In today’s episode, I have my good friend Jacob Marek from IntroverTravels on the show and we discuss traveling planning. At the time we recorded this episode Jacob hadn’t left on his trip yet, but on the day this episode was published he’s currently in Ecuador.
Jacob Marek is the Founder & Chief Explorer at IntroverTravels. He designs life-changing, nature-inspired travel experiences. As an “Entreprenomad” as he likes to call himself, Jacob spends several months each year working, living, and traveling abroad to grow his business and find unique local experiences for his clients. His hobbies include nature, astronomy, and drinking great coffee and beer.
Seeing as Jacob has been planning for a long trip, plus several trips in the future, I thought he was the perfect person to bring onto the show to talk about travel planning. There are certain things people overlook… And we make sure they’re not overlooked anymore!
Enjoy this episode dudes and dudettes!
IN THIS EPISODE WE COVER:
- Determining where to go/research
- Things to plan before
- Things to consider when you’re on the ground.
- Work/Life balance
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED:
Wanna connect with Jacob?
- Website: http://www.introvertravels.com/
- Private Facebook Group: http://facebook.com/groups/introvertravels
- Instagram: http://instagram.com/introvertravels
LT: So, Jacob, thank you very much for coming on the show and co-hosting this episode with me.
JM: Thank you.
LT: You’re more than welcome. I did give you a bit of an intro in the intro; I said a little bit about you, who you are, where you’re from and all that. But would you like to let all the dudes and dudettes know a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, what you sort of, like, do online and sort of, like, where you’ve been travelling so far.
JM: Sure. Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me. So I’m Jacob Marek. I call myself the founder and chief exploration at IntroverTravels. I have an online travel agency where I obviously design travel for introverts. I do kind of these life-changing, nature-inspired travel experiences all over the world, really taking inspiration from animals, nature and everything in between, and really having some pretty cool experiences. Personally, I’ve been to – I’ve been all over. I’ve travelled all over Central America, a little bit in South America and then used to work for the Kenya Tourist Board. So I’ve been to Africa. I’ve done quite a bit of travelling through Southeast Asia, and obviously just have a huge passion for travelling. And having an online travel agency I’ve been able to incorporate being a digital nomad into what I’m actually doing for my business. So travel kind of infiltrates my life on a personal and professional perspective.
LT: Very nice. So you said you, like, do a lot of travel planning for introverts.
LT: How is, like, that sort of, like, different from, like, “regular” travel planning?
JM: That’s a question I get all the time. So basically I came to determine that people were not planning travel experiences based on personality type. It was just, like, the most commonly overlooked aspect of somebody’s personality that people were not planning travel around. And so when I was looking at – even independent tours, as well as, you know, going on small group tours, inherently they were geared toward extroverts and was just going, going, going, and kind of interacting with people that you don’t really know. And so my – coming at this from the perspective of an introvert, it’s these small groups where people actually have connections with like-minded people to be able to experience something in a meaningful way.
And I plan them basically with the formula of kind of – I call it a two-to-one formula or ratio where it’s two parts of tranquillity and introversion and just having your alone time, and then one part – one time a day I just want to blow your mind with a life-changing activity with some like-minded people to share the experience with. And then you go back to just, you know, reading a book in your underwear, if you want to; doing yoga on a one eye; taking a hike; whatever you want to do, I don’t really care. So that is kind of your time to explore and be an introvert and really enjoy being with yourself. So I think that’s kind of a formula that people aren’t really doing, and I think it works really well for introverts.
LT: Yeah, definitely. I mean, my experience with a lot of – like, going through, like, agencies or something like that is they just chuck you in, like, a big group of people. And like you said, yeah, they don’t take, like, your personality type into consideration. You’re just, like, yeah, chucked into a big group and you’re just – well, some of them you’re just, like, carted around to see, like, the extremely touristy things.
JM: Yeah. Exactly. And this kind of gets away from that. And I think there’s this common misconception that introverts are shy. I call myself a social introvert, and I know I’m not alone in that. Because I do actually enjoy interacting with the world at large, and I do enjoy building relationships with people and having experiences with them. But at the end of the day, I think it’s really important to be able to kind of retreat back to our nests and have our alone time, recharge our batteries and then hit the ground running the next day. So I think planning travel in that way kind of shifts the narrative and says that, you know, you don’t have to just be a part of this huge group; you can be a part of a small group of like-minded people and have an authentic, meaningful experience in nature and do some really cool things and, you know, have kind of the best of both worlds.
LT: Yeah. No, I agree. I definitely consider myself an extrovert. I think travelling has turned me into an extrovert, especially when I used to work as a scuba diving instructor. It’s very hard to be a shy person as a scuba diving instructor.
LT: So, yeah, I definitely became an extrovert on my travels. But I definitely enjoy those moments to retreat as well. So to your formula, I’d probably, like, flip it the other way around for myself.
LT: You know, sort of, like, one-part introvertedness, you know, being quiet; reading.
