Are You a Travel Geek?

Billy and I have been members of LinkedIn for years. Only recently have we taken advantage of the resources available there for travelers, for authors and for other interests we might have.

Today I read about a group to join called Travel Geeks.

Honest.

I always knew we were a bit “geek-y” about travel, but when I read this description, it was like coming home.

Travel Geeks are those who explore explore off the beaten path, often based on a particular interest. We’re the independently minded, trusting of local advice over the establishment’s and one those who are willing to find and share local expertise with like-minded individuals. Travel geeks are the bright eyed, dirty sleeved, who get up at five for sunrise, who quest and discover treasures only they can unlock. Whether its 5 miles or 5,000, the travel geeks will search them out, cradle their discovery, and carry it back to the like-minded.

Uh-HUH. That’d be us!

How about you? Is one of your passions travel? There are lots of us out there…

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Managing Lodging Expense on the Road

People often ask us how we travel the world on so little.

As readers of our website and blog know, there are 4 categories of highest spending: housing, transportation, taxes and food.

Lodging on the road can be a massive expense but if you are savvy, you will be able to bargain for better rates. As the photo shows you, this hotel in Guatemala charges 300 Quetzales for one night’s stay. That currently translates into about $38USD. But we have purchased a monthly rate and bargained hard. What do we pay? 54 Quetzales – less than $7USD a night.

room rate

What would you rather pay? $38 or $7 for the same room?

That’s a big difference.

The longer you stay, the better the rate.

You can also offer to have the maid clean your room every other day or buy your own toilet paper and soap to sweeten the deal. Be creative! Save money.

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Meeting Jesus in Guatemala

The mountain grown and freshly roasted coffee of Guatemala is famous around the world and here in Panajachel, Lake Atitlan I can purchase a rich cappuccino for 10 Quetzales or about $1.25. For me, this is a delicious treat and often times when coming back from the market, I will stop by one of the local cafés and get one to go.

This day, however, I decided to enjoy the cappuccino slowly, inside the shop, while watching the action outside on the street.

In the Dinosaur

So I’m in the Dinosaur Café when a small boy of about 8 years approaches me to purchase some of his mother’s hand woven note cards. These lovely cards are sold by all of the children here in Pana and some of the older kids can be quite persistent – past the point of my saying “no, thank you” or “I’m not interested today.” Often they can engage in a long winded debate with me that will last several blocks of walking through town and in the end, extracting a “Yes, maybe later” response. If I ever meet that child again and don’t buy a card, some will shout obscenities and accuse me of breaking a promise or lying to them.

Sigh.

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My policy now is to not begin the conversation at all and hasten my step after I have said “No, thank you.” It saves us both the trouble, even if it appears to be harsh on the surface.

Encountering an angel

This angel-of-a-child leaves me alone after my first “No” and I am most grateful. I see him approach a Gringo man with massive, wild, graying hair. This man doesn’t buy any cards either, but instead offers him a sweet delicacy from a box he recently purchased at the gourmet shop up the street. The child of course waits patiently while the old man struggles with the box’s wrappings and as I watch this scene, this sweet boy sneaks a peek at me.

Jesus in Guatemala

Young girl selling stuffed animals


I can’t help but share a smile with him as it seems the simple act of giving him a piece of candy has taken several long minutes because the man cannot get the box open. And the boy and I both appreciate his energetic attempt to get the plastic shrink wrap off and open the box to reveal the fine prize inside.

Moving towards the sale

But did I blunder?

The fact that I met this child’s eyes and communicated by way of sharing a grin has now given him another fair chance to begin the bargaining game again and to approach me a second time.

I am sitting in a large wicker chair that is low to the ground and the boy is small. We are pretty much nose-to-nose now and the second level of contact has been made: I did not shoo him away.

He sits on the floor and begins giving me his spiel once again.

Will diversion work?

I try a diversion tactic by telling him his piece of nougat looks delicious and I’m sure he’ll enjoy it. Now the boy begins speaking to me in English about how I should purchase these cards for my boyfriend, my husband, my sister, my daughter, my son… and he goes on and on in practiced order. I am intrigued by this child for reasons only my heart knows, and I tell him in Spanish how good his English is and ask where he learned it.

Jesus in Guatemala

These brothers sell their mime skills


“In the street” he says proudly in Spanish. I tell him that is where I learned my Spanish! We have something in common!

