. It’s the way we are. And it doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy a nice dinner out every once in a while or go to the cinema to see a movie. We just make conscious decisions to do it. We don’t go because we’re bored or lazy, but because that is what we really want to do. And we’re not cheap either. We don’t nickel and dime when we go to dinner with friends. We buy nice gifts for our friends and family for weddings, birthdays, graduations, and other special occasions. We give to charity. And we probably spend more than the average person on travel. Obviously, we love to travel, and we’re not afraid to spend our money to do that. But even then, we’re generally budget travelers. Our biggest splurge since we’ve been married would probably be our Grand Canyon trip, but even then we made sure we got the absolute best deal possible. We just don’t spend willy-nilly. Never have. Never will.

I think Jeff will follow up in a future post with some concrete saving and investing tips. He’s our money guru and has much more informed things to say about this. Let me just finish by saying that if you want to do a trip like this, you can. You just have to make it a priority and save for it just as you’d save for anything else. Goals, people, goals.

Q: What do you think will be the most expensive parts of this trip?

A: The first and most obvious answer is airfare. Flying isn’t cheap. That’s why we’re going to try to do much of our travel overland, saving flights for long trips between continents. The benefit of having a whole year for the trip is that you can take full days to travel. You don’t have to be everywhere now. As Jeff mentioned before, we’re also hoping to be able to use our miles to offset some of this cost.

Another expense is insurance. We will need to purchase health and travel insurance for the entire year we’re gone. We’re currently comparing options and will post more about this later.

Specialty activities will be a third expense. Going on safari, trekking to see gorillas, climbing Kilimanjaro, and other similar activities have high costs. The trick is determining how much certain activities are worth to us. This is how we’ll determine which of these specialty activities we choose to do and which we pass on—a good ol’ cost-value analysis.

Q: Will you be writing further posts about money and expenses?

A: Yes. I plan to be rather forthright about this. I love reading travel blogs by others who have done similar trips, but so often I find myself saying, “Well that sounds cool, but how much did it cost? Is this something I can afford?” Money might be taboo to many people, but not to me. Things have a cost. Why not let people know what it is? It’s like those damn menus that don’t print the costs of drinks. Nobody likes to wait until they get the bill to find out that their margarita cost $15. So I’ll just go ahead and tell you. Then, if you’re reading our blog because you’re planning a trip of your own, you’ll have the facts you need to make informed decisions. Otherwise, um, well you can gossip about it or something.

Gadgets Galore

Joyce’s advice got me going about all the cool travel gadgets I’ve been seeing while looking around, though I have to say, the foundation/sunscreen combo does not make my list. Those who know me know that I’m quite the gadget geek, and while traveling is when a truly useful product shines. So I thought I would post about some of those things that I think are particularly interesting and/or neat products. These are some of the things I plan to have with me next year:

GorillapodWith our camera, we didn’t know what to do about low light conditions or flash-free zones. Enter gorillapod. Nope, it won’t be a full size tripod, but it’s just small and light enough to fit with the rest of our small belongings. Plus it gets bonus points for being an impromptu drying rack just by turning it upside down (or coat hanger!).

SporkIt’s a fork, spoon and knife all in one! So you never have to hunt for or use dirty utensils. And it comes in multiple colors! I want red, Theresa wants green, but luckily, they come in a 4 pack, with one of each color.

Insta-water purification from a tiny pen. It uses UV light to kill off all the bacterial and parasitic trouble that you can find in unsafe water. Supposedly works a treat, though it is expensive. But it’s worth it to avoid the nasty taste those iodine tablets leave behind.

Renewable Flashlight
It always seems that flashlight batteries die whenever you need them most. Using some cool simple electromagnetic physics, you shake the flashlight for three minutes, and presto, it works for half an hour (or something like that). Just a cool idea, and in the right (or wrong?) situation it’s a life saver.

Packing Cubes
With everything living in one bag, it’s going to be important to keep it organized so I can find whatever I’m looking for at a given moment. As I am not the most organized person out there, keeping things in individual packing cubes will help immensely to keep things sorted out.

Flip & Tumble Bag

I’m not gonna lie, I like this because it folds up into a ball. I love having something to play with. In all honesty, though, it would be a miracle if one of these actually made the whole trip without disappearing. It surely will accidentally find a river or become a stray dog’s chew toy at some point.

Credits: Most of the pictures came from REI, and I read about the bag and steripen at Practical Gear Traveler.