LT: Whatever. But, yeah, I think that’s a very good formula. And it’s something I haven’t heard of before, like, travel planning based on personality types; I think that’s pretty genius, if I do say so myself.
JM: Thank you. Appreciate it. Thanks.
LT: Cool. So the topic that we wanted to talk about today was travel planning. I know you’ve got a lot of travel coming up in your future. We talked a little bit before we hit record and you said, like, your big travel plans in the future are going to – some of these, like, nomad hotspots like Medellin in Columbia and Chiang Mai in Thailand.
LT: But then you’ve also got Ecuador and – I can’t remember the other one that you said.
JM: I’m going to go to Cusco.
LT: So you’ve got, like, Ecuador and Peru coming up in the near future.
LT: And then I’ve, like, been to Australia; now here in Canada; Thailand.
LT: Fiji was a little bit different; I didn’t really plan that one. I moved there for work; it wasn’t for, like, travel reasons.
LT: So it was, like, I got asked one week, “Do you want to go to Fiji for six months?” “Yeah.” And then - - -
JM: That’s an answer you always have to say yes to, if somebody asks you to go to Fiji for six months.
LT: Yeah. You’re not going to turn Fiji down for six months.
JM: Of course not, no.
LT: Especially with, like, scuba diving. Like, that was what I did day in, day out. Don’t turn that down.
LT: But it was literally, like, within, like, a week or two after being asked I was there. But all the other travelling that I’ve done, I’ve done either a little bit of travel planning or a lot of travel planning. So, yeah. So this was a topic that I thought would be excellent to talk about, especially seeing as sort of, like, that’s what you do as well.
LT: And I think, like, some of the talking points that we’ve got planned, I think a lot of people will find very useful.
JM: Sure. I hope so.
LT: I’m sure we’ll be able to deliver some gold.
JM: Yeah. I mean, I - - -
LT: I’m setting the bar high now.
JM: I hope so. So, yeah, like you had mentioned, I have kind of a plan in place, and it’s totally subject to changing and just kind of pivoting when necessary. But I got my feet wet last winter. I spent quite a bit of time in – just on random trips. I was renting my place out on Airbnb just to kind of see if being a digital nomad was something that I was interested in doing and if it was going to fit with my personality and my lifestyle. So I spent actually quite a bit of time in Mexico, particularly in the Yucatan, like Playa del Carmen and that area. And I really enjoy obviously the weather and the beach, and then I just kind of – I realised that it is something that I could do and that I can still build my business since it is all online.
So this year in 2017 I’m just planning on going to Ecuador for about three months and then Peru for another five weeks. And then 2018 I’ll be in Medellin, Columbia. And 2019 the plan is to go to Chiang Mai, like you said. So just kind of having that plan in place and being flexible about it too, I think, is important. And being able to kind of pivot if the situation dictates that, you know. I mean, nothing is set in stone right now except for my Ecuador and Peruvian trips. So I think it’s a pretty solid plan.
LT: Yeah. I’m one of those people that don’t like to set too much in stone. Just, you know, the people that you meet along the way and, you know, you find a lot of, like, new places that you may not have heard before or you’ve, like, heard new, interesting things about places you have heard before and you might want to go there instead.
JM: Oh yeah.
LT: So I’m definitely one of those people that prefer not to plan too much in advance, or at least, yeah, have nothing set in stone so you can, like, pivot and change if you wanted to.
JM: Yeah. You’ve got to be flexible. And in fact – so I mentioned that I spent quite a bit of time last year in Playa del Carmen, which I really enjoyed from a personal perspective. You know, the weather is great; it’s a very affordable destination. And Josh and Jill Stanton had lived there. So I just reached out to them and I said, “Hey, what did you think about it?” And they actually kind of dissuaded me from Playa, and so it really kind of helped me pivot before I had gotten too set in stone in anything there. And they were like, “Well, consider Chiang Mai.” And so I kind of did some research on that. And ultimately for this year what was right for me was Ecuador and Peru. So, you know, just being able to shift focus, if that’s sort of what the situation dictates, it’s totally fine. You know, I wouldn’t plan too far in advance; you know, just a few months or a year, just to kind of make sure that you have – I think if you plan six months to a year in advance, then you’ll give yourself enough time to, you know, understand what to expect and how to prepare properly. But any more than that you’re going to probably cause more problems than anything else, if you plan two, three years down the road.
LT: Yeah, definitely.
JM: Setting things in stone, yeah.
LT: Sweet. So shall we jump into the first talking point that we have?
JM: Yeah, absolutely. So just kind of figuring out.
LT: Yep. So the first thing that we wanted to talk about, guys, is about, like, how to decide where you want to go and what sort of research that you should do before you, like, jump on the plane and go. So some of the experiences that I’ve had with, like, Australia, for example, I didn’t do too much planning for that one. The only real, like, planning that I did is that I did go to, like, a travel agency and I applied for a working holiday visa for Australia. So the person that I spoke to, like, told me a little bit about the working holiday visa; how it sort of works, sort of, like, requirements-wise; and, like, some of, like, the options that I have open to me when I do get to Australia; ways to extend it and all that sort of stuff. But as for, like, travelling, the only thing that I sort of, like, found is that a lot of people recommended, like, the east coast of Australia. So that’s where I headed first. I decided to start from the top. I heard lots of people have, like, good experiences with, like, renting a car or a hop-on, hop-off bus and, like, travel down towards sort of, like, Melbourne. So I started off in Cairns. I had two nights’ accommodation sorted, and that was it.