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Another product enters the game

We aren’t making any progress on me purchasing his note cards so he pulls out his collection of woven bracelets. These are made from scraps of thread left over from the women’s weavings, and the bracelets are about 3/8 of an inch wide and about 6 inches long, plus a tie thread on both ends.

I say to him, “Oh these are beautiful but I don’t want any” —  and I touch them.

Moving on to level 3

I have now brought us to the 3rd level of the bargaining process; I have made physical contact with his product.

I know better than this but I can’t help myself. Once you touch something a vendor is selling, that is a move forward in the game. Every vendor knows this, even an 8 year old child. I love textiles and I had never seen these things up close and I wanted to take a look.

Okay, Okay, I’m up to my eyeballs in this now so I ask him his name. “Jesus (Hay-SOOS)” he replies.

Jesus in Guatemala

Bracelets made from weaving scraps

“Did your Mom make these too?”

“Yes and I give you a good price.” He’ll sell me the whole packet for 10Q, the price of my cappuccino. I know that’s cheap and it is a good price.

I have no use for these things, and I’ve over packed as it is, so whatever I purchase is one more thing I have to carry. My mind is whining to myself and I think of purchasing them and giving them away to the next person I see… anything, now that I’m this far into the sales process. To disengage at this point is pretty rude.

Finishing the deal

Then Jesus whips out another packet of bracelets just like the first one and says that he’ll give them all to me for 15Q’s, just under $2. Of course, that’s a screaming deal too, and I still don’t need the first dozen and now I have TWO dozen… and I think “but the kid has to eat, and something besides this sugary nougat.”

So I say yes.

His face looks like Christmas and completely lights up. I get out my small change purse and ask him on purpose “How much did you say?” Jesus doesn’t miss a beat and says “20 Quetzales.”

“Oh no, Jesus, you told me 15” and his smile gets even larger because he knows he has not sold to a fool. This makes him very proud of his work and he can brag about this to his mother.

As I hand Jesus his 15Q, he reminds me that the price he gave me was good. It’s a cheap price.

To him I say “Jesus, I know. Thank you.”

Jesus in Guatemala

Girl with sibling on her back has one cabbage to sell

Early childhood education

This young man is so happy, I can’t even describe it to you. He sold something fair and square and made 15Q. I don’t know if he is going to go purchase a solid lunch or if he will choose to take the money home to his mother. But the satisfaction that Jesus is feeling is written all over his body. He took my no’s and was still persistent. He made a sale and he looked like 15 Quetzales was more money he had seen in one location in his life.

Children in these 3rd World Countries all learn to bargain and sell. It’s a survival tool that they take with them into adulthood, and once learned, it can never be taken away. Their sense of self-sufficiency and self-reliance is mixed with communication skills and parents can proudly send them out into the world knowing they can fend for themselves.

This sort of training has been going on for centuries. I can only hope we are teaching our children something this useful as well.

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Chile’s Dramatic Coastline

To Billy’s dismay, I’m not much of a sailor on wide open seas. However I can easily do rivers, lakes, motorboats, cruise ships and ferries in protected areas. This is great news if we ever wanted to take advantage of the many chile tours that are offered. Large, stable ferry boats cruise through the mass of Chile’s islands, channels and fjords. And the only way to see this distinctively beautiful scenery is by boat.

The weather in this area of Chile is predominately rain with annual rainfall measuring from between 6 and 13 feet! But nature’s lighting against the backdrop of immense glaciers, mountains and icebergs create dramatic and unforgettable scenery. One of the tours makes a stop in a small Chilean hamlet with a population of under 200 and is one of Chile’s most isolated inhabited places on par with Easter Island and Villa Las Estrellas. This village is known for being the home of the last Kaweshkar people and is only accessible by sea. Curiously, the small town has no roads, only pedestrian boardwalks that connect the shops and houses.

If booking a tour through this memorable and striking scenery appeals to your sense of adventure, why not take a few moments and do a bit of research? You could have all of your questions answered as to what to pack and how much a tour would cost. Then you could spend your time looking forward to seeing some of the planet’s most notable scenery.

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The Stupidest Question in the World

Over the last several weeks, Billy and I have been traveling through the Mexican Yucatan and on into Guatemala.

Can you say “humid?”

The Yucatan has been oppressively hot with the humidity levels vacillating between 75% and 92% daily. When the temperatures reach the 80’s and with matching humidity, these two young kids (that would be us) tend to slow down. The brain doesn’t function at its optimum and comfort levels are maxed out to the point where we are not.

