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Questions about my 15-month trip around the world

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Questions about living in Berlin as an expat

Questions about living in Tel Aviv as an expat

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Sunset in Dunedin, New Zealand

Questions about my 15-month trip around the world

What made you decide to take a big trip?

I guess you could say I had lots of inspiration. But mostly, it was a short weekend trip I took to Iceland in 2009 which got me thinking: “I love traveling and need to find a way to do it more often.” That pretty much led to me trying to transfer within my international company, and when that eventually failed, I knew I had to make it happen for myself. What were my reasons for wanting to backpack my way around the world? Well, here’s 5 reasons, though there are actually hundreds. Once I decided to take the big trip, it was pretty smooth sailing. Kind of. I mean, there was a lot of stress (some of which I outlined in my post on how to plan a RTW trip in 23 steps.

Where did you go?

My first attempt at an itinerary didn’t actually pan out. I wrote the itinerary five months before leaving on my trip and besides the one week I spent researching it (including plane, train & boat connections between destinations, typical prices and backpacker trails), I didn’t look at that original itinerary until about a month into my round-the-world trip. By that point, I was well behind schedule and instead just went with the flow.

My BIG trip took me to Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia over 15 months. I went pretty slow at points, taking on internships or just staying put in some big cities, but here’s a rough outline of what I did and for how long (in order from when I departed to when I ran out of money):

  • Spain: one month, mostly in the south
  • Morocco: 10 days across Chefchaouen, Fez and Marrakech
  • Egypt: one month, all the major tourist spots along the Nile, plus a week chilling out in the Sinai
  • Jordan: a quick visit to Petra
  • Israel & Palestine: one week backpacking before I signed up for a 3-month internship at a political non-profit
  • India: three months backpacking… Bombay, Delhi, Agra, Khajuraho, Varnassi, Goa, Hampi, Bangalore, Chennai, Munnar, Kochi, Gokarna and lots of other smaller cities too
  • Thailand: one month, most of it spent in Bangkok
  • Laos: 10 days which wasn’t enough
  • Cambodia: one incredible month
  • Vietnam: one delicious month!

By that point in my trip, I was pretty low on cash, but instead of flying straight home to America to start the job-search, I opted to spend a month in Berlin looking for a job. In that month I was able to get a job offer (albeit not a very good one) and found a way to live in Germany.

Where was your favorite destination?

This is an impossible question to answer but one that everyone seems to want to know! I’ve had a lot of favorite places around the world over the years. Ask anybody when I’m new in town and I’ll almost always declare my current location as “the best place ever!” (I’m pretty easy to please, guys!) But during my RTW (round-the-world) adventure, there were some stand-out destinations:

  • Israel was incredibly important because I learned so much…about myself, about the region, about history and about politics.
  • India was truly amazing. There’s no place on earth like it and though it was often challenging, in hindsight it was probably one of the few destinations that ever had a serious impact on my life philosophy. India made a big difference in defining who I am.
  • Cambodia was one of the most surprising countries I visited. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the country, but thanks to some amazing travel buddies, some delicious meals and some truly humbling experiences, leaving Cambodia left me with a hole in my heart.
  • If Cambodia was surprising, Vietnam was even more so. The stories about Vietnam range from the horrible to the delightful, but thanks to some gracious hosts (family relatives, actually), I really enjoyed my time there. Plus the food can’t be beat!

What was it like to return after the trip?

Well, strictly speaking, I didn’t truly ever “return.” Rather than return to the home I’d left in Boston, I was able to successfully get a job at a start up company in Berlin, Germany. Thanks to an amazing offer by the German government that allows Americans German residency, I was able to secure a visa to live and work in Europe. Which is what I’m doing today.

Is round-the-world travel safe?

I traveled around the world for over 15 months and the only time I had a serious issue with safety was when I was pick-pocked. In Berlin. After I’d already been living here for months.

Is round-the-world travel sane?

As far as I know, yes. I don’t think anyone expected me to take this type of trip. I know it sounded crazy to me before I took the trip, but this book also helped me realize I wasn’t alone with my big trip ideas. After the fact, I can declare with full confidence that the $20,000 I spent traveling around the world was the best money I ever spent.

Big Trip
Great book!

How do you go about planning a BIG trip?

Planning a big trip takes a lot of mental work. First I had to trick my mind into thinking it was a good idea. Then I had to convince family and friends that I wasn’t crazy (thankfully this wasn’t so difficult—we’ve got a family history of big trips!). One of the first things I did when starting to plan my RTW trip was to purchase this Lonely Planet book. It was full of inspiring ideas (and beautiful photos).