LT: I had, like, a bank account and, like, a SIN number all sorted for me, because I paid for, like, a package that, like, sorted all that out for me so I didn’t have to worry about it once I arrive. But, yeah, I did – this is how I prefer to travel. I prefer to, like, maybe do, like, a week – like, a week’s worth of accommodation, just so once you get there you can get, like, a firsthand experience of the place that you’re in. If you like it, then you can look at staying longer. Or once you’re there, you can find out, like, better recommendations from people who have probably been there themselves recently. If you did decide you wanted to move, you know, you can go to one of those places instead.
LT: Canada, however, was a little bit different. I really wanted to experience, like, a ski season. I’ve heard a lot of friends talk about how awesome it was working at, like, a ski resort or spending a winter season at a ski resort. So that was something that I did a lot of research about, like, what ski resorts in Canada would be, like, the best to go to. And then the entire process of, like, applying for work. I tried to find, like, a part-time job so I could spend more time working on my business than working for them. But I did get accommodation in the village nice and easily, and then also a free ski pass. So if any of you guys have been skiing or snowboarding, you know how expensive those fucking things can be.
JM: That’s awesome.
LT: So, like, that was one of the main reasons why I wanted to, like, get a job there was for the free ski pass as well.
JM: That’s an awesome reason to go.
JM: I mean, you got skiing and you got scuba. So, I mean, what else can you ask for, really.
LT: Exactly. But that’s sort of, like, how I just, like, sort of, like, plan ahead with, like – not necessarily settling down but, you know, like, getting your feet wet into a new place is not to plan too much because, like you said at the beginning, you know, you’ve got a chance to, like, pivot and change. Whereas if I had booked, like, three months’ accommodation in Cairns and absolutely hated it, then I’m kind of stuck there.
JM: Yeah. I think that’s a really good point that you mention, just getting your feet wet with, like, a two night or even a week-long stay wherever you are, just to kind of get your feet wet, figure out if it’s somewhere that you want to spend some more time. I’m not doing that this year, but I think I’m going to do that next year. I really like that idea. For me - - -
LT: Especially with things like hostels and, like, Airbnbs.
JM: Oh yeah.
LT: You know, it’s easy to book such, like, short accommodations in those.
LT: Plus if you were looking for, like, a long-term accommodation, a lot of people that I’ve heard, like, go about doing this is that they normally spend, like, a week in an Airbnb and then go to sort of, like, the local, like, property or rental agencies because you’re going to get a much better price when you’re there, rather than trying to sort it online, especially in places like Thailand or Medellin where you’ll probably get charged, like, “Western” prices, rather than sort of, like, the local prices.
JM: Yeah. Exactly.
LT: So that’s something else that is a good reason to just do, like, a few days or a week ahead of time.
JM: Totally. I lucked out, actually, with my Airbnb in Columbia – not in Columbia – in Ecuador. I actually find a kind of mother-son team. So she oversees, like, the listing of the properties and then the son oversees the management and coordination of everything. So I was able to actually coordinate with them directly. I found them via Airbnb and was able to get their – so Airbnb, if you do a monthly rate, a lot of time they’ll give you a steep discount. So I want to say that I got, like, maybe a 60 per cent discount or something booking by the month.
LT: Oh wow.
JM: Yeah. So my rent – and I was – my perspective of rent is coming from Miami where it was insanely expensive. So I’m going down to Ecuador and paying a fraction of that cost. I mean, three months in Ecuador is probably the equivalent to one month of rent in Miami, which is just absolutely mind-blowing. But I like the idea that you said of just having, like, a couple nights or a week in a destination first to start off, and I think I’ll probably do that actually when I go to Columbia because I think that’s a really smart idea. For me, I was, you know, doing some research. And for the visa situation in Ecuador, you don’t need a visa as an American for stays less than 90 days. So I thought that was fine, although I was planning on being there for four months. So it kind of put a crink in my plans because I thought, well, I don’t really want to pay – I think it’s something like $400 or $500 or something for a visa, plus you have to verify income and blah, blah, blah. It’s, like, a relatively complicated process and for no extra benefit other than to stay in the country.
So I thought, well, I’ll just do, like, 80 days in Ecuador and then spend the remainder of my time in Peru. And now I’m kind of wishing maybe I did, like, more half-and-half. But I’m stoked regardless. I think they’re both going to be amazing cities, you know. And it goes back to kind of doing your research and, you know, each place that I’m staying in – each apartment has had good reviews. I reached out to the listing person before actually booking and, you know, get to know them, see the reviews, ask your questions, negotiate a better price; you know, you can do all sorts of different things online. And then once you’re convinced that that’s the right place to go, the right apartment to stay in, then, you know, pull the trigger.