Some cool (or boring) admin stuff

So we’ve been working behind the scenes here the last few days trying to improve some of the aspects of the blog (apologies if you tried to get here at some point and found some wacky stuff), and it seems like we’ve been mostly successful. We’ve added some simple things, like a comments subscribe button; some complicated stuff, like a Google map with geo-tagged posts on the Where are We Now page; and last, and seemingly most difficult, permalinks that make the post URLs a bit more descriptive (and pretty).

So anyway, the message here is, take a look around, and let us know if you notice anything funky or funny. We’ll try to fix it. One important question is how does the map look for you on your computer? The problem is that the size of the map is fixed but the size of the page changes, so on low resolution computers the map can be way too big, and on high resolution computer it can be way too small. Chime in and tell us how everything looks. Thanks guys!

Bonfire of my Vanity

Today I went for a haircut. As my stylist, cut and blowdried, straightened and applied various hair products, I thought about how I would have none of this while on the road. No hair dryer, no straightener or curling iron or any other plug-in hair-fixing device, no products, and definitely no stylist.

Now I’m not a vain person. Vain people do not tear up their faces, then go out to eat in public as it swells and turns all different types of colors. Vain people do not post pictures of their face in such a state on the Internet for all the world to see. No, seriously, I’m not vain.

I’m also not particularly fashionable. I mean, I like to think that I’m not unfashionable, but I certainly don’t care much for trends and almost always go for comfort. I don’t like to shop, except on rare occasions. I have no interest in brand names and can’t even begin to fathom why some people pay hundreds of dollars for jeans, purses, or anything else. I can’t be bothered to spend much time on my hair, especially since I’m not very good at fixing hair, so even if I were to spend a lot of time on it, it probably wouldn’t look much different. And as for makeup, I rarely go beyond concealer, mascara, and good ol’ chapstick. Fashion and beauty is just not my forte. Luckily I wasn’t born butt ugly.

Last summer, when we rafted the Grand Canyon, I didn’t have any problems with my lack of access to beauty products…or clean bathing water for that matter. But still sometimes I wince at the thought of living for an entire year out of one backpack.

Except for underwear (which I do plan to take enough of), there will not be another piece of clothing that I don’t, at some point and most often at all points, wear more than once in a week. My hair will have to dry naturally, which means that it will not be sleek and shiny(as my current shampoo claims it should be although that is debatable on most days), but will instead by a bit crazy. I expect that it will be a rare day when my hair is not back in a ponytail, the saving grace of bad hair. I’ll take along a tiny bit of makeup–probably my usuals–but really, in the sweltering heat of Southeast Asia, if I put it on will it do anything but run right off?

In the year that we spend traveling, more pictures of me will probably be taken than have been in any other year of my life, save maybe the first year or two, when a photograph was needed to record every milestone. (Isn’t it weird how much we accomplish when we’re young and ignorant, and how little we can manage to accomplish when we’re old and educated?) And in these many, many photos, I’ll probably look about as bad as I’ve ever looked (except for maybe my freshman yearbook photo when my eyes were rolled back in my head and the photos from the years when I had those terrible, terrible grandma glasses…Mom, seriously, how could you let me wear those?). And though I’ve hidden those photos away and tried to forget them, the photos we’ll take on our trip will be posted right here for all of you to look at. No, indeed, I’m not vain. Crazy, maybe. Masochistic, perhaps.

But really, there is not much to be done. It’s just one of the those trade-offs you have to make. You sit at home and look pretty. I’ll explore Machu Picchu and look a bit dumpy. I think I can handle it.

(I will admit, however, that I do have my limits. While searching for a travel skirt, I kept reading rave reviews about the Macabi skirt, so I looked it up, and was, um, a bit less than impressed with the looks. I tried to convince myself that it didn’t matter and that it would be functional, but I just couldn’t do it. Traveling around the world with just one tiny backpack might be an excuse for not looking fabulous, but it does not justify looking ridiculous. And after a bit more searching, I found two skirts that I actually very much like made by a company called Lole. They’re actually a bit fashionable (in my non-fashion-forward opinion), but darn it if the shoes I’m planning to bring along won’t just spoil the whole look.)

What Kind of Traveler Are You?

We all have our own travel style. Some of us find that one place we love and go back to it year after year, while others of us can’t imagine going back to somewhere we’ve already been when there’s a whole world of places we haven’t been awaiting us. Some of us like the luxury of a star-filled sky as viewed from the tent we pitched in an isolated wilderness, while others of us prefer the luxury of a down-filled pillow as experienced from the bed of the Ritz in a bustling city. Some of us brave the revenge of Montezuma to consume local street chow, while others of us search for a restaurant exported directly from America. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with and what you want to get out of your travel experience.