Then I connected with past & present RTW travelers on Twitter. You’ll end up reading a lot of travel blogs (check my travel links for some of the best) and travel essays, notably Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel which is probably the absolute best book on contemporary RTW travel. It pretty much made me more excited than anything else. And almost made my Dad book a ticket too!

A lot of people have done this before you and a lot will do it afterward. Luckily, travelers are generally pretty open to meeting other travelers. And we do love to talk about travel. So please feel free to e-mail me/Facebook me/tweet me your questions and hopefully I can help out.

How much does a year of travel cost?

Of course it depends on where you’re going on a big trip, but really, a lot of the world is cheaper to live in than where you’re probably living today. I think you’d be surprised how little you actually need. For me, I spent $20,000 on almost 15 months of travel around the world. Another great article on the subject is this one: Travel full-time for less than $14,000 per year

Did you have travel or health insurance during the trip?

Yes! I had a health insurance provider which focused on long-term travelers and those traveling abroad from the USA. My travel health insurance was through the International Medical Group, and to be honest, I have little memory about where I first found out about them. I’m pretty sure it was through a forum or website. It was definitely one of the most affordable options for a 1-year policy. I never actually used the insurance except once when I flashed my paper (yes, paper) insurance card at a hospital in Spain. I was there for an eye allergy but wouldn’t have had to pay anything for the service anyways.

As far as travel insurance for my electronics, I didn’t actually have anything during the bulk of my long-term travels. In the past, I’ve had policies with homeowner insurance companies which offer coverage for select products (laptops and expensive electronic equipment). And that’s what I’d definitely recommend for those that want the travel insurance.

These days, I typically use World Nomads travel insurance which covers all the basics: medical, evacuation, some products, baggage and even some adventure sports.

Did you keep track of every little detail while traveling around the world?

No, I didn’t actually. I kept track of some details here and there, and I kept a Moleskine diary during almost the entirety of my travels, but I didn’t tally the number of hostels I visited, the trains I took, the boats, the flights, the miles, the boys I kissed or any other details.

Lots of travel bloggers who go on round-the-world trips, do, though. And they’re some of the most interesting “trip reports” if you want a clear-cut idea of what a big trip is like. Here’s some that I particularly enjoyed:

  • Jaime from BreakawayBackpacker details the random statistics from 2 years of backpacking, including the number of cities visited (and top 5 favorites), border crossings, kisses, sexual encounters, airports, postcards sent home, hair cuts and the number of times he was arrested. See his travel stats here.

Travel blogging

Questions about this website & blog

What’s the purpose of this site?

It’s an excellent way to meet new people, yeah? I initially set up my blog to keep me professionally active while I traipsed around the world. My good ol’ American upbringing had me pretty nervous about quitting a job during the height of the recession, spending all my hard-earned savings, and not having a plan for my return. So, to calm my nerves, I set up this blog and website as a way to practice my web design skills—and to learn new ones like social media, blogging, SEO and marketing.

Now that I’m no longer a permanent nomad, this website has morphed to become a place to find my personal recommendations for destinations around the world. My hipster city guides point readers toward the coolest and most hip things to do in cities across the world. And the blog updates highlight some of the more interesting and unique events and experiences I have while traveling.

How long have you been blogging?

This blog started in mid-October 2009 but didn’t really become a decent travel blog until December 2009. Once I started on my RTW travels in May 2010, things started to pick up. The blog went through a redesign in the spring of 2012 during which the site saw unprecedented growth. With the site’s redesign in October 2014, more emphasis has been put into my personal city guides.

What do you hope to get out of this site?

Blogging has proved to be an excellent way to meet people with similar interests. Originally, this site started as a way to better communicate with other travel bloggers & friends on Twitter. Sometimes 140 characters wasn’t enough to ask a question or get feedback while planning my trip.

Now that I’m living as an expat in Europe, this website serves as a source for the best indie travel recommendations for major destinations around the world.

How can I set something similar up?

My basic rules for successful blogging:

  1. Be real.
  2. Use Twitter. (Don’t automate your social media, though)
  3. Interact with your readers and other influential people (on and off-line).
  4. Look into purchasing useful resources on the subject. For travel blogging, I’d highly recommend Travel Blog Success. It’s a useful guide and the forum alone is a great way to ask questions & get feedback. If you’d like a less interactive (but still amazingly useful) resource for setting up a successful travel blog, than I’d also definitely recommend “How to Make Money with Your Travel Blog” by NomadicMatt.

