Nowhere On Earth in 2018!

Whew! What a start to our year! We took a step back from our travel lives, as we welcomed our daughter into the world on January 7th. After a few months of quality time (if sleepless nights and changing diapers counts as QT) and adjusting to our new life of three, the dust has settled and we are ready to get back to seeing this beautiful world. 

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We're excited to take on the challenge of bringing our daughter, Selima along for the ride. We've spent significant time carting her around New England, in order to get her more comfortable with experiencing new places and not necessarily being tied to a schedule. We've certainly had our share of bumps, bruises and sleepless nights, but we have learned TONS already. One of the largest benefits is how it has taught us, as parents, to behave and adapt when we go places. We've realized that our baby isn't going to be effected by our travel, but we will definitely be impacted by how SHE travels. In essence, we are the ones who suffer when she doesn't eat, sleep, or get her diaper changed. So being flexible and planning ahead are paramount to a low stress travel experience. 

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Our first trip as parents, with baby in tow, was down to Austin, Texas, for our friends Ian and Chelsey's wedding. It was an amazing, whirl-wind of a weekend spent honoring the bride and groom and an awesome first adventure with Selima. Not to mention a great opportunity to see a new part of the US. We'll be sharing more details on our first "travel-with-baby" experience in future posts (including how she fared with a total of 8 hours in flights delays).

California July 2018: Napa has always been on our bucket list, so we figured what better time to hit wine country than when our daughter won't remember it. This Cali trip will kick off our first week-long adventure as parents, but we're also going to be closely escorted by a myriad of family members. My cousin Mike and his wife Julie are venturing out from Georgia and three of Selima's grandparents will be joining as well. We're looking forward to a couple days exploring San Fran, and then heading north to drink and eat our way through the valleys. Who knows, we might even find a brewery or two.

Iceland September 2018: This is one we've been eyeing for a long time. With an affordable, direct flight right out of Boston, it seemed like a no-brainer. So we decided to join my cousin Jennie and her husband Sean, with their two kids on an Icelandic adventure. We'll be staying in Vik, Gulfoss and Reykjavik as we tour the country to explore its natural beauty. Fingers crossed we get a glimpse of the northern lights!

 

Cheers!

Kyle

The "Nine-To-Five" Traveler

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In a world full of us "work less and play more", participation trophy loving, expect-everything-given-to-us millennials, it's hard to believe that some of us work a "nine to five". In addition, many of us like to travel, which works well with our lack of motivation and downright blatant entitlement. But I mean come on, why work hard, when the world already owes us? 

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Oh the sweet sound of sarcasm (baby boomers and gen Xers can stop high fiving now). Just like any generation before us, we have a diverse workforce, with varying ambitions, motivations and personalities. The difference is the environment in which we work as we shift from manual based work, to knowledge based work. Our world is changing, and this allows our young people to change with it. Thanks to technology, there is a rise in both workplace flexibility, working from home and other employee benefits. This gives our workforce, as a whole, the opportunity to get creative with their lifestyles. 

I can't count the number of times that we have been asked "Do you ever work?", or "it seems like you are always traveling somewhere!". 

The truth of the matter is that Kailah and I hold 9-5 jobs just like everyone else. It's hard work trying to balance our passion for travel with the part of our life that finances it. The difference is how we approach our lifestyle design and priorities, but also the discipline we apply to both. In order to demystify what may look like "no work, all play", we want to share a few of our strategies, in hopes it may help others do the same.  

 

Travel as a priority:

First and foremost, travel is a priority for us. It's our passion, so naturally it is where we spend our money. Would Kailah rather save up for that Italian Dolce and Gabbana handbag or actually go to Italy? As a rule, we spend our money on experiences and not things.

