2018 Q3 review

Motorcycle taxis in Thailand

Today is October 1st. We’re three quarters through 2018. Time to reflect on what I’ve experienced in the last three months.

Quarter 3 in review

Backpacking Asia

Erin and I spent a month in Asia after Australia and before returning home. We visited Bali, Malaysia, and Thailand together. Erin traveled separately with her sister to Singapore and Cambodia. Malaysia was, by far, my favorite part of my month in Asia. First, Erin and I spent a week in Bali. It was the most touristy place I’ve been to in Asia. We first arrived in Kuta, which is like Cancun for Australians. It’s full of sunburnt Aussies on a cheap vacation, eating and drinking in restaurants with Australian names, watching Australian sports on TV. Bali Bogans is what they’re called. The rest of Bali was a bit better. Ubud was just as touristy but at least it was overrun with hippy wannabes instead of drunk Australian men. We were pretty unlucky with the weather, with it pouring down rain nearly the entire week during Bali’s supposed dry season. Damn climate change!

Another cliche bali photo

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When we went to Thailand we had a similar experience with overtourism. There were so many backpackers in Thailand. They were unavoidable.

I’m not a traveling hipster who aims to visit a destination before it becomes cool, however, I realized I shouldn’t take mainstream travel advice. I visited Bali and Thailand because of their legendary status as travel destinations. People can’t stop talking about them. Everyone you know has been there. They’re pictured in the most popular travel feeds on Instagram. I noticed a few things:

Tourists were not particularly friendly to one another

The fewer tourists there are in a place, the more it feels like an event when you encounter another one. This was most striking in Ghana where because 99% of the population is black, when you see another white person, it makes you want to say, “Hey! What are you doing here?” You don’t actually say it, but you think it. In overtouristed places you see another tourist and you groan because you thought you managed to find a little peace and have a moment to yourself, and then someone barges in with their selfie stick. There’s no sense of comraderie with other travelers in these places. You’re just one out of the million westerners visiting Bangkok on that particular day.

Not a rare sight

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Locals took us for granted

Because these destinations were so popular with tourists, the locals weren’t ever surprised to see us and didn’t seem particularly grateful for our patronage. In fact, much of the time the prices were a ripoff because the locals are so used to tourists that they all know how badly they can be ripped off. I met a man who paid about 20 times what I did for a boat ride. At first I felt schadenfreude at how badly he was ripped off, but then I felt sad, because I know that his experience means the vendor would feel emboldened to keep expecting inflated prices, and then I felt angry, because such an up-charge is clearly just greed.

Malaysia

In contrast, there were very few tourists in Malaysia. We received the same prices as the locals, and because they were so excited to have a foreigner, most had the patience to help us when we needed it.

Enjoyed this amazing sight. Didn’t see a single other tourist

The lesson

In the future, I’ll do my best to choose destinations that aren’t mainstream travel spots. The world is a big place and there are plenty of communities where my tourism dollars could have a bigger impact. Visiting these places also instills more of a sense of accomplishment and feels more like exploration. There is no corner of the earth you can visit and be the first person there, but exploring destinations that are off the beaten path helps you get into that Lewis & Clark type mindset (except hopefully not the whole exploiting the indigenous people thing)

Coming home

It felt unusual being back in the US after a year abroad, but little had changed. I expected from previous extended trips overseas that most would be the same at home, but even my 10 year-old nephew Codie hadn’t changed much since the last time I saw him.

It’s funny to see the different ways that people perceive the passing of time. It felt like I was gone a long time when in absolute terms it was not even a full 12 months. When I speak to my step dad about his retirement plans, they’re more than 3 years away and he describes it as “just around the corner.”

I was supposed to be home only until September 1st, when Joel got married. It didn’t work out that way. My goal was to head out West, but I’ve been enjoying my time at home. I’ve been working on a couple of entrepreneurial endeavors.

American Hostels

There isn’t any sort of organization that unites the hostel industry in the United States. The US has a trade association for every industry, no matter how niche, so it’s odd that there isn’t one for the US. The hostel industry has national organizations in lots of foreign countries, just not one here in the US. From my experience dealing with hostels here in the US, the reason seems to be that they’re all so busy dealing with their own affairs that no one has had the time and energy to create an entirely new organization. I think this is a good opportunity for me because I want to be in the US hostel industry but I don’t want to open my own hostel or work for someone else’s.

BackpackerBiz

I’ve also been working on revamping Backpacker Business Solutions, which is the name that Erin and I work together under. We did some web design work in Australia but I’d like to do more here in the United States and also try to develop other “business solutions” that we could sell besides websites. “Watch this space.”

Q4 Plans

HostelSkills

This week I’m going to the HostelSkills conference in Lisbon, Portugal. I’ll be representing American Hostels. I’m excited because

  • I love any excuse to travel
  • I love talking to people about backpacker hostels
  • There are going to be some brilliant expert speakers and I think I’ll learn a lot
  • This is the most legit thing “American Hostels” has done so far and I think it’ll help establish credibility

American Road Trip: The Sequel

Shortly after I get back from Portugal I’ll be leaving Connecticut on my motorcycle, headed for California. This is roughly the route

Late October and November are not the ideal time to travel across the United States on  a motorcycle so the goal is to head South as quickly as possible before I freeze my ass off. Hopefully, the weather down south will be conducive to motorcycle riding. I don’t have a deadline for arriving out West, so if the weather doesn’t cooperate I can take my time with the journey.

Q4 Goals

  • Make it across the country safely on my motorcycle
  • Cash flow positive overall from either BackpackerBiz or American Hostels

If I don’t start making enough money from my entrepreneurial endeavors to support myself by the end of the year, I’ll most likely start looking for a job.

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