Comfortable that is.

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When it rains it pours

Here in the tropics when it does rain, it comes quickly and in sheets. Crossing the street is all it takes to get you soaked all the way through. Which isn’t a bad thing and one can easily recover from that — unless you are caught with digital equipment that have no plastic wrapping around them. We travel with plastic bags here in these latitudes just for this purpose.

Stepping back into time

Leaving the Yucatan and its corresponding heat, we head on into the interior of Guatemala and cooler locales. Let me just say that traveling through Guatemala isn’t nearly as leisurely as traveling through Mexico and for several reasons. There are no comfy buses with air conditioning, movies, seats that tilt back and some complimentary food for your journey. And long after I think the Guatemalan collectivo or revised school bus has been packed to extreme, people are still being jammed in. Vehicles made for 20 people have 32 traveling in them. Buses that are filled with 6 people across every aisle have another 20 or more people standing who are also crushed in the aisles. Passengers have packages, babies and children and if the child is hungry and wailing, Momma discretely feeds the baby under her blouse. Saying we are shoulder-to-shoulder doesn’t quite describe it. It’s more like nose-to-nose.

Stupidest Question

Collectivo starting to fill up

The terrain in this mountainous country is also a challenge with hairpin turns being the norm. Having guard rails would be a dream come true for a later generation or two to build. We have traveled 3 kilometers an hour over unpaved, pitted roads with dozens of mudslides covering what used to be the roadway and boulders blocking what is left of the passage. Both roads and bridges are washed out from the last rainy season and yet nothing seems to faze these enduring people.

Stupidest Question

Road washed away in current rainy season

Gratefully, tips are given through the collectivo windows to the road workers to keep them filling those potholes and onward we trudge.

The Stupidest Question in the World

On occasion when I am at my most wretched with salt caked on my face and my arms in a constant bath of sweat I ask myself “What am I doing? We could have bought a nice little tour and bypassed all of this…”

But that isn’t our style and believe me, we have discussed it. Neither of us are willing – just yet – to trade the profound glimpse into mankind that these trips give us. Human beings with their ancient history written so obviously on their faces and in the displays of their culture. All of this with the backdrop of drifting fog through jutting mountains and rushing rivers the color of jade.

Stupidest Question

Clouds surround plunging mountains

You can’t buy this on a packaged holiday” we say to ourselves. So we suck it up on the lack-of-luxury level when we hit these points in our journeys. These times won’t last forever, and we mean that on various levels. Billy and I are aging and how long will we be able to travel like this? And humanity itself is being jostled – whether it likes it or not – into the future. Things change quicker than we realize. And we both know that in looking back over the thousands and thousands of miles that we have traveled “close to the bone,” that these National Geographic memories are etched into our brains.

And we wouldn’t trade that for all the packaged tours in the world.

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Side-by-Side Medical Comparison

As you know, Billy and I have been proponents of Medical Tourism for decades. We see the value and convenience of medical treatment in other countries which has made a considerable impression on us over the years. It has been our position to share these options with our readers.

Recently, a world-traveling friend of ours who lives in Dallas, Texas gave us this side-by-side comparison of making a doctor’s appointment for a skin condition both in Dallas and then again for the same treatment in Bangkok, Thailand.

side by side

Quality Medical Care in Many Countries

Take a look

Dermatologist
Dallas:
Not available for three months, unless you’re a previous patient.
Bangkok: Available within 20 minutes, without appointment.

Facility
Dallas:
PrimaCare Clinic.  Two doctors on duty.
Bangkok:Bumrungrad International Hospital. World Class Facility.

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Waiting time:

Dallas: Almost 5 hours … 3/1/2 in the main waiting room and then another hour in the examination room.
Bangkok: 20 minutes.

Waiting time for prescription medication
Dallas:
First pharmacy told me I’d have to wait an hour for them to fill the prescription so drove to a second pharmacy. Still had to wait 30 minutes. Total time consumed, including drive time, 1 1/2 hours.
Bangkok: Pharmacy within the clinic … medication delivered 10 minutes after seeing doctor.

Cost
Dallas:
$150 doctor’s fee, $50 “extra services” fee, $100 for medication
Bangkok: $30 doctor’s fee, $10 “clinic fee, $100 for medication

Total cost in time and money and effort
Dallas:
6 hours, $350 and frustration piled upon frustration.
Bangkok: Less than an hour, $140 and service and courtesy to boot.