Secondly, we treat our paid time off from work, just like we do our money. We use it for going places. We do not take days off, unless we absolutely have to. There are generally no "mental health" days, or "just because" days. We don't even take a "rest" day at the end of a trip. This is probably not for everyone, but it is extremely helpful in giving us more trips per year. With that being said, we use almost all of our allotted time every year. Gone are the days where it was cool to have eight weeks of paid vacation in your FTO bank. Use that hard earned time!

 

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Personal Finance: We spend time every month reviewing our monthly expenses and financial health. This allows us to evaluate our strategy and look for areas to save money for travel. Over time, we've reduced our monthly financial obligation significantly, in order to afford to spend more on our passion. Similar to our time off, we've taken this to the extreme at times. Who else sells their house to pay off student debt, has a baby and then moves into a one bed, one bath apartment in their in-laws basement? Keep an eye out for future posts on our personal financial model and travel budgeting. 

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Time: It is the most important asset we have in life. This goes for traveling as well. Simply put, we save time whenever possible. If we can buy a direct flight, shorter layover, or red eye, then we do it. In order to leverage these time saving techniques, we take advantage of our highly valuable paid time off and flexible work arrangements. Kailah and I are both fortunate to work in positions that offer flexible start and end hours, and also an option to work from home. With that being said, this is part of our lifestyle design because we look for these benefits when factoring in professional opportunities. 

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Experience Over Relaxation: We've found that traveling for authentic experience is more refreshing than traveling to relax. This may sound fake, or unrealistic, but we literally feel rejuvenated and motivated after returning back to work from a new experience. While we love a good beach vacation, full of sun, sand, eating and drinking, we generally don't return feeling like we have gained anything (Except for maybe a few pounds and a week long, job loathing hangover). However, after a trip of hopping destinations abroad, we come back with a fresh perspective and exciting thoughts of our next adventure. This isn't something we expected when we began traveling, but it is certainly a welcome advantage, which makes our "nine-to-fives" much easier to return to.  

 

I hope the above article gave a glimpse into some of the strategies and sacrifices that we make in order to do what we love. Please reach out to us if you want to chat in more detail. We want to continue to learn and help others do the same. 

Cheers!

Kyle

We're parents! Travel, Disney and Beyond.

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As I lay here in the early morning, five days into fatherhood, my priorities have certainly shifted a bit and my time is being distributed differently, but my passion for travel has never burned hotter. I can’t help but think about sharing this with the infant laying on my chest. I don’t mean right now. For heavens sake, she could wake up. But I mean every year moving forward, so that she gets to benefit from our love for new cultures, food, language and experiences. I am thinking of all of the wonderful places the three of us will visit together. My mind is all over the place. The rolling hills of Italy, the beaches of southern Australia, the unique culture of central and Eastern Europe, the spicy heat of Southeast Asia, Disney...Wait what? How did Mickey Mouse make the list? Well who hasn't thought about taking their children there and re-living fond childhood memories, or maybe even going for the first time themselves? It's only natural that we put "the place where dreams come true" on our travel list, especially with children. Heck, I can't wait to bring our daughter to see Cinderella's castle and watch those big eyes absorb everything around her. Its just that I want her to have other experiences as well. I want her to eat sweet crepes from Parisian street vendors and then ask us why she has to see boring paintings in the Louvre. I want her to meet the elephants in Thailand and learn that they are mistreated and need our protection. I want her to play hide and seek in a vineyard in Tuscany, after a picnic of local bread, cheese and prosciutto (and obviously wine for the adults). The thing is, I want other families to have these experiences as well. Disney is magical, but there is so much of this world to see, and there is tremendous value in experiencing it. And as for adventuring abroad with children, we are going to take our bumps and bruises, but it will be worth it. Children shouldn't handcuff our travel, but enrich it, as we watch them learn. Food for thought, would it make us happier to watch our child smile ear-to-ear at seeing Micky for the first time, or beam with pride after conversing in broken Italian with a Tuscan youth?

