A Nomad’s Guide To Planning Global Adventures


December 27, 2017

Have you seen a Youtube video or an Instagram pic that evoked in you a spontaneous burst of an adventurous spirit that was ready to go and conquer the world? You were ready to sail the seven seas, blaze trails through a remote rainforest, conquer the highest peaks, experience new cultures and eat strange things? Before you click over to Google Flights and find the cheapest airfare and buy your tickets, there are a few steps you need to take to make your adventure a success.

Be Realistic

What level of creature comfort do you expect in everyday life and on vacations? If the answer to this question is that the most inconvenience you can tolerate is having to turn down your own bed on the cruise ship or at the five star resort adventure really isn’t for you. However, if you are fine hanging your hammock between two trees outside a remote bus station to catch some z’s while you are waiting on the next bus that will transport you some goats, and a cage full of chickens to the next village you have a world of options. But for most of us we fall in between those two extremes.

If you are the five star resort sort of person there are many places you can go and stay at the resort and make daily jaunts out to see some sights and return at night to the creature comforts you expect. However, in reality some of the greatest places on earth can’t be reach from day trips outside of a fancy resort.

Another consideration is how do you do with strange food? If a trip to the local (American) Chinese Buffet is considered adventurous to you then you will want to take that into consideration. However, if you proceed with the attitude that if it hasn’t killed them it more than likely won’t kill you, then you have opened up a whole new world of possibilities. There’s nothing like bonding with your new friends over a big bowl of bull balls, or enjoying a delicacy of freshly killed (raw) octopus that’s still moving provided by people who feel they are giving you the best they have to offer. So if Panda Express’s Lemon Chicken is exotic for you remote travel probably isn’t for you, but if you can handle some crazy stuff the world has no limits.

Research Your Destination

My first time in Nepal I was actually there for meetings, but while we were meeting on the top floor of the building the Maoist rebels were gathering on the bottom floor with the intent of shutting down the government, and collecting “donations” from local businesses. So every business shut down to keep from having to deal with shake down, and the streets became pretty empty, and services were almost non-existent. Thus making those fews days about as enjoyable as sharing a tent with someone after you’ve both had beans for dinner.

Recently, I found an amazing waterfall in the Philippines where I wanted to go and shoot some promo pics for our hammocks. It was so beautiful it didn’t look like it could be real. Upon researching it I found out that is was about an hour from Marawi City, Philippines that was under siege and the government and muslim extremist were battling. Knowing that these particular radicals had a penchant for removing heads and they were very active in the area it told me that this particular time was not the best time to try and make the trip.

Go to Google and search the news to see what the recent developments and political climate is for your desired destination. At the time of writing this there’s an active volcano erupting on the island of Bali. You could get tickets to Bali, but have a miserable time on a beautiful island and have disrupted travel all because of a once in a hundred year occurrence. But if you did your research you could avoid the mess.

Attractions

What is there really to see? A few years back I took my family to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia for Christmas. We booked two weeks there, and thought it would be packed with things to do and see. The truth about Kota Kinabalu is that the flights were super cheap to get there, but there was literally nothing to do inside the city. All the good beaches were out on islands that cost a good deal of money to get to by boat, and were super crowded once you go there. All the excursions into the jungle were pricey, and the boat tours to “see” the proboscis monkeys and fireflies were nothing more than a short boat ride on a river next to people’s backyards. There was nothing exciting about it, and the proboscis monkeys were no where to be seen. However, I do admit that the fireflies at night were nice as their flashing pattern was greatly different than the fireflies in the Southern United States. Just because a place has cheap airfare and it’s in a country that normally doesn’t lack for exciting things to do doesn’t mean there are things to do.

Seasons

We are planning on a shoot for our hammocks in Palawan, Philippines. This is possibly one of the most beautiful places on earth. However, the shoot has been delayed for months and months due to the rainy season, in which it literally rains everyday. Somedays, it would be a little bit of rain, and some days it would be a constant downpour. So we keep pushing the shoot back to make sure we are firmly out of the rainy season to best insure we will have good weather for the shoot.

The same goes for vacations. If you visit during the rainy season I really hope you like the hotel you booked. You will spend a lot of time in the hotel. If you wait till the rainy season is over, you will more than likely be able to make it dream vacation.

If scenery is what you are after you need to check and see which seasons are optimal for what you want to see. If you go to Nepal in the summer time hoping to see the Himalayas good luck. They are almost never visible between May and November because it’s monsoon season. But if your goal is to go and kayak, ride elephants, and do safaris the summer is a good time to go. But for seeing the Himalayas, not so much.

If you want to see waterfalls you need to make sure which season the waterfalls are visible or at their optimal beauty. Some will dry up in dry seasons while some are only pretty in the dry season and are a muddy mess during the rainy season.

So research the seasons and determine the optimal time for you to be able to do what you want to do.