LT: Yeah. I mean, research is, like – it’s pretty easy now, with the internet.
LT: You know, you can look at things like Airbnb ratings or reviews, you know, not only to see what the property is like but, you know, a lot of people do talk about, like, the areas as well.
JM: Oh yeah.
LT: And a good website to check out, which I have mentioned in a previous episode before, is a website called nomadlist.com.
LT: Have you checked that website out?
JM: I have, yep.
LT: Yeah. So it’s great if you sort of, like, haven’t decided on a place to go or, like, you’ve decided on a country but you’re not sure, like, where in that country. You know, this website sort of, like, ranks each city based on, like, these, like, 12 different criterias ranging from, like, how clean the air is, what the internet connection’s like, how friendly the people are, how cheap it is; all that sort of stuff. So it’s a good way of doing some research about a city, finding out if it’s, you know – and a lot of people leave reviews about the cities as well. So, you know, you can get, like, people’s firsthand experiences of these cities. And that website is pretty good for, like, nomads because the criterias that they sort of, like, rate each city by are all things important to nomads, like internet connection, co-working environments; all that sort of stuff.
LT: So if you are doing some research, that’s definitely a website I recommend to check out. And then, yeah, like, doing, like, the Airbnb, Facebook groups; you know, there’s probably going to be a Facebook group about a certain city. So there’s the sorts of places I would personally go to to do some research. Would you agree with that, Jacob?
JM: Yeah, absolutely. And I think also that, you know, just, like, if you research, like, co-working spaces in each destination too, you can meet a lot of people who are doing similar things to you. You know, all these places that you and I both mentioned are digital nomad hotspots and so I think – you know, co-working spaces can be a really affordable, great way to not only meet other people but also stay productive too. And we can talk about that a little bit here, about things to do when you’re actually onsite. But, you know, if you have – if you’re there for more than a month or so, then you can go to these co-working spaces and get a membership and you can also, you know, make friends that way; ask questions; get different ideas of places to go and things to do. You know, I think those are great places. And like you mentioned, Facebook groups. There’s so many resources online nowadays that they really make the planning easy for you, and you just kind of have to determine what criteria is important to you to determine, you know, where you want to go.
So, for me, you know, like I mentioned, I was thinking I was going to go to Playa. Great weather; cheap accommodations; good exchange rate. But then I started, you know, kind of thinking, like, well, what is my ultimate goal for travelling. You know, I wanted to not only save money and see a cool place – and weather, you know, important to me – but also, you know, thinking about, like, the types of people that I wanted to meet. And thinking about Playa del Carmen, well, it’s a relatively touristy city. So it’s transient. There’s going to be people coming and going constantly. And so, for me, that was going to be difficult, I think, to, you know, develop any sort of meaningful friendships. And I thought, you know, where am I going to meet people who I could either, you know, meet for friendships, relationships, personal – you know, romantic relationships or whatever or, you know, business relationships, partnerships with people. There’s all sorts of, you know, relationships that you can develop with people. And, you know, you have to kind of think about, you know, who is going to be where you’re going.
So, for me, it was, like, Cuenca in Ecuador was going to be a great hotspot for – you know, it’s a decent-sized city but it’s not overwhelmingly large that, you know, it’s going to be expensive and hard to get around; I’m not going to have a car. So transportation was another issue for me. It’s like, you know, can I easily get around these towns without a car. So there are certain elements that you really have to consider, you know, from a practical standpoint before you go. I mean, Chiang Mai, you can get a taxi for super cheap so transportation isn’t such an issue. I think if you’re moving to a huge city, like if you go to Bangkok, it might be fun and exciting and great, but you’re going to be paying the big city prices; it’s going to take you longer times to commute around the city. That’s fine, if that’s what you want to do; you just have to be aware of these types of things that you might not necessarily be aware of before you even go.
LT: Yeah. And, like, another thing that I would personally look for when I was deciding on a place as well would be sort of, like, activities as well. Because I’m - - -
LT: I love, like – scuba diving is something I’d love to get back into. At the moment I’m refusing to do that here in Canada, just because the water’s, like, ridiculously cold.
LT: I think the coldest water I’ve, like, dove in is, like, 24 degrees Celsius, and I’d be lucky if I find anything close to that here in Canada.
JM: Yeah. In the summer.
LT: Well, even then, it’s still going to be, like, too cold for my liking.
LT: So that would probably be something that I would think about as well, like, activities in general; like, what sort of, like, things you can do when you’re not working.
LT: Not only just, like, the people that you can meet; that’s extremely important. But, like, the activities too.
LT: And, personally, something that I really want to get into is skydiving.
JM: Oh wow. Cool.
LT: So, like, the next – I’m thinking Thailand because I’ve seen a lot of good reviews for different, like, skydiving courses out there. So, like, Thailand’s going to be the perfect blend of digital nomad hotspot to meet new people - - -
JM: That’s pretty wild.