 

I think my thoughts above will begin a series of future posts as we continue to navigate the scary labyrinth known as "travelling with children". How can we include, but also expand our adventures beyond Orlando and teach our children, while making it enjoyable for us as well. Lets address the comparative costs of travelling abroad, while getting outside of our comfort zone. Even with our babies in tow. 

 

Kyle

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Booking Airfare: Why is price relative? Our guide to choosing flights.

Whenever someone tells me that they found "cheap" flights to a destination, especially abroad, I immediately question the value. It blows my mind in our culture how we get so focused on price when making a buying decision and blind to everything else. Cars, consumer electronics, vacations, clothes - you name it and we let companies manipulate us to their advantage when we put on our purchasing blinders. The same goes for airplane tickets. There are so many variables when it comes to flights that price should only be a piece of the pie and far from the most important slice. For me, flying sets the tone for a trip and enhances the travel experience. Instead of thinking of it as a burden, I try and optimize my time and in-flight journey, so that I enjoy myself and arrive as rested as possible. Balancing this experience with cost is the key to buying airfare. Here are the things I consider when booking in order to maximize the value for my money. 

 

1. Number of stops and duration of travel

This one's easy. Avoid long and multiple layovers when booking. You're time is the most important and valuable asset when travelling. One stopover alone introduces risk into our schedules when flying, however it is generally necessary in order to reach specific destinations, or make a trip financially feasible (remember, cost isn't everything, but it certainly is part of the equation). However, two stops is only worth it in a small percentage of bookings (ie HUGE savings, or remote locations). At the end of the day, is $100 worth it to you to lower your risk of missing a third flight and sacrificing a day of your vacation? The same goes for length of layover and length of flights. I am careful when choosing because I want to avoid 3+ hour layovers and flights that take me WAY out of my way for my destination. For example, if I was traveling to London, it wouldn't make sense for me to save a couple hundred bucks to travel through Istanbul with a long layover. I'll fork over the extra money in a heartbeat, in order to get my vacation started sooner. 

2. Service

When you see negative airline reviews, this is usually the cause. In my mind, there are a few reasons for this. I'll touch on two in this section and then the third will be mentioned in #4, the legroom section. I wanted to mention legroom here because for many reviews that I have read, comfort is a major driver of service and sets the tone for a flight. It doesn't really matter how great the service is, if people aren't comfortable, airlines are going to get a lousy review (Google Air Canada Rouge reviews).

As for the other two drivers of service, I'm talking about availability of food/beverages and overall customer service. The first seems obvious, but we have actually flown on a 10 hour flight where all they served were snacks (Again, Google Air Canada Rouge). When we went to order our dinners (commonly complimentary on long haul flights) we found out that not only did they not provide the free meals, we couldn't even order them if we paid. This was a major bummer, especially for a 20-week-along pregnant woman :). Needless to say, I do a little research about what is offered on flights before I book them. Meals? Complimentary beverages? Snacks? And then if the price is still too good to pass up, we simply plan ahead by bringing plenty of food with us. Something of note here, when we flew Emirates to Thailand, we were served all complimentary meals, snacks and drinks in economy. Not only did we receive free meals, we were presented with a menu prior to serving, so that we could choose what we wanted to eat. Now that is service in the sky! 

Overall customer service isn't generally something we think about when flying. If you are strictly a domestic flyer, this may not be on your radar because the flights are too short for you to get hungry or thirsty more than once (with the exception of cross country legs). But on 6-7+ hour day flights, it's a huge kudos to service when food and beverage are at your disposal. Not to mention if they are high quality items that taste good too. To take it a step further, imagine if the staff also welcomed you with a smile and treated you like the loyal customer base that you are. Now that is service. On our 7 hour Emirates flight from Dubai to Bangkok, we sat in the front exit row seat in economy (see #4 for tips on getting exit row seats) and our stewardess went above and beyond to ensure we had the best experience possible. Want water? Here's a 32 oz bottle and two cups to drink at your leisure. Hungry? Let me see if we have any more of those mini pizzas to snack on (she gave us 4). Oh it's the little things...