How to make money while traveling?

If you consider yourself a writer or photographer, you could try to sell the content you produce during your travels to publications. A lot of that can (and should) be arranged beforehand – reach out to the publications/magazines/newspapers in your local area or also the bigger, international names, to see if you can sell a text/photo story.

There are many jobs that are often possible to do while traveling. If your job is capable of being done as a freelancer, you have two options: try to secure freelance work before setting out on a trip, or put on your networking hat while traveling and do the hustle. Freelancing jobs which may be easier than others to do while traveling include graphic design, web design, programming or teaching English. Though there are certainly many more.

If you’re interested in starting a blog, know that it’s a lot of work and can take a serious investment of time to produce something which will gain you monetary value. Think of the blog as a publication and create a business plan that works for you and your plans.

Are you a real person? And if so, can I contact you?

Um, yes. And please do contact me! I love meeting new people and interacting with strangers. You can e-mail, tweet me (@travelsofadam) or connect on whichever social network you prefer. There are lots of ways to contact me, but I’m also always available via email: adam (at) travelsofadam.com

How can I stay connected with you and your website?
Glad you asked! There are three basic ways to get blog updates:

  1. Visit travelsofadam.com directly. Consider making it a bookmark for easy access. There are usually at least 2 new posts per week.
  2. Subscribe to the RSS feed. This is best if you use a RSS reader such as Google Reader. Learn more about RSS here.
  3. Subscribe to the monthly Travels of Adam newsletter. In it, you’ll find information on the latest travel contests, a featured destination with exclusive photos, travel tips, favorite charities and personal updates on my travel plans! Be sure to check the tick mark to receive free blog updates as well! And if you subscribe, you’ll also receive a free copy of my ebook featuring my 5 Wonderfully Simple Life Lessons. 

Berlin

Questions about living in Berlin as an expat

How to find a job in Berlin?

Finding a job in Berlin can be tricky, as the city’s unemployment rate is higher than most other German cities. There’s just not a lot of industry here. Saying that, however, it’s certainly possible to find jobs in Berlin for foreigners. I’d suggest checking the following Facebook groups where many people share job postings:

You should also plan to do lots of networking. Thankfully, meeting people in Berlin isn’t hard. There are meetups almost every day of the week! I particularly like ones arranged through the Couchsurfing community. Check their Berlin group for the weekly meetups. A newer networking event is the “Freelancer Fridays” arranged by the Berlin Freelancers Facebook group.

If you’re looking for info about tech/startups in Berlinventurevillage.eu (which also has a job board). Xing.com is the Germany version of LinkedIn and also has groups and can be useful for networking (as it’s pretty specific to Germany).

How to find an apartment in Berlin?

People like to complain about how difficult it is to find apartments, but it’s definitely not impossible.

If you’re just renting a room in a shared apartment (a WG), you could expect to pay between 300-450€ (warm) for most places, all-inclusive. Renting your own studio or 1-bedroom might be anywhere from 400-800€ + utilities (kalt), all depending upon where you want to live.

Use wg-gesucht.de to find rooms, or www.immobilienscout24.de to search apartments.

Best neighborhoods to live in?

Kreuzberg and Neukolln are very trendy at the moment, so it’s where you’ll find lots of shared flats…but also prices are a bit higher there. Prenzlauer Berg is kind of the area famous for young families and it’s a bit more quiet and much more gentrified. Friedrichshian is also very hip/cool and where most of the nightlife is. Tourists are all over Berlin, in Kreuzberg, Neukolln, Prenzlauerberg, Friedrichshain, Mitte… Charlottenburg is in the west and you’ll find apartment listings there, but it’s less “cool” and more “American.” I’ve called “Charlottenboring” in the past, though the west is starting to have a bit of a resurgence. Moabit and Wedding are often called up-and-coming Berlin neighborhoods but that’s just because they’re kind of boring and a handful of cool venues have opened there recently… but it’s not my favorite area.

If you’re planning to move to Berlin long-term and are unsure of which are to live in, I’d suggest renting a short-term apartment first in one of the areas you’re considering. See if it’s a good fit for you and spend the month exploring the city. I recommend AirBNB for holiday apartment rentals.

How to get a visa or residency permit to live in Germany?

I am not an immigration expert and can only speak from my experience. Please read about how I previously received the visa (in 2011) here. If you have

How long does your visa in Germany last?

Again, I am not an immigration expert and can only speak from my experience. I’ve heard that the German Freelancer visa can be valid from anywhere between one and three years.