LT: - - - and then also get into the scuba diving again, because that’s where I did my, like, first scuba diving course – on Koh Tao, I think it was – yeah, Koh Tao, Crystal Dive.
LT: Awesome place. Dropped my pen. But then also really good skydiving facilities as well.
JM: That’s so cool.
LT: So that’s probably the top of my list, just for activities too.
JM: Absolutely. And you make a really great point. And, for me, you know, being in the travel industry and actually selling travel, this is a huge issue for me because – and, again, it goes back to the reasons for wanting to do something. And I was thinking, well, Playa isn’t really where my ideal client is going to want to travel to. So trying to think of, like, you know – and this is, again, coming from the perspective of a travel professional who’s actually selling travel to clients. It’s, like, I want to be able to do the same experiences that my ideal clients are going to want to do. So, you know, if people are wanting to go to the Galapagos and Machu Picchu, these are places that I really want to become an expert in. So why not move to the places that I can actually do these things, and when you’re living in a destination it’s a lot more affordable. You don’t have to – you know, you pay for the plane ticket once; you’re there. So I can easily take, you know, a local flight or a bus wherever I need to go and get to – I want to do the Galapagos because I’m a huge nature nerd. I want to see all that awesome stuff.
I’m going to be, like, 70 kilometres from Machu Picchu. I’m going to hike the Inca Trail. It’s, like, these are the things that not only do my clients want to do but I want to do them. And so when I’m in these destinations doing these experiences, getting that on-the-ground expertise, not only is it a wild experience for me and it’s just the best way that I can, you know, spend my time but also it’s really building my business and becoming an expert in what I’m doing. So I think that’s – for me, it’s personally and professionally really gratifying to be able to do all these different activities. It’s not just, like, I just want to do all this cool stuff and be on a permanent vacation; I’m actually, you know, building my business and it just happens to be a lot of fun.
LT: Yeah. It’s all about finding that place that you’re going to get the perfect, like, life/work balance.
JM: Yeah. And it’s different for everybody. I mean, if you just want to, you know, be in a hot climate and work from the beach and have a lazy kind of existence of just, like, working from a laptop on the beach, you can do that; you can go to places that do that. That’s probably not for me, and it doesn’t sound like that would be the way for you. But, you know, if that’s how you want to build your business as a digital nomad, there are places out there that exist; you just have to kind of figure out what is going to make you the most fulfilled in whatever destination you choose.
LT: Definitely. Cool. So let’s move on to the next point, just because we could talk forever on that otherwise.
LT: So we want to talk a little bit about, like, things that you should plan before you go. And one thing that you did mention before that is extremely important, and, you know, depending on where you are you’re going to have to research some of this yourself, is visas.
LT: So I think that’s probably, like, the biggest thing to plan that we haven’t, like, spoken about already.
LT: So I’ve done, like, a lot of my travel based on working holiday visas, which generally are, like, a year to two years. But a lot of places you can just get, like, a tourist visa where it can range from 30 days to 90 days.
JM: Totally. And, yeah, I think, especially from an American perspective, we are lucky in that a lot of places don’t require visas. But it’s usually up to a certain point, like you said, like, 30, 60, 90 days; whatever it might happen to be. And that’s actually where I got myself into trouble with Ecuador is because I didn’t really do my homework in advance; I just kind of assumed, like, you know, I can probably spend, you know, a few months there. I assumed maybe, like, six months would be the maximum or something, and it actually is only three months. And so I was like, well, shit, now I got to figure out somewhere else to go. So taking that – and visa situation is one of the easiest things to research at least, and figure out the requirements. And if it’s a deterrent for you and if you just don’t want to go through the whole application process, then, you know, if you do your homework ahead of time, you can choose somewhere else. But it is definitely going to be probably the biggest issue at first of determining where you want to go and how you get there.
LT: Yeah. Like, most – I think I did read up on this a little way back and I’m pretty sure – I think Germany might be at the top, but, like, the United States is ranked second in, like, the number of countries that you can go to without a visa.
LT: But, yeah, you definitely need to sort of, like, check on sort of, like, the length of time that you can spend there. And then the other thing that you can look up as well is – for Thailand, for example, I think most people get 30 days when you land but you do have the option to pay for longer visas. I know they do, like, three-month visas and I’m pretty sure they do a six-month one now, which was sort of, like, more aimed towards digital nomads because, like, so many people do go there. So definitely something to research based on, like, where you’re from and then also how long you personally can stay in whatever country it is that you want to go to.
JM: Yeah. Totally. And it might just be a simple matter of crossing over the border, getting your passport stamped and then coming back on the other side. That might be a solution for some destinations. But, again, just doing your research. Because you can’t just make assumptions and then get there and then – then what? They turn you away and everything is for naught, you know.