3. Entertainment

This is becoming less and less relevant, now that we all have laptops, tablets and phones when we travel. However, I think it is still worth a mention. Most long haul flights currently have seat back entertainment, including live TV, movies, music and games. I usually research and factor this in when making an airfare purchasing decision. I like to be able to pass the time when I can't sleep and there really isn't any better way to do so than watching a few movies. With that being said, I think most airlines will be transitioning to exclusively "stream your own device" from an entertainment standpoint. This really won't be a burden on the passenger, as we all have our own devices already. The key will be to make sure that the flights we book offer these internet and streaming opportunities free of charge. 

4. Legroom

For us "tall drinks of water", this one is big. When I book a flight, I always search for flights on a third party site such as Kayak, Orbitz, Skyscanner etc. Once I decide on my flight, I then go directly to the airlines website and run the same parameter search. Generally, the price is exactly the same. So what is the advantage you might ask? With most companies (no not Southwest), you can then choose your seat on the aircraft. You generally aren't able to do this on the third party site. In addition to seat selection, you can pay a fee to sit in an exit row. When Kailah and I flew to Greece, through Montreal, we paid $100 a seat for exit rows. Sounds expensive? Trust me my tall friends, on a 10 hour flight, you will be kicking yourself if you don't cough up the extra cash. If this strategy falls flat (usually because of a specific airline's seating operations), I arrive at the airport 3 hours before the flight because this is when the ticket counter opens. At this point, no one else has been assigned the exit rows because I am first in line. I then ask the gate agent for an exit row seat and secure my legroom. Ticket in hand, it's time for a beer! 

5. Plane size:

This one actually holds little weight, but I figured it was worth bringing up. I check the size of the plane before I book long haul flights (6-7+ hours). As a timid flyer, I like to know that I'm flying on a larger plane for a couple reasons. First, I've read that you feel less turbulence on large planes, so why not? Second, I like the freedom to be able to get up and move about comfortably. It's nice to be able to have the extra space to stand and stretch at your leisure and not be in the way of food/drink carts, or other passengers. In fact, on some of the 777s and A380s we've flown on, there are large open areas that several passengers at once can stand when they are sick of sitting. 

6. Price:

Alright, alright. Price holds its weight as well. We all have budgets when we travel and depending on the length of your stay, flights can be a large portion of the expense. Since time is more important than money for me, I balance all of the other factors above against dollars. What am I willing to pay for the flights that meet my criteria (layovers, flight duration, seats/legroom, service, entertainment, plane size). Am I willing to sacrifice any of these variables for my hard earned money? These are the questions I ask myself before booking airfare. On every. Single. Trip.

 

As you can see, we put significant thought into our flights because they bookend our itineraries and set the foundation for our adventures. At the end of the day, a flight strategy is defined by the traveler. What balance is right for you and your budget? If you need help deciding, we would be more than happy to talk through your plans with you. Simply fill out the contact page or shoot us an email directly at kyle@nowhereonearth.com.

Happy flying!

Kyle

 

So About Greek Food...

Prior to traveling abroad, I didn't realize how much of impact it would have on my perspective of food. Not only the taste, but also the experience. It is still amazing to me how the style of food and ingredients change so dramatically depending on what part of the world you are eating in. Culture is a wonderful thing and experiencing these differences has enlightened both my life and my palate. 

With that being said, I still doubt that I qualify as a "foodie", but ever since having perfectly cooked duck in Paris, Florentine steak in Tuscany, or melt-in-your-mouth lamb shanks in Greece, I can't help but have a new appreciation for what I eat. On our most recent trip to Greece, we had so many new culinary experiences at different restaurants. Below were our favorites. I hope you enjoy!