Recently, while perusing the Washington Post’s Travel Blog, I became aware of a man named Stanley Plog, who has spent decades doing market research for the travel industry. He’s made finding out your travel style his job, so that companies can market to you and ultimately get you to invest your dollars in their products or services. As part of the process, he’s created a fairly standard bell curve of six categories into which travelers can be classified. Let me give you a brief synopsis.

  • Authentic Travelers (3% of the population): Prefer to go to places with established reputations, with similar amenities to home. Prefer group travel and often book tours. Prefer chain hotels and restaurants and often return to the same location. Travel less than other groups.
  • Mid-Authentic Travelers (17% of the population): Like Authentics, prefer to go to popular places and often return to the same place thought you’re slightly more likely to change things up. Prefer to drive rather than fly. Prefer good weather locations. Often prefer to stay at home and enjoy your own backyard, bbqs with friends, and other activities rather than travel.
  • Centric Authentic Travelers (30% of the population): Fairly broad travel interests but more middle-of-the-road. Prefer safe instead of the unknown. Like outdoor activities, but not necessarily adventure activities. Family travelers seem to fall in this category most often. Enjoy beaches and good weather destinations. For foreign travel, may prefer to do a tour.
  • Centric Venturers Travelers (30% of the population): Tends to mix things up–will travel by car or plane, stay at a mix of lodgings from B&Bs to motels to top hotels, etc. Enjoy going to cities with a fairly well developed infrastructure but doesn’t like over commercialized places. Returns to favorite places but only after a few years. Flexible, adaptable, and enjoys a diversity of places.
  • Mid-Venturer Travelers (17% of the population): Seeks out new places, prefers each trip to be different from last, enjoys historical locations. Likes adventurous travel but at night prefers a hotel room and restaurant to camping. Prefer to have an itinerary with places to visit and a schedule.
  • Venturer Travelers (4% of the population): Like to visit unknown and uncommon destination. Do not like tours or rigid itineraries. Attracted to unique cultures and adventure travel. Travel more often to more places than other people.

Aside from the face that the percentages add up to 101% (I’m sure some rounding was involved), it sounds pretty plausible. The question is where do we fit into it? Perusing the categories, I’d say that Jeff and I most likely fall somewhere between Mid-Venturer and Venturer. We seek out the new, the exotic, the unknown. We like adventure travel. We travel frequently. We don’t need hotels or restaurants and in fact, love to camp. All of this seems to put us in the Venturer camp. I will admit, however, that I am not completely free-spirited and do love me a good list, which would move me a bit in the direction of Mid-Venturer. And if all travelers are supposed to fit in this grid, I can’t imagine that we’re in that tiny 4% of the most adventurous travelers. After all, we aren’t those super hardcore people you read about in Outdoors Magazine or National Geographic Adventurer–the crazy people who heli-ski, scale the entirety of Mt. Everest, swim the length of the Amazon, take a dip in the waters of Antarctica, etc.

So that’s what I’d speculate. To find out for certain where I fit, I went to Mr. Plogs website and took his supposedly very scientific survey, which asks me to use a scale of 7 options from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree to reply to 15 statements and then uses a logarithm to determine into which category I fall. As it turns out, I’m a Mid-Venturer. Though some of the statements don’t really sum me up very well, it seems to be a relatively good fit. It was then Jeff’s turn to take the quiz, and I figured (wrongly) that he’d be the same. He actually ranked as a Centric Venturer, which neither of us thinks is a very good fit for him.

I find it a little silly to think that something as simple as 15 questions can determine what kind of traveler you are, especially 15 questions that don’t have a simple yes/no answer but require you to self-rank of a sliding scale. I’m a person of extremes, so most of my answers were either strongly agree or strongly disagree or the rank right next to those. To me, the middle numbers on the scale make little sense. Jeff, on the other hand, doesn’t self view himself as extreme in any measure so he hung close to the middle for almost all answers. If we actually discuss the statements outloud, however, we have very similar viewpoints. (I’d say our major difference would be in the questions about level of socialness as he is certainly much more outgoing than I am.)

Anyhow, the whole idea of it is interesting, even if the results aren’t, in my opinion, all that exact. I guess it would be unwise to expect more, considering the whole idea is to generalize the entire population into 6 categories. There’s always going to be some outliers.

So now for your assignment: Go take the survey (Plog Travel Personality Quiz in the middle of the banner toward the top), then come back and post your results in the comments along with your opinion about whether or not you think it’s a good characterization of you. And no one is excused from this assignment…that means all you lurkers too…ahem Inga.

(In all seriousness, if you read our blog, we’d really appreciate it if you would leave comments, regardless of whether we know you or not, whether you comment on other blogs or not, whether you’re scared I might bite… We’re trying to create a dialogue here, so please share your thoughts.)