JM: So definitely plan it out, and if that’s an option – if you’re in Thailand and all you need to do is go to Laos for an afternoon, go shopping and then come on the other side again, get your passport stamped – I don’t know if that’s, like, how – you know, whatever – destinations have different rules. But just do your homework. You can google it; go to the consulate websites or the embassies; and ask any questions that you need to. But I like the idea that you have of just talking to – was it a travel agency or a company that actually helps you, like, plan out your whole stay?
LT: Yeah. For Australia?
LT: Yeah, yeah. So it was more like a company that sort of, like, did, like, backpacking trips.
LT: But, yeah, I just went in there. I wasn’t interested in doing, like, a trip like that but they did help me with, like, the visa application. It was super simple anyway; you don’t need anybody to help you out with that one.
LT: But, you know, they told me sort of, like, the requirements; how long I can stay for; and sort of, like, the – like, not necessarily punishments but, you know, the ramifications, if you like - - -
LT: Yeah, penalties that you would, like, incur if you, like, overstayed your visa as well.
JM: Yeah. Don’t – yeah.
LT: Like, if you are travelling to a country on, like, a tourist visa, a lot of those places do require, like, proof of, like, an outbound flight. But, again, that determines – varies, sorry, country by country. So, again, something to research.
JM: I was just going to say that, yeah. Like, research that because, like you said, I mean, there are definitely some penalties that involve overstaying your visa. Like, it can be really expensive; you might be blacklisted from coming back. So if you really like a place, you know, you’re SOL. Also, like, don’t lie. That was the thing. Like, you know, if you get there and you’re just on a normal tourist visa for 30 days and you show up with, like, two huge things of luggage and a backpack, like, red flag to immigration. They’re going to be like, “It looks like you’re going to be here for a little bit longer than 30 days.”
JM: And then, again, like, having the proof of where you’re staying; proof of an outbound ticket. So, for me, you know, I’m anticipating probably raising a red flag because I’m going to be on a tourist visa. Because it’s only 80 days, that’s totally within the rules but 80 days is still enough of a red flag that they’re probably going to ask me some questions because I have a lot of luggage. So what I’ve been doing is now I have my confirmation for my apartments in Peru so I can say, like, “Look, hey, I’ve booked an apartment for this date, starting on April 1st. So guaranteed I’m going to be leaving the country here for that date.” You know, I still need to book the ticket for the flight to there, but that’s just an added layer of protection being like, “Here’s my itinerary. Like, this is my outbound flight from Ecuador to Peru. This is when I’m coming back for, like, one night only, just on my way back to the US.” So kind of having a detailed itinerary laid out for immigration officials in anticipation that they’re going to ask you some questions. You know, just be ready for that. And that’s fine; just don’t lie. That’s the thing.
LT: Yeah, yeah. You might be lucky to get the one official that doesn’t care and just, like, stamps straightaway.
LT: But, yeah, you do need to prepare.
JM: You can’t make assumptions.
LT: Yeah, exactly.
LT: Cool. So we’ve got about five minutes left, and I just want to quickly jump onto the next point because this is something that I don’t want to miss. And you sort of talked about it earlier on, and it’s, like, things to consider when you’re on the ground when it comes to, like, living arrangements, which we sort of talked about already.
LT: And then also sort of, like, the working. So, personally, for living, like I said, I personally prefer not to plan too much before I get there. So I’ll probably plan a week max of somewhere to stay, whether or not that’s in a hostel, hotel, Airbnb; whatever your preference is. And then decide once you’re there, one, if it’s somewhere that you want to stay and then, like, finding cheaper accommodation, like a local rate or extending Airbnbs; again, personal preferences. And then also if it’s not where you want to go to next, yeah.
JM: Yeah. Absolutely. I think, you know, like, being able to – I’m kind of the opposite. I like to have a bit more of a nest. So I like the longer-term stays; I’m not really terribly comfortable just being on the road, going, going, going, all the time in perpetuity. So I usually – you know, like I said, like, I’ll be in Ecuador for three months. So I’m definitely going to get acquainted with the destination and the apartment, just because, for me, you know, I didn’t want to lose productivity in terms of, like – and this is just personal preference, but I feel like the more I move the less productive I am. So last winter when I was getting my feet wet by going to, you know, Mexico and all over the US and stuff, I found that there was a drop in productivity just because I was, you know, spending, you know, half a day or even a day travelling, just in the airport and transportation and blah, blah, blah.
So, you know, I like to be able – I think that if you set yourself up for discipline and kind of, you know, definitely enjoying the destination and the experience obviously but also not forgetting that, you know, you’re here to make money and to work. And so I like to work from coffee shops. I get, you know, energy from the vibe of a coffee shop or even a co-working space. I don’t mind sitting in my apartment and working every now and then, but I want to get out and experience the destination. And so I think that, you know, having that on-the-ground experience of just going for it and setting some good discipline up for yourself to maintain productivity is really important too.