Personally, we don’t need any convincing, but perhaps this will give you another glimpse into this alternative for your Medical Planning for Retirement.

Related posts: Continuing the Discussion – #1 Biggest Retirement Fear

Rapid and Professional Dental Care in Mexico

More on the #1 Biggest Retirement Fear

The Number One Retirement Fear

Going Naked

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Wandering through the Mayan Jungle

We’re in Orange Walk, Belize and tomorrow we will head up river to the Mayan ruins of Lamanai. Only reachable by boat, we will see tropical birds, butterflies, crocodiles, and various strange looking animals before we reach the ruins.

Maya country here, folks!

Orange Walk is populated by various peoples and while the official language is English, most everyone speaks Spanish and Creole as well.

We’re staying in the best hotel in town and it’s a fine room, I must say.

More tomorrow!

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Antagonist or Protector?

Billy and I had just finished some of the best tacos we have ever eaten and stopped in a nearby café to have an after-lunch cup of coffee. It’s an enjoyable way to have our lunch digest a bit and spend an hour watching people and traffic pass by.

Sweet innocence of being age 7

Across the main road in Tulum, we saw a young girl of about 7 who had to cross the busy street divided by a meridian separating  the two way traffic. She made it across the first street on her own just fine. On the second street she was watching traffic just as she had been instructed by her mother, no doubt, when a police car drove up in her direction. The car stopped, gave a quick toot of the horn and waved the young girl across the road.

Apparently, this was a normal event as the little girl didn’t think a thing about this action and skipped happily across the street.

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Cultural differences

Billy and I were again reminded of the cultural differences between our home country of the United States and the country where we spend a good deal of our time, Mexico. We have seen this same polite interaction between police and the common folk in our home town of Chapala as well. Often, there are police guarding an official’s house, and as we walk past them going to and from the marketplace, they will say “Good morning.  How are you today, Ma’am?” or perhaps we’ll discuss the weather and how hot or cool it is. Gentlemanly of them to be sure. Billy will make it a point to tell them “Thank you for keeping us safe” and they, too, exchange pleasantries.

Police in Tulum

Human interaction with Police in Tulum, Mexico

As we are remembering these experiences, we see a street cart vendor pull up right where the young girl had just crossed the street. He has stopped to sell some fruit to a Grandmother and her granddaughter who are resting on a curb in the shade.  Moments later a couple of policemen, a man and a woman, also stop by and purchase some fruit from this same vendor. It was an easy, everyday transaction.  Billy and I again begin talking about how the police didn’t say “May I see your vending license? Do you have a running water source? Is your health certificate up-to-date? May I see some identification? You know you can’t park here, this is a no parking zone. Would you please move off the curb?”

None of that happened at all. Rather, the two officers of the law each purchased a bag of fruit with the customary salsa on top and went their merry way.

A different approach pays off

To serve and protect is their motto. To interact with the locals in a kind and courteous manner is to their benefit.  Making sure life goes on as normal and no out-of-the-ordinary shenanigans  go on is the policeman or woman’s job.  And in these cases, they neither had to assert their authority nor beg for respect. Both were assumed during an everyday transaction that seemed to strengthen both sides of the exchange.

Police in Tulum

Enjoying the fruit they purchased

The young girl will grow up knowing she can depend on police as protection and will have a healthy regard for them built on years of experiences such as the one today. The Grandmother and granddaughter observe the respect for them as the police waited their turn to purchase the same fruit from the vendor as they. And the vendor did his job and the police interacted with him in a courteous manner instead of a destructive or frightening one.

Accessibility

In general, the Latin culture is more accessible than our everyday society back home. When we walk down the street in Mexico we constantly say “Buenos Dias” (good morning) to passersby and receive the same courtesy in return. We both have had the experience of trying to exchange pleasantries on the sidewalks at home in the States and there will be no response. Generally, there is a aloofness or a look of surprise that a stranger would speak to them. Standing in line at the grocery store people are preoccupied. They are on their cell phones, stare into space, look at their watches or their list of things to do. It is less of an occurrence that this light banter is returned and there are these invisible but present “lines of demarcation” that separate people – strangers simply don’t speak to one another in cities. Or at least, it happens less often.

When I go to the States, it normally takes me several weeks to adjust to this social distance and it feels a bit stilted to me. Each time I visit I forget, and each time I am reminded by the non-response I receive.