 

Liondi: This touristy restaurant in central Athens is located right outside the perimeter of the Acropolis. If it wasn't for a TripAdvisor find, reinforced by a recommendation from our apartment host, we probably would have looked for something more "off the beaten path". It is neighbored by many other outdoor eateries that are commonly found near major attractions in European cities. They are usually known for these prime locations, but generally have what I would call "standard" quality food. This was not the case for Liondi. Having just set our bags down after landing in Athens, we went directly to lunch. We all ordered tall local lagers called "Mythos" (except for Kailah, who was toting that baby bump), which were especially refreshing in the 90 degree summer day. For food, we ordered family style, sharing everything. We had souvlaki, stuffed peppers, mushrooms, octopus, calamari and on and on. Everything was absolutely delicious. For classic Athenian fare, I would go back to touristy Liondi in a second. 

Aegean Restaurant: This was another TripAdvisor "find" backed by a local recommendation. Upon arriving at our caldera side hotel (Zenith Blue), we prodded our host for where we should eat. It just so happened that his recommendation was the place we had made reservations for. A five minute walk lead us to one of the best restaurant views in the world and absolutely the best lamb shank I have ever had. The air was warm, the sun was setting, the beer was cold and the food was fantastic. If you stay in Imerovigli, this place is a no-brainer. 

 

Candouni: I always try and ask the locals where we should eat and am definitely not afraid to cancel a reservation to switch gears and eat somewhere that is recommended to us. This is exactly what happened with Candouni. We were riding in our hotel shuttle after arriving in Santorini, when we slowed down and picked up a woman carrying four grocery bags. She was a friend of the driver and needed a lift. We got chatting with her and she told us about her friends restaurant that had great food and live music on Tuesdays. Since it was Monday, that was pretty much all I needed to give it a shot the following evening. When we got to the hotel, I asked the owner to make reservations for us the following night (Tuesday) and go figure, he too was a friend of the restaurant owner. It turned out to be an amazing experience. We sat outside in the warm evening air, with ivy covering the trellis overhead, and live Greek music being playing in the background. The service, meals and wine were absolutely superb. One specific detail that stood out to me was the Meze. In Greece, Meze is a group of small plates served before a meal. We ordered a house selection for the entire table and all of us got to sample the cheeses, dipping sauces, breads, olives and other small dishes. This was an amazing way to finish out a relaxing day on the beautiful island. 

 

Lets Eat: How did we discover this on our second to last day? This place was simple. They served fantastic gyros for $6. Chicken, or lamb, stuffed with tzatziki sauce, veggies and french fries. I could have eaten lunch here every day, but despite finding it in the waning hours of our trip, we still managed to go for two rounds at this little eatery. 

 

Oroscopo: We're walking around Athens on our last night of the trip in search of food. I had this restaurant that I found on TripAdvisor called Oroscopo in my mind, but I wasn't sure we'd find it. If we did find it, I doubted there would be a table open for six people. By the time we were in its vicinity (based on my phone's GPS), we were really starting to get hungry and I decided it was best to end the wild goose chase and sit down anywhere to eat. Then we came upon a square with several restaurants, so I told the ladies to walk to the right and see if they could find anything, and the two of us guys would check the left. That's when Oroscopo literally fell right into my lap. I asked the host if he had a table and as fate would have it, he did. To make a long story short, the food was amazing (as I'm sure you expected), the service went above and beyond and the value was tremendous. In addition to our meals, we were treated to fresh breads, delicious soups and decadent desserts, which were all completely "on the house". On top of that, after "the moms" and I drowned our second carafe of wine, the waiter offered to bring us a third free of charge. We thanked him, but waved the white flag, as we had struggled to finish the previous carafe. So what did he do? Marches right into the kitchen and comes back with six shot glasses, a bottle of limoncello and a bottle of a clear liquor! Needless to say, it was a joyous walk back to the hotel. If you visit Athens, go to Oroscopo - they will not disappoint!