That said, you know, I have a really great credit card; I have the American Express – I’m sorry – the American Airlines credit card so that there’s actually no international fees, which is really important for me. So I do a lot of international travel and I can just, you know, swipe my credit card and not have to worry that I’m going to be getting all those international fees. So that’s something to consider as well. A lot of places are cash-based economies, so definitely anticipating before you go how are you going to get cash; how are you going to get access to it. You can’t – if you’re in some smaller places, you can’t necessarily depend on ATMs to be readily available, and even if there are there might be some significant fees. So just, you know, having that in the back of your mind. Like, you have to be prepared for credit card, cash; all that sort of good stuff. So just be smart about that before you go.
LT: That’s a very good point actually, and that was something that I didn’t really consider when I went to Thailand. Thankfully, I started off in Bangkok where there were quite a few ATM machines and I did have sort of, like, a prepaid card.
LT: So, like, I couldn’t, like, get overcharged with fees and, like, not realise it. But, you know, when you go to the islands, you know, they’re more scarce.
LT: So, yeah, definitely, again, something to research and sort of, like, plan ahead for.
JM: Yeah. Absolutely.
LT: That’s a very good point.
JM: Ecuador, US dollar is the official currency. So no exchange rates; no, you know, cashing in your money or anything like that. So I’m good with the US dollar, at least in Ecuador.
LT: That’s good. And then, like you sort of, like, said already when it comes to, like, working, you know, look into sort of, like, coffee shops and co-working spaces where – like you said, Jacob, like, we are there to work as well; it’s not all fun and games, especially if you are relying on your online business to support your lifestyle. You know, it’s definitely something that you need to do.
LT: So you do need to make sure that you are going to have facilities or an apartment with a good internet connection so you can get work done when you need to get work done.
LT: And making sure that it is one of the priorities whilst you’re there.
JM: Absolutely. Definitely.
LT: Yeah. And that was something that I sort of, like, failed miserably at when I first went travelling, because I had, like, an online fitness business. I, like, coached – I was, like, a personal trainer and I coached people online.
LT: But I had far too many clients and nothing in place to sort of, like, keep things rolling when I wasn’t there. So when I moved to Thailand for the month and the time difference and, you know, turning into an alcoholic – I was there for 27 days; drank for 25 of them.
JM: That’s Thailand.
LT: You know, it’s things like that that you sort of, like, need to be aware of that, you know, your business does come first still and, yeah, making sure that it is going to be around long enough to fund your lifestyle and make sure that you can stay on the road for as long as possible. I was just lucky that when I did get to Australia, that I did have a working holiday visa. So, like, when my business eventually did, like, completely collapse, that I had other ways that I could make some money whilst I started, like, a new venture online.
JM: Yeah. Yeah, great points for sure.
LT: Sweet. Well, Jacob, that was an awesome talk.
LT: Hopefully, like, everybody can, like – they’ve taken down some notes on things that they need to consider when they are deciding on where they want to go.
LT: Yeah, go ahead.
JM: I was going to say, most importantly, just – you know, do a little bit of planning but, most importantly, just go and do it. I think it’s certainly within the reach of a lot of people; it just takes some advance planning and it just takes some balls to do it, so just go do it.
LT: Yeah. I think the balls definitely, like, help. Because, you know, you can research as much as you wanted. Until you get there and, like, experience it, you know – like you said, you could plan, like, an entire year out. Once you get there, you might change your mind completely.
LT: So definitely do a lot of planning, but, again, like we said at the very beginning, try not to set too much in stone just in case you do change your mind.
JM: Yeah. 100 per cent.
LT: Awesome. So, Jacob, before you go, are you ready for your rapid-fire question session?
JM: All right. Bring it.
LT: Awesome. So question number one: what is your favourite country that you’ve been to?
JM: I would say Kenya and Chile/Easter Island tied.
LT: Nice. What is the last YouTube video or movie that you’ve watched?
JM: I think it was an Adele video but it was, like, the karaoke version. Embarrassing, yeah.
LT: Maybe. What is the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?
JM: The weirdest thing I’ve eaten, I think, was a century egg. The Chinese century egg.
JM: Yeah. It tasted like a fart.
LT: That’s come up in a previous story too.
LT: What is your favourite drinking game?
JM: I don’t really play drinking games too much, but my brother and sister-in-law and I, we recently made putting a jigsaw puzzle together as a drinking game. Very fun.
LT: Okay. That’s interesting.
JM: Nerdy fun. Yeah, nerdy fun.
LT: If you could meet one person, living or dead, who would it be?
JM: Oh my gosh, so many. I don’t – oh my god. This is a really hard question. I guess my grandparents – my mum’s parents.
LT: Good answer. What is the one book that you would recommend everybody should read?
JM: Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo. All-time favourite book.
LT: What is your go-to song when you need to get in the mood to get shit done?
JM: Man, I have so many. Can I just do, like, a playlist?
JM: I’ll go to Spotify and there’s a playlist called Wood & Wires, which I actually really like. It’s, you know, just a really good mix of, like, acoustic and electronic.
LT: What was it called again?
JM: Wood & Wires.
LT: Wood & Wires.
JM: On Spotify.
LT: Cool. I’m writing that one down to check that out. What is your favourite swearword that you’ve learnt in another language?