I guess I’m a Mayberry type of person, where Andy Griffith and Barney Fife watched over the town. While you might think it’s a daydream and not reality at all, I’m happy that these sorts of towns still exist in Mexico and that I have access to them through my travels. I tell you that it’s not some imaginary place “over the rainbow” or described in a fairy tale. Rather it’s everyday life but in a simpler, more human version of the one we left “back home.”

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Continuing the Discussion – #1 Biggest Retirement Fear

It’s about time.

Seriously, it’s about time and lessening your medical expense.

There’s a new medical service in town and the #1 largest Expat Community in the world, the city of Chapala, Mexico wants to get in on the ground floor.

To read more about how your Retirement Dream IS Possible, even in this financial climate, click here

If you live in the U.S., Canada or Europe and are interested in receiving quality, accredited medical care or surgery abroad, at better pricing and for less wait times, you are in luck. Surgery Host is a new health care agency in Mexico providing high quality medical and surgical care at the best medical facilities in the state of Jalisco.

All in one solution

Through a facilitator, the patient can obtain the answers to all of his or her questions from a same source.

Already well established in Puerto Vallarta, this Mexican consortium saw a need in the medical field and is filling it. Surgery Host makes it easy for you to find a doctor, get transport to the hospital, receive follow up care and have any translation issues taken care of all in one location. Bilingual executives at Surgery Host will coordinate all air and ground transportation, hotel accommodations, and medical appointments to make your visit memorable. They are a full service medical and assistance group in a way you have never seen before.

Surgery Host

International professional care

Uninsured? Pre-existing conditions?

If you have no insurance or have been rejected due to pre-existing conditions, why not simply go straight to the source for pricing you can afford?

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With serious medical problem including broken bones, heart issues, cancer treatment, or sports medicine attention, Surgery Host will find you the proper doctors for treatment. If there are any problems or if you have questions, your facilitator is your representative. He or she will also help to eliminate language barriers because they will provide translation when necessary.

The doctors in Surgery Host’s network are highly recognized worldwide, certified and are continuously updating their skills in regards to the latest procedures and techniques. They offer medical attention of the highest quality and with the best human care.

There is no need to let the #1 Biggest Retirement Fear rule your future. You have options. Surgery Host could be one of them. Take advantage of their live chat feature or call them  today at: Toll Free (U.S.A., Canada) 1 88 86 78 06 85

Email:  info@surgeryhost.com

Surgery Host 2

Qualified and accredited

Previous post: Health care issues are the #1 biggest fear retirees have according to an AARP study recently released.

Previous post: More on the #1 Biggest Retirement Fear – Looking for options

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Rapid and Professional Dental Care in Mexico

Dental care overseas?

Many people are afraid to travel abroad because they might meet a medical emergency. Receiving dental care from an unknown medical practitioner can conjure up all sorts of gruesome images. However, let me share a recent dental experience that my husband, Billy, had in Merida, Mexico. This should put minds at ease – at least a little.

Easy to get an appointment

Billy needed attention to an impacted wisdom tooth that was bothering him.  Due to several last minute circumstances, the tooth was not able to be pulled in our home town of Chapala, Mexico before we left on a months-long road trip. We flew in to Merida, Yucatan on a Monday afternoon, and on Tuesday morning he decided to see a specialist that same day.

Going to the hotel desk, Billy explained his situation to the owner of the hotel and asked for some assistance in finding a dentist in the area. To his request, this gracious man recommended a specialist and made the call to her himself! An appointment was set for noon.

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Quick, professional service

Walking outside the hotel, Billy grabbed a taxi and arrived to the dental clinic minutes later. After taking an x-ray, the professional dentist assessed his situation and completed a full mouth cleaning in preparation for possible surgery.

However, before the decision for surgery was to be made final, this dentist wanted Billy to have full mouth x-rays. She made an appointment for him at another doctor’s office for that same afternoon. At 4p.m. he received his full mouth x-ray and returned to the dentist’s office for the appraisal of his condition.

Situation resolved

With full mouth x-ray in hand, Doctora Castillo was able to assess his need for surgery, and determined that it was not necessary at this time. This relieved Billy’s mind in two ways: one, that he didn’t need surgery, but two, that the decision was determined by a professional.

Total cost for assessment, full mouth x-rays and cleaning: 680 pesos about $55USD. The cost was an excellent side benefit, and he got to keep his x-rays. But what pleased Billy more was the timely solution to his dental issue.

Could you have received this resolution so quickly in the States or Canada?

For more information on how to find international dentists, hospitals and clinics, click here

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