Customs

As globalization has become a reality for most of the world, outside customs have become more tolerated, while somethings are still taboo, and there are some local customs that you will have to learn to be tolerant as well.

I thought I had become the cross-cultural guru and could handle just about anything thrown at me. However, one fateful day at the airport in Kathmandu proved otherwise. It was election day in Nepal, all cars were ordered off the road, so I went really early to the airport to fly out because there was literally nothing else to do. At lunch time I was getting hungry and I decided to go to the airport cafeteria. Upon entering it immediately improved my prayer life with, “Oh Lord, please don’t let this make me sick.” It’s standard of hygiene was not that great. But I had eaten in some crazy dives before and I will again. So I ordered my fried chicken momos and sat down and waited on them to be served. Then I noticed the guy next to me eating lentils and rice with his hand. If you are familiar with lentils and rice it’s this soupy porridge looking meal that in my mind is best eaten with a spoon. But this guy was scooping it up with his four fingers and was chowing down. I hate to admit it but I had to contain my gag reflex, and I excused it with, “This guy must have a mental problem.” Then I looked around the restaurant and suddenly realized, “the whole country is crazy”. When I explained this to a friend, they go, “oh, don’t worry they only use their right hand.” Excusing it because the left hand is traditionally reserved for sanitation issues. And then they said, “that is the way people eat in Nepal.” It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad, it’s just different. It doesn’t make them more sophisticated or less sophisticated it’s a neutral issue. The problem was me. I was uncomfortable because I had never seen or experienced that before other than watching my younger cousin as a kid eat chocolate pie with her hands. So learn what they do that may shock you and be ready for it.

The other consideration is what do you do that would be unacceptable to them? Is wearing shorts okay? Believe it or not, in many the places you would think shorts are okay, they are not. What is the appropriate manner to touch someone? Can you touch someone of the opposite sex even as innocently as touching them on the shoulder? Maybe not. What if you touch them with your left hand? In many parts of the world that is the butt wiping hand and they don’t use toilet paper. So you can see how that would work out. So get some idea on how you need to behave before you leave.

Language

Contrary to popular belief and this is international phenomenon, speaking louder does not make the other person understand you. It’s not just westerners who do this. Everyone world wide seems to believe that their language spoken louder will get them understood. I was in the hospital in Korea after I drank 10 year old Mountain Dew that the store had not removed from their cooler. (Seriously, it was literally 10 years old.) I will save you the gruesome details, but I was in the hospital in a room with 9 other guys, and the nurse who couldn’t speak English came in to tell me they needed a stool sample. So she stood there and in a voice 10 times louder than her normal voice yelled at me the need for a stool sample. I understood enough Korean to where she could have whispered that in my ear and it would have been okay. So that night every time I moved every man in that room looked to see if I was going to grab that little cup they gave me.

Likewise, the lady that is selling fruit on the street is not going to understand you if you raise your voice trying to communicate with her. I remember one time I was at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing back before China developed, and two western ladies had bought some bottles of water. The little seal around the bottle that detaches from the cap had a few spots that were already detached. In China that was no big deal, but to these western ladies it was a huge deal and they tried to explain to the lady the seal was broken. To the lady it was all ok, but the longer they talked the louder they got, and no one understood the other and they all left equally frustrated with each other. And a miserable time was had by all.

Can you feel comfortable functioning in an area where you don’t know the language? It often means giving up control and being willing to let someone else have the control. We often do not deal well with this situation. IF you have to know what is going on all the time, then you might want to limit your adventures to countries that have a large English speaking population. However, that would leave some of the world’s most exciting destinations off your list of potential adventures.

Get a phrase book, get the right apps for translation and go for it. Just be prepared and be flexible.

Insurance

I feel compelled to mention this one as most of us never consider the fact that we might get sick or get hurt while traveling. The truth is that your home country insurance policy probably does not cover international travel, and many countries don’t feel compelled to treat you without a Guarantee of Payment from an Insurance company. Trust me, when I got in the bow of the speedboat in Thailand with my kids to ride like I had done before, I had no idea that I would end up on a stretch in an Piper twin engine prop plane with them medevacking me to Bangkok to have surgery on a broken back. I had to put a deposit of thousands of dollars on my credit card while we waited on my insurance company do send a guarantee of payment. Surgery was not going to take place without it. Finally, it came in I had the surgery. But without it I would have had to walk around, take taxis, and fly home all with a broken back. Accidents do happen, so make sure you can be taken care of when they do. The least glamorous topic on this list is possibly the most important. You don’t need medical insurance until you need it, but you never know when you need it, so make sure you have it. We all like to push the limits and experience new thrills. Just be prepared in case things go wrong.

Get Out There and Go

So pack your Nomads Adventure Gear hammock and get out there. Plan a trip and go see the world. Your life will be richer for it. Experience new things, see new places, and learn to love new people.

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