LT: And what does that mean?
LT: What language is that?
JM: In Spanish. From Spain, Castilian.
LT: Nice. What is your favourite podcast, apart from this one?
JM: I love so many. I’m such a podcast nerd. I would probably say Radio Lab.
LT: Good choice.
JM: On NPR, yeah.
LT: And final question: give me your best travel story you have in under five minutes.
JM: Oh my god. I’ve told you – kind of alluded – so this is literally the most embarrassing story of my entire life.
LT: You’ve teased this and I’m pretty much forcing you to say this one, but I have no idea what it is.
JM: Yeah. So I was forced to say this one. Okay. So several years ago – this is probably almost 15 years ago now – my ex and I were travelling through – backpacking through Central America. So we were in Guatemala. I consider myself to be a very intrepid eater and I have an iron stomach. No big deal. So we went to a street food in Guatemala and just got some local food and it was delicious; it was amazing. I think you probably know where this is going. Next day, I feel fine. Like, both of us are just fine. And we had planned to go on a day trip to El Salvador. So we were just, like, taking one of those local buses. And it was just a very low day; there was not many people on the bus, so I got the whole back seat to myself. It was nice. Just put on my Discman and listen to some tunes all day. So it’s about a six-hour drive to El Salvador. We get there and, like, my stomach is kind of feeling rumbly throughout the day as I’m on this bus. And so I’m just kind of, like, letting out some toots here and there and – you know where this is going, right?
JM: And so – yeah. So we get to El Salvador, we’re walking around and my ex was kind of, you know, walking alongside me and didn’t know anything was wrong. And so he was just like, “Wow, you know, they don’t see a lot of white people here. You know, you’re kind of like a celebrity.” And so I’m walking around with my shoulders cocked back; my head’s high, you know, thinking I’m hot shit. So then I’m like, “You know, I’ve got to go to the restroom so let’s duck into the supermarket here for a minute.” I go there. All those little toots on the bus were, like, Hershey squirts and it was just, like, mortifying. I’m like oh my god. And, of course – I’m not exaggerating – of course there was no toilet paper. So I tuck the undies, because they are just a lost cause, have to ask in Spanish to the poor guy that was working in the grocery store to be like, “Hey, can you get some more toilet paper, please.”
So I’m like desperately washing out my khaki shorts that are, like, so obvious in the sink. And so I come out and, like – if you could just imagine. Like, I hike my shorts up like Steve Urkel, like, to my nipples, just as high as they’ll go, and then pull my shirt down as low as it will possibly go to cover my ass. And I just sat on a park bench all day until the bus came back to take us back to Guatemala. Why I didn’t have my ex just run in and, like, buy a new pair of pants or something for me is just – I mean, hindsight is 20/20.
It’s just, like, unbelievable that I didn’t ask to do that. But I was just mortified and I – like, it was – to this day, it is the worst single – worst/most embarrassing experience of my entire life, and up until this point I’ve really only told a handful of people. So now it’s out there for the world to hear in your podcast. So that’s probably the most humiliating, crazy, crazy travel experience of my entire life. And I hope that it never happens again. But every adult – if you are an adult and you haven’t sharted your pants, you’re lying. Because we’ve all done it.
LT: I’ve had so many, like, close calls on my travels that I, like, carry around one of those – you know, you got those little packs of, like, tissues for, like, your nose.
LT: I’ve always got a pack of them.
JM: That’s so smart.
LT: After I badly needed to go to the toilet at a train station in Thailand and, like, I paid, like – you had to pay to, like, get into the toilet. Some woman sat at a table. Go in there and it’s just a hole on the ground with, like, no toilet paper in sight.
LT: So, yeah, it was one of those situations. Thankfully, I managed to hold it until we got to accommodation. But, yeah, after that I was like, right, I’m never going anywhere without, like, a pack of tissues so I can wipe if I need to.
JM: Yeah. Honestly, pooping is probably the worst part about international travel, hands down.
LT: Yeah. Well, always be prepared. Always carry, like, Imodium or whatever.
JM: Be prepared, yes.
LT: Yeah. Cool. Jacob, thank you so much for sharing that story.
JM: Thank you.
LT: Definitely an embarrassing one. But I’m very, very thankful that you shared it. It was definitely a good one too.
JM: Awesome. My pleasure.
LT: Cool. So where can people find you online if they wanted to reach out to you?
JM: Sure. You can visit my website, introvertravels.com. I’m also on Instagram, and I have a private Facebook group if you’re an introverted traveller who enjoys seeing and experiencing some cool nature-inspired type stuff and some science geekery. You can find my private group on Facebook as well.
LT: Sweet. And I will link all of that in the show notes. So if you did want to find Jacob, you can go to the show notes page and everything will be there for you to check out. So, again, Jacob, thank you so much for coming on.
LT: And I will talk to you soon, my friend.
JM: Thanks, LBT. Chat soon.
LT: Virtual fist bump.
JM: Fist bump. Bye.
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