How difficult is it to live in Berlin as a foreigner (speaking the language, meeting people)?

Getting a sublet isn’t hard here and I’d recommend doing that at least at first until you find your favorite area of Berlin. Finding apartments takes time and can be a challenge, but it’s definitely possible even with limited German – just maybe a bit more money up front if you plan on leasing a place rather than subletting.
In regards to meeting people, Berlin’s honestly a great place to meet new and interesting people. There are so many expats, internationals, freelancers, etc that there are practically regular/scheduled meetups every day of the week. Try Couchsurfing.org, Meetup.com or look for specific Facebook groups.
These are some cool coworking spaces and they hold meetups as well. I used to really enjoy Betahaus because they had a coffee shop which was free to work in, but it became a bit too startup-y for me. Now I occasionally go to co-up and buy a day pass. Uberlin.co.uk is probably one of Berlin’s best blogs and they recently opened up a coworking space.

Also maybe of interest: artconnectberlin.com or berlinstartupjobs.com

Also, on Amazon, the book “Finding your Feet in Berlin (my affiliate link) is a decent guide to moving to Berlin with information on jobs, apartments, visas, etc. I’ve looked through it and don’t agree with some of the recommendations, but generally speaking it’s a great resource. There’s a company called Expath.de which does consulting on visa issues among other things, but in my experience, they don’t really provide a good service (and I’ve heard too many negative reviews of their language classes). If you do take any of these recommendations, please make sure to let them know that you discovered it thanks to this blog!

What are the best German language courses in Berlin?

The cheapest German language classes are the ones at the Volkshochschule (people’s community schools). The website http://www.berlin.de/vhs/ may not be so useful, though, as they always say classes are sold out. Check the schedules though because sometimes they fill up quickly and it’s easier to sign up in-person.

I took one of my first German classes at did deutsch-institut because a friend who runs an education/study abroad consulting company, Latitude Travel (latitudetravel.ca) recommended them. They’re fairly expensive for Berlin (though cheaper than the Goethe Institute). I found my intro 4-week course to be really effective – and one of the more effective courses I took. I’ve since taken classes at the Volkshochschule because they’re slightly more convenient with their location – based on where I live – and far cheaper. The other popular language school I would recommend is the Hartnackschule. All three of these are ones I’d recommend depending upon your location and your budget :)

tel aviv

Questions about living in Tel Aviv as an expat

How to find a job in Tel Aviv?

My top recommendation for most expats looking for jobs abroad pretty much focuses on the fact that you’re just going to have to network (ie, hustle) harder than most. Go to as many meetups as you can. In Tel Aviv, there are frequent startup companies (mostly in the tech industry) hosting meetups at any of the co-working spaces. I’d also recommend checking the Couchsurfing.org and Meetup.com local groups.

When I lived in Tel Aviv, I actually found my internship through http://www.idealist.org/

How to find an apartment in Tel Aviv?

I remember scouring Craigslist and Couchsurfing when I was looking for a sublet in Tel Aviv. Thankfully there are quite a few Facebook groups that are very active and useful for internationals looking to relocate to TLV:

Best neighborhoods to live in?

Tel Aviv is changing fast as a city. And because of exorbitant rent prices, living in Tel Aviv has become more and more expensive. I lived in the area around Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square) which I found to be a convenient and affordable area. The Florentin neighborhood has always been a favorite area of mine and rents were always a bit cheaper there, though I think the area is increasingly more expensive. Many people choose to live further south in or near Jaffa. North Tel Aviv was also popular for expats when I lived there, though I always found the area a little less interesting.

I always recommend when moving to a foreign country, rent an apartment for a month or so to try out one of the areas. Use that time to see what you find and to discover your own favorite neighborhood. We’re all different :) My preferred site for finding short-term rentals is AirBNB. Sometimes you can contact the owners directly and ask for discounts for longer stays. You can use my AirBNB link for $25 off your first booking.

Best hotels and hostels in Israel?

Well this is a *big* question! The absolute best place to stay in Israel, though, is the Fauzi Azar Inn (read more about it on my blog) in Nazareth. This guest house has one of the most special stories you’ll ever hear. And even if Nazareth isn’t on your itinerary, you should go out of your way to visit this hotel. It’s owned by the group behind Abraham’s Hostels which is one of the most responsible and friendly hotel/hostel operators in Israel. Check out photos from the Fauzi Azar Inn and book it on Booking.com.

For more about Israel, check out my Israel travel archives